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craft fair advice

As Summer rolls on, I am reading a lot of posts asking for advice on doing a first craft fair. Firstly, it is highly unlikely you will make much money at small local fairs to begin with, but they are a great source for brain storming with other local artists, meeting your potential customers and learning where the best fairs are to suit your makes. Talk to everyone, main aim is to get people at your table! It makes sense that the more footfall there is at a fair, the pricier the standing fee will be but by the same note, more footfall means more potential sales. I think before doing a big, expensive fair, either visit or stand at smaller fairs to see how your makes compare to what is already available. If you find you are in a league of your own, you'll have the confidence that you have monopolised a product. If you find what you are making is already in abundance, try exploratory experiments so you create something nobody else has thought of. Out of all of the thousands of stones/pebbles set in frames I have seen, there is only one I liked. The frame was different from all the others because the artist had included some of their own ideas and concepts, creating something unique and memorable. With everyone buying their raw materials from the same high street shops, inevitably most makes will end up looking the same. A few scrabble tiles and some glitter thrown into a shop-bought box frame, has no aesthetic quality or unique creativity, when absolutely anyone could make it identically after a trip to The Range!

I could right a book on how to do fairs, so here are just bite-size snippets to help a newbie craft fairer!

1. Be prepared. Have all your stock made 1-2 weeks before your fair and everything packed ready for transporting 3-4 days before your fair. There will still be loads to do in readiness and I always hated making right up until the last minute.

2. Have a varied range of priced items, eg 50% your lowest prices, 40% your medium prices and 10% your expensive stuff, having things cheap that appeal to kiddies, wedding/new baby gifts and a big, varied selection of your best seller would be a balanced range with great potential.

3. A display can either make your stuff stand out, or make it disappear. Create a display that reflects what you are selling. Eg hand dyed wool would look great on natural calico, whereas florescent plastic jewellery would be happier on a modern, shiny, dark surface. If using signage for prices etc, ensure your display isn't dominated by price tags that distract the eye from your makes. Pay attention to decorative details and creative packaging. Offering a little calico bag, pretty tissue wrap and logo stickers will compliment any sale and the customer will feel like they have something really special, with such detailed attention given to presentation.

4. Have business cards/flyers with your contact details for Facebook, Etsy and Twitter and offer commissions (insist on 50% down-payment on personalised items), so you'll need a duplicate copy order book. If words are to be added to a piece, get the customer to verify the spelling, either by signing the order book their approval, or ask them to return an email confirming the wording is right.

5. Consider the time of year as there are so many cash-cows now, nearly every month there is something to celebrate. If your fair is in four months time, research as to whether its approaching Easter, or Halloween. Most festivities items are bought 2-5 weeks before the date. Also research where the fair is to be held, when it's not local. You may have a product that might suit an alternative celebration specific to that area.

6. Promote yourself on social media. Join local village/neighbourhood Facebook pages and post when you are going to be out and about. Drop links for your makes everywhere you possibly can. Join as many pages as you can that suit your products, then post, comment and offer advise, always adding a picture as much as you can. Be seen everywhere!

7. Many larger fairs will require Public Liability Insurance. This is easy enough to get, though I would advise to get a limit of over £2 million, as some venues require cover over that amount. Register with HMRC and keep a record of everything you buy to make your stuff and keep a record of all sales.

8. Some fairs will ask for a raffle donation. This is a good opportunity to pass on end-of-lines, one-offs you haven't developed or things you are having trouble selling. Always ensure your contact details are on the prize and that the presentation represents the item.

9. Never sell/give away anything with a defect, even to a family member. Every item is a representation of the quality and creativity you offer, so you don't want to advertise shoddy workmanship or poor aesthetics.

10. Business cards can be used as receipts, or for the sake of £1, whilst first starting out, buy a little carbonated receipt book and staple a business card to each customer copy.

All of my first blogs cover all of these points in detail. Hope it helps!

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