We talk a lot around here about why it's important to buy handmade. Since spring craft market season is starting to amp up, I thought it might be fun to take a peek at what a market is like from a crafter's perspective. From applications to display, there's a lot more to selling at a craft show than just making your wares.
Every market has a different application process, and this year my goal has been to do as many paper free applications as possible. Luckily, many festival organizers use a web form or are happy to receive applications via email. So far, most have been fine with taking PayPal payments for fees instead of asking me to mail a check, too. Yay for reducing the carbon footprint of the application process!
Planning a good display is the hardest part of market preparation for many crafters. You need space for all of your goodies, clear signs, and room for yourself. It's almost like a puzzle: how do I fit everything into my space and make is beautiful?
Since my goal is to lower my business' impact, I try to use reclaimed materials wherever possible in my display. Sometimes it's hard to balance merchandising with my business ethic, but I do my best. Right now, my tent, table and peg board are new, but pretty much everything else is thrifted or scavenged.
There are lots of ways to work recycled elements into a crafty display. Instead of a store bought tablecloth, you can snag a pretty vintage sheet at the thrift store. This makes the table look more finished and hides the bins and boxes stacked underneath. Thrifted crates and shelves are a great way to add height to a table top display without buying new.
To make your signs more eco-friendly, you can mount them on reclaimed cardboard or use thrift store frames to display them. Good signage is key at craft market. Signs help customers learn about you and your product. Not everyone wants to ask you about your products and how much they cost, so good signs streamline things for those shoppers.
Of course, you can't show up at a craft show without products to sell! How much product you need to make depends on the cost and size of the show and how much space you're going to have. Generally, I calculate 10x the cost of the application fee and aim to make enough merch to total that cost.
Ten times might seem like alot, but you have to think about the time you spend making your products and manning your booth. A typical craft market is a 10-12 hour day between setup and break down, and you should aim to compensate yourself for that time.
Set Up, Break Down, and Things in Between
Like I said, a craft market is a long day. Set up is usually early in the morning, when you show up with boxes and bins, table, tent, and display. Depending on how elaborate your display is and how experienced you are at setting it up, it can take as little as an hour to set up or as long as two or three.
If possible, it helps to have a friend in the tent, whether she just pops in to give you bathroom breaks or sticks around all day. You'll also want to have some craft show essentials on hand:
- snacks and a lunch
- If it's an outdoor show with port-o-lets you'll be glad you have toilet paper and hand sanitizer (just make sure it's triclosan-free)
- a reusable water bottle
- plenty of change
- a safe place to keep the money you make and a ledger to track transactions
- safety pins
- duct tape
- clothes pins
- markers and paper, because you will inevitably have forgotten to make an essential sign
As you do more markets, that list might grow and change.
Now that you're set up and have your trusty stash of emergency supplies, you're ready for customers! This is where you get to smile and chat with shoppers about what you make, how you make it, why you make it, and thank them for their purchases. At a good show you'll be ringing up orders and answering a steady stream of questions almost the whole time, and the day can really fly by! Before you know it, it's time to break down and head home.
Break down usually doesn't take me as long as setting up, and one of the reasons is that over the years I've organized my market stuff so that everything has a place. I have a tub for Lunch Kits, cupcake aprons, and recipe cards. Cup gloves and signs go in my miniature vintage suitcase. Lunch boxes go in a reusable grocery bag, and there's another bag for hangers. One tub holds most display items and the rest of my signs. If everything has a designated spot, you can switch into robot mode during breakdown, which is nice after a long, strenuous day.
This all probably makes selling at craft markets sound like a lot of work, and that's because it is. It's a ton of work, but a good show is worth every second of heavy lifting. There's nothing like those hours in the booth talking to customers about your process and helping them find just the right item. When shoppers walk into my space and the rack of Cupcaprons makes them laugh, it's all worth it.
So, are there any other crafty pros out there? What do you do to make your day run smoothly and keep things eco-friendly? Let's talk shop in the comments!