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Preparing for a Craft Show

Updated on March 3, 2016

When I started doing craft shows, I was excited. I was also completely unprepared. As someone who prides herself on always having whatever I need on hand, discovering I didn’t have something I needed was stressful and annoying. So I came up with a list that I start going over a week before the show is scheduled, and now I’m sharing it with you.

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Advertise where you’re going

At least a week before you know you’re going to be at a show, start putting up pictures on social media. Do you have an Instagram account? Facebook? Twitter? Put up pictures of items you’ll have for sale. Announce where you’ll be and when. Want to offer a special discount for people who mention that they’ve seen you on social media? Do it! This is a great chance to get people to show up and check out all your cool stuff that you’re selling.

Stuff for sale

Pick out what you’re bringing to sell. Maybe it doesn’t matter and you sell everything you have at every event. Or maybe not. Do you have special items that you bring out for the holidays? Maybe some items are more appropriate for different markets. For example, you might have some lower-end items for family-friendly events versus more expensive items for art shows. Maybe you have multiple similar items, and you prefer to only put out one or two of those. Go through your stock, pick out what you want to bring, and make anything that you’re missing and want to have.

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Prices and price tags

When you’re picking out the stock you want to bring with you, you can also check out the prices. Have you changed any of them and want to make sure they match? Are you raising your prices? Lowering you prices? Are all your items that you want to sell already priced? Now’s the chance to make sure every items has a price, and it’s the right one. If you want to mark anything for a sale, now’s also the time to do it.

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Displays

Find your displays for the event. Since you already know what you’re bringing, you can plan and pack the items you need. For me, since I sell jewelry, I can figure out how many necklace displays, how many bracelet displays, and what earring displays I can bring with me. I can also do a quick set-up to figure out if I have enough to fill those displays, or too much to fill them. Since you’ll be checking it out a week in advance, you can choose to buy new displays or change out which ones you’re bringing. If you like the way you do the test set-up, then you can also take a picture on your phone and have it with you for the day when you do set up.

Tablecloths and Tables

Make sure you have the table – or tables – you’ll be bringing with you and that you have covers for them. Do the covers need to be washed? Do you need a new cover, perhaps one that’s a different color? Do you need another cover? A new table? How many tables will you need to put your items out? Does the fair provide a table? Prep now to make sure you’re ready to set up.

Chairs

If you’re going to bring a table (or even if you’re not), bring your chair or chairs with you! I know that even when someone supplies the tables and chairs, I still bring my own. My chair is a purple one with a cup holder. Super convenient and super comfortable. If you have any friends stopping by, or if you have a helper or friend who is working the day with you, make sure to bring a chair for them, too. It’s the least you can do.

Change

I normally start doing this at least a week in advance. When I go to the store, I get cash out, and I ask for it in small bills. Every trip to the store, I try to get at least 10 singles and two fives. That way, I will have change for when I need it. It helps to keep some of them for future shows, but I find that having a minimum of $50 to $100 in small bills is a good way to start a show. I use a coupon file to keep them – it works great, and you can normally get one at a dollar store.

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Receipt book and labels for the book

Receipt books and labels serve a dual purpose. First, they’re a way to give out your information to the customers. What I always do is buy a cheap receipt book from an office supply store, and then I go through and I print out a bunch of labels with my company information on them. It’s cheaper than having receipt books printed, plus it lets me change any information that I need to, such as a coupon code. Second, they’re a way to keep track of your sales. When I make a sale, I ask my customers if they want receipts. If they don’t, then I still write it down. It helps to know how much I’ve made in sales, plus it gives me a written record for when I need to pay sales tax or self-employment tax. Don't forget the pen, either!

Coupon code

If you’re using Etsy or anything like it that allows you to set up coupon codes, why not use one? What I like doing is setting up a code for the market using some sort of code. For example, if I’m doing a conference or convention, I’d use the code MarchCon10 for a con in March where I’m giving 10 percent off. Then, at the show, I write the conference code down on a receipt for the customer

Business cards

This is good to check a week before because, if you’re out of cards, a week is normally plenty of time to get a few printed up. Whether you do them yourself or order them in, make sure to have professional-looking business cards. It’s worth the money to get them designed or to use an existing design, if you don’t have a logo for your business. Remember that if someone grabs one at a show, they will probably also be grabbing other people’s cards, too. Make sure that yours stands out and will be the one they bother looking up. I have actually gotten business after a show through my business cards, so having them there can make a difference.

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Fixing and cleaning supplies

What exactly you bring will vary based on what it is you’re selling, but for me, I have a small “tool kit” that I bring along. It has jump rings, a spare chain, pliers, and a bunch of other little things that can come in handy. I also have a Sharpie marker and some price tags tucked in there. Always better to be prepared! (And I was never a Boy Scout, clearly.) Two other things I carry with me: a roll of paper towels and a first aid kit. You never know when the first aid kit will come in handy, and I have discovered that paper towels can be your friend. Twice now I’ve been able to lend a hand when a drink spilled and when a kid through a ball full of liquid that burst and sprayed people with really unpleasant water.

Snacks and drinks and friends to come by

Because shows often last a full day, and if you’re working it by yourself, you have no breaks, make sure to bring your own snacks and drinks in case you can’t get away from the table. For me, I tend to bring a pack of pretzels, a little single-serve tub of peanut butter, some cranberries, and a bunch of waters. It works for me because it’s easy to carry, nothing can go bad, and it fills me up. Make up what works for you – just make sure that you can eat it while working. And because shows can sometimes be slow and because it can be fun to see a friendly face and because you can convince them to bring you “real food,” try to get a friend or two to stop by during the day. If you are working the table alone, it’ll give you a break to run to the bathroom, some good food, and a smiling face or two.

Credit card “machine”

Nowadays, anyone can set up to accept credit payments. It can make the different between sale or no sale or maybe just the size of the sale. I know that when I tell people I take credit cards, they often keep shopping or start planning ahead and buying Christmas gifts. You can hook-up with Square or even with PayPal (like me). Bring your machine! In most cases now it’s just something small to plug into your phone, but it can be easy to forget because of that. I use PayPal, so if I have to, I can also just type in the credit card number if I forget the machine, but they take a higher rate out of the purchase if I do that, so I prefer not to lose the money on the deal.

Make sure your phone is charged

This is something to do the day of, obviously. Or really the night before. Make sure to plug in and charge your phone all the way. Sometimes power isn’t available or isn’t free at a show, and if you haven’t paid the extra fee for power, you won’t be able to charge your phone during the show. If you’re like me and use your phone to keep in touch during the day as well as keep busy during slow times and as a credit card machine, you want to make sure that it doesn’t die at a bad time. Losing power before the final hour and those last-minute sales can make what would have been a great day simply a good day.

Spare power source

Make sure to pack a spare power source for your phone or whatever other electronics you may have with you. If you don’t have one, get one. They don’t cost much – I got mine at a store called Five Below that happens to sell everything for $5 or less. You can’t afford to not have one, and having one is pretty cheap nowadays. Consider it part of the cost of doing business if you feel the need to justify the purchase to yourself.

Packing List

Product

Displays

Tablecloths

Tables

Chairs

Change

Receipt Book

Pen

Business Cards

Fixing and cleaning supplies

First aid kit

Snacks and drinks

Credit card machine

Phone

Spare power source

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