3. It sells for at least ten times more than the cost of the materials in
4. You can make a lot of them at a time.
(If you want to spend six months making a chair, fine, you might have a work of art,
but you don’t have a product.) You also need a product that people want. If it has
a function they will want it even more.
The basics needed for selling your craft
The minimum setup is a table with a cloth over it, a chair, a canopy with weights,
and a craft show. That's it. You won't make much money, but you will get your feet
Craft show myths
If you are thinking along any of these lines as you contemplate a successful craft
fair business, forget it. You may be able to pull them off, but you will not be a
· I will buy some imports and sell them as my own.
· I will just go to a show, show up without first applying, and they will
let me in.
· I will find a successful craftsperson and copy them.
· I will make something that the stores have and sell it cheaper.
· I will put my crafts on the Internet and won’t have to do shows at all.
· Being a successful craftsperson is easier that working at a job.
· I will make only what I like. If the public likes it fine, if not, fine.
· I can read and relax at a craft show, because I work all week.
· I don’t need to take Visa or MC, just unreportable cash.
· I can sell crafts and avoid taxes.
All of the above are wrong!
Steps to selling at a craft fair
1. Make something nice that people want.
2. Find out where a craft fair is.
3. Send for an application.
4. Photograph your creation (slides, usually).
5. Fill out the application.
6. Send in the application and the slides before the deadline date.
7. Make some more nice things.
8. Watch the mailbox.
9. When you are accepted, send in the fee.
10. Get a canopy and a table.
11. Get to the show on time.
12. Set up the canopy, put a cloth on the table, put your creations on it.
13. Talk to people all weekend.
14. When you are done, put your stuff in the car and go home.
15. Do all of the above again in a week or two.
What is a craft fair?
A craft fair is an event that takes place usually during a weekend. In addition to
crafts, it may have wine, music, or food as an attraction, or it may be crafts only.
Every fair has a promoter. The promoter finds a location for the fair, secures permits,
hires security, and determines which artists and craftspeople will sell at his or
her show. As a craftsperson, you can either try to become good friends with the promoter,
or ignore them and expect them to judge you on your own merits. I usually don’t pay
any attention to the promoter unless they want to buy some of my creations. Then
I give them a special deal, and try to make it a memorable experience.
Types of fairs
Basically there are three types of shows:
1. The family show
2. The craft fair
3. The art show
The family show has carnival-type entertainment, chamber of commerce booths, a craft
area, and music. At the craft fair there may be some music, but the emphasis is on
art and crafts. The art show usually has only fine art and some craft, with no other
attractions for the customer. (Many events will overlap in other areas, for example
an art show may have a music group as a lure, or a family show may only have crafts
as an afterthought.)
For your first show, you should pick a small local show. You probably won’t make
much money. You have to start somewhere, to learn what you need in the way of display
equipment, comfort, stock, etc. This is called “paying your dues.” You can even
start with a flea market. There are always a few people shopping at a flea market
that will recognize quality when they see it, and will give you some valuable feedback
about your product, price, and display. Plus you can also get rid of a few things
cluttering up your garage. Flea marketing of your craft is usually only good for
one or two trials, though. For one thing, the people who come each weekend to a flea
market tend to be the same people over and over, and after two weeks your sales will
How to find out where the fairs are
The next step is to visit a craft fair advertised in your area and ask the artists
who the promoter is. Also ask which shows they recommend, which ones to avoid. Find
out if the show is good for high-end crafts, or lower prices, and how long the show
has been going on.
You can also search Google on the internet with some general keywords like “craft
fairs (your state).” You’d be surprised how many listings pop up.
Craft fair guides
Every area in the United States has one or more craft fair guides, covering several
states in that region. A few guides specialize in fairs only in a single state, and
some others try to cover all of the best fairs in the entire country. A list of the
best fair guides can be found on page 69.
