Selling at Craft Shows Should You Do It?

The idea of selling your handmade products at a craft show is quit enticing considering you have that fast exchange of product for cash.

Today we will provide you with our honest review on whether selling at craft shows is a viable business model.

You will hear about how people selling at craft shows will bring in hundreds or thousands of dollars from the sale of merchandise in one day but how much of that is actual profit?

We want to share our experience when it comes to selling at a craft show to help you decide if this is a route you want to try. Please bear in mind that this was our first ever craft show that we've participated in.

In this article, we will list what went well, what didn't work, disclose actual income and expenses, what we would do differently, and whether we would do it again.

What Went Well


One of the best parts we found to be with this experience was the creative part by trying to anticipate what people would be wanting to buy.

We were so motivated and driven to create new things by putting ourselves in the customer's shoes.

We would try and imagine being at the show with about $60 in our pocket and wondered how would we be spending that money at the show.

Of course, at first, we joked and imagined everyone would spend their money at our table 😉

Then we sat down and seriously thought about the materials we can use, the space we had and understanding that people need to bring the items home with them once they purchased them.

We had a lot of wood in our shop, odds, and ends from previous projects, so we really wanted to use all of that up first before moving to new materials for craft fair project ideas.

Once we had our building limits figured out we started looking at ideas on Pinterest, sketching up some original ideas then start piecing some of those items together.

Some ideas worked and some were awful but in the end, we came up with 7 to 8 different items we could build.

We planned to build about 6 of each item with a price averaging around $40 each.

We were really excited! If we managed to sell everything we would be able to bring in around $1900.

Handmade Crafts Sale income potential

Brenda and I worked side by side in the workshop building all the different items. We ended up not making 6 of each, some we made more others less, again depending on the type of wood we had available in the workshop.

So the planning, creating and the idea of making a huge profit was a significant motivating factor to move forward with this event.

Another part that went well was the setting up of the table. We had no issues and with proper planning, bringing our inventory and setting up the table only took about 30 minutes.

Part of our planning was preparing methods of payment. Obviously we prepared for cash payments but we also wanted to be ready for people wanting to buy with debit or credit card.

Having to prepare for this craft show helped us move forward with setting up a proper payment system and we decided on using Square.

The tap and swipe function of Square worked seamlessly and having the inventory and billing software linked with Square was a bonus that will help us with future sales.

What Didn't Go So Well

This list is shorter but unfortunately, it has the largest impact on whether we will do a craft show again.

Of course, we're talking about the number of sales we made that day!

Now before I jump into the number of sales I should explain that this craft show wasn't your typical event open to the general public.

The craft show we participated in was a closed event, accessible only for people and Brenda's place of work for the purpose of raising funds for charity.

Granted, there are a few thousand workers employed there but we have to take into account that not everyone will be attending the craft show.

Handmade Crafts Sale income reality

There was a good turnout but in reality, we probably only saw about 10% of all the staff and making the assumption that maybe only 2% of those would buy something at the craft show where there were about 20 vendors.

So the odds of someone buying from our table were quite low.

At this point, you're probably wondering if we made any sales at all.

It's not all bad news we did make some sales. we actually sold $160 worth. 

Taking into account the table only cost us $30 we came out with $130 for the day (4-hour show). 

Now, some of you may be saying that's not too bad and others will be saying that it is awful.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective dependent on your current income and life situation.

All I can say, from our small business plan perspective, the total amount of sales was really poor.

Some may think $130 is descent if you break it down per hour at the show we made around $32/hr.

The problem with that is it wasn't only 4 hours we spent on this event. 

It took us a total of 24hrs of building time to create all the items we were selling.

Then a couple more hours bringing everything to the show, setting up, tearing down, repacking and getting back home.

Not to mention we took vacation time from our regular work to be at the craft show and I didn't even factor in our profit margin.

Allow me to show you what we would expect in total sales for that day based on the business model we prepared for this event.

In the end, we created $1600 worth of product to be sold. 

Handmade craft sale ideas

That is to say, we priced our items based on time, materials (if we had to buy them), and a 40% markup. If you think 40% markup is a lot please subscribe to be notified when we write about why we markup our products 40%.

The cheapest item was $20 and the most expensive $50.

Our largest loss comes from our time and profit margin as we didn't have to buy any of the materials.

