You’ve been getting busy during the lockdowns creating handmade items and possibly been selling online, but now lockdown is coming to an end you’re looking ahead and have decided to sell at an event or craft fair. Exciting!
First of all is your work good enough to sell? Is the quality representative of the craft? Would it satisfy trading standards? Is it fit for purpose? Ask your crafting peers for honest advice as family and friends are rarely objective.
Are you registered with HMRC? Do you have product and public liability insurance? Well run events will ask to see proof of your insurance before they offer you space.
So, let’s assume you’re registered and insured. What now?
How do I find the right event?
Don’t just book an event because it’s in a convenient location for you. Go out and wear down some shoe leather. Visit events in person. Are they busy? Well promoted? Do the stall holders look happy? Are visitors spending or just mooching? Doing your research can save you a lot of time and money. Are the event organisers available? Do they look helpful?
Who will the clientele be? In a school – lots of children and parents? At a midweek country show – lots of middle aged couples. At a gymkhana – lots of horsey people. At a fine arts event – those who appreciate quality and originality.
Before you commit to an event, don’t just ask for the stand price. Ask what marketing will be done, what the anticipated footfall will be, do they curate stallholders or just take anybody, and will there be others with similar stock to you? Do they provide tables and chairs? Will the tables have a cover?
What are my reasons for attending?
Does that sound silly? After all you’re going to make money, aren’t you? But are you? Depending on your product you may be going to sell, or you may be going to exhibit your work in order to generate commissions. Perhaps you teach workshops and are going to use the event to promote your classes. If you are promoting classes are you qualified, experienced and insured to do so?
If this is your first event, your aim might simply be to see how such an event works and to decide whether selling in person is for you.
Deciding early on what your specific aim is will help you better to prepare and also to manage your expectations.
What do I need take with me on the day?
Your hand made stock of course, plus your business cards or leaflets, food and drink [otherwise you’ll spend all your hard earned takings at the burger van!], scissors, Sellotape and string. Paper, pen, sharpie style marker. Change for your float. Credit card machine or details how customers can pay you via PayPal, bank transfer etc. Fully charge your mobile phone.
Proof of your insurance and receipt for payment for your stall. Display props and stall covering. Table and chair if not supplied.
If you work to commission, take photographs or your laptop with images of your past work.
Wear sensible shoes and layers so you can be comfortable.
How do I get the most out of the event [besides the sales]?
Keep your eyes and ears open. Listen to what people say as they walk past or look from a distance. Often customers will gush about your work when they are close to you, but a more honest evaluation is often heard from those slightly further away. If the comments are negative, don’t take it personally [though that’s difficult when it’s your own work] try to use it as constructive criticism and see how you can improve your work, your display etc.
Chat to other stall holders – this is how you hear about events that are worth taking part in and those that need to be given a wide berth.
I’m not good at selling!
Many makers are not very good at promoting themselves and their skills. It’s not very British is it? But how you perceive and present yourself is how your customers will see you too. Value yourself and your skills and your customers will too. Talk to customers. Don’t be pushy or desperate for a sale. Be enthusiastic about what you do.
Stand up – people don’t want to see the top of your head while you sit reading a book hiding behind your stall. If you need to sit, leave a space on your stall to work. Demonstrating what you do is a great draw for visitors and often helps you to relax if you’re feeling a bit nervous. If you’re selling kits or materials, demonstrating is a fabulous way to encourage purchases.
What should I make to sell?
This very much depends on you and your craft skills. Some people have a very definite artistic style, or create for a niche market, whilst others make with a broad customer base in mind.
Originality is key. Customers will be attracted to your stall if you’re selling items that none of the other stalls are selling.
Avoid selling items that you’ve made from kits or designs that you’ve copied. As well as being unethical, or possibly even unlawful, it also wastes the opportunity that you have to be original.
Have seasonal stock – Santa doesn’t sell well in March.
Diversify – sell some small kits and materials for those who’d like to have a go for themselves.
Does my display really matter?
Yes, it does. Again, originality is key. Be innovative. Don’t just do what everyone else does. Displays don’t need to be expensive to be creative.
Avoid too many ‘props’ otherwise customers will be confused as to what you are actually selling.
When a customer buys from you, it is generally either a treat for themselves, or as a gift for someone else. Presenting your creations in a way that makes them easy to give as a gift is a plus for a potential customer and will help you to stand out from your competitors. Gift bags or boxes cost very little. They can be costed into the price of your item or added on as an optional extra.
Presentation boxes increase the perceived value of your creations, and because of that you are able to price them for a better return.
Create different heights in your display so that your work can be seen clearly. Keep the table covering clean and simple and ensure the covering goes down to the floor so that the mess of boxes and bags underneath can’t be seen.
Promote, promote, promote!
Don't just rely on the craft fair provider to promote the event. Share the details with everyone you know, post on social media, write a blog, tag other sellers and the craft fair provider. Post on your local Facebook page.