How to choose a good fair
With so many fairs to choose from, it is hard to pick a good fair. My philosophy
is to try any fair once (if you have some indication that it might be good), and
see what happens. If it is not good, you don’t have to ever do it again. Sometimes
a little-known fair will surprise you with a lot of sales. But to try and minimize
the bad fairs, I have a few basic criteria. Number one, I like to know a lot of people
will be there. 50,000, 120,000, 600,000 people. With enough shoppers I can make money
at any show. Show me the people! More people at a show are good for me because my
average price is $40. If you have a more expensive product, then you might focus
more on areas where the customers have more disposable income. This could even be
a smaller indoor art show that is sponsored by an art guild and has an excellent
reputation, or a show in a very wealthy area. Again, experience counts. You have
to be willing to try any well-reputed show at least once. Then you will know if your
product and price is a match for that customer base.
The application process
The first step is to get the application. This doesn’t cost you anything. Write the
fair you might want to do, and ask for an application. I usually send a simple typed
letter with my name and contact information. This enables the show producer to get
my address right. The letter says only "Please send me an application and any information
about your upcoming shows, and put me on your mailing list. Thank you." I print
twenty copies of the same generic letter, sign them, and mail them to the shows that
I might be interested in. You don’t have to impress the promoter in this letter,
as they will send an application to anyone. Call if you have to, but not as a habit.
Sometimes, if you have waited until the last minute, the fair can fax you an application
or you can get it online. You wouldn’t want to do this as a normal practice, but
sometimes you suddenly find yourself without a fair and need one quick.
When you receive the application, the next step is to make a list with the fair,
deadline date, and fair date on a sheet of paper, posted in a place where you will
see it. You then file the fair application in a folder for the month the fair is
going to happen. When your deadline list shows that the fair application deadline
is coming up, you go to the show’s month, take out the application, fill it out,
and mail it in.
Read and complete the application
First, read the entire application. If you don’t, you will often miss little details,
such as “send in a resume,” or “don’t send anything in but the application,” or even
“include a slide of your workshop.” It might be hard to get a good slide of your
workshop at the last minute. The second step is to fill out the application completely.
Many promoters have told me that they get a lot of incomplete applications.
Get the application in on time
Another detail often overlooked when reading the application is the “must be received
by’ or “must be postmarked by” date. Don’t wait till the deadline date to discover
that the show wants the application in their office by that date, instead of postmarked
by that date. Most shows do not give an advantage to early postmarks, but some
do. If you have any indication that they do, either by word of mouth or specifically
stated on the application, get the application in as soon as you get it. At any rate,
plan to get the application in the post office at least a week early if you can.
That way you will have enough time to get the workshop slide, price list, copy of
ID, etc., if you didn’t read the application when it arrived.
How important are slides? Very important. Extremely important! Simply put, the better
the show, the better your slides must be to get in. Although there are a few shows
that are filled simply by the promoter looking at photos on her kitchen table, most
of the best shows are juried.
A jury consists of 2 to 12 local artists, promoters, art teachers, and local experts
who sit in a darkened room while all of the slides are projected simultaneously on
a wall or screen. As the three-to-six slides are shown, each judge gives points for
design, creativity, craftsmanship, etc. The process often takes less than a minute
for each artist, with the promoter reading the descriptions of each slide supplied
by the artist if necessary. Often the acceptance of the artist is based solely on
1. The first thing the jury notices is the quality of the slide. A poorly
lit or badly composed slide might not look so bad under home viewing conditions,
but at a jurying the slide is instantly compared with the expertly photographed slides
already shown that day. So the first impression is important. A juror will be less
impressed with unprofessional slides, and they will be given fewer points. No matter
how nice the craftwork is, you are wasting your time and money with bad slides.
2. All slides should be consistent. Each slide should have only one
craft item, shown close-up, filling the screen, and be well exposed. There is a strong
desire in beginning craftspeople to show thirty items, five or six in each slide.
They want to show the jury the range and variety of their design. But the juror will
see only clutter. You have to pick your best pieces.
3. The same is true for the background. Beginners love to put rocks,
flowers, bricks, and other stuff in the picture. They also like to photograph on
a fancy cloth or carpet background. They hope the attractiveness of the background
will make their craft look more attractive. The opposite will happen. The juror will
be confused, not impressed. A plain white, gradient black to white, gray, or plain
black background is always best. All of your slides should have the same background.
What is the jury looking for?
The jury is looking for good slides, first and foremost. See above. This is the big
hurdle. And of course, the jurors are looking for creativity and originality. I can't
help you with that.
