Last June, I had the opportunity to be an art vendor at Westhaven Porchfest. (That's me at my little booth, for your reference.) This was my second experience selling my paper goods in person, so I thought I would be prepared. I assumed I had a schema for vending in my little organized brain, but as with most things in life, each experience has its own nuances.
WHAT I WISH I KNEW:
I wish I had prepared for the weather. The Tennessee heat is no joke. I got sunburnt. I was sweaty. I was tired. On top of that, everyone else at the festival was hot and tired too. Engagement at my booth didn't really pick up until after the sun went down, after eight hours of sitting there smiling and waving at potential buyers.
I wish I had used my time more effectively. You sign up for these sorts of things months in advance. Don't be like me and prepare everything in a week and a half before the event. This will give you the opportunity to be more intentional about how you want your booth to look and the feeling you want your clients to have when they walk into your tent, which brings me to my next point.
I wish I had set up my booth in a more welcoming manner. You can't choose where your booth is placed in the market. What I noticed was people were always more likely to enter the shady booths across from me. (Not shady like shady, but shady like no direct sunshine.) My booth, on the other hand, was getting ALL the mid-day sun, and I had made little effort to create the right environment for all the burning people. In the future, I'd put my table at the back of the booth, and possibly invest in another table to create an "L" shape. This way I could invite people into the shade and have more space to effectively display my work.
I wish I had "finished pieces." What I mean by this is, some people can't imagine what a piece might look like in their home or office (or friend's home, for that matter). I think it would've been beneficial to have a framed piece and hung it, or to have vertical displays to give the feeling of a completed piece, a final destination.
WHAT I LEARNED:
People love business cards. I handed out SO many business cards it's insane. That doesn't mean I have a ton of new clients, but if they ever needed me, I might just be a quick email away.
Have an email list. My biggest regret from my first festival back in December 2016 was not having a way to follow up with people who were interested in my work. This time around, I had the opportunity to check in with people who mentioned they wanted custom work, among other services I provide.
Don't harass people to come look at your work. (Not that I did this, heh.) Clients will enter your booth if they're drawn into it. Don't worry!
Live-selling can be seriously discouraging, but thankfully, the reactions of others to your work has nothing to do with your value as a human being. After I pushed through the discouraging moments, I had the opportunity to connect with the other vendors who may have been feeling the same way. I think it's important to remember that each person is having their own experience at the event. There's a pretty good chance you're not the most important person in the market.
Really consider your audience when you choose which festival to be a part of. Choose the festival you believe your clients will attend. I'll definitely apply this if I do another festival in December.
Talk to the vendors around you and network a little bit. There was a woman vending across from me who sold little handmade baby shoes. (They were SO cute, btw. @roosterandmoo on IG, if you're interested.) I had been eyeing her booth all day. When we got to talking, we realized that we could totally collaborate and connected on our love for Nashville and babies.
Ultimately, anytime you showcase your artwork, anytime you share something you believe is important and vulnerable, there's a chance that it may not be received in a way you feel it deserves. I had people come by who seemed interested, but would then walk away and say, 'oh but I wouldn't pay that much for something like that.' But if you stick it out, there's always the chance that your people will come by, love what you do, and invest in it.
If all else fails, you can put the "leftovers" on Etsy or an online shop and reach a different crowd from the comfort of your home.
What about you? Have you ever been interested in being a vendor at an event? Do you have any questions about the topics I mentioned? Let's have a conversation!