How to Prep for a Craft Fair
How much stock should I bring to a craft fair? What should I bring? How can I get it done in time? Why did I sign up for this??
Stocking for a craft fair can be a bit stressful and time consuming. If you have a crochet and knit obsession, like I do, you know it takes some serious time to make each and every item. So, how do you do it? Easy! Ignore all other responsibilities and bury yourself in your yarn!! Wooooo!!!….
Now that we’re back to reality, let’s get down to business. We need to discuss a few things before we grab our yarn and start the Netflix.
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What should I make?
The most common question I see is: Do I bring a large variety of different items or a small variety with a lot of different colors?
For my very first craft fair, I brought a large variety of different items. It turned out well, but I quickly learned I didn’t have enough of the good stuff and too much of some “meh” stuff. I still have some of that “meh” stuff years later. This method of stocking wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t the most productive or profitable way to go about it. The upside was learning what the good stuff was! There is another way to get that intel. There will be a post coming highlighting my best sellers! Also, social media sites are filled with makers ready to share. As for me, I got lucky. Boot cuffs were all the rage when I got started. I made some for a friend.. she posted to facebook… I got 19 orders that day. Knowing this, I was able to prep tons of boot cuffs and still sold out! Since that time, I’ve made an effort to really find my style and build my “brand”. As my style has evolved, so has my prep strategy.
Now, I bring a smaller variety of items in 4 to 5 “brand specific” colors for each item. Here is a breakdown of my plan for fall:
4 styles of scarves
5 styles of hats
2 styles of fingerless gloves
1 or 2 home decor items
1 or 2 garment designs
That list is in descending order from highest to lowest in terms of the total number. I bring a lot of scarves since those sell well for Christmas! I have a big goal for one scarf in particular. I’m shooting for 5 colors and 10 of each color… That’s 50 of just one scarf style! Fingers crossed! I’ll only bring a couple of the garments because there so much more to consider with those. They take longer, they might not fit the people who like them, aaand I haven’t finished designing them yet.
Myy big reason for prepping this way is because I want my booth to look a certain way. I want my ideal shopper to be drawn in by what they can see from a distance. Part of that is your booth set up. The other (more important) part is you and your product.
Another question you should consider: What season am I prepping for?
I’ve seen other crochet booths filled to the brim with scarves in July. It might work for some makers. It doesn’t for me. Visit my last post on how to choose a craft fair for more on finding the right shows to fit your style. I love making scarves so I don’t do too many summer shows.
How much do I make?
The short answer is… as much as you can! If you don’t make it, you can’t sell it.
That might seem daunting. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had someone ask me if I have any Bandit Scarves left and I just don’t. Once, I had my mom go buy me yarn so I could make more during a show. What happens if you make 50 scarves and they don’t sell? Well, you have 50 scarves for your next show! That hasn’t ever happened to me, but I definitely don’t sell out of everything. This left over stock is stored and brought to the next show. It might not be something I make anymore, but that’s ok. I have something to put on the table when my primary stock has sold. You never want to have an empty booth!
How to get it done?
At this point, you might be thinking “that’s great Courtney, but how in the ruddy hell am I supposed to make 50 scarves and all the other stuff? I’ve got a job and kids and sleep…”. I am with you. I have a pile of yarn next to me as I type this. You can do it. You can have the booth of your dreams. To do this and keep up with the rest of life, you’ve got to do one thing…
HAVE A PLAN
Get out your planner and put this stuff in writing! Here’s the one I have for 2018
Ask yourself a few questions first:
- What does success look like?
- How much time do I have?
- Which pieces are the most profitable?
- How do I afford it?
Let’s elaborate a little on each of those!
Do you want to cover your booth fee? Are you hoping to make a certain dollar amount? Is this your job and you need to turn a large profit? Once you define success, you can have a better frame of reference for what goals you can set for yourself in terms of what to make and how much.
This is the big one isn’t it? How can you get all this stuff done and still have a life?
Firstly, how many months or weeks until your craft show?
Secondly, how much time in each of those months or weeks or days do you have set aside for market prep. I, like so many of you, have a full-time job. It can be very demanding between October 1st and December 7th. (I work with Medicare.) That is prime time for craft shows and I’ve got to work around it. With that in mind, I START EARLY! I generally start serious market prep in June. At this point, I have about 7 weeks until my next craft show. That sounds like plenty of time, right? Not. Even. Close. Let’s do the math!
1 hour a day X 7 weeks = 49 hours of dedicated crochet time until my show. My Bandit Scarf takes me around an hour. That’s only 49 of that scarf when I have a goal of 50!! That’s not even counting the rest of my list! Thankfully, I’m not panicking. I got started weeks ago and I’ve managed to find more time in my day. Can you guess how???
I put down my cell phone… That’s so embarrassing, but running my social media (surfing Instagram let’s be honest) was taking literal hours out of my days. If you’ve got sh*t to do, put that sucker down.
Carving out more time is great, but it isn’t always possible. We need to be efficient. This is where we talk about BATCH WORKING!
