Friday , 24 May 2019
Yes! You should sell at a craft fair. There is no better way in the world to learn more about your target market and your customers. You have instant feedback as you watch your customers browse your products. Who stops by? Who lingers? Who buys?

Should you sell at craft fairs?


Industrial Growth - Earring Tree

Industrial Growth - Earring Tree


I was poking around the forums one day and was very surprised to read a question regarding whether one should set up and sell at a craft fair. I guess I just presumed everyone started at the craft fairs!

Yes! You should sell at a craft fair. There is no better way in the world to learn more about your target market and your customers. You have instant feedback as you watch your customers browse your products. Who stops by? Who lingers? Who buys?

Find a small venue in your community. Maybe a farmer’s market allows crafters; maybe there is a small art fair at a local church or community center. Those venues tend to be smaller and less expensive and of shorter duration than the big art festivals. It is a good way to get your feet wet.

First you need to make sure you have a state sales tax id. You probably already have one as a seller on Etsy. Most states require you to collect and pay sales tax on items you sell. Craft sale organizers are required by law to only allow sellers at their venue who have valid sales tax ids. They will ask you for the number, require a form, or ask you to sign a form stating that you will collect and pay sales tax. If the craft sale organizer is then ever audited, they have their bases covered.

Second, you should find a portable table that you can set up for your display. If your venue is in a community center or church, they frequently have tables you borrow for free or rent for a nominal fee. Practice setting up your display at home. Think about treasuries as you do so! What catches your eye? How many products should you display at once? What kind of table covering (if any) will showcase your items? Will you choose a color scheme? It’s a lot of fun figuring that out.

I started at our local farmer’s market with my 24”x24” table. It cost $5 per market to set up and the market lasted an hour and a half. From there I graduated to the holiday craft fairs at the local churches and community centers. After that I opened my shop on Etsy. I opened my Etsy shop after receiving feedback from customers asking how they could find me when they got back home. I didn’t even have business cards to hand out back then!

Now I’m set. I have my business cards directing customers to my Etsy shop and to my blog. I have coupons that I tuck inside every purchase for free shipping from my Etsy shop and another coupon to give to their friend back home for free shipping, too.

Let me know how your craft sales go. What fun!

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  1. Good solid advice–especially about sales tax. Got to help pay for all of these paved roads….

  2. To bad Esty doesn’t fully support folks who do craft fairs.

    Unless you have duplicate products to sell in person and online you run the risk of double selling. And Vacation mode is not a viable option.

    I use an I-pad at shows to run credit cards as well as deactivate items on the fly as things sell at craft shows.

    • You’re right, that is very tricky. Most of us have one of a kind pieces. Personally, I put my Etsy shop on vacation mode. It’s the most efficient way I can figure to not double sell.

    • I’ll de-activate all of the items that I cannot make more of when I sell at craft shows. That leaves a few items up in my Etsy shop, but no risk of double-selling.

  3. Well said! I’ve learned over the years to avoid “first” or “first annual” shows–especially at schools. My first year (or two) of craft fairs I learned that, while you may luck out with a wonderfully publicized “first” event, most likely you’ll lose money when you factor in the cost of gas and your time. Oh yes, definitely remember to factor in location (distance), total number of hours–including time to set up and breakdown–and how much your time is worth. I found that I spent a lot of time driving an hour to 90 minutes for lower-priced craft fairs and, in the end, would have done better if I had just paid extra for a closer craft fair.

  4. I have never done a craft show – but was prompted to get an on line precense from the customers who sought me out through family and friends. I had already started to sell things through pure word of mouth, now I am interested in taking it seriously. A craft fair is definately in my future. Just trying to figure out where and how many I could handle to start. I think one a christmas is a must.

    Thanks for all the advice – I am soaking it in.

  5. I’m soaking it in too! And looking forward to the next installment :D

  6. I’m enjoying the learning experience from doing shows. It is definitely one of the best ways to get feedback and build up customers. And, rethinking my 10% off coupon I slip in bags…thinking Free Shipping may be even better! Thanks.

  7. I’ve done many shows. From local craft shows art and wine festivals to ones at museums. I’ve even traveled out of state. I no longer do any of them. Here is the problem they just cost too much to attend. Before you take the leap you had better figure out your cost of doing the show. Don’t forget to include the gas to get you there, (at $4 a gallon Yikes!) wear and tear on your vehicle, the cost of entering and doing the show and the cost of setting up your booth. The time you will spend getting up enough inventory to fill your booth. Then figure out what is the minimum it will cost you to break even after you pay for your cost for the goods. It is staggering the amount I learned I had to sell. Then throw in how exhausting it is to get up so early, set up a booth, spend the time with your customers and tear down. Don’t get me wrong I so miss that interaction with my customers and I loved it when someone came in and loved my work. I really enjoyed the travel, but the bottom line is after doing it for 3 seasons I was loosing money and you can’t run a business that way.

