A Shy Crafter’s Guide to Selling at Craft Fairs

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My first-ever craft fair at the EtsyRain Handmade Holiday Show in Seattle, 11/2012.

This was first published on the School House Craft blog. But with holiday craft shows on the horizon, I thought it would be a great time to re-post (with updated links) for all my shy crafters out there! Enjoy!

With Netflix streaming on my computer, my favorite mug filled with coffee and my messy piles of felt and embroidery thread and yarn around me, I am in my own little cocoon of happy relaxation when I sit down to make my felt creations for my creative business, Catshy Crafts. I can update my social media sites, photograph my work or post a new listing on Etsy, all without leaving my happy place.

But sooner or later, I know, in order for me to have a successful business, to grow my business, I must venture out in the world. Make connections. Meet people (potential customers and collaborators). Show my work. For this (once) painfully shy person, this has always been a challenge for me.

When I had the opportunity to sell at my very first craft fair a few years ago, I couldn’t pass it up (even though it scared me half out of my mind). I knew that vending at a craft fair was the next logical step for my business. It was a chance to sell to a local audience, meet other crafters and yes, overcome some of that shyness that has been hindering me from doing things all my life. How did I do it?

Here are my top five tips for selling at your first craft show (from a shy crafter’s perspective).

  1. Do Your Research. A big part of my anxiety about selling at my very first craft fair was the fear of the unknown. What would my booth look like? Would I sell anything? Would I be able to talk with my customers? How much inventory should I bring? Would it be worth it?

Answering most or all of these big questions beforehand will save you a lot of stress in the end. To find out more information about craft fairs, search the Etsy Blog or start posting questions on the Etsy Forums. You can also try a local meet-up group like Seattle HandmadeKari Chapin’s CreativeLive class (I was an in-studio audience member, a whole other shy-busting experience) has a great segment on a designing booth display. Pinterest is also a great resource for getting ideas about booth displays.

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Fun way to repurpose a muffin tin by Oh Hello Friend. Urban Craft Uprising, Seattle 7/2014.

  1. Prepare Yourself. Armed with your new knowledge about craft fairs, start preparing for the big day as soon as possible. Being prepared is a great way to get over some of your anxiety. Here are a few areas to focus on.
    • Booth Display. Set up a mock booth display in your living room or garage. Measure out your space. Make sure you have ways to display your items in an eye-pleasing way. And don’t forget to carve out a space where you will be sitting or standing. Pinterest is a great place to find inspiration and ideas.
    • Make a checklist of all the things you will need for the big day. Don’t leave anything out. From tables and chairs to money to make change to snacks to signage for your booth, make sure you have everything you need. For a sample checklist of items you may need, check out: https://blog.etsy.com/en/2012/what-to-bring-to-a-craft-fair/
    • Prepare icebreakers or questions you can ask a visitor to your booth. I don’t know about you, but small talk is not one of my strengths. Taking a few minutes to think about some questions or icebreakers for your booth visitors could help alleviate some of that small talk anxiety. After all, she is taking time to visit your booth, make her feel welcome with some friendly conversation. For example, compliment her on something she is wearing OR ask her how she’s likes the craft fair so far. If she is looking at a particular item in your booth, tell her something interesting about the piece or what inspired you. But if your mind goes blank or you get a little tongue-tied, a hello and smile never hurts. And who knows, maybe she is shy too!
wooden tray display at craft show

Some vintage Catshy Crafts designs on display at my first craft show.

  1. Set Goals. Having some goals in mind at the start of fair is a good way to keep you focused and stop you from focusing on how nervous you are. I like to set a few goals for myself that are relatively easy to achieve. This will get the ball rolling and motivate you to accomplish even more.
Queen Anne Artist's Trunk Show, 12/2015

Queen Anne Artist’s Trunk Show, 12/2015

  • For example, one goal could be: sell at my first craft fair. Check! Remember, this is your first craft fair. You get points for doing the prep work and just showing up!
  • Other manageable goals could be:
    • Greet at least 5 people who visit your booth.
    • Introduce yourself to at least 3 other craft vendors.
    • Smile at 5 people who walk by your booth.
    • Of course, you can also have goals of how much you sell, but sometimes that can put extra pressure on you. But if you’re up for the challenge, go for it! But remember, craft fairs are not just a way to make sales. Promoting your shop, meeting potential customers, networking with other crafters and getting out of your comfort zone are just a few of the awesome benefits of craft fair vending.
One of my displays.

One of my displays made of a vintage picture frame and cork board.

  1. Get Support from Your Friends and Family. This one could be a tricky one if you are shy, but trust me it is worth the effort. Ask a friend, spouse/significant other or family member to be your booth buddy for the day or at least a few hours. Having company makes the whole experience a whole lot less scary. Also, remember to tell all your friends and family (as well as your customers and followers) that you are selling at your first craft fair and invite them to visit you! You never know who will stop by.
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My friend Hannah visiting me at Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, 7/2014.

  1. Reward Yourself. It is important to give yourself a lot of credit for taking this big step. Even non-shy crafters get nervous about selling their work, so the fact that you are doing it despite your shyness is worth celebrating. Yay for you! And don’t wait until the day is over to start celebrating. Every time you achieve one of your goals, take a moment to enjoy your awesomeness! You deserve it.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/catshycrafts/i-love-craft-booths/

Catshy Crafts Blog (my original blog posts about my first craft fair experience):

http://catshycrafts.com/2013/01/10-tips-on-surviving-your-first-craft-show/

http://catshycrafts.com/2013/02/designing-a-craft-booth-display-with-thrifted-finds/

http://catshycrafts.com/2012/11/i-did-it-etsyrain-handmade-holiday-show-2012-recap/

Urban Craft Uprising Recap (part 1)

Despite my reluctance to drive to Seattle, I had much motivation to cross the bridge last weekend. You see, Urban Craft Uprising was taking place – my most favorite craft show in all the land.

