Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Business Chat - Who's coming to the show?


With a huge sigh of relief I put away the last of my receipts thinking I was all finished with horrible admin tasks. Then heck, it happened. I looked at the calendar and realized, crap, it’s January 14 and I have a craft show application due on the 15th (the show is next November). 

ARGH! Good thing I looked at the calendar and an even better thing that I had written that deadline down. So I deferred the sigh of relief and I filled out one more application.

When you are starting your crafty business there is no faster way to build up a clientele, conduct market research and create cash flow than participating in retail craft shows. As a bonus, they can be really fun! (so long as you’re organized and prepared! and like people.)

Most of us are still in holiday recovery mode however now is the time to pull together your craft show applications for 2014. 

Are you planning on doing a craft show in 2014? It’s a hard decision if you are in the beginning stages of your business to think about what you’ll be doing next October but now is the time to think. Even if you’re not sure, take some time now to do the research. Many shows have their applications available now even if the deadline is in April or May. 

The first thing to do is find out about shows. In Ontario the best place to look is in the Ontario Craft Council’s online publication – CraftSource. Most provinces/states have a crafts organization that publishes a list of shows. If you’re in the USA check out Sunshine Artists magazine. Another good source of shows is to look at artists you admire and look at their websites. All of us have websites where we list the events we participate in. (note: my website is currently under major renovations and is NOT up to date. This will be remedied in 2 weeks.)

Fortunately almost all show organizers now have websites where you can download the application. Applications are free, go ahead, check out a whole bunch of them. Even if you aren’t sure about doing a show it’s always good to know about them for future reference.

Once you’ve made a list of shows, download all the applications. If an application is not yet available make a note on your calendar when you can get it. When you have your applications write the application deadlines on your calendar so you don’t miss one!

Here’s a couple of insider tips. 

  • NEVER do a show that is not juried. A juried show means that someone has looked at your photos and checked to make sure your work is handmade. A non-juried show is any old crap that someone wants to sell and you can bet some of it is made in third world countries. As a handmade artist you cannot compete with third world work so make sure you’re in a show with only other handmade work. A juried show also has quotas, meaning that the show has a good variety of work and is not 100% jewelry.
  • ALWAYS send your application in as fast as you can, don’t wait until the deadline. Jewelry is one of the hardest categories to get into due to the high number of applicants. Just because a show has a deadline of March 31 doesn’t mean that your category is still open until March 31. Besides, the faster you get your application in, the faster you get that task off your to do list.
  • Create a standard application kit for yourself. Decide which photos you will use, write your resume (craft only), and other items you’ll need and keep them all in one place. This way when you get an application all you have to do is print out the kit and pop it in an envelope.
  • Get the BEST photos that you can. Digital cameras are really cheap now so there’s no excuse for bad photos. If your photos are truly awful invest some time reading the manual for your camera and learn how to take good shots. Your 5 – 10 images are all an organizer has to judge your work on, make them shine. There is no formula for image shots but there are some basic rules. Use a plain coloured background, preferably white. This isn’t about showing how artistic a photographer you are, it’s about showing what you make. Do not crowd the shot, each image should be of 1 or maximum 2 pieces. Make sure the whole shot is in focus. Label each photo (on the back) with your name, company name, name of the piece and what it’s made of.

Here’s my 2 cents. If you’re serious enough about your little business that you follow this business advice column then you should be signing up for a show. Sign up for something next fall, you can figure it out in the next 6 months. 
Working towards a craft show means that you have a goal that has a deadline. You’ll have to pull yourself together to create an application kit, get a set of portfolio shots, and create a booth. All of this is perfectly manageable given a good lead time. So go ahead, find a show and get your application. 

It’s time to move forward people. 

ps. oh and when you have a booth down the aisle from me come and say hi! Every single show I’ve done in the past 4 years, someone has come up to me and told me they either took my class or read my blog. There’s a lot of you making it out there and I’m proud of all of you. 

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