It’s time for holiday markets and we’re helping you prepare with advice from some seasoned pros! We’ll take you through everything from how to prepare for your first (or 100th!) market to tips for how to interact with customers. Sherri Noel from RebeccaMaeDesigns is a pattern designer who also enjoys selling her handmade items– including some really fun upcyled mittens– at indie markets. Today she walks you through things you can do to prepare for selling your handcrafted goods at a market. Sherri also has a list of “tool kit basics” to get you ready, with a PDF for you to download and print. Be sure to check out RebeccaMaeDesigns, and feel free to add tips from your experiences in the comments below.

‘Tis the season for… Holiday Craft Fairs! You’ve been a busy elf– working long hours in the workshop– and now the time has come to showcase all of those handmade items!

Last year I did the “Holiday Craft Fair Tour,” selling my handmade upcycled mittens. I’ll admit… I made a couple of mistakes along the way but now this elf has it in the bag and I’m excited to share my prep-list and tool kit for getting the show on the road!

Prep List + Things to Think About
Do your homework:

  • Find events that are right for your products.
  • Consider all factors: Is the cost/time/transportation worth it? Compare costs… My experience?– Some of my most lucrative events were small holiday fairs.
  • Ask the Fair Coordinator about space and facilities:
        – Is electricity provided? You might need to plug in a light or charge up your phone or tablet for processing credit cards
        – Restroom locations? It might be important if you have a choice for your space location.
      – Food availability? If there’s no food nearby you want to be sure to pack yourself some food/lunch.
  • Ask what other vendors will be there. Most fairs limit the amount of vendors selling similar items but you don’t want to find out too late that you are among ten vendors selling jewelry.
  • Consider price range. It’s good to have a range for customers; you might consider selling items of varying price so there is something for everyone’s budget.

Do ahead of time:

  • Promote your show via social media. Don’t forget to tell all your friends about your show as they can provide some of your best advertising.
  • Print business cards, signage, mailers, product labels, etc. Sign up for online print company mailing lists and watch for their specials; as long as you don’t get tempted by their “impulse purchases” before you check out, you’ll get some great deals!
  • Do a booth test run. It may sound silly, but set your booth up in your home before your first show. You’ll learn quickly what you need and what things work (props, tablecloth, signage, etc.)… Or don’t work.
  • Have all your items packed and gas up night before. Why not be prepared with things you can control like filling your tank the day before?! Showing up on time is key, and sometimes being early can land you in a prime spot if you find out someone else cancelled. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion and I was moved from a far corner to a spot right up front! Let them know politely you are willing to move if a higher traffic spot opens up.
  • Plan to wear or model your creations if appropriate (for example jewelry, scarf, etc.).
  • Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers.
  • Think about transporting your sale items. Do you have a bag, cart or luggage with wheels?
  • Try bringing some “busy work.” Customers love to see you working on your craft to see how the process works. Since I make mittens, I bring some that I haven’t finished sewing buttons on and work while people shop; it makes for good conversation. (Of course we always hope for zero down time!)

Do you want a handy sheet that lists everything you need to bring with you on the big market day? Download a copy of Sherri’s Tool Kit Basics!

Tool Kit Basics

  • Smart Phone or Tablet: You will need one of these to take credit cards.
  • Money: $100 Cash is a good start to keep on hand for providing change, in $1s, $5s + $10s.

  • Cash Box: It’s good to have a cash box on hand to hold change, personal checks, etc., or some vendors prefer to use a vendor apron to hold their spare cash.
  • Receipt Book: I keep a small one on hand just in case a customer requests one.
  • Calculator: If you are busy or expect to sell multiple items in one sale, you’ll be happy to have this.
  • Credit Card Reader: This is a must-have. Most of the vendors at a show have them and the customers don’t blink an eye at signing their name on your phone. There are several companies that offer these readers for free (Square Up, Intuit, etc.). There is a fee, typically per transaction, so be sure to read the agreement before deciding which service to go with.
  • Paypal Account: Some of my customers have used their own phone to login to Paypal and transfer money to my Paypal account on the spot. If you don’t have an account, get one.
  • Extension Cord + Phone/Tablet Charger: You don’t want your phone or tablet to die on you when you need it for charge cards.
  • Pad of Paper/Pen: This goes without saying.
  • Table: Get the easiest table to transport as you might be moving it a distance or up stairs. There are some great options of folding tables out there that have handles for carrying.
  • Tablecloth: Make sure it covers table. It’s nice to have it match your items or theme (for example, I use wool blankets on my table to complement my mittens).
  • Chair: A fold-up chair in a bag with a handle works great.

  • Business Cards, Mailing List Sign Up, Post Cards: Be sure people have a way to get in touch with you by providing business cards. Don’t forget you might want to get in touch with them too. I printed my own mailing list sign up sheets for my booth and was surprised at how many people signed up with their email and mailing address. Now I can do postcard mailings for upcoming shows in their area or mail (or email) coupon codes for my online shop!

  • Banner or Signage: Think about how you will need to hang your banner. Will you have a wall? Can you pin or tack to table or tablecloth? (Don’t forget tacks, pins, tape…)

  • Packaging for Sale Items: Bags, boxes, labels, etc. Most customers like their purchase in a nice “package.” A simple paper bag with a label/sticker with logo is easy and won’t break the bank.
  • Extra Pricing Tags
  • Small White Board or Chalk Board: Make it easy for your customers to see pricing or product info. I use a small chalkboard with “All Mittens $29” and on the white board a quick description of what upcycled means. This works if you’re having a promotion too… Customers like clear pricing.
  • Display Set Up: Bring items to display your specific product (i.e. wooden boxes, jewelry displays, etc). Add a vertical display or tiered shelf to your table to showcase your items and add interest.