So, you've read the previous blog post, you've done your research and now you've chosen one, or a few, events to attend. Now comes the application. Over the past 18 months I've seen lots of applications, hundreds. They range from brilliant to 'not in a million years'. I'm going to talk you through what makes it good, what makes it bad and what makes it down right ugly.
Before I get too far into it I'm going to tell you that I run pretty large events. From 60 stalls to well over 100 at the upcoming Norfolk Showground event. It is much easier to get into one of my events than one of the small, 20 stall affairs. Largely that is because I believe that everyone has to start somewhere. I also don't have a particular theme or agenda in mind so I choose to accept or decline based on the quality of what you create, rather than how it fits with the rest of the group. I hope that one day I'll need to do this kind of group curation, get 500 applications for a 100 stall event so, keep 'em coming.
First off, whatever the application form, you're going to need to supply your name, your business name and some contact details. I bet you're reading this thinking, 'no one ever gets this bit wrong'. Think again. That box that says 'business name', that doesn't mean Mr. or Mrs. Even with an instruction underneath telling people it doesn't mean Mr or Mrs I still get it, ALL THE TIME. If we were in job application territory that'd be in the bin by question 2. Thankfully I am a little more forgiving. Other organisers may not be. If you haven't got a business name by the time you're sitting down to fill out an application then stop. Go away and think about it and spend the time sorting out a good business name. I don't mean go and register it with HMRC (but it is always good to check it's available for the future) because if you haven't sold anything yet you'll want to see how your products sell before committing yourself to becoming self employed.
Email addresses are another thing. Please don't spell it wrong. If your application is otherwise fabulous but your email bounces back, you're not going to be coming to the show.
Public Liability Insurance
Yes, you do need public liability insurance. Even if you're not yet registered as a business. Even if you only sell things for dogs. Even if you only want to bring one amazing handmade jacket to display and secure some commission orders, you still need public liability insurance. If the organiser isn't asking you for public liability insurance or (the horror) tells you you don't need it, apply to a different market. Organisers have to have public liability insurance to cover them for their errors. It doesn't cover them for 'errors' by stall holders. The organisers insurance becomes invalid if they do not insist upon all stall holders having their own and if they're saying you don't need it they probably don't have it either. You can get daily public liability insurance cover from £7 if you shop around, from under £30 for an annual policy.
Photo submissions. The actual bane of my life. Now, I don't just mean bad photos, we'll come to that, I mean the means of getting applicants to submit them. I would imagine that other organisers reading this think the exact same thing. I appreciate that just because a person paints, or grows cacti, or bakes cakes, that they are not a technological, photographic, social media wizard. Whilst I'm still trying to work out a way of increasing the hours in my day from 24 to 40, I do endeavour to provide a system that let's us meet somewhere in the middle.
Firstly, there are direct links. That request confuses a lot of people. It basically means click on your photo on the internet and copy and paste the link from the toolbar, exactly how it is, into the box on the form. For me, this takes a lot of editing time because most of the links are Instagram and I can't save those. I have to screenshot and crop and loose quality in the process.
(Insert picture here)
Then there are uploads. Sadly just 5 pictures from one person can take me to my 100MB upload limit and block my form manager account. They are my preferred method for receiving photos though. I just click on my application manager and there they are, numbered up in the order they came in. I suppose one day I will have to bite the bullet and pay for the stupidly expensive 500MB upgrade but not yet, someone will bring out a better form builder. This method causes a lot of swearing at screens for applicants too. Especially those out in the wilds of Norfolk with a slow connection.
Lastly we have email submission. From time to time this works well. Mostly however, it compresses the image to a file size so small it is unusable. It's not my fault, it's not your fault, it's just the capabilities of the internet not quite meeting the demand. I will also briefly mention that it is possible to upload images to Google photos and share them with me directly. This is sure to create more problems for applicants than it solves though so for now we will just acknowledge and move on. It's a separate, dull tutorial for a day where I have nothing better to write.
Yes, the photos you send are approximately 75% of the selection process. At least they are for my events. The main message here is, make them good. You've had a good look at the event by now, looked up their website and social media. What sort of images have they chosen to feature on their home page? Do they do a lot of social media marketing? Are the items pictured with a striking plain coloured background or positioned as part of a bigger scene? Try to send images that match what the organiser likes.
Generally, if an event does a lot of social media marketing then sending square images will immediately make the organiser like your application a little bit more. Instagram images are square, a 1:1 ratio, and Facebook is almost the same. The reason an organiser often requests square images is to cut down on editing time. Many organisers won't do any editing at all and by not following the instructions for photo submission you have already lost out on a place. Oddly shaped images may look great on your website but most of the time they are just going to be auto cut to a different size and will no longer portray your product in the way you intended. The article about photo editing is coming soon.
