Hello! My name is Courtney Hanak, and I run WilliamRaeDesigns, a handcrafted sign biz I started in 2014. I’m 23 (but 40 at heart) and I enjoy being loud, dancing like crazy, burgers, my 2-year-old daughter, my cats, my horses and movies and tv (My favorites to name a few are: Any Fast and the Furious movie, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Office, Parks and Rec, Mean Girls, Scream Queens, Dr. Who, Sherlock (the BBC version, obvi) and the entire Lord of The Rings Trilogy. OH! And Harry Potter (duh!). Dallas Green is my hero, along with Gord Downie, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Kate McKinnon (I’m totally turned on by people who can make me laugh). Ok, that’s lots. You know me now. Like I said above, I own a company called WilliamRaeDesigns. We make wood signs by hand in our shop in Morinville Alberta. I’ve recently hired Lori to help our with sign production so I can write blog posts all day (kidding). I’ve started to focus more on travelling Alberta and doing markets, as well as our booming Etsy store and social media platforms. I’m sitting in front of my computer today, to share some of the tips about markets that I’ve learned in the past few years. I’ve been doing markets since I was 20, so 3 years of experience ain’t too shabby. I’m still learning something new at each market, but I’ve thought up some tips that I know to share with you today. Read on!
1. Pricing (ie. Every Makers Worst Nightmare)
Pricing your product is hands down, the MOST important (and thought about) aspect of doing a market. What if it’s too high and people don’t buy anything? What if it’s too low and people think it’s cheaply made? Should I offer a discount? And so on. Listen, pricing your products is simple to me. Do you value your time? Yes, you do. Then charge appropriately for it. Here is my pricing breakdown.
- Figure out the price of materials you require to make 1 item.
- Keep track of how long it takes you to make 1 item.
- Ask yourself how much you would like to be paid for your time to make said item.
- Multiply the hours it took to make 1 item by how much you would like to be paid per hour. Add on material costs. That’s your price. Round it up if you want, but never down. YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE!!!! PLEASE REALIZE THIS!
Simply put Makers, you will never receive something if you don’t ask. Don’t undersell yourself. It is by far the biggest crime I see at markets. My FIRST MARKET EVER, the doors opened, people charged in, a lady walked into my booth and immediately asked for prices. I told her. She looked me dead in the eye, and said “That’s too much.” Then walked out. But guess what? She obviously didn’t value my time or my work. And that’s her problem, not mine. If someone isn’t going to buy something from you, they aren’t going to buy something. It’s that simple. Pricing your products $10 cheaper because you think it will make them more appealing, is just simply not true. Be confident in your work, and own your prices. Don’t even look at your competitor’s prices because it doesn’t matter. BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR WORK AND YOUR PRICES. VALUE YOUR TIME. Please, dear god, keep this as your mantra. I could write another blog post entirely on this topic (Candice, please add this idea to the books).
2. Creative Booth Design
Your booth will set you apart. I underline you because your booth should literally just be an extension of you and your product. Being you will make you unique, I promise you! Find styles, and objects that you love and incorporate them in your booth somehow. I find booth design to be easy, because there are SOOOOO many areas to get inspiration from. First of all, Pinterest. Just type in ‘Craft Booth Displays’, it’s a gold mine! Couldn’t find anything on Pinterest? Fine. Take a walk to some adorable downtown shops and get inspiration from those. Go to a local craft fair and see what other genius and creative ideas people have had. I’m going to stop here, and make a quick note. BE INSPIRED. DON’T STEAL (more on this later).
Your booth design will vary greatly depending on what you sell. Makers who have smaller items, can easily get away with folding tables with nice table cloths. Makers like me, who have larger items, have to get creative (I’ve attached some shots of my booth displays so you can see what I’m talking about). I’ve gathered a few tips and thoughts that always have when thinking about booth design. They are in no order, but they are all equally important.
