by Phoebe Sherman (Founder of Girl Gang Craft) We here at Girl Gang Craft are fiercely committed to supporting makers and creative + entrepreneurs reach new audiences, make more sales and grow their businesses. One of the fundamental things about being a maker, artist or product- based business is that you’ve got to sell your items. But just selling online isn’t a guarantee you’re going to hit your sales goals. One of the best ways to get your name out there and see money pouring into, is to physically show up and sell your goods -- in person. The best way to start? Find local craft fairs or markets so you can get your items into the hands of real people.
We put together this comprehensive guide for you to dive into the world of craft fairs. APPLYING TO CRAFT FAIRS Finding a craft fair that’s right for you is an art in itself. First, you’ve got to find the craft fairs, then you’ve got to try them out (perhaps multiple times), then you’ve got to make a decision about whether doing this particular craft fair is right for you and your brand.
Finding craft fairs in your city
This is where you have to get creative. If you’re in the Bay Area then you’re in luck! We’ve created this guide with all the local craft fairs to attend to save you time. If not, that’s ok, but it just means you’ll have to work to find the craft fairs around your area (or beyond, if you’re down to travel). You can find more established craft fairs that go on tours. Renegade Craft has many shows throughout the year in multiple cities. See if they are coming to you. Most likely typing “craft fair in _______ city” will be helpful in your search. But you can also get a little more creative. Not every craft fair calls themselves a craft fair, and there are tons of other market type events around the world. Check out local farmers’ markets, street fairs, and festivals. In many cities there are “First Fridays” or festivals like Pride Parade or the Women’s March. Often these festivals have a wide range of vendors and bring in lots of attendees, so these events are particularly good for beginning businesses to get your products out to the people. You can also find local makers in your area and see if they list the events they are participating in on Instagram or their website. You might even want to attend these events first as an attendee to see what they’ are like. You can even ask vendors there how they feel about each event! They are often happy to give you the low-down. 2. Craft Fair Booth Fees A lot of craft fairs ask for the full booth price up front. Be prepared to make that investment. Many craft fairs have an application fee. This is usually non-refundable and pays for the time looking over your application. Some fairs have you just pay the application fee and if you get accepted you pay the Booth Fee to confirm your participation. Please take note of application logistics and refund policies. Many markets have a strict no-refund policy after a certain date. Booth fees vary drastically from craft fair to craft fair. The cheapest booths will be the local events, like First Friday’s, Farmers’ Markets, and pParades. This does not mean you will get the most ROI (Return On Investment), however, sometimes you’ve got to pay a higher booth price to find your ideal clients. SO WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU GET REJECTED? First, it’s not the end of the world. It does NOT mean your work sucks, and you have no hopes of being an artist in the world. It doesn’t even mean you won’t get into that show in the future. But we hear you -- it doesn’t feel so great to get rejected. Here’s our advice: 1. Feel free to ask the event “why.” Often some event coordinators love to give feedback and want to support you as you grow your brand and your work. Please don’t demand they give you answers, but write an email that asks if they have time to give you feedback, as you really want to grow and work towards being a part of their community. Often they can give you tangible ideas to work on, like moving towards a cohesive portfolio, having a clear brand message, and having professional-looking, clean product images. (These are all things we look for when you apply to the GGC craft fairs). 2. Keep trying and apply next time. The same craft fairs that want to see you succeed will accept you when they see your growth. 3. Find other shows that will accept you now. And work towards your goals of doing some of these “reach” craft fairs. Keep in mind that your work may just not be the right fit for some shows, and that doesn’t mean your work isn’t fabulous! CRAFT FAIR PREPARATION So you got into a craft fair! What next? 1. Curate your booth! Booth sizes vary from show to show, so we suggest having a set-up that is flexible. Other advice: FIND LIGHT ITEMS THAT CAN FIT IN YOUR CAR AND ARE EASY TO SET UP Have your brand logo easily seen. This can be a large banner and be integrated into your backdrop. People like to touch things. Set-up your products so they are easy to touch and feel. Some people swear by putting price tags on things (or a sign) and some people keep price tags off items, so the person has to ask the price on their own. There is probably psychology to back-up both options. We suggest trying both and seeing what works for you. For more on craft fair set-up grab our free guide Craft Fair Booth Design Guide. 2. Make sure you can take credit card payments. Is your website on Shopify? Shopify has a card payment service that directly correlates to your online shop so that inventory management is nice and easy. Square also has a free credit card processing system that is easy to use. Of course both companies take a fee. 3. Sales tax Collect sales tax. If you are selling in person, your business is for real and it is time to collect and pay sales tax. Each city has a different tax amount. Set-up your sales tax in your POS to add the sales tax automatically when a customer completes a purchase. 4. Paying sales tax Sign up here to get a California Seller’s Permit. You may be required to pay sales tax quarterly or once a year. We strongly suggest keeping your sales tax collected in a separate bank account so you don’t spend that money. 5. TALK TO PEOPLE and don’t be on your phone YOU are your brand. YOU are also the expert of your brand. It is YOUR job to sell your products. Engage with your customers, ask them about their day, ask them if they are shopping for themselves or others (especially if it’s around the holiday season). I LOVE this question, because you can get an exact idea of what they’re looking for. And the more info you have, the more specific info you can give. And the more info the customer has in relationship to what they’re looking for, the more educated they can be in their decisions. You can also tell them about your making process, what your brand stands for, and how you got started. For more craft fair tips check out our 5 tips for a successful craft fair. CRAFT FAIR TRIAL AND ERROR Sometimes you do a craft fair, and it’s just not the one. Maybe you don’t make many sales, or perhaps the clients aren’t your vibe, or maybe the event is not “on-brand.”. Maybe EVERYONE ELSE does well at this show, but you just don’t. It’s ok. It’s part of the process. Your options: 1. Do it again and change something up. Maybe your display could be more eye-catching, or maybe you weren’t feeling the best and could’ve been more engaged with your clientele. 2.Leave it. Maybe it wasn’t the show for you. Maybe you decide you don’t like outdoor shows, or night markets aren’t your thing. It is ok to chalk it up as a learning experience, and not do the show again. Find the craft fairs that you LOVE. Find the craft fairs that you make lots of money, or find new clients, or that you just have a blast at. These are the events you should give your precious time to, and say no to the rest. (Craft fair FOMO is real though, but it is OK to say no!). If you’re in California, here are our 6 SPRING/SUMMER BAY AREA CRAFT FAIRS TO ATTEND OR APPLY TO AS A MAKER. Have you applied to the Girl Gang Craft Markets yet? Apply here. Did you think this article was helpful? Comment below with your thoughts or your questions!