Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Heading East

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Heading East

 I said goodbye to my hubby in Washington and started the trek east toward my next show in North Dakota, really the main event that I build this trip around. I have family there, went to high school there*, and it is so much fun to be able to drive over to this other world and do my thing. (*For the record I am originally from California, lived in ND for 6 yrs then ran back to CA as soon as I turned 18.) This was my 3rd time doing this show in Bismarck, and every time I get there my first words are, "damn it's a long drive!" It's far. Crossing Montana is just a big beautiful beast. I took way less photos while driving this time, it's dangerous and also I just wanted to soak in the sights. The pics rarely do it justice anyway. 

First campfire of the trip in MT.
Day 1 I set out to locate a campground I found on my first tour in 2010, just over the MT border. I remember it was a couple miles off the highway and cost only $7. I was so excited to find it right where I left it, and still only $7! It's a less secret spot now I guess, it filled up pretty quickly. But just as peaceful as I remembered. The whole state of WA had a ban on campfires, so this was my first chance to enjoy my favorite part of camping. 

Driving around country roads looking for a magical campground.

Day 2 I wanted to find some campgrounds I had trouble finding last year, in the middle of Montana on the road south toward Yellowstone. This year I had more daylight, but it was Saturday so they were all full. However I regret nothing. The detour was totally worth it, such a beautiful area! And now I know where the most glorious campground is located, next time I'll snag a reservation. 

Eastern MT starts to look like the ND I know so well.

Meanwhile, I had no backup plan for the night's lodging. Last year I managed to sleep in my van incognito, even though it was filled up with stuff. But it was so hot this time, I really didn't want to do that. There was also a BMW motorcycle rally happening in the area, so I figured I would have a hard time finding a hotel room. I decided to just drive as far as I could until dark, then figure it out. I ended up crossing most of the state that day, finding the last room in Miles City. It was cheezy and loud and had a shower and a/c... worked for me!

Letty & I looking twinsy.

I made it to my mom's house in Mandan, ND the next day. Such a funny feeling to drive up, after so many years of flying. Yep, just thought I'd stop by. Ha. Just like last year, Mom let me set up at her big annual yard sale. My little brother, who lives down the street, brought over my new niece for me to meet for the first time. My birthday twin Letty! Isn't she a doll??  

Grandma doesn't like her picture taken.
 It was fun to visit with everyone, but really I spent that week working hard to prepare for the big show. I brought lots of extra stock that needed to be printed and otherwise prepped for sale. A Capital A'fair is THE big handcraft festival in town, artists come from all over the mid west and it is very well attended by the locals. It happens at the state capitol grounds and is pretty huge. It's really too bad that it is so far away, because it's become one of my very best shows to do. This year was no different. I had my single best sales day to date, lots of repeat customers from last year. Just a killer show for me.
A Capital A'Fair, Bismarck ND.
 After the yard sale and craft show madness, Mom and I were both pretty spent. I stayed a couple more days to recuperate, then it was time to get back on the road. I wasn't feeling it, I'll admit. At this point of the trip, I'd been gone for about 3 weeks. I've decided that is probably the ideal length of a trip like this. I really was not looking forward to another 2 days driving back across Montana. Ha! But once I got on the road, with my music and my sweet comfy van... I forgot most of my woes. Onward! The next show awaits!!

All packed up after the show, capitol building beyond.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Mermaid Tour 2015 - R&R&B in Washington

Mermaid Tour 2015 - R&R&B in Washington

Leaving Sandy, OR I stopped in Gresham to get a good breakfast and do some laundry. At first I couldn't find a laundromat, but when I pulled into the restaurant, hey look! A laundry in the same little strip mall. Sweet. I think the place was called The Biscuit Cafe, but the biscuits were not great in my opinion. The omelet and potatoes were tasty. The guys working there were very nice, and seemed kind of intrigued when we chatted about where I was going. My waiter really was interested in getting his girlfriend on board with a travel adventure. Ah it did my heart good to inspire a youngster, if that's what happened there. 

Columbia River, east of Portland OR.

