Updated: Feb 21
Participating in craft shows or pop ups can be such a great way to grow your business and expand your network. I can personally say that being a market vendor has led me to some amazing opportunities, customers, and referrals that I may never have come across on my own. While I don't think being a market vendor is suited for every maker or personality, I think it's a great thing to at least try out if you're looking to grow your business and reach your community. Like me, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!
After over a year of participating in markets or pop-ups, I feel like I have come a long way and learned so much since I first began. My display has improved, my sales have been higher and more consistent from show to show, and I went from having serious pre-show anxiety to feeling totally cool and collected. There are so many things that I wish someone had told me before I started though, so I'm here to guide you with what I've learned. Here we go!
We'll start with the obvious; the presentation of your display. This is by far the most important part of any market!
Here are some photos of my first ever craft show:
And here are some photos of my more recent shows. You'll see that quite a bit has changed between the two (including my hair color)!
Okay. So there are some things I learned between my first market and now in terms of my display, and here they are:
1) Organization is key. People are not drawn to a scattered, messy looking booth. You want to make sure your display is aesthetically pleasing, and keeping things lined up and easy to sort through allows people to find what they are looking for more quickly. I've found that the best way to organize your display is to group your items together instead of spreading them out. If you sell earrings, have all your earrings on a display rack or backdrop together. If you sell keychains, put them all in one basket or lined up next to each other. This was one of my biggest mistakes at my first show; as you can see in the first photo I just scattered all kinds of smaller items everywhere. This overloads the customer's eye and I feel that people tend to skim right past if the presentation is too messy or visually overwhelming.
2) Add height and dimension. This adds to the organizational element and adds visual interest to your space. It also allows people to see more of your product within the same amount of space. Some examples of this would be to incorporate raised platforms, bowls, or crates and layer your items on top of or inside these items. Bring some sort of shelving unit and display additional items there. There are really so many ways to do this.
3) Signage pays off in the long run. Do you take custom orders? Do you lead workshops or have any other events coming up? Is there anything else that makes your craft special? Let people know using signs or flyers, and always have business cards handy as well as a way for people to find you on social media. I've gotten many custom orders this way. I've also made so many connections with people who weren't ready to buy when they came across my booth, but went home and bought something from my Etsy once they thought about what they wanted in their space!
4) Get people to loiter around your booth. Okay, this might sound sketchy, but hear me out. I've never done this, but I plan to try it out next market season! I've seen other shops set up little DIY stations specific to their craft, and people seem to love it. For example, one maker that sold leather goods set up a DIY leather stamped ornament station for Christmas and it was a total hit- their booth always had people in it! You could also have a little freebie station as well if a DIY station doesn't apply to you as much- I've seen people give away little candies or flower seed packs and I thought it was a great idea. This fact is simple and true; when your booth looks busy, it attracts even more people.
5) Buyers need to visualize things. Your presentation should allow your ideal customer to picture your work in their own home, or with their own outfit, etc. If you're selling wall art, it's best to present it on something that resembles a wall so your ideal customer can picture it on their own wall. If you're selling tableware or ceramics, you definitely need a table or some shelving. If you're selling jewelry, PLEASE don't make the rookie mistake of forgetting to bring a mirror! Since I sell wall hangings, I also like to bring a small photo album that shows some of my pieces styled in homes. This gives people an idea of how to style their own macrame piece and brings a concept into reality in their minds.
This is something that I haven't seen another blog touch on, and it's always bothered me so I'm going to go there! There are some important things to keep in mind when deciding how much inventory to bring and how to price your items.
1) People go to craft shows for impulse buys, not to buy something that they will have to rearrange their entire house for. I used to bring lots of my larger, pricier wall hangings to shows only to have to lug them back home with me. Now, while I still sometimes bring one larger wall hanging to show the type of work I'm capable of, I mostly bring smaller wall hangings and often mini pieces too. These are easy for people to incorporate into the wall decor they already have, without having to go home and measure just to make sure they have enough space for a huge wall hanging!
2) Have a wide price range of items to accommodate all types of buyers. I'd recommend trying to have your items range all the way from $10-100(this obviously varies depending on the category). Further, I specifically recommend that you make lots of small, giftable items. I'm talking $20 and under-these will make up the majority of your sales! If your items usually sell at a high price point online, I'm not saying to mark them way the heck down. DO NOT UNDERVALUE YOUR WORK! However, try to think outside the box to see how you can make your items more wallet-friendly. For example- if you paint, consider having prints or creating cards made from your original artwork.
3) Mark each item with a price or make your prices very easy to find. Some people are so shy that they won't ask how much something is. The bummer is, these people are much less likely to buy if they can't find prices. I don't know about you, but sometimes if I go to a store or look at an item online and I can't find the price, I assume it is expensive. I think other people feel the same way, so don't give them any reason not to buy!
4) While I can't exactly tell you how to determine the amount of inventory to bring, I can offer up some wisdom. First, don't overwork yourself to make an insane amount of inventory. I've done it many times and it is seriously never ever worth the stress. No one will know if you ran out of time to make 5 extras of one of your popular items. Second, focus on your current best sellers and make lots of those. Experimenting with new items can go either way, so it's good to have some inventory that you're sure will sell.
GETTING THROUGH THE DAY
I recommend coffee. And lots of it.
Being an introvert, markets can be paradoxically draining and energizing. On the one hand, I get to connect all day with people who love the same things as me. How awesome is that!? But on the other, I am not used to being so high energy and holding conversations all day so I am usually completely wiped out by the end. Here are some tips for introverts and extroverts alike:
1) Smile and say hello to everyone. Trust me. I used to have suspicions that people don't like being talked to when shopping or that I would come across too sales-person-y if I greeted every person right as they entered my booth or table. At some events I would try to leave people alone as an experiment to see if I did better in terms of sales. It turns out, the people who go to craft shows are there because they want to buy from a PERSON, not from a store. They usually want to talk to you and get to know you! I just make it a rule to make eye contact and say a warm hello to each person as they walk by or walk in. It honestly never hurts and sometimes opens up a conversation and leads to a sale!
2) Bring snacks or lunch. Markets can be physically and emotionally draining. I've gone through entire markets so busy or preoccupied that I didn't eat, and then I always crash at the end or afterward and it's so not fun. It's so simple but profound what some good food can do to your energy levels during those final hours of a show.
3) Have fun with it! I know, this sounds tacky. But be determined to have a good time no matter what your sales are like! Markets are so much more than sales- they can be such a great place to meet future customers and connect with other artists as well.
I hope that if you've been doing markets or are considering joining a maker's market near you soon, that you found this blog helpful! Being a part of events like this has been such a game changer and opened up a new side of being a maker for me. I hope it does for you too!