Updated: Jul 28, 2019
Wow, time is flying past so quickly. You probably spent the last week promoting the living daylights out of your upcoming event, working through that Event Promotion Checklist you downloaded, not to mention making up enough stock for every eventuality. This week I'm going to give you a general overview of the different things you may want to do to get yourself to the top of your craft fair game. You will probably read this list and realise it could cost you hundreds of pounds for one stall. My advice would be to spend as little as possible on your first few fairs, perhaps buy one thing each time as you learn what works best for your products and for those around you.
Before you even started making to sell you should have checked that your makes were compliant with the law. Please read the brief introduction over on my other article “Stay legal with your craft.”
Pay for the stall
I shouldn’t have to mention this one but before you spend money on everything else you should pay for your stall. If you’re late the organiser is well within their rights to cancel your space and offer it to someone else. Then you have all that stock and nowhere to sell it. It’s also likely you won’t get a second chance at this particular event.
Public Liability insurance
If you’ve been reading my blog posts then you’ll know my feelings on this. Public liability insurance is essential, even if you’re not yet a registered business. If the organiser doesn’t ask for it, get it anyway. If the organiser doesn’t ask for it that should ring alarm bells. Their insurance isn’t valid if your insurance isn’t valid and they should be massively concerned about this.
PLI covers you against accidental harm done to others while in the vicinity of your stall. That well known phrase ‘Where there’s blame there’s a claim.’ perfectly sums up the current suing society in which we live. If you’re a sole trader, self employed or not even registered as a business you could loose everything to one bumped head.
I am insured with Markel Direct and you can get a quote from them at
https://quote.markeluk.com/referafriend/eeac5dfd-d29a-4457-8567-986efe6d7e83or a simple google search will bring up a range of providers.
Product Liability Insurance
Usually this is can be packaged in with your public liability insurance for virtually no extra cost. You just need to select the box to say you want it on the quote form. If you’re selling products to the public you should have this insurance. I’m going to say especially with but certainly not limited to the following:
- Soap and beauty products
- Kids clothing and toys
- Food items
- Pet products
If someone is injured by your product, even a mild allergic reaction, you can be sued for damages.
Writing a risk assessment is going to be necessary for your insurance to be valid with most insurers. A risk assessment identifies potential hazards and assesses how likely it is to happen and what harm it could cause. I have written a full explanation of how to write a risk assessment and you can find it here.
Table & table covering
Is a table and chair included with your stall fee? Double check your application and the website. If you still don't know, ask. They are included at all of my events.
If you are in need of a table these heavy duty collapsible tables are a good choice. They fold flat easily and are light enough to carry. There are 4ft, 6ft and 8ft options available. They are a bit pricey if you are only doing one event but I've had mine for years now and I must admit to using it for wallpapering and as an extra table at Christmas. I also have one of these little ones you can adjust the height of. They're good if you want to do a demonstration at an event or set up a separate paying and packing station. Mine doubles up as my living room crafting table too so it's more than paid for it's self. Chairs are a bit of a minefield and everyone has a personal preference so I won't make any suggestions here.
Most craft fairs won't provide a table cloth, even if they do provide a table. For a good year I battled with all kinds of things, trying to make my table look professional. Almost everything looks creased once you've carried it to an event. You also have to be careful not to use a heavily patterned fabric which will detract from the items you've made. it's good to have something long enough to cover all the stuff you have stashed under your table but you also need to be careful not to have it so long people can trip.
After spotting one of my stall holders with one I treated myself to this lycra table cover. It doesn't crease and is easy to wash. The cheapest one is black but I will link to some coloured options too.
he final one is a non stretch option. This is good if you have limited mobility - stretching the lycra under the feet can be a struggle but there is bound to be someone else at the event willing to give you a hand.
Giving your display some height is essential to catch a buyers eye. I am a real magpie, I can spot glitter at 100m and that;s the first stall I'll go to to spend my money. Many people are the same so if everything is flat on a table or piled up in bins you won't be as visible. There are an almost infinite amount of display options available. Some of the best displays I've seen were created from upcycled charity shop finds but that is totally dependant upon seeing the right thing at the right time. I'm going to link some basics here but a google search will give you a huge amount of options.
Wooden crates are a popular choice for many displays but they can work out to be very costly and it's worth shopping around. The bonus is you can easily paint them to match the rest of your display. For cards and small prints, there are metal and cardboard options. You can always spray paint a metal one to suit your colour scheme. There are a variety of acrylic stands available. These can be used for cards, prints and plates to name just a few. You can also string twine across your table to hang lightweight items from. If you sell jewellery there are tens of thousands of different designs to choose from. I've highlighted a couple I really like but it totally depends on the style of jewellery you make.
Always check with the organiser before taking floor standing items. Space can be limited and it really isn't fair on the person next to you if you spread out into the space they've paid for . However, they do massively increase your storage space. Examples include print racks, storage baskets and rotating displays. Gridwall is available is a huge range of sizes and you can get feet to make it free standing, hooks and shelves to display almost anything. These slot together cubes are good for tabletop or floor standing displays and fold flat into a tote bag (or three) for transport. You can get a huge amount of different colours and styles. I've seen people use clothing rails to hang plant pots or suspend prints from. One thing I will suggest with any tabletop display is get some G clamps. They stop things toppling over, especially outdoors, and mean you're less likely to break stock or get a public liability claim.