From there I headed east along the Columbia River Gorge, really a nice drive... until I had to turn north near the Dalles, on my way up through central Washington. Then I hit the vast and dead wasteland called the high desert. Not my favorite, but this was my second time through there and it was more interesting than I remembered. Lots of giant wind turbines, some rock formations, and bodies of water. Which amazes me... how a body of life giving water can be surrounded by mostly dead nothingness. Fascinating.

Hottest ugliest rest stop in WA, near Yakima.

Up near Ellensberg, where the beautiful lush forest comes back into view, I cut west a few miles and found some great camping near Cle Elum. There are a few campgrounds along the Cle Elum River, and I chose the least populated and (to me) the most beautiful. Looks like the river came right up to the camp spots at some point in the past, but now it's a huge grassy valley, you can see water far off in the distance. There was an especially aggressive squirrel there, who kept tying to steal my big bag of peanuts in the shell. That kid had guts! Otherwise a very relaxing couple of days

Leftover omelet tastes better outside.
Super obnoxious squirrel.

On Thursday it was time to go set up my booth at show #2 on the Tour, the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues festival. It's just a few hours north of Cle Elum. This is a great 3 day camping festival in the mountains of north central WA. Beautiful setting, great music, fun people. I just wish they would quit having fire issues. Last year they were in the middle of evacuations, smoke, and all kinds of fire craziness. This year we managed to miss the fires, but they came anyway just a few weeks after we left. I really feel for those folks! So sad.

Winthrop has the most gorgeous sunsets!

My husband rode his motorcycle from Eureka to join me on Saturday, so we had 2 nights at the blues fest camping out. It was a fun time and the music was great. But for me it was a little too hot to really party and dance much, upper 90s to 100. Oof, this mermaid cannot hang. I did do epic sales though. Even in the highest horrible heat, those ladies continued to dance and shop. Bless them all.  

Happy customers looking cute.

After the festival (and a nice breakfast in Winthrop, which is an adorable little historic town by the way), we headed back down to Cle Elum. The temps would be cooler there, and I knew exactly where to go for some peaceful camping. We did spend the first night in a hotel, cleaning ourselves and resting after a long hot weekend. It felt so good, that we stayed a second night. Ah sweet vacation! Then we camped out for two nights in the same campground I hit on my way up, on the Cle Elum River

My husband really needed this vacation. He's pretty much a workaholic and very rarely will take time off. I seriously had to work on him for a YEAR to get him to commit to this trip. A  year. So to see him really smile and relax and just do nothing... ahhh it felt so good! We had almost a full week together, and then it was time to part ways. He headed down to Eureka to go back to work, and I headed east to start my journey to North Dakota.

This picture says it all, R&R accomplished.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Starting Out in Oregon

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Starting Out in Oregon
Day 1 of my 5 week tour started right on time. I could hardly believe it.  By noon the van was packed and ready (see above)... a few errands around town, and I was on my way out of Eureka, CA by 2pm.  Wooo!! Feeling great! Finally all the long hours of hard work over the past month was done. Seriously, I worked my ass off every day of June making clothes for this trip. 5 shows is no joke, and I wanted to sell sell sell. When I finally left I felt more ready, I think, than any tour before. 

There is a real sense of relief when I get started on a trip like this... so much work and prep and stress happens in the planning, and then the moment you leave town it is over. Bam. The rest is just coasting with your plans, no more can really be done. It feels a little surreal too, after all the planning and visualizing. Here I go, now I am doing this thing I've talked about for 6 months. I think I spent a lot of that first night marveling outloud that my Tour had actually begun. 

Leisa wants you to know she has 2 other normal size cats.
My first stop was Springfield, Oregon, where I stayed one night with my dear friend Leisa. This was the only pic I took I guess. Well Cali the cat is huge. Leisa and I have been friends for over 20 yrs, so we had a great time catching up. Got some dinner and talked until very late. Great girlfriend time that I think we both needed. The next day, I was able to leave at my leisure, having all day to get to my next destination. We had lunch and I was on my way. Really such a perfect way to start this epic journey. I felt so relaxed and nourished...and energized to get to my first show!

