One of the main ways that many artists make money from selling their art work is by participating in community art fairs. Most artists understand that there is a twofold and equal purpose to these fairs - exposure and selling. These art fairs can be very lucrative but can also be quite financially draining as well but by going in with a full understanding of what to expect and by preparing yourself appropriately, you are more likely to have an enjoyable experience. The list of things below will help you get the most out of your first art fair:
Make sure that you are clear about the fact that you could leave the fair with no money. - This is a very important first step because the reality is that sometimes no matter how many wonderful items you have to sell, whether you are placed in a spot where there is a lot of foot traffic, you have many people visit your booth and the weather cooperates, sometimes you just don’t make any sales. It’s the luck of the draw and you have to be mentally and financially prepared for that.
Be very clear about how much money you will need to participate. - This total includes how much it cost for the merchandise you will need to have for sale, the entry/registration fees, the food that you will need to bring/purchase, travel costs and any transaction fees (ex. if you use The Square or a credit card machine). Never spend money that you don’t have in hopes that you will make it back at the fair.
Make sure that you have all of the appropriate items for your booth. - You will need tables, chairs, table skirts or clothes, a tent (if required/allowed), bags, a receipt book, signage, change for cash transactions, a way to accept credit cards, a portfolio of your work (if you have one) and business cards.
Be prepared for incidentials. - It is always important to bring tape, a ruler, sharpies, extra pens, scrap paper, a few paper weights, a small tool box, a flashlight, a pocket knife, a first aid kit, aspirin/Tylenol, sunglasses, rain gear and layers of jackets/sweaters or blankets (because although these fairs usually happen in the Spring and Summer it can get really chilly early in the morning or when the night air hits you).
Schedule enough time for travel (for local shows), set-up and take down. - This can be tricky because you may think that it only takes you 45 minutes to travel from your home/studio to the event, always add an additional 30 or more minutes because of unforeseen traffice delays. Also, once you arrive at the fair, there could always be some delay in getting your spot assigned to you at the registration area which can cut into your time to set-up so you want to plan extra time for that too. At the end of the day, you may be very tired from standing, selling and interacting with people all day so get a helper or make sure that you have a way to quickly take down your items while still making sure to keep them damage free during your travel back home.
Prepare to stand most of the day. - It is customary for artists to stand when people approach their booth. This makes you seem inviting and approachable to potential customers and makes them feel at ease and that you are ready to assist them with questions about your work.
Work on your elevator speech. - Most people who attend art fairs are very interested in art and even those who aren’t will more than likely have a few questions about your work and they will expect you to be able to tell them about what you do, how you do it and even why you do it. Pratice a short 1-2 minute elevator speech so that you are prepared. If you have a written artist statement, that would be a good place to take some points from.
Make sure that you are clear and firm about your prices. - Some artists will reduce the price of their items slightly for art fairs and if you do this it is particularly important that you stick to the prices that you set. It can be the tendency of some art fair goers to want to haggle with you and try to get a deal but especially with fine art, you don’t want to get into the habit of participating in this because that devalues your work.
Keep track of what you earn. - You need to make sure that you track all of your earnings for the day for bookkeeping purposes especially since you may receive cash payments from most customers. Keep whatever cash you receive in a separate place from any personal cash you bring with you to the fair so you don’t get them mixed up.
Remember that afterward you will want to thank the sponsors of the event. - Before leaving for the day, you will want to thank the sponsors of the event and if you had a positive experience you can often sign-up before you leave for the next one.
There are many things that can just be the luck of the draw when participating in art fairs but if you keep the above things in mind and prepare yourself appropriately you can make sure that you have as pleasant an experience as possible!