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Crafting as a business

Do's and Don'ts

When you begin to treat your hobby as a craft AND a business you can learn to make what you do fun and profitable!

So, you were at a craft show, thought, "I can do that", and now you are ready to work on doing your first craft show. How do I find a craft show, what are my expenses, how do I charge - a million questions are probably going through your mind. Here's some advice as to what to do and what not to do when doing your first craft show.

DO - Craft shows close to where you live. Look in local papers, chamber of commerce places, or event websites. This will keep expenses low such as gas, time to and from the show, etc.

DO NOT - Go to the first show you see advertised. There are a number of shows out there such as street festivals, high schools, etc. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is not wise because you could miss out on others that may have more advertising which leads to more customers, cheaper space fees, etc.

DO - Know your price range for a show. With this I mean the space fee could be $20 to $500 or more. If you are starting out go small and work your way up. The higher you go when you first start out doing shows can be a big let down if you can't break even. Also, higher priced shows are more for the big league crafters that go from state to state - not all crafters, but most. It is best to get a following doing small shows and then try out for a bigger show.

DO NOT - Change the price of your products from show to show. It will make customers think you are dishonest and possibly think you don't make your own products. Find a happy medium and stick with it - remember you can do sales to help out at shows that are in lower income areas. If you do have a problem pushing your items then I would try lowering the price and see what happens. Another suggestion is to mention that "Due to availability of certain items prices are subject to change."

DO RESEARCH - Like what you are doing here is research in learning about what to expect doing craft show. But more so, go to various crafts shows and see it from the stand point of customers and crafters. How is the flow of traffic? Are crafters or customers complaining? What is the size of spaces at the show and what areas are getting seen more than others? Also if someone is selling similar products you are, check prices and introduce yourself. Some crafters may be iffy in giving you advice due to competition but others can be a wealth of knowledge.

DO NOT - Expect that once you have a space and your craft you need anything else. Your display is the second most important thing next to your craft and should try doing setting up your display before doing the craft show to know what to expect. Just having a table and your items on it is not a display. It is wise to get a table cloth that covers three sides of your table. And the table cloth can be plain or decorative/festive. Having just a table cloth alone will hide your boxes and containers under the table. Also, having height and dimension will get people to see you items - i.e. shelving for on the table or free standing, peg boards, clothing racks (if you sell scarves, clothing, etc.) If your items lay flat on the table upon first look people won't think you are selling anything - just look at your display from a customers point of view. And do not have empty space. If you do, it looks like you aren't well prepared or there isn't enough to keep one's attention. The more you fuss over your items as in restocking, it gives customers a sense of urgency in "ooh what else is she putting out, maybe it is different than what was out already," and that you are busy due to sales.

DO - Wear comfortable clothes and prepare for inclement weather. Some indoor shows are hard to predict whether it will be hot or cold inside (even outside for that matter). Dressing in layers helps. Also with rain (whether it is an outdoor show or indoor show) know the easiest route to your booth and how to shield your items and display from rain and wind. There are numerous times I have seen displays blown over time and time again due to wind and rain damage.

DO NOT - Assume that the promoter knows your needs. In your application make sure you have things noted like the need for electricity, or that you need an extra table, be in a visible area, or not be next to certain types of vendors. If you aren't specific in your application, promoters may not be able to help you.

DO - Give customers space. A lot of customers are there to browse and may or may not want to engage in conversation. However, saying hello to customers or a how are you today opens the window for conversation if the customer has questions.

DO NOT - Crowd your customers. Just think of the one store you get harassed in as soon as you walk through their doors. Allow customers to browse and suggestive sell. If someone likes a certain type of jewelry, say a necklace, show them a matching bracelet or piece "xyz" would compliment their eyes. Also, some customers zone in on one thing and will be oblivious to other items on your display, suggesting that if they like what they are holding, they will definitely like this one and point or pick up the item you think they would like in addition to what they have. Also, keeping some information (personal information) to oneself is good because remember you are there to sell and tying up some peoples time with conversation can discourage other possible sales.

DO - Have business cards! How else can a customer contact you if they want to buy more of your things or have an issue with one of your things? Doing a simple business card on the computer with a word processing software or a desktop publishing program is very cost effective than going to an outside business. And the paper can be pretty cheap depending on how nice you want your cards to be. Sometimes your kids or grandkids can help you with that too. Also having a notepad for people to sign up on a mailing list is really good too. If they are interested in more information this allows you to have the ball in your court with the information verses waiting by the phone hoping they will call you.

DO NOT - Walk around asking questions from other vendors about their sales. This is considered a no no in the show circuit. If vendors at the same show do well and you are not, they will probably not feel right telling you that they are doing well. If they are having a slow day it will only bring down their morale to have to share figures they are not proud of. Either way it is not a good idea and is heavily frowned upon by the show promoters and other vendors.

DO NOT - Have high expectations for your first show. You will get a lot of "How cute", "Isn't that nice", or even "I can do that" and they can just walk away. And you will get sales but comments will for the most part out weigh sales. Some do really well on their first show and others don't. The biggest reason for this is exposure - the more exposure you do the more people will find you and buy time after time. Remember if you break even that is good! Doing more that deserves a big pat on the back. Also the more knowledge going into a craft show the better you will do too.

DO - Have fun! The biggest thing with shows is generally they are a lot of work but a lot of fun too. You get a huge surge of self confidence and ego boost from customers - who doesn't like that?! Also, meeting other crafters is really good especially the advice may have too!

LASTLY - DO NOT - Get discouraged. It may take 2-3 craft shows to get the hang of them - but every craft show is a learning experience. Also, don't get carried away with shopping for yourself - remember you do want to make money and keep some around for reinvesting in your craft as well as walk away with some profit. I have been doing shows for a couple of years now and am finding my niche in what shows are best for me and my products, getting a following, etc. It will come, just stick with it, plan well, and think positive.

By Michelle Sholund