So it’s your first art market and you’re not really sure where to start?
Markets are an incredible way to break into the world of selling your art. If you're already selling art online, selling in person is a smart next step. Trading at different markets lets you build awareness about your work and helps to get your name out there. You'll begin to discover your audience and build up your following. You'll meet and see other traders that are making great profits each time, they seem to know what they're doing, they're confident and their new and old customers are buying from them time and time again.
As with anything, It may take a while to build up to that kind of fluency, but it's definitely worth a go. Our Arts Collective Print Sale and Market will have affordable and unique art by some talented local artists. Some will be seasoned traders and for others it will be their very first time.
My first time? I wanted to sell enough to break-even if not make a profit. I paid for an expensive booth to display all my handmade goods. Mistake number 1. I spent the weeks leading up to it, making a bunch of stuff. It was actually a bunch of everything. I kept making more and more, just to ease the anxiety that I wouldn’t have enough to fill up the booth, or I’d sell out of everything. Mistake number 2. When it came time to setting up, I arranged things, and rearranged things right up until the doors opened. Mistake number 3.
In the end, my booth looked like a garage sale and just barely made the price of my table back. Although I did do some major things wrong, I did a few things right. So, here are my top tips for success at your first market.
Image: My first market - what not to do
1. Don't splurge on expensive fairs – Learn from my mistake. If It’s your first market, you just want to get a feel for the process, you don’t want to get too concerned about selling everything just so you can make your expensive table price back. There may be a range of craft fairs in your area, some well known and pricey, some lesser known and budget friendly. Do your research. You want to find a market with a good reputation, high foot traffic, with affordable table fees. Visit some yourself if you can, take a look around and see what it’s like. Ask the stallholders how much the tables are and if they find it was worth it to them. Can’t hurt to ask.
2. Manage your Inventory – How much stuff should you bring? First off don’t worry about selling ‘something for everyone’, you’ll end up bringing/making way too much. Remember your aesthetic and your travel plans.
For small markets my rule of thumb is to bring a small collection of products and have about 5-10 of each item or size. Best for items like art prints, jewellery, t-shirts, ceramics.. For larger markets, increase to about 10-20 of each item.
For large commissionable/custom pieces go low, under 5. Best for things like large original paintings, tapestry, carpentry.
Always display a few, hide the rest and replenish as you go.
3. Pricing and Labelling - your products is crucial. Don’t be that person that doesn’t price items in hopes that people will ask you and start a dialogue. Chances are they won’t. If you’re already with a customer, and someone else wants to know the price of something, they’re just going to walk on by without disturbing you.
Additionally, someone might assume something will be way out of their budget but then sees your price tag, notices how affordable it is, and decides to buy it, maybe even 2!
Consider having an exclusive deal. 'Just for today' , '3 for £10' etc. This may incentivise people to buy it now.
RELATED READING Profit From Your Art With These Easy Pricing Methods
4. Get Public Liability Insurance – It’s important that when you’re selling products to the public that you’re insured. Most craft markets won’t let you trade without one.
5. Set some goals - Make a realistic sales goal for yourself. You'll be more positive if your goal was to sell 2 and you sold 4 vs if your goal was to sell 15 and you only sold 5.
Analyse your total costs from beginning to end. Here’s a spreadsheet I made for you. Hopefully you've made a profit (Woo!) But after you add everything together you may find that you've made a loss. Either way you should give yourself a pat on the back and consider all the other goals that you did accomplish. Some other goals might include building your email list, learning to talk about your art, meeting your target audience, building your confidence...
6. Determine your aesthetic – Try to create an experience for your shoppers. Create a feeling around your products that lets visitors immediately understand your brand, and what your art is about. Remember when I said my first table looked like a garage sale? It did. It had a like 3 different themes going on. I look back at pictures, and it’s a mess. Don’t make that mistake. It’s easy to feel like you want anyone who walks in to be able to find something at your table to buy, but you don’t. You actually want to attract your target audience. People who get you, understand what you’re doing and want a piece of it. If they don’t understand what you’re doing, you won’t get that sale, and you want your booth to be recognisable wherever you go.
7. Get your branding right – even if you’ve got a tiny pie-sized table, you should be able to get your brands image across. Similar to the point above, you want visitors to understand your brand. Creating a brands image, I believe, is basically down to three things: Colours, font, and style. For example: Black, White & Neon, Futura Bold Condensed Oblique, Sporty Style. Whose brand is that? Nike.
8. Market your brand - Make your name/trader name visible and bring plenty of business cards – no brainer. I use VistaPrint for a lot of my marketing materials. They’re budget friendly and orders come pretty quickly.
And get yourself online. In my opinion, it's absolutely crucial to have a website. Why wouldn't you have a website? Nowadays they are so simple to set up, intuitive and the all around easiest way for people to find out about your art. The best and easiest website builders out there are Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, and Shopify. All of these are FREE except Shopify. And all of them even allow you to have your own art shop right on the website. My all-time favourite website builder is Wix.
