Archive of ‘Craft fairs and shows’ category

Sharing a Craft Stall – A Craft Stall with a Friend

TTSharingACraftStallMany crafters, especially when starting out in craft stall selling, choose to share a stall with a friend or family member.  Each person has their own products to sell, or you maybe will work on joint projects.  This can be a great way to split the cost of a stall, to ensure a companion/assistant when actually selling and be a lot of fun.

If you are thinking of sharing a stall with someone else, please do consider some of the possible problems that can arise from this arrangement.

Be sure to know in advance how you are going to divide up the takings, share the costs and who is going to do the various actions required.

The Simple 50/50 Split

If you are working together on all the stock and just splitting everything 50/50 then it will probably be pretty painless.  Ensure that both parties know exactly what they will be creating so the workload is divided fairly.  Decide in advance what you will be doing with any left over stock (if not keeping it for another craft stall.)  Keep a written record of how much the stall costs and what you have each paid towards the cost – and for any other costs involved.  Discuss in advance things such as how you are going to get to the show (who’s driving!), where products will be stored beforehand and who is responsible for paying for the stall, getting insurance and any other costs.

The Individual Stock Scenario

Another common scenario is where both parties have their own individual stock and each has the takings relating to that specific stock.  Stall costs etc are usually divided up either a simple 50/50 or in proportion as to the quantity or value of stock each party has.

With this type of arrangement it is important to work out in advance how you are going to divide the takings properly.  Here are some often-used ways:

  • Sellers have a notebook and write down all the sales (or the sales for one party)
  • Sellers divide the money as they go along – can be a bit tricky if you have a lot of stock or a lot of sales
  • Comparing remaining stock to stock lists made before starting to see how much each party sold

Sharing with More than One Other Person

If you are planning to share a stall with more than one or two other people then things can get a lot more complicated.  One common way to handle the takings in these situations is to mark all the products with coloured sticky dots; a different colour for each seller.  When a sale is made the person handling the sale notes the colour of the dot and the amount taken in a notebook.  At the end of the show you can tally up the dots and amounts to see how much each seller earned.  This system can work well when the sellers are not too sure who else is selling what.  Another common option is to be sure to have clear records of how much stock from each person is on the stall then afterwards you can see who has sold what.

A Contract For Clarity

Unless you are very, very sure of your relationship with the other seller/s it may be well worth drawing up a simple agreement in advance to outline those issues where there might possibly be contention later on.  This could include how you are dividing the takings, how you are dividing the costs and who is responsible for actually paying those costs, who is supplying a table, display stands and any other stall-dressing that you will require, what is going to happen to any surplus stock (if jointly making individual products) and any information that will be required for tax purposes.

Free Download – Craft Stall Checklist – Handy Checklist for your next Craft Fair or Show

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Summer Crafting at Doncaster 2015 – Show Report

TTDoncasterLiveTVYesterday, I was lucky enough to go to the big Summer Crafting show at Doncaster Racecourse in Yorkshire, England.

My mother and I went with a local craft group who had spare seats on their mini-bus.  It took just over 2 hours to get up to Doncaster, then another hour waiting to get to the actual Racecourse – as well as the crafting there was another big event on on the opposite side of the road… traffic nightmare!

Create and Craft television organized the event, and were broadcasting live throughout the weekend.  As we walked in the main entrance we could see the small “studio” where the shows were being made, and which we had been watching on tv the day before.

The next show was being broadcast in half an hour, so we set off to explore the show…

Yes, there were a LOT of people.  And it was very hot indeed.  But everyone was in such a good mood – crafters are such happy, fun people, aren’t they?

Here is a picture of the main show area, packed to the gills with craft stalls from companies both big and small.  At this point I realized that any chance of my coming home without buying something were non-existent!

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And indeed it was not long before we found a few crafty bargains.  Below is the beautiful stall from Pinflair – one of our favourite companies.  Their stunning new fabric and chipboard Christmas products were proving to be very popular indeed.  Christine (christened “Princess Pinflair” by some tv presenters years ago) is the “boss” and was happy to pose for a photo with my mum.

TTShoppingWe sat down to watch the 1 o’clock live broadcast of Create and Craft, featuring my mum’s favourite present, Dave Bradford and bubbly Mel Heaton.  The show was about the new Todo die-cutting machine.

It was fascinating to see how the show came together.  I could see the monitors on the cameras and was watching how each filmed different elements of the show, with the control room switching between them as required.

The tv show was two hours long, but we could not stay in the audience for long, there was still so much to go see!

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There were “Make and Take” sessions going on, where visitors could join in a half hour crafting session to create something to take home.  Many of the session leaders were crafting celebrities, including some familiar faces from the popular “Great British Sewing Bee”.  Because we had arrived later than planned we decided not to do one of these (assuming there was even any places left!).  Another year..