I arrived in Sandy, OR mid afternoon and got setup for the Sandy Mountain Festival. Sandy is just east of Portland, on the way to Mt. Hood. It's a tricky layout in a hilly wooded park, one way in and one way out. But I'm lucky to have a booth at the end of a side row, so I can park and not block anyone. I love my spot at this fair! I'm right across from a little ampitheater with shows all day long, off the main walkway but very visible as well. 

View from the van in Sandy.
This show is nice enough to provide a grassy field for overnight parking, a few blocks away. It is right by the highway, but otherwise tree lined and peaceful. Well, except for the band that plays outdoors in town, so loud we can hear every word. Luckily they are good and play oldies, it's like listening to the radio. Whatever, it is always nice to have a free camping spot!

Overall I had a fabulous weekend in Sandy. This was my 4th year at this festival and it has become one of my favorite shows to do. The park is so lovely, and the people so friendly! I have gained many regular customers and friends over the years, and I just have a great time. This year I actually had the best show sales I've ever had there. Success! What a wonderful start to my tour.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Mermaid Tour 2015 - Overview

Sunset at the blues fest in Winthrop, WA.

 Mermaid Tour 2015 - Overview
Well, I did it. My third big Mermaid Tour is complete and I am currently recovering from 5 weeks of driving, craft shows, camping and visiting. I think with certainty I can say I will not be doing another Tour next year. At least not as long and far. It was fun and lucrative, but exhausting. Plus it is just too long to be away from my husband, although he is very sweet and supportive about it. 

Every year I have made improvements to the Tour, and this year was indeed even better than last year in many ways.  My van didn't break down for the first time in Tour history. Ha. The air conditioner worked for the duration, which was great. I convinced my husband to meet up with me for one week of the Tour on his motorcycle. That was excellent. And since I mostly duplicate the shows from last year, I knew where to camp and mostly what to expect sales wise. I improved my sales at 3 out of 4 of the shows. I actually skipped show #5 and still did more sales than last year.  

Columbia River Gorge

So I would call this trip a success! The one thing, though, about repeating it so soon was that the anticipation and excitement was a bit less. I lost a little bit of that wonder, that overwhelming feeling of achieving a long time goal. Oh there was certainly magic this time, plenty of moments of feeling completely free and giddy over it. Just not quite as much as last year. Overall though, it was an epic adventure.

This is an interactive map of my trip eastward. I started here in Eureka, CA. The shows I had scheduled for the whole trip were:

Sandy Mountain Festival - Sandy, OR
Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival - Winthrop, WA
A Capital A'Fair - Bismarck, ND
Huckleberry Days - Whitefish, MT
Wild Rivers Music Festival - Brookings, OR

Monday, August 17, 2015

Camping Out Mermaid Style

Camping Out Mermaid Style
Oh this could be a good one! I love to camp. LOVE it. It's one of the best aspects of traveling to craft shows in my opinion. I am talking here about camper-less camping, aka 'car camping' or 'dry camping'. Took me a few years to make it as comfy as possible, adding and changing things bit by bit. Now that I have it nailed, I can go anywhere. In fact, it was preparing for my big Mermaid Tour 2010 that really got my digs styled out, and that 5000 miles provided some amazing camping opportunities for sure. Here are some of the main aspects of camping and how I do them. 

I mention a bit about where and how to camp in my Taking Your Show on the Road post. Here I will get more into detail. So I guess the act of camping basically involves 3 areas... Sleeping, Eating, and Bathing

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting good sleep while doing shows. Make your bed as cozy as possible. My basic sleep gear consists of a good foam pad, sleeping bag, a real pillow and an extra blanket

The foam pad is hugely important. I started with an air mattress (obviously it takes up less room) but by morning I was always suffering on a cold hard surface. They just don't stay full and they're kind of a pain to fill up. My first sleep pad was made of the thick green foam you get at Joanns, which I covered in fabric. Super cush, but a little narrow and difficult to fold or roll up. Now I use the ones you can get at Costco that fold into thirds. They're still comfy, but wider to lay on and easier to stack in the van.

Having a warm enough bag is big too, those chilly spring/fall mornings can kill a good night's sleep. It should be warm enough for the coldest possible temps you will see. Mine is rated for 30 degrees. I like my thick cotton bag over those puffy backpacker ones. It's just more cushy comfy cozy to me, and makes an extra pad if the weather is hot.

