5 Lessons Learned from my First Holiday Craft Fair

I’ve been on a bit of a holiday market kick, in a combination effort of gift-buying and seeing if there are any ones I want to try to do next year. I realized too late that I might want to try selling at a holiday market this year, mostly because I was a big chicken and being a vendor at a craft fair intimidated me. (That’s what happens when you’re going through a bit of an identity crisis!) Many of the applications for holidays shows were in the summer or early fall, when my head was still in South America and most certainly not in the holiday spirit yet. I also simply didn’t know how early you need to sign up. Not to mention they’re expensive, yikes! (I guess it’s true, you have to spend money to make money.)

Reflecting back, there are a few lessons I learned from this experience.

1. Do your research early

I’ve already put in my handy dandy Google calendar when to start applying for craft fairs for next summer. (And it helped me to know when to start looking to sign up to do my first show for next year, for which I have already done the whole application. Woo!)

I did end up selling at one little holiday fair this year. Last year, my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted to sell my jewelry at the holiday bazaar where she works. Unfortunately, at the time I literally had five pieces of jewelry, which didn’t seem like quite enough merchandise. But I tucked that little tidbit in the back of my head and returned to it this year.

It was time to face the craft fair and get my act in gear.

Now, I must explain that my mother-in-law works in a retirement community. So not exactly the target market for my jewelry, but I figured that the worst that would happen was I would sell nothing, but I wouldn’t lose any money since the fair was free (I do realize that time is also money, but I’m not going to worry about that one for now). Plus I would get some practice selling at a craft fair.

Linkouture Craft Fair

I did a ton of reading and pinning, figuring out what I would need to bring and how to properly display my jewelry. And thank goodness for my jewelry party, because that really gave me a good sense of what to do.

2. Do your reading!

Researching about craft fairs online gave me a better sense of what to bring (plus checklists which proved to be invaluable) and great tips on how to display goods. Apparently my homework paid off — one of the vendors who I ended up chatting with throughout the fair was amazed that this was my first fair based on how I set up my table.

I showed up at the market right at 8:30 am (which is the earliest we could arrive) and got cracking with the set-up. And man, it took me an hour to set up my jewelry! I couldn’t have imagined it would have taken that long, but let me tell you, it’s a lot of work.

3. Give yourself ample time to get to the fair and to set up.

Thankfully the market didn’t open officially until 10:00, so I still had a good 20 minutes to walk around and look at the vendors and make a visit to the ladies’ room after I finished setting up.

My table was positioned between two lovely ladies, one selling fleece scarves, the other selling fleece pet beds and dog jackets and ties. I was informed that we were living the life of craft fair luxury there — big, comfy chairs; long tables with linen tablecloths; and a free lunch to boot! Apparently you’re lucky if you even get a chair on most fairs, and if you do it’s pretty much guaranteed to be highly uncomfortable.

4. Make friends with the vendors around you.

If you are an uber craft fair novice (a CUFN, if you will) like I am, you will find many of the other vendors to be a wealth of valuable information. Such as what vendors are typically provided with (and now I know to set my comfort expectations much lower for future fairs) and where the good markets are. I already have a list of places to look into for the holiday season next year.

So at 10:00 am the patrons started rolling in. Literally rolling in, in wheelchairs and walkers.

Many people stopped by and were surprised and amazed that I made all my jewelry. I got so many compliments, but alas most of them a) were at the point where they were giving their jewelry away, or b) didn’t “need” any jewelry (which I realized was a huge generational difference — I can’t imagine there is ever a time I buy a piece of jewelry that I actually need).

At the end of the day, I did end up selling six pairs of earrings, enjoyed talking to my animal accessory-selling neighbor, and got some great tips on some holiday markets to look at for the next year.

Which brings me to lesson number 5, and the final one for the day.

5. Don’t set your expectations too high, but hope to do your best (and act like you’re going to sell your pants off!).

Knowing that this wasn’t my target market, and having been informed by the organizer that the previous years the residents weren’t high spenders, I didn’t expect to sell too much. In the end I was therefore pleasantly surprised by my sales. And regardless of how well you expect to do, always be your happiest, friendliest self. It could very well pay off in the end.