The country is opening up again and that means craft shows are, too!
After over a year off from the hustle of setting up shop at a fair, you might be ready to get back out there and sell your art in person.
Craft shows can be a great source of income and a fun opportunity to meet other artists.
Remember though shows shouldn’t be your only source of income.
If you’re planning on taking your post-pandemic business offline, you’ll want to read these 5 questions to ask yourself before you do!
Hi, my name is Mei Pak. I help makers, artists, and designers make a living selling their handmade products online.
I don’t do craft shows anymore since my business’ online sales are much more profitable and easier to get now.
Craft shows are a lot of work.
When I was starting my business, though, I did DOZENS of shows.
Trust me when I say, if there was a show, I was interested in being there.
Today, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned from doing a variety of shows from craft fairs, music festivals, and summer and holiday shows.
This can help you decide if a show is right for you!
You might think that a craft show is a super easy way to make sales – we just show up and sell our stuff.
There’s actually a lot more to it than just getting there and setting up shop.
Participating in the wrong craft show can actually hurt your business and make you lose money, just as much as joining the right one can help it.
Here are five questions you need to consider before signing up for any particular craft show.
1. Does The Show Attract Your Ideal Customers?
Does the show attract your ideal customers?
Many artists don’t really think about this before they show up to a craft fair.
The idea of selling our art anywhere is so tempting, that we forget to even look at who the show is really for.
When a show doesn’t attract the customers that would be interested in your product, it’ll be a waste of time and money.
No one wants that, especially when you’re just starting out because it can be frustrating when you don’t make any sales.
Make sure you know the type of people that’ll be attending the show.
You can get a pretty good idea of who’s going to be there by looking at what other vendors sold there in the previous years.
You should be able to find that information on the show’s website or social media.
Of course, this can also be prevented by finding out if a craft show is juried or not.
A juried craft show requires artists to submit an application, so you won’t be accepted if your art doesn’t match what the show is aiming for.
Non-juried shows will let anyone sell their products, and tend to be much cheaper to participate in.
Whether it’s juried or non-juried, definitely check out the show’s website and look at previous years’ photos to see if it’s a good fit for you.
2. Is the Craft Show Juried?
Generally speaking, I recommend juried shows over non-juried shows.
You might be intimidated by the application process of a juried show, but it’s ultimately a GOOD thing if a show is selective with their sellers.
I was rejected by Renegade Chicago two years in a row before I was finally accepted.
I ended up making more money at that show than any other craft show.
Non-juried shows can end up overcrowded with a ton of artists selling similar products.
It’s not fun having too much competition.
Not only that, but many non-juried shows accept MLM sellers in addition to handmade sellers.
That means people will be selling things like tupperware or other non-handmade products.
That’s not a recipe for success!
Some artists recommend starting with non-juried shows so you can get a good feel for the game before you move on to juried shows.
I still think these shows might be better to avoid altogether – especially when you can sell your products online.
Juried shows, on the other hand, feature a diverse variety of products.
There’s usually a cap on how many jewelry designers, soap makers, t-shirt shops, and so on, that are able to attend.
So you’re not competing with ten other vendors selling a product just like yours.
They also tend to be well organized, widely promoted shows that attract a ton of eager customers.
Non-juried shows tend to attract all sorts of businesses without any specific theme.
You might find a dentist promoting their services at the show, shops that are selling Made-In-China products, MLM products, it’s not specific.
Potential customers don’t really know what to expect and aren’t there with the intention to buy something specific.
They’re just there to look or spend their afternoon at an event.
Customers at juried shows are there because they’re looking for cool, unique, handmade products or art.
If you’re choosing between juried and non-juried, try to go with a juried event whenever possible.
3. How is the Show Promoted?
What does the show organizer do to promote the show?
This is really important and another thing that many artists forget to consider.
Remember, that show promotions are your booth’s promotions, too.
If no one knows about the show, no one will be there to buy your product.
A lack of marketing shows a lack of care.
You want a show organizer who’s as excited about this fair as you are!
If the show organizer doesn’t do much to market it, and relies solely on the vendors to market themselves and the show, that’s a bad sign.
The whole point of craft shows is to reach a new audience.
So you need the organizer to promote the event too or no one will show up!
In some of the better shows I’ve done, the organizer would promote their event – and their vendors on:
- local news
- social media
- the radio
- even leave flyers in surrounding businesses, like cafés
They’d even host events like raffles, activities, bands, and food trucks.
They went out of their way to not only spread the word, but also to make sure customers had a great time once they got there.
That’s an organizer who really cares about the show and the vendors, which makes all the difference.
Great marketing is a sign of a great craft show.
And at a great craft show, you’re more likely to make a good amount of sales.
4. What Are Other Vendors Saying About the Show?
You can look at the show’s website and social media to find out who the previous vendors were.
You can even search the “hashtag” for the craft show on social media and look through old posts.
When you find the vendors, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and ask about their experience.
We’re a community of artists – which means that we like to help each other.
You’ll find that most artists you reach out to will be happy to share their experience with you.
And they’ll give you firsthand advice about whether the show is worth your time and money.
5. What is Your Cost?
We all know that craft shows – especially high quality juried shows – can get pricey.
Fees at juried shows can sometimes reach the thousands – and they can even charge you “extras” on top of that.
Still, a good show should make you 2-4x the cost you spend in sales.
After you research the show and talk to previous vendors, think about whether or not this show will realistically make you that kind of money.
Remember to factor in the cost of travel, food, hiring extra help, your time working the show, and accommodation if it’s out of state.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to at LEAST double what you need to spend, then the craft show may not be worth your time.
When you find a craft show that’s a solid fit for you, it can be a great source of income.
You’ll find that the show is highly organized, well attended, and just plain fun.
At the end of the day, you’ll never really know how a show will be until you try it out.
If it’s good, you can keep doing the show!
If it’s not, make way in your schedule for a different show.
Like I said earlier, shows shouldn’t be your only source of income.
It’s exhausting to do shows.
Energy management is also important here.
That’s why it’s so important to carefully consider your options and do your research before you send those applications in.
Are you planning on attending a craft show this year?
What are some great shows you’ve done?
Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to mention what state you’re in!
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for all the handmade business guidance you’ll need!