Selling at Craft Fairs: Are They for You?

From the team at both YouCanMakeThis.com and SWAKembroidery.com comes a series of articles on selling your handmade items for profit. Over the next month we’ll focus on the area of craft fairs.We also want to hear from YOU! If you have ever participated in a craft fair, we’d love to hear about your experiences with it! What kind of show was it? What did you sell? What suggestions would you give someone who was considering the possibility of entering into one?

 

In addition to finding out the dates, times, and booth price, there are some other important questions to ask the organizer, which include:

 - Approximately how many attendees do they expect?
 - How many vendors are selling the same type of product as yours?
 - How will the craft fair be advertised?
 - Find out what is included in the booth price. A Chair? Table? Electricity?
 - What commissions need to be paid, if any, to the organizer? Are a percentage of sales taken?
If you’re not sure about the kind of show you should attend, then attend as many as you can as a consumer. This will give you a better idea of the shows in which you are interested in participating the next time they are held!

Second, it is important to find out any city or state requirements you have for your area. Because you likely must charge and then pay sales tax on the items you sell, it will be imperative that you register your business with the state and obtain a sales tax certificate. You can find that information by contacting your state agency covering sales tax (often available online). Check with the state and/or the show organizers to find out how the tax is to be collected. At some shows I’ve sold at, the state tax authorities pass around a certificate that needs to be filled out at the end and then turned in that day rather than filing later. Different states and shows vary, so be sure to find this information out before you begin.
  

Finally, perhaps the biggest question should be, “Do I have the time I need to invest into preparing for this show?” That is a question that only you can answer for yourself. If you choose to pursue this, then you may want to consider taking a look at your calendar and setting goals and deadlines for yourself to ensure you are not up until 3 a.m. the night before the big show! We’ve all been there…trust me! Look at giving yourself “office hours” each day when you can spend time each week making the items you will be selling. Be creative in how you streamline the process of managing your time. Rather than planning a large assortment of different items for your booth, consider finding a “niche” and focusing on just a few items so that you can make items in “assembly-line” fashion. This will help not only with your time, but also with your costs…and your sanity! Preparing for and participating in a craft fair can be a lot of work, and yet very rewarding at the same time. To do what you love and get paid for it at the same time provides much satisfaction. You can feel good about what you are doing, so enjoy the journey! It is definitely a learning process, so don’t become discouraged. You will learn new things each time you participate in a show. We wish you all the best in your creative endeavors!

 

We extend this invitation to our communities at both YouCanMakeThis.com, as well as SWAKembroidery.com! We can all learn from each other!

You love what you create and you love sharing with others. Has anyone ever approached you and said, “You know, you should really consider making and selling these things!” While the compliment is very flattening, you may think that you enjoy making items yourself but wonder whether selling those items would be a good idea. Is it all worth it? It may or may not be.

Over the next few weeks we’ll help you explore the pros and cons of generating additional income by selling your creations. We’ll share some great tips on how to price your items, how to make an eye-catching display, creating that great first impression with customers, and then how to extend your business beyond the craft show.
 
If you have considered entering your products into a craft fair, it is important to do your homework first. This is very important; because the work you do ahead of time will make sure you are able to get into the fair in the first place!  You have a lot to plan for, but first let’s make sure this is right for you. First, you will want to find out where the craft shows are happening. When and where will they be taking place? Call your local Chamber of Commerce. Look at local community bulletin boards, including school and church fairs.  You may be surprised how many you find once you start looking!

In the craft show market, there are really two different kinds of shows. There are juried and non-juried shows. A juried show is one in which you apply and send in photographs of your items. A selection committee then makes the final decision if you will be accepted to display in that show. Juried shows have a limited number of sellers and the booth costs are likely to be higher.  However, the attendance is often greater and there is often more advertising, meaning more prospective customers. Non-juried shows are those in which all who would like to have a booth are welcome, or are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Typically, the booth fees are less than you’ll find for juried shows.  Non-juried shows can be a great way to get started in this kind of business.  

 

 

 

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29 Comments

Filed under Selling at Craft Fairs

29 responses to “Selling at Craft Fairs: Are They for You?

