A seller on Etsy posted that she was looking at doing craft fairs. Her product is unusual and attractive and she was wondering how many she’d need for a show. Other Etsians chimed in with their opinions and I snuck mine in as well. It’s a question I hear a LOT – and one I ask myself every show. One method to work it is this:
Use the 10x the booth fee rule of thumb. I use 10x the booth fee as my guideline for a good show. I usually aim for closer to 15x now but 10x is still ‘good’. So let’s assume this show will cost $40 for the table. That means, we’d like to make $400 from the show. Sounds great.
Make more than twice as much stock as the amount you hope to sell. I have never sold out at a show. I have sold out of specific items but never of everything I brought. At my most profitable shows I sell 20% of what I bring. So in this case, at least $800 (and really, probably closer to $1200) in stock, to make that $400 in sales.
Have your stock reflect a variety of price points. Yes $1000 in stock is easier to make up if you bring 20 $50 items. Most of the shows I do are small community ones. People shop for gifts. Most of my sales are in the $10-20 range. I just don’t sell that many items in the $40+ range. My stock reflects this – I have a lot of impulse items in the $1-$5 category. I have half or more of my stock in the $10-20 range. Then I have a few items in each price point after that – 20 to 30, 30 to 40 and 40+.
There are problems with this method. If you only plan to do one sale a year, you will be left with a lot of stock, even if your show does well. This method works best if you plan on doing sales regularly, for a while, because you can use it flexibly that way – as items sell, you can update your stock, move pieces into other venues and plan for larger shows or smaller ones.
For your purposes a ‘good show’ might only be 8x. Or it may have to be 20x. $40 a table is actually the higher end of the little community and school shows I do here but in some areas it may be the bare minimum. And while I’ve been told that the same 10x (or more) rule applies when your booth fees get into the 100’s or 1000’s of dollars my mind boggles at the amount of my stock that represents.
I’m lucky. Where I live there is an excellent library system. I’m also a voracious reader and I often take out all the books on a specific subject. This makes for a tough load to lug back home sometimes.
Over the years since I’ve started selling my crafts at fairs and online, I’ve taken out all the books that my system has to offer. I’ve bought a few along the way as well. My favourite is still Barbara Brabec‘s Handmade Money , a classic book on selling your work. She has several other publications, geared to all stages of people’s development in selling and her site is chock full of good info. Her writing style makes it all easy take in.
I used a bit of a bookstore gift card on Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco. Our own Lisa of Polkadot Creations sells this in her store. The book is attractive and hip with some good sections in it. A lot of it is intended for people who plan to make the making and selling of their handmade work into a fair sized business rather than a sideline one. There are a lot of interviews with professional artists and that’s probably the strength of the book. The checklists and bullet formats throughout help with scanning the book for information.
My library find this week – what made me think to post – was Making a Living in Crafts by Donald A. Clark. A lot of the library’s books on selling your crafts are a little dated and I was happy to see this one on the shelf with a publication date of 2006 by Lark. Lark is the publisher for quite a variety of art and craft books. I did a quick flip through to see if there were were any polymer artists in the book but no clayer interviews. There were a few artist pieces shown – Louise Fischer Cozzi and Irene Semanchuk Dean among others – and Luann Udell’s printed business materials were used as an example.
The book has a ton of pictures, is modern and has some great info all the way from how to pick a studio location, to picking your production routine, to pricing work, packaging and marketing your art, networking, attending fairs and customer relations. There are a variety of interviews throughout with artists and other professionals from the whole craft industry. One interview with Wendy Rosen, a show organizer, has very good and specific information on design theft and copyright infringement issues in the real world.