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Craft Shows: How Much Should You Expect to Sell?

So. How much SHOULD you expect to sell at a show?

Person holding American currency fanned out in front of their face

To start, here is a quick and dirty general formula to help you start figuring out if a show is worth your time:

Booth Fee x 3 = the MINIMUM amount to sell at the show to make it even remotely worthwhile.

What does that look like?

On the low end of the spectrum: If you paid $20 for a booth, then according to the formula, you should pull in a minimum of $60 in sales to make it worth your time. (Of course, ideally you'll sell way more than that if it's the right audience for your work!)

On the higher end: If you paid $300 for a booth, then according to the general formula, you should pull in a minimum of $900 to make it worth your time. (Does the target audience for this show support the amount you need to make?)

Now, before you get all in a twist about that show you were considering, please remember -- this is a VERY GENERAL starting point. This is NOT a one-size-fits-all formula. To tell you the truth, there really is no such thing.

To give yourself the best chance at having a successful show, three things should be in place:

  1. The amount you pay for the booth fee is on par with the quantity and quality of customers who will shop at the show. > In other words, if you pay a lot for your booth space, you should expect a proportionate amount of traffic to come through the show

  2. Your product is a good fit for those customers. > In other words, the stuff you make is generally the stuff those customers are looking to purchase

  3. You know how to effectively sell your product to customers. > In other words, you know how to take full advantage of each opportunity to sell your stuff every time someone walks by to check out your work

Let's break those points down a bit...

Point 1:

The amount you pay for the booth fee is on par with the quantity and quality of customers who will shop at the show.

You know the saying, "You get what you pay for"? Well, that truism works for craft show booth fees too.

Cheap booth fees generally mean fewer customers.

Why? As I'm sure you can guess, it costs a LOT of time and money to produce and properly advertise a craft show. If the show producers are not allowing for a healthy advertising budget when calculating their booth fees then it is unlikely that there will be a lot of buyers attending the show. No advertising = no customers. That's just how it works.

Point 2:

Your product is a good fit for those customers.

Here's where you need to be honest with yourself about your real customers. If your product offering is just not right for the buyers who attend the show then no amount of planning will help you to sell more stuff.

The best way to assess this is to shop the show first before applying to be a part of it. If you're looking at an out-of-town show, you'll want to search around for honest reviews of that show and its producers. You might even try contacting some of the vendors in your category or an adjacent category to see if they'll give you some feedback on their experience at that show.

Last but not least - Point 3:

You know how to effectively sell your product to customers.

This last one is by far the most important and quite often the least considered point in making a show a good one.

If you aren't ready to actively sell your work, then you are throwing money into the wind and hoping some of it is going to blow back into your pocket. #handmaderealitycheck

You may get lucky some of the time, but without the proper sales skills, you will never achieve your full potential profit at any show regardless of how reasonable the booth fee is or how extensive the advertising.

Here are some quick tips to improve sales at a show:

Stand up for the whole show. Bring a soft cushion kitchen mat to stand behind your table on if needed. If you must sit, do not "gargoyle" in front of your space. Place a high chair in a place where you can see people approaching and can smoothly rise without causing alarm. Rushing toward a customer is never a good sales tactic.

Every person who pays your work any attention deserves some gratitude. Greet every single person who stops at your space warmly. Start a conversation. Smile. Ask how they like the show. If they say, "I'm just looking." take it as a compliment! They didn't have to stop at your table, after all. The main point here is to ENGAGE. If a potential customer feels ignored, they will move on without a second thought.

When they show any inkling of interest in your work, share with them the inspiration behind the item. Don't tell them HOW you made it - tell them WHY you made it! Share with them how you wanted the owner to feel when they brought it into their lives.

If it's turning out to be a slow show, do not commiserate with your fellow artists!

Believe it or not, potential customers can hear you and it is a HUGE turnoff. Think of all the good things you are learning while you are there. Complaining never helped anyone improve their business.

If you have items that are somewhat difficult to reach, are in a stack in an art bin, or are behind glass, anytime there is someone in your space, no matter if they are interested in it or not - take an item out and show it to them and anyone else who is in front of your table. Talk about your inspiration for the item. Push your hands toward the customer and try to get them to hold it. This conveys trust and breaks the invisible "us and them" barrier between the two of you. This kind of small action makes it more likely that they will ask questions and interact with you.

Whatever you do, remember you cannot change your outcomes if you don't change your habits! Make it a priority to learn how to sell your work effectively and watch your sales improve at every show you do!


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