Get Your Craft Fair On! Finding The Right Event

This year is just flying by! I cannot believe summer is almost over. So it is definitely time to kick it in high gear. It's August and you know what that means... September is just around the corner! That means cooler weather, Harvest Festivals, Cool Craft Fairs and Holiday Markets are just around the corner too. NOW is the time to prep. Actually - June is when I personally start prep but August works too :-)

Are you ready to get your Craft Fair & Festival on? Throughout August, we will have a series of posts to help you get Craft Fair Ready. I am by no means an "expert" but can share from my own experiences to help you elevate your Craft Fair game. We will feature posts on:

How To Pick The Right Craft Fair For You (this post)

Which Payment Service Is Best For You?

Setting Up Your Display For Success

Prep & Pack For A Successful Event

Check List Central Because We Love Lists!

I love attending Fairs & Festivals as much as having a booth. As an online store owner, it is a rare and special opportunity to get out and meet customers face to face. It is a chance to talk to other artists and vendors and grow in community. It is an opportunity to introduce new people to my work in a way that you can't online: by showing them the value of cozy handmade up close. But my love of all things Festivals doesn't transcend to just any festival! It is essential to be part of the right one.

So let's start at the beginning with the biggest, and seemingly most daunting, question: how to find and pick the "right" event. If you do not already have some Fairs & Festivals you know you want to apply to, here are some great links to find out about Fairs in your area:

Arts & Crafts Show Yellow Pages
Festival Net

144 Stitches 2015 Booth at OOAK Show

Research. Research. Then research some more. It can be such a sucker punch to have a "bad show" when it was all avoidable by doing just a bit of research as to what show you should apply to. Just because a Fair or Festival has tons of traffic and your target market, there are other factors to consider, such as weather and time of year. I sell cozy handmade accessories, mostly chunky heavy knitwear. So while I love a couple of local Chicago Summer Festivals, I know I have to love them as an attendee. Do people want to think about heavy knitwear in 90 degree temps outdoors? Nope.

Besides seeing if your work will be a good fit for the event, also consider is the Fair a good fit for your brand! Some things to consider and ask:
Do they only sell handmade or will you be up against a variety of small home based businesses (ie Scentsy, Chloe & Isabelle, etc.)? 
It is always good to know who will also be there. You can check previous year's events and vendors to get a feel if you will be a good fit. If your work will fit in well, but also if who already is at the market attracts the same type of customer as you.

What is the typical traffic at the show? What is the last 3 year attendance?
Again -do your research. Event track records speak for themselves. While "First Annual" has lots of hype and fun, it is a much bigger risk. I like to see an event that has grown in attendance. It tells me that they keep adding value and not only do people go back but they also attract new people. Also check the vendors - do they go back? This will tell you if they found it a success or not. I mean, would you go back to a Fair you lost money at and did not sell well at?

Does the event have a strong web presence? Website? Facebook page?
This will be a huge factor when it comes to advertising. It will tell you if they do a lot of the legwork or expect the vendors to do it all. There should be a good balance, but more importantly when you drive your customers to the event site you want them to get excited to go support you there and bring friends.

Be mindful of deadlines. Be ready to get your application filled out the minute you know you want to apply. Here are a few quick tips for the application process:
1. Keep your bio short but lively. Let your personality come through but maintain professionalism. It is a tough balance so write your bio and have it saved and handy to go when you need it. Describe you, your work and what inspires you. And check your spelling! For real tho!

2. Send only high quality clean product photos. This is not your Instagram feed. You want to show your products, and especially if it is a juried show, show the quality of your work. Over stylized photos can take away from your product.

3. Read the full application directions thoroughly. Follow all of the steps, provide all of the requested materials on time, and completed. 

Most shows, fairs & festivals have fees. Fees range from application fees, to booth / stand fees, to tables and chair rental fees. It is essential to look at not just the application and booth fee, but all of your related costs when deciding on a show.  Here is a small checklist of things to consider about fees to get you started when considering if an event is right for you.

Factor in all of your related costs then determine what is your true break even number. Know it. Then ask yourself; Is the fee worth it? Can you make it back? Can you lose it if you don't make it back? Those are hard questions and I cannot stress enough how important they are.

Let me also take a moment to say this: No matter how much you research and prep and plan, sometimes events go wrong or people don't buy. So I suggest to have the mindset of a weekend in Vegas. Have fun. Consider the fees and costs that go into setting up to sell your wares a donation (that is what I call a Vegas gambling allowance). It is an investment into your business. While you hope to make it back, and then some, at the event, I believe the key is to not stress about it so having budgeted and the mindset that it is an investment will set you free from that stress. Because if you are not stressed, you will have fun. And if you have fun, you will likely have sales. And Sales is the ball game!

So with that I say: Happy Craft Fair season everyone.