23 January 2013

10 Tips on Surviving Your First Craft Show

A few months ago, I blogged about my first craft show experience as a seller at the etsyRAIN Handmade Holiday Show. When I was invited to participate in the show (you can check out my blog post about the show here or a review of the show here), I was very happy to be chosen. But. (There's always a but, right?) I quickly got overwhelmed with all the things I would need to do. Making enough inventory. Creating an awesome display. Interacting with customers. Taking credit card orders. Even the thought of making change was giving me angst.

Now that I look back on the whole experience, I can say that it was worth all the worry and effort. And I would definitely do it again. There were things I would probably do differently, but all in all I think it went well! Plus, now I can share my experience with you and give advice to some of you lovely makers who are thinking of doing a craft fair yourself.

And if you're not a maker, but a lovely buyer or lover of handmade....first of all thank you for supporting handmade! Without you, I would not be in this business. I hope you will enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at preparing for a craft fair.


So here we go! My ten tips for surviving your first craft show. (Plus, as a bonus for reading all 10 tips, I've added some online resources at the end of this post!)

1. Get Schooled

Once I committed to doing the show, I had about 3 months to prepare. The first thing I did was read all I could find on the topic of craft shows. (At the end of this post, I listed some of the online resources I used.) I searched the web and pinned inspiring booth displays. I talked to other makers who already had a few craft shows under their belt. I read forum threads. I even attended a crafty conference, specifically to attend the class on Craft Show Vending from A to Z (taught by the organizers of Urban Craft Uprising).   All this research helped me figure out what I needed to do, what I needed to buy and most importantly let me know that everyone is nervous their first time selling at a craft fair!

School House Craft Conference in Seattle WA

2. Break It Down

 I am not usually a to-do list kind of gal, but because I had so much to accomplish before I was ready for the show, I decided to make a list. I listed all the things I needed to do and put them in my planner. I spaced it out so each week I had one or two tasks to do. For example: Order a credit card reader. Order more business cards. Make a store sign/banner. These were manageable chunks I could do and check off my list.

Some of the things on the list couldn't be done in one sitting. For example, I had to create enough inventory to fill my booth. Most of my items are made-to-order or personalized, so I didn't have much inventory to start with. Creating and designing a decent stock of items took me several weeks. But I did it a little at a time. To make it even easier, you could break this task down even further such as make 20 hoop art. Make 50 flowers. Etc. For me, I just kept making until I thought I had enough inventory to fill my craft display.

The other task that took several weeks to complete was: designing my booth display. This, in fact, turned out to be my favorite part of the entire process! For this task, you can break it down even further: choosing table/chairs; deciding on lighting; creating signage; choosing display items (racks/shelves/etc.). (In my next post in this blog series, I will show you how I used vintage finds in my display.) 

3. Shop at Home

Before you head out to the store for items for your display, take a look at what you already have at your home. Chances are you can find many things to use in your crafty display.

For example, do you use props when you photograph your items? I have a wooden tray that I love to use for my product photography. It is carved. It has a richly stained patina. It has scratches and is well-worn from use. If you read this blog, you may remember when I picked it up from one of my favorite thrift shops last year. It continues to be my go-to photography prop. Not only is this item doing double duty, it will tie back to your online shop. It's nice to have continuity between your Etsy shop and your craft show presence.

This tray has served me well!

Other things to watch out? Look for small tables, jewelry stands, sheets, tablecloths or baskets that may work for your display.

4. Repurpose

When you're looking around your house for items, think about ways you can repurpose household items for your display. For example, I repurposed a clothing drying rack as a wreath display. A small round table as a place to display my business cards and mailing list sign-up sheet. I used an empty basket (placed upside down) as a way to add height to my display. I even turned a picture frame into bulletin board to display my hoop art. Be creative (and save money in the process.)

This is a clothes rack that I repurposed as a wreath display.

5. Set Up Mock Display at Home

One valuable piece of advice that I heard during the School House Craft Conference was to set up a mock display of your booth at home.

Measure out the space you will be allotted and set up your tables, chair, lighting and other display items.
This will give you a great visual of how much items you can bring, where you will sit. You can also play with your display to see what goes best where.

This is one the very first mock displays I set up. I had a card table with a bedsheet on top. A vintage luggage table on top of that and thrifted bulletin board propped up on plate racks. If you compare this mock-up to the display at the show you can see it changed quite a bit. Feel free to play with your display until you're happy.

