There comes a time in a maker’s life where you begin to contemplate whether to sell your work in a public setting. Whether at craft shows, farmers markets, street fairs, or festivals… it takes a lot of thought, preparation, and investment to participate in these arenas, but the value that you can receive is often worth the effort. Here are 7 benefits of selling at craft fairs:
1. BRANDING: Preparing to sell at a craft fair gives you an opportunity to work on how best to display your work and focus on the type of branding, message, image, EMOTION you want to portray your work with. Every show that I do, I tweak my display either to improve it, to adapt to the show I’m doing, or to better display a new product. It’s always a work in progress.
2. GOAL-DRIVEN PRODUCT MAKING: When you have a show to prepare for, it drives you to CREATE PRODUCT...more so than in a normal timeline. This allows you to create product that even if you don't sell, you have in stock for wholesale purposes, or to have ready to sell online or to for future events. I never regret making more products for shows, even if I don't sell them. Sometimes this also jumpstarts your creative juices to create new designs and/or products you wouldn’t normally think of.
3. SALES PRACTICUM: Being able to talk about your work is necessary and invaluable: finding catchphrases about what is your story/hook about why your product is unique.... this is GREAT practice for when you're ready to speak with wholesalers and buyers (or customers in general). Selling is an art form of itself and takes practice.
4. BUSINESS PRACTICUM: There are so many little business details that you have to prepare prior to a show. Do you need a card reader, preparing money and fiscal tracking, business cards, bags, inventory tracking, etc.)...this is another great practice for your small business.
5. MARKET RESEARCH: Arguably the most valuable of all is the ability to witness on the spot market research by watching and listening to your customers to see what they are attracted to. What are your best sellers? What do THEY think makes your items unique? What can you improve on? What can you do more of? What products can you let go of? This allows you to find progress in your work.
6. NETWORKING: I can't tell you how many times the unexpected has happened at a show in reference to networking. I've been to a show where I didn't sell a thing, but a store owner happened to be walking by, picked up a business card, and carried my work in their store the next week, and now is the most profitable store for me. Or another vendor who makes clothing who asked to borrow my jewelry for a photo shoot...and now almost exclusively uses my jewelry (and gives me loads of free promotion!). And I LOVE all the market friends I've made....they are great sources for sharing booths, sharing show notices, sharing ideas, and sharing the community of the maker life.
7. INTANGIBLE BENEFITS: There is so much value to the act of simply putting yourself out there. It's vulnerable. This is your ART. This is a part of you. Allowing yourself to be seen takes courage. We are brave people for what we do....because we know it's risky. Also, for many of us, it's just plain fun to do shows. We meet new maker friends, often get to eat yummy street food, barter for items, and get to really feel our identity as a business owner. Plus, observing and learning from others is often one of the greatest teachers.
There are more benefits beyond this list, this is just to name a few, but only you will know if you’re ready to dive into the world of craft shows and fairs. And if you’re hesitant to invest in large shows and the equipment that comes along with preparing for a show, start small! Look at your local farmer's markets as they are usually reasonably priced, and local schools and churches often have craft fairs during the holiday season. And if you’re ready for the big ones, visit them before you participate…that’s the best way to find out whether the location, audience, and types of other vendors participating fit with what you are bringing to the table.
Gloria Rubio is a beadwork artist and arts advocate, long-time SF Etsy member, and owner of MorninGloria’s Intricate Beaded Flowers & Jewelry for nearly 10 years. When she’s not at a craft show or in her home studio, you’ll find her dancing in the vineyards of wine country, walking labyrinths, or working on her PhD in psychology. http://morninglorias.com/
For more tips on being a maker in the SF Bay Area, register to be a part of the SF Etsy Team, a group of over 2,000+ makers giving advice, sharing ideas, and organizing small-to-large shows in the greater bay area. http://www.etsysf.com/
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