1. Know the show
One of the best things you can do to improve your odds of a successful show is to do your research ahead of time. This can influence everything from what items you decide to bring, to how you decide to set your pricing, to how you design your display. As you’re doing your research, try to get a sense of who will be attending the fair (both vendors and customers) and what might interest them most about your products.
2. Plan ahead
Chances are, this craft fair, important though it may be, isn’t the only thing in your life right now. Even if you’re a professional crafter, you’ve got plenty of other things on your plate, from ordering supplies to filling existing orders. That’s why planning ahead is crucial to making sure everything comes together as you want it to. Once you’ve researched your show, take some time to work out the details, make lists, place orders, and generally do as much ahead as you can. This also gives you some breathing space in case something goes wrong. If you’re working down to the wire, even minor issues can feel disastrous, while having that extra time to resolve any issues allows you to focus on what’s really important.
3. Consider your brand
If you haven’t put a lot of thought into what your brand is just yet, now’s the perfect time to do so. Your brand isn’t just about your logo and the color scheme on your website. Your brand is everything that shapes your customers’ perception of who you are as a business, and that means everything from what you decide to make, and from what materials, to how you decide to price and display it. For hobby crafters, this may not be as crucial, but even if you’re not selling full time, if you’re looking to build clientele and gain recognition among customers for your work, it doesn’t hurt to consider your branding and clarify the message you’re hoping to get across.
4. Put some thought into your display
Displays are one of the most crucial and (for some crafters, at least) most fun parts of preparing for a craft fair. It’s important to stand out from the crowd, but only for the right reasons. Sometimes there’s a fine line between just right and too far when it comes to decorating your booth. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. You always want your handmade items to be the star of the show, so (keeping your branding in mind) try to think of ways to show them off at their best. This might mean staging small clusters of products that can be used together (like a coin purse and handbag, or a scarf and hat), dressing a mannequin to model one of your bags slung over its shoulder, or stringing your handmade baby bibs on a “clothesline” to let them flutter in the breeze. Be creative!
5. Don’t put too much thought into your display
As much fun as it is to design extravagant booth spaces, it’s also easy to go overboard. Remember, your goal is sell as much of your inventory as possible, as profitably as possible, and the more you spend on booth decorations that don’t directly directly translate to more sales, the more you’re cutting into your profits. There’s a learning curve to booth design, certainly, and sometimes you might make an investment that doesn’t pan out as you’d hoped. Try not to be discouraged. At events, keep careful notes about what people seemed to like about your display, what items were most popular, and what seemed to be overlooked. All of this can help you make smarter and more economical booth design decisions in the future.
6. Make sure you have all your paperwork
Once you’re accepted into a show, designate a folder or large envelope as the landing place for all the important documents you’ll need If you’re required to have any permits, keep the original in a safe place to bring with you on the day, but make sure to make a copy to keep in your folder so that if something goes awry, you’ve at least got some initial documentation. Also add in any schedules or maps that detail when and where you’re to be selling, and keep track of any particular rules for the show. Some, for example, don’t allow using adhesive tape or other mounting devices to attach things to walls or floors.
7. Plan to bring a friend
Craft fairs are just easier with two people! Whether it’s someone who can help you unload and set up, or just someone to keep an eye on things while you run to the loo, a second pair of hands is invaluable. It’s a great job for teens with an eye toward entrepreneurship themselves. Not only are they often eager to help, but it’s a great opportunity for you to provide a bit of mentorship for young people looking to learn.
8. Dress for the weather
Outdoor shows are notoriously unpredictable, but even indoor craft fairs require a good bit of planning as far as weather goes. If you’re in a drafty hall and stuck near the door at a holiday show, you’re probably going to be thoroughly grateful for that extra jumper by the end of the day. Think about your booth and your inventory as well as your own apparel. If it rains, will your brown paper table displays be ruined? Are you selling soaps or candles that might melt in the heat? If you’re leaving spare stock in the boot of your car, for example, it’s easy for things to overheat or get too cold if the weather is uncooperative. Try to plan ahead and think through potential sticking points.
9. Talk to your customers
For introverts, this is the most excruciating part about craft fairs. You do want your wares to speak for themselves, but you are as much a part of your brand as your products. If you’re uncomfortable, start by chatting about the show in general. Ask customers who they might be shopping for, and whether they’ve found anything particularly interesting. Don’t be afraid to direct them to other booths if you know of a vendor who might have just what they’re looking for. Chances are, they’ll remember you, and make a point to return the favor. When customers are interested in your work, take the opportunity to make sure they’re getting what they’re looking for. Ask a few questions. Is it a gift? Maybe you offer gift-wrapping! If it’s an impulse buy because they love the fabric print you used, perhaps let them know you have a few other items that match. Not only can this gain you an extra sale or two, but it also helps customers walk away with exactly what they were hoping to, even if they didn’t realize it at the time!
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