- Take advantage of rubbermaids! You can get them on sale at Canadian Tire, and they can be stacked, hidden under tables, and easily packed into a vehicle.
- I love using my Michaels coupons, to get those beautiful flower garlands they have that cost a small fortune (hence the coupon). In my opinion, they really do add a nice pop to a booth, and look 10X better than the crappy dollar store ones.
- So important. Always double check the contract and find out if you will need lighting. Some shows dim the lights. Some don’t. Let me tell you, if they dim the lights you WILL NEED lights!!! It’s freakin’ dark. I get my string lights from hardware stores after the summer when they all go on sale. Amazon also has a good selection of string lights. Lights that can be clamped onto different aspects of your display are good too. I find those and IKEA and Walmart.
- Check your contract (or with the show organizer) to see if you will have electricity. Some shows require you to pay extra and some don’t. It all depends on what show, so READ YOUR CONTRACT CAREFULLY. Also, extension cords. Don’t skimp on extension cords.
- Bring a dolly!!! You can get them at Canadian Tire on sale for $75!! WORTH IT!
- Again, read the contract. Some shows have height restrictions, some don’t. Some only provide you with 800 watts of electricity, some don’t. It all depends on the show, and this will almost ALWAYS affect your booth design.
- Always have your prices properly displayed. It’s so easy to use a chalkboard easel, and a chalkboard marker to write out your prices. It drives me crazy when people just have a piece of paper sloppily taped to their tape stating their prices. No. This may just be personal preference, but try to have your prices displayed so people don’t have to ask. Some people just aren’t confident asking. Which is fine. Just provide them with prices so they don’t have to ask.
- Is your market an outdoor market? You’ll need a tent (Walmart and Costco have great options). You’ll also NEED weights. I have seen many a tent turn into a kite in my day, and I’ll telling you weights are a must for outdoor markets. A minimum of 15lbs per tent leg is great. I use buckets full of sand (you can see the big white buckets in the pictures below). But I have seen other people use milk jugs full of cement, PVC pipe filled with sand, anything really that can hold your tent down in a storm.
- Display your business cards so people can grab them if you’re busy with another customer.
- If you are handy and building you display from scratch keep in mind a few things. Can you move it easily? It’s easy to put castors on the bottom of larger pieces so you can easily roll them in and out. Make sure it can fit through a standard door. This will save many tears in front of other vendors and market organizers. Consider how long your set up time is. Some shows give you an entire day before the market to set up. Some give you 2 hours. Some give you 4. Again, read that contract.
To sum up, be creative and be you when it comes to booth design. Did you find a funky table cloth at a flea market and love it? Bring it. Do you prefer a plain burlap table cloth that adds to your product? Use it. Make your booth an extension of you and your product. READ THE CONTRACT.
3. Cash is King (But Credit and Debit Machines Are Badass Queens)
Obviously you’ll accept cash (buy a cash box and keep a minimum of $40 in fivers in that baby. They come in handy for Starbucks and change). But keep in mind, not all markets will have access to an ATM for customers. This is where these handy-dandy card readers come in. Being able to accept a card has increased my sales at markets by 40-50%. The most popular one is Square. Which is great. It offers a full inventory management system, the ability to create employee profiles so you know who is selling what and where. They also generate reports that makes doing taxes easy. Its also very user friendly. AND you get the card reader for free. AND you can buy them at Best Buy for only $10 if you need more (or lose one…) BUT you can only accept credit. I recommend Square if you are just starting out and are feeling a little stressed about the whole market experience. Seriously, it’s the easiest to use and will cause virtually no stress at all. Keep in mind, you will have to pay a certain percentage to Square for using their service.
Moneris offers a great service called PAYD that allows you to accept both credit and debit. They actually have three different options for mobile card readers. This allows you to really pick what’s best for your business. You can get a machine that just accepts credit, or one that attaches to your phone OR you can even get an entirely separate terminal that tales credit and debit. Fancy. Keep in mind, you may have to pay monthly fees to use their devices and services. This can be a huge deal to people who only use a card reader a few times a year.