This mock-up will help you plan your display and help you figure out what you need to bring. You can gauge if you need to make more items to fill a hole in your display or if you have to scale back to avoid looking cluttered. As a bonus, it also serves as a place to store your items as you make them. As you can see, my mock display went through several versions before I settled on one I liked best.

This is later version of my display set up in my living room. It's a lot closer to my actual set up of the show. What is different? I added a 5-foot table. I added more items on display. I added lighting (two table lamps and several small battery-operated votive candles). I added a large display piece for my hoop art. I created price list/sign as well as smaller signs next to each collection of items. I added felt bunting.

6. Ask for Help

No lie. Craft shows are a lot of work. So ask for help early and often. For example, ask for help loading and unloading the car. Ask for help setting up your display. Ask your friends and family to visit you at the show. Or better yet, ask a crafty friend to sit with you during the show (a few hours or even the entire day). He or she may be curious about behind-the-scenes or want to shop the show.

Also, it helps to talk with other people who have already done shows. They will give you tips and reassure you that you can do it! I often looked at this Etsy Team's Forum for encouragement and advice.

For my first ever craft show, I had the support of my husband (who helped me load my car the night before and unload the day of the show) and my oldest daughter who sat with me for the first 3 or 4 hours of the show (what a trooper!). On the second day, my friend Hannah kept me company the entire day, watched the booth during bathroom breaks and got us lunch and even got her friend to help us break down the booth and load up the car. She was a lifesaver!

So, yes, do ask for help. If you can't find anyone to help, most shows have volunteers on hand who can help you unload or fill-in for you when you need to take a bathroom break or just want to stretch your legs.

Pretty Please Hoop Art by Catshy Crafts

7. Prepare for the Big Day (the night before)

To make your big day go smoothly, take time on the night before to have all your ducks in a row.
Print out the Vendor FAQ/Instructions from the craft show organizers.
Print out directions to the venue.
Pack your car the night before. Make sure everything will fit.
For a wonderful checklist on what to bring, go here.
Get enough sleep.
Take a deep breath. You're almost there!

Notepad by 1canoe2

8. Be Friendly (during the show)

This is probably an obvious tip....But if you're shy like me, this might be a tough one. Try to be super-friendly with everyone involved in the event. From the organizers to your booth neighbors to the volunteers and of course, the customers! Say hello to everyone who enters your booth. It's a compliment to you that they are stopping to take a peek, so the least you can do is say hello.

Don't forget to say Hello to your customers :)

For me, I tried to say at least a "Hello" with a friendly smile. If I was brave, a "how are you?" or "how is your day going?" was a good opening.

By no means, do you have to change your entire personality overnight, but at the same time you don't want to offend anyone by not acknowledging someone when they enter your booth. Even a nod or a smile is enough. Again, this is probably a given for many, but for my shy ones out there, I know it can be difficult! But don't feel bad if your neighbor happens to be a chatty one and you feel quiet in comparison. She is probably just being her natural self. And you should be too. But because you are there to make sales after all, push yourself a little outside of your comfort zone.

Banner Ad for the first craft show I ever did.

9. Reward Yourself (and all your Fabulous Helpers) After the Show is Over

After the last part of your booth is broken down and reloaded into your car, celebrate! Pat yourself on the back for a job well-done. You are no longer a craft show virgin! Yay! Celebrating your success is so important, especially after you've spent days, weeks, months planning for this event.

Better still, celebrate by treating your friends or loved ones who helped you at the show to a round of drinks  (or coffee or tea). Thank them for their help, their support and being there for you.

Celebrate your success!

10. Reflect

After the show is over (whether it be the next day or weeks after or both), take time to think about what you've accomplished. Reflect on all the work you put in and the great things that came about. Did you  meet new crafty friends? Did you get the positive feedback you were craving? Did you make a few sales? Did you accomplish one of your crafty dreams?

Write a blog post (like I did). Write in your journal. Share your experience on a forum. Tell a friend. It is a great way to look back and see what worked and what didn't. So that the next time you sell at a craft fair, you'll be ready!

Reflect on yourself  and see how much you've grown!

I hope you found this list of tips useful. If you have other tips to share, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say!

***Bonus: Online Resources for Craft Fair Sellers

And as promised, here are a list of resources that I turned to during my months of craft show prep. There are so many helpful creative folks who have gone before you who want to share the secrets to their success.

Coming Up

In my next post in this mini-series on craft shows, I will share how I designed my craft display using vintage finds! Here's a peek of what's in store.