As members of the Create and Craft club we were allowed into the special members only area.    We sat for a little while in the cool lounge, chatting to fellow crafters, then checked out the view from the private terrace outside. We felt very posh and important, hehe.  We club members even had access to our own toilets – which I am sure must have been much smarter than the normal ones!

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And if that wasn’t enough to give us inflated egos.. we then met some of our favourite Create and Craft tv celebrities!  Obviously we felt like we already knew them, having seen them on tv so many times, but meeting them for real was such a great experience.  First we chatted to Andy Love, who was telling us how much hotter it had been the day before.  Such a friendly gentleman, we quickly got over our silly “star struck” bit and enjoyed his company immensely.

At the risk of spoiling what is to come, here is a shot of yours truly, posing with Andy Love, Nigel May and Dave Bradford.  They really made our day special.

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Many of the stalls had “show specials” and we definitely got some great bargains.  I have new stamps, embossing folders, scissors, glue, ink pads, boxes, dies, twine and more to play with now.

Mum and I had a quick piece of pizza and a much needed drink, sitting out on the terrace, overlooking the stadium and racecourse.  It was nice to get some fresh air too, and we were soon perked back up and ready for more.   TTDoncasterRacecourse

After a bit more shopping (obviously we were only buying essentials, you understand), we were back near the film studio area just as the show had finished broadcasting.  Mum wanted a photo of her favourite, Dave, but as soon as he saw we were about to take a snap, he hopped down from the stage and came over to talk and give us signed pictures.  What a class act :-)

I have seen Clare Bowman’s Cake Lace on tv a few times and been impressed, but I have to say that the tv really does not do it justice.  In real life it is amazing.  There was lots of examples of cakes and cupcakes decorated with this delicate (but sturdy) edible lace and it really is stunning.  I don’t do baking and cakes myself but I am tempted to try this, it is edible art!

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Many of the big names in crafting were at the show, including Debbi Moore who was showcasing her new book-folding disks, the lovely Dreamees girls, and Craig Joubert from Marbling 4 Fun (I have one of his marbling kits, they are a lot of fun).

I also particularly liked the colourful stand from Chloe’s Creative Cards.  Along the top of the stall were many examples of cards made with their beautiful stamps and other products.  Very inspiring indeed.

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Just before we left we came across four of the Create and Craft presenters together.   I was thrilled to get Nigel’s signed photo and a big cuddle!

Stephanie Weightman was also there, the brains behind the show, apparently. She is such a busy lady with so many amazing products and ventures to her name.  Definitely someone I admire a lot.

I know that doing this sort of thing is part of their job, but the C&C stars really came across as genuine, friendly and fun people.  They seemed to be enjoying meeting us just as much as we were meeting them (well, who wouldn’t want to meet my mum, she is marvellous!).

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It was a very long day, and really a bit too warm for comfort.  But we returned home very happy and buzzing with great memories.

And yes, the very first thing we did when we got into mum’s house was to pop on the tv and see if we had been caught on camera (she recorded the show in case, as did I!)   You can see the backs of our heads in the audience, then a little later you clearly see us walking behind Mel and then the glass screen.  It is just a few seconds of “tv fame”, but hey, we are very easily amused and this was all quite a novelty for us, hehe.

Thank you to everyone from Create and Craft for putting on such a fantastic show, and especially to the presenters who made a couple of daft old crafters feel special.

 

6 Easy Ways to Improve your Craft Stall

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1 – Clear, branded signage

Many people dislike having to ask the price of something, so ensuring that your items are clearly priced could well help sales.  It is one of the biggest reasons for losing sales (see my article 8 Things NOT to do at a craft fair to find out some others!)

It is worth taking the time to create proper pricing signage to use at your craft fair. Obviously some items will be individually priced but other times it is convenient to have a small stand-up sign indicating the price of a group of items.

You may want to consider having a sign with the name of your business on it. Options to consider are banners, to hang behind or along the front of your store, signs that stand-up either on a stake in the ground or smaller signs that go on a small stand on the stall itself .  Companies like Vistaprint are able to make this sort of signage very professionally, and economically.  Or you may be able to make your own.

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2 – Dress smartly, be well presented

I strongly recommend giving a little bit of attention to your personal presentation when selling in person.

Dress in a manner that suits the location you are selling in, so a smart outfit is probably best  for a high end craft show or art gallery, but (clean) jeans and sweater is usually fine for a farmers’ market or local craft fair.

The priority here is to look clean and professional.  I know that I have personally been turned off buying from a stall holder because they looked dirty: which did not reflect well on their products, or basic standards, at all.

Ensure your hands and fingernails are clean!

If you sell jewellery then wearing a few samples of your work not only shows confidence in your products but can often be a talking point and conversation starter.  By the same logic, it may be best not to wear prominent pieces of jewellery by other creators.

3 – Have business cards or literature on hand, plus pen and paper

Sometimes a visitor to your stall may wish to buy something but has not got the necessary funds on them right that moment. Therefore if they can take your business card or a leaflet about your products they can visit your shop online and order from there.