  1. oh, this is definitely info i need!! i’ve only made a few things, but everyone keeps telling me i should make them and sell them…but i wouldn’t even know where to begin!! thank you for this!!! will definitely be saving this in my reader!

  2. I found that craft fairs were not for me. It is important to have a lot of inventory for a fair. This means weeks and weeks, sometimes even months of preparation. I tried to have several different types of things to appeal to everyone. Even if I did really well at a craft fair, I never felt like I made enough to justify all the time it took getting ready for it. I think if you build up a really great inventory and do a lot of craft fairs, it could be worth it…but for me, just took WAY too much time. Sorry to sound like Debbie Downer…just keepin it real. I would love to hear how others feel about this subject….great idea!

  3. Lindy

    I am so excited to read this article! I am applying for my first craft show and, although I’m excited, I scared out of my mind. I am keeping really positive and trying to think of ways to keep it simple for my first time.

  4. valarie

    this is my second year doing craft fairs here in my state (used to do them a long long time ago in a galaxy far away, but that was a different market back then)

    I have found that it doesn’t take nearly as much time to get ready for these things if you practice multi-tasking. For example, one of the things I sell is jewelry (it’s not the only thing, but one of my top sellers) so when I’m waiting for my kids at gymnastics, or swim lessons, I bring along a bracelet, or some earrings to finish up. NOt only do I use the time wisely that I would otherwise have wasted, but I have gotten lots of orders from other moms. I have ended up doing trunk shows in the parking lot.

    Also, if you keep a notebook ahead of time of how many of each thing you plan to make, you can set things up assembly line style (cut everything out at one time, paint all of one color at one time so you aren’t washing your brushes so much, etc. Time management is the key!
    Valaire

    PS, I have ADD, and am not generally an organized person, so if I can do it, anyone can!

  5. i have one show (juried) that i do in june that i can never have enough items for. this has got to be the most rewarding experience in the world. i do however work on items all year long. i recently did a show in september where i barely made my table money back, it was supposed to be a juried show but many vendors had flea market items, that was very disappointing. i do agree with each show i do i learn something. shows are a definate live and learn kind of thing. good luck to all who are doing shows this fall.

  6. This is my 2nd year of doing craft fairs. It’s been TOTALLY worth it to me! Each show is a learning experience, and no two shows are alike. I love getting inventory made and ready to go. It’s almost like an “excuse” to be creative! I get to do what I love AND make money doing it! I think that may be the key to the whole thing. You have to love what you’re doing.

    I’ve tried selling online, but found that I love talking with people. If you’re not comfortable dealing with the public, then fairs probably aren’t for you.

    Blessings–
    Dana

  7. amy

    My sister and I are getting ready for our first show of the season this weekend. We sell hair accessories, clippies, bows etc. This year we have pillowcase dresses ,clothing with vintage hankie embellishments and ladies headbands made from vintage linens. Not sure how that stuff will go. One thing we found was we went to school sponsored craft shows last year thinking people would have children and therefore just buy our stuff, not so, we had some really bad shows. You never know till you try. It also helps if you have someone who likes to talk to total strangers(me). My sister is like just buy it already, so she takes the money and I do the selling.
    There are so many things to think about too, Like how are we going to set this stuff up, how is the best way to design my booth, and very very important WHO IS GOING TO REMEMBER TO BRING THE MONEY TO MAKE CHANGE!!!!
    Craft shows are usually alot of fun, they are alot of work, I would say do not be discouraged if your first doesn’t go so great. Our first last year was such a joke, it’s too embarassing to even talk about.
    Hope I didn’t scare anyone to bad. Good luck to everyone. I hope I get rich this weekend!!!

  8. linda rose

    Thanks for this series! I’m going to be setting up in a few weeks at a craft fair in association with our church! Great information!