Admittedly though, having an online shop directly on your website can have fees that you may not be prepared to pay out in the beginning, but that's definitely something to work towards. That's why amazing marketplace platforms like Etsy, Society6, ArtFinder are in place. There are fees associated with these sites, but the the costs are smaller than having your own online shop.
At the very least, if not a website, if not an Etsy shop, get your ass on Instagram at LEAST. Instagram is a brilliant way to lay out all your beautiful artwork in one highly visible place. It's also a great way to see who your followers are, the people most interesting in your art. Plus and this is a big plus, you can sell stuff on Instagram now!
9. Be organised - Make a To-Do list and a To-Bring list! The worst is showing up to somewhere after realising you forgot something crucial. Don't fret though, here's one I made for you.
10. Bring Cash! – And a card reader. You’ll want to have enough of all cash denominations on hand, whether in a cash box or a fanny pack. And get yourself a card reader for debit transactions. I use iZettle, it’s super simple, intuitive and fast. It connects to my iPhone, so I always make sure I have enough data, since wifi isn’t always reliable or accessible)
11. Packaging – Decide what your customers will take their purchases home in. Paper bags are always better. You could even slap your logo on the front of it too.
12. Use Props & Things – You should definitely consider using some display assistance for your table. Things like, boxes, table shelves, display stands/risers, sign holders, picture frames for your prints etc.
Look around your house first, before you head out to buy anything. If you’re selling jewellery, you’ll definitely need a mirror. If it makes sense for your brand, try a table plant or ornament. If you’re selling bookmarks, or custom glasses cases, or mugs, perhaps you can get some old hard cover books and use those as display risers. Get creative, but don’t over do it.
13. Consider your own lighting – You never know what the lighting will be like in the spot your table is in. You may not be near any sockets, so consider bringing a long extension chord just incase. Even if you don’t end up using your lamp, someone else might.
I once brought a lamp but when it was plugged in, it didn’t reach the area I needed it to illuminate. I had no light! Someone generously gave me their clip-on lamp they weren’t using. Needless to say that was a lifesaver.
14. Do a dress rehearsal – For your table that is. Get the measurements for the table assigned table, and map it out on your table at home. This will be incredibly helpful in your set-up on the day. You'll see that works in your head, really is not quite what works in real life. Give yourself time to do this. If your missing things, or could use an extra display thingy, then you have time to go and grab one at the store.
Think height. Your table should always, in my opinion, have an element of height. Whether that’s box, or a table shelf… something to bring the eye up and around the products on your table.
RELATED READING How To Explain Your Art To People
15. Figure out your travel plans – How are you getting to this market? If by car, you’ll want to find out if there is a loading bay. How much is parking? Can everything fit in the car? If you’re taking public transport, how will get everything there? Will you need a trolley or cart?
For my first market, I drove, but had to do about 5 trips back and forth from the car park to the venue unloading all my stuff. My next market, I was in London and was using public transport. This time I had a plastic tub on a trolley with everything inside it. It was so easy to deal with, everything I brought for my table was compactible, and could hide my extra products and bits and bobs. Plus it doubled as a seat
16. Start your Email List – It’s a good idea to start collecting emails as you go. You can let people know about your upcoming markets, exhibitions, new products etc. You may want to have a little clipboard or paper on your table or close by
17. Bring something to do (optional) – there will be down times, and people like to see the artwork in progress. Plus it’s 1000x better that being on your phone the whole time.
Try and save your texts for later. If you need to use Instagram, take a picture of your table just after you’ve set up and before everyone starts coming in. Schedule the post for later so you don’t have to be thinking of captions and typing on your phone in the middle of the day when you’re supposed to be selling.
18. Bring Snacks & Water – It’s always a good idea to bring some food along with you. I like to bring healthy snacks or bite sized foods to munch on throughout the day, instead of big lunches or subs. It’s just a little awkward when someone starts talking to you and you’ve got a mouth full of hot fragrant food ya know?
19. Look the part (and wear good shoes) – Represent your brand by wearing your products, or matching the aesthetic. Wear something that makes you feel good! That energy will radiate onto your customers. And wear comfortable shoes, you may be on your feet most of the time.
20. Get there early & Have fun! – 45mins to hour should be plenty of time to get your display in order. If you've got extra time, get to know your neighbours and have a look around. (Also a good time to find out where the bathrooms are. Once you're all set up, it's go time! Remember to smile and have fun people watching whilst selling your creations.
21. Evaluate your experience – While you're there keep and pen and paper handy and jot down items that people seemed the most interested in. Take note of items that people picked up the most, but didn't purchase... figure out why.
After all is said and done, reflect on your experience to improve your next market. Ask yourself: Was the crowd your target market? What made the other stalls more or less successful than yours? How can you improve your table display? Do you need to bring help next time?
If you found this article useful, share it around, that makes us happy. You can also sign up to the mailing list for posts like this. And, if you have any unanswered questions, you can send them to email@example.com and we'll do our best to answer them in an email or a post.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to share your art with us by submitting your work or tag #darkyellowdot on Instagram @darkyellowdot
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists by creating and running the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.