How to Sell Your Art, Your Brand, and Yourself at Shows
Doing shows and promoting one’s work has one secret … there are no rules! It’s a trial and error process, but here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years to help “sell” my art, my brand, and yes, even myself.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Whether you’re doing a big outdoor show or a home party, space is always an issue.
Try hitting yard sales for racks or anything that goes “up”, not “out”.
I believe presentation is a huge part of selling our wares.
If you lay your jewelry flat on a couple of tables, it lacks luster, and looks like a flea market table. You may as well wear a trench coat and just open it to show customers your jewelry!
Seriously, though … just about anything can be used to create interesting displays.
Depending on your style of jewelry, you can use rocks, draping fabric, or even vases and household items. Use your imagination!
Keeping a color scheme throughout your booth can add to the consistency and flow. My colors are black, blue, brown and cream.
I try to keep my linens and displays as close to my logo as possible. While this is not necessary, I feel it makes for a more professional looking booth.
Your Work Station at Shows
You will need to be organized. When you have a tent full of customers, you need to have your supplies for completing the sale at your fingertips.
I use a collapsible shelf, available at WalMart for about $10 in their kitchen section. Over this, I drape a tablecloth so that customers cannot see underneath.
Also, the shelf gives you an extra spot to display items, or for your credit card logos, etc.
Under the shelf I have my “knuckle buster” credit card machine, money, forms, etc. Being able to get customers taken care of quickly is paramount.
If you have help in your booth, it might be a good idea to have a “cash line”. This will take the pressure off having to make your cash paying customers wait while you process credit cards.
I have customers who have become more like friends over the years! The best thing you can do to create that repeat customer is to offer them something special.
I have a newsletter that I send out to those who sign up for it. I tell people how to sign up when I do shows.
I also tell them that if they sign up, they won’t be bombarded with tons of emails every week. People don’t want to be hounded.
At times, I offer special discounts only to my subscribers, or free shipping, or just let them know about new work.
Also, they will get pre-sale notice of a sale on my website before the public is able to enjoy the sale.
This form of communication with your customers can generate a lot of business. It’s also beneficial in other ways.
I enjoy seeing the same people from year to year, and you get to know their style and tastes when it comes to creating jewelry with them in mind. I like the personal interaction.
This is very important! Before you start up your business, think long and hard about what you want to convey to potential customers.
Your brand, your identifying logo, etc., will be something you have to live with forever. That is, if you want to be recognized as time goes by.
I originally designed my own “cat” in my logo. Eventually, a good friend redesigned my logo, keeping with my original colors and font but making it more elegant, including making the “cat” more stylish:
She said the new logo more closely represented my style of jewelry and she was right! I resist change, but that was one move that definitely benefited the business!
You will find, as you get known around your area, that people will say “Oh, I think I was in here before” or “I’ve seen you” or “Why does this look so familiar?” … these are all welcome comments!
It means people recognize your “brand”. The name of your business, colors, logo, etc. are all who you are.
Changing it all the time will confuse people. My advice is to think about who you are, what you sell, and go from there.
Create a brand you can live with and keep it. It’s a wonderful feeling to know all your hard work is getting recognized!
Where do I start? Believe me, it’s taken years to “weed out” the lame shows. Even now, when I do a new one, my fingers are always crossed.
I used to give a show “two years”. If I didn’t fare well the first year, I went back.
I no longer do that. Once you’ve established yourself and are seeing pretty consistent sales, you’ll know when to bail on a particular show.
I have a “minimum” that I “usually” do from show to show.
When I barely make booth at a new show, after having made hundreds the weekend before at another, I don’t blame it on the economy, or the day, or the weather. I know it’s the wrong venue for me and I won’t be back.
Don’t get discouraged if you tank at more than a few shows when you’re starting out.
You have to come into your own before you can get comfortable with the areas you show in, and get to know the people that frequent each show. Don’t rush it.
