Things You Need to Know About Being A Craft Vendor!
I have several people asking me How to be a Craft Vendor.
So, I thought I would put together this article, in hopes that it would help those in need.
A vendor should always put her best foot forward when working a craft fair. No matter how she/he feels that day/weekend. (Believe me, I have cancer and I have my good days and my bad days. But I still go forward and I have customers and vendors say they would never know that I suffer from cancer. So I know if I can put on a good face and do this, anyone can.)
You are going to put your highest effort into displaying your merchandise, so do the same with your personal appearance. Leave the baggy sweatpants and worn-out old t-shirts at home – a sloppy appearance may lead customers to think your work is similarly sloppy. ( I have actually seen this at several event were the customers will admire the products but as soon as the vendor walks up to help them the walk away quickly and make rude comments because they think the vendor is just trying to make money to buy drugs, alcohol or they are homeless and they don’t want to be apart of their downward spiral. So please make sure to dress nice.)
You don’t have to wear a three-piece suit or fancy evening wear, but try to fit the atmosphere of the event with appropriate yet attractive attire. Dress comfortably enough that you can get your set-up done without tripping over high heels or long skirts. And absolutely model your own work if your crafts including clothing, jewelry or other accessories!
*Do you create a Unique Craft that you can find a Niche in the market?
As a new vendor, you may find it difficult to get accepted into some craft fairs because well-established vendors selling will be selling “your type of merchandise”. So make sure you have a special item that only you make. Or if everyone has it. How do you make it stand out making it special?
There are also Juried fairs, (where judges review applications and photos of crafters’ work before deciding which vendors to select,) help to level the field between new and old vendors by not just accepting applications on a “first come, first served” basis but based on quality and originality. But if you are going to pursue a highly popular craft such as this, you should be certain that your work is original, unique, and well-constructed enough to make an impression. ( I have done lots of these and I get into them because of my scorpions, tanks and of course all my jewelry is handmade)
Whatever you make, if there is something special about your item(s) that you can capitalize on in promoting them, and make you stand out as a vendor. Make sure you DO. As with my Craft Business My unique Item is my Paracord Scorpions. I’m the Only One in Oklahoma that makes them the way I do, which makes my work truly one of a kind not just to my buyers but to those who will be reviewing and accepting The Craft Space applications.
Here is a Don’t: Complaining
I’ve done craft fairs where morning setup gets a bit hiccupy, and many vendors are quick to start snipping and shouting. Those shows usually tend to have a little negative storm cloud above them for the rest of the day. Negativity is contagious.
Things get crappy sometimes. Try not to complain. Have some patience. Try to help those trying to help others. Smile. Laugh. Shrug. We’re all here for the same reasons, let’s keep positive and have fun.
*Are you content to focus on making one or two types of crafts exclusively?
Well, I am not… you see I make Jewelry, Paracord Scorpions, Paracord Items, Ammunition Tanks, vintage ceramics Plus there are times I have Our Daughters Art work in my Booth. I make it all work!
But If you can not, you really need to focus on just a few items… this is important for succeeding as a craft show vendor. A vendor who is trying to sell too many different types of crafts at once will often sell very little of anything.
I have noticed throughout the last year that shoppers like to see a clean, straightforward display of merchandise.
Don’t put all your merchandise out all at once. Keep it neat and clutter free.
*Are you willing to give up your weekends to work?
Remember that most craft fairs and shows take place on Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays. You may have to put in long hours from early morning until late evening to work these shows. Sometimes you can lose time spent with family and friends. But, Remember family and friends can also be helpful during the craft fairs with the setup, tear downs, and being a helper.
This will also get your helper out of the house and they will have something to do on the weekend too. The can venture around the craft fair and have fun doing something different other sitting around the house all day.
If you are serious about making crafts your career and not just a part-time hobby, realize this will mean committing most every weekend of the year to working shows, at least or especially during busy times such as the summer and winter holiday season.
My pet peeve is Vendors that Pack Up Early: If there’s one thing that gets my goat more than anything else at craft fairs, it’s vendors calling it quits before the scheduled end time and packing up their table. Yes, even if the show is dead. It tells your fellow vendors that you don’t care about their success. Sound harsh? It’s true. Your packing up sends a message to customers that the show is over, thus potentially ruining a last sale or two for another vendor.
Don’t be That Person. Stay at your table and wait. If you feel you really must start to pack up some smaller items, do so discreetly.
These are pictures from my earlier events: The one on the Left was Outside in Bixby and the one on the right was indoors in Oklahoma city.
*Are you willing to treat crafting as a business and not just a casual hobby?
Most larger shows require you to have registered for a Sales Tax ID with the state the show is taking place in. That means keeping careful records of your sales, your expenses, reporting and paying taxes on your income, etc.
So, This part my sound weird But — I have gone to pay my taxes after the fairs and the clerks just laugh at me! They stated that I didn’t make enough to pay the taxes and what I sold because I had made yet.
So I did my research and since I am on SSI disability and the money I make from my customers at my booth or website and it all goes toward my medical bills, medications, etc… I don’t pay taxes on it until it goes over 50,000.00.
Other things to help you out with your venture is a Square Card Reader, creating a website to help market your works and keep customers aware of your upcoming shows.
*Do you have an outgoing personality and feel confident enough to sell your work successfully?
Make sure NOT to sit back and expect your merchandise to sell itself. You have to be outgoing, friendly, and engaging without being overly pushy.
Be cheerful, don’t look bored, stay off your phone (unless you are doing a live feed for your website and then include your customers once you get their permission to include them).