Dream payments is another option for credit and debit. What I like about Dream is that they don’t charge you monthly fees, or cancellation fees (just like square). It’s easy to set up, and you can schedule your deposits for as early as the next business day. The only thing I don’t like about Dream is that it can be unreliable. It’s the WORST when you’re at a market on Saturday and your card reader system goes down… What’s the point of even having it if you can’t rely on it when you need it. I would cry, honestly.
When picking a card reader, you’ll really have to take a look at all of your options and figure out what works best for your biz. Do you do a farmers market every Saturday, so you’ll be using it often? It may be worth the monthly fees. Only participate in 2 markets a year? Pick one that offers only charges you when you use it. Do you really want to accept both debit and credit or are you ok with just accepting credit? Just some things to think about!
Bottom line, get a card reader. People don’t carry cash anymore. I’ve lost sales because people didn’t want to walk to an ATM. So just get a card reader, K?
4. DON’T STEAL
Guys, this is so easy. Stealing is stealing. Don’t steal someone’s intellectual property. Don’t steal someone’s booth design. Or their t-shirt design. Or whatever. No excuses. Design your product and make it so that it reflects you! Not someone else. Come up with your own ideas. Keep in mind the difference between being inspired by someone’s work and straight up copying it. Just don’t do it. It’s happened to me before and it absolutely sucks. I don’t want it to happen to any of you, and I don’t want any of you to do it to someone else. End Rant.
5. You Will Forget Something. Don’t Sweat It.
I still forget stuff. You will too. It’s just life. My biggest advice here is to buy a duffel bag, make a list of stuff you’ll need at a show, and fill that duffel bag with that list. This aspect of doing markets is entirely trail and error. You’ll be standing in your booth looking for a band-aid for your finger you sliced open, only to realize you don’t have band-aids (this has happened to me). Or someone will pop their head into your booth and ask for scissors. Or you need twine, or chalk, or pens, or elastics or whatever! Here’s my duffel bag list so you can get an idea of what you may need.
|Cash Box (with card reader inside)||Pens/Pencils/Sharpies|
|Scissors||Advil and Tylenol|
|A hammer and screw driver and plyers||Price tags|
|Tweezers||Bobby pins and hair elastics|
|Deodorant * IMPORTANT||Scotch tape and Duct Tape|
|Band Aids||Clothes pins and thumb tacs|
|Phone charger||A magic eraser|
|Hand lotion + sanitizer||Glasses cleaner|
Hopefully this list will get you started. I seriously encourage you to start your own list. Every business will be different and you may need way more or way less then what’s included on this list. Lists make me happy. And keep in mind that you will most likely still forget something. Don’t beat your self up, because you will still continue living without whatever you forgot. Unless it’s like your husband, or kid or something. They will remember being left behind at a craft show and will make you pay huge therapy bills later.
6. What if I Don’t Sell A Single Thing?
You may not. But I’m like 99% sure you will as long as you are a nice person, who smells ok, isn’t dressed like a hobo and isn’t making complete garbage that falls apart when you touch it (if you got into a show you are not making complete garbage, so you can check that off of your to-stress-about list). My biggest advice here is to be confident in what you have done. Be confident that your product rocks. Be confident that your booth display rocks. Just be confident. I know. Way easier said than done, but please just fake it until you make it. PEOPLE LIKE YOU, OK!?! (I’m sorry I had to yell) For now, to prove that all Makers have the same thoughts, here are some thoughts I STILL have while driving to Markets:
- Did I put deodorant on?
- What if I don’t sell anything?
- What if my booth neighbours are meanies?
- Can you actually die from embarrassment?
- I think I left the stove on.
- My vehicle is so jam packed, that if the trunk pops open I will be sprinting all over the highway after my belongs.