Don't skimp on the pillow. I keep a quality camping-only pillow and my extra blanket in a big drawstring bag. The blanket is handy for cold or warm weather. For those extra crisp mornings, I also keep a soft warm beenie in there. Makes a huge difference.

Oh and while you're at it, invest in earplugs. Buy a bunch and stash them everywhere. Seriously, they can be a real sleep saver. 

Whenever I vend at a craft show, I prefer to bring my own food. It's just healthier and easier. When I travel, my food plan doesn't change much, unless I'll be camping in a place where I can cook. I think the best part of paying for a real campsite is the fire! Otherwise, any grocery deli section has lots of options, hot and cold. I try to take advantage of all the great summer farm stands out there. I will eat a meal in a restaurant occasionally if visiting a friend, or if I had a really good day of sales. But mostly I'm good with the grocery store.

I have a Kitchen Box of dry goods and cook gear that I keep between my front seats all the time. I've become used to having it as a driving table, but also you never know when you will need to make your own coffee. Seriously. It's important. I can't tell you how much my show and travel experience improved once I realized how easy it is to keep coffee making stuff with me at all times.

In my Kitchen Box I have:

One burner stove & fuel - french press - coffee grounds
Matches - stove lighter - fire starter bricks - sm citronella candles
Set of 3 nesting camp pots/pans - long bbq fork
Instant oatmeal - tea bags - extra utensils
Ceramic and plastic cups - can/bottle opener
Aluminum foil - sm & lg zip bags 
Paper towels - toilet paper

 I also use 3 Coolers:

Small Cooler with Wheels - Has lots of pockets for utensils and stuff, handy roller/handle, light weight... but not very cold. I take this one to the booth with me, with just enough food for the day. If it's hot out, I add a ziploc full of ice or a frozen water bottle. For general travel I use it for dry goods.
Small Cooler no Wheels - Not as easy to carry, but keeps things cold. I use this one for perishables and usually leave it in the van. It can hold a block of ice if needed.
Ice-Only Cooler - Part of my hot show arsenal (I am a wimp in hot weather!). A short round cooler with a spout, for drinking-ice only. I also have a big insulated water bottle; I can ice the water in the morning and it stays cold all day. 

Okay, now we get to the nitty gritty of dry camping. Bathing and toileting are big issues when on the road. Your craft show camping situation can be so varied, you have to be prepared for everything. The toughest camping situation is when you have to hide out and be invisible in the middle of a busy city. The easiest being a paid campground spot with showers and toilets. And lots of situations in between

I am ready for anything with these items:

Washing Water - I keep a 2.5 gal water bottle (with spout) in the van at all times, specifically for washing. I always carry soap, wash cloth, and towel. So anywhere I am, I can at least wash my face and freshen up. I've gotten very skilled at the sponge bath. I can also rinse my hair with it, which helps between washes and is also the quickest way to cool off in the heat.
Solar Shower - Only for a real campsite, it's a little tricky to hang up but freaking awesome for long trips. I will use it when camping between shows, so I can set up my booth canopy and hang the shower high enough to work well.
Popup  Shower Tent - A sweet little closet size tent that just pops up on it's own, fits my shower and/or potty inside.
Personal Porta Potty - Okay, now we're getting serious... a little gross maybe, but by far the most valuable item in my camping supplies. Especially when camping in the city, where public bathrooms may be scarce. Or for camping in more primitive campgrounds, which I prefer. I use the Luggable Loo, simply a plastic toilet seat that snaps onto a 5 gal bucket. I line it with thick black leaf bags and add kitty litter. That's it! Add more litter after each use, and empty it every day. I wouldn't leave home without it. 

My, I do go on. I guess I am just excited to share my little bit of knowledge of how to make your selling travels more enjoyable. I personally love that my work can be half vacation... and 100% fun. 

Take Your Show on the Road

Take Your Show on the Road

So maybe you've been doing your local craft shows for a bit, and are feeling it's time to look beyond the horizon for more selling opportunities. You will have a few things to consider when deciding whether you want to head out of town:

- How much will it cost in gas, lodging, food and travel time?
- How far are you willing to go? 
- Where will you stay? 
- Will you need a helper?
- Will you need time off from your day job?
- Considering all these factors, will it be worth it?

