It’s that time of the year where it seems like many of us makers are getting ready for craft shows, so if this is your first time I have some advice for you as well as what to bring! Although some craft shows tend to run year round, the holiday season, as it begins to cool down, seems to draw out people from their homes and into their community. This will also be a great time to showcase your new items that you’ve been working on for the past two months! (If you haven’t planned out what you want to make specifically for the holiday season, check out episode #1 of the tea talk series to download the free pdf (no email required) and listen to the talk to get the most out of the download.)
Whether you attend a craft show, or in my case a farmer’s market, they run relatively the same. And the things you need will most likely be the same as well. So let’s begin with the things you may need and pepper in some advice within the post.
1) A Canopy:
Check in with your show organizers to see how big of a canpoy you’ll need. The standard one is a 10 x 10. You can pick these up at a local walmart or sporting goods store. Check out amazon.com as well!
Added feature: See if you can find a wall or two to put up to block winds or even the cold air. This can double as a nice privacy feature, or a wall, depending on how close you are to the next person, or in the summer as a way to keep your area shaded and cool.
When I first started out I had a small 4 ft table. It was ok, but it was way too small to hold everything I had, and I didn’t have much! I later upgraded to a 5 ft table that made a world of difference. That extra foot is prime real estate. I recommend having one at minimum. To increase your space and to help it look more professional and put together, see if you can get two or even 3 tables within your space if allowed. You can arrange your tables to either have an open in the front or in the back with 3 tables, and with two an “L” shape.
Things to keep in mind: If it will just be you and no one to help and you have a good amount of items you’re bringing with you, really think about your set up and what will be the best way to interact with potential customers. Consider the layout. Can you help everyone that walks by easily? Do you have expensive items that may get stolen if you place the tables behind you in that open floor plan? Be conscious of your surroundings. I’m all for believing in the good of everyone, but I’ve heard stories of people with quick sticky hands, so make sure you protect yourself and your items!
3) Cash Box:
It’s up to you how you want to handle your cash register. Some people get a cash box that has a lock on it that they keep below their table. For me, I chose to have an apron or a badge that I kept smaller bills in. If you keep your cash on you it’s much safer, in my opinion, and less of a worry should you have to leave to go to the restroom, or step away from your booth for a moment. It’s completely up to you if you want to bring cash at all! My purchase transactions during my show season was 50/50: half cash and half card. So if you’re thinking about not bringing cash at all, consider this!
4) Card Reader:
Speaking of the other 50% you’ll want to have a card reader of some sort to be able to take electronic forms of payment. There are quite a few on the market but in this I will suggest 3.
While I have not personally used a paypal reader I would recommend it. The best part of paypal is that you get the funds right away to your account. I can’t think of a better positive out of all the card readers out there. That way if you have a show/booth fee that you need to pay, it can come out of your profits from that day. The rate is pretty standard at 2.7% per US card swipe or 3.5% + .15 to key in cards manually. TIP: You have to qualify for this card reader. They have two options to choose from. The standard phone jack card swipe, or the new contactless, chip reader and swipe reader. The first one is free but the other one will cost you around $149. You can then get a rebate of $100 if you make $3,000 in sales within the first 3 months.
This is one that I have and it’s very popular among indie and small businesses. There’s a good chance that if you haven’t heard of them before, you probably have used it. While the money transfer isn’t as fast as Paypal’s it’s still relatively good. You can expect the money from a sale within 1-2 business days. A pro of this reader that Paypal doesn’t have is that anyone can get this. There’s no credit check or profit minimum requirement! It’s the perfect reader to get up and running asap. The rate is 2.75% per swipe or 3.5% + .15 per manual key in transaction. Square reader also has the option of getting a contactless and chip reader as well. They also have other things like a more pro POS station if you’re looking for something more “official”. I can honestly report that I’ve never had any issues with this reader, and I love it! It’s small and compact and gets the job done.
