We just welcomed the year 2016 and the next couple of months will be the time to start preparing to showcase your handmade products to craft shows.

The Ultimate “How To” Craft Show GuideWith each show we exhibit in, we continue to learn.

So, this article will tell you about:
1. How to find arts & craft shows to exhibit in
2. How to organize your craft show participation
3. How to determine if the show is for you
4. Juried vs. Non Juried shows
5. Craft Show Application
6. Craft show materials needed
7. Payment Methods
8. Craft show preparation
9. How much stock to bring
10. Craft show booth and display tips
11. Etsy shop status
12. Craft show etiquette

If this entire post does not interest you, skip to the part(s) that does.

1. How Find Arts & Craft Shows To Exhibit In

  1. Check in your local newspapers or watch for flyers posted in craft store windows.
  2. Google “arts & crafts shows (City/State)” (or whatever area you are interested in) – there are more shows than you can shake a stick at!
  3. Create 12 folders – one for each month of the year. Print the press release and file it with any other show information in monthly order for next year. It’s a good idea to attend the show as a looker to see if you would be interested for next year.
  4. Go to the show as a buyer/looker to get a feel if the show is for you. If you like what you see at a show, ask one of the exhibitors to point you in the direction of the promoter and ask for their contact information. Let the promoter know what you sell and ask if they think there may be a demand for your art/craft.
  5. Subscribe to magazines such as Sunshine Artist which lists the top shows nations wide (usually they are the higher end and more expensive shows).

Check out this list to find more craft shows.

2. How To Organize Your Craft Show Participation

Create a form (using the questions below) to keep your notes and get a file started on each show you are interested in.

Also, create an archive computer file for each show promoter you email and drop all their email correspondences in their file for future reference.

As stated above, create a hard copy file for every month and as you find a show put the information in that month’s folder. In January and February start planning your shows for the year. Many shows have discounts for early bird registrations – you may want to take advantage of that.

3. How To Determine If The Show Is For You

The questions you might want to ask the promoter via email include (but are limited to) the following:

  1. What are the hours of the show?
  2. What time is the earliest / latest I can set up?
  3. How many people attended the craft show the previous year?
  4. How many artists/crafters did you have the previous year?
  5. How do you advertise? Radio, TV, billboard, direct mail?
  6. Could you please send a craft show floor plan map?
  7. What are the other costs that may be involved? (jury fee, insurance, etc.)
  8. How are assignments made for spaces that are more desirable?
  9. What size is the allotted space?
  10. What will this year’s dates be?
  11. Is the arts & crafts show juried?
  12. Is there additional space behind the tent for sitting and/or storage?
  13. What is cost for the space?
  14. How many years has the show been held?
  15. How many artists/crafters applied the previous year and how many were accepted?
  16. What is the recommended price range for work in this show?
  17. What is the web site I can download the application?
  18. Do you have buy / sell vendors (other than food)?
  19. Is there a parking fee charged for customers?
  20. Is there an admission charged for customers?
  21. When will I hear whether I am accepted?
  22. What is the process and timeline for set-up and tear down?
  23. What is the rain date?
  24. Do the artists have to break down or is there overnight security?
  25. If you have special needs e.g. handicap, cargo trailer parking, need to be near a bathroom, etc. ask if these are possible
  26. If you need electricity, ask if it is available.

Typically, the lower priced shows (churches, schools, fire departments, farmers markets, nonprofit fund raisers, flea markets, farmers markets, etc.) have customers that are not looking to spend a lot of money so be prepared with items that are much less than $30-40.

Typically, the higher-end shows ($180+) have customers who are ready to spend a bit more. At either type shows have lower priced items available. If you don’t sell your higher priced items, you may sell many small items to cover your expenses for the day.

You may want to stick with shows costing $100 or less during your first few years. Once you get the hang of it, you can advance to the more expensive high-end shows.

4. Juried vs. Non Juried Shows

Juried shows are selective about the quality of the arts and crafts they permit in a show.

For a juried show, the artist/crafter will be asked to send in an application along with photos of samples of what will be for sale and in some cases, what the exhibitor’s booth looks like.

Keep in mind that good art / crafts badly photographed will always get rejected – a lost opportunity for the artist / crafter. It is best to send pictures and descriptions of all the different types of things you sell.