 Should I Stay, Should I Go
 Personally, I have always looked forward to the travel part of this job. For me it was never a question IF I would travel, just HOW I could do it in a way that worked well for me. Generally I'd say that if you want to make any kind of living, you have to sell regularly. If you have other selling venues like a web store, studio, galleries, wholesale, or plenty of local shows... you might not need to travel. Most vendors I know try to do as many shows as possible. If you live where you can get to many shows without traveling very far, that is wonderful. Ultimately, you must weigh your own factors and desires and then decide what you want to do. I figure, as long as I don't lose money... I am making more traveling than I am staying at home. It's possible you have a good business flowing through your studio, and might decide you'd fair better staying home and creating work.

The Big Question
I think the biggest question when deciding to hit the road is where you will stay. There are basically 3 options: stay in a hotel, stay with friends, or camp out.

Stay in a Hotel
This seems like the most obvious choice, I suppose. It's easy, it's comfy, and showers kind of rule. However, it's also the most expensive option. Depending on how much money you expect to make, and the summer rates for the location, it can take a good chunk of your earnings.  Of course, lots of folks do it. And especially if you have health or body issues, or if you are in the middle of a big city, this will be the only choice. In that case, I'd say choose your shows very wisely. Make sure you can cover all of your expenses easily. 

To offset the cost of a hotel, you may choose to buy all your food at the grocery store. Take advantage of that little fridge and microwave, that's what I do. Some people find another vendor to share a room with, not a bad way to go especially in the city where things can get spendy. There are also discount programs with some of the big hotel chains. And lately the big thing seems to be, and similar sites with private residences for rent. If you have children or can room with other people, this can be a great bargain.

When deciding whether I'll get a room or not, I also consider any recent shows that may have had big returns and no travel costs... then in my mind I will average the two. For example, this week's out of town show isn't really big, but for logistical reasons it makes sense to get a hotel room. Since I did that huge $$ show last weekend that was in my home town, I can justify getting a hotel for the dinky show.

Stay with Friends
Oh so nice option if you are headed to a town where friends reside. You can stay for free, have a lovely evening visiting, and maybe even snag a helper for the day. For me this is even easier since my van becomes a self contained camper, they don't need to have a spare room. I actually like it better in my van because it's private, comfy, and I don't have to worry about being woken up by running cats or early morning activities.

When I travel for shows, I prefer to camp out whenever possible. It took me a few years of trial and error to figure out how to camp comfortably in my van, but now I have it down pat (details for a future post). It's cheap, portable, cozy, and often very close to the show. So the next question would be where can you camp out?

    - Overnight Parking at the Show - I think the best situation is when the event provides an area for overnight parking. It's not uncommon for vendors to travel, so this is often available. It will be close to the show, usually with porta potties or indoor bathroom access provided. Sometimes tent camping is also allowed, depending on the location.
    - Squatting - Aka Boondocking. If no parking is provided, you can usually park on the street or in a nearby parking lot overnight. Many cities have laws against camping, but police will usually let it slide due to the festival being in town. Just be as invisible as possible if you choose this option. I have done it many times with no hassles whatsoever. Most casinos and Walmarts allow overnight parking as well, but might not be as close to the venue.
   - Campground - Of course a very lovely way of camping, especially if you do not have a vehicle you can sleep in, is to rent a campsite at a real campground. This is not always available or close to the venue, but if it is... oh it is nice! Showers, campfires, morning coffee with a pretty view. Heaven.

I'll create a separate post about the details of my camping setup... meanwhile, don't let the questions keep you from exploring out of town craft fairs. As with most of the craft show life, there will be tests and changes after each event. Enjoy the adventure!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Visions of Summer Travels

Hey well maybe I'm back to blogging for real. We'll see. I do have many many things flying around my brain right now, and what are blogs for if not to blab about them? Maybe I can bore my friends on facebook a little less. Ha.