I’m getting better at navigating Seattle (sans GPS -ours got stolen a few years ago from my unlocked (oops) car in my own driveway!). The Mercer Street exit was closed, so I got a little lost on the way there, but we managed to find parking ($4 for 2 hours) a few blocks away from the Exhibition Hall where UCU was being held.

Note to self: As long as I avoid that hilly street on the way back to the 5 (I drive a stick and have a tendency to roll back and grind gears when I have to keep stopping on an incline), I am okay to drive in Seattle. It’s better for my nerves and public safety if I bypass that street!

All photos by Cathy Pascual. 1. Sweet Coconut Bakery. 2. Sparrow & Sundry 3. Peace and the Poet 4. Carnivorous 5. Tiny Sparks Design 6. Mi Bazaar Latina 7.  MailChimp & Cupcake Royale 8. Business Cards from UCU

Anyhoo, I’d love to share my photos and finds of my visit! I am breaking it up into parts because I took so many photos and have lots to share. Okay, here goes!

My Crafty Companion

I brought along my 7-year-old daughter as my wingman. She loves crafts as well and if allowed, can spend a pretty penny on crafts. She is also adorable (especially since she wore her Cakespy-designed UCU shirt from a few years ago) and sometimes people give her things for free. Okay, a lot of times. This has happened at many a garage sale and craft fair, including UCU!

Sparrow and Sundry

In fact, at the very first booth we stopped at, Sofia got a free something-something.

Sparrow & Sundry had a wonderful booth! My photos don’t do it justice. There were fun resin charms and magnets that immediately drew Sofia in. Fabric lunch boxes. Blocks with colorful, vintage-y designs. Jewelry. I was surprised at the creative range of items in the different media.

I spoke a little bit to Jen, the owner of Sparrow & Sundry and she was super-nice. I even gave her one of my new Moo/b-cards and I was shocked when she said she had already seen my shop on Etsy and asked why I wasn’t at UCU myself! I was pretty amazed at that. So, that was a big encouragement for me. (As I mentioned before, it would be a dream come true to have a booth at UCU.).

Anyway, Sofia found the cutest heart magnet from one of Jen’s trays of goodies. And…..she got it for free.  (Freebie #1) Yup. Free-ninety-nine. Thanks again Jen!

Turns out I forgot to pick up a business card for her Etsy shop, but I snagged this one. Jen is also a graphic designer! Talented woman!

So needless to say, the fair was starting out on a great foot! I made a connection with someone new, I handed out my business card and even got encouragement for my own shop.

Peace and the Poet

The next booth that caught our eye was Peace and the Poet. And not only because the rug they used in their booth was the exact one we have under our dining room table.

Fringe-y + bohemian necklaces and earrings, button and bowtie stud earrings, beautiful hand-printed notecards and even home decor pieces made from salvaged and vintage finds. The booth was artfully arranged more like a boutique or showroom than a craft fair. I didn’t get to meet the artist, but it was an inspiring booth to visit.

 

Booth of Peace and The Poet @ UCU

 

Cupcake Royale & Mailchimp

Right after leaving this booth, we were offered some baby cupcakes courtesy of Cupcake Royale and MailChimp (Freebie #2). Both companies I love! As you may remember, I had an art show at the Bellevue location of CR. And, I use MailChimp to send out my Catshy newsletters. (BTW, if you want to subscribe to it, you can do so here.)

I love the hand-made pennants. Looks like they hand-illustrated it, made copies and hand-cut each one! Too cute.

Before we started eating our cupcakes, Sofia got Freebie #3. A hand-knit monkey hat from Mailchimp! I think we got one of the last ones….

Tiny Sparks Design

The next booth was Tiny Sparks Designs. Screen-printed illustrations on wood. Some were art pieces some were coat racks and key holders. So unique and I loved his designs. I would have like to stay a bit longer, but Sofia was a bit impatient. Even forgot to snag a business card. :(

You see, Sofia was more interested in the next booth.

Carnivorous

This was a neat booth selling terrariums in apothecary jars and vintage glass. Sofia and I just made our own terrarium the other day so she was fascinated by these jars filled with venus fly traps and other “meat-eating” plants!  This booth reminded me of victorian sitting room with the lace tablecloths and apothecary jars. I couldn’t find an Etsy shop for her, but she has an Etsy account here as Mary Danger.

 

Sweet Coconut Bakery

The next booth was the first sweet shop we visited. I had seen this shop on the UCU website, so I knew I wanted to check it out. Being Filipina myself, I always love to support my sisters! Sweet Coconut Bakery sells Filipino treats like the classic polverones which I ate as a kid and classic American sweets like homemade marshmallows.

We tried a few samples that Hazel, the owner, had generously laid out. She was working the booth with her own daughter, so it was neat to see mother and daughter working side by side. Maybe Sofia will work the booth with me one day? Sofia chose the coconut marshmallows to take home. How I regret picking up a bag of those chocolate ones as well! I definitely want to try making s’mores with the ones we bought. Coconut marshmallow s’mores? Could be the next big thing! (Maybe I’ll use part of this recipe to make a non-bonfire variation on s’mores).

It was wonderful meeting Hazel and her daughter. I gave her a b card, so hopefully we can keep in touch!

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Wow! This post is getting lengthy!
Rather than continue, I think I’ll break up my recap into three parts.
So please come back to see more pics from my UCU visit.

To see Part 2 of my UCU Recap, click here.

To see Part 3 of UCU Recap, click here.
Thanks for stopping by today!