  9. Jill G.

    This is great. I love to sew and I know I can make a living at it. My problem is getting started. I need some major help in this area and how to work my embroidery machine. I need a mentor.
    Thanks again,
    Jill

  10. LINDA

    I have done craft shows ( only jurried now) since 1972. Some suggestions: only consider jurried shows and those that charge a fee for people to attend are the best. Otherwise, you will get tons of lookers who only want to copy your items. (Beware camera phones they have become the best way to copy a design these days…often they come with complients of how wonderful your items are and oh yes, I’m sending my husband over to take a couple of pictures for my quilting club). Being able to find a show that specializes in your market is best…showing (selling) baby items in a senior retirement resort area is quite difficult. Diversify, diversify, diversify…do not depend upon one item. Beware areas where craft shows that have become yard sale mentality. Talk to actual crafters who have done the show 5 or more years to determine the quality…promoters will tell you anything to fill booth space. This sounds negative, however, craft shows are long hard hours, many hours to prepare well, it takes hours to develop an attractive booth, the best ones are costly to do…3 or 4 days in a row…hotel, meals, travel expenses……..do not depend upon them especially this year to make a living…it’s a nice hobby that mostly pays for itself. Those making tons of money may do as many as 30 shows yearly and they only do the very best shows.

  11. Kathleen

    This last weekend was a fall festival show in a small town that has had a horrendous year with a huge flood and a sagging economy. It was the 3rd year in a row that I have displayed at this show and I wasn’t sure how it would go. Last year I did very well and it was even better this year. So apparently folks still have some money to spend.

    If you are new to shows, try to make your booth easily accessible and inviting. I sell handbags, cigar box purses, domino pendants and other altered art jewelry. Buyers were very interested in my designs and numerous people asked “Did you make all of this?”.

    Do your best to have something different than everyone else, or at least the best quality item. One lady even asked it I would consider being in their fine arts show, so the quality must have met her standards for fine art.

    Once you do a few shows, it isn’t too scary. And yes it does take a lot of time to establish an inventory.

  12. I sold at my very first craft show 19 years ago. I was immediately hooked! Over the years though I found that the term “craft fair” was used loosely in that not everything being showcased was handmade (ex: Avon, Tupperware, Webkinz and even one woman selling knock-off handbags!). It was discouraging so I took a “craft fair” break for a few years.

    Last year I found 2 fairs on the same weekend and managed to do both with only the help of my 9 year old daughter. I made a small profit but met alot of other vendors ready to share info on future fairs worth selling at. So, even if you don’t have a great selling day any connections you can make may be well worth your time and effort.

    I learned from other sellers that church fairs or bazaars are the best bet as most allow only items handmade. Larger fairs at colleges or convention centers mostly involve being “juried” and having a more elaborate display. This often requires applying a year in advance and spending anywhere from $500 -$1000 for your space to sell at a weekend event.

    I find it easier to make my items throughout the year instead of trying to mass produce months or weeks before an event. Stock up on supplies for holiday themed items AFTER the holidays (when they are on SALE!!) …work on your projects during the slow months (typically January & February). In no time you’ll find your inventory growing without the pressure of a last minute creating crunch. If you can’t manage to create a large inventory, take orders! I couldn’t produce enough crocheted bags last year so I took one for display and got 6 orders!

    GOOD LUCK!! :-)

  13. lorri

    I’ve been involved with craft shows/street festivals/fleamarkets.I have always had great luck selling my stuff. I do have variety from prim florals to blankets,dolls,games,potholders and more.I believe no project left behind!!,you just have to stay organized in doing them. I do cut and sew in an assembly line one type at a time. I feel the most important things to help make money is the way its displayed along with customer interaction. people always want a bargain, I do that, buy one for 20. or 2 for 16ea. and so on. in the long run I MAKE GOOD MONEY.. I even done the buy this get this free thing!!

  14. Kathy

    Thanks for doing this series. I am starting my third year of craft shows, some that i thought were good, some not so good. Most of the other crafters have all been very nice and helpful, even if they may be selling similar items as mine. Talking with some of them, made me feel as if the shows I thought were good, didn’t even come close to what they consider good. Oh well, even though I would like to sell more, and make more money, I am still happy to make my booth fee, gas money, food while at the show, and a little extra for profit. Some of the others don’t consider a show good, unless they sell a thousand dollars worth, but they have done this for years. I have had shows where I’ve only made booth fee back. I like doing the shows, and hearing people comment on how cute, unique, creative, nice work, and lots of work, my creations are. It inspires me to keep doing what I love doing, and not give up. If you are considering craft shows, most require your money and application months in advance. Good luck to all with your shows.