If you plan to apply for juried shows, keep a stock of photos ready and available – at least a dozen of your artwork/craft and a few of your booth set up. Some promoters have very specific requirements – actual pictures, digital images, photos printed on copy paper, slides, or photos on a CD.

The promoter’s application information will specify what they are looking for. The promoter/jury will also determine who is accepted to the arts & crafts show based on the quality of the artwork or craft and the look of the booth.

When you receive your acceptance letter put that together with the rest of your paperwork and bring it with you to the show – you may need to prove you were accepted and have paid for your booth space.

A non-juried arts & crafts show does not require an application or photos. That does not mean non-juried shows are not worth exhibiting in; in fact, sometimes non-juried shows are less expensive and a great way to start out.

5. Craft Show Application

Some shows are so popular that you will be placed on a waiting list. Other shows are so hassle-free that you can call the promoter a week ahead and get it – this is usually the case with non-juried shows. Keep in mind that in the later situation, the money making potential may not be there.

To determine when you should apply call the show promoter and ask – or look on their web site. Most juried shows have application deadlines a few months in advance so that they can jury the applicants.

Many show promoters offer discounts for those who apply early.

Check this article on how to get your craft show applications get noticed.

6. Craft Show Materials Needed

There are many places you can purchase what you need. Below are a few suggestions:

  1. Folding Tables – BJs, Costco
  2. Tent (starter) EZ UP – BJs, Costco (less than $200) Waterproof your tent with a waterproofing treatment
  3. Tent (high-end) Trimline – Flourish Canopies (approximately $1,000)
  4. Light-Dome – LightDomeCanopies.com (approximately $900)
  5. Business Cards
  6. Grids – Graphic Display System
  7. Panels – Pro Panels
  8. Containers/Buckets – dollar store
  9. Table Covers – Choose the non-fitted covers because they are easier to fold (therefore wrinkle less) and can be used a different size tables in a pinch.
  10. Shopping Bags – Discount Shopping Bags, Costco, Sam’s Club. Print your name and web address on a 2×4 adhesive label.
  11. Electric – you might want to try a 12-volt marine battery powered electrical system.
  12. Lights – you might want to try 12-volt LED spotlights
  13. Professional sign with your business name to hang on your tent.
  14. Cargo trailer to keep all your things in – this saves on packing, storing and having to remember what to bring to each show.

To make things easier for you, you can also download our free and printable craft show checklist here.

7. Payment Methods

If you find you enjoy shows and plan on continuing, you may want to think about applying for a smart phone/iPad credit card reader. There are probably other companies but the two I’m aware of are Square, Etsy Credit Card Reader and PayPal.

With Square, you can use it as frequently or infrequently as you want to with no monthly charges – just pay a percentage of every sale.

Square rates are as follows:

2.75% for swiped transactions, paid Square Invoices, and shipping orders

3.5% + 15 cents for manually entered transactions

Etsy recently started their own credit card reader which has some nice features that neither Square or PayPal offer. Once an item is purchased using the Etsy credit card reader, the item is removed from your Etsy shop.

If you do accept checks, take the usual safeguards – write the buyer’s phone number / driver’s license number / address on the check.

Tip: Beware of scams even if the buyer is paying in cash. When a buyer hands you a bill to pay for an item, do not put the bill in your cash box or apron until after you have given the buyer their change.

Instead, leave the bill on the table as you make change – if you are outside be sure to anchor it with a paperweight. This way, the buyer cannot say they handed you a $20 bill when they actually handed you a $10 bill.

8. Craft Show Preparation

  1. Figure out a price tagging / inventory system that may work for you. On the tags you can mark the price and your item number. When something sells, remove the tag and put it in a designated area. When you get home, indicate when and where the item was sold on your master inventory list. You may want additional info on your master inventory list. To make it easier for you, you can use Craft Maker Pro, our very easy to use inventory software.
  2. Ask a tax professional about collecting sales tax and determine how you will do this.
  3. Before your first show, you should definitely practice setting up in your yard or a park at least once (preferably more) to work out all the kinks. Don’t forget to take pictures of your setup!
  4. The night before the show pack everything and be ready to roll out of bed and into your car – well, maybe you can stop to pack your cooler.
  5. Get your tax ID number – many shows require that number on your registration form.
  6. Research your need for a business license – this may take a day or more to obtain – plan ahead.
  7. Think about your need for liability insurance – some shows require this.
  8. Plan your set up on paper but be flexible enough to make last minute changes once you are actually setting up.
  9. Some people keep a moneybox or even a cash register, while others keep the money in a fanny pack, their pockets, or an apron – personal choice. We prefer to keep our money on us for security reasons.
  10. If it is around a holiday wear the corresponding clothing – E.g. t-shirt, hat, earrings.

