If you’re new to the market scene, there are probably a lot of thoughts and feelings that are going through your head.
“What guides should I use?”
“What should I charge?”
“What should my booth look like?”
“What if I don’t sell anything?”
These are pretty common concerns a lot of makers have – Even experienced makers have them every so often.
If you’re feeling a little worried and stressed about visiting an event for the first time, then I’m here to help you out!
Take a look at these tidbits, tips, advice, and ideas on what to know and how to prepare yourself before a market…
What If I Don’t Sell a Single Thing?
Worrying about poor sales is a concern a lot of makers experience, especially if they’re new to the market scene. Makers of specialized candles know what I am talking about.
But chances are, you’ll be absolutely fine as long as you look the part (i.e. dress appropriately and keep an eye on body odor – markets can get hot!) and act confidently.
Believe In Your Product
Be confident in your product, booth, and sales pitch.
Customers are much more likely to buy from you if you come across as self-assured.
I know it’s a little easier said than done, but being proud of your work is important. Even simple outdoor sectionals take quite a bit of effort to make!
If you act timid and unsure of yourself, then this could be off putting to some customers.
In fact, 81% of customers buy from brands they trust.
If you lack self-assurance, customers won’t have a lot of faith in your products. If consumers deem you reliable and dependable, then they’ll be more inclined to buy from you – maybe even more than once!
Remember, confidence is key.
All makers have concerns, even the most experienced ones.
Here are some thoughts that cross my mind just before a show.
- Did I put on deodorant?
- What if my booth neighbors are unpleasant or mean?
- What if I don’t sell anything?
- What if the trunk on my car pops open on the way there and scatters all my belongings over the highway?
- I think I took a wrong turn.
- What if no one likes me?
- I definitely took a wrong turn.
- Now I’m lost and late.
- Phew, I actually made it.
Not Only Beginners
See, even after many years, I still get these types of thoughts before an event. And most makers do.
Just put trust in yourself and your products.
Better yet, acknowledge that even if you don’t make a sale, then it isn’t the end of the world.
You can still hand out business cards and get your name out there to increase your success on your next show.
That’s definitely not a bad outcome!
Selecting the right price for your product is one of the most important factors in a market.
It can equally be quite a nerve-racking and overwhelming task.
If priced too high, then customers might be reluctant to part with their cash.
If it’s price is too low, then people might assume it’s cheaply made or constructed from inferior materials.
Keep On Going
Breaking into a market and offering your services for the first time can be stressful, particularly as you won’t have a lot of reviews or feedback on your products.
But even if you have one positive review, then that’s a good sign!
It shows that someone has tested out your product and enjoyed it, which proves to other customers that you’re a trustworthy vendor.
Focus on your Assets
Tackle a lack of reputation by putting any positive reviews you do have on business cards and booth banners.
This will help you boost your reputation overall, and build trust in the eyes of potential buyers.
One Step at a Time
It takes time to build up a brand and gain attraction.
Don’t be tempted to price your products too low just to get the ball rolling.
Charge appropriately for the time you spent making a product, as well as the cost of materials.
You value your time, so make sure your prices reflect this.
Here’s a brief pricing breakdown to help you understand what to charge for your products.
- Work out the cost of materials for one item
- Keep track of time it takes you to make one item
- Establish how much you’d like to be paid
- Multiply the number of hours it took to make one item by the amount you’d like to be paid per hour
- Add on material costs
Things to keep in mind.
- Round up the price if you like, but don’t round it down – your time is valuable!
- It’s important that you never undersell yourself.
- Be confident and proud of the work you do; acknowledge that your prices are worthy.
- If a customer tells you your prices are too high, don’t offer a discount or lower the costs just to make your product seem more appealing.
- They don’t value your time, but you do.
- You will find people who love your work and are more than happy to pay you appropriately for it.
- Don’t second guess yourself
- Don’t look at competitor’s prices and feel pressured to undercut them.
- Focus on your own products.
- If you think you charge suitably for your time, then you do!
Creative Booth Design
Your booth will set you apart from other makers, so put a bit of thought into designing it and making it into something that reflects your brand and product.
Be unique and never be afraid to express yourself.