  15. Oh thank you all for your comments. I did one fair and it bombed. I did months of work and no sales. I have been scared to do it again. Mainly the disappointment and no support from home. You have given me more confidence to try again in the spring and summer.

  16. I am so excited for this series. I have done a few craft shows and I am always looking for new straitiges. I am really looking forward to the article on pricing. That is one area I am still grappling with. Thank you for posting these suggestions!!

  17. Tonya

    Some great tips already. I have been doing craft shows for years. A few tips that I have found helpful.

    1. Set up at home the whole display. If it is an outside venue, set up your tent and all.

    2. When setting up for practice, time yourself. This will give you an idea on how long it takes….so you show up at the show knowing you will be ready when the show opens.

    3. If you want to sell, then sell! Do not sit in your booth with a book! Greet everyone that walks by….I have found that people just walk like zombies and never really see most booths, but just a randam conversation helps them to really see what you sell. I usually greet them and then talk about the weather…it is safe!

    4. If selling kids things, I always have a little something for the kids….I do not put them on my table. I hand them out individually. I have given stickers, pencils, mini-candybars, safety-suckers, etc. I always have my website on it somewhere. Either a label or business card. Parents take notice when you are paying attention to their children!

    Hope these little tips help you. Good Luck!

  18. I have been selling for 4 years mostly juried. It is a lot of hard work and time for me I sell clothes I make and or embellish with embroidery crystals etc. oh yes hats too. I love it but it does have some draw backs time materials and for me getting my darling husband to help. chamber of commerce is your best bet I have a great lady who helps me at mine. All craft fairs are not the same so don’t get discouraged if you have a few you don’t do good at. I always set up a guest book for email addresses so you can tell them where you will be next and give lots of cards out they may not buy today but they might call you in the future

  19. lenna

    It also depends on what you are trying to sell. I have done many and people just seemed to want things for way less than what it was worth making. I sell mostly boutique items but people thought that my prices were out of thier league. I thought that they were fair and less than boutique stores for sure. I tried to make my booth look nice and worth the money but I think alot of people think “swap meet” more than “craft fair.” I put alot of time and heart into it and wasn’t about to see it sell for a dollar. Craft fairs are just not for me. So I found other ways to sell.

  20. Melanie

    I have done fairs and shows for almost 10 years. I have made and sold everything under the sun. Don’t despair. Sometimes things sell better some years than others. I am going to do more clothing this year because it seems to be a big thing online and I know a lot of people who like the one of a kind looks. I hope it goes well for all of us this year with the state of the economy the way it is!! Good luck to all and myself!! Keep creating and who knows, it may just work out!!

    Thank you to YCMT for bringing up the subject, it’s neat to see what everyone thinks about this!!

  21. Sherrie

    Boutique/Craft fairs are a tricky market. The best selling items are usually the newer and trendy items. Something that customers have not seen before. Most of my purchases at a craft fair were something I did not now how to make yet and just “had to have it” for a specific season.

    On the other side, the items that sold well for me were trendy and in great color and in popular sizes. It is always better to sell more at a lower price than less at a higher price. A good price makes a customer feel like they are getting bargain and would be more likely to purchase more.

    Some of my suggestions for success.

    -Trendy colors
    -Seasonal items
    -Good price!
    -Popular sizes
    -Cute packaging and presentation of items
    -Share a booth & split the cost. (like Pam mentioned)
    -Find your supplies/materials on sale throughout the year
    -Ask for very honest feedback from friends before creating items for sale.
    -Do your homework, visit other craft fairs to see what’s selling.
    -Be unique! Find the next trend.
    -Have treats and a free prize drawing.
    -Have items on a model.
    -Dress up and stand out.
    -Make your items accessible to pick up and view.
    -Don’t sit and watch people. Interact.

    Whether you make a good profit or not, it’s fun!

    Sherrie

  22. Denise

    I have been doing craft fairs for 3 years. I am acutally trying to decide if it is worth it. I do it with a friend who has done them for years and she does great. I seem to do a little better each year but sometimes I still wonder if it is worth it.

    We always ask when we do a new craft fair if there is flea market stuff there. If there is we don’t do it, sell aren’t real good.