Sell on Etsy Reader:
This one is specifically for Etsy shop owners, but yes, there is a card reader just for etsy shop owners. Just like with the other card reader swipe options, this is free to request and get. The difference here is that it will connect directly to your Etsy shop and pull from your existing inventory (which is pretty rad). You can also create listings on the spot which is nice if you haven’t added that item to your shop yet (hint hint, custom or on the spot deals). The rate is 2.75% per swipe but here is where it differs from the others: it’s 3% + .25 when you enter it in manually. There is also the cost for the listing in etsy as well! The pro here is that the in-person sales add to your item sold total which can bolster a new shop. The funds will appear in your direct checkout in your shop rather than directly deposited into your bank account like the square option.
With these three options, you can be up and running taking credit cards at your next show asap!
Ok, let’s move on
You’re going to want a relatively big sized banner that can be seen from a far away distance. The goal is to have people either recognize the name or get curious enough to get close to see what your booth is all about. Make sure it’s legible and has your shop name, web address/contact, and a small tagline saying what your brand is about or what you offer. Minimal is always best, no need to overdo it.
These come in handy when you need to hang your sign or any other sign to another fixture. These are also handy if there is a breeze to keep your table cloth down to your table, if you have extra fabric, or if the sign you put up catches the wind too. Very handy! Grab at least 4 of them. I purchased mine from a home improvement store.
7) Table cloth:
Don’t let those tables go bare! They will not only function as dressing and decor, but also the keep your storage, supplies, tools, money, etc, out of plain site. Table cloths are key for both aesthetic and functional purposes. Try and get table cloths that are on brand with your shop and what you sell.
8) Storage Bins:
The big plastic ones from your favorite store will come in handy when packing and setting up for you show. They are great not only to pack your things, keep them organized and safe for when you get there, but it’s great to store your extra products in that aren’t displayed on your table. The bin will keep them clean as well from any outside elements like spills, rain, food, dust, etc. Be sure to opt for a colored bin vs clear. You don’t want people to see what you’re carrying as well as how much. Safety first!
9) Pen and Paper:
Bring yourself a notepad or journal. You’ll want this for several reasons.
1) It’s a good way to keep track of your quantity when you get there and keep track of what you sell and for how much. You’re going to want to know the exact amount so you aren’t playing a guessing game when you get home. Things like quantity for inventory tracking is going to be very important to know, as well not only what sold but if anything was taken without your knowledge.
2) Have another notebook or even a clipboard with a sheet of paper to collect emails. This is so important, it really deserves it’s own section, but it can remain here for now.
3) Write down how the show went! Record how it went, how you felt about it. Use this time to determine if you think you did well, if you want to go back, any names of people running it that you want to jot down. Use your pen and paper to record not only your inventory, what sold well, but also a way to hold yourself accountable and self assess how it went over all.
10) Snacks and Water:
You are going to want to pack a pick me up or two, especially if you didn’t eat. I know I always felt hungry after I was done setting up. I needed the energy after all the labor of getting everything ready to now selling! Bring snacks that give you energy, or high protein foods. Granola, a banana, peanut butter, protein bars are all great to have. Especially something that doesn’t require getting your hands dirty! You’ll be interacting with not only your own items, but customers who may want to shake your hand, etc. Make sure what you bring to eat isn’t messy and has a quick clean up. You’ll also get thirsty. Bring a bottle of water, or your favorite non sticky drink. If anything is spilled you don’t want it staining or ruining your hard work!
Phew! We're halfway there. Here's what we've mentioned so far:
11) A Trash Bag:
This can simply be a little plastic grocery bag, but you’ll want to have something under your table to collect trash in. Especially if what you sell is sample or food related. There’s also a chance that not only will you have you own trash, from your snack wrappers, or something of that sort, but other people leaving trash at your booth! Whether they do it intentionally or not, you may end up with a couple pieces of other booth’s trash.
