Sunday, November 11, 2012

Craft Show Survival

Two down--one more to go!  That's craft shows I"m talking about.  I've spent the past 2 Saturdays manning my table at local craft fairs.  I'll spend next Saturday doing the same thing and then I'm done.  And I'll be glad.

Don't get me wrong--I love doing craft shows.  It's fun to reconnect with fellow crafters you saw last year and fun to meet new ones.  It's also fun to see many of the same shoppers year after year.  And it's always interesting to talk to new shoppers.  The show I was at yesterday was at the high school my son attended and put on by the Band Boosters, an organization I was president of when my son attended school.  So I saw a lot of old friends and acquaintances which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And craft shows are a good learning experience.  You can watch people look at your product and see what interests them and what they think of things.  That will help guide you as you create more products.

But craft shows are exhausting and a bit humbling.  If you're like me, I spend the week before harriedly (is that a word?) making more items and trying to make the right items.  Then I lay out my products and try to arrange them in an attractive way.  Then I have to pack everything up and get out any display stands, racks, tables, etc.  Then I have to make sure I have change and all the other little essentials like tape, scissors, paper, pens, credit card reader, etc.  Then the car has to get loaded.  Then you unload at the show and set it all up.  And you worry that you won't be ready at 9 am when the show starts.  Then you look around at all the other wonderful items people are selling and the creative ways they're displaying their wares and you feel totally inadequate (at least I do for awhile).  Then you worry if people are going to come.  Then you worry if they're going to buy.  Then, if the fates allow, you're so busy selling to the hordes of customers that you're soon exhausted.  Or, if the fates are unkind, customer traffic is slow and the day gets very long as you and your fellow crafters wonder why there are no shoppers.  Either way, at the end of the day you have to pack up all your items, drive home, and then unload again and put everything away.  And then you start all over for the next show.

To sum it up:

People contact
Opportunity to see people's reactions to your product and discuss your product with them
Opportunity to see what other crafters are making, how they display their wares, pricing

Lots of physical  labor in loading, unloading, set up

Tips for Success
     1.  If possible, get someone to help you load, unload, set up, load up again and unload at home.  It's also great to have someone with you at your table all day, but if that's not possible, if someone can relieve you at lunch so you can go to the restroom, eat, shop, etc. is great.  This year my son is helping me.  He helps me load up the car and set up my display.  Then he stays at the show with me for a little while so I can visit the restroom and take a quick look around the show.  Then he comes back around lunch and mans my table while I go eat, etc.  (He's been very good at selling items while I'm away!).  Then he comes back at the end of the afternoon to pack me up and get everything home.  If you have no helper at the show, usually your fellow crafter on either side of you will watch your table while you run to the bathroom, etc.

     2.  Talk to people--your neighbors, shoppers, etc.  You can learn some tips and tricks.  Plus, it just makes the day more fun.

     3.  Don't stress too much about whether you measure up to the other crafters.  I was taught modesty and not to brag growing up, so I always feel a little humbled by the creativeness of everyone else at the show.  But I know my work is good and I just tell myself to get over it.

     4.  Treat your customers well.  Good customer service skills are essential and not very hard to learn.  Basically, treat them as you'd like to be treated.

     5.  If you don't sell a lot, don't spend your time complaining about it or bad mouthing the organizers of the fair.  Take the time to calmly and rationally think about reasons why things didn't go well (weather, other events going on at the same time, location, lack of advertising, audience that doesn't fit your product, etc.) and then learn from the experience and decide whether this is a show that just isn't right for your products or it's worth tweaking your products and trying again next year.  Complaining and blaming are negative time wasters.  What's done is done.  Focus on what could be improved and move on.

     6.  Take a water bottle with you.  You'll get thirsty.

     7.  Most of all, enjoy and have fun!

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