Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Business Chat - Should I do this show?

Yay, another show application is in the mail! That makes 10 so far, only 4 to go! The one I just posted is for a show that I’ve never done before. After 11 years on the craft show circuit I have my standard show list and I don’t often deviate from this. I decided to apply for this new show because I wanted to add another one into a quiet time in my schedule and after doing my research this looks like a good fit for me. 

For a show to make it onto my list I do a lot of research. As always at this time of year, I start getting emails from people asking “should I do this show?” “what shows are best for me?” “can you give me a list of shows to apply to?”

Asking me to give you a list of shows is not the way to research your options. I make it a point of never telling someone yes or no about any specific shows or making someone else's business decisions. Shows are very subjective. I’ve had shows where one year I sell a huge amount, and then the next year I sell half. Or shows where my neighbour sells 10 times what I do. Some shows are better for pottery than jewelry. Or great for glass jewelry and terrible for metalsmiths. It all depends and no one can predict how well you do.

Let’s assume that you want to do a show in 2015. Good for you. First step is to find a good show to apply to. 
TIP: most shows book 6 - 12 months in advance. NOW is the time to apply for 2015. Even for Christmas shows. 

For those in Ontario, start by going to Craft Ontario ( and get their free book of show listings. If you are in a province outside of Ontario check with your local Crafts Council. 

A great way to find good shows is to look at other artists websites. Find someone who’s work you admire and check their events schedule. 

Do a google search for shows within your area. Check craft associations and groups and see if they have any Calls for Entry. 

Make a giant list of all the shows that you could do. This can be a bit overwhelming because how do you pick which ones are best? 

Here’s my list of question to evaluate a potential show. 
  1. The show MUST be juried. 
    1. “Juried” means that someone actually looked at your photos to make sure your work is handmade by you. Also a good jury will ensure that there is a good variety of work within the show and within each category. 
  2. Is the show indoors or outdoors?
    1. While summer usually means outdoors, spring and fall can be either. You need to know for display purposes. Personally I don’t do outdoor shows in late fall because the weather is unpredictable and because if I am cold I am a miserable cow and won’t sell anything. 
  3. How long has the show been running?
    1. Beginner shows don’t yet have a customer base. However beginner shows can be easier to get into for someone breaking into the circuit. 
  4. Does the show have a specific focus?
    1. If a show is listed as “country crafts” and you make steampunk, then don’t do it. 
  5. Most shows have a website. Most show websites have a list of the previous years exhibitors. Read it.
    1. who in your category is there? go to their websites. It’s always important to check out your competition. The vendor list will tell you a lot about the caliber of the show. 
  6. What is the expected attendance?
  7. How much is the booth fee? 
    1. While there are no guarantees for sales, booth fee does reflect our income expectations. After 11 years in business I follow the 10% rule. I expect booth cost to be 10% of sales on average. A $25 show means I expect to sell $250. A $100 booth fee means that I expect to sell $1000. NOTE: this is an average! 
  8. Do they accept manufactured goods? 
    1. If the answer is yes, then my (and your answer) must be no. Handmade work cannot and should not compete with manufactured work. 
  9. The show hours.
    1. some outdoor music festivals go until midnight. The means you need lights and it is a very long day. 
  10. How well advertised is the show? Meaning what does the organizer do to bring people to the show. 
  11. Is there an admission? 
    1. Some vendors feel that customers who pay to get in are more serious about shopping. Others feel that customers shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of spending money. 
  12. What is the anticipated attendance?
    1. While it is hard to know exactly how many people go to a show, especially if there is no admission and people wander into a park, a rough estimate will help qualify a show. 
Well that should have eliminated a lot of shows from your giant list! Next up, look at the application deadline, the booth fee and the show dates. 

OK, next week let’s talk about how to fill in your application for the best chance of getting into the shows that you’ve picked. 

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