Five lessons I learned after surviving my first craft show season

Selling your handmade products at in-person shows can be a great way to gain exposure for your creative business and meet potential customers if you are willing to invest the time and money. After years of participating in craft shows, trade shows, and home trunk shows, here are five beginner tips to help you get started.

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1. Bring water

You might as well be hitting up the gym for a good cardio routine and some quality time in the sauna with the amount you are likely to sweat, especially at a summer show. Craft shows are physically demanding. Vendors arrive at a show hours before it starts up to haul everything out of their cars, wrestle with their tents, and meticulously set up their displays, only to take it down at the end of the day and start anew at the next show.

Don’t worry, you’ll look at good as this guy at the end of the day. Image by Nacim Bouchtia

It’s a long day, friend. A six-hour show typically means about 10 hours on your feet, carrying equipment; setting up and taking down your tent, weights, and displays; talking to customers and answering questions. Be prepared to collapse on your couch at the end of the day.

It’s important to stay hydrated and well-fed (you’re gonna have a hard time selling anything if you’re hangry!)

Newbie tip: Bring several bottles of water, snacks, deodorant, and perhaps an extra change of clothes.

2. Be friendly to your neighbors

Over the years, I have met some amazing fellow crafters at shows. They have offered invaluable advice, assisted me with moving heavy items when I was pregnant, and kept an eye on my booth during multiple bathroom trips. We check on each other to see how the day is going and offer each other moral support.

Over time, you start to see the same people and may even become friends with them. We check on each other to see how the day is going and offer moral support. As a solopreneur, it’s really nice to come to a show and see a friendly face who understands this world.

Bev Feldman of Linkouture at Andover Crafts at the Park

Newbie tip: Be friendly and play nice. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Offer to help them set up their tent if you see them struggling and to keep an eye on their booth while they grab a bite to eat. Also, while I don’t necessarily recommend offering a discountmany crafters offer discounts to their fellow show participants. It’s a great read to build up good-will with your fellow makers and to support each other’s businesses.

3. Stay positive, or fake it

I have had shows where the person next to me barely has time to sit she’s making so many sales. Meanwhile, it’s crickets in my booth and I’m praying I’ll at least make back the fee for the day.

Then I have days where I will sell a piece before the show has even officially begun.

You never know what the day will bring.

Image by Phillipe Put

Yes, days can be incredibly slow and make you want to pull your hair out, but there are also (hopefully) more successful days to balance it out.

And no one is going to buy from you if you’re sitting there pouting.

Instead of throwing yourself a pity party, look at those shows as a lesson in how to do things differently. Switch up your booth display, change out some products. You have nothing to lose! Think about what you can do to improve your selling experience.

Newbie tip: Go into each day with a positive attitude and a smile on your face. Even if you are having a slow sales day, just suck it up and plaster on a big, fake smile and know that the next one is a brand new day.  Look at each show as an opportunity to learn and grow. Again, talk to your neighbors and see what words of wisdom they can offer, especially if the have been doing this longer than you. And if all else fails, give yourself bury your sorrows in a mountain of trip chocolate ice cream dripping with hot fudge at the end of the day.

4. Get people to sign up for your newsletter

Though I’m not very good at pushing it, I always make sure to have a newsletter sign-up sheet. I have steadily increased the number of newsletter subscribers I have this way and have been able to get some repeat customers this way as well as form a connection with some of them.

I have people who waited years to buy jewelry from me, but because they were on my newseltter, I stayed on their radar.

Newbie tip: Have an incentive to encourage potential customers to sign up for your newsletter. It can be a credit to your shop or an opportunity for people to win something you sell. I switched to ConvertKit years ago, You can create a newsletter for free up to 2,000 subscribers with

I cannot stress this enough. You NEED to have a newsletter for your craft business. If you aren’t sure where to begin, I recommend this CreativeLive course, E-mail Marketing for Creatives taught by Abby Glassenberg, I successful blogger and crafter.

5. do a practice run of your setup

The day of a show is a scramble, You have a set window of time to unload everything from your car, park your car, and set up your booth. In short, you have about 1-3 hours to create a pop-up shop.

