I’m gearing up for my first craft show, which will be located in the gym of a church this Oct. 7th. The event is a first for the church, but is is also a first for me since I will be introducing my artistic products to market for the first time. In anticipation of my first sale, I invested in art supplies, tablecloths, a giant, rolling, metal storage shelf to display my goods, business-related expenses, frames and packaging supplies. The largest expense for this show, though, has got to be the time I devoted to preparing my products, building my booth, planning for finance handling and obtaining a legal business application among other things.
Even with the enormous help and support I received from friends and family, I honestly don’t know what happened to the last two months of my life. School has become an afterthought, as has tidiness and leisure time, not to mention mealtime! Keeping a schedule over the last few weeks has been brutal work, as new expenses and needs for the show keep me on my toes constantly.
More than once during the course of my preparations, I’ve thrown back my head and asked the starry night sky, “what’s the point of it all?” After all, artists don’t usually make their living on craft show appearances, so what’s the real benefit? Considering the high personal costs, Is there any value here for aspiring artists?
I believe the advantages and disadvantages of show appearances can be summed up with little effort. The primary disadvantages in my book are as follows:
Shows and conventions take lots of time to prepare for, especially if it’s your first show. Expect to begin preparations months in advance.
There is a cost to entering most shows. Also, if it is your first show, the expense will be high to make a lasting impression on your customers. Think multiple hundreds.
Social skills are needed to succeed at a show or convention. You can’t just hide behind a cash box and let your craft do all the talking. Since you are competing with other featured crafters, you will need to sell your brand one-on-one with shoppers to turn a profit.
Despite the negatives, if you are just starting out as an artist or craftsperson, you still may want to consider marketing your works at a craft show. There are a few reasons why:
Exposure is high in craft shows. Everyone who passes by your booth is a potential customer. In their booths, the artist is able to “sell” themselves and their brand through communication and association with customers. Booth owners can hand out freebies like business cards or pamphlets and they can also speak directly to customers about their artistic journey and use special offers, like commissions, to reel them in.
Testing Your Products on a Real Audience.
Preparing oneself for a craft show can help aspiring artists understand the cost and return of running their own artistic business. Shows are a good way to test the waters, allowing artists to see which products and price points work for them. How does your brand hold up when shoppers show up to your booth, cash in their pocket, wanting to come home with something artsy and awesome? A craft show will help you understand and value your own creations by seeing how others respond to them.
Shocker! Talking with customers and hamming up your business can actually be a positive thing if you choose to turn it in your favor. Many creatives are bashful to some degree, but being open about your artistic manifesto and hopes for the future of your business can be interesting to your shoppers, giving them a reason to buy because they aren’t just supporting your knitted Pokèball beanies, they’re supporting another human being: you!
Your challenge for today: think about whether an art show is right for your brand. Research craft and art shows in your area. This should be as simple as an internet search. Read the show descriptions. Could any of them be a fit for your products and business? Do you consider publicity boosters like this to be worth your time and effort as an crafter?
This is post #1 in a 3-post series, so check back in the next few weeks to learn more about participating in and preparing for craft shows and hear about my own personal experience after Oct. 7th!