You may wish to see my articles on Business Cards and Why You Need Them and What to Include on Your Business Card.

Some sellers like to create little flyers with details of some of their items, for customers to take away for later reading.  This can work very well if you offer personalized items via your website.  The stall visitor is made aware of the service and takes the flyer to read about the options.  They then log in and follow your instructions to order their personalized item.

Also ensure you have a notebook and pen available.  Trust me, if you don’t have one.. you will wish you did!

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4 – Have appropriate float

It is very frustrating to lose a sale  because you don’t have adequate change to give to the customer. Always try to bring a decent quantity of float (change), customised to reflect your pricing structure.  If you can’t give the right change you may have to give extra or lose the sale.  Asking a visitor to come back later when they/you have the right money is not only annoying for the visitor but also often going to result in their simply going away and never coming back.

So if you have a lot of very low priced items (under £1 / $1) then you will need plenty of coins to give changes for the inevitable notes you will receive.  If your items are higher priced then you may need larger notes for change.

It seems to be something of a fact of life that the first person to visit your stall will probably hand over a £20 note and be buying an item costing £1!

Be sure you have made a note of how much float you start off with.  If you have to add any more during the day then note this too.  Then you will be able to take the float from the final takings to know just how much you actually made.

Remember to keep money to one side if you need to pay for your stall on the day!  See my article on Paying for your craft stall for more on that subject.

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5 – Use all your area

Take time to plan your stall so that you use the space as well as you can.  If your stall looks attractive and all the items are clearly visible then it is more inviting to encourage people to come over and have a look, plus they are more likely to spot what they want to buy!

Consider things like not having delicate items at the front of the stall, where small hands can reach them.  Sometimes it is possible to group items next to things that compliment them to boost sales, such as having necklaces near to matching earrings.

There are loads of brilliant ideas available for ways to display different types of items.  Try searching online for display ideas for your particular type of products.

I use a mixture of commercial display stands (such as the greetings card rack in the picture below) and home made solutions (using my mum’s brass fireguard to display magnets and earrings).

Have a look at my article on A stall dress rehearsal for more ideas.TTStallDressRehersal

6 – Be prepared!

If your stall  is going to be outside and there is even a tiny chance of rain, make sure you have a plastic sheet or similar to cover your products before they are damaged!  I have seen many very upset stall holders who have been caught in a sudden heavy downfall and have not had anything to protect their stock.  They hastily start gathering stuff into boxes, but even with the help of other stall holders some things invariably get sodden.

I have a simple, thin plastic sheet and I also bring some clothes pegs (clothes pins) so I can easily fix it around my stall.  Because it is quite thin plastic visitors can still see the items through it so I can actually continue to make sales during rain.  I just have to grab the item out when a customer wants it.  Once the rain has stopped it is quick and easy to flick it off again and roll it up for next time.

craft stall in the rain

Here is a link to my free, printable Craft Stall Checklist, to help you remember everything you need on the day.

Ten Tips for Tax Time

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Most crafters who sell their wares need to declare their earnings to the tax man.  Make sure you have found out what the rules are for the area in which you live so you can relax knowing you are doing everything legally.

Here are ten little tips to help make the whole business of tax, well, less taxing.  With the added benefit of saving you money and possibly helping you understand and improve your business as well!

IMPORTANT – if you are really unsure about tax, worried you are not doing things right, have multiple sources of income or are earning a lot then consulting an accountant or tax professional is advised.

DISCLAIMER – I am not an expert on tax.  Tax requirements vary in different countries. These are general ideas which are of potential use to the majority of small craft sellers.  They are not any form of legal guidance.  They are intended as friendly suggestions and tips only.  It is essential that you are aware of the tax laws that affect YOU.

1 – Keep ALL your receipts.  If it is a legitimate business expense then you must hang on to that receipt.  If you are ever audited by the taxman he will want to see evidence of the expenses you are claimingTTTaxReceipts

2 – Print out online expenses in batches or singly – whilst some people say “oh, all my online purchases are there if I ever need to print them for the taxman” I personally like to print out the receipts for larger purchases (such as renewing  my webhosting) just in case.  I also print out a list of my Paypal purchases, or eBay purchases every 3 months.  The reason I do this is in case I was unable to access them for some reason and was being audited.  Knowing I have them already filed away is peace of mind.  I don’t have many business purchases, if you have a lot then you may want to print out this sort of list more often.

3 – File so you find them – If you only have a few receipts etc then popping them all in ziploc bag or manilla folder should be fine.  If you have quite a lot of regular receipts then separating then into monthly batches will make it easier to find something if you need it.  I use a simple system of folder pieces of paper, receipt tucked inside, and a paper clip holding them in place.  Sellers with an awful lot of receipts may need box files for each month, or quarter.