If a juror is in doubt about a particular applicant, the quality of the slides becomes
the determining factor. If the slides are poor, the applicant is out. If they are
professional, the applicant is still in the running. Good slides won’t necessarily
get you into good shows, but bad slides will very likely keep you out.
Getting ready for the show!
One way to get up to speed about what kind of booth to use is to visit a craft show.
Look around at the types of booths and the booth designs. What looks simple, with
the craft dominating, and what looks crowded. Which booths are attractive? Which
artists seem busiest? The customer, when faced with a hundred booths and not enough
time to examine all of them, will go to the most attractive booth.
Don’t be afraid to ask other artists where they got certain items or how they use
them. Ask them how they hold down their canopies, where they got the case, etc. Don’t
bother them when they are busy, and limit your questions to only a couple at each
booth. Artists and craftspeople love to share information about their booths (when
they have time, of course).
If you are doing indoor shows only, then a booth frame with drapes will work. Sometimes
you can rent pipe and drape at the show.
A workable combination indoor/outdoor booth is a white E-Z UP with the top off indoors
(and the center top pole removed). This would have to have a Velcro-attaching top,
as the bolt-on top is a real pain to remove, and you do not want a top in indoor
shows. A lot of people will have much more elaborate displays, and scoff at this
suggestion. However, I think the E-Z UP is good because:
1. It is very sturdy. It won’t fall into your neighbor’s ceramic or
glass booth. (Note that we are talking indoors here.)
2. It has a lot of places from which to hang lights and cloths.
3. You can hang banners across the front to cover the lights. You can
also make cloth socks to cover the legs.
4. It goes up in a flash, leaving you more time to work on the other
parts of your display.
5. You don’t have to keep track of a lot of corner pieces and rolling
6. You don’t have to rent pipe and drape, which adds $70 to $130 to
your show fees.
7. You can use it for your outdoor shows as well.
Indoor shows provide electricity. At some shows you have to pay extra, at some you
don’t. Some shows require a union electrician just to plug in your lights! Everything
should be grounded. You should never use two-prong extension cords. Use a three-prong
extension cord, and grounded 5-plug power strips. If the electrician requires a grounded
(three-prong) wire on your lights, and you have only a two-prong plug, you can add
a ground wire. The wire must be securely attached to a metal part of your light.
Run parallel with the wire, then cut off the two-prong wire and attach all three
wires to a yellow three-prong plug (Home Depot).
Halogen lamps cost about $8 each. They give more light and show bright colors better.
They also use less electricity then regular light bulbs. Most booths have a 500-watt
maximum. Ten 50-watt halogens will light a booth much better than six 75-watt bulbs.
Office Depot has 24” light bars that have three bulb holders. Or you can get track
in 4-foot lengths and light units for about $16 each. Halogen lamps are available
in spot or flood configurations. I use the flood.
Economy--The best display for the least buck is the E-Z UP canopy. It sets up in
a hurry. You can usually find a quality canopy with heavy walls and a carrying bag
for under $600. If you do 25 shows a year for four years, your cost is $5 per show.
If you get one with white-coated metal and a Velcro attached top, you can also use
it indoors. As for the top, make sure it is not a color canopy. A purple canopy will
make all of your products look purple, a blue one will give them a blue tinge, etc.
Don’t use a canopy that does not have the legs straight up and down. The canopies
with legs that point out look really out of place in a professional craft show. If
they are in season at Costco or Sam’s Club, the Caravan is cheaper, around $200,
and works for all but the windiest shows. They are lightweight and waterproof. They
come with three sides, a case with wheels, removable top, and a white coating on
the metal parts.