It's important to take into account our time. This time we can never get back. Using up vacation and spare time that we could have spent with family or friends but instead spent it in the workshop and at the craft fair.

If we combine both, Brenda's and my incomes with the total time spent building, preparing and being at the sale we could have made $2700 in salary, actually much more if we did overtime in our spare time instead.

Handmade Crafts Sale time is money

Taking our time into account we lost approximately $2570 but we also need to consider the loss of our 40% markup as which incorporates costs that include the heating of the workshop, sandpaper, glue, stain, the van for getting supplies and bringing, etc...

If we take 40% of the potential amount of items we built, that would amount to about $640.

Which all adds up to a loss of about $3200!!!

I guess it is needless to say we didn't sell enough to make a profit.

Now I know that not everyone has jobs that pay like ours and in all fairness, we are looking at creating a business to replace our jobs. 

If we don't take into account our salary lost for not working, we still lost around $1500 and also need to remember that it would be more if we had to buy our materials.

Will We Do It Again?

Handmade Crafts Sale will we do it again

The quick and short answer is No!

If we look at it from the side of profitability the chances that selling at a craft show can be a profitable business opportunity is unlikely.

Even if we were to have a larger and varied turnout of customers the idea of having to spend 1, 2 or 3 days at the show in order to sell our items eats into our profits compared to selling furniture and decor online or directly.

That said one aspect that we didn't mention in what went well is the fact that the craft sale offered a great opportunity to network and promote our business.

Although I'm not aware of any secondary sales were currently made from informing people of our business it is possible that at some point down in the future someone will tell somebody about our business and we may obtain new customers that way.

Personal networking and promotion is the optimum level of advertising. Other advertising types available today would cost a whole lot more than $500 with a lot less impact.

So for that purpose alone, we may still consider doing other craft shows sometime in the future but for now, we will concentrate on our current customers and sales approach.

Our Craft Show Experience - Point Form

Handmade Crafts Sale Quick Breakdown

The Good

  1. Sparked Creative Genius Within Us
  2. Enhanced Our Planning and Execution Skills
  3. Jump Started Our Billing and Payment Abilities with Square
  4. Exposure to Another Method of Selling
  5. Networked and Advertised To Potential Customers

The Not So Good

  1. Less Than Expected Sales
  2. Net Loss vs. Expected Profit
  3. Time Loss That Could Have Been Spent with Family and Friends

The Next Steps

  1. Focus on Direct Sales Through Online Markets or Word of Mouth
  2. Increase Online Exposure to Increase Passive Income Potential.
  3. Create Products and Content With Emphasis on Helping Our Customers and Future Followers.

Financial Breakdown

Expenses:

  • Materials: $0
  • Cost of Table at the Show: $30
  • Time/Labor: 
    • 24hrs total to build products @ $30/hr =  $720
    • 6 hrs at the show, setup and breakdown, travel @30/hr= $180
  • Profit: 40% markup to cover miscellaneous costs (workshop, van, tools, glue, etc.) and maintain a sustainable business model. With the estimated $1600 of product to sell based on individual item prices that included materials, time, and profit. Therefore $1600 x 40% 1600 x 0.4)= $640

Total expenses: -$1570

Income:

  • Sales: $160
  • Networking/Future Customers: ???

Total Income: $160

Net Profit:

Expenses + Income = Net Profit

-$1570 + $160 = -$1410

Thank you for taking your time reading about our experience with a craft sale.

Please comment below or contact us if you have any questions. We love hearing from our readers.

Cheers

Paul

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Sonny - February 4, 2020

Hello! I remember your last post was about Fibonacci in furniture which was a fascinating read and so was this. In my opinion, you still did the right thing, though. You planned your work and worked your plan but sometimes things don’t work out the way we hoped. I have to say that your products are beautiful. Those are popular here in Canada. Can you not sell your unsold inventory online? 

Sunny

Reply
    Paul - February 5, 2020

    You’re absolutely correct. It was a great experience and we do plan to try another craft show again sometime in the future, it’s just doesn’t fit in our current business plan due to our time limitations. We do still have inventory we can sell and we are starting to look at having it on Etsy. We also have our website here with a link to our store where we sell furniture locally.

    Thank you for your support and awesome suggestions. Huge thank you for returning and remembering our site. 

    We really appreciate it.