I have my paperwork in two box files.  One is for “This Year” and one for “Last Year”.  At the end of each financial year I move “This Year” to “Last Year” and the old contents of “Last Year” get filed away in my filing cabinet.  I keep all paperwork for at least 6 years which is the recommended time span here in the UK.

4 – Know when you need to submit information – make a note in your diary, planner, phone calendar or whatever you use to keep track of your life.  Make sure you know the final cut off date and set yourself a goal of getting started on tax returns with plenty of time before that.  Here in the UK we get reminders in the post that tax time is coming, but I still make sure I know and have the dates clearly in my planner.TTTaxDates

5 – Don’t leave it until the last minute – whilst it can be tempting to put tax returns off, doing so can be decidedly dangerous.  A few years ago I made this mistake.  I had left it until just a couple of weeks before the cut off date.  When I started to fill in the online form I realized I didn’t have an important document from an employer – and I needed this information!  I had to ask my personnel department for the info, and they said it had to come from head office.. which would take a few days!  Argh!  I was a bit stressy, but luckily it turned up in time.  Now I start the returns early, just in case!  And of course the soon you get it done, the sooner you can stop thinking about it!!

6 – Do your business accounts regularly – leaving everything until a once-a-year tax return means you are not really aware of exactly how your business is doing for the rest of the year.  It is very easy to use online TTTaxFileaccounting sites like WaveAccounting or GoDaddy to keep track of your income and outgoings.  There are also software packages such as Sage.  You can of course keep manual records in ledgers too, which for a very small business can be just as easy to do.

Whatever system you use, do it regularly.  I use WaveAccounting.com which is easy to use, flexible, convenient and totally free! It is linked to my Paypal account and all things from that feed in automatically.  Every Friday I just add any post office receipts or other non-Paypal purchases I have made.  I also add my Etsy Direct Checkouts manually – I add them as a block when they are paid to my bank account, so this is very quick.

Doing it regularly like this means I can see at a glance how the business is doing and know that this picture is up to date.  When tax time comes I have all the figures ready to just pop in to the online assessment form.  It makes it a very quick task indeed :-)

7 – Use an accountant if necessary – if you are new to tax, earning quite a lot of money, or in anyway daunted or confused but the process then it is best to seek professional help.  Getting it wrong could cost you a LOT more than the cost of the accountant.  Try to keep your paperwork organized as this will make the accountants job easier – and quicker.

8 – Find out what you can deduct – it is important to know what are legitimate business expenses, as they are the ones you can declare.  Remember that you only pay any taxes on your profit.  So declaring all expenses lowers the profit and means less tax to pay!  What you can include varies slightly from country to country (or even US state to state).  Usually it includes selling fees (such as Etsy listing fees or craft stall fees), postage costs, shipping supplies, materials, tools, stationery, advertizing, accountant’s fees and server costs.  Try not to forget the little expenses, and keep receipts for them – it all adds up.TTTaxDocs

You may also be able to deduct some household costs if you work from home.  This can be quite complicated though so make sure your circumstances apply and check with an accountant if necessary.

9 – Save for your tax bill as you go along – Remember that you will only pay tax on profits.  Plus in many places there is a threshold that you can earn up to before any tax needs paying.  If you have other forms of income (such as another job) then you may be over the threshold already and so will pay tax on all your Etsy or craft fair profits.  If you have a very low income then you may not cross that threshold and have no taxes to pay.  It is important to be aware of your situation and the rules for your area on this.

If you think you are likely to have tax to pay at the end of the year (or your tax period) then begin squirreling the tax away as you go along.  Many sellers try to save a little more than the percentage that is the tax rate, this way they end up with more than they need at tax time, and have a nice little “windfall” left over.  This seems like rather a good idea!

If you are unable to pay your tax bill you could face fines or other problems, so putting a little money aside throughout the year makes a lot of sense.

10 – Be honest – I probably shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway.  Always declare ALL your income.  Keep everything 100% accurate and honest.  No one likes having to pay tax but paying big fines is even less pleasant.  Remember that if you have a large tax bill then it means that you had a lot of sales!  Try to see it as positive evidence of your success.

IMPORTANT – if you are really unsure about tax, worried you are not doing things right, have multiple sources of income or are earning a lot then consulting an accountant or tax professional is advised.

DISCLAIMER – I am not an expert on tax.  Tax requirements vary in different countries. These are general ideas which are of potential use to the majority of small craft sellers.  They are not any form of legal guidance.  They are intended as friendly suggestions and tips only.  It is essential that you are aware of the tax laws that affect YOU.

What to include on your business cards

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In a previous post I suggested 10 reasons why you might have and use business cards for your crafting shop or business.

But what should you put on the cards?  How much information is too much?  What can you leave off if you don’t have much room?

As in all things, ultimately it is always up to you.  Different people (and different types of business) will have very different business cards.  The following are some suggestions of things that are commonly included, with some reasons why you might wish to add them to yours (or not as the case may be).