But, don’t spend a fortune on booth fees starting out, either. You don’t need to do the huge 350 artisan, $400 shows to make it worth your while.
Don’t be sucked in by the “big” shows. You’ll get to know your market and where you can find it.
Start with a few winery shows … loads of these are inexpensive (again, stay away from those that charge too much) or no booth fee at all!
And people who come to wineries are fun, easygoing, and nine times out of ten, they may be there celebrating an upcoming wedding, anniversary, engagement, etc. … perfect time for you to show them what they can’t live without! Of course, downing wine all afternoon helps them get the moths out of the wallet!
In a nutshell, keep it simple … choose shows carefully, don’t spend a fortune, don’t beat yourself up for tanking at a show, and most importantly, never ever ever worry about those who say “Oh, I can do this”.
I’ve learned to joke about those kind of people … if they could do it, why are they shopping instead of selling?
We all know, too, that jewelry is a saturated market, right? Well, I can hold my own at a show, and so can you.
Be creative, and do what you love … there will be a market for it. You just have to be patient until you learn where that market is. Don’t try to please everyone. You’ll never do it.
Create what comes into your mind and let it go at that. Forget the trends … forget what people tell you you should be making. Just do what comes naturally.
When you let your own creative juices flow, it will show in your work. Not every piece needs to be a masterpiece. You can range from the simple to the intricate and elegant.
Have a wide array of prices, and never feel like you’re “asking too much”. That’s one of the most ridiculous phrases ever to be uttered.
Remember this: “Your work is worth what someone is willing to pay you for it”. One person will come into your booth and gasp at the price of that beautiful turquoise bracelet. The next one will buy it.
If you don’t value your work, neither will anyone else.
In closing, most important of all is this … never try to be someone you’re not.
There will always be artisans that will never catch up to your creativity, and there will always be those that will blow your work out of the water! That’s just the way it is!
I know there are more creative, talented artisans than I out there. I also know that I can run with the best of them at any given show.
So just do what you love, and it will show in what you present to the public.
Enjoy the journey, or it will become too much like work!
I soooo needed this article! Got tired of doing ‘mainstream’ art & jewelry because it appeals to more people. Recently changed some things, and am adding new selling venues, and I am now seeking those customers who want MY designs! I’m continuing the search, and needed this advice & encouragement. My new motto? I DON’T DO ORDINARY!
Glad I could help, Gloria!
Gloria…you hit the nail on the head! Trying to please everyone is exhausting and little of ourselves comes out in any pieces we create. That’s not to say we can’t do custom pieces for people, but remember not to infringe on copyrighted work! Pretty soon, by sticking to your own style, you’ll hear, “I like you because you have different things”. Hang in there, and I’m glad I could help!
This is probably the single most helpful posting I have seen. I need to print it so I can re-read your many excellent comments. I have been so discouraged about some of the shows I have done, and not being able to find the right venue. Yet I believe my jewelry is very attractive and sellable. You don’t know how encouraging your post has been!
So glad you could use this, Kim!
I’m so glad you found this helpful, Kim…I remember just starting out selling at shows again after many years (and I mean many!). A good friend of mine was a wealth of information and encouragement, so I know what it’s like to feel clueless when it comes to what more experienced sellers already know.
If you have any other questions, or need help with something particular, I might be able to help! You can email me through my ArtFire studio. Good luck to you, and let me know how you’re doing!
Cat, thank you. I have been feeling really trapped by pricing and style. Your post took me back to that feeling of pride and accomplishment I had when someone first said, “Do you sell your jewelry?” Every show does not have to go my way. Everyone does not have to respond to every piece. Thank you for reminding me of why I started this in the first place.
