Thursday, March 15, 2012

Selling Your Handmade Jewelry at Shows Part 2: Craft Fairs and Juried Shows

by Staci L. Smith

Now, I am not claiming to be an expert.  However, I have done my fair show of shows.  All of them, save the last one, outside shows.  Along the way, through the years, there are things I have learned, that I wish I had known years ago.  I'd like to share some of them with you today.

So lets start with some basics.

 How do I know what shows to do?  Finding the right market for your jewelry isn't always easy.  Unfortunately, this part is going to take some trial and error.  Almost all the shows I currently do, I have found by talking to other vendors and friends. Some ended up being my yearly shows, others I dropped because they didn't work well for me.   Getting information from people who have done the show helps to give you an idea of what kind of crowd a show attracts.  Find out if the show is indoor, outdoor, one or two days, if you can leave your display up overnight or not, is the show all handmade or do they allow other vendors?  Are people buying there or do they come for the music, or an event at the fair?   All these things will factor into whether or not its a show you want to do.

What if its a juried show?   If its a juried show, you will need to send in pictures to apply.  The applications are usually pretty easy to follow.  I recommend applying early, sending good pictures, and making sure you send enough pictures to show the scope of your work.  For me, that means I always exceed the number they ask for.  Yet, I don't want to send them all silvery sea glass pictures and then show up with lots of rustic copper stuff.  They ask to see everything you make, so send pictures that really represent the bulk of your work.

Your in, now what?  Now the fun begins.  I could probably write a book on this.  Instead, I have links below to some very informative blog posts on this subject.  So I will concentrate on the general things and my tips that I wish I knew years ago.

1.  Make your display stand out from the others, but make sure it matches your style. You may need to stand out in a crowd of hundreds of other vendors, and many will be other jewelry vendors.  Make it comfortable for you and the customer.  I recommend higher tables so customers don't have to bend down, they will shop longer this way.

2.  Make your display easy to set up and tear down, and practice it beforehand.  There is nothing more stressful then getting to a show and not knowing where anything is supposed to go or how you are going to set it up.  Plus- you never know how the set up will go, sometimes you may get there early with the best intentions, and may not be able to get right to your spot.  Every show is different, but most times, it hard to set up with everyone trying to get their car to their spot.  Now, may I add here some very important show etiquette.
Please drive to your spot, unload, and move your vehicle.  Then come back and set up.
If you have done shows, you understand.  If you have not yet, you will.

Seriously, its always good to use courtesy and good manners.  Your neighbors can be very helpful and useful at a show, so you don't want to start out by making them mad at you.
Back to easy set up and tear down.  I have my set up, complete with tent, 12x12 carpet, walls, steaks, weights, jewelry and signs up in 1 hour.  Tear down and load is 20 minutes.  It is sooo very worth it, to invest this time prior to the show.  I cannot recommend it enough.  I worked LONG and HARD at making it so efficient. 

3.  Make sure your display is weather proof.  Bring the walls for your tent in case it rains.  You can use those long colorful swimming pool noodles in the corners of your tent (on the inside) to hold up the sagging part of your tent in the rain.  If your tent top sags and takes on too much rain, it can collapse.
(you know- pool noodles)

Wind proof by using tent weights.  I made my own, there are many tutorials it out there, I used PVC, cement and a handle.  They loop around my top inside corner framing and then clip to themselves.  I then bungee them to the leg so they don' t hang loose.
Can you see them in this picture?

If I can stake my tent down I do that as well.  If I cannot stake my tent down, I screw the tent to large heavy pieces of wood, and then put sandbags on top of each.  I covered them with pillow cases to keep them looking nice.  This method held up in even heavy sea side winds.
You can see in this picture below we have the sandbags and wood to weight the tent, it was too rocky to stake it down.

Don't forget to thing about wind with your jewelry displays too.  Those little easel displays will fly away in the slightly breeze.

I also laminate my signs and tape them down.  That way I don't have to make new ones over and over like I did in the beginning.  And try to avoid putting prices on the signs so they will last you forever.

4.  Always be prepared.  Bring jewelry tools and extra beads and supplies- in case of adjustments and so you can make some jewelry if its slow.  Customers love to see how you do what you do.  Also bring other tools, a hammer for the stakes, bungee cords, velcro, hand clamps, shims to even out the table if you are on uneven ground, tape, get the idea, right?

5.  Now for you behind the scenes......the check out area and supplies.  This is my favorite.  I have changed this so many times I lost count.

Make sure you have a space, or another little table or tv tray designated as your checkout station.   My latest checkout station is my favorite, and may be my last......and I have been through many.   Its wind proof, portable and has everything I need. I can keep it packed always!!!!!  Just grab and go.  This is important for many reasons.  First, it will speed up check out, and help you to look professional.  Two, you will be able to concentrate on your customer and the sale itself, rather then looking for everything,
Here is what I am currently using.  Its a simple craft tote from Michaels.

In this tote I carry my bags, pre-stuffed with my cards to save time.
I have pens and scissors.

a receipt book.....
Extra price tags.
little baggies (I even have separate ones with earring back in them to put the earrings in)- hand sanitizer
tissue paper

Tape and a calculator.

I also have little thing like pins and velcro and such in there.  Also, and very important, I also keep extra chains in here, along with some leather and wire chokers too.  That way if someone wants to switch out a pendant, I have it.  It could make a sale for you, and when you are there, you will see, every sale counts!!!!!

