Deciding to do a craft fair can be a very daunting idea. I know when I first started doing craft fairs I didn’t know where to start. I made a lot of mistakes but I also learned a lot of valuable lessons so I’ve shared some of my tips below.
1. Craft Fairs and Car Boot Sales are not the same thing
This is a mistake I’m still making! This might not apply to everyone but I find I never do well at car boot sales. People usually use car boot sales to get rid of stuff they have lying around the house and this means shoppers are looking for bargains, not lovely handcrafted items. My general rule now is that if a fair mentions car boot sale at all I won’t take part. If you’re thinking of taking part make sure you ask the organisers what other people are selling. If there aren’t a lot of people selling homemade items you might want to reconsider. If you do decide to go ahead, ask the organisers to give you a stall near other crafters.
2. Invest in the right equipment
It can be expensive to get everything you might need for a craft fair but there are three things I highly recommend investing in; a wallpaper table, plastic storage boxes and a pop-up gazebo. The gazebo is going to be the most expensive thing but if you’re thinking of doing an outdoor show it’s an absolute must. If you do by a gazebo make sure it has sides and practice putting it up and taking it down on your own.
Wallpaper tables are inexpensive (€19 in Woodies) and I don’t know what I’d do without mine. It folds flat and is extremely lightweight making it the perfect stand for fairs. Sometimes fairs won’t provide a table or the table they give you is too small so having a backup will save you a lot of stress. Finally are the plastic storage boxes, preferably ones that stack on top of each other. When I first started doing fairs I lumped my stock into whatever box I could find. Plastic storage boxes keep everything secure, are easily portable and keep everything neat and tidy when I’m at home.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Before you go to any craft fair you should set up your stall at home. Take your time to tweak it and make sure everything is displayed right. If you have the space to leave it up over night, do. This will give you a chance to look at it with fresh eyes. Once you’re 100% happy with it, take a photo on your phone so you can remember how to set it up at the actual fair. If you’re looking for stall ideas, Pinterest has a wealth of information but I often find that the simplest idea is best. Add some empty boxes for height and dimension. Cover everything with a bed sheet so it looks neat and tidy. Root around your house and see what can be re-purposed to use as a display.
4. Get to know your fellow sellers
On the day of the craft fair introduce yourself to your fellow sellers, even if they’re selling similar items to yours. There is a lot more to be gained from chatting with other crafters compared to ignoring them. They’re usually the first people to buy something, they’ll be full of tips and tricks and they’re also likely to have information on other upcoming fairs. Craft fairs can also be very long days and it’s nice to have someone to talk to. If you’re on your own (like I usually am) it’s handy to have someone nearby who can keep an eye on your stall if you need to run to the loo!
This one is obvious right? You’d be surprised. People shop differently at craft fairs and too many people make the mistake of thinking that their items are on display so they’re going to sell out. It’s not that simple. My personal rules for craft fairs are as follows:
- I engage everyone who approaches my stall, either by saying hello or just smiling. If they’re looking at a particular item I’ll encourage them to pick it and to ask questions. I read body language too. You can tell if someone just wants to take a look – they usually stand a few steps back from the stall. I just say hello to these people and this usually brings them closer.
- I never sit, read a book or play on my phone. This makes you look disinterested and unapproachable. If I want to keep busy I’ll bring along some crafts that I can do on the spot. This usually encourages some questions too!
- I make sure everything is clearly priced. Handmade items can be expensive. If there’s no price a customer may be interested in an item but afraid to ask the price in case it’s through the roof. Some sellers thing having no price will encourage a customer to ask questions, I find the opposite.
6. Don’t be afraid to say no
This applies to everything.
- Have the organisers put you in an awful location? Tell them it’s not ok and ask to be moved. You’re usually paying them to have a stall at the fair so you’re entitled to ask for a better location, within reason! You won’t always get a prime spot, but last weekend I ended up in a spot which meant customers couldn’t have gotten to my stall so I asked to move. Similarly, if they’ve placed you beside someone selling the same type of items you can ask to move.
- Does a customer want to take a photo of your items? If you think it’s so they can copy your idea, you can say no. If you have a website or sell on Etsy, offer them the website address instead.
- Do you think someone is being too rough with your items? You can ask them not to. This especially applies to children who might not know better. Just explain nicely that the item is delicate and ask them to be careful. At the end of the day, if they damage the item from being too rough you won’t be able to sell it.
- Is someone trying to drive a hard bargain? Everyone haggles but if the price they’re asking for is too low you can say no. Selling something at a loss is worse than not selling at all. You also don’t have to justify your prices. Customers who aren’t familiar with craft fairs might be expecting to pick up a bargain but unfortunately handmade items often cost more because of the time and effort involved.
- Are you being asked detailed questions about the creation process? I find this the toughest of all. I don’t want to seem rude but, similarly to taking photos, I also don’t want people recreating my items. I usually give vague answers and if they ask for detailed instructions I ask them why they want to know (politely). This normally ends the questions. If they persist I explain that I don’t want people copying my ideas so I can’t give them any more information.
Each time you do a craft fair you’ll learn some new tip that will make things easier in future. Hopefully the tips above will help but if you have any questions or tips let me know in the comments!