You all ask a lot of questions about craft fairs, so here are my two cents. This is the first FAQ to be addressed in what will be a series of many upcoming.
Q: Is it really worth the cost of doing a craft fair with booth fees of $200 or more?
A: Yes!! If we’re talking about the same shows. Craft shows are one aspect of how I am able to depend on the sales from my shop as as a main, and usually, only source of income. The income from the craft shows is tapped into when sales on my website ebb and flow as is the natural course of a [online] retail store throughout the year. For me, since the shop is my only source of income, counting on the sales alone from month to month to cover all the expenses of my business and household would be foolish since we all know there can be variances. And this is when the beauty of craft shows comes in for me. I consider this money additional income that I can tap into to augment the slower sales months which allows me to count on a consistent income level throughout the year. They take just a couple days away from my online shop and the best part is you get to meet your customers directly! Nothing beats getting instant feedback.
Q: How much money can you expect to make at a craft show?
A: It depends on the show but I would consider a show worth doing again if I earn at least 10 times the booth fee (taking into account all my travel costs and expenses) and a successful show is earning about 20 times the fee of any particular show.
Q: What craft shows would you suggest?
A: I can only recommend the shows that I have participated in and those are limited to pretty much the East coast or at least shows I can drive to in one day. (Keep in mind I’m located in Savannah, GA.) The most successful shows for me include:
- Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago
- Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn
Renegade Craft Fairs are very successful for me. They are 2-day shows typically which I like because once I make the trek I’d rather have another day of sales. Very well organized but it’s a big show with lots of folks trying to unload/load up in a small space, especially at the Brooklyn show, so bring a buddy or wheeled cart cause it can get pretty intense.
- Crafty Bastards in Washington, D.C.
This show is run by the City Paper so the press is amazing and they bring in the crowd. Another extremely well-organized show with lots of helpers.
- Bust Craftacular in Brooklyn/New York City
This show I did one time because it was usually right around the holidays which was hard to make since it’s an extremely busy online sales time, too. But this year, they’re doing one in the Spring. It was very successful but very long day! It is an indoor show so you’re limited to just a 10′ table which was a little tight for my product line.
- Indie Craft Experience (I.C.E.) in Atlanta
I love that it’s a well organized show just 3.5 hours from me. The sales are almost as good as the major shows, too which is great and with far less expenses, even better.
- Craftland in Providence
For this month-long show, you can mail your goods to them and a percentage is kept of your sales. It’s a craft show you can participate in even if you can’t travel to Providence. Awesome!
However, there are also lots of regional craft fairs that I don’t do necessarily for the sales but for added exposure and the opportunity to meet local customers and vendors from my area. In the past, I have participated in these shows:
Here are lists other folks have compiled of more complete national shows, I would suggest checking them all out to find the national and regional shows in your area:
- The Indie Craft Guide
This guide includes the major shows and some smaller regional shows but is a good place to look at if you don’t want to be too overwhelmed too soon!
- Indie Craft Shows
This guide is extremely comprehensive including the national and many smaller regional shows.
Q: When do you apply for craft shows?
A: There are two big seasons for craft shows in the summer and around the holidays. This means that right now applications are starting to open up for the summer season with deadlines typically falling around April. Keep in mind, that applications can be due 2-3 months in advance of the actual craft show date so you need to plan early. Grab a calendar and plot out which shows work within your schedule and sign-up for their mailing lists on their websites. That way you will be sure to know when applications open up.
Q: How much inventory should I bring?
A: If you’re doing one of the bigger shows then bring whatever you can. I have a pretty large product line so I typically bring at least 25-50 pieces of any particular item and things sell out every time. The trouble is you won’t know what will be the thing everyone is buying until you are there. And it’s a funny thing because it’s not always the item that sells the best in my online store. So I say bring as much as you can knowing you’re going to have to unload it all up and pack it back up again. For me, there is no risk in bringing too much since I drive to the events and I just full up my car and whatever doesn’t sell will eventually sell online. However, if you have only a couple products in your product line, keep in mind you can do anywhere from say on average 10 to 50 sales an hour so you can run through stock pretty quick.
Q: What do I need to bring to my first craft show?
A: There have been several articles written on this topic so first I would say read these:
- A How-to Guide for First Time Craft Fair Vendors
- Getting Started with Credit Cards
For me, I do accept credit card payments at craft shows and use a manual card imprinter then process cards through my Paypal account which they will do, for an added fee. It does cost a little bit more than using a company like Propay but it makes my accounting simpler which frees up my time so it’s worth the additional expense.
- So You Want to Do Craft Shows
A perspective from a more traditional craft show circuit exhibitor but the same information applies. Business cards, mailing lists, getting a tent and more.
- Craft Fairs 101
This is a link to purchase a back issue from Adorn Magazine which includes a nice article on craft fairs written by Marie Kare of The Sampler. If you subscribe to the magazine, it was in the Summer 2007 issue.
From other posts I have done in the past…
How to display the goods, April 24, 2007
Icing on the cake, June 5, 2007
More or less a review of the ICE Atlanta show and pictures of my booth display
Where has the time gone, May 23, 2007
Images of how I display my rubber stamp sets at craft fairs
Untitled, May 15, 2007
Images of the wooden shop sign I made to hang from one of the tent posts for outside shows
Have more questions? Just comment below and I’ll try and post another entry to answer them.