Potential customers will appreciate an attractive and eye-catching booth, and it’ll help encourage them to check out your wares.
It isn’t too difficult to design an appealing booth as you can find inspiration from pretty much anywhere.
Unique and Personal
On my last visit to a market, I saw this fantastic booth design of a vendor selling homebrewed beer and cider.
His most popular beer happened to be named after his dog, a Jack Russell Terrier.
The booth was adorned with some framed pictures of his dog, a couple of Jack Russell Terrier plushs, and even tablecloth with photos of his dog that he’d had custom made.
To top it all off, the description of the beer matched the personality of his four-legged companion with something like “a light but feisty pale ale with bitter and sweet notes.
May or may not have you chasing squirrels in the garden at midnight”.
That booth design is definitely something I’ll remember for years to come!
Pinterest is a fantastic place to discover booth ideas.
Download the app, type in “craft booth displays” or something similar, and presto! – an array of booth designs to draw inspiration from!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then you could take a trip downtown to look at shop displays.
See For Yourself
Consider visiting a local craft fair to check out the booths of other makers, and see how others are designing their space.
While it’s fine to take inspiration from someone, don’t directly copy or steal their idea.
The old saying “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” doesn’t apply in situations like this.
The size and type of product you sell will influence your booth design.
Makers with small products can usually make do with folding tables and pretty tablecloths, maybe a few objects and decorations.
Those with large products might need to get a little creative, especially as you’ll have limited space available for your booth.
If you’re a little stuck for inspiration, then here are a few ideas to guide you when designing your booth.
- Find materials in local craft stores for garlands, tablecloths and other decorations you can display on your booth.
- Don’t forget the lights – Read through your contract to find out if your booth needs lighting. Each show is different, some dim the lights, others don’t. You’ll require lighting if your show dims the lights to illuminate your display, otherwise it’ll be pretty dark!
- Check if electricity is available for your booth. Some shows offer electricity free of charge, but some will require you to pay extra for it.
- Extension cords are really useful, and you can never have enough of them for a booth.
- Bring a hand truck. This will make transporting everything to and from your booth a lot easier (and quicker!).
- Make sure your prices are properly displayed. Try to display them in a fun and creative manner.
- A chalkboard easel and chalkboard marker can be a great way to display your prices rather than sticking labels on your products.
- If your market is located outdoors, then you might need a tent. Weights for holding your tent in place to prevent it from taking off to the skies! I’d advise at least 15 pounds per tent leg.
You can use a lot of things as weights, including sand bags, buckets full of cement, and gym weights.
- Display your business cards visibly so customers can pick one up if you’re busy or talking to another customer.
- If you have social media, promote it to everyone you speak to. Every follower helps push your brand and product, and is a great free way or promoting your business. If someone stops by to say hi, don’t let them leave without linking with your pages online. Include links and URLs on any business cards or flyers.
If you’re building your booth completely from scratch, then it’s a good idea to think about the following points.
Firstly, can the booth be moved around easily?
If it can’t, you could add a few casters on the bottom to help you transport it.
You should also keep in mind the size of the booth and make sure it can fit through standard-sized door frames.
Mind the Time
Check how much time you’ll have to set up your booth.
Some markets might give you an entire day, but some might only give you a couple of hours – don’t get caught out!
Cash Is King
Although being paid by cash is usually preferred as you don’t have to pay any fees to credit/debit card companies, bear in mind that not all markets will have an ATM for customers to use.
If you can, I’d fully recommend getting a card reader so you don’t miss out on a potential sale.
A lot of customers prefer paying by card for convenience, so ensuring you accept both cash and card payments is a big plus!
One of the most popular card readers makers use is Square.
It offers full inventory management and gives you the option to create employee profiles so you can keep track of things.
It also’s easy to use and generates reports to make filing your taxes more straightforward and hassle free.
Just bear in mind that you’ll need to pay a certain percentage to Square for using their service. However, on the plus side, you get the card reader for free!
By investing in a card reader, you’ll be able to reap rewards in the long-run and won’t limit yourself in terms of sales.
If you’re thinking of getting a card reader, it’s a good idea to make that decision before market day.
