Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ten Craft Fair Tips!

Craft fairs and shows are awesome. They allow you to meet other crafters, chat with some nice folks, receive immediate feedback on your products, get some exposure, and (hopefully) make some cash and clear out a good chunk of your inventory.

Here I am at a recent craft show, trying to look normal.

And isn't it cool when someone picks up something that you made with your own little hands and they love it? Not only is it a nice little boost of confidence for you, but it's so rewarding to think that someone is using your product and it is making them happy. And isn't that what it's all about - making something that will bring joy to someone else?

Before my first craft fair, I was nervous. I didn't know how much inventory I needed to take (this is still a tricky area for me), and I felt unprepared, like I had "newbie" written on my forehead.

What would I say to people? How could I get conversations going? Will I talk too much? Too little? Are my business cards okay? Oh, my goodness, where are my business cards anyway? Will people like my soap? Will they hate it? Will they hate me?

Turns out, just about everyone is really nice at craft fairs, so I really had nothing to worry about. It seems that craft fair-goers are usually out having fun and in a good mood, so there's naturally a good vibe.

I'm not a craft fair guru, but I have done several and have learned a few things along the way. Here are some of my tips and tricks:

1. Don't stress too much about having to think of stuff to say.
Turns out, folks will often get the conversations going for you. People love to talk to the crafters that make the lovely items they're considering. And sometimes they're crafters, too -- they may even be making the same sort of craft that you are! I love when people have soaping stories of their own to tell me.

That said, not everyone who approaches your table is going to be a chatter. Some folks do just want to browse in peace. Does that mean you should ignore them? No, definitely not. Greet them. Pay attention to the person's body language -- you can usually tell if they're open to talking, or if they just want to look without having to make chitchat.

Get the ball rolling by smiling (VERY important!) and saying hello. Let them know that they can pick up your items and that you'll be happy to answer any questions. If they're looking at flower-scented soaps, maybe point out other flower-y soaps they might enjoy. If they pick up a bar that is special in some way, tell them about it. And if they start the conversation going first, follow their lead.

2. Get yourself some display items and practice a dry-run before the show.
Set up your table at home and see how you want to arrange things. (I got these wire cabinet shelves and tiered cabinet organizers at Bed Bath and Beyond.) Most craft fairs will allow you to set up the day before the show, and this is usually a good thing to do. You can see where your booth is beforehand, iron out any problems before the big day, and see how your display looks on your actual booth table. Plus, it's one less thing to do in the morning and it will probably be better for your nerves to know that you're all set in that regard. Whether or not you leave your crafts overnight is up to you. (I don't leave mine -- it doesn't take too long to set up once I know how I want to do it, and I don't want the extra worry.)

3. Know thy ingredients and materials.
Be as much of an expert as possible in whatever craft it is you do. Read, read, read. Read up on your craft, read up on your materials, read up on business issues. You never know what someone might ask you, so it is an excellent idea to be well-rounded. When I started soaping, I read and read and read. Even though I do melt-and-pour soaping, I read a few books on making soap from scratch. Someone may ask you how soap is made, or they may want to know what exactly each ingredient on your label is used for. It is far better to be able to give an accurate explanation than to say, "I don't know."

4. Take more inventory than you think you will need.
In this article from, it is recommended that you plan on 1-3% of craft fair attendees buying something from you. Sometimes, you can find out from the craft fair organizers how many people they expect to come to the show, and do the math from there. (By the way, TeachSoap's entire article is terrific, and it is full of good general craft fair tips.)

A well-stocked table is an inviting table. Bring enough product so you can restock as you sell. Make sure you have enough of each kind of product.

5. Stay positive and upbeat even if you're having a rough day at the show.
So, the craft fair has been going on for four hours and your booth still looks pretty much like it did when you set it up? Don't mope. Stay friendly, happy, and approachable even if you're disappointed and worried that you're not even going to get your booth fee back. If someone does approach your booth and ask you how you're doing, smile and say you're doing super. I'm not saying you should lie and do back flips, but you will do yourself no favors by pouting or openly complaining. Pout and complain only if you want to put a big gross vibe out there and kill any potential sales. Some shows are a bust -- it happens. Just deal as best as you can.

6. Bring plenty of change and small bills.
I like to bring a base of $200: $100 in ones, $80 in fives, $20 in tens. Maybe that's a bit overkill, but I'd rather have too much change than not enough. I try to include the sales tax in the final price of the item. This makes things so much easier and nobody has to fumble around with a bunch of coins. If you have a way to accept credit cards, that's a bonus. If you decide to take personal checks, ask for ID and make sure the customer's phone number is on the check, in case there's a problem. (I have taken several personal checks and have yet to have a problem.) Bring a cash box or apron with pockets or something to hold your money.

7. Bring business cards.
Either hire someone to make you some decent business cards or learn how to make them yourself on your computer. Include your name, contact info (email, website, blog address, Facebook® address, whatever) and put a bunch of cards in a business card holder at the front of your table. Put a card or two in every bag when a customer makes a purchase. Which brings me to my next point ...

8. Bring bags.
I like white paper bags, but go with whatever you like. You can jazz them up with stickers, rubber stamps, or whatever. I make a sticker with my logo and contact info and stick them on my bags.

9. Get yourself a booth buddy.
The day goes much smoother and much faster if you have a friend or family member with you. If things get crazy, they can help you bag or make change or chat with customers while you're taking care of other stuff. If you need to go to the restroom, I'll bet your booth buddy will cover your booth. Plus it's just nice to have someone there. If you don't have a booth buddy, make friends with a craft show neighbor.

10. Other stuff you might want or need:
* Tablecloth for your booth table (If your tablecloth doesn't quite reach the ground, use a bedsheet to close the gap.)
* Hand sanitizer gel (Wanna see me panic? Take away my hand sanitizer.)
* Lip balm (Wanna see me panic? Take away my lip balm.)
* An insulated cool bag with lunch, snacks, sodas, and water (Bring finger food so you can easily sneak bites between customers. This is not the time for leftover spaghetti.)
* A receipt book, just in case someone wants a receipt
* Copies of your local and state business documents, such as your Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Registration, local Business Tax Receipt, Certificate of Liability Insurance, or whatever documentation your area requires, just in case someone asks for it
*  A couple of extra pens
* Make a list of your items and mark each time you sell one to help keep track of sales
* Business banner/sign to hang on or behind your table
* A camera
* A big ol' smile!

This is by no means a completely definitive guide to getting ready for a craft show, but these are some tips I've picked up along the way. I have done only indoor shows so far, but one day I may decide to branch out to outdoor shows, which brings a whole new set of considerations (tents, awnings, tables, chairs, inclement weather, etc.).

If you have any tips or tricks of your own, please share them! We'd love to hear them!

Happy crafting, everybody!