I started selling at craft markets in 2021, and I absolutely love it! It’s a great opportunity for this indoor cat to leave the house and get a little fresh air. The first ever market I did was in March of 2021, right around when things started reopening after the combination of *2020* and winter; the weather was perfect, and the general population was simply happy to be outside and able to safely interact with people.
I didn’t know what I was doing, apart from the instructions sent to me by the market organizer, and totally winged it – frankly, I’m still winging it today and picking up tips and tricks along the way. How to get started is a common question, so as someone who has lived through it, I thought I’d post my best advice on how to start selling at craft markets!
Use what you have. Visual appeal is a key part of a successful market booth, and you’ll see that many vendors have beautifully-styled and perfectly on-brand setups. Before you run out to Target and buy all of the aesethetically-pleasing stands and props, take a pause! Remember, these vendors have crafted, invested in, and perfected their displays over time; I bet if you asked any one of them, they would tell you that their beautiful booth is a result of time and trial and error.
When you’re first starting out, take a walk around your house and see what you have on-hand to use. A shoebox under a tablecloth is great for adding height; that basket that you keep napkins in works great for inventory; so does a trinket tray. Does a family member have a tent or a folding chair you can borrow?
You will likely need to buy some things, which is completely fine, but get creative with what you have at home first.
Create a “market kit”. In the vein of things that you need for a market, I wanted to share the cache of “little things you wouldn’t think of but are glad you have”-type items that I stash in a pouch and bring with me to every market. You may not use them, but in the event that you do – or your booth neighbor does, you’ll be happy you have them. I recommend always bringing along: a trash bag, a sharpie, a pad of paper, a pen, masking tape, scissors, hand sanitizer, and wipes (baby or disinfectant, whichever is handy). If you have an old towel, that’s helpful too. I can’t tell you the number of times we get a random strong breeze, and I’ve anchored something down with masking tape.
Know your ‘elevator pitch’. This is one I’ve learned over time and with experience at markets. When people come up to your booth, you’re going to want to catch their attention and tell them about your products as quickly as possible. This can come with practice, but it doesn’t hurt to prep ahead of time. Make sure you cover: what your products are, what their benefits and uses are, and why they stand out. Especially when you are designing and making your own products, it’s important to tout what you do that makes your products unique.
Meet the other sellers. Truly, one of my most favorite things about markets is meeting other sellers, makers, and creatives! In my experience, everyone – even people with similar products to mine – is incredibly friendly, eager to connect, and happy to help out, whether that’s with putting up a tent or swapping business tips. Through the people I’ve met at markets, I have had opportunities to collaborate with them, connect with others, and be part of more markets and events. Even if you’re shy or introverted like I am, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to your neighbors!
Choose markets wisely and consider your target market. This is another one that I’ve learned the hard way. In most major cities, you probably have a few different market organizers and locations to choose from. In hindsight, in my first year of doing markets, I wish I spent more time up-front choosing the best location that aligns with the target demographic for my products. The market itself would draw a decent crowd, but there wasn’t as much interest in my products as others. This year, I took that into more consideration, and I’ve found that the crowd at this location converts much better. Take some time to think about where your ideal customers are, and seek out markets there.
Bonus hack: save on tent weights. One little extra for yinz 🙂 If your market is outdoors, you will probably need a tent, and thus tent weights, to make sure it doesn’t blow away. Instead of buying traditional disc tent weights, I opted for canvas bags that velcro to each tent pole that were a bit less expensive. I filled 2-liter bottles with water and put those inside the canvas bags. You could fill them with sand or gravel as well. Again, use what you have to save a few dollars!
It’s true for markets that experience is the best teacher, so while I hope these tips are helpful, the very best thing you can do is jump in and try it out! If you find it worthwhile, that’s great, and if not, then now you know for sure that other sales avenues make more sense for you. Either way, it’s definitely an experience I recommend every maker business owner try at least once, and it’s totally doable even for someone new!