Hi friends! I’m Amber, owner of Little King Art. I’ve done my share of markets — back when I was a college student hustling side art projects and then later to promote Little King Art. Planning for a market can seem daunting and nerve wracking, no matter how many times you do an event! After going through a lot of trial and error and getting tips from the pros along the way, I have learned a ton of tricks to help make market day a breeze (or at least a little easier)!
Finding A Market
This is a Facebook group for those who offer physical handmade products to customers. It is a place to “talk shop” about anything and everything revolving around art entrepreneurship and small business ownership. You can also become a member of the group’s “Tool Box“, which includes resources to get first look at vendor events around Charlotte and other cities in the Southeast U.S. Just let the team know you want to be part of it!
2. Ask your friends
If you want to do a market, start with your friends and just ask around. Most likely they have attended a memorable and fun event you can look up. Also, looking on local news sites, like Charlotte Agenda, can be helpful to see what markets are popular.
3. Booth fees
They can be anywhere from free to over $1,000 to rent your space. It honestly depends on your budget which market you should do!
Show your best of the best and make sure to include all social media and your website (if you have one). Also, make sure that you share items that would fit in the event’s vibe or theme.
Wondering if a certain market is worth your time? A quick event search on Facebook will let you know how big of a following that event gets. Also, if you can find people that have worked a certain market, that helps too!
Before the Event
1. Make a checklist
There is so much to juggle, so it helps to have a list (that you wrote in advance) that you can quickly scan the morning of a market. The day of, my mind is all over the place, so having that list helps me stay focused.
2. Practice your setup
Have a general idea on how you want things displayed. This does take practice and you’ll eventually learn what works and what doesn’t work for you and your product. There are a ton of inspirational booth displays on Pinterest. Don’t get bogged down on this step. Everyone has to start somewhere!
3. Price to sell
Know what you’re selling at the market and have it all packed and ready to go! You will hear mixed opinions on pricing. Most people that come to a market want a deal, so keep that in mind. Some vendors might have pricier stuff, but bring lots of smaller items (so the price seems smaller). Everyone has their thing.
Generally, I like to bring a few high price items (usually because they are bigger and draw people into my booth) and then a wide variety of medium to smaller sized (lower priced) items. I want to hit everyone’s price point, you know? Whatever I don’t sell at a market, usually goes into one of my shops at a higher price. This is for many reasons, but one of them being that retailers take a percentage of what you sell. When you sell at a market, you get to keep all of that income (unless of course it’s a market that takes a percentage, but that’s rare!).
4. Tag everything
If tagging isn’t your thing, have your signs ready to go with pricing and other info.
5. Have an “emergency kit”
Mine has “s” hooks, scissors, string, blue tape, extra tags/biz cards and sometimes random materials I use in my artwork. You just never know when it’s handy! I’ve needed tape and string to help hold up something on a display or there is always someone who needs a pair of scissors.
6. Pack the night before
Your tables, tablecloths, and other props too! I put all of my big stuff in the car the night before.
7. Promote, promote, promote
Tell anyone and everyone about your event via social media, in person, newsletter, etc. Announce it a month out and then gradually increase awareness as you get closer to the date.
8. Try to get some sleep
At some point, you have to cut yourself off from working too much on a market. While I love to go above and beyond, you still need to get some rest! Also, if you are stressing about something, going to bed and waking up with a clear head will help you execute your plans better.
Things To Bring
1. A wagon or dolly
I worked many markets always envying those who had a wagon. They just zoomed in with a breeze and often only had to make one or two trips to the car. After making a bazillion trips to my car, I finally broke down and got myself a wagon! Not only is it a tax write off for my business, but my son gets the perks of riding in it from time to time. I’ve got it down to a science where everything I pack has to be able to fit into the wagon (with the exception of my tables).
Save money, pack food. I confess I’m so bad about this! To make sure you make all of your money’s worth, pack any food and drinks you may need to get you through the day. On the flip side of that, if you can budget it, it’s always nice to splurge on food when you are at a market that has lots of food vendors. Please note that not all markets have food, so always have something prepared just in case.
3. An email list
Take any notebook and a pen and BOOM you can create an email list. It took me a year or so to finally make my first newsletter, but I was able to plug in all the emails I had captured at previous markets. I’m still inconsistent with my newsletters, but I’m always capturing those emails. If someone walks by, just ask politely if they wouldn’t mind giving you their email address. You could also use a tablet if you’re feeling fancy.
