By Natalie Goyette
If you are involved in the crafts business, and are profitable, you are among the rare breed who have successfully combined art with business. If, however, you still have yet to show a profit (or enough profit) after a show, this article may get you going in the right direction.
Whatever reason you have to enter the craft show business world, you probably will have a big wake-up call when set your intention to move from pastime to profits. Because you may not make a profit initially (it could take as long as two years to be in the black) make sure you love the business, that is, producing your craft product as well as selling it.
You need to give yourself a realistic amount of time to establish your business as well as learn the industry too. Start out slowly to avoid debt, and use your profits to learn and grow your craft show business.
An online survey revealed several major issues affecting professional crafters:
Finding Time 28%
New Ideas 14%
Slow Sales 14%
Finding Supplies 10%
Although craft shows are not the only place an artisan can sell wares, it is generally the best starting place, as it is fairly easy and inexpensive to get into small local shows to begin, and then build from there.
Craft Shows offer a short-term commitment of time and money, (you also won't incur any travel expenses) and you can easily assess your results quickly - before you commit to larger, more expensive craft shows. You'll be able to change prices, spruce up displays and add inventory based on the outcome of each show and customer feedback.
Your display booth is like a portable store you pack up and take with you. But because you have less inventory than a typical retail store, you are far more flexible. You can make adjustments more readily. You can test new products without having to manufacture large quantities. You can experiment with different prices and signage. You can ask your customers what they like and what they are looking for. And you can see what is selling at other booths.
By selling directly to your customer, without a distributor, you get to keep the full profit minus supplies, overhead and show costs. Since most craft shows are on weekends, you have full control of your time and the freedom to create your products when you wish.
You can also involve your whole family in the business as is common in husband and wife teams. Often the children help with production chores or at weekend craft shows. It's a great opportunity to spend time together and teach children business skills.
You can do as many or as few craft shows as you desire, working as much or as little as you want. You can travel anywhere you would like to do a show, and perhaps use your trip as a business tax deduction. The craft show lifestyle is not for everyone, and you'll find out quickly if it suits you.
There are many factors affecting your ability to make your craft show business a financial success, among them are: the state of the economy, competition, quality & need for your product, pricing, displays, choice of shows, cost of supplies, show fees, show promotion, attendance at the show, your sales ability and more.
But if you're wondering if anyone is profitable as an artisan selling their creations at craft shows and fairs, the numbers show that this is a big business. According to a recent CODA (Craft Organization Directors' Association) survey, the craft shows market is a more than $14 billion industry. The survey also revealed some demographics of the typical professional crafter:
The average age is 49 years old
Approximately 2/3 are female
Almost 2/3 work alone in a studio
Around 79% of the studios are in or on residential property
Nearly 20% work with a partner
More than 15% have paid employees
Over 75% belong to professional craft organizations
The average annual income from crafts is $50,000
At least 52% of annual retail sales come from craft shows
Since most crafters work from home, for the convenience and lower costs, managing their business around personal obligations presents the challenges of dealing with distractions, self-discipline and time management. Juggling all the demands on their time and energy takes planning, commitment and systems.
You have to determine for yourself the level at which you want to be involved: as a full-time profit- making professional or as a part-time hobbyist making some extra cash.
When first starting out in smaller, local shows, keep a notebook with you to record your observations, sales, the weather, customer feedback and anything else you think will help you learn what you need to improve at the next show. Ask questions of your customers when they seem interested and don't buy. Find out what might have made them purchase from you if they didn't: lower price, different materials, other colors - or maybe they were "just looking."
Build your confidence and sales abilities while working smaller shows, you will see your progress as you move on to larger venues. Talk to other more seasoned vendors to pick up whatever you can learn from them. Ask them where other craft shows are and what they see as hot trends.
To initially find your local shows, check your newspapers, the Chamber of Commerce and other local civic and charitable organizations. Ask at the nearest hobby or craft retail outlet. And of course, you can use the Internet. Once you become part of the craft show community, you will probably know about more craft shows than you have time to attend. That's when you can become more selective.
Natalie Goyette shows you how to make your craft show business profitable in her best selling ebook: Craft Show Success Secrets. Visit her site: Craft Shows
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