Hope you will join me! Until next time, happy crafting!

Pin It!


Unknown said...

Thanks for your lovely post Cathy! I'm getting ready for my 1st show on November 30, 2013. I'm super nervous and your post has helped me :) I appreciate you taking the time to write this post to help others like me!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this. I am going to my first show on February 8th or the 3rd weekend in February. I have a lot of support from my boyfriend and family, but no buddy to go with me. I am very excited and anxious.
I cannot wait to go. I have a lot to do before I get there though.

Unknown said...

Amazing work. Really impressive.

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for this article, it's fabulous! I'm following your blog from now one! I am in the middle of preparing to sell at craft fairs, and blogging the lessons I learn as I go. Pop over to my blog to say hello! :-)

Gayle x

Unknown said...

Home listings and homes for sale near your area.
Find your perfect property advertised by owner and real estate agent.
More details www.postallads4free.com

Unknown said...

so helpful…. Visit
sell your stuff

Anonymous said...

Keep it up!! You have done the nice job having provided the latest information. First Steps Kindergarten

Unknown said...

This INFORMATION is so nice so sweet,
advertise online free

Anonymous said...

Thanks fellow your posts are really very good for me since it make good sense for me. who are the best whole life insurors

Anonymous said...

Thanks for you blog. I have some questions for you. I'm going to try my hand at my first craft sale in the summer of 2016. I need more time to make inventory. I want to sell repurposed T-shirt totes, cotton reversible totes, quilted totes, quilted make-up pouches, baby quilts and anything else I might think of. The problem I have is that I don't know how much inventory I should have on hand. I don't want the booth to look too empty or too crowded but I want a good selection. I already know that I won't make my money back on some items and that I can't charge for my time but I'm hoping that when everything is averaged out I'll make some sort of a profit. The problem is that I don't know what prices to ask for. Can you please help me? Thanks.

Mela Yulia Putri said...

Nice article and I like it, do not forget to visit back to my website ahli seo :)

Najinca Nalin said...

This blog was a really interesting read, information has been presented in a clear and concise manner. Thanks!

Trade Show Graphics
truss exhibits
trade show displays

SparkleByMonica said...

Loved all the insight and thanks for all the extra links. I plan to be in one next month, but it is a newbie sidewalk sale type event so it will be small. That's ok for I am a craft sale newbie.

akuanakdesataram said...

I was very impressed with this. Everything is very open with clear classification. if there is time and opportunity please visit my website jasa fotocopy 24 jam thanks, greetings success

Unknown said...

If you want to know more about Indian handicrafts here is good website through which you can Know all about Indian fashion also Indian Handicraft Stores .

Unknown said...

The article is very interesting and nice, I hope you can also visit my website resep kue thank you!

Loginfotech said...

best online store for golog shop. it is for sale craft items and photo frames lowest price and best quality easy to shipped your location.shop from Golog Shop

Uda Rino said...

Works very good, I am very happy with the results of your work.

Unknown said...

A properly designed exhibition stand will make a bold statement about your organization and invite people to see what you and your business are all about.See more-Messetstande

Nurfitriani said...

These 10 tips can make people succeed
very useful tips
I really like
Also visit my blog at Kata Kata Motivasi

Anonymous said...

I'm so grateful having the chance to read this post, very useful and so inspiring! I will have my first craft show in a couple of months ahead, feel so pessimistic and super nervous. This is a great motivation to start. Thanks a lot!

Social News said...

Thanks for giveng us usefull information about sell digital products.

Unknown said...

The prospect of exhibiting at a trade fair or industry event is exciting for many businesses, especially those that are undertaking such an endeavour for the first time. With that said, there are a few negatives to go along with the many advantages of attending these kinds of events,
and care should be taken to identify these so they can be dealt with as effectively as possible.See more at- Messetstande, Langeland

Unknown said...

Now you're probably wondering just how necessary this is - after all, there really are so many stands available,
of every size and shape and colour - is it really necessary to customise one?
Perhaps it would be best to just choose a suitable stand from 'out of the crowd'?See more- Messetstande, Langeland

Unknown said...

Exhibiting at your first Trade Fair can be an exciting and profitable experience. With proper planning you can gain valuable exposure in the market and skyrocket your growth and profits.
The following series of articles will help you plan and prepare,
set up and make the most of exhibiting at a Fair and after it's over.
Look at: Messetstande, Langeland

Unknown said...

