Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Start Selling at Craft Fairs #1: Find Your Shows

Since I posted 5 Essential Tips for Craft Fair Selling, I've received some questions about how to get started... finding shows, figuring out a display, etc. Since I never get tired of these topics, I put together a list of 5 steps to get started selling at craft fairs. They got pretty long so I am splitting them into a series of posts. I hope they are helpful!

Find Your Shows

Start Your List
This is probably the topic I get asked about the most, how to find the shows to begin with. You probably already know of a few craft fairs that happen in your area. Start a list. Check your local arts and events publications, chamber of commerce, newspapers, and art groups for lists of local events. Search online for your city or county's 'festivals', 'shows' and 'fairs'. Talk to people. I find many of my shows by talking to other artists. There are also publications out there that list events for us. I subscribe to Craftmaster News. It's cheap (about $50/year) and offers a printed book along with a great website that includes reviews and maps. [*Edit: I recently used this service again and not sure I can recommend. The web site is still useful, though not very active with reviews. They did not send my paper books on time, I had to request them each time. And then parts were missing. Still, very cheap but be warned.]

Once you find a potential show, contact the event folks and ask for an application and to be added to their mailing list. Keep in mind that most shows want you to apply at least a month or two (or longer) before the show dates.To organize my show list, I use my google calendar. When I find a potential show, I add it to my calendar along with the pertinent info including cost, type of show, web site, and whether the ap is online or has been requested. If I'm really interested, I enter the deadline on the calendar separately. When I decide not to do a show this year, I change the date to next year so I can find it when I need it next time.

Big or Small - Where to Begin
For your first show, I would keep it small... as in costing under $100. You will not make millions at a dinky show, but you will have less invested to lose also. The smaller shows are a great way to get your feet wet, test your display, get feedback on your work, and network with other artists. Mostly, to just get out there and be seen. Don't be discouraged if you don't make much money at your first few shows. The real money is at the larger shows, which will be much easier to do after you have a few smaller shows under your belt. But DO listen to feedback, take note of the clientele and how they respond to your work. Every show will not work for every seller, it's a constant learning process.

As for what types of bigger shows are the best... it totally depends on your craft and your type of customer. When you consider doing a new show, learn all you can about it. Check out their web site, search for photos of the event, check out the people and the layout if you can. Some questions to consider during your research:
   - How many people do they claim to attract? 
   - Will there be buy/sell or imports allowed, or is it a juried artists-only event? 
   - Is there a rodeo, race, pet parade, concert, or chili cook off? 
   - What is the area like in terms of demographics, income, types of businesses? 

Now consider how all this info matches with what you know about your best customer and the style of your work. The best you can do is make the most educated guess possible, and then go for it. 

I love love love talking to new artists wanting to sell their work, it's so exciting! Getting out there and saying, "Here's me and what I do, love it or leave it." It's a little scary because it's different every time. It's a gamble. Even the same show can be drastically different from year to year. But every show is an opportunity to network with other artists and expose your work to a new set of customers. Learn and grow and then... find another show!