Probably many of my readers are experienced or even expert crafters with years of experience in craft shows and craft sales. Well, I speak from the perspective of a newbie who is still “testing the waters” and trying to learn the ropes. So, my approach is likely to amuse and entertain, which is what this column is all about.
It takes time to decide what to make, and I tend to be overly ambitious. One must decide carefully, because the last thing you want to do is spend money on craft supplies that you don’t need.
Here are some of the things you must consider when getting started: How many products should I make? How many of each item should I make? Is this a product that might sell? Do I want to make this product? Can I make this product? Is it within my skillset? How long will it take to make this product? How much will the materials cost? Can I make a profit on this item?
Pricing items is a terrible challenge for a crafting newbie. As a beginner just “testing the waters,” you are not likely to be getting your materials at a wholesale price, because you don’t want to manufacture your items in a large quantity.
The first thing a beginner tends to do is not include their labor in the price, which is not a good business practice. Beginners are so eager to make a sale that they are willing to lose money to have the thrill of a sale.
I like the idea of having multiple price points. Some shoppers are just looking for souvenirs or stocking stuffers that cost a few dollars, while others are looking for larger holiday decorative items that are more expensive.
Probably having a few giveaways is a good idea too. It helps build a relationship with customers and strangers and creates good will. These shows are marketing events as well as sales events.
Inevitably, after you get your craft supplies, you will realize that some of your ideas will not work or that you might have to do something differently from how you had planned. It upsets you, because you have invested your money in these specific supplies and to have to change course or start over means a financial loss.
Here are a few lessons that can be learned from my experience: Don’t rush at the last minute; Give yourself plenty of time to read, research and compare prices before purchasing supplies; Try making a rough sample of your item from fabric or paper scraps to see if it will work and test the materials before investing; Finally, stay calm.
What do you need to have on the big day? You need a checklist before you leave home: Large containers to protect and transport your crafts; You must have a cash box to make change; Ideally a notebook to record sales and inventory and a cloth and decorations for your table — your wares can be a part of the decorations.
During the show, you sit at your table, smile and greet the shoppers who pass by. It is always exciting when they stop and want to buy something.
You also have the opportunity to interact with other crafters and get to know them. Sometimes crafters buy each other’s wares. It is a nice idea, but if you are trying to make a little money yourself or at least get back a little of your investment, then that kind of defeats the purpose of being a vendor yourself.
In the aftermath, what do you do with your leftover stuff? Of course, you don’t want to make too many of each item, because you don’t know how well the product will sell and you don’t want to get stuck with a failed item.
You could put the unsold items in storage for next year, display them at another craft show, donate them to a charity craft show, sell them online or use them as free giveaways.
Another easy way to dispose of excess inventory, if you are not in the business, is simply to gift it or give it away. It depends on your circumstances and the cost and size of the item. I wouldn’t make too many of each, at least not more than you can find people to give them to if they don’t all sell.
I had some items from last year I displayed — which was a lifesaver. I had some of my books and CDs (If you wrote the books and recorded the CD, they can count as something you made.) I even displayed my award winning art pieces from the Clarion County Fair. Sharing the table with my brother also helped to make it look nice and full.
Sadly, I did not have time to make everything I had hoped to make. While the crafting experience has been difficult this year, I have learned many lessons, which will hopefully serve me well in the future.
Plenty of inspiration abounds for the new crafter. Craft shows are hugely popular, especially at Christmastime. Then there are the online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy where you can try your wings. Starting your own business is a part of the American dream, so why not go for it and have fun crafting along the way.
My final words of wisdom for aspiring crafters who want to sign up for their first craft show are: Have many items already made, priced and sitting on the shelf of your workshop before you send in your check to reserve that table.