Test it out in advance so you can ensure there are no technical difficulties that could affect the outcome of the event.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but don’t steal other people’s work, product design, booth design, etc.
Be unique, creative, and come up with your own ideas that reflect you and your brand.
There’s a difference between taking inspiration from something and downright copying it. Keep this in mind whenever you’re looking for ideas from another maker’s work.
You Will Forget Something – Don’t Sweat It
Even if you try your best to remember everything, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to forget something.
That’s fine – don’t beat yourself up about it.
Making a list of what you’ll need at the market, purchasing those items, and filling a bag with those things in advance can be a big help.
That way you’ll have everything prepared before you need to set off.
It’ll also help you avoid scrambling around in a panic just before you need to depart for the market, which is never a good start to the day!
To give you a few suggestions on what to bring to a market, here are some things I always bring.
- Cash box (with a card reader inside)
- Pens, markers, and pencils
- Business cards
- Price tags
- Bobby pins and hair elastics
- Clothes pins and thumbtacks
- Scotch tape and duct tape
- Hand sanitizer and hand lotion
- Phone charger
- Paper towels
- Glass cleaner
If you’re a little unsure on what to pack for a market, then hopefully this list will point you in the right direction.
However, I encourage you to write your own list as you might need more, less, or even entirely different items than those included on mine!
Remember, you’re probably going to forget something, so try not to be too hard on yourself.
Even with a big list like above, I always end up leaving at least one thing behind.
While it’s important to be confident about yourself and your brand, don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Just be yourself…
It’s best to come across naturally than put on a big facade just to attract customers.
Most people will figure out your act and you might give off the wrong impression.
Customers will appreciate you for your own unique self.
Focus on Your Products
Be confident in who you are, and don’t worry about what other makers are doing.
This is your brand and booth, not theirs!
Besides, if customers weren’t interested in handmade and unique products, then they wouldn’t be at a market.
They’re there because they want to hear from you: your ideas, your thoughts, and your persona – So show them just that!
Bear in mind that your products won’t appeal to everyone, and that’s perfectly fine – because they will to other people.
Every Maker Needs A Show Wife or Husband – I’ll Explain
This will make your experience a lot easier
A “show wife” or “show husband” is basically another maker you’ve met at markets that understand the ins and outs of doing a show and running a handmade business.
Try to seek other makers out as you don’t want to be doing shows alone.
These are the sort of people who you can text in the early hours of the morning saying “I forgot my card reader – could you bring yours?” or “could you watch my booth while I go for a quick break?”, and they will do just that.
It’s always good to have a friend or two to speak and share a giggle with, especially on those off days when nothing seems to be going right.
Finding friends at events isn’t difficult.
Take 15 minutes to have a chat with the other makers and check out their booths. Genuinely take an interest in their products and their brand.
The old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has never been more true.
Participating in Markets Is Hard Work
Doing markets is hard work, both physically and emotionally.
You’ll be dragging your products and equipment up flights of stars, through tiny little door frames, and forgetting something or another.
Your stress levels may rise, yet you will have to appear cool and collected in front of customers if things aren’t going your way.
There will be early starts, bad weather, traffic, no parking spaces available, long hours, and a lot of stress and frustration.
All of these things are part of the experience.
Anything Could Happen
A couple of years back, I had a particularly bad morning before an event…
It was raining and I was stuck in traffic for what seemed like an eternity, so I was running late and barely had any time to set up my stall.
The rain had soaked into some storage boxes I was using to hold my wares as I was moving them to my booth, so I was panicking as I thought I might need to replace all my stock.
If things couldn’t get any worse, I got a migraine and just so happened to forget my pain relief medication.
The Show Must Go On
Despite the negatives of the day, I persevered and carried on.
A fellow vendor helped me set up my booth and even treated me to a coffee and a slice of cake to help me calm down.
As I composed myself, I found a spare packet of migraine relief medication in my handbag, which was a huge relief (literally!).
Throughout the course of the day, the weather went from dark and gloomy to bright and sunny. Business was booming and I quickly forgot I’d had a bad morning
It’s worth it in the end, so don’t lose motivation.
Once you become accustomed with how things work, it gets easier and, the good parts definitely outweigh the not-so-nice bits.