Batch working is when you organize your tasks so you are more efficient with your time. For me, this means that any time I have a big chunk of time for crochet, I will churn out the same pattern over and over until I’ve hit my quota or run out of time. I knew I wanted a certain number of puff stitch hats, so I sat down on a weekend and made 5 in a row. I didn’t have to fiddle around with finding the yarn for a project or trying to decide what to make. I just sat down and got to work. For some people, Batch Working means you take all the pictures for your September social media posts in one day or cleaning your entire house in one day so you have more time for crafts each night. Jenna Kutcher talks about this on her fabulous Goal Digger podcast if you’d like to hear it from an expert!
I also use super bulky yarn because I love it sooooo much… it also works up faster. There are fewer stitches and much less time for each individual item. Less time on an item means more items which means more $$$. That brings us to our next topic.
If you are selling your work, that means you’d probably like to make your money back on all that yarn and the booth fee. What about making a profit? Making infinity scarves with worsted weight yarn and selling them for $15 might result in a lot of sales, but not a great deal of profit. Your expenses are likely higher than you’d like to admit or higher than you know! Booth fees, yarn, taxes, props for your booth, a tent, meals at shows, gas to get there, buttons, tags, etc. (And we’re not even talking about your time as a unit of expense.) You might be spending considerably more than you’re aware of and keeping track of every single expense is vital to being sure you’re making a profit. Here is where the excel spreadsheet comes in! Track the dollar amount, store, and maybe the purpose of that purchase.
The next part of profitability is being sure you’re charging enough for your work. Crochet and knit are skills that take years to master. You’ve put in the time.. lots of it. I used to think charging more than $10 for a hat was crazy. “It only costs me $5 in yarn so it’s selfish to ask for more” – Me. It isn’t selfish and my expenses go far beyond just that yarn. Many people say “cost of materials X 3” is how you should charge. I don’t subscribe to that mentality because that doesn’t really cover all your expenses. I look at it a bit differently.
Once you know your expenses, we go back to the question of goals. How much profit do you want to make? Break that target number into the price of each of your items. If I want to make $500 at a craft show and I’ve got 100 items to sell, that’s $5 added to each item after considering all expenses. My target number is much higher. Do I always hit my target? No, but if I sell those items over time… eventually it’ll happen. My goals tend to be more season specific rather than individual markets. I have a goal for each fall rather than each show since I sell online as well as in person.
Is that is a bit complicated at this juncture in your business? This year is actually the first year I’ve attempted to implement this strategy. Prior to now, my pricing strategy was, “how much would I pay for an item like this?” Would I pay more than $20 for a scarf? At the time, no. Now, absolutely! I know better now. If I love something enough, I’m willing to pay more for it. That will be the same for your customers. You make something that takes so much time and talent. You deserve to make a profit.
Ok, I’m climbing off my soap box now. Just know that every time someone has come to my booth and said “I can get this at a different booth for less.” I tell them to go for it. Most of the time, they come back. There is a reason I charge what I charge. I am proud of my work. I’ve spent years of my life on it and I deserve to earn a profit. (Isn’t that hard to say?? It feels so arrogant. You are allowed to be proud of your work, but that’s a topic for another blog post!)
How am I supposed to afford all the yarn needed to properly stock?
I never ever buy yarn full price. Having a plan is a big part of that. If you’ve waited until the last minute to prepare, then you might be stuck with paying full price for your yarn this time. If you have months, you can afford to wait until there is a sale and stock up! I also use commercially available yarn. Merino wool is absolutely wonderful! To make a profit using that yarn, I’d have to charge $75 for a scarf. That’s not going to fly in the Midwest. I’ll frequently check for coupons with Joann Fabrics. I’ll also frequently visit the store. Just yesterday, there was a big ol’ sale and I went nuts! Keep your eyes peeled for deals and stock up. It might be difficult to buy in bigger chunks, but you’ll save sooooo much in the long run.
Another option is to buy straight from the manufacturer with a wholesale account, but you’ve got to buy quite a lot. I’m not at that level. I hunt for the sales!
Keep an inventory
I can’t stress the importance of keeping track of your inventory. Keep another spreadsheet. One for expenses and the second for inventory so you can keep track of your income. Income – expenses = profit.
Your inventory list should consist of a couple of things: the item name, what color, the price, mark as sold, any notes about that item. I also add a section at the end of my list for notes about the types of requests I’ve had. If I run out of Marble Bandit Scarves, I keep track of how many times I was asked for it. If someone asks me for a mermaid tail blanket, I might write it down, but I usually don’t make those. This is how you plan for show #2 and beyond. You find out what your big sellers are. You find out which items can make a profit. Now you can pour some of that profit into more yarn so you can make all the things!
Now you’ve got all the hard stuff out of the way. You have a plan…
You can get to the fun part of MAKING!! I wish you the best of luck at your shows! Let me know how it goes!
Got questions?? Please feel free to ask here, on Instagram, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!