Practice setting up your tent and all of your displays before the big day. And if you have no idea where to begin, go on Pinterest and type “Craft Show Booth” for some ideas to help you get started.

Newbie tip: Take pictures of your setup so you have a reference point when you arrive. If you make any changes, take photos so you have them for next time.

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27 thoughts on “Five lessons I learned after surviving my first craft show season”

  1. I really appreciated this post. I am on the verge of starting a business and will most likely begin at farmer’s markets and vendor nights and things like that. I’m a horrible sales person too – I will have to remember to do newsletters!

  2. I was just looking at my calendar and noticed that Sunday was the first day of fall!

    Congratulations on your first spring and summer seasons of shows! You’ve learned a lot and I think every person new to shows should read this post!!

    It struck me that one of the sentiments you had about shows, for me, applies to blogging. Some days I thought would be great end up being awful (and the post flops)…and some days I think will be terrible, end up being great (and popular). I’ve realized you just never know!! –Lisa

  3. I can’t imagine how taxing each show day is – and how you’ve worked it so well while being pregnant! I love the JP Open Studios! I’ve been several times because my sister lives in JP. Have a wonderful and successful weekend!

  4. I’m a terrible salesperson too. I just want to do my thing and have someone else worry about all of the business/money/sales type things.
    That said, I’d need a fairy godmother for that to happen.
    It seems very physical, and that’s for someone who isn’t pregnant. Makes me want to go to a craft show right now and hug all of the vendors and buy their work!

  5. It definitely was a great summer! While it is a lot of work, it’s nice to have an excuse to be outside for an entire day (well, as long as it isn’t too hot and humid) and spend it with a friend or family member.

  6. Exactly! I’ve had the same thing also happen with blog posts. I think that’s the cool (and also frustrating) part about humans: we are completely unpredictable!

  7. That’s awesome! I haven’t been to the JP Open Studios in several years, and while I’m a little bummed I won’t be able to explore and see the local artists, I am very excited to participate in it. If your sister comes, you will have to tell her to let me know she’s your sister!

  8. I have never thought about all of the work putting the tent up and down carry things back and forth to your booth. Yeah, it does seem obvious but…! I think if you are enthusiastic about what you are doing that you are a fine salesperson. The only thing that is hard to do is just asking the final question of what they’d like to purchase today. Other than that one question no sales pitch is needed IMO. Your excitement will rub off on others.

  9. Thanks for the good advice and encouragement! Love love reading your posts. Its like a breath of fresh air.

  10. Thanks for all the great tips! Once baby is born, I’m hoping to get involved in some shows. We don’t have many around here, and unfortunately, the ones we do have are all right on the baby’s due date! How fun would it be to meet up with our kiddos someday??

  11. I definitely had not thought about how tough it was before this year. I have such an appreciation for my “colleagues” who do this week after week!

    Thanks for the well wishes, I’m very happy that the last part of my pregnancy is in the fall! I can’t imagine being super pregnant in the summer 🙂

  12. That is a great way of looking at it, Carla! I am certainly enthusiastic, but I don’t know how much that shines through, oddly enough.

  13. It definitely would!! Especially since they are going to be so close in age. I’m interested to see how having a baby next summer will have an impact on doing shows (and her due date definitely is having an impact on the holiday season…no holiday shows this year for me. Oh well!)

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  19. I have been doing craft shows for years. My advice to the newbies is Research,Research, Research! Look at what other vendors are exhibiting in the show. If you have unique high priced item beware of those shows that allow Buy/Sell items into the show. If customers can get flea market products at a cheaper price they are not going to appreciate handmade higher priced handmade pieces.
    Once you start doing a few shows you will get to know who your customers will be. You want to examine the area you are in to see the age group that buys, and the type show it is. You dont want to be selling an item for a mature home maker if most of the customers are very young.
    I also look at the show fee. If they are only charging a small fee, chances are they are a small show or very little advertising is available. Sometimes you can make a good profit but dont count on too much!

    1. Thanks, Cathy! This is great advice. It’s really important to look at the market and make sure you are at the right one given your products. I have made that mistake of being at shows that weren’t a good fit for my jewelry and found myself competing with items with a much lower price-point.

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