Business name

This one is rather obvious. Make sure your brand name is nice and prominent.  If you are an artist this is usually your own name.

Logo or other image

If you have a logo then it usually would be a must for a business card as you want to ensure the logo and your brand name are strongly linked.  Some people like to have the logo taking up quite a bit of the card’s area, maybe half of a side.  Others prefer a smaller specimen.  If your logo is quite simple and bold then you could consider using it like a watermark and having it printed, in a washed-out form, behind (underneath) the text components.

If you do not have a logo then you may consider adding an image of your product or something relating to them.  An artist’s business card is just crying out for … artwork!  If you want to display a larger image then consider a two sided card, such as those produced by Moo, that allow you to put a picture on one side and your details on the other.

Your Name

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Most artists use their own name as their brand name anyway.  So why might you want to add your personal name if you sell under a shop name or brand name?

* If you are trying to reinforce the hand-made aspect of your products, your name will help personalize your brand.
* If you have a few people working in your business then you may consider their having their individual names on their cards to make it easier to identify who it was who made the contact.
* If you are including a phone number then a potential customer may feel more comfortable knowing the name of the person who will be answering the phone.

Your website address

If you sell online then obviously you want to make sure that your new contact can find your shop!  If you have an Etsy or similar shop then do consider getting a .com domain name if you can to point to it as it is much easier to remember something like tinteddy.com rather than  an URL that includes Etsy – plus you are promoting only one brand.. your own!

What you actually do

Sometimes your brand name makes this obvious.  Your new contact may not look at your card for a while, and if they can no longer remember who you are and what you do then your card is probably destined for the dustbin.  A shop called “Wooly Hats 4 U” is probably fine, but most artists who sell under their name will include a line saying their medium or style:

Bob Smith – watercolour artist
Jenny Lewis – fantasy artist
Helen Timms – Custom portraits in oils
Claude Manare – modern textile designer

There is rarely room on a business card for much information about your products, but if you have room for a short description then it can be helpful:

“Hand knitted alpaca wool hats for all the family”
“Specializing in watercolor images of local scenes”
“Original jewelry by award-winning designer”
“Beautiful hair bows for beautiful young ladies”

Remember that a visitor to a craft fair or show, for example. may accumulate quite a few business cards at a time.  You need to ensure that they will be able to identify what you were selling from that card.  Or else a rival stall holder may well get the business that they actually would have preferred went to you.

Your email address

This is very handy, and essential if you do custom products.  Ideally get an email specifically for your business, using your .com if you can.  It looks more professional, and is easier to remember an address like mary@lovelybeads.com, shop@greathats.com or deborah@tinteddy.com rather than a generic free address like gmail or yahoo ones.

Phone number

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Although you may prefer to only sell online, there are people who may prefer an alternative way of contacting you.

* People who are not comfortable buying online (depending on your target market, this may be quite a large number)
* Blind people may well prefer a phone call to email
* People requiring custom items that will need quite a bit of discussion before creation

Having a phone number has other benefits too:

* Another means to contact you
* A phone number can help add to the overall impression that you are a “proper business”
* It may help reassure a potential customer that you are friendly, open and available (even if they never actually want to phone you)

If you are concerned about using your home telephone number for this purpose then you could consider using your mobile phone, a cheap pre-paid  mobile phone just for this purpose or an internet based phone service such as Skype or Google’s phone service.

Social Network contacts

Many people add their Facebook, Twitter or similar name to their business cards.  If you do a lot of selling via this medium then it may well pay off to include them.  If your card is looking a bit too busy though, your email and shop web address should take preference and will provide means to contact you.  It is probably rarely wise to list a lot of different social networking links unless your business is actually involved in this niche.  Make sure that all your various social networking sites have links to each other where possible (most include areas specifically for this).  Then no matter which one your customer uses to find you, they can still find and use another medium if they prefer.

Anything else?

Some people include things specific to what they sell.  A bead seller might include a ruler on one side of the card so customers can easily see which they require.  Here are some more things that I have seen sellers include on the reverse of a basic business card to make it more useful and special.

Chart showing colours available
Details of upcoming shows that the seller will be attending
Quotes from positive customer reviews
List of magazines that the seller has been featured in
Montage of pictures of products
Calender
A mini project using the sellers supplies
Links to Youtube tutorials

Most business cards get thrown away and never referred to.  To give yours the best chance of being kept by a potential customer, and used to contact you, requires making sure it contains all the information the contact needs, looks good and stands out from the crowd.


Business Cards and why you need them

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If you sell your art or crafts online or at craft fairs/art shows then you may have considered whether you should have some business cards or not.

You may be wondering when and how you would use them.

Here are ten good reasons why getting some business cards could be of benefit to you and your business.

For some ideas of some of the information to include, I have an article – What to include on your business cards.