Mostly I've been planning my craft show season for 2015. This always gives me a kind of Far Off feeling... concentrating on all the details of the summer and fall, I get kind of stuck there. Already living in the future in my mind. Imagining where I'll go, where I'll stay, what kinds of festivals I will attend, who I'll visit on the way. I'm already there.

Sunset over the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival in Winthrop, WA.

It's shaping up nicely so far. At the start of the new year, I sat and thought about what I wanted my year to look like. What are my goals. The only thing I could see was doing another long distance Mermaid Tour to North Dakota and back, like I did last year. So I'm doing that. I'm still confirming shows etc, but it looks like I'll probably end up doing exactly the same shows as last year. I am looking at some variations but I haven't been too keen on what I've found... and I know the shows last year were good for me. If I do a little advertising, I could do even better going back. 

I'll be gone about 6 weeks, 4500 miles, 5 shows: Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Montana, then back to Oregon. I just had a freaking blast last year! North Dakota is the main focus of the trip, where I have family. It's so great to be able to do a festival where my mother, brother, and grandma can visit my booth!

Last year I really wanted to find a newer (bigger, better, sweeter) van for the trip, and managed to find the perfect one just in time. Of course it had to break down at some point on a long trip, right? Sure. Just like Mermaid Tour 2010. But again, it was fixed quickly and at a reasonable price, and I made it to my next stop on time. That was in Montana. 

 Huckleberry Festival in Whitefish, MT.

And you know, I was reflecting this morning about my time there. One of the highlights of my tour was the time I spent getting to know Montana, it is just lovely. I drove all over, stayed in campgrounds, parked over night on side streets, took refuge from the heat in restaurants. Everywhere I went, people were the nicest I have ever seen. Everywhere! In line at the grocery store, the young guy at the gas station, even my competitors at the crafts show. There were two big traditional tie dye booths, both run by women. They both made a point to came meet me and "check out this booth everyone is telling me about." So friendly and welcoming. Almost everyone was like that. And they have great breweries! I did look around for a different show that weekend, something closer the main interstate... but really? Why wouldn't I want to go back there again? 

These are just a few of my brain ramblings as I map out my life for the next 6 months. Now it's time to get to the studio and start making things. Summer approaches!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Start Selling at Craft Fairs #4: Money Talk

At long last, Part 4 of a series I'm calling (5 Steps to) Get Started Selling at Craft Fairs. Read Step #1: Find Your Shows , Step #2: Booth Display , and Step #3: Marketing Materials.

Money Talk

Okay, now we are getting down to business. I think most of us start out just making things because we love to, we are compelled to. Soon we have boxes of things, and then begin trying to sell them simply because we want to make more. At some point you can't help but consider making a living doing all the things you love most. And I fully believe in that dream. But now after so many years, I can tell you... while it is possible, it is not easy. Very few artists I know make a full time living, where they can buy houses and support families. For that you need some real business finesse, a way to sell consistently in multiple venues, and probably mixed with teaching classes or other service based offerings. I am no expert, but this is what I've gathered from many conversations with artists. 

Most of us are able to make half a living, enough to supplement a day job, or a partner's income. Personally, I am happy to just be able to keep doing my work the way I enjoy doing it. My goals are more based on lifestyle than income. I would rather lower my standard of living, than get another day job. But that's me, we all have different goals and life situations. I've said it before, you can make this thing do whatever you want it to do. It's all you. 

Huckleberry Festival in Whitefish, MT last year.

Getting back to the craft show itself, here are some money details to consider:

Pricing is Super Important. As I mentioned in my previous post, fair pricing is a huge issue for the new craft seller. I'm going to repeat myself, and say that when you sell your beautiful handmade items at low low bargain basement prices, you hurt the whole artist community and bring down the overall value of the show. Those with experience know you have to charge enough to pay yourself well and cover all your expenses. Your $15 hat makes my $50 hat seem outrageous by comparison. Soon people are complaining to me, and I'm not too happy with you. Because I know how long it takes to make the hat, and you should be earning more than someone working at McDonald's. Have respect for what we do, it's valuable. 

