This article was written by my daughter and Craft Sales Partner, Ché Orridge
The Journey Begins: Partnering in Craft Sales
Selling at Craft Sales was one of the most wonderful, stressful and
If I could go back and tell my younger self some tips, they would be as follows:
Early Start: Planning Your Craft Sale Year
Always start early. Most craft sale seasons start in the spring and run through the summer months but of course the most lucrative times are usually in the fall leading up to the Holiday Season.
Most likely you’ll need breaks; if you do the fall market, make sure you take a good break once they are complete. But once you feel rested, get right back on the horse so to speak; start planning your year out again.
Maybe you need some new or different product, new parts of your display (or less!), and an overhaul of your travel plans if you plan to craft-sale away from home.
You would be so surprised at how fast time passes you by and how quickly the sale season re-approaches! Starting early also gives you a bit more time to breathe and relax in-between tasks.
A lot of folks have other jobs or full-time jobs in-between sale seasons. I was one of those people, so I had to try and balance my time wisely.
Mock Booth Setup: Visualizing Success
Set up a mock booth, if you have or can find the space. Wow, was it ever helpful to have the booth set up so I could visualize what needed to go where!
There came a point in which our booth was becoming unmanageable and we had too much product. We would pack our product in boxes and have our display pieces separate. It was taking well over 12 hours to set up our booth and that was just too much time.
Innovative Display Solutions: Saving Time and Space
So we came up with an idea; why don’t we make some of our displays product storage as well?
If you take a close look at this display, you will see that the pockets for the cards are sewn onto a mock leather backing. The clear vinyl is the type you buy to use as a tablecloth. The pocketed piece was then stapled to a lightweight wood frame and so all of these displays were pre-loaded and stayed that way in the vehicle.That ended up cutting set-up times almost in
half, as well as the space it took to haul the booth and product! Once we established this new idea, it was easy to see what product needed to be refilled, what was selling and what could use replacement.
Adapting to Market Trends: Staying Relevant
You will need to be able to change with the times!
As with all retail, things come and go, and you need to be on top of what is popular at the time. You are unique and special and so is your product.
Handmade products come from the mind and the heart. Each is unique to you. Utilize that special quality about you and your product while keeping in mind what people are looking for. It is so encouraging making good sales with your product and gives you the push you need to create more!
Don’t get too discouraged if it doesn’t work out right away. Try and find out what sells and what doesn’t and tailor whatever your product is to the market. It’s not an easy task.
One thing that really helped us figure this all out is having multiple products on hand. That way at least something will most likely sell, and you can make some cash. What doesn’t sell, get rid of, or change it up.
The Power of Making Lists: Organizational Mastery
Make lists! Write everything down from start-up time to sale time. Make lists of what you make, the time it takes for everything, what you sell, your new ideas as they pop into your head, customer comments, your expenses and profit… the list goes on!
It is heavenly to be able to look back and have notes on the season so you can change or make improvements moving forward.
If you can set up a POS system for your product, that would be an awesome help for you and your business.
In our case, we tried but couldn’t really get it to work properly with our product. I’m thinking its just because we didn’t have the time to properly implement it.
A POS system can keep track of your product sales, customer visits and so much more. If a POS system isn’t going to work for you and your business, you can make it work with some detailed, organized lists. Here’s an example of our craft sale breakdowns:
Sale: YORKTON SUNFLOWER – 1.5 Days
- Booth Cost: $450
- Hotel Cost: $95 (one day)
- Fuel: $150 (round trip from Brandon, MB to Yorkton, SK )
- Misc: $50 (anything from tools, lights, batteries, tape, etc.)
- Sales: $3200
- Expenses: $745
TAKE HOME: $2455 (split 2 ways)
Sale: BUTTERDOME EDMONTON – 4 Days
- Booth Cost: $1492
- Hotel: $611 (I always tried to book a hotel as cheap as possible, with a continental breakfast and a hot tub for some relaxation)
- Fuel: $750 (round trip from Brandon, MB to Edmonton, AB)
- Parking: $66
- Misc: $246 (oil change, vista print, paper bags, etc)
- Sales: $7800
- Expenses: $3317
TAKE HOME: $4483 (split 2 ways)
Analyzing Sales: Learning from Past Experiences
You can see here a couple of examples of one of the lists I made way back around 10 years ago, in 2013 with a couple of different sales. The first sale was rather small and close to home.