1 Giving one to people who ask about what you do

Do you wear the jewelry you make when out shopping? What if someone asked you where you got it from?  Do you ever get chatting to someone on a bus or train and they ask what you do?  Carry some of your business cards with you wherever you go and you will be ready to supply one to a potential future customer.

2 Including with your parcels

When you send out your products you can slip a business card in the package – or even use it as a tag on the item!  Many people include two business cards per parcel on the theory that when the customer wears or uses your wonderful creation their friends will be asking “Where did you get that?”.. and they can give them the spare business card!

3 Share with family and friendsTTBusinessCardExamples

Don’t be shy to let your family and friends know about your business.  Obviously you don’t want to bore them silly about it, but they may well be interested and even enthusiastic to give you suggestions for new products etc.  If they have a couple of your business cards they can help “spread the word” about your products :-)

If you have a friend who also has a business then you could perhaps have a “reciprocal card” arrangement.  He or she takes some of your cards, and you have some of theirs.  Then when you meet someone who is interested in dogs you can hand them one of your friend’s dog grooming cards, and your friend will hand your silver jewelry card to anyone they compliments them on the stunning necklace that you made for their birthday.

4 Chance to pass on information

Your business card will have your important contact information on it.  And it is much easier to hand someone a nice, readable, printed card than scrabbling around for an easily lost piece of paper on which to scribble your phone number.  You can also add additional information on the back of your card.

5 At shows and fairs

If you sell your products are craft fairs, shows or art exhibitions then business cards are practically a must!  There may be people who admire your products, and would like to purchase one, but do not have enough money on them at the time, or perhaps need to wait until payday, or check on a clothing size, or any of a myriad of other reasons for delaying.  They can take your business card.  If you sell online then they can visit your site or shop to purchase, or they can use the details to contact you.  Make sure you have a pen to hand so you can write any additional information on the back of your card for their future reference.

6 Makes you look professional

Many people will assume that a business person has business cards.  And a lot of your competitors certainly will have.  A smart little business card in with a parcel, on a craft stall or handed out to a contact will help you look more like a professional business person and less like a “I just make these as a hobby”.  And looking professional is reassuring to potential customers.

7 Showing off your products and branding

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Once upon a time all business cards were white pieces of card with formally typed contact details on one side.  Nowadays they come in all sorts of colours and variations.  You really can use your card as part of your branding. Some companies such as moo.com offer business cards with assorted images on the back.  You can order a pack of 50 cards, each of which can have a different image if you wish.  I have these with pictures of my various graphics on the reverse. What a great way to show off your artwork, pictures of your products or even a variety of customer quotes.

Quite a lot of people now collect attractive business cards.  I personally pin my favourites on my notice board, and put the rest in my “Smash books” (scrapbooks).  Having them near to hand means I can easily check them when wanting to buy specific things.  So having an attractive business card really can help keep your name in a customer’s mind.

8 Coupons and market research

If you sell on Etsy, or have your own website, then you could add a coupon code to your business cards as an extra little sweetener to bring in a new customer.  You can also use this for a spot of market research.  Manually add a coupon code to the cards that you give out at a particular show or event and you will be able to see how many people go on to order from you.  Use different codes for different events or situations to enable you to compare which are the most effective at generating leads.

9 Notice boards and venues

Some “bricks and mortar” shops, community centres, libraries and similar may have notice boards for local businesses, where you can pin your business cards.  You may be able to arrange something with a local physical business that benefits you both.  So perhaps a friend who runs a hairdressers would be happy to display a small poster and have some business cards for your jewelry shop in return for you giving her some free pieces, a discount for her customers (coupon code again) or your mentioning her shop on your website etc.  Or perhaps your local pub would be happy to pop your business card out for customers in return for a piece of your artwork to display.

10 You will feel good!

I have seen a lot of Facebook and forum posts where new sellers are excitedly showing off their new business cards.  You will feel more like a “proper business” when you have a smart card to flash around :-)  I think it is far more likely that someone will succeed in business if they feel they are professional, don’t you?

 

What sort of information do you include on your business cards? I would love to hear your thoughts of how to make the most of these little ambassadors.

 

Saving money on business costs

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Running a business always has costs.  Many are unavoidable, but some can be lessened.  And less money going out of your business means more profit left over for you.

Always remember to keep the invoices and receipts for all purchases made for your business.   These are the expenses that you can use can claim against your tax.   You will need the paperwork  in case you are ever audited for your tax returns. Don’t forget to include materials, tools and other supplies, postage and packaging costs, listing fees, stall fees and similar costs, Paypal and other processing fees, and ‘office supplies’ such as storage, stationery and paper.  Check online to see just what you can and can’t consider tax deductible (it varies depending on your country or state).

Here are some common business expenses and ways you can save money on them:

Seller’s fees

Usually these are fixed by the selling venue you use (eBay, Etsy, local shows etc) Keep an eye out for special offers for free listing days.  Sometimes larger volume sellers can get reduced rates, so this may be something worth checking out.

