Craft fairs & markets: you see them pop up on social media as handmade business owners flock together to sell their handmade goodies together. Why would you really want to do one though? Or how do you even find one to sell all of your gorgeous handmade items at? One of the most common ways that handmade business owners make large amounts of revenue is through selling at craft fairs. It’s an event where anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people come to buy goodies that have been created by makers. It’s an opportunity where all of your customers come to you, and you don’t have to constantly be seeking them out.
Just because all of the customers are in one place doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do any work. You still have to hustle for each sale! There’s a lot of work that goes into each market, which makes the end result even more rewarding as you get to interact with new customers and make new friends. I got to do my first market last year, and I learned so much from everything that I did. I made mistakes that made the lead up extra hard, but there were also a lot of positives that came with it!
One of my Instagram friends, Robyn from ami.and.emme, did such a great job with being involved in a dozen markets last year, and she’s here today to share her advice on how to rock your next market or craft fair. Robyn first started crocheting when one of her friends taught her how to crochet. She enjoyed learning how to do it, and as she continued crocheting it soon led to people starting to ask her to make things for them. One friend asked if she could crochet a monkey for one of her kids, and even though she had no idea what she was doing, Robyn set out to learn how to make one. Once she did this project and made her first amigurumi, she knew she had found the crochet item she loved doing!
As she continued making things for her friends, her aunt suggested that she have a table at her community’s Christmas market that they were having. It was super small, but Robyn loved it and soon she started looking for other markets in her town. As she kept doing markets, she soon started doing them all throughout market season, and did 12 markets last year. With all of her market experience, she’s gathered together quite a few market tips to help you be able to rock your next craft fair!
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What They Are
Before we begin the tips, we need to define what a market or craft fair is. It is a gathering of various vendors who have booths where their sell their goods and products, whether handmade or manufactured. One of the most common types of markets is a craft fair where handmade business owners sell their handmade crafts that they have made ranging from hats, and scarves, to bags and more. It’s one big giant gathering of makers all at once! They can range from have an attendance of 50 to 1000+, with a wide range of people who are looking for gifts or special items that people have made. Markets will be available a few times a year, and are most often available during the fall and winter months specifically around Christmas time. Sometimes there will be a spring or summer market available, but Robyn has found that during those markets she doesn’t make a high profit.
How to Find Them
Robyn found a lot of the craft fairs she’s taken part of through the community centers in her area that she lives in. Those places create events for the community and want to support locals. Social media is another great place to find markets or craft fairs as people set up Facebook events, or share them online. Look for craft fairs and markets that are targeted at handmade items, because Robyn has found that the people who attend those have a better appreciation for the items that you make. You’ll also find a lot of the craft fairs through connections that you make at other markets. Some people will be really involved in the local markets, and they’ll be able to share about them with you as you continue to build connections with them. Robyn found that as she continued to make friends at her different markets that she was able to become involved in the larger markets that were in her area, and now she’s seen her access to markets increase dramatically through the friendships she’s made.
Products to Sell
When it comes to products to sell at markets, each one is different. Sometimes you’ll have one product you make sell very well at one market, so you’ll make a bunch of it hoping that it will sell the same amount at the next one. Then you’ll go to the next market and it won’t sell at all. The best way to combat this is to have a variety of products that represent your brand, without having too much variety that your brand gets lost in so many items.
As you’re looking through the products that you make choose the ones that you feel reflect you the best. Choose a majority of small items that are at a low price point, so that people who are looking for quick impulsive buys that they’ll want to spend money on. I had some crocheted brooches that I sold for $10 at the Christmas market that I did, and they were the only item that I sold out of. I made them super last minute, and only had them on a piece of card stock with Holly Leaf Brooches $10 written on them. I’m embarrassed even thinking about how I packaged them, haha. However, people loved seeing a small item that they could grab as a quick gift or thing to spoil themselves with.
Robyn sells a lot of small items like her octopus or her little F Bombs that she designed. She also creates items that grandparents would be able to buy multiple of in different colors for their grandkids. She’ll have her plushies in colors that will appeal to boys and girls, and she said that sometimes the kids are drawn to items you wouldn’t expect which she loves to see! It’s fun to see people get excited about different items that you make, and even if they don’t buy the items that you create it’s a little bit of an ego boost when you see someone enjoy your item, haha. Make sure you enjoy making your items though, because Robyn says that if you hate making it then get rid of it! You want to enjoy what you’re making!
When it comes to setting up your booth or table, you want to create a display that will be able to catch people’s eyes so that they are drawn to coming to your table to look at your products. How do you do this though? One of the most common suggestions that people say is to create height with you set up. This can either be from something in the background of your booth, stands on the table, or stacking crates to display your items. You also want to have a range of large to small items that will capture people’s attention.
