Saturday 14 December 2013

More Craft Fair Experiences!

I've had such an amazing response to the posts I did about my craft fair experiences that I wanted to share some more with you.  I'll eventually compile a list of websites I found to be really helpful aswell as a list of things to take with you if you are going to be doing your first craft fair.  I find it helpful to do a lot of research, I'm one of these people who reads up on everything before I go ahead and do it.  I like to be extra prepared so if anything does go wrong I know how to fix it!

So I have read around a lot of different websites about doing a craft fair and compiled my own list of helpful tips and things you wouldn't ordinarily think of taking with you.  I'll share all of this with you in the future.  For now I have Sarah Fleming who has done quite a lot of craft fairs this year, and I'm pleased to say hers went very well so it isn't all miserable news!

Lets hear about Sarah's craft fair experience:

"Over October and November, I have exhibited at 6 different craft fairs. These have all been Christmas fairs so my patterned products were competing against the usual novelty festive things found at fairs - lots of hand made decorations, hand made Christmas cards and other bits'n'bobs which immediately made me nervous.

 I was already anxious as to whether or not people would like my products/designs without having to compete with other stalls that may be seen as more relevant to the time of year. So, I decided to test the waters and do my first fair at home. I opened my (parents') house to family and friends to come over and see what stocking fillers I had. I post on facebook about new designs, illustrations and products quite a lot, and so the people invited had an idea of what I had to offer but I wanted to give them a sort of 'try before you buy' opportunity. Mum and I set everything up and between 2-8pm that day we had endless amounts of people through the door! It was amazing!"

What a fantastic idea to set up your own small craft fair to see how the public responds to your products, you can ask them for honest feedback on your designs, products and pricing before flying in to one of the bigger fairs where you will be paying for a stall.  This will also give you an opportunity to see what questions customers may have and you have time to practice how to answer certain ones and what may need to be made clearer on your packaging or with your stall set up.

"I couldn't believe the response, feedback I received about my work and products, and how successfully the whole day was. I had lots of sales, with people buying across all of the products I have - tote bags, pocket mirrors, notebooks, greetings cards and Christmas card sets. This definitely built my confidence up for the public fairs that I had to come! So, that would be my first bit of advice - if you can, have a few people over to test the waters with your products. It's your family and friends who are going to be your biggest fans and tell their family and friends about what you're doing so it's definitely worth trying. I even had people show an interest in buying wallpapers as I had my design portfolio on display and lots of people flicked through and loved my designs! So even if you don't get many sales on the day, it could bring in business from other avenues!"

Again a really useful bit of advice, having your other work on hand or on the table will let other people see the range of work you can do.  You never know who may need something designing, someone may be getting married and need wedding stationary, another may need a logo designing.  Having your portfolio which shows the different types of design you can do may bring in some work you didn't expect!

"Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd November, I had my first two public fairs. These were very slow and I only had a few sales - most of which were from other stallholders. I tend to be quite shy around people that I don't know and sometimes struggle to explain how I'm a surface pattern designer as some people can't quite grasp it. However, I pushed myself to talk to people and explain that everything had been drawn by hand and put into patterns on the computer, by me! So this would be my 2nd piece of advice - TALK TO EVERYONE! If someone comes by your stall, don't be afraid... just stand up and smile, say hi and explain a little about yourself. It makes them feel welcome, makes them see that what you're offering is exclusive to you and a lot of time and effort has gone into it! Also, talk to other stallholders. As I said, I had a few sales from people on other stalls and also found out about other fairs that may be of interest to me and the type of products I have. I even had invitations to exhibit at fairs from stallholders organising their own. So even if the sales aren't coming in thick and fast, use your time to network and make contacts!"

This echo's what I said in my previous post about talking to other stall holders, it is really important to network with other creatives!  Another thing Sarah has brought up is letting people know you have drawn all of these designs.  People didn't seem to grasp this with my stalls either, they were surprised when I explained I had hand drawn all of the designs and it made them take a closer look!  So if you can make it really clear that you are the one drawing and putting all of the illustrations together and the time and effort that goes into it.  People don't tend to think of all of the time behind a design and the hours of struggling with a colour palette that won't work or the time you've lost your work as Illustrator decides to go to sleep and delete your work so you've had to do it again!  Help them understand all of the work behind your designs.
"I set myself a limit of £15 a stall when booking fairs to ensure that if it was quiet and sales weren't great, I would at least (hopefully) make back my stall money. 
The next 3 fairs that I did were in association with different charities - MacMillan Cancer Support, Kickstart (a local charity in memory of Emily, school friend of mine) and Teenage Cancer Trust. These were very well advertised locally and brought in a lot of people and sales. I like to support charities where I can, so these fairs were great! 

My final fair was 1st December at Driffield High School, with over 85 stalls it is the biggest fair in East Yorkshire so I couldn't wait to get set up and see what the day brought. There was a wide variety of products on offer. Once I had set up I went for a walk around while my mum manned the stall and I could see that my stall was very different from everything else, as it had been at the previous fairs. This still, 5 fairs later, made me a little apprehensive but things went really well! I gained more great feedback and thoughts on other products I could maybe have on offer next year which was lovely. 

Overall, I have had a very positive experience with the fairs I have taken part in. I have made great contacts both with customers and other stallholders, got my name out into the local area more (and over to South Africa where one of my customers was taking her pocket mirrors to family!), gained confidence as a person and in my abilities as a designer, and been given that much needed boost to carry on doing what I'm doing and developing my Sarah Fleming Designs brand!"

It's wonderful to hear Sarah has had some very positive experiences with her craft fairs and fills me with hope for the future!  The very best of luck with developing her brand and I'm sure I'll interview Sarah again in the future to see how she is doing.

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