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/