Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From Craft Fair to CRAFT BUSINESS Part 2

You have made it through your first craft show in the park and you did OK-your costs were not too high and you enjoyed the experience.

What did you learn?

Hopefully what sold and what didn’t-what colours were popular and what kind of person is your customer.

For most of my career my best customers were women between the ages of 25 and 45.

You can’t tailor your ART to sell to a specific group=but you can edit it to weed out the things you thought were “sure things” but you packed away when the public was unanimously indifferent to them.

My rule on that area is this: Give anything 2 or 3 shows in different areas, if it is still a slow seller or worse a NON-SELLER donate it to a thrift shop or throw it away if there isn’t any part of it you can salvage.

Did you listen carefully to peoples comments and questions-customers will often give you great feedback and suggest items you might not have thought of-keep one of those blank journals in your tool kit and write down those ideas.

Did you start building a mailing list or an email list? This is a good thing to do-just don’t abuse it-send people only important info on where you will be showing-I also always send really high spenders a thank you note- HANDWRITTEN-to remind them of me after the show-if you’re going to do that do it within 10 days after the craft faire otherwise its wasted and be sure to include-"I hope you are enjoying the pink and purple zebra you purchase from me"...or whatever, if they are big spenders they may have purchased lots of stuff but they WILL remember the item from an artist who cares enough to send a thank you note.

How did your displays work, did you keep your booth well stocked, what else could have worked better?

Think about, journal about, talk about every detail to anyone who will offer constructive input-we don’t need naysayers-and again make notes.

Plan your next show: Remember you will have good shows and bad shows once in awhile a GREAT show and occasionally a total dud.

I found in my business that I did better when there was a gifting occasion coming up shortly following the date of the show but not too shortly-people tend to shop well in advance so a show 4 to 6 weeks before Mothers Day might make you some extra sales while a show two days before Christmas finds the checking accounts empty and the credit cards full.


Are you going to take credit cards? In my day fully 70% of sales at many shows were on credit cards so without them I would have had lower income-these days people are more careful about credit but DEBIT CARDS are popular.

Something to think about-there will be a person at your bank who will help you with the credit cards and setting up a business account-all the financial stuff you need to do if you are going to continue doing craft shows.


Keep your personal money and your craft business SEPARATE-do not pay the gas bill or the kid's dentist out of the business-pay yourself a specific amount and mark that on the business check then put the money in your personal account thats where the dentist gets paid from the personal account.

At tax time you will learn how to get deductions for your home business; your tax person will be very happy if you keep things separate and have good records.

Conversely don’t buy craft supplies with your personal credit card-borrow from yourself and put the money in your business account then later pay yourself back for the loan and use that to pay your credit card-you are two separate entities in one person - crafter and yourself - keep them financially independent of each other-TRUST ME on this one I know what I’m talking about.

All of your proceeds went into your business account, you figured out the costs and profits-HOW MUCH will you reinvest in the business AFTER you have broken even-I like 25 to 50% of the profit to go BACK to the business-that’s the way the business can grow.

Even if you are doing this very part time you will need entry fees and new tablecloths-whatever, there’s always something and craft supplies go on sale-wouldn’t it be nice to have money put aside to be able to buy some and not feel guilty?

Keep your receipts for everything!

Check the current tax laws but you may be able to deduct business in the home fees and many more items-when you buy paper towels sell part of them to the business if you use paper towels in your work-that way they are a deductable business expense-COSTCO can be your friend! You are buying for two now-but don’t try to deduct jelly bellys or beef jerky unless you eat them exclusively at craft shows-the IRS is not going to buy that as a business expense.

I actually used to make tins with candy in them and decorations on the outside and top-in that case the candy was prepackaged and I kept the Costco receipt with just my crafting food purchases along with the receipts for the tins and the supplies to make this item-never had a problem deducting it.

Do NOT do your own taxes when you are in business unless you are a former accountant and even then only if you are up on tax laws-you will be filing IWO or three returns depending on your romantic life-have it done by a professional!


