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 all the time, 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.
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 Airbnb.com, 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. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Are Craft Shows for You?

 Ever since my first time selling crafts at a festival (circa 1995), I knew immediately it was for me. The energy, the direct contact with customers, talking about my work... and just the excitement of putting myself out there. It was electric. I felt then, and still do, that when I'm selling my work at a show I am my best self. It's so much fun! But it's also a ton of work. Physical, mental, emotional work. Which also feels good in its way, but may not be for everyone. Here I will lay out some of the pros and cons to consider when you're deciding if the craft show life is for you.

Pro: Good Fun 
Oh man. There is plenty of good fun to be had while vending at a festival. In fact, many of my friends think I have the best job ever. Well, I do. There are bands to hear, beers to drink, neighbors to visit with, customers to say nice things to you... oh and money to be made. All kinds of fun times. I mean, it is a festival. Most everyone is having a good time and looking to spend money. Woohoo! I personally enjoy a view of the stage if I can get it, and I love a pretty venue. Free camping is a bonus. That's why I'll never be rich, I can't stand the big city shows. Give me a free camp spot next to the lake and a pancake breakfast and I'm good.

Con: Heavy Lifting at Dawn  
Oh man again. It's always funny when I get a friend to be my helper for the weekend, and then they get to see how much work is done before super funtime. I actually don't mind the setup part, at this point I don't even think about it. Just put on my headphones and start unloading the van. But it's definitely physical work and long hours. Depending on what you make and your mode of display... well pretty much anything takes lifting and carrying and a couple hours of work to set up. Sometimes you're not able to pull right up to your booth spot, and must haul things a distance. In hot weather. You may have helpers in your home town, but on the road you must do it all solo. Are you ready for that?

Pro: Direct Customer Feedback
Maybe the best business type thing about doing shows is the direct contact with your customers. It is awesome. Whether they buy or not, they will have things to say about your work. Most people who come into your booth do so because they are drawn by what you do. They want to talk about how you do it, your inspiration, your techniques. How fun! I mean, you work in a room for weeks alone with no input... getting out there can really feed your fire. You may get requests and ideas for new products, or hear that a certain design has issues you never considered. Even at shows where the audience wasn't right for my work, I learned.

Con: Long Days On Stage
This could also be under Pro, a lovely day in the sun at a festival is not a bad way to make a buck. The thing is, you are out there no matter what the weather, sometimes up to 12 hrs or beyond. The show goes on, rain or shine. Most shows will not refund your booth fee for any reason (I once had a heart attack two days before a show and could not get a refund). Hundred degrees, drizzle, downpour, wind, dust. You're in it. All day long. Add in slow sales activity, and hooboy a day can last an eternity.

And you are "On" the whole time. It doesn't matter how you slept, what time you showed up, that you set up in the rain with no breakfast... you better be perky and friendly when those revelers show up. You will spend the day chatting up customers, telling your story, smiling, selling. Dancing on stage from start to finish. This, to me, is the most exhausting part of it all. I love doing it, but after a show I need a whole day to recover. Physically and mentally I am spent.

Pro: Work Independently
Hello! Maybe this should be at the top of the list. We creators and entrepreneurs are not so hip to work for someone else. Freedom is a big draw of having your own business, and as an artist is almost required. Of course, showing up for a paycheck is easier and more secure by far. But for me, being able to choose where and when I work, keeping all the money for myself (vs wholesale or consignment), making a chunk of cash in only a couple days of selling ... that feeling of freedom and independence is huge for me. If I need time off, I take it. If I want a sweet vacation with my husband and his motorcycle in the mountains, I find a show there and make it a working trip. If at any time I want to change my artistic style or medium, I can. I love my job because I make it do what I want it to do. It's all me.

Pro and Con: Travel
If you live near a big city where shows are happening all the time... great for you! But most of us have only so many local shows to do and must at some point travel away to fill our weekends. From where I live, it's at least a 4 hr drive to anywhere.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the travel. I actually really like the driving part, the van singalongs, listening to stories on my ipod, soaking up the scenery. It's a nice relaxing prelude to the work of the show itself. I try to find some sweet camping wherever I go, which makes me happy. Occasionally I indulge in a hotel room, with its lovely refrigerator, microwave, wifi, and oh yes shower. It's fun to hit a new town, find a cool brewery or breakfast place. I just love all of it!

But later in the season, even I can grow a little tired. Long miles, long hours, multiple weekends in a row out of town... and all while creating work in between. The housework starts to pile up, my partner gets a little whiny about when I'll be home, I start to really miss my bed and shower. But the shows must go on. (I will talk more in detail about traveling and camping in future posts.)

In the end, how you sell what you make is completely up to you. You may decide to do some shows, but only in your home town or only indoors at holiday time. Or, you may join me on the show circuit every weekend. Maybe you'll decide to stick with web sales and gallery commissions alone. This business adventure is whatever you will make it, and isn't that the fun of it?!

Start Selling at Craft Fairs #3: Marketing Materials

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

Marketing Materials
Even at the dinkiest of shows, you have the opportunity to get your name and your work out into the world. I think it's the most basic marketing requirement to have a card to give out to your customers, with your contact info and what you make. People will see plenty of other booths throughout the day. If they are interested enough to buy your work or ask for a card, give them something to take away that will keep you in their minds long after they get home. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be a good reminder of what they saw in your booth, and where to find it later.

My big 3

I have 3 marketing items I always give out in my booth - flyers, business cards and hang tags. I print all of them with my computer on card stock. You can get fancy stuff printed online for pretty cheap these days... I know Vistaprint and Postcards.com send me all kinds of great offers for cards and postcards. So far, I have (mostly) stuck to doing them myself. I enjoy doing it and it's easy to change things when I wish.