Always smile and say hello to everyone (no matter if they have been past your booth several times….. most customers just glance, don’t pay attention to you, but there are some that are testing you to see if you care enough to engage in their day.)
Encourage buyers to try on clothing or jewelry, to touch and handle merchandise, or o assistance if items are fragile or kept in closed display cases.
That said, try to avoid a memorized sales pitch – not only will it sound forced to customers but it will annoy your neighboring vendors after hearing it a hundred times in one day. Also, don’t shout after or appear too desperate to have customers come or stay at your table. There’s a delicate balance to strike between being friendly and being pushy, and being pushy will often just make people run away.
Also realize that you will never be able to read every customer’s mood or interaction desires perfectly. Some people will scurry off as soon as you look at them or even smile politely. Others will want to be fussed over and catered to, telling you their entire life story while browsing your merchandise. Be flexible in how you deal with customers but know you will not be able to please everyone.
You also need to be confident enough in your work – and yourself – to be able to stand up to those who might (and believe me, will) come along and insult your work out of jealousy, rudeness, or thinking it will get you to lower your prices. So this leads me to my next point that a vendor needs a “thick skin”, while also being polite, courteous and flexible.
Some customers will ask you bizarre questions, treat you and your merchandise with disrespect, and otherwise act bizarre and rudely toward you. There are also parents that allow their children to run rampant through crafts fairs without supervision, and/or people insulting or mishandling my/your crafts thinking it would could them a bargain.
The important thing to remember as a vendor is to always remain as calm and as polite as possible in such situations.
If people are thoughtlessly blocking traffic to your table while holding a lengthy unrelated conversation amongst themselves, try to find a way to encourage them to move on without directly ordering them to do so. For instance, I find a reason to have to go to the front of my table and re-arrange a display or put out different merchandise. While saying A firm but polite “Excuse me” as I urge them to step back tends to get the hint across.
If someone is mishandling your merchandise or displays – such as dropping heaving items, bending or dropping delicate items, do not feel guilty in asking them to please not do such things. Be firm yet don’t yell at them. (Also make it know that if they do not stop mishandling the item and it is damaged then they will have to purchase it.)
Your merchandise should be treated with respect and care, and having an expensive display piece ruined because of thoughtlessness is not worth potentially offending one casually browsing customer.
If a person actually appears to be a hazard to you and/or other vendors and customers, alert the craft show staff as soon as possible. At open air events you never know who may pass through a craft show, and sometimes you may get mentally unstable individuals drawn to the crowds, those who have had too much to drink or even illegal drugs and are not operating at normal mental capacity. The event staff should be able to evaluate the situation and the individuals involved and determine whether they can handle it, or potentially need to call in the police or emergency services to do so.
Bargaining is a skill that you will need to develop, but stand firm and what you are – and aren’t – willing to accept for your merchandise. If the customer really wants the product and can tell the quality of it, then they will be willing to pay your original price.
Also, If your sales are slow at a show, you may wish to start bargaining just to clear your expense costs. But remember that a craft fair is not a flea market and customers should not be encouraged to think they can offer you a dollar for a twenty dollar item.
*Always include your contact information with a purchase
When someone makes a purchase, make sure you include a business card or receipt with your contact information on it: email, phone number, mailing address and/or website. You want to ensure the customer can reach you at a later time to find out what other craft shows you are working, if something needs to be repaired or adjusted, or for a custom order. Building a good base of recurring customers is very important for being a successful vendor – you want people to specifically come to a craft show looking for you and your work, before they start spending their money on others!
*Setting your prices
Pricing can be a tricky business, and a definite balancing act especially for beginning craft vendors. You need to set your prices high enough that you get what you feel your work is honestly worth, yet not price yourself out of what can be a highly competitive market. Price your merchandise too low, and customers may be skeptical about the quality of your merchandise as well.
There are several key things you definitely will need to know in order to properly price your crafts:
your labor time
your regular overhead expenses
the cost of working each individual craft show
Calculating each of these factors, along with having a sense of what the market will bear price-wise for craft items such as yours, will help you determine if you can profitably sell your crafts as well as for how much.
At this point you’ve got the four main factors to consider when pricing your crafts:
So, how to use this information to set your prices?
Every crafter employs a different formula.
Some, if their work is not highly labor intensive once establishing patterns or models, go strictly by a multiplied factor based on their materials cost.
That could be anywhere from 2 times to 10 times their materials cost, depending. This model is the simplest way to set your prices, and you can adjust your price formula depending on what you find the market will bear, and how high you find you need to set your prices to cover all other costs of working craft shows – and make some kind of profit!
With this method, it is a good idea to use an inventory code system so you keep track of each craft item’s material cost. That way if you tried a 5x mark-up at one show and did not sell very much, at the next show you can potentially take things down to 4x mark-up, and see if it helps move more merchandise. If your items are selling well but you are not making enough money to cover other expenses, try raising your mark-up to 6 or 7 times and see if that helps.
Another factor to keep in mind is that some customers are going to want to haggle you over your prices, and you have to decide if you are going to be flexible with them or not. There is no rule of crafting that says you must be willing to bargain with customers.
If you are going to be willing to deal with hagglers, make sure you set your original prices high enough that you have room to bargain, without losing money you can’t afford to loose.
I have a Long List or Do’s & Don’ts
But I will just list a few:
Be a Good Neighbor (meet the other vendors)
Bring a Friend (if you can)
Take Credit Cards
Pack up early
Not bring enough change
Thank you to everyone for making 2018 a great year.
I can not wait to see what 2019 will bring!