How to Start Selling at Craft Fairs and Handmade Vintage Markets (The Beginner’s Guide)
If you’re a kitchen table creative like many of us are, at some point the itch will hit you to either start giving away (or even more scary) actually sell your items. While there are numerous platforms online nowadays to start selling all of your handmade wares such as Etsy, or directly on Tik Tok or Instagram, there is nothing like that in person experience of handing a bag full of your goods to happy customer! You might wonder how to start selling at craft fairs and handmade vintage markets. With over 15 years of experience at markets and more shows than I can count, I wanted to share lots of tips and tricks you can only learn by being in the trenches.
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Participating in your first show can be scary. It’s a huge leap of faith. It’s easy to ask yourself :
“What if no one buys anything?”
“What if I don’t make any money and do this for nothing?”
“What if I can’t be ready?”
and “What if I don’t have enough stuff? “.
It’s so easy to ask yourself these questions that that it might keep you from stepping out in the direction you’re supposed to go in! The first thing to recognize is that everyone feels this way and second, you will do the best that you can with what you have and everyone is doing the same thing. In fact, you can read about my very first trunk show experience here, and how scared I was.
So, what do you need to know about selling at your first market or craft show?
First, it’s okay to start small like a local church craft fair !!! In fact, in many ways it’s better! One, it will get you started and two, it will help you to hone not only your experience but your display, what are best sellers, help you feel confident to do the next one and more. One caveat is smaller shows generally mean less foot traffic and smaller sales. You may also find customers are pickier at smaller shows. Many times you may not walk away with a huge profit. That’s ok, because eventually you will out grow those smaller places.
Make sure you are applying to the “right show”
While there is always a lure to apply for popular shows or festivals in your area, its better to find one where your customer will be. It not only makes a better fit, but easier sales and the right exposure. If you’re not at the right venue, it’s could be a frustrating experience. For instance, if you sell high end gold jewelry and the booths all around you sell gourds turned into bird houses and repurposed socks, it might not be the right fit. Your customer isn’t there. Before applying, scope the market on social media and if you have enough time go for a visit first. GO WHERE YOUR CUSTOMER IS.
Larger markets tend to be “Juried Shows”
Some shows are juried. What that means is they carefully select vendors based on their merchandise and booth space appearance. They want to know where else you sell and if you fit not only into their aesthetic, but if you are right for their customer base and they may have more applicants than space and this is a way to sort that out. If you’ve never done a show and don’t have pictures to share, set up your booth space in a living room or garage and take picture of that. Depending on the show, you may need to so a few smaller venues to get those under your belt so you have images for larger shows. If there is a show you are dying to get into and you apply and don’t make it in you might not be the right fit,or they may have another vendor just like you they already accepted. Don’t take it personally and just keep trying!
How much does it cost to be in a craft show or handmade vintage market?
Booth Fees for a show is normally based on foot traffic. Average cost of a space or stall ( depending on your location) can range from $100-$250 and up for a 10 x 10 space. Larger shows like the One of a Kind Show and similar spaces can go into the thousands. It can also fluctuate if it’s an inside or outside booth space, one or two day,or if it offers electricity etc. A small church show can be $25-$75. And there are always hidden costs such as hotel room or truck (if needed). Make sure to figure all of that in.
Do I need a business license to be in a craft show or flea markets?
Check with your local requirements about business licenses and permits because they vary from state to state and location to location. Many smaller shows will let you participate without a business license, but it’s always best practice to ask.
Do I need insurance to be in a craft show or artisan market?
Again that varies from place to place, but many larger markets require it. Insurance is easier and less expensive to get than you think and it’s always best to protect yourself. If you are a handmade seller ACT Insurance is a great place to start. Some insurances can also cover product loss which I have seen many times at outdoor shows during unexpected weather.
Do I need to collect sales tax when selling at a craft fair or market?
YES. You do if your state requires it. When using a credit card reader or POS app, you can set the rate as needed for your area. That sales tax amount paid by the customer needs to then be remitted back to your state in a timely manner. It’s super easy to do online. Check with your state site for all of the requirements. In Illinois if you make below a certain threshold, the payment requirement is different. You also need may need to be paying it if you sell online as well.
Should I get a credit card reader?
Yes. You will actually make more sales. While you still need a cash box and extra cash with change, many pay with their credit or debit cards right on your smartphone. Having a POS ( point of sale) right on your phone like Square (now Block) or Shopify makes selling your handmade items a breeze.
What should I know about display at a show or market?
Luckily, I have lots of experience in that! You can read this blog post that talks about the Secrets to Display and Merchandising! It matters not only for your customers experience but your every day sales! Also, if it’s an outside show you are absolutely going to want ta pup up tent like this.
Should I bring one item to sell or mix it up?
No matter what you sell, bring it in different price points along with a little bit of extra stock. While you have customers who will shell out a large amount of money, many customers will pick up smaller items because they might not be able to afford a high end price point item, but want a small piece of what you do. You want to cover all of those bases.
What should I bring for marketing materials?
While QR codes and other similar items are great. Some people still prefer good old business cards, so bring some of those. Make sure to also have your social media info on a board or banner as well. Also, find a way to collect emails or encourage potential customers to sign up for your email mailing list right away. Also, have your pricing ready in case a retail location or store wants to talk wholesale.
What are some other items I need to know about selling at a show or market?
Make a checklist, but don’t forget the little stuff like a table to run a check out on, chairs to sit in, bags, tissue paper, a pen, water. If you can do the market with a friend for bathroom breaks , or make a friend with a fellow vendor next door. Pack a lunch and snack, sunscreen (if it’s outside), and block charger for your phone if you don’t have access to electricity. Anything to make your experience of selling at craft fairs and handmade vintage markets run smoothly!