Extravagant--The Light Dome is, in my opinion, the best canopy you can get. The cost
with walls, awning, bag, everything, is up around $1,000. But you can use it anywhere,
indoors or out, it goes up fast, it is lightweight, and it looks good. It is also
the most sturdy. I have been in shows with hurricane-force winds that had every tent
flapping in every direction except for one well-anchored light dome, which didn’t
The best anchor for city streets is weights. Don’t set up without them. Your booth
may blow into another one and ruin their stuff. Thirty to 50 pounds per corner will
usually be enough. Some people nail the legs of the canopy into the asphalt, but
many shows expressly prohibit this (today’s nail hole is tomorrow’s pothole). The
promoters may not mention it, but you might not get back into the show. I like to
weight two or more corners with 50 pounds each (non-rolling dumbbells, easy to carry)
then have a 50 lb. weight in the middle of the booth, with a rope line to the top
(works with E-Z UPs). Any wind that can move this much weight can move any amount
of weight, so if a big wind is expected, lower the canopy to half-height overnight
(another handy feature of the E-Z UPs and Light Domes). Some people remove the top
during hurricanes, and wrap a tarp around their tables in the middle of the canopy.
To avoid carrying weights, buy 68 lb. bags of sand at a lumberyard. At the show,
tie them with ropes to the top of the corners. Another idea is to carry four 5-gallon
buckets, fill them with water at the show, rope them to the canopy, and dump the
water after the show.
Tents in a grassy park are the easiest to tie down. Use dog stakes. A dog stake is
a corkscrew-like device that is screwed into the ground to anchor a pet. They are
available at pet supply stores. I put two on the two corners that face the wind,
and another in the middle of the tent. The middle one is screwed in before the show,
but it is only used when the wind comes up. A rope is quickly tied to it and looped
over the top of the canopy frame. This sure beats standing there holding your canopy
as the wind blows it around. You can and should also use weights, if you have them.
In a large tent
Some outdoor shows have huge big-top tents that everyone sets up their booths under.
The Asparagus Festival in Stockton, California and the Jazz Festival in New Orleans
have tents. A tent show usually consists of a Circus Tent about 20’ by 40’ or larger.
Some tents have room for your E-Z UP inside of the tent. Be sure to remove your top
for more light, and remove your peak pole so you don’t put a dent in their tent.
Occasionally a tent show will not allow E-Z UPs or a full size 10 x 10 booth. Basically
you just need something to hold your walls up and to keep them from flapping into
your neighbor’s booth. You might have to make or buy a conduit frame to make a booth
nine and three-fourths feet on each side by seven feet high. You will need a wall
for the front at night. There is no need to spend much on this setup, as you will
only use it in tent shows.
1. Rain: The best protection from rain is a canopy and walls, and plastic
tarp with clamps. Everything should be stored in Rubbermaids. If the corners of your
E-Z UP start to collect water, a large clamp on the top of the frame inside will
usually prevent puddling.
2. Wind: Wind will either blow your canopy away or blow things out from
under it. See weights and tie downs above. The best tie-down is to something already
there, a rail, a tree, park bench. If you are next to a really heavy booth, ask them
if you can tie your canopy legs to theirs.
3. Wind AND rain: This is the worst. This is one reason why a lot of
craftspeople only do indoor shows. But they are missing a lot of opportunities to
make money. All a windy and rainy show means is that you need even more weather protection
(see 1 and 2.) The sun will eventually come out and you will make money.
4. Heat: Bring an ice chest, ice, and lots of water. You have a canopy
for shade. You can add an awning on the side that gets the most direct sun, to shade
your products. You should have lots of drinking water, and sandals. Portable AC or
DC fans will help.
1. Banner: A banner is a great help to people trying to find your booth
who had promised to return (those customers are called Be-Backs.) It also helps
them decide whether to come over to the booth in the first place, when there are
so many booths to choose from. The banner should say something about the contents
of the booth, not simply the name of the artist. Unless the artist is relatively
famous, the banner should say “Handmade Wood Spoons” or “Bowls by Bartholomew,” not
just “Bill Perkins.” I have two banners. One is cloth, about one foot high by five
feet long that hangs across the top of my canopy on a rope. It helps people find
me if they came to the show looking for me. I can take it down at night, when I
don’t want anyone to know what is in my booth. The other is three feet high and ten
feet long, and vinyl. It was made by a commercial sign company and has my product
and signature on it. It is used only for big outdoor fairs when a potential customer
may be 50 feet or more away from the front of the booth.
