OK, you make something, it's awesome and you want to sell it. But you don't want to open a store front, or mass produce it through a distribution network. Maybe, you just want to test the waters to see if it's successful. Festivals, fairs, and markets are the best way to dip your toe in.
I have had the good, the bad, and the great at festivals. Here's me happy at one of the better ones!
Having a booth at a festival or market is likely the lowest cost way to test the waters with your creations. The only problem is, it will cost you some capital and a lot can go wrong. What if attendance at the festival is low? What if you've miss-judged your target market? What if the weather is terrible and it damages your products? What if no one likes what you're selling? What if you're stationed right across from a booth that either takes all your business or is so undesirable that people stay away? You can't control most things, but here are a few tips on staying sane.
The worst feeling is forgetting a crucial part of your setup or your product. Make sure you pack the kitchen sink. If you're selling jewelry, but it's been in storage and has tarnished....if you forget a polishing rag you're sunk. I start packing at least a week in advance and start with a "go bag" that will include all of those little "if" scenerios. String, scissors, tape, polishing rags, extra price tags, pens....
Treat it like an Experiment
Unless you have everything dialed in to a precise science, you should change a few variables each time. That way even if the show wasn't a total success, you learned a bit. Change your decor, the flow of your booth, introduce, or takeaway a product.
A few things I have learned that way. Certain smaller priced items that are unique enough actually discourage larger purchases. $4 magnets for example, would take the attention away from a $20 pair of earrings, but stickers are an add on purchase. I have found that having a bunch of lower priced options increased my number of sales, but decreased my overall earnings. I have also learned what displays better show off my jewelry and increase sales, by playing with different options.
Make Sure You Can Take Payment
It's almost 2020, cards are king. Having a payment reader can be troublesome, but without it you lose so many possible sales. Also, have lot's of change! Losing a sale because you're low on 1's is just silly! This may seem obvious, but as I walk around and observe you can see when people are losing sales due to difficult payment options.
Whether it's a parent, friend, or husband. Try to get someone on board to help you set-up your tent, stop by to give you a bathroom break or even just keep you company if the festival is slow. Having help makes a world of difference to your sanity. Sure you can do it alone, but if you don't have to, take advantage of that. Remember bribery works, sometimes at sold out or expensive festivals you're given access to reduced ticket prices, or sometimes they are included in the booth fee. Use these as payment for a little help!
Don't Dwell - Learn
When a show is poorly attended or weather puts a damper on the event, don't become sour. I have seen too often vendors getting the mopes during an event. Not only does this ruin their day, but it also is off putting to the few potential customers. The bad mood ends up making it worse! Try to enjoy parts of the event, was it well organized? Did you sell something unique you weren't sure would sell? Did you have nice booth neighbors? If you focus on the positives and learn from the experience you're better off. Weather was bad and your stuff got wet? Maybe it's time for an awning. Wind almost blew your tent away? Time for more weights. Show was good but your traffic was crap. Might be a good idea to upgrade to a larger space that will be better located next year.
Good luck out there!