Firstly, to introduce myself, I am Andy, I am an artist and, therefore, by default a small business owner. I use pyrography (burning wood in a pretty pattern) to create unusual and unique works of art.
I am also a complete introvert.
In my experience most small craft and art producers are not in fact flamboyant extroverts who love the limelight. But rather, like me, they are quiet people who love to get lost in their art to escape the mundane world around them.
The problem is to make a living from your art you need to be able to sell it and introverts are by no means natural salespeople.
To be completely honest, this has been the hardest part of starting my own business. I love the making side, but the selling always fills me with dread. But, engaging with people is key to a sale.
So, tip number one is be brave and talk to people.
People don’t just buy art they buy the story behind the art; they want to know how you created it and why. This goes for any craft or artisan product from preserves to pottery.
People also buy from people, so this means they want to feel like they know you. Selling at a craft fair in person gives you the opportunity to meet directly with customers which in invaluable for artisans. This is your chance to show them how passionate you are about your product and to convince them to fall in love, not only with the product, but with you as well.
The type of people who attend most craft fairs are not looking for the mundane they are looking for the niche, the new, and the alternative. So, they are already your prefect customers and all you have to do is be brave enough to show them the personality behind the product. I say all this knowing it is far easier said then done. I am still learning to be more open and engaging at events but my progress so far is paying off.
I have been lucky that my Dad, who is also involved in the business, is the opposite as a total extrovert. So, he often comes to events with me and helps to boost the energy around the stand.
This brings me to my second tip. If you can, try to take someone with you to events. This can be a friend or family member, it doesn’t matter as long as they are confident and have a good basic knowledge of your product. Doing this gives you moral support, someone to draw confidence from, and it means when you need a sandwich or a loo break, they can cover for you.
So now you hopefully have a set up with some confidence and the energy is there at your stand, so what next?
Tip number three is simple, STAND OUT.
Whether it is a small one-day event or big weekender, it is so important to stand out and catch eyes. If you have attended any craft fairs as a punter, I am sure you will have noticed that is it busy and bustling and crowded. So, it is your job to work out how to make your stand get noticed above the noise and distractions. Trade fairs are often extremely friendly and can be a lot of fun.
But it is important to remember, at the end of the day you are there to try and sell. So, you want your product to be on display and standing out from the rest.
This might include thinking about how you attract people to your stand, such as goodies, testers, demos, or a competition. But it is also worth investing some time, thought and money into branding and professional signage such as banners and business cards. This will help make your stand pop and will help to show the quality of your product as well.
Lastly, tip number four is perseverance.
There is a good chance that you won’t sell anything at your first show or any show in fact. You may have a great run of shows where you sell loads only then to have one flop for no apparent reason. None of this is a personal attack on you or your products. You have to remember that there is lots of other stands where people can spend their hard earned pennies and maybe on that day the right customer just wasn’t there.
But it is worth taking notes on how a show went both in terms of sales and the event as a whole. This way you can build up a better understanding of how best to set up your stand, which events to target and what you should be saying to customers as they come past.
Business is a steep learning curve that never stops so make sure you take every opportunity to learn from your experiences.
And above all don’t give up. It does get easier.