My hang tags are attached to each of my items for sale. I make tiny square cards with a hole punched in the corner for the price tag string. On one side they have care instructions for my hand dyed clothing. The other side has the Bohemian Mermaid definition and my web site. When I sell something, the care card goes into the bag. I tell the customer that it contains care instructions and my web site. (I usually give them an info flyer as well.)

My business cards have my standard contact info, including my phone number, email, and mailing address. Many folks will ask you for a card just to have a reminder of you for later. I keep my business cards for actual business contacts; a shop owner, a fellow artist, a custom order request. The rest I give an informational flyer.

I think my flyers are the most important thing I give my customers at a show. On one side, I have my business name, a small color example of my work and a bit about me and what I do. I want them to remember why they asked for a card to begin with, since they will see many other booths that day. On the other side, I list my show schedule, retail outlets and web site. In fact, I think my web site is on both sides. Even if you just have your name, some clip art, and your etsy site... it's better than nothing. I have started to print my flyers on card stock, mostly as a better response to folks who ask for a 'card', but also because a card is harder to crush and toss away than paper.

When preparing for your first craft show, don't let your printed materials (or lack of) hold you back. I have seen people not sign up for a show because their logo isn't quite right. Ugh you're killing me. Your priority should be producing good work and figuring out a nice display. Just have a little something with your basic contact info (simple is fine!) to give out to your customers. You'll have plenty of time to add to them as you grow.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why I love Facebook Ads

I talk to a lot of artists and craftspeople, many of whom have Facebook pages for their businesses. I'm always a little surprised that they don't do Facebook ads. I think to most people, the whole process is pretty mysterious. I don't claim to be an expert, but I can say after some trial and error... they are cheap to run, very easy to point at your specific target market, and have served me pretty well. 

Cheap you say? Yes. When I run an ad before a sales event, ie craft show, I usually spend $10-$20 for a week. The cool thing about FB ads is that you set your own daily spending limits. You do need to check that number each time you edit your ad, it will default to some ungodly number automatically. I believe the trick to keeping the cost down is to choose the Pay per Impressions option. This charges you each time your ad is shown 1000 times. Usually less than .50. Hey now! I did try the pay per click, and I found they only showed my ad a few hundred times or less per day. No bueno. I don't pretend to know exactly why that is... but I assume I'm competing with higher bids for the same demographic, not sure. All I know is when I set my ad for impressions, it is shown thousands of times per day for the same fee.

Since my ad will be shown a lot, I make sure all the pertinent info is in the ad itself... name, date, location of the event where I'll be selling. That way, even if they don't click, they have me in their brains. 

Probably the best thing about FB ads is the ability to point it toward exactly the audience I am trying to reach. I choose to target only women over 25, within a certain radius of the location of my event. In this example, I'm doing a show in Kelseyville, CA which is near Clear Lake. Since I've done shows there before I feel like this is a good way to target, keeping it within 50 mi of the town. By adding Santa Rosa, I could double the audience, but I'm not sure I'd reach people who might actually go the the festival. So I decided 98k was plenty. 

The last time I went to this area for a show, I ran a similar ad and spent about $10. I only got 2 page likes from it... but one of them came to the show and spent $150. Bam! This is why I tell my vendor friends to give it a try. It only takes one customer to make it pay off.

Also, since opening my little shop, I run ads off and on geared toward local ladies. I have added a couple hundred *local* likes to my page just by paying $1 per day. I'll do a week or two on, then off. Change garment photos and try again... focus on towns north or south of me, then back on my town. I usually get a few likes per day for my one dollar. Not a bad deal!

So, I encourage you to give FB ads a try. Set a spending limit, do some experimenting and see what works for you!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wait, Have I Mentioned My New Store?


A lot happened I guess while I was away from my beloved blog. In November I opened a tiny store front in downtown Eureka, CA. I guess it was about a year before that when I started fantasizing about it... a place where I could sell my goods between festivals, even in winter when I usually pack all my stuff into boxes and get sad. A place where I could have some tiny bit of self discipline and a regular schedule to my work day. Something my husband thought I could never put up with... being tied to a thing like a schedule. Haha that is what I run from in normal day jobs, it's true. 

But this is mine. That's the difference. This is all me, my place, my work... even my schedule. I dare say it's the best day job ever. Well, because it's not a 'day job' it's just my job. I love it. 

It's still growing of course... I chose a location that is a little off the main shopping drag, but there is a lot of fun stuff happening in my neighborhood. A popular beer bar, a great pizza place, 2 big art galleries. And I am right next to the town's oldest chocolate shop. Hello! 

I also chose the tiniest retail space I have ever seen. They tell me it's 292 sq feet, but that is a generous evaluation. More like 250. But for me it is really perfect, it doesn't seem cramped at all. I even have a work table and have added artwork from local friends. Compared to my usual 10ft x 10ft space, it's great. I also knew that if I opened my first store in the middle of Old Town with 1500 sq ft... I would freak out trying to fill it and pay my rent each month. I feel much more comfortable starting small and growing slowly. That's how I roll.

My tiny clubhouse is perfect for me right now.

I have even hosted musicians during our monthly Arts Alive art walks, what a blast that is. I mean, it's much like being at a festival... some great music, drinks, selling my clothes, meeting folks. I really feel like since opening the shop - well, it feels like a creativity magnet. I am meeting so many interesting people, making new business connections, meeting more artists and musicians. Things are happening there.

I really love it. Have I said that enough? Here's a slide show I put together showing the evolution of my shop. If you are in the area, I hope you will come check it out. 511 6th St. (6th & F) Eureka.