Many businesses invest considerable sums in setting up exhibitions and trade fairs, and to not invest in a little fair insurance is the height of folly.
But why do businesses bother to invest such sums in a simple trade fair? Is it not better to invest the same capital in more important forms of advertising, such as television advertisements, for example.See more- Messetstande, Langeland

Unknown said...

When designing new roll-up banners, use the graphics to get simple messages across. Do not try to flood visitors to the trade fair with excessive information. The exhibition graphics should just be designed to get attention; thereafter, employees should be on hand to deliver more specific information and answer any particular questions.Look at: Messetstande, Langeland

Miss Malaprop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Malaprop said...

Thanks for sharing! There are so many great tips here. I spent more than 10 years doing craft shows myself, and it definitely took awhile to learn some of the tricks of the trade.

I shared some of my own craft show must haves and lessons learned here: 5+ Craft Show Must Haves

Aitana said...

Excellent post with 10 tips we have to have in mind. If you need a good partner to assist to next event, you can ask for help to byQUAM, they design booth for MWC in Barcelona and they are amazing.

Unknown said...

Great blog with quality content. Here is some information of my own blog. Technology And Transformation. Election Protection. Click Below for more ...

free bet

free betting

free bets

quick free bets

Sonia Perez said...

stands for mobile world congress are the best way to take example of greats stands.

Unknown said...

This was such an amazing read. I always find something interesting in your blogs and at artisna.com as well. That is a wonderful place to buy Handmade Earrings and Nacklace online. Anyway, thanks so much and congrats on your articles!!

Unknown said...

Dear Author, you have prepared an excellent post! Your works are fantabulous, they are ideal! Many thanks for sharing! I will gladly share some essential tips with you - these tips will help you to survive first week at new job

Syukur Rahmat said...

very inspiring thanks infonya visit my blog too Blog Dunia Remaja

Andrew Carter said...

You have some honest ideas about the Orlando Exhibit rental share here I really get many information and discovered most peoples will agree with your blog.
Orlando Exhibit rental

Unknown said...

Hey, these were just amazing tips on first craft show survival. Thanks a ton for this wonderful share because I would also be participating in craft show for first time that is going to be hosted at some local LA event venues. Keep sharing such helpful posts.

Subarna said...

I found some useful information in your blog, it was awesome to read, thank you for sharing this great content, keep sharing..

web developer austin
austin web design

ShineHandicraft said...

Handicraft products are the hopes and dreams of poor artisans who have faith that handicraft market will be the harbinger of a brighter future for their families. We endeavors to promote the handicraft & antique products created by the artisans that reflect the Indian beauty.

Unknown said...

Hey this post is very informative. Thanks a lot for sharing these tips here. I will also organize the trade expo for the advertisement of my vintage shop so have just been finding the best service for getting vintage inspired trade show displays. If you know anyone, please let me know.

Unknown said...

Awesome tips you have here. A very informational post. Thanks for sharing! Check out Art fair Philippines, I'm sure you'll like it too.

henris said...

Thank you for sharing the information here. And if you are looking for the best investment sector can benefit through our Insurace Companies in Dubai. For detailed information you may choose from our

Health Insurance UAE

Group Medical Insurance Dubai

Insurance Companies in Dubai

Greeicy Rendón said...

nice crafts.

Unknown said...

I gained new knowledge from well written content of this blog. It is showing some different kind of strategy to keep work better and improve with every new assignment. Gracefully written blogตี่จู้เอี๊ยะโมเดิร์น

Unknown said...

I am delighted to come to such a wonderful blog. I am really very impressed to read from top to bottom. I read every single line and understand the essence of every single word. I appreciate all efforts.ศาลเจ้าที่หินอ่อน

Unknown said...

I am grateful for this blog to distribute knowledge about this significant topic. Here I found different segments and now I am going to use these new instructions with new enthusiasm.หิ้งพระ

Reema said...

This article looks amazing and well written post you shared! It is very interesting and informative post. Thank you so much for sharing a wonderful experiences.
glass beads manufacturers

Arthur Teknik said...

Thanks for this Article.
For your Information, if you need The Cheapest Cooling System Rental Service in Indonesia for any events or something else, you can contact us Arthur Teknik. We'll provide it for you.

SOL Brand Solutions Inc. said...

I found one successful example of this truth through this blog. I am going to use such information now. Exhibit Rental Orlando

supplier said...

Nice article..

visit perkasa medika

Unknown said...


Post a Comment

I'd love to hear what you think! I love reading your comments.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...