Robyn’s set up has developed over the year into something that she’s found has helped optimize her space and display her products. She got retractable banners from Vistaprint that display photos of her items that are on her Instagram grid, and serve as a catalog of sorts so that she doesn’t need to have all of the items that she can make there. People are able to point to her banner and ask her if she makes them, which opens a door for her to do custom orders. On her table she uses small stands to display her items at different heights. She even makes huge versions of her items that help capture people’s attention from across the room, and she doesn’t expect these to sell but instead uses them as a marketing tool. She has them at a high price point, since they take a long time to do, but doesn’t sell them too often. Having the variety of height options and item sizes, has really helped boost her sales at her booth.
A lot of times you have no idea what the location of your booth at the craft fair will be. You pull up the day of and get your assignment where your table or booth space is hoping that it’s in a prime location. It’s exciting and scary all in one! Sometimes they’ll put you near the front or you’ll be stuck in a back corner somewhere, so the best thing to do is be prepared for anything. Even weeks before your market starts, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan for what you want to have your setup before hand. I was told that I had a 9’x9′ space for my booth instead of just having one table to put my items on, so I knew that I wanted to utilize as much space as I could. I had some leftover decorations from my wedding, and one of those were two vintage doors that I knew I wanted to use in my booth to hang some of my velvet hats on. They also would help create height for my booth to draw people’s eyes to it. Then I had a table where I displayed my items on small crates that I got at Walmart, or just had the items spread out on my table. I found ways to create opportunities to have people be able to interact with my booth, and I found that helped people connect to my items.
With the unpredictability of each market you go to, it can be hard to know how to make sales to the customers that pass by your booth. Robyn has found a few different ways to help connect to customers and make sales:
- Always be standing – When you’re standing at your booth you help show that you are ready to help or talk to anyone who might be interested in your booth. Often markets will provide you with a chair to sit down at your booth, but Robyn has found that by standing the majority of the time, she’s able to interact with customers more.
- Say hi and create small talk – Most of the time people won’t naturally come up to your booth, especially if you’re tucked in a back corner like I was. So it’s up to you to draw them in. The easiest way to do this is to say hi to anyone that walks by and create small talk with them. People are more inclined to by from a friendly person, versus someone who seems more closed off. I would say hi to everyone that walked by and invite them into my booth to come check out what I had made. This increased the foot traffic of my booth significantly! I’d also create small talk with them to build connection between us. Comment on their jacket, an item they’ve bought, or even asking about how they like the other vendors, are all ways to connect to your customers.
- Be working on something – People love seeing others who are making something right there. Robyn is always crocheting something while she’s at her market, and she’s found that this helps draw people in to talk with her and interact with her items.
- Clearly communicate what you do – I can’t even count the amount of times I invited people to come into my booth, told them to feel free to touch my items, and shared that I could make the hats I made in any color they wanted. People were really hesitant to touch my items at first, especially parents with kids, but I would assure them that everything was really soft and meant to be interacted with. They all loved getting to feel my items! I’d also share that I could do custom orders for certain items if they wanted it. The majority of my sales on my market day were from making custom orders for people that I made and delivered to them after the market. If you share what you’re able to do, you’d be surprised at what opportunities present themselves!
- Hand out lots of business cards – This is one of the most important things to do at your market! Every time you interact with a potential customer, share a business card with them. This helps get your business out there more, even if they don’t buy from you. By handing out your business cards, people will be able to find your business after the market and it provides the opportunity for them to order from you later on.
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As Robyn did over a dozen markets last year, she found that she had a few essential things that she did or had at each market that helped make it easier:
- Have lots of snacks! – As you’re trying to make sales at your market, you can easily lose track of time and will soon find seven hours have passed without you having eaten. Especially so if you didn’t pack any snacks. Making time to eat snacks at your market will help you have the energy to get through the entire market. Robyn even schedules friends or family to come visit the market, and bring her snacks so that she remembers that she needs to eat.
- Have a good tablecloth – It might seem like a small detail, but a nice tablecloth can really help tie a display together and make it even better. You’ll want one that can fit on a variety of sizes of rectangular tables, because sometimes you’ll have a short table at one market and a long one at another. You’d be surprised at how a nice tablecloth makes a table look better. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy though!
- Have a market kit – Create a market kit to take with you to each craft fair where you’re able to keep things that you might need in case something goes wrong at the market, which it most likely will. This kit could include things ranging from a sewing kit, tape, safety pins, or tools you might need.
- Don’t do any market prep the night before – It can be really tempting to try to cram in some last minute market prep before the big day. However, this often can be counterproductive because you will get exhausted the night before, and markets are already tiring enough as there are. Use the night instead to make sure you have everything you need, and most importantly get a good night’s sleep!
I hope that this post has helped encourage, educate, or get you excited about doing a market or craft fair! Overall, markets and craft fairs are a great experience for growing your business. You can have the opportunity to make a lot of new friends with the other vendors around you, and you get to interact with your customers face to face throughout the day. Don’t get me wrong, the whole day can be challenging. However, the benefits of growth both personal and in your business help make markets an unforgettable experience that you’ll want to be a part of!
Be sure to check out Robyn’s Instagram @ami.and.emme and her Etsy store to see all of her cute plushies that she makes!