Everything I need to know about doing an art fair booth?
June 30, 2013 8:20 PM   Subscribe

So I've decided to try my hand at a booth for my photography at art fairs. What do I need to know?

I do landscape and flower photography. Sold a few prints to an interior decorator back in '06. Since I've not found work in my primary profession, I'm going to attempt to make money doing an art fair booth. I already have a tent from a friend. I got a candy rack on rollers from a Blockbuster Video that closed. I have a pretty good idea, from having checked out photography booths at a large local art fair, of pricing, and I'm handy with a matte cutter. But I'd like advice on, well, pretty much everything else.

Items for sale:
I've always printed on my trusty Epson 2200, but for larger volume I figure on using the local photo store or, even, Costco (they do have nice paper and profile their printers regularly).
I figure on matting prints out to standard frame sizes. In the past for my own use, I've mounted the photos directly to the window matte, but I assume I'll have to matte to a backing board then affix a window. Right?
I've been pointed to a source of bags, so I can have each photo in a comic-book style bag.
My wife mentioned having note cards - maybe ten different flowers in a box. I don't yet have a source for note cards.
Finally, The plan is to have five-ten already framed things, maybe five larger and an assortment of smaller bits.

I've seen this and this. I've figured on getting some of those wire panels to start with for the framed stuff, and the candy rack (I got a lot of shelves, both end-cap and regular) for all the matted stuff. Maybe a table and some plywood boxes of additional work?

The rest:
-I'm planning to get a Square for CC processing.
-Inventory book so I know what sells.
-Weights for the tent.
-Business cards.
-Binder clips are the basis for much jury-rigging.

So, what am I not thinking of? I'm an engineer by training, so I tend to beanplate things, but I know there's a lot of knowledge in the hive mind that I'd like to tap.
posted by notsnot to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you are in the U.S., your state may require you to register for a tax ID number so you can collect state and local sales tax.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:46 PM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

sunscreen. An assistant so you can make bathroom breaks. Food, food, food, entertainment just in case, and WATER. Like a gallon or two at least. Maybe a fan.
posted by Jacen at 8:49 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pens. Contingency plans for wind and rain.

A link to your web site through your Metafilter profile.

A handout card with an "artist's statement" explaining what you think is pretty (i.e., whatever usually goes in an artist's statement), and letting people know how they can get more of your stuff later if they want to.

Watch these StripSearch episodes about setting up a booth and handling booth visitors.
posted by amtho at 9:12 PM on June 30, 2013

Social Media. Give people a way of knowing when you will be there. Tablet/laptop with your other images so that they can be ordered right then.
posted by Sophont at 9:14 PM on June 30, 2013

social media is huge. make a twitter/facebook account and post on days you plan to be there. you can also use it to debut new prints.

personally, i like it when artists have smaller, cheaper, more approachable pieces of their work. often, if i'm at an outdoor market (which lately, has been like every weekend), i'm more browsing rather than determined to buy. offer postcards for $1 or something. you'll get sales on them, but more importantly, you'll get a customer. and then maybe a couple weeks later, they'll come back and buy the full-size $50 version because they liked the postcard version so much.

not everyone is like me, but i've never spent more than $20 on a piece of art at an artists fair. but i have VERY OFTEN spent more than $20 on the artist's website or etsy shop after buying a smaller, cheaper version of their work. sometimes i just want to think about it, or sometimes i go on their site and find something i like better.

if you need a source for postcards, i've had good results from overnight prints. i think 25 double-sided ran about $5 last time i ordered from them.
posted by kerning at 10:15 PM on June 30, 2013

Cute business cards with your website and contact details.
posted by lollusc at 10:39 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Clipboard with a sign-up for the email list you'll soon be setting up, perhaps through mailchimp - free and easy. (and emailing only occasionally). Good luck - I wish you the best!

And seconding the business cards, or some sort of easy take-away.
posted by hydra77 at 11:15 PM on June 30, 2013

A variety of items at a bunch of price points is helpful, otherwise people come and decide they won't even look if they can't immediately see something under $25. My husband sells his photography from booths occasionally, and he makes cards from (just glue stick + photo + blank card, packaged with a matching envelope) pictures and those are probably his biggest sellers. He puts them in cellophane bags so they look professional and stamps them on the back with his website and other info- often people will go to the website after they buy the cards and get something else. He also does sets of cards with a theme for a slight discount from the card-by-itself price, and those do well.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:45 PM on June 30, 2013

Best answer: I answered this on a previous thread so below is basically a copy/paste. Feel free to memail me if you have any questions, I do a fair number of shows throughout the year.

