Saturday's Craft Fair: Observations & Results

Me with my goodies at the Marple Christian Church Craft Fair on October 19, 2013.

This post is targeted to my fellow independent artisans who also attend craft fairs and are either looking for advice or just want to see what their options are (courtesy of someone else in the industry).  But if you're not a crafter and still want to check out my yummy wares, then feel free to read on or check out the photos on my Facebook page, linked below :) 

This past Saturday, my fabulous crafty friend Nicole and I attended a craft show that we've been going to for years.  If nothing else, it's become a nostalgic part of the year for us - a sign that fall has arrived and an excuse to chow down on yummy church chili or soup.  And boy, that church can cook!

With it brings not only a ton of inspiration (thanks to all the other talented artisans in attendance), but the chance to truly evaluate your product and how you are as a business person.  Plus, as a full-time marketer, I get to experiment with some fun ideas I've either thought about or read online without destroying someone else's company.

So this year, I threw almost everything I've learned out the window.  And here's why: 

You may remember last year's post about another craft show I attended, which pretty much stated that I need to cater to tweens and children because - unlike my etsy shop - adults at craft fairs don't like my obnoxiously bright and sparkly designs.  Well, you'd never know it from this show.  Adults and tweens alike complimented me and purchased my hats or accessories with no qualms.  I even had someone state that my prices were reasonable.  What?  This after years of attending events and having people occasionally scoff at $20 for a handmade item.

What was the difference?  I honestly couldn't tell you.  I'm not sure if it's the fact my items look cuter and are better made every year (with practice comes perfection, right?) or if me non-chalantly mentioning my hats are $20 made people view me differently - maybe even with more respect.

In my first few years as a professional crafter, I looked young.  Really young.  And it was probably hard for others to take me seriously.  As a result, I lowered my prices to ridiculously small amounts, barely making back what I spent to make the item - and not including the hours I had invested, either.  After taking a few economics classes, a lightbulb went off and I realized that my knee-jerk reaction was pretty stupid.  I wasn't making any money and people took me less seriously than before.  I was selling a lot of product, but not making a lot of money.

Later, I started to price my products what they were worth - sort of.  I sold less, but more than broke even.  In my eyes, that was a success, mostly because whatever I didn't sell at the fair would be sold in my etsy shop to someone who had searched for it (ie: really actually totally wanted an item that looked like that).

Each year, I play around with how I promote and price my products.  This year was no different.  And although foot traffic wasn't as high as in previous years, Nicole and I were pleased at the ratio of visitors to our table who engaged with us. 

Nevertheless, here's my biggest observation: success is a crap shoot.  It'll be different every time, no matter how much you think you know what to expect or how long it takes you to prepare.  This year, I made a couple extra hats and put about 20 minutes of effort into a Keynote presentation that played on my iPad; I had the same results as I did five years ago when I sat for hours adding tags to all my items, fussy-cutting business cards, and laboring over the display.

That's not to say you shouldn't prepare or that I haven't learned some valuable sales lessons at the craft fairs of yesteryear.  All I'm saying is that you'll probably stress yourself out a lot less if you show up with no expectations other than having a good time. 

I realize that for some people, these fairs are their only source of income, so it's most likely a different mentality for you.  But in case you couldn't tell, the only goal I set was to have a good time with one of my best friends while we rolled around in yarn and met amazing new people.  Mission accomplished.

PS: If you want to check out Nicole's stuff, then visit her Facebook page.  She makes super cute items for babies, toddlers, and their moms.