This past weekend was my 3rd year in a row at Festival of the Lake. I had a realization as I was setting up my booth, which is that I’ve learned a lot about selling at craft shows over the past few years. I thought some of my hard-earned craft show tips might be useful to others too!
Just getting started with craft shows? Check out my previous post on Where to Find Good Craft Shows. I’ll also be doing a post on craft show display ideas very soon too!
Start with a good tent!
If you’ll be doing outdoor shows, a good tent is essential. I’m SO GLAD I invested in an EZ-up tent right from the start. Some shows require a white tent, which is one of the reasons I went with the EZ-up, but I’ve also seen too many other crafters over the years struggle with cheap tents which are often flimsy and harder to set up. (I can, and often do, set up and take down my EZ-up all by myself.)
In windy conditions, you’ll also be glad to have a sturdy tent, paired with a good set of weights. I use the EZ-up brand weights, stuffed with bricks, but I’ve seen lots of great DIY options, including water jugs and PVC tent weights. Just make sure your weights are heavy enough to stay put!
I’m also glad my EZ-up came with a full set of zip up sides. They’re useful not only for rainy days but also for shows that take place over a weekend where you need to leave stuff there overnight.
A hand truck makes life a million times easier.
This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. I went through a couple of crappy dollies, and spent way too much time just carrying everything, before I found the right hand truck. I still have a small Magna Cart hand truck that I use for certain shows, but David – the indie filmmaker whiz that he is – changed my life forever when he bought us a top of the line Magliner hand truck to share. I don’t know how I’d do Frenchmen Art Market without it, as I can finally haul everything I need in one trip:
Bring your own food & drinks.
I do almost all of my craft shows alone, which makes it hard enough to sneak away to use the restroom, let alone stand in long lines for overpriced festival food. I spent too many shows early on miserable and hungry because I didn’t put enough forethought into how and what I would eat during the day.
I now have a small cooler that I bring to all of my shows. Instead of ice, which quickly melts and gets messy, I use a couple of freezer packs to keep things cold. I also have a big water bottle with a built in freezer stick. This has totally saved me during hot outdoor shows!
I like to bring my own sandwiches and snacks as well, since a lot of food at craft shows and festivals consists of burgers, hot dogs and fried foods. Especially if you have any sort of food allergies, dietary restrictions, or if you just want to eat healthier, it’s best to pack your own lunch. I’ve learned that a foot-long Subway sandwich serves me well on long days, since I can eat half for lunch and still have the other half left over for dinner.
P.S. Some festivals like to enforce the “no outside food or drinks” rule. Which is legit for regular festival patrons, but as far as I’m concerned, vendors should be exempt from this rule. We pay a lot of money to do the shows, we’re stuck there all day, and it’s hard to get away from your booth. My cooler is a discreet soft cooler, so it’s less obvious than hauling in a giant Igloo ice chest. I’ve never had a problem, although some shows call for more sneakiness and creativity than others.
Lighting is important!
If you’ve ever done an outdoor show that goes into the night, or if you’ve done an indoor show with dim lighting, you’ll know what I mean! Christmas string lights are pretty, but they get easily tangled during transport and they are time-consuming to put up around your booth.
A clamp light or two, directed up to bounce light back down from the roof of my white EZ-up is usually all I need. That, and a good extension cord, of course.
(At Frenchmen Art Market, where I don’t use my tent unless it’s raining, my Magliner hand cart usually serves as a light stand to clamp the light to!)
Accept credit cards, and bring plenty of change.
When I first started selling at craft shows, this was a lot trickier, but in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to accept credit cards. Many people don’t carry much cash on them, and you’re likely to sell more if you can accept credit and debit card transactions.
Some people still do like to use cash though, and for that reason you should bring plenty of change! How much change? That depends on the show – for all day festivals where I expect big crowds, I’ll bring more change than a smaller show. Also, if I’m going to be doing a show both Saturday and Sunday I’ll try to be prepared with more change, since my bank is open only til noon on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. For sales tax with cash sales, I just include it so that I don’t have to deal with coin change too.
I’ve seen some fancy craft show setups that involve a real cash register and everything. That’s a bit much for me! I like to keep my change close, with a money apron I made for myself. Lots of craft show vendors keep their money in similar simple tool aprons with pockets that they wear.
Selling at a craft show can make for a long day sometimes. (In a good way!) Wear comfy shoes and clothes that are easy to move around in, load and unload your car in, etc. You’ll be on your feet a lot. Some vendors I know have invested in anti-fatigue work mats to stand on behind their booths.
When I do sit down, I like to sit up high so I can still be at eye-level with my standing customers. I went through a couple of cheap fold-up stools before I started getting jealous of other vendors who had fancy folding directors chairs. Over the summer, I ordered a new tall outdoor director’s chair – it’s definitely made a difference on long days!
Craft Show Supply List
I have one box and one tote bag of stuff that comes with me to every craft show I do. Some of these don’t apply to everyone, or to every show, but here is a basic list to get you started:
- tent (for outdoor shows)
- tables & other display materials
- a tablecloth (I use these fitted tablecloths)
- a chair or stool
- pen, pencils, permanent markers
- a notebook for writing down what you sell
- price stickers or tags
- extension cord
- bungee cords
- zipties or reusable Velcro straps
- spring clamps
- safety pins
- shopping bags for customers
- antibacterial wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer
- business cards
- bug spray
- aspirin / ibuprofen
- a small cooler with water and freezer packs for summer
- a thermos and blanket for winter
Need more info about selling at craft shows? Here are some of my other favorite helpful posts: