You can make good extra money selling your handmade jewelry and crafts at local art shows and festivals. Start near where you live, grab an artsy friend and get started promoting your business and crafts today. Learn to create eye-catching, colorful, lightweight displays that will make craft show selling a breeze.
Start in your home town. Sign yourself up for a local craft show or festival. Pick a craft show with a booth fee that is under $100.
Ideally, you should pick a fall show or craft festival. Fall festivals and pre-Christmas craft shows are extremely lucrative because buyers are searching for handmade gifts. If you make quality pieces, you have the potential to do very well selling in December shows. Juried craft shows require an application to assess whether the quality of your work fits the type of show. Vendors are screened by a jury (which can be one person like the craft show organizer or a group of people on the board or committee) to make sure that the artwork is appropriate for the particular type of show. In some cases, juried shows limit the number of crafters in each category. Handmade jewelry is an extremely popular category. Jewelry making encompasses a wide range of materials. Although each designer may make a different types or style of jewelry such as leather bracelets or spoon rings, buyers and show promoters like to see a wide range of artwork. You will be competing for spots with seasoned crafters and new jewelry artists. Your application for a juried show must captivate the jury. Submit only high quality photos. Often applications require a written section which includes a description of your work as well as photos of your craft show booth setup and artwork.
Non-juried shows usually have lower booth fees. Booth fees are based on art/craft show quality. Small shows that are not juried generally attract fewer customers. Paying high booth fees does not guarantee that you will make more money, it can mean the organizer has spent money advertising the show. If the booth fee is very high, say $500 or $1000 and up, you can expect excellent show promotion and larger crowds. Ask other experienced vendors which shows they recommend.
When you are first starting out, you will probably want to select a non-juried craft show. These “craft” shows often allow sellers of Pampered Chef and Mary Kay as well as individual artists. You can ask the promoter if that’s the case. Some organizers are eager to book as many vendors as possible and do not care if work is handmade. This can be discouraging as an artist but the most important factor when starting out is simply to gain exposure. Put yourself out there. As you gain experience, you can evaluate the type of shows and focus on the shows that you enjoyed most and eliminate ones that were not profitable.
Local churches often hold craft shows on weekends. That is a great way to gain local exposure and test the market. I suggest you avoid flea market sales unless you can price your work dirt cheap. Table fees at flea markets are super low. But buyers are not looking for handcrafted designs. They want cheap goods. It is possible that there are better flea markets in your area that would be worth checking out. Farmer’s markets are another venue worth checking out. Some are very selective. They may not allow jewelry making unless you can show that you use only materials which you produce.
When I sold my jewelry in Traveler’s Rest, SC, I met another artist who made high end wooden furniture he sold out of a booth at the Barnyard Flea Market. He had a booth with a roll-up garage door so he was able to store and lock his furniture up at the end of the show. That might be handy if your booth set-up requires large fixtures. Scout the market first and ask artists about their sales.
Some craft shows are so successful that they have waiting lists for future years. This is a really good sign. Why? Returning vendors indicate quality craft shows and good money making potential for artists. Listen to feedback from other artists when planning your craft show schedule.
Seasoned artists plan their show schedules many months in advance and always notify their buyers through emails or postcards. Start a mailing list and let your customers know your schedule by sending out emails on a regular basis. That is the key to good sales. That way, even if a particular show is slow, you will have guaranteed sales. You may ask customers who have placed custom orders to meet you at a show. That can lead to more sales once they see what else you have created. Craft shows are very popular.
My first craft show (as a seller) was the Cotton Ginning Days Festival in Dallas, NC. My friend Candace asked me to join her and split the booth rent. For the three day event, the booth rent was very cheap. It was $30 for a 10 by 10 booth in a horse stall. Those three days taught me a lot about what to pack, what to expect and which items sold the best. The days were very long and sales were decent for my jewelry considering I didn’t have a huge inventory. Candace’s fabric crafts did not sell at all because she had priced her work extremely high and the show was not an art gallery. Buyers wanted inexpensive goods like $5 and $10 birdhouses. She was extremely disappointed with her sales. I, on the other hand, was eager to create new pieces and sign up for my next event.
Start with a one day show. Craft shows require lots of physical work and long hours of standing on your feet. You will be very tired at the end of the day. Three days of selling crafts is a lot of time that could be spent marketing your work to shops, teaching classes or working your day job to fund your passion.
Nowadays, I’ve got a lot more sales experience and would have asked more questions before doing the first craft show. What type of crowds will there be? How many other jewelry artists are signed up? What is the average price point?
Bring about $60 in small bills and change with you. Be prepared to make change for customers. Write down how much change you start with and record sales as you go so you will know how much money you made during the show. Keeping good records is a must in business. You need to know which items sell best and how profitable each show is.
Keep your money box stored out of sight. Use a cigar box or apple crate to hide your cash box. If you like, you can wear a money bag on your waist or keep your money in an apron pocket.
Be friendly. Greet customers with a smile and let them know you can answer questions but don’t talk too much. Customers like to shop in peace.
Answer Questions. As a vendor, you will get all kinds of questions, even stupid ones. Be nice. Keep your sense of humor. Most people are genuinely interested in what you make. They want to know about the process. Indulge them. Let them see you working on your designs if possible.
Be available. If you are so engrossed in your book or playing on your phone, you may be sending a “Stay Away” message to potential buyers. You may not even be aware of the message you’re sending. Practice smiling at people you meet. Tell others about the type of work you create. Show them what you’re currently working on. You don’t have to spend every second talking to customers or potential customers, but be available in case they have questions. You are your own best salesperson. Yes, you can get a bite to eat or sneak off for a bathroom break, but do it before the crowds hit or when the show dies down.
Stage a Demonstration – If you can, plan ahead and set aside a time for demonstrating one of your techniques. I use antique and vintage buttons in my jewelry making and love to show others how I create my button bracelets. Make signs so people know what you will be doing and when you will demonstrating your craft.
Have a Raffle – This is a great way to grow your mailing list. Require folks to fill out their contact information and add them to your email list so you can let them know about future events. People love the idea of winning something for free. Offer a great necklace or matching necklace and earring set if buyers enter your drawing.
Share booth space with another artist whenever possible. It helps to have someone to talk to when sales are slow. If you need a break or want to get a bite to eat, it’s great to be able to step away from your booth for a while. If the show requires a tent, it helps to have a friend to help unload the vehicle and set up the tent.
Artists are helpful people. Whenever I am by myself struggling to get my tent set up, I always get other artists who offer to help me out. You will be very surprised how generous folks are. I’ve done lots of shows on my own and have had no problem asking another artist to keep an eye on my booth for a minute. I’d much rather have an extra set of hands to help set up my tent, unpack the car and set up displays, and help pack it all up at the end of the day.