How to Sell at Craft Shows During Tough Times

No Business Like Show Business

If you do craft shows, you know show season is upon us and it’s time to dust off the canopy and prepare for the warm months ahead and a busy schedule. There are so many fun things about doing craft shows: getting outdoors, meeting new people, developing relationships with customers and other artists, and making money!  Doing craft shows is also very hard work and there’s been lots written on how to assure success at shows. You’ve probably heard a lot of it. Make eye contact, don’t sit all day, encourage people to come into your booth.

Have a Positive Attitude

During these economic times, though, just as we’re having to make adjustments in other areas of our lives, there may need to be a bit of a shift in the way we approach selling our jewelry. Let’s face it, buying jewelry has always been a luxury. But I believe it doesn’t have to be a luxury women forego. Plus, often when people feel the most stressed, buying themselves a small gift is exactly what they want to do. Having a positive attitude is rule number one for selling.

Make It Easier for Customers to Buy

Today’s market requires a good range of price points. That doesn’t mean giving away pieces for pennies that took you hours to make. But come up with some new, original designs that take little time with inexpensive materials and make them available next to your more expensive pieces. If you draw a crowd with beautiful designs, priced to sell, chances are your pricier pieces will be hard for some of them to resist!

More Tips for Selling at Craft Shows

In the brand new Summer Preview issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry, Connie Fox has written her personal list of sins and virtues for selling at craft fairs. She shares both personal and professional tips for making craft show selling a positive experience and she offers even more suggestions for making purchasing easier for your customers.

There are also 13 brand new projects in this issue and an extra free one ("Garnets Galore") on Friday, May 8 on Beading Daily. So use those as inspiration for some new, less expensive designs and get a jump start on a long and successful show season. 

What tips do you have for selling at craft shows?  Share your thoughts on the website.

Special thanks to Heather Powers of Humblebeads for sharing the booth photo in today's newsletter.

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Beading Daily Blog
Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

24 thoughts on “How to Sell at Craft Shows During Tough Times

  1. I have done two shows in the last two weeks and while profits were down, people are still buying jewelry. I cleared about $100 on each show (after booth rent and materials, etc.), which I think is pretty good pay, although it is a LOT of work!

  2. I’ve been thinking about starting up a jewelry business for a while now. I realize it takes $$ to make $$, but the $$ is a bit more than I’d hoped!! To start, I need a quality, reasonable , white, 10X10′ (I believe), canapy. Any thoughts ?

  3. A good, relatively cheap canopy is available at your local Wal-Mart. The newest one out is a better quality than in past years. You could always wait until the end of year to purchase one on sale!

    Now, on to shows. It’s smart to have some lower priced items in with your pricier things. It does get people to stop and see your booth. Another suggestion is to wear your pieces yourself. If customers see you wearing your creations and looking good, they’ll be more apt to purchase for themselves. Always have a mirror on hand so they can see earrings against their face or have them try on the necklace. I also usually have a project to work on if there isn’t much traffic, it’ll draw people in.

  4. We do weekly Beach markets over here in Australia, I have found over the last month I have marked some of my product at 50% off marked price, if I find I am going to lose to much I have changed the original price and made it higher so I am not going to lose out totally. These are items that have not been getting any interest.You would be amazed just how much of the older and new product you manage to sell.

  5. A Cal. street fair artist once told me that as long as you have a basket of $10 items–you’ll always make money. So a wide range of price points ( as you mentioned,) really is significant. Another artist told me it took, on average,seeing an artist’s high priced items 3 or 4 times before they would make the leap & buy big. That means letting the same audience see you at several shows and get to know them (again, as you mentioned, developing relationships)

  6. One suggestion — take plenty of business cards with you and give them out to anyone who shows interest in your work. That way, you can build a customer base that goes beyond the craft shows.

  7. I save pieces that don’t seem to get a lot of interest. Whenever I do a craft show I always have a basket marked as my Sale Basket – prices as marked and that always draws people in to look. I put the pieces in small see through plastic zip loc bags and place a neon colored dot on them with a new, marked down price. I usually take 25-35% off of the item and sometimes they go quite quickly. During a craft fair in November I had a customer almost buy out the basket to use as stocking stuffers.