2. Statement of Purpose: This is an 8” by 10” sheet of paper in a clear
acrylic stand on your table or hanging in your booth on the wall. It might have a
photo of you working in your shop and your name and address at the top. The rest
of the page should tell the customer a little about you, how your craft is made,
what materials you use, and something about your motivation and purpose. Thanks to
the NAIA, many fairs are requiring it. Some customers love to read it completely
while standing in your booth. Others might want a copy, if you want to hand them
out. I send a copy of this statement with my applications, unless the show specifically
states that I should only send slides and nothing else. Some of the better shows
are requiring this statement with the application.
3. Booth sign inside: Every booth should have a sign about 1’ by 2’
with the name of the artist and where the artist is from, hanging in the back of
the booth. Some shows provide them, but I like to bring my own. Indicating the town
and state you are from is a good conversation starter. Having your name in large
print is helpful to the customer when writing a check.
4. Photo of your workshop: I always have a photo of my shop somewhere
in the booth. It can be little or big. When asked, “Do you make these yourself?”
I point to the photo and say, “Yes. Here is a picture of my shop and the tools I
use.” Then the customer can look at the photo. This is also a great conversation
starter. People are very curious as to how you make your product.
5. Photos of your creations: Many artists with small products have
large photos of their products hanging up in their booth. These are helpful to let
people know what you sell, who can’t get quite close enough to see it because of
6. Uncluttered look: After you set up, step back and see if your booth
looks cluttered. If so, simplify it. Hide boxes and carts. Some promoters are nuts
about this, and it benefits you as well.
Packaging and presentation
1. Gift Boxes: If your product is useful as a gift, and a gift box
is available, you should display a few boxes and offer them to every customer, especially
around Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. If the customer is looking for
a gift and sees the product already in a nice gift box, you have just provided a
solution. Or you may stimulate the customer to think of your product as a gift and
wonder who to give it to.
2. Bags: Every product should be put in an attractive bag. The customer
appreciates it. You should have two sizes of bags, a small one that holds one or
two products, and a big one that holds more. Offer to store the customer’s purchase
while they check out the rest of the show.
3. Hang tags: Every product should be packaged with a tag that has a
bit of information about how the product was made, what it is made of, how to care
for it, who made it, and how to get in touch with them. This tag should fit neatly
in the gift box.
You should try to get set up to take charge cards as soon as possible. At some shows
your income will be 80 or 90 percent from VISA or MasterCard sales. There are three
ways to take cards:
1. Run the card through a portable imprinter at the show, and then call
in the sales when you get home.
2. Run the card through a terminal at the show, which is hooked up to
3. Run the card through a portable radio terminal at the show, which
clears the card through a direct radio connection with a satellite.
The easiest system to start with is the portable imprinter, otherwise known as the
knuckle buster. You will need a business account with a bank, and permission from
them to take cards in your business. The bank is going to give you the money from
the cards before it is actually collected by them, so you must have good credit.
If your bank won’t let you take credit cards, there are two choices:
1. Get another bank. If you have $2,000 cash to open a business account with, make
it clear to the new bank that your opening the account is contingent on your being
able to process credit cards. They will take you seriously. If they want your business,
that is. You tell them that you will be taking the cards at trade shows or at shows
in your home. They will probably visit your home to see if you really have a business.
2. Go directly to a credit card company. Novus Services, a company associated with
Discover Card, will set you up directly with them, and they send the money from the
card charges directly to your bank. Their phone number is 1-800-347-2000. They will
let you take MasterCard and VISA in addition to Discover. They will give you a portable
imprinter and sell you a Trans 330 terminal for about $300. You imprint a slip from
the card at the show in the imprinter and give the customer a copy. Later at your
motel or home, you key in the numbers from the card on the Trans 330, which is hooked
up to a phone, and they give you an authorization number clearing the card. They
charge you about 2.4 % of the sale amount. They are anxious to get more business,
and more likely to sign you up than a bank. American Express is a separate company,
and their charges must be processed separately. They too are actively looking for
new businesses. They have a separate imprinter for their shorter charge slips.
Portable radio terminals
I use a portable wireless terminal at shows that I purchased from Trade Show Merchants
Network. Their number is 888-626-2772. The machine I use is called a Lipman 2090.
