As an introvert, this is the part of a business that I find the most challenging. I have an extensive background in retail and customer service, so networking shouldn’t be such a challenge, but it is!
I have been spending time in the studio of course, but I have also spent a good deal of time applying to vendor/craft shows, talking to other makers, setting up an Instagram account (I can’t avoid the dreaded hashtag any longer!) and stopping in at a few shows to see how everyone sets things up.
It’s one thing to be on the other side of the table as a customer, and another to be on the selling side. There are so many things to consider. Is my display ok? Is the packaging right? Do I have enough product to sell? Should I put out lots, or keep it simple? What payment methods should I take? What if no one buys anything?
Display is easy. I have assembled a few neat display pieces that work together, and won’t detract from the work. I scored some great necklace stands at Goodwill, of all places. I need to get a 6 foot folding table and do a mockup of everything before I set up for real. A very generous friend gifted me with two bins of trade show supplies, from table skirts to cashbox so I am set for that too!
Product, well that’s on the go. I have a small show on the 19th of March, and will see how it goes. I have a plan for what I want to take, and production goals for that. I also want to take some showcase pieces just to see how they are received. After my visits to shows, I know that I want to keep my booth simple and uncluttered. One of the tables I visited this weekend had some lovely pieces, but it was ALL on display and I didn’t know where to look. So, less is more.
Payment methods are solved as well, as I am set up to take cash and credit cards on site, Paypal or credit on line.
What if no one buys anything? That’s my biggest fear. I’m taking a range of items, in a range of prices in hopes that someone will buy something. There are all sorts of formulas out there on what you should expect to make, and how many items you need to get to that dollar amount. I’ve used that to make my inventory lists, but it’s still no guarantee! Right now, I’m hoping to get my table fees and other expenses covered. Everything else is a bonus!
I have set a goal to sell at one show a month. I have confirmed bookings from March until August right now, with some irons in the fire for October and November. I consider it part of my year-long plan to make, sell, learn and grow this little endeavour. Most of them are small shows, with a mix of direct sellers and makers like me. A couple of the shows have a larger percentage of makers than sellers, which will be nice. Eventually I want to try bigger shows but for now, I’m happy gaining the experience. And, because I’m not ready to go BIG, I get to enjoy visiting awesome local shows like the Make It, Royal Bison, The Butterdome sales, Indie Handmade, and many many other awesome local craft shows, all without the pressure of being a maker at that show!
As for the introversion problem, that’s easy. I’ll put on my salesperson hat for the first time since leaving the retail world three years ago, and just go for it.