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To craft fair or not to craft fair (Part 2)

So, if you’re thinking about selling at craft fairs, there is a lot to consider first. Think about the time you will spend on this – planning your stall, travelling to the fair and the setting up and packing up time, as well as the actual time of the fair….

Are you the sort of person who gets stressed easily? I find it quite stressful just worrying that I’m going to forget to take something. Last year was the first time in 4 years I was fairly relaxed – but then I forgot to pack the price tags and a few items were left unmarked, which is not good. It was also the first year I wasn’t so nervous about doing the pyrography in front of people. Consider how many trips to and from your car you will need to do in order to set up your stall. It takes me 4 . Not so bad at Castle cary where you can park right outside the hall; but many school halls are up and down stairs or nowhere near the car park. I arrive an hour before the fair is due to start and I am never done in time.

At my first batch of fairs my table didn’t have enough stuff – it lacked variety and interest. Over the next couple of years it got more and more elaborate and so high I couldn’t be seen behind the table! I think it got too complicated and therefore people passed by because there was just too much to look at! I’m not giving up craft fairs completely and when I do next do one, I have plans to pair down my table more and sell a reduced line of work. Just books and boxes. And maybe keyrings and Christmas decorations as they sell well. Oh dear; it’s going to be difficult! So after spending an hour hanging up all the signs, charms and carefully making my table display; oh how I envied the person next to me who walks in, 5 minutes before the doors open, carrying 2 suitcases. She sets them on the table, opens them up and voila! She’s ready. So not fair!

The research into your product and the fairs you sell at is vital. If you sell handmade cards, jewellery or cushions, you will almost certainly have competition, so you need to make sure yours have the edge. I recommend secondary school age private school fairs as teenagers have pocket money and Saturday jobs and no bills to pay! Also, parents come along specifically looking for presents to buy and are willing to pay more for something handmade and unique. Village hall fairs have a nicer atmosphere, but people come to do the raffle and chat with a cup of tea, rather than spend their money on higher priced items. Look out for fairs that are well advertised one year, so you know where you want to be the next. Also go and talk to the sellers and ask how they’re doing. (Though when I’m asked, I always sound like I’m doing better than I really am as I think they’re more likely to buy from a popular stall. No idea if this actually works!) Look at the prices people are selling at so you know if you can compete.

Unfortunately, a good proportion of stalls will be made up of people who are retired or who are looking for something to do whilst on maternity leave and who price their items in the hope that they may make a few pounds from their hobby. This is never good news for people who are trying to make a living from their craft. I have always done better at the £25 a pitch stalls, rather than the £10 a pitch stalls. (Look out for a post about pricing your items, which I’ll write soon!) Consider whether the fair will have passing footfall with people coming off the street on the off-chance, or whether it needs to be advertised well enough for people to come to specifically. You may be better off with the latter because people have some specifically to look for something to buy. I don’t recommend small primary school fairs, particularly if they are after school. Most parents have forgotten about it and only just have enough money in their purse for their child to see Father Christmas. I personally prefer to do fairs in the aid of a good cause because then at least if I do terribly, I can feel slightly better that my pitch fee went to a PTA or charity.

So test the water. See if what you’re selling is actually what people want to buy, and can afford to buy. You may be better off selling on Etsy (post to come about that soon). Take a look at my packing list for craft fairs here.

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Writer, pyrographer, renovator, crafter, photographer and maker of bohemian clothing and costumes.

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