The expenses were not nearly as high as the other sale, but neither was the profit. Sometimes these small sales are key to propel your business forward, get your name out there, and make some cash you could use towards your next sale.
Lots of sales require payment for booths upfront, months before the sale begins. Then you need to factor in any expenses coming your way to get to your next sale. The larger the sale, the more traffic there is, the more your sales but also the more the work.
The second sale in Edmonton was much larger in scale. More days, more customers coming through, more profit and more expenses. The larger sales can be more difficult to prepare for; you need more product, more space or money to transport that product and long days you need to prepare for.
However, they can yield wonderful rewards of profit and encouragement to move forward!
Starting Small: The Path to Growth
Most likely you’ll have to start small and go slow. You’ll have to figure out the ins-and-outs of your product and your small business. You’ll have to make your lists and really look at your expenses and the time you put into your work.
I hate to say it but there will be a point in which you’ll have to weigh your options; is this worth my time and money. And I’ve learned that time is much more precious. Maybe you’ll grow to the point of needed to hire staff to help with production and sales.
Always make sure that in the end, it’s worth it to you. It might take some time to figure it all out and get to where you want to be and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t get discouraged easily but as the Kenny Rodger’s song goes, ‘you have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”
Travel Considerations: Navigating Craft Sales on the Road
Throughout my craft-selling career, and since we travelled away from home for many of the sales, it was important to have solid travel plans. Craft-selling throughout the summer months is usually easier in Canada than the winter months.
If your weather is mild where you live, that is amazing and one less thing you don’t have to worry about. If you live in a climate where the weather turns cold in the fall and winter months, I have some advice for you!
Please give yourself a lot of time to get where you need to be and always be conscious of the weather. If you can, leave a day in advance of set up. This was always a toss-up for me as I was either working another job, making product, or trying to save money. Turns out, it’s usually not worth it.
Travelling in bad weather is risky, travelling rushed is risky, and I highly recommend you don’t do either!
Overcoming Challenges: Resilience in Craft Sales
Know that no matter what, you will probably have some hiccups throughout your career. It’s important to accept what is and move on from them.
Plans change, breakdowns happen, money comes and goes. And life will inevitably happen in between these sales. Make a promise to yourself that you will go easy on yourself and roll with the punches because there will be many.
The Importance of Support: Sharing the Craft Sale Journey
I was so lucky to have my mother and best friend by my side throughout all of this. We rocked through the thick and thin together, celebrated together, cried together, and got though it all together.
Hopefully you have a support person, partner, or parent that you can turn to when times are great and when times are tough. Someone who will uplift you when you need it and encourage you to move past whatever roadblock you’ve encountered.
This right here is probably the most important tool you can have in your arsenal. Everything else you can figure out.
We'd Love to Hear from You!
As we wrap up this guide on surviving and thriving at craft sales, we're eager to turn the spotlight over to you, our creative community. Your experiences, insights, and stories are what make this journey in the world of craft fairs so enriching. Let's continue the conversation in the comments below!
Share Your Craft Fair Memories: What has been your most memorable moment at a craft fair? Whether it's a heartwarming interaction, a learning experience, or a funny incident, we'd love to hear your stories!
Seeking and Offering Advice: Are you preparing for your first craft fair or facing a particular challenge? Feel free to ask for advice here. And for the seasoned crafters, your tips and tricks could be a guiding light for someone just starting out.
Celebrating Successes: Have you had a breakthrough moment or a particularly successful event? Share your success stories and let's celebrate together!
Lessons Learned: The journey of a crafter is full of learning. What important lessons have you learned along the way? Your insights could be invaluable to fellow artisans.
Creative Booth Ideas: How do you make your craft booth stand out? Share your creative ideas and inspirations that have worked wonders for you.
Remember, every comment, story, and piece of advice enriches our community. So, let's connect, share, and grow together as artists and crafters. Drop your thoughts, questions, and experiences in the comments section below – we can't wait to read them!