5. Have fun, be happy.  Your attitude will come through loud and clear.  Just go into your show with the mindset you will enjoy meeting people, take feedback and notes for next time, and have fun.  If you are counting dollars, and wishing things were different, it will show, and could cost you sales.
Stand or sit in a raised seat, be polite, talk to your customers, but don't be pushy.  Talk about the designs, people will feel your passion.  Some folks won't want to talk, and some may run, but in most cases, people like to talk to the artist and learn about what you do.

Links to wonderfully informative blogs on this topic.    Very detailed, with pictures and links to products as well.  I think you should check them out.

I leave you with my most recent booth shots.   The first is from last fall and the second is from my first indoor show, a bead show.  Two firsts for me.  I keep changing little things about it, but all in all, I think I have found my set up.

(see those branches that I have ribbon tied to and earring cards hanging on?  For one of my first shows ever I needed displays, so I cut up tree limbs and made my own.  That one came back out for the bead show)

 I hope I helped you with some tips, most I learned the hard way.
Good luck in all your shows!

Let me know if you have questions or suggestions.


Davinia said...

Great information and very timely for me. I have my first indoor show on Sunday. I love the idea of having a packing station, I'm going to take your advice on that.
Thank you so much for sharing this.

My Life Under the Bus said...

These are fantastic Staci!!! I will add one - check if the event has FOOD. Did my first outdoor event only to find out when we were there there was no FOOD. It was in a park - if I am walking through with my kids I want to hand them something then go and peruse the goods. No food means you lose customers who go to find it off sight and never come back or don't stay because they are hungry - never even thought of it before then!

Pine Ridge Treasures said...

Wonderful information - Thank youvery much for posting this!

Stacie Florer said...

AWESOME! Great tips!! Almost makes me want to get back out there and do more shows!!!

Off the Beadin' Path said...

You have it all covered! Can you be more specific as to how you use the noodles to prevent the roof from sagging? Thanks!

TesoriTrovati said...

This is awesome information. At the request of a friend of mine who sells pottery, I am considering my first outdoor show. It would be in early October in upper Wisconsin for 3 days! I am not sure that I am ready for something like that, but if I could be next to my friend and share accommodations with her I might give it a shot. I am bookmarking this great info to come back to as I will have to build a booth from the ground up!
Enjoy the day, Miss Staci!

pliccb said...

Love your packing-station-in-a-bag! What an efficient way to handle it. The first show I did was an outdoor event, it was like living in a wind tunnel!! The tent next to us blew down. Everybody ran to help! Thankfully my Honey had helped my sister and I put ours up and when he does something it is DONE so we didn't have any problems. The Organizer said after "Well if you survived this weekend you can do anything!"

Carol Bartaw

stacilouise said...

I have a love hate relationship with shows! lOL! But I really do enjoy them, when its sunny!

stacilouise said...

OK- I will try to explain the noodle thing better. You tuck them into the corner framing of the inside of the tent- and there would be one noodle for each corner. They would be arched up and the ends tucked on etiher side of the corner. So they are all across the corners, diagnal. OH my- maybe I should have drawn a diagram. Its hard to explain.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Wow, Staci! What an incredibly informative post.... I don't do shows, but I'm married to someone that does. The one thing that stood out to me is the consideration of your "neighbor" comment. I think if there is one thing that he has complained the most about, it is that. He's a really hard worker, helps others, etc. and finds it frustrating when others are not the same.

Barbara said...

Great post Staci! All wonderful favorite tip was the one about having a tall stool or chair (especially in my opinion, over a lawn chair) because you want to be seen and actively engage with your customers. I prefer to stand as much as possible however, standing for several days at 6-8 or more hours can be really tiring so even having a nice tall chair or stool to lean on or take a few breaks was my very first lesson and my #1 tip for all other newbies!

I would also add that if you're accepting credit cards to make sure that the facility or venue has a good strong signal or enough wi-fi capacity to support all the vendors well as to order an extra square for your checkout bag in case it goes missing or breaks. I've heard show horror stories about both of these circumstances and in the last few years, my sales are now 50% or more on cards and as you mentioned, every sale counts!!!!

Kelli said...

Awesome post STaci!!! I whole heartedly agree with all of this. I too learned the hard way. I have specific bins I keep my display pieces in, my checkout stuff in (credit card slips, bags, receipt pad, business cards and holders, tissue paper, signs, cash box, mailng list ) It does really help to keep it all organized, so that you pack it up the same way each time, and when you get home, the bins, bags are ready to go for the next show, and you don't have to "pack" all over again.
** I do HIGHLY recommend putting out a mailing list, which has a place for address AND e-mail address. You can develop a WONDERFUL following (fan club) that way. Lots of shows that I do provide postcards for you to send out to your customers. I mail these out, AND send out an e-mail reminder. I see the same faces over and over, AND they bring their friends, and spread the word . ALSO, make sure you have PLENTY of business cards. I give handfuls to some of my best customers, at their request, so they can pass them along when someone wants to know where they got their unique jewelry :)
*** AND show etiquette is HIGHLY important and will take you far!! Make sure you stay inside your designated space, keep your space clean, and DO move your vehicle as Staci mentioned. Your life and others will be MUCH happier!!!! Having been encroached upon in all these areas personally, I speak from experience!!! :)

mairedodd said...

i know how much time effort and experience went into this post - and it is so nice of you to share it, esp as the notices are coming up for shows... it can be overwhelming even to those who have done it many times... your set up looks professional and inviting...

Ginger Herbein said...

Is it at all common for jewelry designers to take orders at shows? I would like to sell as shows next year, but I don't have the money to make the same piece over and over again in hopes that someone would buy it. I would much rather have a large collection and take orders. Thanks for your help.

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