Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Start Selling at Craft Fairs #5: Show Time!

At last we come to the fifth of my 5 steps to Start Selling at Craft Fairs. Click the "Start Selling at Craft Fairs" tag at the end of this post to see the rest of the posts #1 - #4. 

Show Time!

Okay! After all of your making and planning, now it's time to do the actual work of selling things in your festival booth. My first big piece of advice overall, and my motto when getting ready for a show is...  

Always be prepared to do well.  
Even for the dinkiest of shows or the iffiest of circumstances, I will try to put my best foot forward. Meaning, I've done everything I can do to support having a good show. I have the proper stock, my packing is organized, my paperwork is in order, I've packed a healthy lunch, and had a good night's sleep.

Every show is an opportunity to put myself out there, and anything can happen. I want to be ready! It's also much less stressful and more fun for me when I know all my ducks are in a row.  Once I leave my house, if I've done my job right, I can just relax and enjoy the day.  

How much stock should I bring? 
I see this question often on craft fair forums. I think the best answer is, as much as you can. Obviously, the more you have, the more you can sell. It will take time to build up a large inventory, but don't let that stop you from doing a show. You do want to be sure you have enough to cover your expenses and make a profit. 

Chances are good you will not sell out, so plan on having double the amount that you want to sell. For example, if we follow the 10x Rule (see #4: Money Talk) and are feeling optimistic, we would say... I paid $100 for my booth, so I'd like to sell 10x that, $1000. I know I won't sell out, so double that to $2000 worth of items for sale. That's just a very general guideline. After you do a few shows, you'll figure out the right balance for you. 

Getting Organized

I cannot overstate the peace I feel when I use my super comprehensive Craft Fair Checklist, just knowing I have everything in order. Seriously. There is SO so much to keep track of, it's really easy to forget something dumb. Like the time I went out of town and forgot all the bedding for camping... for me and my helper. Duh! I have seen people forget their canopy. That is what nightmares are made of, my friend. Make yourself a detailed checklist and avoid the drama.

I also keep a Booth Box and a small tool box for booth essentials. I am very strict about getting everything back where it belongs, so I can find it when I need it. Then I know I am ready for anything!

Follow the Rules 

I know... rules are for suckers. Especially for us artsy free spirit types. Ha! No seriously, that is totally me. But when it comes to the running of a festival, it's much smoother to just follow their guidelines. There are a lot of moving parts being organized to make a good show for everyone involved. Be a cooperative component.

When you are accepted to a craft show, they will send you any info you need to know. Read it all. Usually there are specific instructions about where, when and how to set up your booth, where to park, hours you can/can't drive to your booth, camping info. Follow them as much as possible (I admit *sometimes* the rules don't mean much, but *normally* they are pretty important). Communicate ahead of time if you have special needs. Often there is staff to guide us and help out, or maybe there is nobody but us. Mistakes happen, adjustments often must be made. Cooperate. We are all in this together.  Be a good neighbor and you will have a much better time. 

Common Newbie Mistakes:
  • Late Opening or Early Closing - Show up when you are supposed to, and be open for the posted show hours. It looks bad for the whole event if some booths are closed
  • Thoughtless Parking - Move your vehicle as quickly as possible, so others can unload/load up as well. Especially after the show, it's an unwritten (or sometimes strictly enforced) rule that your booth should be mostly packed up BEFORE you go get your vehicle. 
  • Infringing on Neighbors - Do not block your neighbor's booth, the path to it, or infringe on their space in any way. Or at least ask first. For example, don't let your display stick out so far that it blocks your neighbor's. Don't hang or tape or tie things to anyone else's stuff. Don't send your customers to use someone else's mirror or dressing room. Check with them first, or just don't do it. 
  • Selling Inappropriate Items -  It's a growing problem, finding imports being sold at juried handmade-only craft shows.  We obviously cannot compete with wages overseas, so most of us purposely avoid shows that allow imports. If you have things in your booth not made by you, only sell them if it is allowed within the show guidelines. You may be told to remove the items, or even to remove your entire booth from the show never to return. And at the very least, it's just not cool at all.

Selling Tips
I think selling is not normally the artist's best skill. We love to make things, but selling them is a whole different ballgame. You are putting yourself and your creativity out there, to be judged by sales and interactions. It's not easy. And when I talk with artists who consider themselves introverts, it's even more scary. That's why I like having a friend help me in the booth sometimes, they can get all gushy about how great I am and how they looove this piece or that one. I can't do that. But it's really not necessary to sell. The best method is to just be friendly.

Here is my general sales technique:
  • Keep Busy - A busy booth attracts more people than a dead one. So when there is a lull in business, I go around and fuss with my goods. Sort the sizes, arrange stuff to fill gaps, pick up trash, etc. That way it looks like something is happening in there. I also like to make jewelry or sketch when it's slow, so I'm not just staring at people as they walk by or into my booth. Awkward! 
  • Greet People - Just say hello. It's the easiest way to break the ice when someone walks into your booth. I usually give people a minute to look around and get comfy. Sometimes I wait until they are close enough to catch their eye, or if they start touching things. Then I say, "Hi there, please let me know if you have any questions, I make everything myself." This gives them the freedom to just say "Thank you" and keep looking. But often they will ask a question and we are on our way!
  • Be Friendly - Friendly chit chat is really enough to get things going. You will meet all kinds of interesting people, have fun visiting. If they are engaged by you, they will be more likely to buy your art. Pretty simple.
  • Prepare Answers - Now, by this I do not mean rehearse a big sales speech. Eesh, no. But in time you will find people asking the same types of questions over and over. Come up with short, informative answers. They will become habit eventually, and that's how you become a good salesperson. Informing your customers about why your work is so awesome.
  • Close the Sale - Yes, I've said no pressure is needed, and people generally don't like that. But on the other side of it, do not be afraid to just come out and ask for the sale. Especially when people are having trouble making a decision, sometimes they just want someone to tell them what to do. They've looked, talked, touched, is perfectly fine to ask, "So, is this the one for you?" Or , "Maybe you should just get both!"  They are at a craft fair buying things, it is not outrageous at all. Again, just be friendly.

Have Fun!!
This is always my biggest and best piece of advice. The more you enjoy what you are doing, the better your sales will be. You are out there in the world, sharing your creative heart. It's an amazing feeling! You will meet so many people, talk about your art, hear the band, soak up the sun. Enjoy this adventure you have chosen!

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