I think it would be fair to say that most photographers nowadays base their sales on digital output, whilst we seem to be in a minority selling mainly printed work.
For us it all happened because we started out selling in galleries and exhibitions and have continued with that approach over the years. However, way back in 2009/10 also we dabbled in craft fairs with mixed results. We almost always made some money, but it soon became obvious that most people weren’t going to spend a lot of money at a craft fair with the average sale being relatively modest.
At one point we signed up with Yorkshire Craft Fairs and the proprietor Don Olly turned out to be something of a retailing guru and it was worth doing a few of his fairs just to learn the trade. Don gave out a set of notes on how to be successful selling at craft fairs and these have proved to be worth their weight in gold over the years. Some of these pointers may seem like hard work, especially the first one, but they have proved an invaluable guide to selling our work.
- Never ever sit down if there are customers about. This may seem tough, but we’ve often looked around the room and all the stalls with people standing had customers and all the stalls where the stallholder was sat reading the paper had none!
- If you do sit between customers, don’t leap up as someone approaches as they will find this very intimidating, keep an eye open and get up early.
- Don’t eat on the stand if there are customers about if you can help it as it looks bad.
- Always engage with your customers. This can be difficult, especially if like us you are a bit shy, but it’s worth persevering.
- Be attentive to your customers and don’t spend time talking to friends or the next stall holder.
- Make sure your product is clearly priced. The average buyer is easily discouraged and will often walk away rather than ask.
- Be professional and present your work and your stall to a high standard.
- Make sure you stall is well lit, this will literally show your products in the best light.
- Be organised. Arrive in good time and be ready by opening time.
- Don’t pack up too early even if you’ve had a bad day. It’s not fair on everyone else if you pack up before closing time and we’ve lost count of the amount of sales we’ve made by hanging on whilst everyone else is packing up.
- Be ambitious! Most people we encounter at craft fairs are happy to cover the table cost. This is nowhere near enough, you need to cover all costs and have wages for your time too.
Once we figured out that craft fairs weren’t going to make us enough money we started to move towards better quality Art fairs and these have proved to be much more successful. Fairs like Crafted by Hand, Art in the Pen and Staithes Festival are quality shows entered by serious sellers and are frequented by visitors who come specifically to buy, so these bigger shows are definitely the ones to go for and have a great atmosphere too.
The fixed costs for a two day show like Art in the Pen can be high, but they regularly get 5000 visitors over the weekend, so it can still be very worthwhile and shows like Crafted by Hand are curated so only people with a good track record tend to get in. The atmosphere at these shows is also very good, so they can also be a great social occasion. Staithes Festival in particular promises to be a great weekend with loads going on, so that’s one we are really looking forward too.
We’ve got a packed program of fairs for the second half of this year and we’re really looking forward to them, so why not come along and say hello.
Crafted By Hand – Masham 11-12 July
Art in the Pen – Skipton 15-16 August
Staithes Festival 11-12 September
Crafted by Hand 1st November (Subject to being accepted)