It’s funny…I still need to remind myself sometimes! haha..especially when I tank at a show. And do you find yourself really questioning whether you’re in the right business when you have TWO shows in a row you tank at? Everyone needs a gentle reminder that there will always be someone better than us, and we need to strive to just be ourselves and keep our own style! It’s a constant struggle to stay true to ourselves. So, I’m glad you got some inspiration from this…thanks for the kind words.
by: Helen Ritter/dba Jewelry Designs By Helen Ritter
Your article was so right on. For a while, I was always second guessing about my work. I was afraid it was too different, priced too high, or not appealing to my market choices. I, like you, have changed my whole attitude. I am proud of my designs and am so thrilled when someone appreciates them. There are all kinds of women out there who appreciate out of the ordinary pieces and I am blessed to have found them. Almost everyone that has purchased one of my pieces has returned to tell me about all of the compliments they’ve received. That makes me feel like I am doing something right.
I just split with a business partner and am venturing out on my own in the jewelry making world. In doing a google search I came across the newsletter and signed up. And in looking at my very first newsletter I scrolled down and your post was the first one I read! Now all this happened just today and talk about divine intervention – your words were so perfect and really made me excited about venturing out on my own! And I know I can come up with my own unique style that isn’t tied to my former partner. I am so ready to sit down and create!!!! I can’t thank you enough! And you are incredibly generous with your advice, Cat! I can tell you are one in a million!
You girls make me blush!
I’m so happy you all got something out of my long winded dialogue! I think we’ve all been in the same boat, no matter where we are today. I just thumbed through a beading book and was slack jawed the entire time. I wanted to start eighty projects all at once, and yet I’ve never done the intricate seed bead work.
So, I get discouraged as well, ladies! I know what you mean, Diane..sometimes things happen with such perfect timing that it’s impossible to think we happened upon that thing by chance. Something similar happened to me recently regarding writing a book…so I know how you must have been giddy to get just what you needed at just the right time! Please let me know how you’re doing. I’d love to see your designs, and I know you’ll be just flowing with ideas once you get into your groove without your partner! Glad you signed up for the newsletter, too!
And Helen…I’m also glad you could find useful info here. We are masters at second guessing ourselves! We could form a club and have thousands of members in that one! Hang in there, and good luck to you…good luck to all of you! I love to see handmade succeed for everyone who is willing to take the chance and just do it!
How to sell your art,brand,self
thanks. What encouraging,kind,positive,experienced advice from fellow artist,crafter,designer. So much negativity,competition,coldness out there at shows with other vendors. i just do own thing,don’t take it personally anymore,did as sensitive artist, as is their problem,threatened some by one’s creativity when they are selling pocket book designer knockoffs,commercial jewelry as just vendors. Not everyone will like you or me,just the way it is so had to toughen up. My faith in me and God helps as he never rejects me.
Right On, Cat!
You go, girl! Your article hit the nail on the head! So many sharing thoughts and concepts! Not too many folks are this willing to give away trade secrets like you do! It shows what a helpful person you truly are, and we are all grateful for it. Add to this, your designs are outstanding. It is a pleasure to meet you and your hand works!
Artzstuff and Annie….
Thank you, Artzstuf and Annie…but I can’t imagine not helping other artisans! We’re a community, and that’s what sets us apart from the commercial racket. I’m happy to help! I figure, the stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we’ll be collectively, therefore increasing the number of handmade shows available! Supply and demand, so to speak…
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and a blessed and joyous Christmas, everyone!
I was smileing while reading your blog and the same time, want to put a offer out there for some of our readers,all is welcome, I am doing a booth show starting dec 10 through dec 30, God Willing,We all have beatiful Art that we want to offer to the public. A piece of inspiration which I am sure has gotten each and every one started out in a craft as Unique as Jewelry making, a very special gift indeed… I will take 5 of your Very best crafts, display it in my booth, try and get repeat orders for you, and whom know, who God sends to your booth next as a potential buyer,that becomes a best friend in a blink of an eye email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and Cat On my grand opening you would be my geust of honor,love ya, and happy Christmas to u all…smiles Daphne Oz