There are newer models available. It is completely portable, and uses either rechargeable
batteries or can be hooked up to AC power. It can be used with a phone line, or connected
by radio transmission to a satellite. The customer’s charge card is processed immediately
by sliding the card through the terminal, and a receipt is handed to them to sign.
A copy of the receipt is provided for the customer. The terminal clears the card
in about seven seconds. At the end of the day, the credit card company, in this case
Charge it Systems in Illinois, processes the batch of charges and deposits the money
from VISA and MasterCard into your bank account. At the end of the month you receive
a statement from the company detailing your sales by card. This company charges a
capture fee for American Express and Discover cards for clearing their cards. American
Express sends the money from these cards to your bank directly. It may take a few
days longer to appear in your account. You have to set up the accounts with American
Express and Discover separately, and then the terminal will take all of the cards.
The cost of the latest Lipman 8000 wireless terminal is around $700. Credit card
processing fees are cheaper (1.8%) when cards are run through a terminal and cleared
immediately, than when run through an imprinter and called in by phone (2.8%). The
reduction in fees and reduction in losses from bad cards will pay for the terminal
in a year or two. The time you save by not calling in the cards after the show, and
the peace of mind from having the card cleared at the show, make the cost of the
1. People buy for personal benefit. Theirs. Not to do you a favor. Not
because you are good looking or well dressed. They benefit from your product, or
they pass it by. They might visualize how comfortable it will feel in their hands
the next day when they pick it up. Or they will visualize being perceived as individualistic
because they have or give a one-of-a-kind object, or as an art lover who has actually
met the artist who made the item, or as a meticulous person who buys well-crafted
items. This is where the large photo of your item being used is helpful; it shows
the customer how he will benefit. It is simply a matter of the price of the item
matching the benefits of the item to the customer.
2. Reading. No, you shouldn’t read a book in your booth. It is too absorbing.
A magazine might be okay, as the articles are shorter and don’t require as much attention.
A magazine about your craft, for example Fine Woodworking, is beneficial to both
you and the customer. You learn some new techniques while waiting for a sale, and
as you set the magazine down where the customer can browse it while waiting, he is
thinking about fine woodworking or that you know about fine woodworking. If a magazine
is prominently placed in your display, the customer might infer that you are featured
in the magazine. No harm there. Someday you will be. If you already are featured
in a magazine, by all means, display it.
3. Sales pressure. Some customers might walk into a booth where the
artist is preoccupied, but be reluctant to walk into a booth where the artist is
staring at them and eager to jump up and start trying to sell them something. I always
say a couple of words to the customer, such as “Feel free to look closely,” or “Try
using it,” and then leave them alone. After I get the product in their hands, I give
them time to examine the work, give them the details they ask for, and maybe a suggestion
that the item would make a good gift, and that I have gift boxes. Then I leave them
alone again. I find people really appreciate feeling un-pressured in a shopping environment.
Just imagine how you want to be treated when you shop. You want to be helped when
you need it, but you don’t want a salesperson hovering around you all the time. Do
the same for your customers.
4. How badly you need to make the sale is irrelevant. Whenever a customer
asks how the show has been for you, tell them you are doing well, even if it is the
worst show you have ever done. Even the worst shows have some benefits, such as learning
frugality or humility, so you won’t necessarily be lying. Never complain to the customers.
There is nothing they can do about it.
5. Suggest the lower priced item. When a customer asks you which one
you recommend, never recommend the higher priced item. They will always be suspicious
and you will be scrambling to explain why it is better. Recommend a mid-range item,
and they will immediately trust you. Of course, all of your products are of excellent
quality and priced at exactly the right price.
6. Say, “It is always good to have some gifts around in case you need
them for an unexpected occasion.”
7. Give them a reason to buy today. Offer them a small discount if they
buy now (if you have to). In order to encourage an immediate sale, I don’t give out
busines cards (except for the “care and contact information” card I give the customer
after the sale).
8. Assume everyone has a credit card. That means they have the money
to buy your item, unless all of their cards are maxed out. Be sure they can see your
VISA card signs, or machine, or that you tell them you take charge cards.