  8. I have been selling for years. My daughter and I do both small craft shows and large art fairs. I always tell new crafters and artists go to shows and watch how others treat you. Copy the good things and remember not to do the things that you hate. I hate to go into someone’s booth and be ignored or growled at. You do not have to force someone to purchase from you. Be honest with yourself after every show, how did your booth look,how are your items priced, trial and error has gotten us to where we are today, I love doing shows and wish I could do it year round.. We do at least 45 a year.

  9. starting a business can be fun if down right. like teri g. said get your canopy when they go on end of the season sale. get one you can pop up and close easy. (practice before hand) collect your table fabric ex: black satin or look alike on sale. you always have to cover the front and sides to the ground. practice making table set ups…take pictures for picking at later date, and some shows requre and picture sent.
    if you start now….you can be ready for next spring…hooray
    you can start making jewelry now, collecting sale items. you can have business cards made @ say vista print for almost free, order a firemountain gem catalog order all your needs.
    use your internet to research and do not forget to advertise somewhere (cheap or free) be creative. lots of luck & love

  10. Wow, you all have great ideas! I just wanted to add to JanG’s comment about business cards. I don’t give out business cards, coz they tend to get lost. Instead I buy a box of cheap, brightly coloured pencils, stick a little label on the pencil with my details, and add a little sprakly beaded embellishment (made with cheap plastic beads) to the back end of the pencil. Kids love mking these pencils so I always have hands to help – it is super quick, and people use the pencils, so your details are “in their face” all the time. Have fun!

  11. I started out doing indoor craft shows and did not need a canopy. You can also have a home show and invite friends and neighbors. I live in an active adult community and invite the whole community twice a year to my home show. I do better with that than paying $50 a table at craft shows, but I still do the shows because it’s fun. My daughter-in-law loves to help with them, too. So, Valerie, start out with a home show and indoor show and advance to the outdoors. P.S. I also have a canopy for outdoor shows. Good luck to all of you.

  12. Several people talk about the LOOK of your booth and I want to reiterate that it is critical! Too many jewelry makers just lay a jumble out on a table, often without a table cloth. Take some time and effort and practice at home. Set up a table, drape it, lay out your jewelry and then come nack in a couple of hours, or invite your friends over to “see how I am going to set up at a show.” Not only will they give you creative criticism, I bet you’ll sell a piece or too. Spend a few dollars on packaging – buy some boxes or organza bags from somewhere like NILECORP.COM. Have business cards printed from someplace like GOTPRINT.NET Have pretty mirror available. But the best trick is to make up a small number of classy looking flyers offering a CRAFTER’S DISCOUNT of perhaps 10 to 15% good for TODAY ONLY. Date it for the show dates and during the setup and slow times go to every other booth and take some time to talk to the crafters and give them your professional discount. Don’t make it a sales call, talk to them about their booth, their experiences and their lives. Vendors are buyers too and often they will appreciate the courtesy you have shown them.

  13. I have done craft fairs for a number of years but with pottery and my own ceramic designed cats.I have just started adding jewelry to my crafts. I have done beading for years but never tried adding it to my ceramic items. Now I make my usual designs but have incorporated my own ceramic beads and such. I have always done well at craft fairs. I have always struck up conversations with people who stop by my booth. I don’t go in planning on making thousands of dollars. It’s a craft fair. People come for bargains. I don’t talk about my wares when someone stops by. It is obvious that I am there to sell. I talk about the person standing in front of me. I feel it makes them not feel pressure into buying and make them feel appreciated. As we talk the conversation of my work comes up. Then I talk about the items. I let the people do the initiating. It has worked well for me and my customers are pleased. I have seen vendors at fairs sitting at their booth reading, doing crossword puzzles etc, and never look up when you approach. The other no-no is that too many will immediately go into a sales pitch when you stop at their booths. Craft fairs can be a lot of fun. Yes, it is a business but why not make it an enjoyable day or weekend? Thank you for letting me say my piece.

  14. I’ve been doing craft shows for years.

    Rule number one…have fun. If you get mad because you’re not selling, and you sit in your booth looking mad, nobody will approach you.

