6 ways to not die while selling at craft shows

A couple of shots from the Summer Craft Fair at Two Elephants in Chatsworth, CA.

I've been exploring the world of selling in person recently (recently meaning since last winter, but the 6-months in England sort of put the venture on hold). My set-up has been modest at best currently, but it's still been a joy to meet people who like my work and want it as a part of their lives. Not every in-person selling experience I've had since I started has been a billion percent positive, but there's always some learning to be done here.
Here are a few things about craft fairs I've learned since my 'debut' last September--

Say hello to everyone. EVERYONE.
I'm glad I learned this one early into my first show. You can go ahead and stare into your phone while at your table, but that isn't going to help much (and if you're in a short chair behind the table you'll just end up looking like you're mesmerized with your crotch--not attractive).
With the amount of stuff going on at most every craft show or con you're at, a little human opening goes a long way. I've had responses ranging from 'oh man, hey. this place is crazy!' to appearing relieved that they're not ignored at the venue (both often leading to sales).
If you happen to be situated near the bathroom, take that advice with caution. I recently learned that people don't necessarily like being addressed after taking a crap.

A few lighting fixtures helped with my outdoor night shows--just beware of beeeeeeeees.
Have something to do.
I didn't think this mattered until I went to a show empty-handed. Turns out, many people won't readily assume that you made all of the stuff on your display. Bringing your craft with you to work on goes a long way to get it across (provided of course, your craft is in any way portable).
If you're shy around people, your craft can be the opener.
"What are you working on?" is a great chance to talk a little bit about what exactly you sell.
"How long does this kinda thing take you?" is a chance to explain the labor and love behind your price tag.
In Long Beach, I was working on an Etsy order for someone in England. Letting someone know who the piece is for is really impressive to some people, and open up some good conversation about custom orders.
It's important to make sure to work on something that won't have you too deeply in concentration. Having your head down at your table might deter some customers who would have otherwise been attracted to a smile and eye contact. Lucky for me, I've knit so many things that I can do it while in conversation.

Print clearly.
Guy asks for business card. I pass him one, he squints. Lesson: PRINT BIGGER. Bless small batch production. If I had to print my business cards 250 at a time I would be massively screwed from the get go.

Signage. USE IT.
As much as I love answering questions, hearing someone ask what exactly my scrubbies are or what they're for 10+ times during a show can be exhausting. Especially if the question can be answered with a little sign next to the product.
I'm personally still working on letting someone know what the price of one of my knits is in just the right tone (something along the lines of 'take it or leave it' but...obviously less hostile). Having price tags help let that sale go on a little more smoothly.
Also it's probably a lot less daunting to people interested in your work! An absent pricetag might instill the expectation of an unaffordable product in the mind of your would-be customer. I'd argue that the feeling they can't afford it is still there even if you attempt to quell it with your spoken-word price.

For the love of all things holy, have a helper if you can.
I've been solo-ing all of my shows up until recently, thanks to the kindness of a friend. He helped me set-up and sort out my display. We tag-teamed bathroom breaks. He even reminded me to hydrate and eat before and during the show (something I almost always forget to do on show-days). I was also lucky enough to have him be a happy Bapsicrafts fan as well, so the extra little testimonial helped when informing passersby about my stuff! It's all a win-win-win to have a partner to help when possible. Just be sure to show your appreciation to your kind and caring volunteer.

And HYDRATE. FEED YOURSELF.
I'm terrible for this. My expectation when preparing for shows is to forget at least one thing. And when it's food or water for myself, I breathe a sigh of relief because it's not my sign or knits.
Like, sure, you can probably do okay anyway if you're near food trucks with fantastic (and often pricey) meals at the ready. But the food can really be a repellant if you're eating at your table.
With better time management (read: throw the shit in your car the night before so forgetting it in the rush is impossible), you can save a bit of money and have one less reason to have to abandon your table.
Also, with sustenance, you won't die. Not dying surprisingly helps.

Got any tips and lessons of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. Found you via Ravelry, Blog board. Thanks so much for the tips. I've thought about selling at craft fairs and this information is very useful.

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  2. I hear ya! We have been selling Crocheted Items, Preserves and other farm crafts for a couple of years. I can honestly say everything you say is too true! And If I had to pick the most important one it would be bring a buddy. We have been so swamped that we would have lost sales if there hadn't been two. Not to mention the loading and unloading help is priceless. Good Luck with the Holiday Season!

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