Remember that internet selling sites usually charge a final sale fee based on the actual item price, and not on the postal charges.  So adding the shipping fee to this price so as to offer “free shipping”  may attract more customers, but may also put your fees up a little.

Postage and Packaging

Once your shop is getting regular sales you can really save costs by buying  your postage supplies in bulk.  Shop around for good prices for envelopes, wrapping paper, bubble wrap or peanuts.  Don’t forget that the little things like sticky tape and labels also add up, so again buying in bulk can save the pennies.  Some sellers team up with a crafty friend to buy in bulk and split the supplies between them.  This is a great idea if you want the bulky saving, but don’t have the need or room for quite such large quantities.

Are you spending lots of time (and petrol) on trips to the post office?  Check online to see if your post office has a pick-up service for parcels.  There are many private companies who also offer competitive parcel delivery service.  There are also online services to let you print pre-paid stamps and delivery labels.   As well as sometimes offering cheaper postal rates, this can again save you valuable time – time which you can then use to make new things!

Materials

Again the biggest savings are to be made by buying in bulk, ideally from the product’s original manufacturer or a wholesale source. When your craft business is very small then it is convenient to buy your supplies in your local hobby shop.  But once you start to grow you can save a lot of money by searching out better deals. As a registered business you may qualify for wholesale or “warehouse” prices from big companies.  Being a good repeat customer can also earn you a better deal with many smaller companies too.  Don’t be afraid to politely ask your favorite suppliers if they offer any such discounts or incentives.

Never forget the importance of quality in your supplies though.  If you find a much cheaper version of something you use, make sure it is or a comparable quality too.  Loyal customers who love to buy your silver plated necklaces may well complain if they start getting items that turn green, fall apart or look skanky.  Quality of materials is an important selling point for your product so something you must always take into consideration when trying to save money in this area.

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Promotion and Advertizing

Nowadays there are many free and low costs ways to promote your business, both online and off.  However many forms of paid advertizing are still used and can be very profitable for your business.  Try to target your advertizing as closely as possible to your target market.  Facebook adverts, for example, allow you to tightly define who will see your advert.  If you are considering a magazine advert make sure it is a magazine that really is likely to have potential customers in the readership.

If you are tempted to use the paid adverts on Etsy, do search the forums for advice first.  These ads can be profitable, but you need to use them the right way – and most people don’t.  There is a reason that experienced sellers refer to them as ‘newbie tax’.

Keep notes of when and where you try different advertizing campaigns so you can better see which ones actually work for you.  If you don’t do this then you could be paying out for advertizing that is not bringing in any extra sales.

I will be writing a detailed article on free and very low costs advertizing and promotional ideas very soon.

Professional Fees

Usually when you want something done there are two choices.  Either do it yourself or pay someone else to do it.   Are you paying for any tasks that you could learn to do yourself? Although it is a very good idea to get professional help the first time you need to tax returns, very small businesses can often do this themselves once they have been through the process once or twice.  There is lots of online help, as well as many good books.  Even if you can only do part of it yourself this could save you a lot in accountants fees.  Keep all your receipts, use a website such as the great free WaveAccounting.com or a software package such as Sage or Quickbooks to records your business finances.  If you keep the records carefully and diligently then you will have a lot less work to do when it comes to tax time.

Would it save you money and time to pay someone to do routine tasks for you such as a simple part of your creation process (cutting things out?), packaging items up or taking them to the post office?

Other savings

Here are few other little ideas for saving on your business expenses.

Although it is great to always post customer’s purchases out as soon as possible, if you sell a lot then you may be able to save on petrol for the post office run by posting every other day instead of daily.

Don’t be shy about talking about your business to family and friends.  Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to advertize, and you never know who your friends might mention your shop to.  Get them involved by asking for ideas and feedback too.  A good strong family/friend support network can be one of the most precious commodities your business can have.

Shop around for products like web server space, domain names and software requirements.  Right now it is very much a buyer’s market.  Will you web host offer you a discount if you buy multiple products from them?

Store your finished products and materials carefully.  Damaged items are money down the drain.  I will be doing an article on storage very soon.

Be wary of spending large sums of  money on things like trade shows unless you are confident you can gain a suitable amount of benefit from doing them.  Many new businesses get caught  up in these things and end up spending vast amounts on them, with little or no return for their investment.

Psst – 40 Free Etsy Listings!

If you would like 40 free listings when opening a new Etsy shop, you can use my affiliate link.. I get some free listings too – 40 Free Listings on Etsy New Shop

I would love to hear your hints and tips for saving money on small business costs.

 

8 Things NOT to do at a craft fair or show

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I have been to a lot of craft fairs and shows over the years.  A lot.  And very often I have seen stall holders losing sales because they make some classic mistakes.  All of the things on this list can be seen at pretty much any event, and I am sure you have experienced (and been put off by) at least a few of them yourself.

