Money is a scary taboo topic that I've wanted to write about this year. I've shied away from it because duh, it's scary! If I share how much I make or my pricing thoughts, people will judge me. They might see that I'm not making very much. Or if I make 'a lot' then they might not want to support me anymore because I'm doing well without them. Lots of ifs and fears but on the other hand this is the stuff that I want to read about when I go to blogs. This is the stuff that helps other artists. I thought this would be a good time to give it a try. I don't have the answers and I won't pretend that I do. I'm not writing as an expert, I'm writing (just like I did last year) as someone who is learning and experimenting as I go. So here we go!
Saturday I was a vendor at the Hip Handmade Market in Joplin, MO. It is a juried event which means vendors apply and are selected by a committee. They look for "innovative, unique, and hip goods." I didn't know anything about it before entering except that two of my online friends had been a part of it last year.
I chose to apply because I wanted to try selling at an event like this. I liked that it wasn't a craft fair. I liked that the cost was reasonable. There was a $15 application fee. I chose the smallest (cheapest) booth which was 8'x8' and $75. There was also a $3 city license fee. I was excited to be accepted and preparing for this event has pretty much taken up all of March!
Other than painting, I spent the majority of my time on my booth. I started a board on Pinterest to keep track of my ideas. From the beginning I was really not into the idea of sitting behind a table. Instead I wanted to be able to sit but be at eye level with shoppers. I knew that I wasn't going to have wall space to hang my work. That was ok because with the way I frame my pieces they can stand up on their own.
costs for my booth...
- shelving and rug $120 from IKEA
- handmade table $25 in building supplies from Home Depot
- business cards and stickers $36 from Moo
- paper bags and large sign $15
The stools and the easel and other stuff in the booth were things we had around the house.
I had no idea how many pieces to bring. I was able to bring about 40 pieces and I felt like I had enough. Going into it, I knew that I needed a few items at a lower price point. Throughout March I worked on those mini (3"x3") paintings and I put those on little easels. I also had the idea to make little geometric clay pots with succulents. I had some trouble with that project and by the time I figured it out, I only had time to make three before the event.
The seven circled items above sold on Saturday. The interesting thing now is that all the items that sold were in the same area when they sold, far left and around eye level. Those two on the right that are circled were moved to the empty spots on the left. Coincidence maybe, but still interesting I think.
I used the square card reader and app. It worked great for me that day. It probably helped that the event had wifi. I liked that I could use the app for both cash and card sales. All my sales were totaled for me and the sales tax was calculated. The event was 10 a.m -4 p.m. and traffic was pretty steady throughout the day. I was thrilled to make a sale early because it gave me a chance to figure out how to use the card reader and app.
A few people asked me if I was successful....
I think the answer to that depends on your definition of success. Did I make money? No. If I add up the fees and what I spend on my booth, it's $289. That leaves $34 which doesn't begin to pay for the supplies or time I put into each of the 7 pieces I sold.
Would I do it again? I think I will. For one, I have all the booth stuff now so I won't be spending much other than to make changes. I gave out a LOT of business cards and people seemed genuinely interested. It'll take time to see if any of that interest turns into sales down the road. I met a lot of nice people and hopefully made a few new friends. Overall the Hip Handmade Market was a fantastic event. I will apply again in the fall.
However there are things I'll do differently next time...
- I'll have small bills to make change. Some people still use cash! :)
- I'll check my bag sizes and make sure I have a way to package every single item. Oops. I discovered some of my framed pieces didn't fit in my largest bag.
- Next time I'll photograph each piece when it sells so I have a visual record. That would help with inventory.
- I'll ask for emails from those that make purchases.
- I'll arrange my booth differently. It's hard to predict the flow of traffic but a general rule we noticed is that people tend to turn right at intersections. I'll try to figure out from which direction the majority of the people will be coming from and then set up my shelves to be facing that direction. Also I think maybe angling the shelves might be a good idea as some people didn't walk into the booth. They tried to look at the items from outside it. The booths that had angles seemed to act like funnels to help draw people into them.
- I got better throughout the day at talking with people. Mentioning that I do a painting a day was a good conversation starter. I'd have more information about what I do, my blog, etc. Many people were interested in getting a custom painting of their own dog. Next time, I'd have information about that ready to go.
So what did I leave out? What else do you want to know? Have you had a similar or much different experience at these kinds of events? I'd love to hear from you!