If you’ve been contemplating signing up for a craft fair, I think you should do it! This is my second year participating in the Lake Scugog Studio Tour, and I had some doubts if I would be ready when the time came. If you haven’t heard of studio tours before, you should see if there are any local ones in your area. They are a great way to meet other artists and see what their process is like. They are also a great way for potential customers to come to your studio and see exactly what goes into making your product.
If you are new to craft fairs and wondering what you need to do to get ready, here are 10 tips to get you started!
1. Mark the dates down!
I was accepted onto the studio tour August 2017, and the tour wasn’t until May 2018. Mark those dates down in your calendar now! It seems like a long time, but ten months will go by fast, and believe me doing last minute prep is the worst.
2. Make an inventory list!
If you don’t already have a list of your inventory, I think it’s crucial to do that. Find out what you have already made and keep track of it. That way you’ll know how much you need to make before the tour. An inventory list should be detailed, so you can just glance at it and remember what you have. Some important things to mark down, size, color, material, item name, etc.
3. Figure out how much stock to make!
This goes hand in hand with #2. What I do is I look at the fees of the show, which includes application fees and any other expenses I might have, (there’s not much for the studio tour, but I do like to buy cookies and lemonade for guests!). Then I can determine how much I need to sell to breakeven, and how much I need to sell to make a profit. With that number in mind, I can figure out which items I need to make to have a profitable weekend.
Once you have that number figured out, you can make a weekly or monthly plan for when you are going to make everything. For example, if you need to make 100 products and you have 10 months, you just need to make 10 items per month.
Let everyone know you are participating in the tour. Send out emails, post about in on social media, tell your neighbours. You never know who might be a potential customer, and you will want them at the show.
It’s never too early to start telling people about the markets and tours you are involved in. If you want them to come, you need to tell them in advance!
5. Get your supplies!
Supplies can include materials needed to make your product, but this section is really about getting your business supplies in order.
For this year, I ordered new business cards, stickers, pamphlets, and got my website in order. Some other possible things you might need are: tags, gift bags, tissue paper, receipt book, postcards, envelopes, tape, pens, etc.
When gathering these supplies think about how you want your product to look when your customers take it home. Do you want them to unwrap a gift bag like they are opening a present? Do you want them to find extra goodies in the bag, like a free sticker or coupon? This will depend on your branding and how you want to market yourself for repeat customers.
6. Clean and Organize!
The studio tour is different from other markets, as it happens in my own home. Tidying up and making your studio look and feel the way you want is important. Days before the market you should organize your supplies and make sure you have everything you need.
7. Get Your Display Ready!
Once you’ve cleaned you can start setting up your display – which is super fun! I like to start this a week before the show. Put up your stands/shelves/tables and start laying out your product. You can decide if you want to put things out by size, colour, price, etc. There is no wrong way to do this, but knowing how you want your space to look is important for how customers will view you.
8. Get ready for sales!
You might want to consider having a certain section of your booth set up for sales. Imagine having a tiny spot for your cash register! You might want to get a cash box, or something to hold your float and handle all cash purchases. You might want to get a receipt booklet, just in case someone asks for one. Have your prices visible to customers, some people are uncomfortable with asking how much an item is and they'll be more likely to buy if they know pricing up front.
Something new for me this year, is I’ve set up a Square account, which will allow me to take debit/credit cards. Square is super easy to set up and use, and can also now be connected to your Etsy shop! This is something to consider if you want to boost Etsy sales, and are using the same inventory.
In this section of your booth you should also keep your marketing materials and supplies, such as the gift bags/wrap, business cards, and whatever else you need to package up your product.
One last tip is to record your sales, I keep a running log of who bought what throughout the weekend. That way I can go back at the end of the tour and see what inventory I have left, and make sure the money matches the amount of sales.
9. Have a Back up Plan! (or two or three)
Sometimes things go wrong, and it’s important to have a backup plan. Is your market outside? Do you have a rain contingency? Is your primary method of taking payments electronic? What happens if the power goes out or you lose your WiFi connection? Make sure you think ahead on these things and have a way to avoid these messy situations. You don’t want your products to get damaged because or rain, so consider investing in a tent with a roof. And you don’t want to loose a sale because your phone decides not to work, so you might want to consider getting a manual imprint credit card machine.
10. Have fun!
Markets and tours are a great way to meet people, get involved in your local maker community, and you should enjoy every aspect of the weekend! So make sure to enjoy it, and take time at the end to reflect on what went well and what you could have done better. No matter how much you sell, you should be proud of the work you did and you should go home feeling satisfied!
Getting ready for a craft show is actually a lot of fun. You get to decide how you want your business to be seen by others! How cool is that? As long as you are ready, you are in for a fun weekend.
Some other things I do the day before a market is I make sure I have a water bottle, snacks, and a comfortable seat. I invite a friend or two to help watch my booth, so I can take breaks as needed without worrying about my items. I tend to bring a current WIP with me, just in case there’s some quiet time I can have something to work on, knitting or crocheting during a show is also a great conversation starter.
I wish you the best of luck with your craft fair season!