By Nicole Tinkham
Let’s set the scene: You have a nice collection of your artwork that you’ve been working on over the past couple years. Friends and family absolutely love your work so when the local art fair comes around you say “why not?” and grab a table hoping to make some extra cash. You may think you know the in’s and out’s of these events from attending them yourself in the past but there are many things to consider that you probably never thought of. The weather (if outside) is something to consider as well as presentation, lighting, pricing, and more. Before showing up the morning of and feeling completely lost, prepare yourself by following these helpful tips.
1. Get there early. You want to get a good parking spot as close to your table as possible. This will make setting up and packing up at the end of the day much easier.
2. Consider a dolly. A dolly, whether you have heavy items or not, becomes handy when you want to quickly unload the car and get your table set up. If you can’t borrow one from a friend, go ahead and rent one for the day.
3. Bring water. It’ll most likely be a long day and you’ll need to stay hydrated. Think about bringing a small cooler and having plenty of water for both you and your guests.
4. Bungee cords will become your friend. Use them to secure a tent if you have one or any other items in your area.
5. If you’re going to get a canopy, get a nice durable one. Trust us; you’ll be glad you have it in the wind and rain.
6. Bring a friend along to help with the set-up. You’d be surprised how much work goes into it!
7. Bring plenty of Rubbermaid containers and Ziploc bags to protect pieces that can’t get wet or dirty.
8. Bring extra clothes. Chances are you’ll be at the event for awhile. Consider dressing in layers to accommodate either warm or cool temperatures. Choose comfort over style.
9. Secure your tent to the ground in case the wind picks up. Sand bags work great for this.
10. You can never go wrong with an extra tarp. Throw it over your pieces if the weather gets bad.
Choosing a location
11. Corner booths tend to attract more people and can be kept open on two sides to encourage even more traffic.
12. Share your booth with another artist. Their customers will overflow into your area as well.
13. Attend the tradeshow prior to participating to get a feel of how it’s laid out.
14. Design your layout to accommodate large flows of traffic.
Booth presentation & self promotion
15. Act as if your table is a gallery at an art show. Catch their eye with a stunning display.
16. Study how other artists set up their booth and mimic the aspects you like about them.
17. Bring props. Instead of having all the work laid flat on the table, bring interesting pieces to display art at different levels.
18. A fancy tablecloth goes a long way, adding elegance to the display.
19. Make sure to display your name and type of artwork on a large sign.
20. Have business cards readily available.
21. This is a great opportunity to build your email list so you don’t lose your customers after the event. There are many ways to go about doing this. You can have a simple sign up sheet or do a raffle.
22. If your work is something that would be hung on the wall, we suggest displaying it on a wall. You can make and set up your own walls for your booth.
How to sell
23. Greet your customers with a smile and a personal statement. Many buyers want to get to know you! Remember to have a positive attitude 🙂
24. Be available for any questions buyers may have.
25. If a customer is looking at a piece for awhile, tell them the story behind it to give the piece more meaning.
26. Make a connection with shoppers. Talk to them, ask about them, share your story, and make them feel comfortable.
27. Food and beverage never hurts to draw people to your booth.
28. Consider a giveaway. This will really attract an audience and what you give away doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It could be as simple as candy!
29. Remember to upsell! Instead of focusing on making a single sale, point out other items that would work well with the piece they are purchasing, doubling the sale.
30. Make sure to clearly price all of your items.
31. Don’t undervalue yourself. You don’t want to be known as “the cheap one”.
32. When pricing, consider how much time you put into the piece as well as the cost of materials.
33. If you notice that you’re selling work rapidly, you may want to consider raising your prices the next time around.
34. Have a variety of different items at different price points to cater to more shoppers.
35. If the event is taking place in the evening you may have to bring your own lighting. Make sure electricity is available and whether or not there’s an extra charge to use it.
36. You will need: Lights, power strip, extension cords, and extra light bulbs.
37. Consider which color temperature bulb your work looks best under. You can get incandescent bulbs or warmer tones.
After the art fair
38. Evaluate how you did. What worked really well and what do you need to improve on next time? Take notes right away while it’s fresh in your mind.
39. Don’t become frustrated if you didn’t make the profit you hoped for. This is a learning process and you’re sure to get better at it with time. Also think of other ways to sell your art if the art fair just isn’t your thing. Maybe a website?
40. If you did make some extra cash, think about using it to go bigger next year! Brainstorm fun and exciting ideas that will draw even more people in.
Creating artwork is a struggle in itself. Setting up a booth at an art fair, selling it, and making a profit is even more difficult especially when first starting off. There may be frustration, disappointment, and heartache but don’t let that get you down. Here’s the final and most important tip: Cut yourself some slack! You aren’t supposed to be an expert right off the bat. Learn from mistakes and never give up.
Tell us: What was your first art fair experience like? What advice would you give a beginner? Share your story below or on our Facebook page.