Friday, May 27, 2011

Lessons Learned From My First Craft Show

This spring, I had the honor to display my work in the Artist's Alley of a big fantasy and video game convention at a university in my city. I made about 30 Nintendo cartridge purses for my table in both large and small sizes. I also handsewed about 10 vinyl recycled Ramen noodle wallets.

I had LOTS of people looking and complimenting, but had NO sales for the entire show. Pretty frustrating, eh? Especially when you consider that I spent almost every spare second I had for a month preparing (and about $300 in materials too). Craft show veterans say that every show is a mixed bag--some you get tons of sales, others you don't get any--but I was frustrated over this for quite some time. Luckily I had many online customers to boost my confidence afterward :)

Anyhow, I've learned from this show. Here's what I've learned (and you can too!):

1. Keep smiling no matter what at your table. Nothing's selling and you're frustrated and bored. The last thing you want to do is smile--not so fast Jethro! You never know who the next sale might come from. Plus you must also be a good sport for the image of your business as a whole. You want people to take your card or flyer and remember to visit you after the show. If you're a Grumpy Gus, customers can perceive you as having an attitude and definately WON'T come back then. I put my big girl panties on and smiled and spoke with good humor the whole time. I waited till me and my gear were safely in the car--and then I bawled my eyes out.

2. During the show, pay attention to what seemed to grab the customers' interest.
If nothing at all, this is what I love craft shows for--instant critiquing and market research--even a no sale show like mine came out with some good data to use for next time. For example, I learned that a certain line of vinyl bags that I make are not really in demand, so I will put them much lower on the priority list for making and/or possibly stop making them. This helps me to focus my creating on things that actually have a chance to sell :)

3. Sit down with a notebook and record your observations of the show you attended.
This is probably the best thing you can do after any show. Sit down and write out what happened at the show. It will help you mentally organize and can help you think of ways to improve for the next show or even your business in general. Make a chart showing what sold or had a lot of interest in, and also what didn't sell and what people didn't really seem interested in. This can help you find items that you can focus less on so that you can work more on items that have more of a chance of bringing you success in the future. Not too many people took your promo flyers or postcards? Note that too and you can save yourself some money on those things if you do a show later on by not buying them again. If you haven't run out of these things, do put them on your next table--never waste!

4. Have at least one low price point item.
Don't sell yourself short at your table--but don't price yourself out of people's leagues either. People from many different financial situations are probably coming to your show, so cater to everyone's budget by having at least one lower priced item--around $5. Figure out an item you can sell for that price that requires minimal labor and materials. This is one of the things I did wrong at my table. My lowest priced item was $20. At this particular show, many of the vendors around me were selling things around $5-$10, so I was beat out on that aspect. People would come on over to my table, marvel at my bags, and put them down. They thought my items were too expensive. I'm still working on that super low price item--I think it may a small wallet of some kind that I can sew up with my machine--minimal labor, minimal time to make the item, but still at a good price for the customer...EVERYBODY wins :)By all means, again, do NOT sell yourself short! Don't mark down your regular stuff to bargain basement prices--you'll just lose the labor and material investment you put in.

These are a few things that I'm going to think about before and after every show, shoud I decide to do more. At this point I may not, because I missed my son too much :) I did have a fun time schmoozing with my fellow crafters though. As disappointing as the show was sales-wise for me, at least this guy was around: