A lot of small crafters get their first sales through friends and family. A logical next step is to start selling your work at local craft fairs and events. Most of these small events are locally run, so they do not require you to have a resale license (though you should have one) and their fees to attend are low.
1) Find a show. A good way to learn about shows in your area is to pick up local newspapers and check local news websites. Keep an eye out on the weekend activities. A lot of local clubs or cafes will host craft sales, usually run by individuals. Larger craft fairs are usually run by event companies and will have a formal application process. Note that the larger craft fairs also require a longer application lead time, up to 6 months in advance or more!
Check out this site for Indie Craft Shows.
Another great way to stay in the know is to join local crafting groups, neighborhood associations, or local business groups. With sites like Etsy.com, there are local Etsy "street groups" that are great because they share advice and information. You can check them out at the SF Etsy blog.
2) Apply. Most small craft shows are screening to make sure they have a good mix of sellers at their event (if you're jewelry, apply early!). Larger craft shows will be juried, meaning they will want an application, a fee to apply, as well as examples of your work and booth setup on slides. They may also require some small business insurance. Fees to apply for a show can vary, from $10 and up. The shows themselves can run into the hundreds for a weekend. The good news is that there are ways to start small with local crafty shows before trying out the larger ones. Schools, art galleries or local recreation centers often have fundraising shows or holiday shows that you can sell at (and help the community).
3) Get your booth together. The more professional your booth, the better! It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should display your product in a clean, easy-to-shop manner. Check what a show provides (if you need electricity or other special set up, like a tent).
My kit includes:
- Folding tables (in small sizes to fit any booth configuration. Only if venue doesn't provide tables)
- Folding chair
- Table cover
- Signage (let your customer know who you are and what you sell!)
- Biz Cards
- Mirrors (customers want to try things on)
- Displays (with weights/clips for wind)
- Packaging (make it easy to take your product home)
- Payment processing (credit card imprinter, record book, Square device).
- Cash box with change
- Pens/notebook (for checkwriters and notetaking)
- Calculator (I am not a math whiz!)
- Press examples (show off a little)
- Tent/umbrella (with weights in case of wind)
If you have an Android or Iphone, you can use a Square device. Square is great because they charge a flat fee per transaction and you don't need to have your own merchant account (credit card accepting account) to use it. You can pick one up at any Apple Store (and you will be credited the cost after your first transactions) or sign up at their website. I currently use Square and am very happy with it!
Intuit provides their own solution, which integrates with Quickbooks, called Intuit GoPayment. Their dongle is also free.
Paypal is working on their own mobile solution as well!
Otherwise, you could use your laptop/Paypal/Merchant account online terminal to accept payments if you have a WiFi connection.
For a long time, I used an old fashioned "knuckle-buster" to take credit card orders, but be sure you take all your customers' information and you handle the sensitive information appropriately (including disposal of the paperwork after you have processed the orders at home).
As always, taking non-cash payments are at your own risk -- checks included. A mobile or online solution is best, since you can keep transaction costs low (for having card in hand when processing your order) and verify and collect payment on the spot.
5) Get the word out. Do you have a mailing list, a website, an email newsletter? Tell your fans where and when they can find you. Have a local cafe with a public posting board? Drop a flyer around your neighborhood. It helps you and helps the event.
6) Get ready to sell! Be approachable -- while it's tempting to keep your nose in a book while waiting for customers to stop at your table, it really makes a difference if you are engaged with the event. Do onto others, really! Know your product -- how it was made, the ingredients, and the options available. If you love your product, so will your customers. See the type of events I attend at the Peggy Li Creations Events page.