Crafting and Vendor Shows 101: Grab-Bag of Tips

Guest Article by Kristin Louis

In her second guest article, Kristin Louis offers advice to artists and crafters about turning a hobby into a business with an emphasis on marketing and getting started presenting one’s wares art shows, arts and crafts fairs, and conventions.

If you have just made the decision to turn your painting, weaving, or other hobby into a full-time job by going to craft fairs and shows, you’re not alone. According to Zippia, approximately 8% of craft artists have been at their job for less than a year, and 51% of these artists are over 40 years old. While it can seem overwhelming to dive into crafting and vendor shows, it’s never too late to start learning the ropes. This grab bag of tips will help you navigate your vendor show preparations, starting with establishing your business.

Register Your Business and Name

You may decide to attend some craft fairs and shows while you decide if your hobby has legs to stand as a business. If you know you will be creating a business, then you’ll need to register a business name. If you want to use a business name that’s more creative than your officially registered name, then you can file the form to operate under a “doing business as” (DBA) name. For tax and liability purposes, you’ll also need to establish a structure. Whatever structure you choose, make sure you keep accurate sales records to prepare for tax season.

An L.L.C., or limited liability company, has the benefits of being a flexible structure, requiring less paperwork, limiting liability, and retaining tax advantages. How to register an L.L.C.? Each state has different regulations, so make sure you check what yours are before you get the process started. Use a formation service if you’re not confident about handling every step yourself. 

Find a Show

Once you decide on your business formation, you need to find a local art show or an arts and crafts convention to attend. Start researching shows in your area or in locations you wish to visit. Ask other painters, weavers, and fabric arts professionals which shows they recommend. However, also consider the products you will be selling. 

Some arts & craft shows limit the number of vendors based on product type. You don’t want to go to a show where there are a lot of other vendors advertising the same thing you are selling. For better success, make sure your product will be unique to the show and that the show is well-advertised and has a history of a good turnout.

Plan Your Display

You’ll need to invest in a booth display before your first show. This can be as basic as folding tables and a pop-up canopy or as extravagant as lighted signs and background music. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be flashy to get the attention of potential customers — Goodkey Show Services points out that you just have to make a lasting impression. Keep it simple, make sure there is room for the customers to see the products, and make your payment area visible.

Market Yourself

If you’re gearing up for an upcoming craft show, one of the best ways to promote your products and attract customers is by utilizing social media. Building a presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest can give your small business greater reach and visibility. And don’t underestimate the power of a good meme!

Memes have become an integral part of online communication and can be a fun, engaging way to advertise your products and brand. Experiment with different methods of promotion – from posting photo updates on ongoing projects to creating shareable memes featuring your designs – and watch your audience grow as your show approaches.

The easiest way to create a meme is to use an online meme generator. This tool allows you to create memes within a few minutes. Simply choose a graphic and add text to the image.

Determine How Much Product You Need

Joining a special interest group, such as a creative guild, can help you find craft vendor shows where your products will shine. Additionally, painting groups, classes, or seminars can also hone your skills to create higher-quality products. To prepare for a show, you want to make enough products for your customers, but avoid going overboard. It may take attending a show or two to figure out how many products you can anticipate selling. Until then, consider what your sales goal is, and bring at least enough products to meet that goal.


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Facilitate Sales

To facilitate more sales, interact with customers and answer questions. Always be polite with customers, no matter what, and be confident about your products. You should have a cash box for cash sales and a professional appearance, but accepting mobile payments will also increase your chances of making sales and drawing in customers.

While it takes time and dedication to make any crafting business a success, you can increase your chances of attending a productive show by doing some research, setting up your business and business name, and matching your product to the show and customer. Network with other arts professionals to get even more tips on turning your hobby into a true business.

Visit In the Garden City for thoughts on art and culture in the Chicago area!

Kristin Louis is a former advertising copyrighter and has two rambunctious boys, 10 and 7 years of age.  She created the blog to share her experiences about the trials and tribulations of parenting.

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