Packaging and Pricing
I'm not going to lie, I'm terrible at packaging. I purchased some pretty paper bags and matching tissue but I really need to up my game. For pricing, I just use die cut shapes and thin ribbon with the price written on but they always feel a bit scruffy - I think it's just my messy handwriting. I like the mini chalk boards for pricing but they aren't really suited as I have so many different prices.
Craft paper bags are great if you have your own rubber stamp. You can even write a personalised thank you message on them with a fancy pen. For small items I love these candy striped bags. You can print your own sticker labels but because aligning my printer for this type of thing drives me insane I will also link you to a couple of places that can print you logo stickers.
You can get custom rubber stamps and stickers from Awesome Merchandise. Sometimes a free gift, such as a sticker is a good way to promote your brand. Business cards just get put in a drawer but a nice sticker is likely to be seen by more people. Same goes for badges and patches. These can work out fairly cheap and may be worth considering as free gifts with your highest value items.
It is rare that power will be included with the cost of your stall. Most organisers will only have access to power around the walls and there are always more people wanting a wall space than there are spaces available. If you want power for lights or your phone charger be sure to request it and check if it costs any extra.
Most people expect to pay by card nowadays. From my experience, people will often attend a craft fair with £20 to £30 in cash but if you are selling more expensive items you may struggle to secure a sale without a card machine. I use a PayPal one but admittedly this was simply due to having a PayPal account already and not wanting yet another account to log into. I will do a full article about the different card machines in the future so it would be great to hear your recommendations or ones to avoid. Check that the venue has wifi or do a dummy run to check you have good enough internet signal on your phone.
Photo album or Ipad/tablet for displaying gallery images
If you do a lot of commission work it is likely your most desired work extends far beyond what is on your table. Making space for a high quality album of images is a great idea. It encourages conversation from buyers too, a great way to secure a sale without feeling too pushy. You could order a photo book, create a stylised scrapbook or simply display a scrolling gallery of images on a digital photo frame or tablet.
Some people do still pay with real money. Be sure that you have enough change and a safe place to keep it. Bum bags are fashionable again (oh the horror!) but at least they give you a lot more choice than those ugly market trader hip bags. Sticking an extra few pence on the cost of your items to limit your float to £1 and 50p pieces is a wise move.
If you use a card machine then most give you the option to email a receipt to the customer and will make a record of the transaction for your book keeping. If you deal with real money a receipt book is a must.
Business cards on the table is a must. If someone looks for more than a few seconds, hand them one. When someone buys something, pop one in their bag. Make sure you include your business logo, email and social media as a minimum. If you sell mostly to an older audience then include a phone number. If you have a website don't forget that. I buy all my small printed items from Instantprint as the paper quality is great and the cost is better than most others.
you may want a roller banner for the side of your stall or a wall banner to hang behind it. I get my big posters and banners from Premier Print in Norwich. They are low priced, can be done next day and the colours always come out perfectly. I don't have any fancy software that allows me to design in CMYK so usually my prints from elsewhere are rather... muted. This place seem to be able to match my RGB designs perfectly though so check them out.
Thank you notes
Printing a pile of thank you notes and popping them in your bags is a great idea to encourage repeat business. Mention how important their purchase is to you and how happy you are that they like your work. It is a good opportunity to promote your website and offer a 10% discount code or free shipping if they purchase from you online. Absolutely do this if someone has bought a trinket like a card. They've shown they like what you do but may not have the money on the day to make a larger purchase.
About the maker board & demonstration
Engaging potential buyers in conversation is the best way to secure a sale. You may want to make an 'About Me' board, telling people what you do and why you do it. If you are shy it's a nice way to break the ice. You can print it out at home and pop it in a frame. If you can work on a project at your stall or run a mini demonstration it's also a great way to encourage people to shop with you. Always double check with the organiser first before assuming it's ok to run a demo.
Social media countdown and work in progress
In the run up to the event you will want to raise as much awareness as possible. If you've read my last blog, Promoting yourself for craft fairs, then you'll already have announced your attendance but the more you can do the better. If every stall holder gets 20 people to attend an event then the footfall will be great. if you leave it up to everyone else then there's a good chance it will be terrible. Post a weekly countdown post to the event. A great way to do this might be with work in progress photos, showing people what you're making for them and how excited you are to do it.
One week to go!
By now you should have had all the final details from the organiser. What time should you arrive? What time can you leave? Where do you park? What are the unloading arrangements. In an ideal world you will have seen where you are on a floor plan so you can just walk in and set up without having to wait around. This is the time to double check any queries on the website. If it's definitely not there, ask questions. If you leave it until the night before the organiser will have a full inbox and may not get to your query in time.
Pack the car. You remember that scene from Home Alone where the alarm doesn't ring? Even if that happens at least you're ready to jump in the car and go. Make sure your card machine is charged and put the cable in the bag with it just in case. Ensure you put a pen or two and a bottle of water in your bag. Snacks are also a life saver. Have you got your float? Change for the car park? Have one last check of your email to make sure there are no last minute announcements. You should be ready to go.
It's pretty basic. The essentials are in a table and the optional ones you can just draw a line through if not applicable. There is space for the date, times and more so that you can stay organised with all your events.