  8. We’re thinking of doing Craft Fairs. This has been very helpful, both the article and the comments. However, now I am confused…to do or not to do.

  9. I started selling my wares at our local farmers’ market. It costs $5 to attend, it only lasts two hours, and it’s local so minimal gas money. For anyone who hasn’t done craft fairs, that kind of beginning is just right. You may never be one of the vendors at one of the big shows. Getting out at all, even in a small way, is really good for exposure and to see your customers in real life.

  10. Interesting article, I’m thinking about doing this, for the first time. It does sound like a good way to gauge your market. I don’t plan on more than once or twice a year & on starting small. Thanks for posting this good advice!

  11. So true! love all the comments too :)lots of different experiences, just have to try it yourself to find out if it is right for you?

  12. Great question – one often forgotten to ask ourselves before we jump in.
    I’ve done shows for almost 20 years now – it’s great R&D for new products and I make new friends (vendors & customers). However, if you’re not a people person who wants to greet each customer as they stop by or willing to put in 10-12 hrs/day at the bigger shows; maybe art shows/fairs aren’t your cup of tea.
    Those of us who have been at it for a long time work very, very hard at it weekend after weekend after weekend and for many of us, we earn our living this way. It’s a hard way to earn a few $$$; but I haven’t found anything else I would rather do to sell my artwork. Start small, a dress rehearsal if you will, and grow from there. If you’re a “newbie”, don’t try to tackle anything big or elaborate at first- grow into that – it’ll be much easier on you and you’ll probably have more success!!

  13. I started out doing craft fairs. My first was a farmers market and it was great. I recommend listening to other seasoned vendors advice. I remember one who said it takes 3-4 years for you to get your set up the way you want and she was right! It’s been 5 years and countless markets and I still tweek my display a little. My advice- take it slow, feel your way, you’ll know soon what works for you.

  14. In Canada we aren’t allowed to get a tax number until our sales reach $30,000 a year. So for the first year or two of business, our customers get a nice tax free purchase.

    I started out in craft fairs, and I find it’s the best way to meet the people. I’ve been recruited more times at a craft fair to sell in a store than if I tried to solicit them by email. ;)

  15. I love selling at shows, but they are a lot of work! It’s almost always worth it tho, as they are such a a valuable marketing tool. In addition to the market research component, they are a great place to gather names for your newsletter or sign people up for classes they may want to take from you.

  16. I agree! I’ve recently signed up to do a trunk show that is very buyer-specific to what I do. I’ll be selling my yoga jewelry at a yoga studio. Looking forward to the feedback. I’ll post it on my blog:

  17. My second craft show is coming up next month. I am hoping that this time round, it will be more fun than the last time! Its really a learning experience and I enjoy it as well!

  18. I’m counting the days until my first attempt at a local show. And, the conflicting advice re; putting my Etsy shop on vacation mode………..vs not putting my shop on vacation mode has me stumped. Which is it? Anyone?

    I don’t have a fancy-pants phone to instantly remove things that sell from the Etsy store.

    Looking forward to the comments on this thread…..I’m taking notes! :)

  19. I absolutely agree that doing craft fairs is beneficial. I also use them to test out new ideas to see what works. Make sure the fair you choose fits in with your product and pricing. Having a helper so you can run to the bathroom and check out other booths during the fair is essential.

  20. Our whole summer is going to be one big outdoor selling venue every week. We’re lucky to live close to the 8th largest “flea market” in the country – Shipshewana. It’s really an open air Etsy and we (myself, hubby, and 5 year old son) are very excited to be able to be outside and being face to face with customers. Being cooped up in the house working long hours on Etsy orders can be exhausting, not to mention dealing with the post office daily :) Large venues such as “flea markets” can be very inexpensive. This particular is $35 weekly for a 2 day space from 8 -5 and they have free wi-fi. Hope a suggestion like this one can help!

  21. Thanks so much for this post! I have been debating for awhile now whether or not to do the craft fair thing…it seemed so big and overwhelming! But starting small at venues like churches, etc. where they may already have tables to rent or borrow is a great suggestion! I’ve been discouraged form doing craft fairs simply because I know a collapsible table will NOT fit in my car! lol. but i’ve had a lot of feed back that my designs need to really be seen in person to appreciate them, rather than just through my online store at Artfire. Thanks so much for the suggestions!!!

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