How to Choose a Craft Fair
…and how many?
Craft fairs, flea markets, trunk shows… they pop up all over the place! Wouldn’t we make more $$$ if we sign up for all of them?? The answer is no. If you’re like me, you have a full-time job and craft fairs are something you do to fill your soul and pay for your wicked yarn habit. You can’t do them all and trust me… you don’t want to! There are quite a few things to consider before jumping in head first! What type of show is it, when, where do I even look? Let’s dive in!
The more accurate question would be “how many can I reasonably prep for?” I am decently fast at crocheting, but I can’t always dedicate large chunks of time to prepare. My worst fear is showing up to a craft fair and selling out on the first day (that has happened to me)! It’s a great problem to have… still problem for sure. Also, you wouldn’t want to have a show with a really low stock because it is a disservice to the market. Your customers may feel like you didn’t care about them and so might your event coordinator. “Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.” – Ron Swanson
Future blog posts will detail market prep and how to have a plan. For me, I apply to 3 craft fairs in the fall. With my full-time job, this is my limit. If you have more time to prep or start really early, you may feel comfortable having more shows.
How do I find craft fairs?
I started with Google in the beginning. Type in where you live and “craft fair”. While looking through all the listings, keep in mind… you can’t sign up for all of them. You’ve got to find the right fit. Once you go to your first show, ask the other vendors!! Find a maker who makes something you truly vibe with and ask them which shows they apply for. The customers at those shows might be really into what you make! There was this adorable booth selling mittens (Whitton’s Mittens) who I knew would be a great resource because people would buy a scarf from me and mittens from them! I’ve found some truly great shows because I’ve chatted with other vendors.
How do I choose a show?
Ok, so this is a big deal. Like I mentioned before, not all craft fairs are created equal. You might go to a show and sell everything and the next show will be a total dud. Be picky. You’ve worked hard on your product and your skill and you want to be sure it gets in front of your ideal customer!
There are many types of craft fairs: juried or curated, handmade only, flea markets, junk shows, trunk shows, festivals, expos, etc..
I’m a huge fan of juried shows. Juried means the event organizer is combing through a list of vendors who apply and choosing the best fit. At these types of events, you’re less likely to have 15 crochet booths all making the same thing. (I’ve had other crochet vendors come to my booth and take pictures of my work…) Also, many of these event organizers are going for a certain vibe at their show. Does their vibe fit your product? If not, it’s ok to pass. When it’s a good match, beautiful things happen!
Another type of show I love is a Handmade Only show. These shows ask you to send them proof you are actually making your items yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good junk show, but people who come to a “handmade only” show are actually interested in handmade things! They know they are going to pay for good work and are prepared to do so. I have a show on Thanksgiving weekend I am always sure to sign up for. My first year, pictured above, I sold out of everything on the first day… Everything. I had to stay up all night to make as much as I could for the next TWO days. (We’ll talk more about properly prepping for a market in another post so that doesn’t happen to you.)
Types of shows that don’t seem to be a good fit for me are flea markets. Shoppers may be coming to flea markets looking for a good deal and I may not be providing that. One flea market had my handmade booth set up right next to a person selling cosmetics for a really low price. We had a great time chatting and I totally got some $3 mascara, but I only did $600 in sales for the whole weekend. There were more than 50,000 people at this event, but they weren’t there for me. While I had a good time, it wasn’t a good fit and I haven’t been back.
Expos and festivals. These can be really good or terrible. Haha! The events that draw big crowds might seem like the perfect place. If those people aren’t there to shop, it might be a bad fit. I went to a HUGE festival and it was so much fun! The people weren’t there for shopping though. They were there for the incredible parade and carnival rides. If it’s a Christmas festival, however, that might be PERFECT! Much of what I sell is intended for Christmas presents. (A huge honor btw!) Christmas shoppers are definitely my ideal customer!
Another consideration is timing. I hand make crochet and knit items in the Midwest. Summer shows do not work for me. I’ve tried. Crop tops may be a great seller if I lived in Florida, but I don’t… not anymore at least. Baby items aren’t really part of my brand. I tend to make items for adult women and teens. That’s where I feel the most passionate and it shows in my work. To find those people, I’ve got to sell those items when they are looking for them. Let me repeat that because it’s soooo important. Sell the items your customers are looking for WHEN they are looking for them.
That time for me is in the fall! I do all my craft shows from September 1 through the middle of December. That’s my sweet spot! If you crochet baby items like crazy, you may have a much wider window of time. The idea is to get your handmade items in front of the people who want them and when they want them. I don’t buy winter coats in July!
Here’s a shot from my very first craft fair! I wish I could go back and add height to my booth!! (and white table cloths and a back drop and… ok I’ll stop for now.)
Things have changed so much for me since that day. This was in November of 2014! Props to my sister for my setup.. I had NO idea what I was doing!
I’d love to hear all about your craft shows, how you found it, and why you chose them!
Stay tuned for my next post about How to Prepare for a Craft Show!