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!