The Artrepreneur Series: Practice Makes Perfect

So as a new artist breaking into the indie scene, I knew right away that this first year would be a trial-and-error period. While I still have a lot to learn, here’s a handful of lessons and pointers that I am more than happy to pass on to fellow newbies. This is by no means the end all be all; it’s just what I have learned works for myself and my business.

1. Treat your customers as guests. This is something that’s been ingrained in me from years in the service industry. If I’m in a horrible mood while bartending, it will most likely show in the tip bucket. The same goes for selling at fairs: if you welcome browsers into your booth with a warm smile and personalized greeting, they are put at-ease and feel less pressure of becoming one of your ‘customers.’ Show them they are guests, and they are more likely to reciprocate by happily supporting you with a sale.

(I like to put out a bright area rug and string banners around my booth to make it more inviting.)

2. Know your audience. Definitely explore different avenues to showcase your work, but do as much research as possible beforehand. Talk to other sellers that have done the show in the recent past, shoot an email to the event organizers (find what demographic usually attends, how it will be advertised), and even search online for photos from the event, if available. In studying my sales records and mental notes, I’ve roughly concluded that my work, at this point in time, is better-received at indie shows in metro areas (Renegade, Handmade HoDown) than at most church fairs and country boutique-style shows. That’s not to say I will eliminate those shows completely; I will just edit my event list better the second time around. Remember, anything could happen for the better. Set yourself up for success, but welcome the unexpected!

(Suit up and do the leg-work beforehand. It will save you time and money in the long-run!)

3. Have custom order forms and swatch samples on-hand. I have to give all the credit to my boyfriend on this one. After the SF Renegade Fair in July, where I took 5 custom orders with only an email sheet and a couple of pages worth of notes and sketches, he recommended that I get those things together ASAP. Using his advice, I now have three swatch rings of fabric and forms to keep client info and order specs all in one place. Not only does it keep me organized, but it looks professional and I have turned several ‘maybes’ into sales once the swatches and forms came out. And a sale is a sale is a sale!

(Be sure to number your orders to keep them organized!)

4. Stay until the end of the show. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but at a handful of shows, other vendors have packed it up over an hour early. It eliminates the possibility for more sales, and it just plain looks bad for the remaining vendors to have a portion of the floor empty. At three fairs so far, I’ve made substantial sales in the last 20 minutes of the show or as I start to pack up. I even got invited to sell at a killer art fair just for not leaving early. Stick it out and it will pay off!

(Lincoln Day on the Green. There was music playing, so of course I stayed! Made two sales in the last half hour, by the light of my floor lamp.)

5. Think outside the table. As you can see from my earlier show pictures, I stuck to those 6-foot tabletop displays early on. As my line has expanded, so did my creativity in presenting my work. There’s still definite room for improvement (my sketchbook runneth over), as there always will be, but I’ve integrated two garment racks, a clothes line, retro suitcases and garden trellises into my arsenal of display possibilities. On the list of immediate to-dos: economizing vertical space. After doing a show with a 6’x6′ booth after months of sitting comfortably in a 10’x10′, you learn to use up what you’ve got!

(Used my neighbor’s umbrella to make the most of my space at the San Joaquin Delta College Fall Fair. A great eye catcher!)

6. The most important, in my opinion: Always, always have a positive outlook. Even if there are more vendors than there are customers, if you let that negative mentality take over, what message is that sending to the people who you expect to purchase your work? I try to always look presentable, not greet people with my lunch in hand, and have a genuine smile, even if I’ve made three sales all day. My ultimate no-no is complaining about lack of sales. There will be good days, bad days, and, let’s face it, very bad days. It just goes back to Tip #1, going above and beyond to present yourself and your art in a way that piques interest, puts people at ease, and shows off the hard work and pride that goes in to what you do.

(When the going gets tough… at least you don’t eat human hair.)

I hope this helped even one person! Feel free to comment with more tips, whether you are a fellow artist or a much-appreciated client. We’re all in this together!


One response to this post.

  1. Hi Ana,
    It was a real nice pleasure to have met you at the Indi Sacramento Show , Sat. March 20th. I love your website and thanks for the tips when showing at craft shows. I hope to be a customer soon and will check in on lyur bogs often. Keep up the good work. I love the term “Artrepreneur.”


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