So I’m sure many of you reading this have gone to a craft fair or two in your days. Perhaps a few of you have attended one as a vendor selling your carefully crafted wares, hoping to turn a profit. If that’s the case, then you’ll probably already know all about what I’m about to talk about.

Craft fairs are hard work. Not just because you have to make the product (do not confuse us with consultants please), but because you have to prepare for the craft fair. Some of you are probably saying “Well, duh, making the product IS preparing for the craft fair.”

Hahahaha, I wish that were all of it!

When we get ready for a craft fair, the first thing we have to ask ourselves is “Can we feasibly make it to the location?” This is important, since we live out of the way. It takes us a minimum of 20min to make civilization, which means we’re going to travel at least that much to make it to any craft fair; usually longer. You, as a shopper, know of the typical hours of 10-4. For us crafters, it’s more like 9-5 because we have to get there early to set up, and then we have to tear down when all is said and done. So our day will typically start around 7am so we can pack the car, double-check that we have everything we need, finish up any last-minute things, and prep ourselves with typical morning routine stuff (you know, like getting dressed. People frown upon nude vendors for some reason I guess…)

So if a craft fair is over an hour away from us, you better believe we think long and hard about if we’re up to it. That’s a lot of stamina required for how long we’ll be awake (and remember, we both work 40hrs a week on top of this), not to mention we have to factor in the gas to get us to and from the craft fair on top of any table/space fees. It adds up in more ways than one.

If we decide that yes, we can make the craft fair, the next thing we have to determine is what we need. This is outside of product.

Should be we doing an outdoor show, that means we’re going to need to bring the pop-up canopy (which weighs about 70lbs, and both of us are maybe 100lbs soaking wet), table, and chairs. When it’s an indoor location, at most we might need to supply the table and/or chairs. Often times though when it’s indoors, we just have to bring product and the table and chairs are provided. This is important to know though, because it affects set-up time.  It also affects how we pack the car, and how long it will take us to pack the car. Usually when we’re doing a show that requires taking the canopy, we try to pack the car the night before so we can get some more sleep.

Now, you might think “Okay, that’s all well and good, so you need some extra stuff. The rest is just product.”

It’s not.

Now we have to consider how we are going to display our product, which will largely depend on how much space we have. When we first started, we rushed it and just dumped all the flowers on a table and called it good. Put out some business cards and a mirror and opened for business. This is absolutely the worst thing you can do, and looking back on it we wonder why we even did that in the first place since we both know better (it was because we went from zero product to lots of product in a week to make that particular craft fair like idiots, instead of planning ahead). Displays are important, and not cheap. In our case, we made all our own displays out of craft foam. The material was chosen for its light-weight nature, and this is a problem for those outdoor fairs. Wind + Light-Weight = Broken Displays. I’ve had to do a lot of repair work, and we’re thinking of making wooden ones instead. The point though is that displays matter, and you have to determine how best to show off your product. Not only that, but the displays need to utilized the space well on your table, and they need to be as eye-catching as your product because they are a reflection on how you feel about your product.

On top of displays, you also want to identify yourself. Not just through business cards either, but perhaps some stand-up placards or a banner that hangs. Maybe you have catalogs, or brochures of information available. How are those displayed? How about business card holders? And just for the record, if you are a crafter without a business card I urge you to reconsider not having one, as they are important. 😉

You’re going to want a tablecloth, and maybe even a table runner. Things to spruce up your space.

Don’t forget the change! People will hand you large bills sometimes, and you’ll need that start up cash to make change for them. $100 should do it. I usually get the following quantity:

$20 x 1

$10 x 3

$5 x 8

$1 x 10

Usually that’s enough change to keep you going all day, so long as you manage what you take in well (aka don’t let someone pay with a $100 bill for the first few hours/transactions, you will kill your change too fast).

You’ll also need a place to keep the money. Your wallet is not suitable. Either have a money pouch, or get a cashbox.

When dealing with money, it’s also important to have a receipt book. You need to keep track of your sales, to see how you do for the day. This also is a way to keep track of what is selling so you can spot trends with potentially popular items. For example, we know that Pridelette is our most popular flower currently. We wouldn’t know this if we didn’t track our sales. We also are aware that people like the more vibrant colors better than the pastels. This tells us where we should focus our efforts to maximize profit (and without profit you aren’t going to go very far in getting new materials).

You may consider bringing a calculator, just in case. Of course, your cellphone (should you own one, some people don’t) probably has one if you forget it. 😉

It’s important to consider what forms of currency you accept as well. Cash, check, credit card? Cash is easy, of course. Credit cards can be done if you have a machine, or a smart phone/tablet and the square. But checks are tricky because what if they bounce? My advice from when I worked in retail, make sure the checks have their name AND phone number on them, clearly written. If either is missing, ask them for it and hand-write it in. Also inform them that there is a fee if the check should bounce, hand them a piece of paper if necessary or write it on their receipt. That way should something happen, you’re not screwed over in the long run. If you’re a shopper reading this, you’re probably saying “My checks would never bounce, that’s offensive!” or something to that nature. Let me be the one to say that it can happen to anyone, and unfortunately due to a few bad eggs we have to do what we can to protect ourselves. You may not be a problem customer, but that does not mean the next person we deal with won’t be. 😉

How about packaging? Most customers also don’t like just carrying your product away. Boxes, bags, specialty pouches, ect. You have to decide what you offer. And remember, those cost money too! Just don’t do what I saw one crafter doing, and charge extra if someone wants a box. That’s a very poor business practice. Build it into the cost of all your product by just a little bit, and let the profits from your product help cover the packaging. So customers, realize that the craft might seem a bit expensive, but know that a little bit of that is going to that really nice box to keep it in too. We just don’t want to be crass and ask you for another $3 because you’d like a box.

Lastly, storing and transporting the product is important too. Totes, bags, and boxes are all going to be essential.

So when you’re out at a craft fair and you see the perky faces of all the vendors, smile and say hello! We’ve worked very hard beyond getting the product ready to be there, and compliments make us happy (though not as happy as seeing product go home to loving families)! Please tell us if you like our displays, or what product you like the most (even if you can’t buy anything today). This is all important to helping us grow. Take a business card, look us up online! Leave us feedback. It matters.

And please remember that the cost of our product usually reflects all these things that happen behind-the-scenes that you may not have been aware of before. <3