9. How Much Stock To Bring

There is not one answer that will fit everyone. Most sellers bring all of their items to the show. If you have two or more of an item, do not display more than one at a time; rather, keep the extra in a stock box that can be easily accessed in the event the item on display sells.

The thought is if the piece is not out on display, how can you sell it? Depending on what you sell, bringing everything may or may not work for you.

10. Craft Show Booth And Display Tips

  1. Look for the latest trends in craft shows this year.
  2. Use Google image search for art & craft show displays.
  3. Bag purchases, put a drink, have paper and pencil, etc.
  4. Color coordinate your table covers – various bright colors of green with brown accents work well for us – colors of a forest/woods. Our sign is also a bright green as are any containers we have on the table.
  5. Use levels in your displays to add height; it brings your items to eye-level and helps to draw attention.
  6. Think about your need for lighting and if special lighting will enhance the look of your artwork.
  7. Be sure to include an area for your things in your space planning – a landing spot where you can
  8. Depending on how much you have to sell, you may want to leave yourself two hours to set up.
  9. You can store your containers under your table as long as you have table covers that go to the ground.
  10. After you finish setting up walk away and take a step back to look at your table. Does it look cluttered? How does it look compared to all the other artists/crafters? Take pictures.

11.Etsy Shop Status

Do not put your Etsy shop “on vacation” while exhibiting at a show; rather, use your smartphone to deactivate anything you sell as soon as it is sold.

Some artist charge the same for their art work on Etsy and the shows, some charge more on Etsy to cover fees. For most things, charge the same price; however, buyers will pay more due to shipping.

12. Craft Show Etiquette

Learn how to greet your customers accordingly.

Don’t plan on reading or checking your email during the show. Look engaged in what you are doing, say hello to people ad smile.

Sitting or standing w/crossed arms, on the phone or reading looks bad and as though you’re not interested in being there. Working on your craft during the show is OK and may even bring lookers and encourage discussion and possibly create sales.

  1. Check your display often – people may leave garbage and turn your things upside down. You need to straighten up to make your display look presentable.
  2. It’s OK to talk to your neighbors during a show, just know enough to walk away the second a customer comes into his/her booth or your booth.
  3. If a costume or special clothing is required – wear them.
  4. If craft show table covers that go to the ground are required, do not think you can get away without them.
  5. Whatever the rules of the craft show may be – follow them. The rules should be clearly laid out in the paperwork.
  6. The promoters must often follow rules, fire safety codes, health department codes public safety codes, etc. If you do not comply, the promoter may shut you down or risk shutting down the entire arts & crafts show.
  7. Be on time and have your booth ready to go at least 15 minutes before the start of the show. This includes having your hand truck put away and your vehicle parked in the designated area.
  8. Sell only what you agreed to sell and what was juried in.
  9. Do not start to tear down or try to leave the show early.

When potential buyers are browsing, they do not want to feel pressured. Offer the looker a friendly, but neutral, greeting such as “Good morning!” By doing so, you have recognized the potential buyer’s presence without pressuring them.

Most folks do not want the artist / crafter to start giving them unwanted information. Make yourself available to answer questions about your artwork / craft, but answer in such a way that does not imply that you now expect them to buy something.

Try a little humor to make the potential buyer feel comfortable; however, do not talk too much – customers want to be left alone to make up their minds.

Being a good salesperson is delicate balance – being friendly with your customers improves your chances of selling something, but trying to make them your friend will hurt your sales. It is up to you to make their experience so pleasant and unpressured that they will feel free to come back later and buy.

If a buyer seems like they may want to purchase an item but may be reluctant and put the item back down, move it to another area of your display after they leave your booth.

If they come back and look for the piece they will be initially disappointed; however, when they see the item in another spot they will be very much relieved it was not sold and more likely to purchase it the second time around.

That’s it. With each show you exhibit in and as you network with other artists you will find your own style and figure out what you need. Shows are lots of fun to do but they aren’t easy and take lots of planning and physical work – especially if you have a large stock and / or heavy items. If you are not a morning person BEWARE…you will need to be!

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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