Liz from The Meetup asked me to write a special post on how to do craft fairs and I gladly said yes. Here it is, I hope you enjoy it. And if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or drop me a convo or email 🙂
How to: Craft Fairs
Craft fairs are a way to be visible in your area. They are a great way to meet customers and talk up your products in way that is still easier to do in person than online. Fairs are a lot of fun and also a wonderful way to meet other crafters, make friends and get advice where you can. At every show I do, I talk to the other crafters and see what their techniques are, what kind of shows they are doing and if they know of any more that I should look into.
The key to making the most profit is finding the right fair for you at the right price. The smaller the fee, the more chance of a profit for you. The bigger the fee, the bigger the fair and also the more chance of a profit for you, but also a bigger risk. Look at how much money you have for fairs and how many fairs you think you might want to do during the season. Think about your craft and your customers and where they might be shopping.
Fees can range from $20 – $600 depending on the fair, the location and the number of days. When you are just starting out, it’s best to find fairs that are under $100 to test the market and see how your products sell. It’s also a great way to start figuring out what type of fair is right for you.
Example: The first fair we did was at a small private school in a very woodsy part of Connecticut. Sort of out in the middle of nowhere. The fee was $100 for two days. At that point, we didn’t really know how our products would sell or to what crowd we should market them. This was an opportunity and we jumped at it. We made about $120. Which means that we made a $20 profit after taking out the fair fee.
This was not the best fair for us and a lot of elements factored in. Two major factors were that the fair was only really advertised to people that attended the school and we were placed right next to the school store’s booth – people tended to stop there and then not move on to us. The lack of publicity combined with the $100 fee made this fair not a great choice. But we gained experience, met people and had fun. So it wasn’t a total loss.
Even if you don’t make a lot of money, remember to talk to your fellow crafters and have fun.
Now, if this fair had been advertised in the papers for weeks ahead of time and/or been in a more public place (not hidden in the woods on a back road) then we might have made a lot more money in those two days and it would have been worth it. I’m not saying to skip expensive fairs, because sometimes they can be worth it, just in the beginning do your research.
Craft Fairs with smaller fees usually take place at public schools and churches around holidays – Christmas, Mother’s Day etc. and can be a great way to get yourself out there without too much of a risk. Also, fairs that take place in very public places like town greens and on major roads will most likely have more foot traffic than fairs on back roads, and may be worth the higher fee.
The first place I usually look for fairs is the newspaper. All newspapers have a community section with coming events and that is where you can usually find “Vendors Wanted” listings. You can also check the want-ads in the Tag Sale/Craft Fair section, but my experience shows that they usually are only listed there when it’s too late to apply.
Another way to find fairs is just to keep your eyes peeled when driving around. Before the holidays schools and churches will often put huge signs out front advertising their Holiday Fair. When you get home, google that school or church and see if you can find out who to contact.
If you are on Etsy, that can be another way to find fairs. Often people will advertise in the Forums when they are looking for vendors.
Also, let your family and friends know you are looking, especially if they live in another town. If they hear of something you might want to participate in they can tell you about it.
There are also tons of websites out there that have full listings of fairs in your area. Simply google “craft fairs” and your state and it’s sure to bring up a slew of websites that list fairs, their fees and when deadlines are. If you know of any specific, general sites please let me know and I’ll add them in here!
How Many Products Should I Bring?
One of the first things I was worried about was how many products to make and bring. My best advice for this is look at the fair. How much was the fee? How many people do they expect? At most small fairs one or two of each product / style should be fine. If you have a small amount of stock and want to just bring it all – go ahead! It can’t hurt to have it. Also, make sure you have enough stock to make more than just the fee back. If the fee is $100, bring at least $200 worth of product. The key is to make your table look full and inviting. Bring enough different styles of product to draw people in.
Great cheap finds can be sought out at places like Home Goods, Marshalls and Goodwill. Be creative with your display and don’t be afraid to change it up if something isn’t working or you find something better.
Example: When I started I used small dish racks from Walmart as greeting card displays (see above). Months later I found a fancier display at Marshalls and decided to use that instead.
Decide on a mood for your display and stick with it, make sure your pieces fit well together and there aren’t too many patterns or crazy colors to distract from your products. Check out this wonderful blog (Craft Show Designs) for ideas, and don’t be afraid to use flickr or google to find other examples of tables selling similar products.
Cash? Check? Credit Cards?
When you are first starting out, accepting Cash and possibly Checks is the norm. Accepting Credit Cards takes extra machinery, and usually extra fees that may not be necessary. If your products cost under $40, you should be fine with just Cash. If they cost more, you may want to consider paying the extra fees for a Credit Card machine. Most people at craft fairs have a certain amount of cash on them to spend, but lately credit cards are becoming more normal at craft fairs.
Checks are a personal thing. If you trust your customers, by all means accept checks. Always make sure to get the person’s phone number, address and license number so that you can contact them if the check does not go through for some reason.
In order to provide change to your cash paying customers, be sure to bring some cash with you. The standard is to have about $200 cash on you in various bills and coins. I usually have at least $50 + in singles, less in $5’s and $10’s and no $20’s. I also bring two rolls of each coin, although I’ve only needed one of each so far.
When you get home, take $200 out of your cash box or apron – the rest is your profit from the day.
Checklist of Things to Bring
Here is my basic checklist of things to bring. I found a lot of lists online and in books and then added some things to it. Feel free to print this list and add things to it yourself and keep it for each fair. Make copies if you want to and check things off as they are packed so that you don’t forget anything.
Table (or tables)
Sign with logo to hang
Cardboard for last minute signage
Cash box or Vendor Apron
Tape (I usually bring three kinds of tape just in case)
Stickies or S Hooks to hang artwork (if necessary and if there is space)
Garbage bag (for your own trash, there isn’t always a garbage handy)
Extra change (standard is to have $200 in cash, see above for more info)
Freebies (if you’d like – candy is a great example)
Lighting (if necessary – some fairs you must pay extra for electricity though)
Camera (take photos of your booth!)
Inventory (don’t forget your products)
Sales tax form/Business documentation
Clean up rag to catch spills
Finally, have fun. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself; if you look sad or sullen, your booth with have less visitors. Stay standing and active. Move things around on your table occasionally, SMILE, talk to people.
Don’t forget to promote the fair – tell your family, friends, put it on facebook, your blog, twitter. Spread the word.
Good luck with your Craft Fair Adventures and if you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post or drop me an email.