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My First Art Fair – What I Learned, What I Earned

my first art fair
what i learned, what i earned

Way back in July I applied for a booth at my town’s craft fair, thinking a craft fair would be less overwhelming than setting up an online shop.

Okay okay please stop laughing at me. I’d clearly never been to a craft fair.

I was on summer break, averaging about two paintings a week, and the event date was months away. I submitted my application, turned in the fee, and got back to my regularly scheduled programming. I bought a tent and my dad and I built a display frame, but I’d figure everything else out later if I got accepted.

Well, I got accepted.

When I turned my application in, the event was over two months away. When I got accepted, it was 34 days before the event!  

The next four weeks involved a level of frustration, panic, decision making, and Amazon deliveries that I haven’t experienced since my wedding. 

Eventually, I figured it all out. Or, I figured out enough to get through the event

Booth Set-up

I displayed my large 8×10 originals in frames, hung on a handmade 3-panel folding display. 

Smaller originals were packaged in cello bags and hung on some framing wire draped on one side of my tent.

A 6′ banquet table housed my print display. I had prints available for browsing in two small wooden bins. 

I used a divided dip plate to store my stickers. 

I had business cards spread out all over the table for people to take while they were browsing.

What I Learned

Assume there will be wind, plan your booth accordingly. Paintings clipped on a string banner looks really cute until the wind starts blowing! 

Take notes. There will a million little things throughout the course of the day that you want to remember when you’re planning the next event, but don’t leave it up to memory. 

Keep track of what you’ve sold, not just the money. It was really interesting to look back and see what my best sellers were, and over time I think this information would be helpful in terms of deciding what stock to bring to an event.

Tell people to write down their emails. I had a clipboard for email addresses, but no one used it unless I pointed it out. If someone asks about a product or service you don’t offer yet, it’s great to be able to say “write your email down and I’ll let you know when it’s available!”

What I Earned

I have good news and bad news. I’ll let you choose which you want to hear first.

Bad News

 I didn’t make a profit

Good News

I crushed my sales goals for the event

This was my first ever craft fair, so there were a lot of first time expenses. 

I spent the weeks leading up to the fair trying to get realistic sales goals so that I wouldn’t be defeated if I didn’t sell anything. I told myself that getting accepted to the event and putting myself out there was success enough, but deep down I was hoping to make some sales. I decided that as long as I made back my entry fee, I would be happy. 

After a day or two of recovery, I totaled everything up. I was blown away. 

I earned back 69% 

Not 69% of my booth fee. 69% of everything I spent on the event.

Not too shabby for my first fair!

What’s the secret?

Offer limited products at a fair price, while reducing expenses.

What? You were hoping for something more interesting? I know. Sometimes, at the end of the day the special sauce really is just mayo. 

  • I kept my expenses reasonable. I absolutely could have done it for even less. I likely could have found a tent to borrow or buy used. I could have gone to thrift stores or a buy nothing group for display pieces. The frames were one of my bigger expenses, but very worth it. I didn’t have cute extra decor. No twinkle lights, no rug, I didn’t even have a banner with my business name. Maybe I would have done more business if I had a more “on-brand” booth design, but would it have been enough to offset the additional expenses? Who knows. 
  • I limited my options. It’s tempting to think that the more products you offer, the more potential sales you’ll make. It ultimately comes down to how much it costs to offer each type of product. In my opinion, because I had fewer products it was easier for people to browse and make a decision quickly. This will probably vary greatly depending on what type of craft you sell. Ask around! Ask fellow crafters how many different products they usually offer. 
  • I priced my products appropriately. I purposely priced my originals so that if I sold one 8×10 original I would make back my booth fee. Pricing is really difficult, even more so for a first event when you have no baseline data to go off of. I picked a price juuuuust slightly higher than what I felt comfortable with. Just like how your skills will never grow if you don’t push yourself, you can’t increase revenue without pushing prices. 

What’s Next?

Now that the fair is over, I’m enjoying being back in the studio making new work. I took almost the whole month of September off from painting to get things ready, and I missed the quiet creative space. 

Being able to make my own prints makes opening an online shop seems one step less impossible. 

My goals are to be able to offer prints and commission bookings. If you want to be one of the first to know when these, and any other new surprises, are available, be sure to pop your email in the box below! 

Let’s stay in touch