The 411 on getting started with Craft Fairs

You've been to a few craft fairs.  You think to yourself, hey I could do that!  Well you can, but it's a bit more complicated than you think.  I sell mostly hand-knit beanies and beret for babies and adults.  They are whimsical and part of my mission to bring color to the grey days of winer.  

Here are the basics of what you will need to consider to get started:

 business license - most cities require you to collect tax. Yes, this is a business so you will need to register as one.

Inventory system - An excel spread sheet of all items you've made and sold within a year.

Quickbooks or other form to keep track of expenses and income. Makes tax time much easier.

Portable table and for outdoor show a Tent (with weights)

Money apron or cash box

Tags to label all your items with price and inventory item

Labels with your logo and care instructions and possibly size.

Square or other app for taking credit cards which then necessitates  a smart phone

Twitter account, Facebook account to advertise show dates and invite family, friends and collectors,

Newsletter - Mail chimp or other electronic newsletter system

Shopping bags ( I tend to buy holiday ones on sale to use the following year at holiday craft fairs as they make instant gift wrapping.)

A foldable dolly is and investment to save your back

Lunch box and water bottle.

Business cards

Quality photos of your items, good photographs increase your chance of being juried into a show.

Items intended for children come under strict regulataions for safety reasons. Read up on them thoroughly.

You've gotten your business license and your smartphone with square app, you are ready to go.  Not so fast.  You need to do research into what shows are where and when.  You can't be in two places at the same time, so make a calendar of deadlines and showtimes.  This will prevent the "Oops, I have two shows this weekend!"  I 've scheduled two a few times, but it always loses me money as only I the make can really sell my hats, plus I then end up having to pay someone to assist which eats into my profit. I tend to only show in the fall due to my inventory being wool hats and I tend to stick to my hometown and my former hometown. I could do more shows around the country, but unless I have  a place where I can crash and can get there by car, it is prohibitively expensive.  I am not ready to go to that level of capital investment.

Each show has a certain feel and therefor market clientele. Who are there clientele, if you sell jewelry, the largest category item, then it is worth finding out how many jewelers they allow.  Do they allow vendors selling goods from other countries?  Theses items are cheaper and therefore direct competition for spending dollars.  Is the crowd young or older, you will pitch your items to that market.  I don'r sell well at certain Indy shows and no to not even try.

How do you know when you are breaking even.  Some folks think it is when you earn back your show booth fee. Well you also have to consder the cost of your items and your time sitting there selling your work.

How many folks do they expect on average?  You need to be prepared with your inventory.  Some shows like One of a Kind are so big that you need to be prepared for the sheer volume.  They also have higher booth costs.  

a table

portable chair

lunch box and thermos / water bottle

inventory, display items (mannequins, shelving or whatever highlights you work to the best advantage)


booth sign

business cards

sales book

inventory sheets

foldable dolly

sunscreen and bug spray if outside

 table cloth

money belt


smart phone

square app


duct tape,


labels with bix name and website for sales book receipts.

I keep most of these items tucked into  a couple of large boxes so on the day before the show, I can quickly pack my car without stress. I just have to remember my change and smart phone.

3 weeks before the show, send out a newsletter about it.

Build excitement about it b giving sneek peaks of your studio as you prepare

Retweet friends in the show with you to support them and they will hopefully support you too.

The week of, send out a digital postcards reminding folks.

If you forget,  post a photo of you at your booth on Facebook, chill and enjoy the day (yesterday I forgot to do this....).