    Cheers

    Paul

    Reply
      Sonny - February 5, 2020

      Always a pleasure, Paul!

      Reply
Alejandra - February 4, 2020

Hi Paul and Brenda

I’m glad I found your article to know more about if is it a good idea to be selling on crafts show or not?

As a crafter, I’ve been wondering if I should ask for a table on next craft show, I’m glad you came up to the point that is not worth all the work and the time you spend to make just a few dollars from it.

What do you think would work better to get some sales, to create a website for my crafts and get some sales on the internet? Do you have some experience with a website selling your crafts?

Reply
    Paul - February 5, 2020

    Hi, as mentioned in other comments we will probably try a craft show again somewhere in our future but we don’t feel it fits in with our current business plan. We have limited spare time to create our business so we don’t want to spend too much time on setting up, tear down and hours per day trying to sell.

    Currently, we are using Kijiji, similar to Craig’s List service to get our customers and it is providing us enough customers for the time we have available. 

    We’re able to line up orders and we are having about 90% success rate with those that follow through.

    We also have our website and an online store to view the products we make so people can contact us if they are interested in purchasing.

    We only build and sell to local customers right now but are starting to look at Etsy to see if we can sell smaller items.

    We’ll be keeping our readers up to date so be sure to check back in or subscribe to get notified when we create a new blog.

    Cheers

    Paul

    Reply
Parveen - February 4, 2020

Hey, I enjoy a lot while reading your article and find it is very useful for me. Now I know that our profit depends on the number of sales we have done during our craft shows. Your guide is very useful to calculate our own profit or loss in any business not only in craft shows. Also thanks for sharing your awesome story to know about craft shows. I hope everyone will get something new from here like me. Keep it up

Reply
    Paul - February 5, 2020

    Thanks.

    Yes, it’s important to realize that profit is not calculated by the money you make at the sale. You really need to break down all your costs and make sure that paying yourself is part of the expense.

    Reply
Nuttanee - February 4, 2020

Hi there,

Thank you for writing such an informative post! I always wanted to sell my arts at the show but always afraid that I might come home empty handed. It is not bad that you sold $160 of your merchandise, even though it was a loss but there is potential don’t you agree? I would be upset if I show up and do not sell. Plus you get to experience it first hand. Lol, If I were you I might give it another try, just in case. 

I might give it a try at flea market in NYC. There are foot traffic and it goes in at least about 6 hours.

Thanks again 🙂

Reply
    Paul - February 5, 2020

    We will be looking into it again at some point down the line. Seeing that this craft show only had exposure to a limited audience it would be interesting to see how we do in a public venue.

    Cheers

    Paul

    Reply
Nate MC - February 4, 2020

This was a great read. Hey, you might not have made as many sales as expected, but it sure sounds like it was one heck of a learning experience (experience in general). Maybe try selling leftover products via Amazon Handmade? But I do think focusing on direct sales via other online markets is a great idea. 

Reply
    Paul - February 5, 2020

    You are right. Even though we didn’t sell all our products at that craft show we still have them where we can sell them later on or online. We’re trying out Etsy to see what that type of marketplace may provide. We’ll probably follow up on that experience somewhere down the line. 

    Cheers

    Paul

    Reply
jpaliskis - February 5, 2020

Hello, 

My community, where I live, does craft shows/sales every year at the beginning of March. Many handcrafters (any kind, starting from jewelry, glass, wood, amber, homemade food, etc.) spending a lot of time selling products ( around 10 hours a day. ) I paid attention that they try to sell small things ( and they are going quickly). Nowadays, people are picky, so they want to buy a product at the lowest price as possible. Another thing, a small item is more comfortable to carry than a sizeable handmade craft.

My suggestion: try to make picture frames, different sizes and kinds of boxes/ wood treasure chests ( I keep in Christmas, Easter Hallmark cards from my kids and grandkids). Various sizes of shelves (shelf organizers?), cutting boards, hanging mason jar sconces, or even shoe rack benches as well.

Excellent video and useful report. 

Reply
    Paul - February 5, 2020

    Thank you for the great ideas. We will certainly keep that in mind if and when we try producing stuff for another craft sale. Right now it just doesn’t fit in our business plan as we are focusing on smaller furniture like coffee or hallway tables.

    Cheers

    Paul

    Reply
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