Everyone who has ever tried to build a handmade brand, knows that it’s really not that simple. People go to school for years to learn how to make an effective brand. This is why, 9 times out of 10, people hire someone to create their logo.
For the longest time, I was envious of those people. I started my business from literally nothing. No investment money, no business experience, nothing. I used whatever spare money I had from my less than livable paychecks to get what I needed to take another step forward (I’m STILL doing this)… This meant that there was no chance that I could afford to hire someone to create a logo/brand for me, to help pull my brand together. I can’t tell you how many notebooks I have full of different ideas, goals, visions etc.
I cried, I raged, I got confused… Then I realized, I’m guilty of being one of those people who loses their own creative vision, because they see someone else’s success. It’s been two years of me doing this… of looking at other people’s success and thinking they’re doing something better than me, and I must be doing something wrong. I was doing something wrong. I was losing myself in everyone else.
It took me over 2 years to come up with something I was finally happy with… and I managed to do it once I realized the mistake I was constantly making. Everything I had gone through in the past, finally came nicely together the way I wanted it too. I think most people open a business with this part already completed!
There are a lot of discouraging things about running a business. Especially a handmade business. You see someone who makes the same thing as you, and they’re more successful so you question yourself and your work. You see mass producers and wonder how you’re ever going to make it when it appears that people would rather pay for cheap trash, than your high quality products and hard work. But keep with it. Tough it out. A handmade business is never an overnight success. It takes dedication. There are people who care about the handcrafted community and those are the people you want to do business with.
I’ve recently gotten up the nerve to get into craft fairs (I say I’ve gotten up the nerve because doing things like this make me feel extremely uncomfortable). If you have the same type of social anxiety as me, my advice is just do it. Force yourself to do it. Find a way. I wear a flat stone on a necklace so I can hold onto it when I’m feeling stressed out. Worry stones are a nice way to keep your hands busy and your mind focused.
A large part of doing a craft fair is your booth set up. There’s so much advice from pros on how to make an effective and attractive booth but really I can’t think of a better way than to be happy with it. Make something you’re happy with. Make something that fits your product and your style. Levels are always a nice idea to add depth and dimension to your table, but they’re not always necessary. If levels don’t work for you, consider using platforms and objects. If you have a large dish at home that’s never been used, try using that. Or if you have an old chunk of wood in the garage, sand it down, paint it, and give yourself a small platform to break up the single level. If you sell primarily white items, perhaps a white background is not going to be your color of choice. How about purple, red or black? Use a color on your table that makes your product pop and compliments it. Don’t stick to the norm. Get creative with your table!
There are plenty of lists online from very experienced Craft Fair vendors on how to do everything right and make sure you have everything you need but here is my list of must have’s, do’s and don’ts.
Must Have Items
- Vendor Apron – fully equipped with 2 pens, small calculator, small bills for change (try not to use a cash box or bag! Keeping the change on you at all times ensures that it doesn’t get stolen!), notepad/receipt pad, lip balm (sometimes nervousness can make you lick or bite at your lips causing them to feel chapped and uncomfortable. Keep a favorite lip balm handy just in case!), Cell Phone with a credit card reader attached.
- Credit Card processing plug-in. A lot of people carry cash to fairs, but some don’t. You could lose sales if you don’t have the ability to process a credit card!
- Snack foods and beverages, just in case.
- Sanitizing wipes.
- Product – Don’t forget this. It’s the most important.
- A spare sweater or warm clothing depending on the weather. If it’s raining or maybe it’s just a cool day, having an extra sweater on hand can make the difference between being miserable and cold, or happy and comfortable.
- DO wear comfortable shoes and clothing but don’t under dress. Wearing yoga pants or LulaRoe’s (unless you sell LulaRoe) is not a good way to make an impression about your brand. I know leggings are all the rage right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re work appropriate, and when you’re at a craft show, you are working. You are representing your business.
- DO make a check list of everything you want to bring and use that check list.
- DO bring enough product. You never know how an event is going to go. Sometimes you may sell out, sometimes you may sell nothing. Prepare for the best.
- DO leave yourself enough time. If you’re scheduled to arrive at a certain time, don’t be one of those people that’s late. If you’re perpetually late, know that this can effect the other people around you and their setup. Some events have vendors show up in waves to help move things along and prevent over crowding.
- DO consider renting your tent from the event crew if this option is available. If you don’t have a tent and are anything like me, it saves you time and frustration to just pay to have them set it up, and take it down for you. The average cost of this is around $75. It’s a lot, but as I said… DO save yourself the aggravation and stress.
- DO get plenty of sleep the night before. Long events can be energy draining, especially if you’re not selling that much.
- DON’T just throw everything into your vehicle. Pack your vehicle in a manner that is easy to unload, and load again. Large events tend to have set times that you NEED to be cleaned up and moved out by. Make it easy on yourself and have a plan.
- DON’T leave trash behind. It’s rude to the community you’re in, and it can also have an effect on your acceptance to future events. Messy vendors are often not accepted to events in the future.
- DON’T cop an attitude with your customers. Prepare yourself for the fact that people can be rude. You’ll hear things like “why would I buy this?” “Pft… I can make that…” “Wow this is ugly.” “Why are your prices so high? This isn’t worth that much…” LET PEOPLE TALK. Let them say whatever they want. Their thoughts are not a reflection of YOU or YOUR PRODUCT… they’re a reflection of THEM. It can be hard but you can respond with laughter, or an “Aw well I’m sorry that you feel that way!”
- DON’T feel the need to justify your prices to anyone. If someone asks, you can politely respond with “All of my products are genuinely handmade (smile).”
- DON’T go alone. Bring someone with you that you trust and enjoy spending time with. This not only helps the time pass, but it also means you can count on them to help you out not only with sales, but also when you’re feeling nervous or discouraged.
- DON’T just sit behind your table. This can be really tough, especially when sales are slow. Sitting back looking disinterested in what’s going on is not going to draw people to your table. Greet people who walk up.
- DON’T pounce on people who walk by. Sure for some people this may work… if you’re trying to sell a super absorbent towel shaped like a goat… but if you’re like me, this method will never work. You come across as awkward and desperate. Just be happy, polite and welcoming. If someone wants help, they’ll ask you for it. Trust your instinct. If people are asking each other questions about your product, feel free to answer even though they weren’t directed at you. You can offer assistance without making people feel like you’re trying to force them to buy.
- DON’T sit around on the phone or text the whole time. Your attention needs to be focused. If you walked into a shop and the cashier was texting instead of helping you check out, you’d be pretty upset wouldn’t you? Just because a craft show isn’t your “day job” doesn’t mean that you’re leisurely there for fun. You’re there to sell your product and represent yourself.
The list is long, but it’s really not that much. Just remember that you will make mistakes. You will forget things. Don’t beat yourself up. Some events are wonderful and some are total failures. It’s not a reflection of you if the day is a bust. Take each event as it comes and try to enjoy yourself at each one. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and be proud of the fact that you are trying to make one of your dreams come true. I know how tough it can be when being in large crowds is unnerving and makes you feel sick to your stomach. I know how hard it can be to force yourself to “brag”… Don’t panic. You can do this while still being you, and not being Joe Sales-a-lot.
Have faith in yourself and submit the application to the craft show!