- I think I’m lost.
- Ok now I’m sure I’m lost.
- Now I’m lost and late.
- Sweet Mercy, I have made it! Good job, hero!
See you will still have these thoughts even after 3 years of Market prep! I will have them for my entire life I’m sure. Just trust that you will sell something. OR even better, take comfort in the fact that even if you don’t sell anything you can still pass out business cards and get your name out there. Hopefully you can even take home a few pointers from your fellow Makers on how to make your booth and product better. Don’t be afraid to ask from tips.
7. Be Yourself.
I will preach this until the day I die. Do you know how amazing it is that you are a human being and not a giraffe? In a Ted Talks from 2011, Mel Robbins talked about how the chances that you are you is about 1 in 400 trillion. This number takes into account the chance of your parents meeting and reproducing, the chance of you even being born, and a ton of other crazy factors that go into each individual person. Is that not amazing!? Please, let that fact blow your mind. Take a few seconds and think about how much 400 trillion actually is. If this thought does not give you some sort of power in yourself as a human being than I honestly don’t know what to say that will make you understand the gravity of your life as a human. This also means that your thoughts, your feelings, your words, everything about you, is 100% unique because guess what!?! You are the only you there is.
“There is no one alive, that is youer than you.”
My whole point is, there is so much power in being yourself. Use that power. Use it in your product. Use it in your booth. I just clued in this year, that customers are coming to this markets to meet me (ie. The Maker). If they weren’t interested in buying unique products made by real humans then they wouldn’t be at a market, they would be at Walmart. People are coming to my booth, to hear from me. To get my thoughts on what décor pieces would look best in their homes. It’s the same thing for you. People are coming to get an idea of who you are. So show them. Just keep in mind, that not everyone will like your products or your vibe and that’s totally ok, because other people will. This has got to be the biggest thing I have learned about markets this year. The power of being yourself.
8. Every Maker Needs A Show Wife. Or Husband. I’ll Explain.
I have what I like to call my “Show Wives”. I also have a few “Show Husbands”. I’ll explain.
My show wives and husbands are people that I have met at markets, who know exactly what doing a market and running your own handmade business is like. You will need these people. You cannot do this alone. And you shouldn’t force yourself to. Find your show wives or husbands. These are people you can text at 5am on market day and say “I forgot my Square reader, can you bring yours!?” and they will. Also, “I think I have to cry, can I hide in your booth for a second?” and they’ll let you. “I have to pee, please watch my booth!!” They’ll ask you, “Hey, I’m doing a coffee run, need anything?” Or “Listen, I need to get away from my booth, can you sneak away for the fastest lunch break of all time?” And they’ll sneak away with you. I ask them about their day, and they ask me about mine. We go out for dinner after the markets. We get a beer and relax. I vacation with these wives and husbands. I cannot express what my show wives and husbands mean to me. I encourage you to find your own. How do you find your own you ask? Be yourself. And be kind. It’s amazing the types of relationships that can start by just being kind and helping out your fellow Makers. Walk around when you get 15 minutes and just talk to other makers. Be genuinely interested in what they are creating. That’s how I found mine. Lot’s of hugs, and tears and talks and alcohol helped solidify our bonds. That part is optional.
9. Participating in Markets is Hard Work.
My last bit of market prep advice is this. Doing these markets is hard work. Physically and emotionally. You will often be hauling your product through doors, or up stairs in all kinds of weather AND you’ll be doing this with 50 or 80 or sometimes even 300 other Makers trying to do the exact same thing. Parking is always a nightmare. ALWAYS. You’re expected to work long market hours, and talk to people even when you don’t feel like it. It’s not fun. In fact, it’s really hard. And stressful. And frustrating. All of these emotions are just a part of the experience. The best way to cope with this is to just surf the wave. If you can surf the crazy market wave instead of stand with your feet planted you will be much happier. That’s good advice for life in general, actually. I’ll end on that note.