If you love making things and want to start making money, it makes sense to start selling at craft shows!
Craft shows are especially popular during the holidays, but they are also great events to sell at during the year.
Selling at craft shows can be difficult to start, but once you invest in your booth and figure out your displays, the hardest part is making enough inventory to continually sell.
Benefits of Selling at Craft Shows
If you’re a creative person who enjoys making beautiful things, craft shows can be one of the best places to sell your items.
There are many benefits to selling at craft shows, including:
- You don’t have to worry about shipping your wares since most events are cash and carry.
- Craft shows are an excellent way to meet collectors and show off your work in person – especially if your work is a usable item that can be demonstrated.
- Build your newsletter list by having a sign-up sheet at your booth. Some artists offer a discount for newsletter signups, which can prompt a sale!
- Craft shows are an excellent way to meet fellow artisans and collaborate together for future shows.
- Many people prefer to buy items they can see and touch, which is why they go to craft shows vs. buying online.
- The show is for a limited number of days. This allows you to focus on making art and crafts the rest of the time.
- Selling at craft shows allows you to quickly see which products sell and which ones don’t. They also allow you to introduce new products and gauge the public’s reactions before creating a whole line.
Downfalls of Selling at Craft Shows
As with all good things in life, there’s usually an upside and a downside to contend with. Craft shows are no different, so here are a few downfalls of selling at craft shows:
- You may need to obtain special permits and licenses in order to participate in a show that’s open to the public. This also includes having a seller’s permit from your local franchise tax board so you can collect sales tax.
- Once you start collecting sales taxes, you’ll need to file regular statements with your local tax board and pay them the taxes you’ve collected during that period.
- There is a risk of breakage or damage to your crafts by people handling them at the shows.
- There is also the risk of theft at craft shows, so try to have help at your booth to keep an eye on the merchandise.
- Shows can be exhausting! So, if at all possible, you’ll want to have a helper or two to give you a break when you need one.
More Reasons Selling At Craft Shows Rocks
There are so many good things that come from selling at these shows. Not only can they be fun, you really have more advantages to selling “live” than simply in retail shops, galleries, or even online.
These reasons include:
- Networking – attending craft shows gives you the chance to network with other creators. Shows are a great way to make creative friends and learn from the people around you that excel in your area.
- Inspiring – you can be inspired by other makers and all their wonderful creations. Seeing all kinds of creations can inspire you to make new things, and also see what’s popular!
- Business – you get to start your own side business using your crafts! That in itself is amazing, and something for you to cherish. You can start making money with homemade items and crafts, and build it up to even become a full-time business eventually.
- Learning – attending shows gives you the chance to learn from others, and the experience itself. You can learn all kinds of new tips and tricks that can help you be successful. You can also learn from other crafters who have more experience than you, so you make fewer mistakes.
- Exposure – craft lovers and people looking to buy gifts aren’t the only people who attend craft shows. Museum curators, gallery owners, designers, and shop buyers also hit these shows to scout new and undiscovered talent on a regular basis. So be sure to bring your best pieces to the show always!
Are Craft Shows Worth The Time And Effort?
They absolutely can be, if you are prepared and approach it right.
First of all, there are a lot of expenses involved with being on the craft show circuit. Not only do you have your own supplies to buy, but you also have booth fees, display costs, and insurance.
And don’t forget to set aside money for food, and helpers, and be sure to account for your time!
All of these costs are deducted from your sales, and if you “make booth,” you’re simply covering the costs. This does not mean you made a profit. To make a profit, you need to make over and above all of the above-described expenses.
And sometimes, you won’t.
Other times, you’re going to make loads of profit, which is such a wonderful feeling!
So, depending on the craft show, sales could either be really good or really bad. This is why picking the correct craft show is important.
Why Craft Shows Aren’t Always Profitable
As I mentioned, there are production, business, and selling expenses to consider.
These can be more than you might anticipate, and doing just one or two craft shows are unlikely to get you into the high-profit stages.
