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Do's and Don'ts for Beginners When Doing Your First Craft Show
By Michelle Sholund  -  a Craft Expert    about page  personal website
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Do's and Don'ts for beginners when doing your first show.
By Michelle Sholund

So, you were at a craft show, thought, "hey, I can do that and I believe I am ready to do my first craft show". How do you find a craft show, what will be your expenses, how much do I charge - a million questions are probably going through your mind. Here's some advice as to what to do and what not to do when doing your first craft show.

DO - Craft shows close to where you live. Gas prices are still above average, don't worry about hotel fees and then tolls could be a factor too. Look in local papers, chamber of commerce places, art and craft show (or festival) printed publications or event websites to find local shows. This will keep expenses low and save you money.

DO NOT - Go to the first show you see advertised. There are a number of shows out there such as street festivals, high schools, etc. which occur on one day. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is not wise because you could miss out on others that may have more advertising which leads to more customers, cheaper space fees, etc.

DO - Know your price range for a show. Space fees will be one of your bigger expenses and you need to set a limit on what you will and won't pay for. Some space fees could be $20 to $500 or more. If you are starting out go small and work your way up. Also don't assume places provide tables, table cloths, or even convenient parking. The higher the price when you start out doing shows can be a big let down if you can't break even. Also, higher priced shows are more for the big league crafter artists that go from state to state and do it as their sole form of living - not all crafters, but most. It is best to get a following doing small shows and then try out for a bigger show.

DO NOT - Change the price of your products from show to show. It will make customers think you are dishonest and possibly think you don't make your own products. Find a happy medium and stick with it before you do shows - remember you can do sales to help out at shows that are in lower income areas or to get arid of old stock. If you do have a problem pushing your items then I would try lowering the price and see what happens. Another suggestion is to mention that "Due to availability of certain items, prices are subject to change."

DO RESEARCH - Like what you are doing here is research in learning about what to expect doing craft show. But more so, go to various crafts shows and see it from the stand point of customers and crafters. How is the flow of traffic? Are crafters or customers complaining? What is the size of spaces at the show and what areas are getting seen more than others? Also if someone is selling similar products you are, check prices and introduce yourself. Some crafters may be iffy in giving you advice due to competition but others can be a wealth of knowledge.

DO NOT - Expect that once you have a space and your craft you need anything else. Your display is the second most important thing next to your craft and you must try setting up your display before doing the craft show to know what to expect. Just having a table and your items on it is not a display - that is a yard sale. It is wise to get a table cloth that covers at least three sides of your table all the way to the ground so people don't see unsightly clutter. shoot for a table cloth that can be plain yet be an eye catching color or decorative/festive. Having just a table cloth alone will hide your boxes and containers under the table. Also, having height and dimension will get people to see you items - i.e. shelving for on the table, stacking crates or wrapped box stands, or free standing, peg boards, clothing racks (if you sell scarves, clothing, etc.) are all acceptable. If your items lay flat on the table upon first look people won't think you are selling anything - just look at your display from a customers point of view. And do not have empty space. If you do, it looks like you aren't well prepared or there isn't enough to keep one's attention. The more you fuss over your items as in restocking, it gives customers a sense of urgency in "ooh what else is she putting out, maybe it is different than what was out already," and that you are busy due to sales.

DO - Wear comfortable clothes and prepare for inclement weather. Some indoor shows are hard to predict whether it will be hot or cold inside (even outside for that matter). Dressing in layers helps. The best thing anyone can wear to a show is a simple polo shirt or nice oxford shirt and jeans or khakis. It shows professionalism, yet casualness too. Also with rain (whether it is an outdoor show or indoor show) know the easiest route to your booth from other places at the show and know how to shield your items and display from rain and wind. There are numerous times I have seen displays blown over time and time again due to wind and rain damage. This is where insurance will come in handy - but that is down the line...

DO NOT - Assume that the promoter knows your needs. In your application make sure you have things noted like the need for electricity, or that you need an extra table, be specific in what you will be selling - ESPECIALLY IF YOU SELL JEWELRY (are you selling beads, semi precious stone items, metal smithing, etc.) There is nothing wrong with requesting to be in a visible area, or not be next to certain types of vendors. If you aren't specific in your application, promoters may not be able to help you.

DO - Give customers space. A lot of customers are there to browse and may or may not want to engage in conversation. However you only have 3-5 seconds to catch a persons attention (by getting them to notice your booth) and if you can, at least greet the person within 30 seconds. It works.

DO NOT - Crowd your customers. Just think of the one store you get harassed in as soon as you walk through their doors. Allow customers to browse and suggestive sell. If someone likes a certain type of jewelry, say a necklace, show them a matching bracelet or piece "xyz" would compliment their eyes or clothes. Mention that you do make the items or you can personalize items, and to do so all they need to do is ask. Also, some customers zone in on one thing and will be oblivious to other items on your display, suggesting that if they like what they are holding, they will definitely like this one and point or pick up the item and put it in their hands. Although it could at times seem easy to loose yourself in conversation with some, DO NOT ignore other customers - a quick "Hold that thought" to one customer and going over to another customer to introduce yourself is an easy transition from leaving one conversation and going into another with out the sake of being rude.

DO - Have business cards! How else can a customer contact you if they want to buy more of your things or have an issue with one of your things? Doing a simple business card on the computer with a word processing software or a desktop publishing program is very cost effective than going to an outside business. And the paper can be pretty cheap depending on how nice you want your cards to be. Sometimes your kids or grandkids can help you with that too. Also having a notepad for people to sign up on a mailing list is really good too. If they are interested in more information this allows you to have the ball in your court with the information verses waiting by the phone hoping they will call you.

DO NOT - Walk around asking questions from other vendors about their sales. It is the same type of question as saying how much money do you make at your job - tacky and a big no no. Many folks are willing to share their experiences with different shows and to get their opinion on how they ranked this one (the first show you attend) to others is a better way to get more important information.

DO NOT - Yes, two do not's in a row... Anyway, do not have high expectations for your first show. You will get a lot of "How cute", "Isn't that nice", or even "I can do that" and they can just walk away. But at the same time you will get some sales and from those sales you can judge what is a good seller and what isn't something people are interested in buying. Some do really well on their first show and others don't. The biggest reason for this is exposure - the more exposure you do the more people will find you and buy time after time. You may need to do a show 3 times before you get repeat customers and the show becomes a really good show for you profit wise. Remember if you break even that is good for a good show, but only for a first show! Doing more than that is what you need to focus on because you need to pay yourself, bills, items for making what it is you make, gas, electric, etc.

DO - Have fun! The biggest thing with shows is generally they are a lot of work but a lot of fun too. You WILL get a huge surge of self confidence and ego boost from customers - who doesn't like that?! Also, meeting other crafters is really good especially the advice may have too!

LASTLY - DO NOT - Get discouraged. It may take 2-3 craft shows to get the hang of them - but every craft show is a learning experience. Also, don't get carried away with shopping for yourself - remember you do want to make money and keep some around for reinvesting in your craft business as well as walk away with some profit. I have been doing shows for a couple of years now and am finding my niche in what shows are best for me and my products, getting a following, etc. It will come, just stick with it, plan well, and think positive.

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