VENDING SEASON IS UPON US! HERE IS A COMPILATION OF BEST PRACTICES THAT I HAVE COMPILED FROM TAKING ‘FIELD NOTES’. STARTING OFF IN 2015 COMPLETELY WINGING IT, I KNEW I NEEDED TO REALLY FIGURE OUT A METHOD TO THIS MADNESS WE CALL- SELLING OUR HOMEMADE GOODS!
1. Present information clearly
Make it easy for the customer to be excited and engaged with your work. If what you make is very unique you may need to include a description of what something is. As a Turkish Marbler- most people have no idea what the process entails, so I have a video going on a loop on my iPad showing the process! Photos are also helpful to have near the work with a short and easy to read description.
2. Price tags
Make sure that the price is easy to read and available for every product you are showcasing. Some people get nervous asking the vendor or think it is out of their price range if it isn’t priced. Don’t let mystery pricing loose you a customer or fun conversation. Price tags can also include a short description of materials used and your information- essentially serving as a business card for every piece someone buys!
3. Find a helper
Ask a friend, partner, parent, or fellow artist to help you on the day of the event. From finding parking, carrying out your goods, setting up your tent, to taking a moment to use the bathroom, having another person to help is extremely helpful. Having someone there, even if they are just there for the beginning to lug everything over with you, makes everything go a bit smoother and feels far less stressful. The sooner you find a person to help, the better because then there is an opportunity to provide information about your work to the person helping you. So when asked, “What’s Turkish Marbling?” they don’t just awkwardly stare at the customer with terrified eyeballs…
That being said I have done it by myself many times and it 100% can be done. I once did the Salem Arts Festival by myself with a sling on one arm. No excuses! Just ask for help when setting up your tent and give yourself extra time and make sure you are well stocked with snacks beforehand since you won’t have someone to run and get you things!
4. Help others
The other vendors are in the same situation you are in, once you have your tent set up and things lugged over, make sure to help others. Especially with their tents, tents require 2-4 people and being helping hand is always the respectful thing to do! Plus one of the best parts of vending (in my opinion) is meeting the other artists!
5. Start and end organized
There are many items, large and small that travel with you when you are setting up your booth. Make sure to have large and small containers to organize your items that will keep them safe and easy to put back. Hopefully when you are cleaning up there will be an empty bin or two 😉
6. Rep your merch!
If you make any wearable artwork, wear it! I will wear as many as three things that people can buy at my booth when I am vending. It is a great way to show of the merch and get people engaged in a different way! That being said- if you sell homemade jams- don’t cover yourself with jam, they will be asking you different sorts of questions.
Have business cards that feature your website, best form of contact, and an image or logo that is memorable for what you do. Vistaprint is incredibly reasonable and lets you create your own design on the site or upload a file of your own making! Also, think about putting out a mailing list - people can give you their info, which is a great opportunity for you to reach out when you are having sales or are featuring new products or services.
Having a range of diverse but cohesive displays are a great way to keep your booth looking professional, organized and unique to your style. I go to Savers and other second-hand shops to find affordable unique items. If your work is nature-based, try even just going outside and finding things to make into displays. Consider, however, the cooler your display set up, the more likely a customer is to ask to buy the display... I have had people ask to buy a large stick that I use to showcase jewelry.
9. Questions about the event? Read the description!
It is important to read the event information carefully- the organizer has put a great deal of effort into the event and the information. OF course, if you do have a question that isn’t clearly stated within the description reach out and ask others involved with the event or email the event organizer if you can’t find the answer yourself.
10. HAVE FUN AND STAY POSITIVE!
It is a crazy and exciting day and all of the planning in the world can never account for all of the unknowns. Staying positive when things like- your card reader suddenly being taken over by some phone phantom, happens, remain calm and positive. The person who is excited enough to buy your work will probably not mind waiting a minute for you to figure out a solution.
Keeping things light is far easier for you and the customer. The biggest advice I can give you is to enjoy the day and not put too much pressure on yourself or your sales. If the only thing that comes out of a particular event was simply sharing your work with the world and getting feedback to better your practice and yourself as a maker, you have done a fantastic job!
Shady Tree Maker celebrates the beauty and intricacies of nature and love of fantasy in a diverse body of multimedia endeavors, including, Turkish Marbled goods, handbound books, flower crowns, clay jewelry, dreamcatchers, and mixed-media collages. Her work is featured in local stores, cafe's and galleries, while running Shady Tree Maker out of her studio in Beverly, MA.