Choose your best product. If you're selling already, submit photos of your best sellers. Tell the organiser that's what they are. If you haven't sold anything yet, submit photos of what you want to sell the most of. If you have chosen a business model that follows trends then there are likely to be a lot of people applying to sell the same thing. For example, soy wax candles. At Christmas I got more than 10 applications for white soy wax candles. If you sell rainbow candles too, send in pictures of those. It may be the thing that makes your application stand out.
Organisers want your photos to show them what you're going to be selling. Don't send a photo of a jumbled stall, piled up with 'things'. Don't send a snapshot from the kitchen with your washing up in the background. Don't send a photo from your last event with a rusty old van alongside it and a man in a vest having a bit of a scratch. If your social media is much of the same then this will ring real alarm bells about the quality of your items, not just your photography skills.
Lighting is important. However, I get it. I live in an old terraced house with a small window in the corner of each room and my garden is in the shadow of my house. Photography is impossible. Over time I've learnt to take the photo in the best possible light and use free editing software to correct as much as I can. If your business has reached the point where you're applying to £400+ arena events then professional photographs will go a long way. Most of the time you can make them look good all by yourself in very little time and the expense really isn't necessary. I'll do a separate tutorial on this fairly soon. In the mean time, here are a few before and after snaps of my 5 minute edits to inspire you. They are taken with the daylight bulbs in the kit below and absolutely aren't on par with professional shots but you can certainly see an improvement before and after editing. If I can teach myself so can you.
If you have little items, mug sized things, you can get yourself a light box. They are good value for money and will make your life so much easier. I own the one linked below but it is much smaller than I had envisioned so please, don't make my error, read the dimensions before you buy. If you have bigger items then an ironed white sheet and a cheap studio light that disperses light is really helpful. I bought the below set from Amazon and it makes all the difference.
A word of warning though, don’t set these up right before your Staffy decides to do zoomies across your slippy laminate floor. Those bulbs are comparatively expensive to replace.
Clarity is even more important. In a few seconds I can brighten up a dark photo with an app. If it looks like you took it while riding a rickety old bike over cobblestones then I'm afraid it can't be salvaged. If the organiser has got past long, thin and dark then this is the point where your application goes in the reject bin. I think a lot of you will think I'm joking but no, people do send me some truly awful photographs. Somebody less considerate may share those photos with you but I don't want to ruin anyone's day! You can get a tripod mount set that fits your phone, digital camera or tablet for under a tenner. They no longer seem to sell the exact tripod I have but I basically bought the cheapest one on Amazon and it was fine. Yep, I know I'm normally a small business buyer but for a lot of mass produced things you just have to save a few quid and get it from the giant.
Ah, the beloved description box. A lot of you are totally amazing at this, far better than me. For those of you that aren't that experienced, the description box is where you sell an organiser your product, your brand and sometimes yourself. I'm going to pick on candles again (I love them really) because they are the most duplicated application I receive. By all accounts a candle is a waxy scented thing with a wick. What the organiser wants to know is why people will buy your candle instead of all the others. You won't believe the amount of description boxes I read that look like this.
A mix of handmade items
or even this...
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dyslexia bashing or saying that your application won’t be chosen because of spelling errors. However, if you really, truly have only one word to describe your business, make it a good one. What I want is a concise yet detailed sales pitch. Ideally something I can copy and paste onto your social media preview or website directory listing. Most organisers will be looking for the same.
Most organisers will want your social media information. The more applicants they get the more relevant this is likely to be. Same goes for your Etsy, online shop or website. If all you have is a really jumbled personal account, set up a business page. If you want to sell your work now or in the future it’s always good to ‘reserve’ your business name on all the relevant networks as soon as you can. In fact, it’s better to check that your business name is available on all the networks before deciding to register it. It’s better to have it and not use it than to loose it and regret it later on. (I’m sure I might have used that exact phrase in some biology lessons over the years but you know, context counts.)
Personally, I love when I can type in a persons business name into a search box and up pops their account. Other organisers will be the same and, more importantly, so will customers. If your name is slightly different everywhere that it might be worth looking to see if you can change the odd one for consistency.
A lot of events will have a closing date. Don’t follow up until a few days after. If there is no closing date then the organiser may send out confirmations in batches. I tend to do mine weekly so I’d say check your spam and then follow it up if you’ve not heard after a couple of weeks. It may be a typo in the email but spam filters are usually to blame. Hopefully if your photos were good, your description was in depth and your products require skill or design abilities to create then you will get an acceptance. However, tiny markets often have a waiting list and a curator who is working to a theme. If it wasn’t a success then go to a couple of others, set up a really amazing stall and include additional photos of it next time you apply.
Next week I’ll be writing about self promotion so please sign up for notifications. You don’t get any spam.
Good luck with your applications.