Here’s a more extensive breakdown of the typical expenses to consider:
- Your time
- Material & supply costs
- Shipping materials
- Tools, equipment, and maintenance
- Marketing materials
- Office Supplies
- Gas for driving around to get materials and supplies
- Taxes, licenses, and registration fees
- Business insurance premiums
- Transaction fees
- Lighting for your booth and craft items
- Signage for booths
- Tables and table covers
- Shopping bags/packaging materials for sales
- Props and fixtures for booths
- Booth/table fees
- Gas for driving to and from the selling venue
- Parking and food for the day
- Hotel fees if you’re at an out-of-town venue
- Transaction fees
- Stock transport items (moving inventory out of storage facilities, etc.)
I’m not going to lie and say that selling crafts is an easy way to make money. It takes a lot of time, effort, research, and purchasing to make things work.
However, once you get the hang of it, you can become successful if you’re persistent and smart about keeping expenses down.
How To Make Money Selling At Craft Shows
These tips are things to consider when you’re trying to decide whether or not the craft show circuit is for you.
- Attend lots of craft fairs – attend plenty of craft shows before you even sign up to join one and sell your own items. Look at how things work and who your competitors will be. Remember, this is still a business, and you need to do your research. Get a feel for how your work would do in that particular venue, and watch to see what people are buying.
- Find the right fairs for you – there are lots of different craft shows, and some might specialize in particular things. You need to make sure that you’re signing up for the shows that are right for you, or else you might stand out – and not in a good way. Ask other artists their thoughts about the show – they’ll usually be more than happy to share what works and what doesn’t.
- Offer your items at different, logical price points – make sure you have lots of different price points. This will bring more people in than having everything at $10. Have discounts for bundles or packs, and price everything consistently and carefully. When setting your prices, be sure to factor in all the costs of having a booth, the materials you used, and all other fees that you experience along the way – including your gas!
- Pick and design your own booth – your booth needs to be eye-catching and a work of art (see also our article on glassblowing). Your display and merchandising should be cohesive with your wares, so pick and design your own booth if you’re able to. This will set you apart from the crowd. Need booth display ideas? Check out these display tricks from Made Urban.
- Be welcoming to all customers – treat every customer like an old friend, and be patient with them. Make sure you have the answers to any questions they might have, and always be friendly. Whatever you do, don’t sit down in a chair with your arms folded and watch people go by! You want to engage people, and a smile is an easy way to do that.
- Hand out your business cards – make business cards! All business cards should have a picture of the kinds of items you sell, as well as your name, business name, tagline, phone number, and website information (if you have one). You can also add your business social media for people to follow and stay up to date.
- Use social media – social media is an important tool for businesses! Create an Instagram or Facebook account for your crafts, then send people to those sites so they can stay up to date and follow you there.
- Start a newsletter – collectors love to hear stories about your work and what better way to share them than with a weekly or monthly newsletter? A newsletter lets you get up front and personal about yourself and your work. You can show photos of various processes and discuss upcoming events so your fans will show up (and possibly buy more)!
- Create a website (optional) – if you can, create your own website to help sell your and show off your crafts. This is something that will bring in money beyond selling at craft shows, and it can help you grow your business significantly. Having a website gives you a searchable online presence, which means retailers, gallery owners, and other buyers and collectors can find you and your work. If you want to stick to craft shows, that’s totally fine, too!
Yes, it is absolutely possible to make a living by selling your crafts at craft shows, but it isn’t easy. You may want to supplement your marketing methods to include selling on sites like Etsy or Amazon.
You might even decide to open a Shopify shop of your own, then send people to your online stores via your newsletter.
Whatever you do decide, be sure you factor in all associated costs involved in the process. Continue to make quality items that will make people keep coming back for more.
And don’t forget to have fun! After all, you’re creating things you love to make, and your enthusiasm will rub off on your audience. When people see your face light up as you’re talking about your work, they will line up to buy your wares!
So smile, relax, and enjoy the show.