12) Business Cards:
These should be front and center! If people don’t end up purchasing from you but they are interested, they may as for a business card. Make sure they are right by your mailing list (see point #9) so they can not only sign up for that but take a card with them. Use that as an opportunity for them to remember you after they leave. And as a bonus, give them an incentive! Leave a coupon code on the back of your business card, or something special to motivate them to come back and visit you.
13) Display Pieces:
You’re going to want a place to show your prices, or a sign, so display pieces will be very beneficial! It’s always nice to see a display piece that let’s potential buyers know that you accept cards too. Two things I’ve used in the past are a good sized chalkboard sign (since chalkboard was a theme of mine) and also small picture frames. I created my own inserts for the picture frames to list variations and prices. Figure out if there is a theme you may be able to incorporate into your own display pieces!
This of course goes without saying, but make sure you bring enough inventory. Asses what you think may sell well during the time your craft show takes place and bring enough! It’s always best to bring enough and have it ready than to not have enough and run out.
Things to consider: The type of market you are going to and the type of people that hang out there. By knowing who your market is you can plan on bringing more or less than a certain item. If you’re not too sure of what kind of people attend, see if you can go to the show as a visitor first to get a feel of the type of crowd. If all else fails, bring everything!
This one is a bit different, as it’s not a physical item, but at some shows you may need to buy your own insurance. Check with your craft show or farmers market organizers to see if you have to get your own or if it’s included in your booth fee.
16) Tax License:
In most cases, depending on what state you live in, you will need to get a Transaction Privilege Tax License, or a TPT License. This is just a city and state tax license you will have to get before you can sell your wares to anyone. The city and state are going to want their cut of your hard work! It sucks, but it’s true. The show organizers will most likely require this at the time of either you signing up or the first day you arrive. They need to cover their bases to make sure they are running a legal operation, and that starts with you. I have heard stories as well of people needing to display it for when city officials come around to view their booth, but I’ve never personally seen that happen.
We are going in no particular order here, but weights are useful for not only your canopy tent, but also your table. If the event is outside and it gets windy, some shows or markets, will require weights so that your canopy doesn’t lift up, fly away, and hurt someone! Can you imagine why that insurance would come in handy? :S. That would be no good for anyone.
18) Attitude of: Optimism and Low Expectations:
I know this one sounds a bit strange, since it’s not a physical thing to bring with you, but it’s an important one. You may hear others online, or at the very market you plan on attending, that they do really well! Like they make hundreds and hundreds per show! And that is awesome! And I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but go into your first show with optimism but low expectations. It’s best to be excited about the experience, have conversations with people, but not be a hard sell. You don’t want to appear desperate! Go into the experience with not too much pressure on yourself to sell hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of your product, because you may not know what other people have done to get to where they are now or even if they make that much! As the saying goes, don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
There’s a good chance that what you will end up taking with you to your craft show or market will not come in a one box. One thing that is very handy, and nearly downright necessary to help move things along much easier, is to bring with you a dolly. Having something that you can set your storage bins on that is packed with everything you could possibly need and want for your show can move along much easier when it’s placed on something that rolls. You can find dolly’s or similar rolling cases at your nearest home improvement store. Trust me, when you are lugging things back and forth from your car into your assigned booth spot, you’re going to want to make it as easy and accessible as possible, especially if you are doing this alone.
20) A Seat:
Depending on how long your show is going to last, expect that you may want to have a seat! There is nothing wrong with setting up a little stool, or high folding chair to sit on as the hours go by. You can still be high energy and interact with your booth visitors, but know that standing won’t be mandatory. Sometimes it’s also nice to have a chair to sit on when you have a helper, or guest, that is there to support you. You can share standing and sitting opportunities so you don’t burn yourself out.
Here is another picture to recap 11-20 for you!
Most of all, have a good time! If you want to hear about 10 more things you can bring with you that wasn’t included on this list, be sure to listen to the latest tea talk (episode #7) to get more helpful tips that will help you have a successful show.