How to increase profits
If you are not making enough money selling your craft, here are a few tips:
1. Increase the price (improve the product). If your product has the
right price, determined by your cost of materials, hourly wage, shop overhead costs,
and retail selling costs, you can’t raise it too much. Everything has a “right price”
regardless of who you are selling it to. An excellent template for pricing your crafts
is in the book “Microsoft Office for Artists and Craftspeople.” (See order form in
back of book.) Many crafts at fairs are priced too low, and a few too high. If your
price is the right price, and seems too much for the customers who visit your booth,
then you simply have to find some more affluent customers.
2. Reduce production costs. This means you need to find a way to get
your materials for less money. The Internet is great for this. Another way to reduce
production costs is to create less waste. Both buying too many materials, and throwing
away scraps that could be sold, add up to increased production costs.
3. Increase production. Work faster or make more products at a time.
Sometimes this requires machinery and/or employees, which might remove the craftsmanship
from your product, and makes it less unique. Which could make it less valuable.
4. Make more sales. This means do more shows, or better shows, or make
additional sales to stores for resale.
5. Reduce overhead. Turn off the lights when you go out. One good helper
is better than three not-good helpers. Keep the entire business production based
in your garage.
After a couple of shows, if you think you will make a business of it, then:
1. File with the county for a fictitious business name.
2. Get it published in a local paper.
3. Open a checking account with your business name.
4. Get a post office box.
5. Get a state resale tax number.
6. Get a VISA/MasterCard setup for accepting cards.
7. Get a “Simplified Monthly Bookkeeping Record” by Dome Books. This
single book can cover all your accounting needs. No computer is really necessary,
On the road
You will probably need a van. A van is not much longer than a car when it comes to
parking and getting in and out of the show set-up area. When you are driving a van,
you have better visibility, and everyone on the road can see you better. It will
hold a lot more stuff and if you need to nap or camp overnight, you always have that
option with a van with a bed in the back, and not with a car. The drawbacks are you
can’t drive quite as fast, and you use more gasoline.
If you are traveling and all rooms are booked up, you can park and nap in a truck
stop. The bigger ones have 24-hour restaurants, free showers with a fill-up, or $5
without gas. The main drawback is truck noise. You just have to park as far from
them as you can, or get earplugs. More and more truckers are husband and wife teams,
and truck stops cater to them. Most truck stops welcome RVs and vans, too. The restaurants
at some of them (Pilot) have all-you-can-eat buffets for $6.00, and phones at every
booth. You can hook your computer up at a booth and check your email. Just act like
you own a big rig. ;-)
I do not recommend sleeping in rest stops on the freeway at night. There is no security
at a rest stop. Go for the truck stop. Most have a security guard and cleaner, safer
bathrooms. There are road guides available that show every truck stop in the U. S
that welcomes RV's (and vans).
Security measures for the road
1. Get a cell phone.
2. Have a tow service--Allstate, AAA, or Good Sam. The Good Sam Club
Emergency Road Service is about $100 a year. This includes towing, gas, flat fixing,
and lost key solutions.
3. Get an alarm for your vehicle, with window stickers, engine kill
switch, and flashing red light visible to thieves. They cost less than $250 installed.
I am always surprised that more artists don't do this.
4. If you have a trailer, get a lock for it and paint a number on the
Fly to a craft fair
Flying to a craft fair has many advantages. You can do a show anywhere in the country,
whenever you want. Otherwise, if you want to drive to shows in another part of the
country, you would have to line up several in a row to make the trip worthwhile.
Once you figure out how to fly to a show, you just pick the best ones around the
country, fly there and fly back. You get more time in the shop.
Some crafts are easier to fly with than others. The lighter and smaller your product,
the easier it is. But don’t let a heavier craft stop you from the big shows. The
trick for big crafts is to ship your product by air cargo, rent a van when you get
to the show, pick up the craft with the van, and there you are. The last time I checked,
you could ship 250 pounds for $70 air cargo.
Check your canopy as luggage. It must have a cover on it. Bring your smaller stock
on as luggage, and check the rest at the baggage counter. At the counter you will
have to pay $80 for each additional bag over two (depending on your airline). Tipping
the skycap to get more baggage on the plane no longer works since 9/11 security measures.
