Right now I only do a few craft shows a year – but one year I also did something called the “Monthly Craft Market” and did a show once a month for almost a year! That year alone taught me a lot about doing a craft show, and for me, now the most stressful part about a show is if I get lost trying to find the location if it’s in a new spot. Here are five things that help me out and make craft shows easy for me.
Bring a friend. The people in the booths next to you, while most likely the friendliest and most helpful people in the world, might not have time to watch your cash box or keep an eye on your booth while you run to get water/go to the bathroom/find something to eat. If you bring a friend, that person can help you in multiple ways. They can go get things for you (like my friend Rhea, who at my last show, ran to WalMart to get lamps for my table, because we were in the dark). They can watch the booth for you while you run to the restroom (even at just a four-hour show, trust me, you might need to go). They can ring customers up while you’re talking to another customer (years of retail experience has taught me that nothing brings customers who are in a hurry to buy something to your register like talking with another customer about the process of how you make something or about custom orders they might want to place). If your booth is busy, your friend can help you navigate the throngs, and if your booth is not busy, you have a friend who can hold your hand while you try not to cry. Friends are awesome.
Bring something to work on. Not your diary, not your homework, not your bills that need to be paid, not that latest book that you want to read, and definitely don’t pull your phone out to check Facebook or play Angry Birds! Bring something to work on that relates to what you make. People come to craft shows because they love things made by hand, and nothing will bring them to your booth like actually making something in front of them! Nothing fills my booth with people like bringing my spinning wheel and spinning during the slow moments. I’ve seen people buy jewelry from a maker at a booth next to me as she was finished making it – one of the reason people want handmade is that they want a story that goes with what they buy, and isn’t “I watched them make this and then I bought it before they could even put it out” a great story?
Bring things you won’t need (you’ll need them). I have a small box inside my Craft Show bin (one of those good-sized Sterlite containers with a lid into which goes lights for my booth, my cash box, bags, and the Magic Box). Inside the Magic Box is everything I thought I’d never need and wound up needing. Scotch tape. Packing tape. Scissors. Fingernail clippers. Extra pens. Extra receipt books. Advil. An emergency bag of peanuts. Extra price tags (there’s always at least ONE item that sneaks in without a price tag!). A small bag with coffee beans (one of the things I sell is scented soap, and sniffing coffee beans will clear out your nose in between sniffs – sort of like sipping water to cleanse your palate between testing two different drinks). Paper towels. Kleenex. Tampons. Even more pens (those things do walk off!). More business cards (I have run out!). Every craft show I do, even now, I think of something I could have used and didn’t have. I write it down and when I get home, it goes into the box so I have it next time!
Plan in advance. Plan what you want your table or booth to look like. Draw out a diagram, or if you’re bringing your own tables, set it up and try putting everything on it. Think about the traffic flow. Where are people coming from? What do you want them to see first? There’s a show I did that I knew was going to be filled with younger, cooler, hipper people who were there to find funky, unique gifts – I thought about from which direction most of them would be coming and I faced my baby head vases and mugs in that direction… and sure enough, they brought people into my booth! Almost everyone who stopped had to look at them and talk to their friends about them. Also plan about money. Are you bringing a cash box? I recommend at least $100 in your bank, and at least $50 of that in ones. Are you taking credit cards? Square and PayPal make it super easy to do that now – but make sure that either you’re going to get good cell phone reception or that wireless will be available. Are you accepting checks? Try to keep a little corner of your booth free from anything, so someone can put their checkbook down to write the check out (or have a little clipboard). Plan about electricity, if you need it (for example, if you find yourself in the darkest corner of the location! Do you have lamps? Do you have a friend who can go out to get lamps? Do you have an extension cord if there aren’t any close plugs?).
Have a good time! Smile. Smile a lot, even if you’re not feeling it (nothing makes me walk past a booth faster than a scowling artist). And I say this as a person with a natural, resting-face scowl! My face hurts by the end of the show because I am constantly reminding myself to smile, even if I’m just staring off into space, collecting thoughts. If you’re sick, if you’re tired, if you’re hungover, if you’re worried about your business or the quality of your work… none of that should show, if you can help it. Put on a face of someone confident and happy and proud of what you’re doing and selling, and people will be drawn to that (and the more they are, the more they buy, and the happier you really will be). Enjoy what you’re doing and the love of your craft will shine through!
These are all things that have helped me have great craft shows. Even the ones that aren’t great financially, I’m glad I’ve done – each one has taught me something, be it about finding my audience or what my niche is or just lessons learned in general. I may only do a couple a year now, but when I do them, I do them well and I have a great time!