Keep Notes
Keep Receipts
Make your business a business
Keep your personal stuff and your business stuff separate
Make new things, get new ideas and have fun

Remember magazines, periodicals and anything that is exclusively for the craft business is a tax issue and may be deductable so keep the receipt separate-if you buy Martha Stewarts Living it may not be a deductable as Altered Art magazine or Crafters Choice-copy of the check from the business account stapled to the receipts and all filed away=well done!

I would say it takes a good 6 to 12 shows over the period of a year or so to decide if you are going to be successful as a professional crafter and if you can make it a business.

You may enjoy doing it but if you aren’t making money…
HOBBY is the word that comes to mind.

Also some crafters stick with home and church boutiques, it’s less work hours staffing a booth and setting up-often you just drop off your stuff and an inventory list and then go back and collect what didn’t sell and a check.

I would miss the PEOPLE doing just those kinds of shows so I decided to make CRAFTS my life.

The next step up is to look for professional promoters who do shows in malls OR there may be a crafters area at your local county fair (you’re not ready for the STATE FAIR yet-even a county fair can be weeks of work days from early morning to late at night and cost thousands of dollars to do-we want to move up carefully and within the learning curve.

You need to read the information from promoters carefully-they may do several shows a month but you may not qualify for all the shows-some malls only allow flat art, jewelry and pottery no crafty things-others have specific exclusions-it all depends on the mall association-remember your sales cut into theirs even though you are what is supposed to be attracting bigger Crowds to the mall-that’s why they do mall shows.
I did a few and didn’t love them-so I moved on to convention center shows like THE HARVEST FESTIVAL.

You are now moving into a higher level of expectations of quality and content-you will need better displays and you can expect higher sales although they may or may not materialize.

The first year you try a bigger show circuit sign up for no more than two or three shows as close to home as possible-you can expand later-I would actually do ONE and learn from it.

Read the promoters info carefully-you will probably need your own lighting, walls, carpet, things must be flame proofed-no more sheets for table covers now you have to step upward and you will be paying way more for a 10 x 10 space…show fees are often hundreds of dollars plus electricity.

I would not DO a show that I had not attended=and go when the show should be busy like Saturday at 1 pm-how many people are there? Are they buying> WHAT are they buying? Do you see a lot of booths that look like yours (if so forget this show-too much competition) how is the quality of the work at the show, are the artists friendly?-there are also esoteric things to consider is the show crowded and there are not enough bathrooms? Is there food and drink for sale and is it TOO expensive? Are there places to sit down and relax or is it shop, shop, shop?

Customer comfort is very important-if they are paying 5 to 10 dollars to PARK, then another 10 dollars to get into the show and have to pay 20 bucks for a sandwich and a beverage-how much are they going to feel like spending more money for your work?

All you can do is go with your gut feeling and try it-use the same principals we’ve already discussed-prorate reusable investments, stick to a budget and get ready for the show with a reasonable sales projection-I would also schedule a “fall out” show for a week or two after a convention center show the first time you do one.

That gives you an answer when a customer ASKS where will you be showing next and also gives you a chance to sell anything you have too much of after the BIG show.

ALWAYS be courteous, smile and be exceptionally well groomed when you do shows-be VERY aware of your breath, be sure your fingernails are clean and watch out for cologne and perfumes-better to smell like a freshly bathed person than a perfume counter-I wear a slightly spicy cologne and very little of it at shows-spice tones and powder/soap smells are the least offensive to people-heavy floral can be deadly and drive them right out of your booth.

I had a beautiful booth with a lavish look at a show.

I invested in expensive rose chintz curtains for my displays-the whole booth was shabby chic with antique lace valances and that beautiful rose chintz so I thought I would guild the lily and used CASEWELL AND MASSEY essential TEA ROSE oil on the curtains in a mister so people would see roses and SMELL roses.

Do you know how many people are allergic to Roses?

Not only customers but my neighbors as well.

In part 3 I will move on to more information about circuit shows tours.

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