I travel with a portable table, made from tubing from Abstracta, in a large suitcase,
a trunk with 4 wheels attached on the bottom with selling supplies in it, another
suitcase with gift boxes and some clothes, and a canopy. I then have a rolling carry-on
bag with a handle and a small daypack. They both have to fit through the x-ray machine,
and be small enough to stuff in the overheads. The next trick is getting it all into
a cab, your rent-a-car, or the airport shuttle.
Other Outlets for Your Products
One way to get your creations into stores is to place them there on consignment.
This means that the store does not pay you until they sell the item. If they don’t
sell it in a reasonable amount of time, you get it back. When they do sell it, they
give you 60% of the amount they got for it. The reason you get more than the 50%
you would get from a direct sale to a store is that you don’t get your money right
away, and risk having to take your product back (or not getting paid). The consignment
store pays you more after the sale because they were able to place your item on their
shelves, trying it out at no risk to themselves. Most artists and craftspeople don't
do consignment unless they really like the store.
Selling through craft galleries
I have my products in about 35 wholesale craft galleries. I have a mailing list of
over 1,100 craft galleries that I send color postcards to, several times a year.
(See Order form.) Each mailing costs $170 for the postcards and $230 for the postage.
For less than the cost of a good show I can have a photo of my best-selling product
in the hands of 1,000 gallery owners. You can start making your own craft gallery
list by visiting galleries in the towns when you do your shows.
Another way to get wholesale accounts is to exhibit at trade shows, like the Rosen
show in Philadelphia and the George Little Handmade shows. I have only done this
a few times. My total expenses for the Rosen show came to $4,500, and that is exactly
what I took in orders. You might do much better at her show than I did.
I would rather travel to craft fairs, and meet my customers directly. Many people
think that you make half as much money with your craft when you wholesale, but I
found that you make even less than that. If I were to consider all of my expenses
doing craft fairs, it might also be half of my gross income. But I have more fun
at craft fairs, and the benefits far outweigh the “comfort” of staying at home waiting
for a craft gallery to call and order, or having to call them to remind them to pay
their previous invoice!
1. Whenever discussing prices, quote the wholesale price. Retailers
know they have to double it.
2. First orders should be prepaid. If they can’t give you four references
that check out, including banks and other craftspeople, then every order should be
prepaid. Insist on payment in 15 to 30 days. Tell them what other places in their
area have your work.
3. Ship on time. Tell them if you are going to be late shipping an order.
4. Provide them with a smaller version of your artist’s statement, that
they can give the customer with information about you, your materials and techniques,
how to care for or how to use the product, and something about your philosophy or
motivation. Leave out your address.
5. Check out their gallery in person when you have a chance. Get to
6. Provide them with an order form with your name, address, and phone
number on it.
Home shopping networks
If you are set up to deliver quantities in the order of 1,000 at a time, you might
want to contact QVC. QVC reaches 47 million homes worldwide. Contact: Donna Brescia,
Guthy-Renker Corp, 115 Drummond Dr., Wilmington, DE 19808 (302) 633-1806
I have had my products on the Internet for four years now, and have sold about 250
pieces total--about what I would sell at two good craft fairs. At this point, for
the customers, the Internet is no substitution for actually holding the product in
their hand and talking to its creator. It never will be. Yet there are always people
who will buy from the Internet, and, when it works, the advantages to the craftsman
are enormous. If you want to try the Internet, you have three choices.
1. Sign up with someone who puts photos of your creations on their website
and charges you per/month or per/sale.
2. Find someone to build you a web site of your own and pay them to
set it up and keep it up-dated.
3. Build your own website; design and maintain it yourself.
The first step to having your own website is to get your own domain name. This currently
costs about $70, which registers it for two years, and the cost is $35/year thereafter.
To get a domain name, go to networksolutions.com or internic.net. I make my own websites
with Microsoft FrontPage and put them on www.ipowerweb.com.
Gather the email addresses of every person you sell to throughout the year. Then
at holidays, email these proven (happy) customers with directions to your website
and photos of your newest products. This is very cost effective.
One such company that is said to be a really good outlet (if you can get in it) is
the Smithsonian Mail Order Catalog (800-521-5330). A good website to check for catalogs
Well, there you have it. Now all you need is a product and lots of work. Enjoy the