I do understand that at first you are just emptying your boxes of stuff. It's been sitting around and you really just want to get rid of it. That is a hobbyist perspective, not a professional artist trying to make a living. I sometimes have items like that as well, things that have been hanging too long, maybe have a repair. What I do is put them on clearance at a good discount. I know I am still coming out ahead (because I use a good pricing formula), but I can move some older things out and make room for the new. But your entire booth should not be on clearance, unless you are selling at a flea market. Mark them up so you can mark them down.

The best way to calculate your pricing is to use a pricing formula like this:
(Materials+Labor)+Profit=Wholesale Price
Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

When you sell to a store, you charge the wholesale price (or a little above). This covers your expenses plus a little profit. The idea is that the store has all the overhead expenses and does all the work, and you get to sell a larger amount of items at one time. Selling at a craft show is retail (directly to the customer), so you need to double the wholesale price to cover your selling expenses. Show fees, booth display costs, packaging, food, gas, time selling, day off work, etc. That's exactly what a retail store does. 

And if you really want to continue making things and selling them, you must include both profit AND labor costs. Figure out how long it takes you to make a thing, then pay yourself an hourly wage (to start, $10-$20 per hour). I know many new sellers like to take the cost of materials alone and multiply it by a number. Yes maybe you have only spent $5 on the yarn for your hat, but the time it takes you to make it is the main thing you are selling. Your special skills and talents and creativity. You seriously have to pay yourself appropriately. And if you don't also include a little profit on top of all that, you are only breaking even and will never make money. That's just basic business.

Front yard sale at Mom's house in ND, 2014. Fun!!

Taking Payments. You will need to come up with your own system for processing sales. A place for your cash, credit card stuff, business cards, etc. I use a cross-body pouch that stays on me at all times. Some like a cash box, but I like to know my money is safe and at hand. Many artists just keep everything in their pants pockets. Simple. I also make a little sales stand with empty tubs covered with a cloth. 

There are 3 ways to take money for a sale: 

- Cash. Good old cash. I keep my prices rounded off so I don't need to handle coins. $100 in change works for me.

- Check. I don't take checks anymore, unless it is my home town and I am familiar with the person. It's just so much easier to take a debit card, and know if it's good right away. Checks are risky. If you do take a check, look at their ID and take a phone number. But even with those things I have been burned. Not a lot, but why bother.

- Credit Card. It is so SO easy and cheap to take cards now, there is no excuse not to. Join the modern day, my friend. Paypal, Square, even Etsy I think has a card reader you can plug into your smart phone or tablet. Yes it costs a small fee, but the sales you will gain will be completely worth it. Trust me. People bring only so much cash to a festival, and they'll use it for lunch and beers. When they run out of money and still want to buy something from you... let them!

Sales Tax. Dealing with sales tax at a festival can be weird. Some people seem surprised when you add tax, though I'm not sure why. We must pay it no matter what. I really don't want to deal with coins in the booth, so what I (and most others I know) do is factor the tax into my selling price on most things. When I run a credit card, I let CC reader add the tax to help cover my extra fees. But it comes off more as a cash discount, and encourages people to pay cash.
 Keep Track. You also need to find a way to keep track of your sales. The best way, and maybe legally we are all supposed to do this... is to give receipts. Then you have a copy of every sale. Some use a notebook to write down what has sold. I use my price tags, which I place in my money bag after every sale. After the show, I enter them into a spread sheet so I have a record of what sold for next year. Sales totals are entered into my Quickbooks program for taxes later.

My friend Andrea from Rhythmic Stitch - Urban Harvest market, Bismarck, ND.

How much will I make? I guess this is really the big question. For all of us. Because there is no good answer. We never truly know what will happen. Even a show that has been consistently good in the past can bomb. So many factors involved... weather, date or venue changes, other events happening, booth location, buying audience, and on and on. 

One formula some of us use is the 10 times rule. This is the idea that a good show will yield 10x the booth fee. Many artists say this is outdated and the sales have gone down over the years, so it doesn't' really work. In my experience 10x is my top end usually, and I can expect at the very least 5x. It is very rare for me to only break even, and more likely at a dinky fair than a large one. This is just my experience and a way to roughly estimate what to expect. 

But again, this whole festival life is a crap shoot. You really do not know what will happen until you do it. This is the nature of the life we have chosen. And it can make you nuts.