Monday, May 30, 2011

Craft Fairs 101 - Part 1

(above: thousands of visitors at Renegade Craft Fair)

As the summer craft fair season gets into full swing, the time seems right to talk about selling your goods in person, and bringing your Etsy magic into the real world. This is part one in a series of three posts about how and why to participate in craft fairs, art and gift shows.

First off, some great reasons to participate in a craft fair:

1. Extra income! Many artisans like to do craft fairs throughout the year to supplement their income, or just as a regular paycheck. Some people even tour the country during the year, participating in large craft fairs many months out of the year.

2. Local exposure! Craft fairs can be a great way to attract local buyers. Even if shoppers don't purchase from you on the day of the fair, many people will grab your business card, and perhaps make a purchase from you at a later date. The added online traffic after the fair can be just as profitable as the sales you make the day of the fair.

3. Additional promotional opportunities! Many bloggers and magazine editors visit craft fairs to discover up-and-coming designers. A feature on a well-read blog or popular magazine can be an invaluable boost to your business.

4. New wholesale accounts! Buyers for many local businesses often come to craft fairs to scout for new merchandise for their stores. This can mean new sources of income, as well as more exposure for your business.

5. Networking with others in your field! Craft fairs are a great place to meet other artists and craftspeople. At a busy fair you can make connections with tons of new people, both customers and potential collaborators and mentors. Perhaps you'll meet a gallery owner who'd like to show your work, or another artisan who you can collaborate with on a new project.

(just a few of the many craft fairs you could participate in!)

While participating in craft fairs can be a bit daunting at first, a little planning can make things much easier. First, do some research about what fairs might attract your target market. It's important to find a fair that will attract both a good number of attendees, and advertise to your target market. You may want to start with craft fairs in your town, but it may pay off to look for larger fairs that you can travel to easily that are a little further away.

Think about how much you'd have to sell to break even, after considering booth fees and setup costs (renting tables, buying display elements, paying for travel, etc.) It can be a bit of an investment to begin doing craft shows, but these added costs can pay off big time if you find a show that is suited to your wares. Be practical about what you can afford for your first fair, and once you've considered all the costs involved, apply to a show! Many craft fairs are juried months in advance, so keep that in mind as you plan for upcoming craft fair seasons.

Next up in this Craft Fairs 101 series: You've been accepted, now to plan your craft fair booth! Lots of tips about how to display your awesome goods, coming soon.


  1. This is great, Erin! I'm really excited to see the next article. Just got accepted into what will be my first craft fair, so this will be especially interesting.

    Thank you!

  2. Excellent... I have done one Fair and want to do more so this series is just what I need... thank you so much for sharing!!
    Blessings and magic,
    Fairyfolk and DovieMoon

  3. Great post Erin! Can't wait to read the next one - I need to do a craft booth makeover :)

  4. Craft fairs are definitely a learning process, and each one I have done, and I've only done a few, I've learned something new each time. Thank you for these posts. I'm sure they will be very helpful.

  5. Erin, I'm just preparing for my first craft show, and remarkably, this popped up on my screen! That's either serendipity or really smart software! I read through all 3 of the posts on craft fairs. I know you posted this a while back, but it's perfect timing for me!