4. Handouts, flyers, business cards
Just because someone doesn’t buy today, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a potential customer tomorrow. Have something to handout. Give your business card, maybe you have a flyer of upcoming events to pass out, or maybe you have cute stickers with your logo. Anything that is small with your business’ info on it – pass it out. I’ve had a customer not buy at a market and then later attend one of my classes because I gave out a flyer.
5. Other branded materials
Put that logo on everything. It’s easy branding, y’all! Logo on your tags, your sign, your business card, flyers, etc. A simple way to add your logo to everything at your booth is simply attaching your business card to every item you are selling. Oh and for a sign, you don’t have to spend lots of money by getting something printed. Those are definitely nice, but if you are a DIY person, you can always hand paint your own sign. I even know of a fashion designer who embroidered hers. The simplest and most affordable thing you can do is print your logo on a standard sheet of paper at home and put it in a nice frame.
6. Social media signage
It’s always nice to have somewhere at your booth where you list your social media tags. Printing something off of my computer and putting it in a frame does the trick. I’ve seen others take one of those word boards and spell it out that way. Anything to get people to follow you! You could even offer promotions / special deals for customers that stop by your booth and follow you on social media.
7. Practical shoes
I made the mistake of wearing the cutest booties at the longest market ever last month. Don’t do that. Trust me, I understand the need to want to be cute, but you gotta be practical. I’ve seen cute tennis shoes out there and then there are always my Dansko’s (that my elementary students always made fun of me for) but they are so COMFY and my feet don’t feel like they’re going to fall off at the end of the day.
8. A friend
You know what helps make a market go more smoothly? Bringing a supportive friend. Some people bring their significant others for help too. While I love my husband and he is so supportive, we decided that working markets together is not our thing and that’s okay! He usually helps me pack the car and makes me food before or after a market. I’ll occasionally invite a good friend of mine and it makes all of the above so much easier to do. Plus you have someone to watch your booth so you can escape to the restroom or look at other booths! Bonus!
Market Day Tips
1. Focus on your set up first
Try not to stress about any of the small details until you have everything out and displayed. Then you can troubleshoot that light that isn’t working, the placement of all of your signs, flyers and such.
2. Make your booth look full
When setting up your display, one of the biggest things I learned was that it should always look very full. If your booth is bare, you won’t get a lot of traffic. Don’t have a lot of product? Have a smaller table or think of how you can add to your display to make it look more full.
As you sell things, rearrange your booth so it still looks nice and full. Heck, even if I doesn’t sell, I still sometimes do some rearranging. A little refresh never hurts!
4. Talk to people
Just say, “Hi, how are you?”. That’s it! You don’t have to have a very lengthy discussion. Sometimes you might have a very interesting conversation with a fellow vendor or customer, which is always nice. Practice a short and to the point spiel to give customers if they come over to your booth. Mine will be something like, “Hi, how are you? I’m Amber, I teach art and craft workshops in the area. Would you mind if I handed you a flyer?”. You could tweak that to get their email, hand them a business card, or whatever.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people want to touch my art lately (it’s all macrame and weaving with lots of texture). I tell them to feel free to touch everything! It’s gets them closer to my booth and I can talk to them more. The key is to be approachable so that they want to stick around and hopefully buy something too!
5. Have a positive attitude
I’ll never forget when I worked one of my first markets. Nothing was selling, I was super bummed, and I desperately tried to sell a print (this was back when I was selling a lot of paintings and prints). The couple didn’t buy and as they walked away I heard the guy say to his significant other “Wow, she’s really desperate to sell.”. I. Died. That changed my outlook on markets from that day forward! My negative attitude was being projected and I got nothing in return. I’m telling you, even if I’m skeptical about a particular market I’m doing, the day of the event, I have my positive vibes going strong. I genuinely believe it makes your whole market experience a thousand times better. No matter what happens the day of the event, stay positive and SMILE.
6. Don’t get discouraged
Another reason to stay positive? Remember that markets are hit or miss. I’ve had many very, very successful vendors tell me this multiple times. It could be the weather, the time of the event, the marketing, or even the location, so don’t beat yourself up and feel like it’s all your fault! We all want to make money, but just because you don’t make a ton at an event, doesn’t mean it was not successful. Did you gain a lot of followers or make a lot of great connections? How many emails did you capture? Did you hand out your business card or flyers? If you answer yes to at least one of those, consider that your success.
7. Learn from it
There is ALWAYS rooms for improvement. You can learn something from every single event. Pay attention to what people liked the most at your booth, what didn’t interest them, what they wanted more of, etc. Did you sell a lot of something? Keep that item and at that price point. Was something priced too high or not high enough? Take notes and use that for your next market.
Thanks everyone for reading my market suggestions. I hope you have a very successful market season!!
Amber King Bounds
Little King Art