    Also, do not have a whole coffee klatsch of you, your kids, your kid’s friends, your sisters, etc…no buyer wants to beg for your attention. Also, don’t glare and shoot evil looks to other jewelry sellers all day long. BE NICE. You can be one of 15 jewelry sellers, but everyone has different stuff. Get over yourself, this is a craft show, not brain surgery.

    Also, craft shows aren’t for sissies. Tell me it’s easy money after getting up at the crack of dawn, lugging boxes, tables and displays, setting up your booth, manning the booth all day, then tearing down, putting everything away, packing up the car and getting home.

    Wear comfortable shoes, and bring water. Don’t talk on your cell phone or read. People will walk right by.

    We do between 15-20 a year, and as much of a hassle as it is, I LOVE every minute of it.

  15. Valerie: If you don’t want to invest in a canopy top just yet, look at the large beach or market umbrellas! They are colorful, which helps make your booth stand out, and since you can pack a lot of jewelry inventory into a small space, I have found this to be an ideal substitute. If you plan just right, you will still have room to sit in the shade! Good luck to you!

  16. Have change and bags ready! Bring water and snacks and dress comfortably yet neatly and wear some of your work. Have a good sized mirror handy along with some cotton balls and alcohol so earrings can be tried on (how many stores let you do that?). Your display should be neat and cohesively displayed. Bring a piece or two to work on-people are amazed to see how your work is made and this never fails to draw a crowd. When they see how time consuming jewelry making can be, they are less apprehensive about spending the bucks and you will gain loads of respect. Peyote, RAW, herringbone, or other stitching type projects work well (choose a mindless pattern or single color) since you can demonstrate that it is all done ONE bead at a time! This makes good use of your time especially when it’s slow. Try sitting in FRONT of your table, to the side, instead of behind it; this makes you more approachable.

  17. A big Thanks, to everyone for the idea’s. I make inexpensive plastic bead items for the kids. I make the more expensive items for adults and teens. I try to have something for everyone.(price wise and items for sale)
    I have only sold in Membership RV Parks. I love the ideas, and now, I think, I can do it.

  18. I usually set up 2 tables in a V shape at my booth so that people have to walk into my area to look at my displays, rather than just walk past a table and go on down the row. Also, having things on display at eye level seems to help, rather than have them lean over a table. I also have a special display in the middle of the table, or even one for each table, so that people will see my booth coming from either direction. Good spot lighting helps too, especially if the venue is a large hall with overhead lights way up on the ceiling. Hope this helps.

  19. I see you are also new – I joined yesterday. How do you find so many craft shows? Is there a particular publication that is good?

    I live in California and do 4-5 shows with my sister a year. However, last year was pretty much a bust so we are looking for other shows. One of the problems we run into is that its hard to get into juried shows as everyone seems to be selling jewlery.

    Any insite will be appreciated.

    My email address is



  20. Space your jewellery out at your booth -don’t pile them all up! I change my look often.

    On all my tables I always have a table skirt that hangs to the foor to hide all my boxes that I stuff behind the table. Just buy a long piece at a fabric store, you don’t even have to hem the edge! I bring pins and picnic table clips to secure everything. Summertime: I do not use black velvet, I will choose something light and pretty, but not too patterned so I don’t draw attention from my pieces. NO WHITE.

    Once in winter I had a big corkboard covered with black velvet, I could pin up my pieces nicely and set it close to the back to add vertical interest. I also have a few velvet neckline cutouts that stand up to display the awesome pieces on, and more delicate pieces I can lay flat in front.

    Another time I had lots of japanese dishware and beautiful rice. I filled the bowls with rice (or small pebbles) and lay the jewellery over that. I got SO MANY COMPLIMENTS.

  21. I have been doing craft and art shows for years now. Both in doors and out. I usually position my tables in a U shape so they have to actually walk into my booth to see. Also, try not to just lay things on the tables, have them up. I pin earrings to covered boards, drape necklaces on any thing that resembles a “stand”. Even peg board can be useful. It draws thier attention more and also keep things neat and organized with all the “looky-loues”.