    Diverifing is great! We have actually had items for 2 yrs that didn’t sell and are selling like crazy now.

    Talking to people is great but watch out. My partner is a little pushy and have acutally run people off.

    I am interested in the article on pricing. I believe people don’t understand how much material is to make things and the time it takes. Our items are very good quality and i seem to get discourage because people think we are to high.

    I am terrible about having enough made up. Each year I think I will make alot up during the year and I seem to find other things need to be done and end up craming during craft season.

    I also recommend local craft fair instead of ones at a great distance. The way gas prices are it really cuts into your profit.

    A plus for me is at my daughters like to go to craft fairs and it is a great time to get to spend with them.
    Good luck everyone.
    Denise

  23. Over the years, i have found that making samples of personalized monogrammed items is a good way to go. I make a sample of each item with a name and/or picture and then display it. It is a great way to get people to stop and ask and once they have stopped, you can usually sell them on what a great idea a personalized towel or baby blanket is. I also bring my laptop and a book of the designs and fonts I have and spend a couple of minutes helping them create their own designs. People love to give gifts that are unique and that they feel they created themselves. Then you don’t have to spend as much time preparing beforehand and only need to make what is ordered. It saves time and money.

  24. I am very interested in this topic as well, esp the pricing aspect as I sometimes believe that some things on Etsy are priced too low – things similar to what I have listed in my shop and I have spent some time on. Sometimes I can’t believe that they can even get the material cost out of it! Maybe they have a wholesale connection.

    My mother and I have also thought of entering the craft fair world but not until next year at least, b/c we don’t feel we have enough inventory to make it worthwhile.

  25. ann

    Wow! What a timely topic for me. Being in a new area after moving to a new state it has been hard to get organized enough to do the shows. I have, however, made two shows this fall and sold out at both of them. My daughter and I set aside a week each month to work as much as possible on our tiems for the fairs. We have quite an inventory of items for craft shows, birthdays, etc. and really enjoy making them.

    I am a people person and don’t usually have much trouble selling. I try to leave the money to my daughter to handle. We have much fun and if we have no sitter for her children I simply go it alone. I have found a checklist is very helpful. We put the basics and anything we feel is absolutely necessary on this list. We pack our totes and cross off the list. After the vehicle is completely packed and we are ready to leave we check the last minute list.

    Change for customers
    Bags for sales
    Sinage
    Chairs
    Table Cloths
    Calculator
    Jackets or raincoats

    We are ready to go!

    Here’s hoping you have as much fun as we do. It is a great way to make extra cash and some people even support themselves this way. Don’t be discouraged if your first show is not all that great. It takes time to get the hang of presentation, selling, and closing the deal.

    Happy Crafting
    ann

  26. I just started my business January 08, and made product for 6 months. I sold a few items just from people seeing my items. Then I started doing our local Farmers Markets in June that were just on Saturdays. Each one was a learning experience, from how to set up to what to say to customers, what they want and signage etc… I always kept a notebook handy to jot down any kind of info. be it something a person said, something I saw etc… Such as sizes, colors, items etc…. I started by sharing a booth and came really close to getting hosed when my booth partner got over being scared to do it and had her family supporting her and helping her and she threw the baby out with the bath water. So beware if you share booths and signup under one person, and they really may not have your best in their mind! Always have some of your own plans to protect your business future.
    I have done juried and non-juried craft shows, I have been invited to do special events. The craft shows that I have planned to do this fall are indoors, so I am learning to do it with out my tent! If anyone has shows that are worth attending I would love to know about them in Colorado, Wyoming or Utah. Thanks for the info.

  27. Mary Anne

    I just went to a Founders Day that happened to be on the opening weekend of Deer Hunt. What a disaster. i have a good product and sell clothes for pets but the turn out was weak and sales were less than desirable but I did manage to owe the state $1.77 in taxes. HA! HA! HA!

  28. holly

    thank you for this article. we are doing our first craft fair in december at the information is very helpful.

  29. AlishaSays

    My crazy sister. I can’t believe she didn’t tell me about these. Anybody think she’s trying to get a leg up on me for our upcoming craft fair??? LOL! I know she wouldn’t do that though! Now I really must get back to sewing so I will have more product for the fair!

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