SELLING YOUR ART AT CRAFT FAIRS AND CRAFT FESTIVALS
How to sell your art at craft fairs and craft festivals
Craft fairs and craft festivals are one
way artists and craftsmen have to sell their crafts, but to rely
completely on this method may be costly and time-consuming.
Cost of Selling at Craft Fairs and Craft
Sales made at Craft Fairs are retail sales
- that is, you receive 100 percent of the selling price. But how much of
that is actually profit? What must be considered is the cost of the
booth, commission and/or registration fees as well as travel costs,
overnight lodging, display props, among other things.
Depending on the fair, you might pay a
booth fee or a commission. Some fairs have both. Booth fees vary from
five to hundreds of dollars, and commissions vary from 5 to 50 percent
of all items sold at the fairs and orders taken while at the fair. On
top of these fees, some fairs require a jurying or registration fee.
Juried Versus Non-juried Shows
In a juried crafts show, participants are
asked to submit examples of their work via slides or photographs. A
panel of judges then selects the work of craftsmen that best fits into
the format of the fair. This ensures that high-quality items are sold at
their fair. Shows that are not juried may include church bazaars and a
variety of other community "arts and crafts" celebrations.
Although both have their place,
good-quality, high-priced items may be difficult to sell at non-juried
Advantages and Disadvantages of Selling at
Craft Fairs and Festivals
One of the best advantages of selling at a
Craft Fair is that you receive 100 percent of the selling price even
though part may be lost to the commission and/or booth fee. Other
Because you are selling directly to the
public, you meet the people who are buying your items. You can test
market new items. You can test prices. You can gain confidence in
selling and meeting the public. You can enjoy the festive atmosphere of
the fair. You meet people who can help you with your business. You meet
craftsmen who can give you support.
The major disadvantage of selling through
Craft Fairs and Festivals is that it takes away from production. While
you are selling, nothing is being produced. Other disadvantages are:
Craft Fairs and Festivals can become
expensive when all expenses are considered. Fairs can become boring when
slow. Information given at Craft Fairs can get repetitive. Traveling,
setting up and taking down displays can cause fatigue. Display equipment
can become costly. You must overcome the image of the fair as being a
flea market where people give little respect to established prices.
Since you come in direct contact with the buyer, you may have to cope
with negative feedback. And lastly, you must collect and report sales
tax at Craft fairs.
What to Look for at Craft Fairs and
Before entering any Craft Fairs, find out
about the fair. Do this by talking to someone who has exhibited there
before, by visiting it yourself, or by questioning the organizers. Ask
yourself these questions:
1. Does your work complement others in the
Arts & Craft Fair? Is it compatible? You would not want to sell items
costing $50 while others are selling lesser-priced items.
2. How many artists and craftsmen will
exhibit, and how many will be there in your media?
3. How many people are expected to attend?
How many attended last year? Are there any other events that conflict?
4. How much publicity does the Craft Fair
and Festival get and what kind? Do the organizers pay for any
advertisement? Relying on free publicity isn't very effective.
5. Is the Craft Fair juried? If the Craft
Fair isn't juried, you may be surrounded by flea market-type crafts.
6. How big are the booth spaces? Can you
set up your display in that amount of space, or do you have to obtain
new display equipment?
7. What types of people are attracted to
the Craft Fair and Festivals? Do they or will they spend money at the
8. What other activities are being held at
the same time? Can you compete with a carnival or an antique car show?
9. How much does it cost to enter the
Craft Fair? Do you pay a flat fee, or do you pay a commission on the
amount you sell?
10. How far do you have to travel? How
much will it cost to spend the night?
11. Is the Craft Fair and Festival indoors
or outside? If outside, will bad weather ruin your craft items or
12. Do you have the time to build up your
inventory? If you attend shows too frequently, you may not have time to
make more items for upcoming fairs.
13. How many years has the Craft Fair and
Festival been held? New Craft Fair need a lot of publicity to attract
14. Do you have the proper licenses to
sell at Craft Fairs and Festivals? A sales tax permit is a must for
anyone selling to the public. Few local regulations apply to artists and
craftsmen selling at fairs.
15. Do you have to man the booth
personally, or can you send a representative? Some Art & Craft Fairs
require that the maker must be at the fair.
16. If desired, is demonstrating allowed?
Usually, it is encouraged. Are electrical needs available for equipment?
17. Are electrical outlets available for
extra lighting, etc.? Is there an extra cost?
18. Is there security at the Craft Fair?
Can you leave your booth set up overnight?
19. Do you have the necessary supplies -
bags, sales slips, money bag, price tags, etc.?
20. Will you need help at the Craft Fair?
If you do it by yourself, will fair officials watch your booth on
If you do not do well at one Craft Fair
and your product is good, keep trying until you find the locations and
clientele that are best for your product.
Be sure to take plenty of merchandise. A
good rule is to take twice what you expect to sell. Your products should
vary in price from a few dollars to more expensive items. Although you
may specialize in expensive, one-of-a-kind items, develop a less
expensive item(s) that will appeal to more people. They will help sell
the more expensive ones.
It's best to have a helper as it may be
hectic at times. Also, there will always be someone there when one of
you needs to leave for some reason.
Create a professional image by being well
groomed and appropriately dressed. Many sellers wear special costumes in
keeping with their total display or line of goods. Have business cards
and brochures to promote your business.
Even if you hate to sell, remember that is
what you're there for. Salesmanship involves looking people squarely in
the eye, smiling at them, talking to them. Above all, don't sit around
reading a book or looking bored.
Be prepared to handle any and all
questions that may arise, from "Do you sell on consignment?" to "Can you
make it in blue, instead of red?" and "How soon can you deliver twelve
Try to demonstrate your craft. People who
demonstrate at a fair usually outsell those who don't. Create an
Brace yourself for negative feedback from
critical people who do not appreciate fine craftsmanship. It's part of
the business, and one of the few disadvantages of direct selling you
must learn to accept. Listen carefully to your critics, though, to get
new ideas on how to improve your work or make it more salable. If you
take a check for merchandise, be sure to ask for identification and note
the individual's driver's license on the check. Also get their telephone
number and address, if it's not printed on the check. Don't cash checks
for anyone, and don't let them write a check for an amount larger than
the purchase, requiring you to give change. To protect the checks you do
have, endorse them on the spot, "For deposit only."
When customers pay with cash, never put a
large bill into your cash box until change has been given. Don't give
them an opportunity to say, " But I gave you a twenty, not a ten." Prove
the fact by showing them the original bill, still laying on top of your
If you decide to accept credit cards,
arrange with a local bank to obtain a merchants number and the necessary
equipment. Unless you can get special compensation, each charge you
accept will cost you 5 to 10 percent of the total. This charge is tax
deductible as it is an expense of operating your business. You must
decide whether it is better to "lose" 5 to 10 percent than lose the
Remember to keep accurate records of all
other expenses incurred in preparing for and attending the fair, since
most are tax deductible. Include your mileage by writing down your
odometer reading before you leave and noting it when you return. You
should also keep a record of meals and lodging and all other expenses.
Record keeping is a very important tool to
determine which fairs were profitable. A small businessman will not
continue an activity that is not profitable. Keep detailed records of
how much and what sells and the expenses (including fees) as well as
time you spent. If the fair is not profitable, drop it.