Are you an Artist or Artisan struggling with the world of commerce?
Do you have stalls at craft fairs and shows that attract admiration but not enough sales?
Do you get great feedback for your work but don't get the money you need to keep going?
Are you thinking you may have to give up the dream and go to work for minimum wage at your local store? Working to support someone else's business and tied to their timetables.
Are you beginning to feel that the myth of the starving artist is actually true?
You know you need to make a change. But what change?
Much of the wisdom surrounding selling at craft fairs concentrates on making what the customer wants to buy. We are told to be aware of current trends and fashions because if we don't follow them we won't sell. Whatever our niche, we should be looking at the market to inform our creative direction.
This argument works to an extent but can mean a whole host of identikit stalls with nothing to distinguish between them but price and so begins a price cutting war which is a fast route to failure for everyone.
This weekend I tried an experiment.
On my stall I sell three kinds of art and craft. I sell jewellery, glass and original paintings. You may think this is a strange mix but I hand paint the glass cabachons in the jewellery, the boldly organic coloured glassware and of course the canvasses. The stall is eye-catching and draws many appreciative comments but sales have been lower than I needed to ensure a successful enterprise.
I have tried to encourage sales with attractive offers and discounts but this tactic has proved repeatedly unsuccessful. At times it is easy to believe that your work just isn't good enough or that the customers are simply not there.
So I went back to my ideal customer and thought about their wants and needs a little bit more. As my work has organic overtones, my ideal customer loves the natural world. They love to fill their homes with organic and impressionistic designs. Splashes of vibrant colour mimic their love of flora. They watch natural history programmes and love David Attenborough. They have coffee table books filled with beautiful photos from National Geographic.
What I needed to do was show my ideal customer that what I had to offer fitted with their desires and with possessions they already had.
What if my customer also liked cute? Maybe they had a calendar at home with penguins on. Maybe they liked cute pictures of owls? My Pinterest boards suggested they did. What if my stall included items that met that desire thus showing that the rest of the items would sit happily in a home themed with such decor.
I decided to run with the idea and created a set of small paintings of penguins. Penguin chicks are naturally cute and they are easy to paint in a loose informal manner that suits my style. It cost me little in time or materials and I enjoyed creating them.
So did it work?
The bottom line - I took twice as much money as I had at the same show the last 2 years. I easily covered my costs and made a good profit.
I sold one of the penguin pictures, but more importantly, found that people stopped to look at them and then looked more closely at the rest of the stall.
It's hard to be sure why this worked, but one conclusion I came to was that the pictures made the customers happy. Happy customers are more open to the possibilities of the rest of the stall and to spending money.
Cynics may suggest that the show was simply better advertised and had more footfall or that visitors had more money available. This wasn't the case on either count as footfall was considerably down on previous years and other stalls did not do well.
My next show is in 2 weeks time, so I will let you know if there is similar success.
Above you can see 2 of the little paintings I made, displayed in mounts.
This last picture is one of the coasters I make and sell, showing the organic nature and deep colours. This set sold at the show at £15 for a set of four. They are made using heat resistant glass which is enamelled then fired.
Is this a tactic you can apply to your own stalls? Is there something your ideal customer would love that you can use to show your crafts will fit with the customer's decor or lifestyle?
Twice as much turnover could take you from barely scraping by as I was, to creating a worthwhile and satisfying venture.
How much more could you get done if you are not worrying that your sales won't cover your costs?
How much better will you sleep at night knowing that your dream career is getting that much closer?
How much happier will you be doing the things you love and getting paid for it properly?
Try this at your next show and see how much improvement you find in your sales. It's a small cost that could bring about a lasting benefit.
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