You will need cash change and how much you bring depends on how your items are priced. If you have stuff priced at $16 you're giving out a lot of singles. Assume people paying cash will be paying with twenties. Know beforehand how tax works, if you have to add it at the end then you will need coins as well. In my state we are allowed to include tax (this is not true of all states) so I do that to keep everything at even dollar amounts. This works for me because my items aren't expensive therefor my sales tax owed isn't all that high, and I have that factored into my prices, this may not work for you.

Things I bring with me to every show (besides stock/change/displays):
- business cards
- scissors
- twine
- binder clips
- calculator
- at least 4 pens
- at least one sharpie
- binder clips
- hand sanitizer
- snacks
- water
- chair or stool
- clipboard
- stapler
- chapstick
- ibuprofen
- small hammer, wrench, screwdriver
- duct tape
Have I needed everyone of those things at every show? no. Have I been super duper happy I had each of those things at some point? Hell Yes.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:58 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that shows are real-world social networking -- you might go home without having sold anything, but you've distributed your business card to future customers who will remember you at the next show, met three gallery buyers who left their business card, had conversations with fellow artists, and demonstrated to the world that not only are you willing to devote a day to sitting in the sun dealing with bugs and dehydration but you believe in your own work enough to do so.

Grow a thick skin regarding price. There are people who seem to go to art sales specifically to bitch loudly about how expensive everything is and how their twelve-year-old can take a picture of a flower. They are not your customers and do not deserve your attention; lowering your prices isn't going to improve sales if those are the people you're trying to please. On the other side, dickering on price might be something expected from you -- be prepared to consider offers and not be overly offended, because a person actually trying to buy something from you might not have the money on hand, but really does want to buy your work.

Don't only bring enough inventory to fill the display on day 1. Two hours in, someone's going to buy the biggest thing you're selling, and now you have a huge empty spot -- have plenty of inventory to replenish or fill in as stuff sells.

Business cards: I see a lot of artists who just do postcards, because there's more real estate for imagery and they're not that much more expensive than business cards. Plus -- back to the 'social networking' aspect -- post cards have the double duty of being a response method; if somebody gives you their business card or address, send them a "nice to meet you, thanks for stopping at my tent!" postcard after the show is over.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:33 AM on July 1, 2013

I have seen people make tent weights using wide diameter PVC pipe, say 8" - 12" long, filled with cement and a big eye hook in one end.

You may want to pick up some plastic tubs for transport and to keep things dry if it rains.

I prefer a money belt with pouches to a cash box, less to worry about when manning a booth.

Keep the frames on the framed pieces simple -- you don't want people asking how much the frame costs, you want to show off your work.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:52 AM on July 1, 2013

Best answer: As a customer, I recommend extending a friendly Hi, how are you today, and then letting people browse. I'll leave if I feel pressured. Some of your customers will be tourists, so a grouping of local-themed work with a small sign saying Missouri, more than the Arch and pictures of dotted hawthorn, eastern bluebird, dogwood, Ozarks, etc., and the Arch, if those are photos you have. Marketing is about linking the needs of the consumer with what you have to offer. If you do an email list, an occasional mailing about your booth at XYZ fair is the maximum from that kind of mailing. Have fun, make connections with other vendors, from whom you will learn a lot, and I hope you sell a lot.
posted by theora55 at 9:15 AM on July 1, 2013

Response by poster: There's a lot of good advice here! Thank you so much! I marked a couple with "best answer" which had ideas that completely floored me, but all of the answers had grains of truth or twists on my previous train of thought.
posted by notsnot at 9:23 AM on July 1, 2013

Any time I have ever "tabled" at anything, I have used my trusty Leatherman for something.

Also really make sure your tent is secure. I was at SF Pride yesterday and it was windy and a tent would have pretty much blown away if a few passers-by hadn't caught it.
posted by radioamy at 12:28 PM on July 1, 2013

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