How To Find and Apply To Craft Shows
One of the most commonly asked questions I get is "How do you find craft shows?" So I figured what better way to start my next series than with this topic. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing everything I've learned about doing craft shows over the past six years. The good, the bad and the ugly. Today I'm going to share the top four ways to find craft shows and how to apply to them.
Although I've been doing shows for about six years now, it has not always been easy. If you have been considering doing a craft show then I hope you will follow along during this series so you can be better prepared than I was when I first started. When I first started doing shows I was living in central Illinois. Then about three years ago our family moved to California and it became a whole new ball game. I had to basically start from scratch and figure out how to find shows all over again. I've learned a lot along the way and I'm so excited to be able to share it all with you.
1. Go Out and Explore!
I started my craft show journey at a local farmer's market in Urbana, Illinois. I had driven past the market a few times on Saturdays and saw all the big white tents set up with farmers and growers selling their items, but it wasn't until I actually attended that I realized that there were artisans selling their products too! That was what motivated me to start doing craft shows. I went over to the city booth and inquired about how to become a vendor. I picked up an application and started the following season. I did that farmer's market almost every weekend May-October for three years and it was amazing! The cost was only $18-20 per Saturday and by the time I moved away I was making $200-500 in regular sales each week.
If you aren't quite sure where to start looking for craft shows, one of the best things to do is go out and explore your area. I can guarantee that there is some kind of event going on in every town, every weekend. Go to those events and see if there are craft vendors selling their goods. If you see them there then chances are that could be you next year!
Not sure where to find these events in your town? Check out the events page on Facebook or search online at sites like Eventbrite. There you will find just about every event that is happening within a 25 mile radius. Start going to these events to see if they could potentially be places for you to sell your products. It's a great way to start researching and I'm pretty sure you will have fun doing it too!
2. Research Online
Online searching has definitely been my go to source for craft shows since moving to California. I first started by checking out some local farmer's markets, but quickly realized they were either only for actual farmers or were just too expensive to participate in. That's when I went to good old Google and did a quick search for local craft shows. It took a bit of digging but I ended up coming across two great sites!
These sites are amazing for finding all the shows in your area. You can search by state or zip code and it will show you every show happening all year long. These sites have all the information you need to apply and who to contact, but in order to see that information they want you to pay a subscription fee. If you don't mind spending $20-40 for that information then by all means sign up. If you would rather save that money to put towards a show (like me) once you have the names of the shows you can do a quick Google search and with a bit of digging can find all the same information.
What I suggest is get a notebook or calendar and start writing down a list of all the shows you might be interested in participating in. Keep track of the name of the show, their website, the application fees, application deadlines and how to apply. Most bigger festivals and shows will close their applications 2-3 months before the event. So let's say you are searching for shows to do around the holidays, you really need to be getting those applications in sometime in August or September. If you come across a great show, but missed the deadline, don't worry. This is a great opportunity to get a head start on next year. Write down the information and save it then if you can go attend that event this year to make sure that it really is a show you want to do.
This is probably my biggest piece of advice. Go to as many shows as you can before you apply. A lot of shows are juried which means that a group of people are taking the time to research your business to see if you would be a good fit, that means you will have to pay an application fee. Don't waste money on application fees for shows that might not be a good fit for you. For example, while I was in Illinois a new event center started doing a Sunday market. I had heard about it from some other vendors who also did the Saturday farmer's market with me and was really hopeful that it would be another great event to participate in. I ended having to drop of some items to another vendor who was selling at that Sunday market. As soon as I walked in I knew it was not a show I wanted to do. It was more of a flea market than a handmade market and there was no one there but the vendors! If I hadn't of gone to the market that weekend I probably would have signed up as a vendor and totally wasted my time and money for the next few Sundays.
When you go to a craft show make sure that you are observing as much as you can. Some things to ask yourself are: Is it well attended? Would my products fit with the theme or aesthetic of the show? Are there handmade artists or vendors selling mass produced goods? Are people actually buying from vendors? And if you feel brave enough go talk to one of the vendor's and ask them how it's going. By attending the show first and asking yourself these questions you will be a bit more informed and know what to expect if you decide to do that show in the future.
3. Etsy Teams
If you are an Etsy seller then this can be a great resource for you. Go to www.etsy.com/teams and search for a team in your area. Teams are a great way to connect with other makers and some teams even put on their own craft shows throughout the year! Join your local teams and then start asking them which shows they normally participate in. It's a great way to get the inside scoop into what shows in your areas are the best for your products too.
4. Make Friends with Your Booth Mates!
So this one can be a bit tricky since you have to be in a show already to do this. Once you participate in your first show, try making friends with the other vendors around you. In my experience most vendors are friendly and willing to help others succeed. I got to know a lot of the vendors that participated in the farmer's market with me and we would help each other by sharing new shows that we found or even letting others know when a show was a real dud. Embrace your maker community and don't be afraid to reach out for help. Just this past weekend at my first show of the year I ended up having a great conversation with one of my booth mates and not only did I learn about other shows in the area, but it helped make the day that much better.
Now that you have found some shows in your area it's time to apply! It's a good idea to make sure you have yourself set up as a business before you apply. That means you need to have your business license or seller's permit depending on what you need in your state. A lot of the larger craft shows will ask for a copy of your license or permit or at least the permit number.
If you come across an event and you can't seem to find any information about how or where to apply, find a contact person or an e-mail address and send a friendly e-mail showing that you are interested in participating and ask where you can find the information to apply. It never hurts to ask!
Make sure to read through the application and fill out every section correctly. Most shows have online application now, but a few will still ask for you to mail in a paper application along with a few pictures of your products or booth set up. If this is your first show you can either draw a rough sketch of what your booth will look like or set up a mock booth in your home and take a picture of that.
Keep track of all the shows you have applied for and the fees that you have paid. Even if you don't make it into a show you usually still have to pay the application fee and that is still considered a business expense so make sure you have a record of it for tax time.
Then just sit back and relax and wait for those fabulous acceptance e-mails!
I hope you found the information here helpful. If you have any questions or comment please don't hesitate to reach out below or send me an e-mail. Stay tuned for next week's post all about what to do after you get accepted to a show!