So, for those who are new to events, to help prevent you falling into these common traps, here are 8 things NOT to do.

1 – pounce your visitors

A friendly smile is nearly always enough to greet visitors to your stall.  A simple ‘hello’ or ‘hiya’ maybe.  Some visitors may want to start a conversation (often about the weather if it is very hot or cold hehe) or perhaps about your products.

“What lovely hats, do you make them yourself?”

Respond to such questions in a friendly manner, but do avoid the hard sell – always.    A visitor will buy if they like what they see, they do not need prompting.  Let them admire, examine and generally browse in peace.

 2 – ignoring the visitor

The very opposite of number 1.  Be aware of people coming to your stall so you can answer any questions.  Many crafters like to knit, sew, draw whilst at their stall – and indeed this can be fascinating for visitors, but do be aware of anyone trying to catch your eye.  Some visitors may be reluctant to disturb you and so wander off without buying!

3 – no prices

My personal bugbear.  I don’t like to have to ask how much something is.  It is embarrassing.  And I know I am not the only person who feels like this.  So please do clearly price all your items.  Small things can sit near a price label, big things can have it hanging or stuck on them.  But make sure your visitors can see it.  Goodness knows how many craft stall sales are lost each year for this one reason.

4 – no means to contact you after the event

Not everyone can buy from you right that moment, especially if your items are in the higher price brackets.  Make sure you have business cards easily available so interested visitors can find your website/shop when they get home.  It also is worth making sure that your products have labels, stickers or leaflets with your contact details on them.  I have often bought something from a craft fair and shown it to a friend who wants one too. Make it easy for your customers to spread the word about how great your stuff is!

5 – not enough stock

There are few things more pathetic looking than a stall with just a handful of items and masses of empty space.  Make sure you have enough stock to have a nicely filled table at the start of the event, and ideally some more to replace things as they sell.  Check out my post about having a craft stall dress rehearsal and then you will be confident that you have enough products to really look like you mean business.

6 – too much stock (yes really)

What I am referring to is a full stall at the end of a craft event.  It is always a good idea to bring plenty of products, ideally more than you expect to sell – just in case!  But towards the end of the event, if your stall is still full of items, it might look like you haven’t sold a thing all day – and that could be off-putting.  So don’t be afraid to have a couple of gaps on your displays.

7 – unable to see your products

Don’t cram everything on the stall so tightly that it is hard to spot the individual items.  This is something that a surprisingly large number of soft toy sellers seem to do.  You don’t want people to have to keep picking things up to see what they are, especially fabric things, so try to ensure your display makes it easy for the visitor.  Use stands, different heights of blocks under the table cover, upright display items and boxes to make your stall more 3 dimensional and give yourself more space to spread your products out nicely and really show them off better.

8 – general off-putting things

There are all those little things that make a visitor think twice about buying, or even stopping and looking.  My personal list of ‘generally off-putting things’ includes:

  • stall holder very dirty or scruffy
  • stall holder chewing gum (ok, perhaps I am just a snob, but I always find this unprofessional looking)
  • lots of items that use trademarked characters, such as cartoon characters – it is not easy to get licensed to use such things, if you are then put up a sign saying so, otherwise it will look like you are infringing, ie breaking the law
  • hastily hand written price signs – most people now have access to a printer to make their signs, if you are handwriting them then do so at home, before the event, and make sure they are neat, readable and attractive
  • anonymous seller – if you sell art then please make sure your name is visible, and ideally a bit of information about you.  If I want anonymous art I will buy it from a chain store.  At a craft fair I am looking for personal
  • the same products as everyone else – it is always disappointing to go to a craft show and discover practically the same items on multiple stalls.  Be different and stand out – you will get more attention for it :-)

What puts you off at a crafting event?

 

A stall dress rehearsal

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It can really pay to assemble your stall at home before doing a craft fair, I call this a stall dress rehearsal.

This avoids the stress of discovering on the day that you don’t have enough to fill the area, haven’t really got a good way to display certain products, can’t arrange them so everything is easily seen and so on.

Set up your table somewhere safe and dry at home.

Cover your table in a tablecloth or similar.  Fabric tends to look better, but paper cloths are better than a blank table.  You may like to have a second, smaller cloth on top. Plain cloths are usually preferable so as not to distract the eye from your products.

 Trial and Error

Spend some time rearranging things until you are happy with the layout.  Remember simple rules such as putting smaller things in front of larger ones.  Also consider things such as keeping very delicate items out of reach of small children.  Experiment with different ways to display things.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Earrings look attractive when hanging on a mesh
  • Bracelets and bangles are often displayed on horizontal poles – try a mug tree
  • Greeting cards and similar can be stood in boxes so customers can easily look through them
  • Framed pictures etc benefit from the extra space of being displayed on a wall or boards behind the stall
  • Put small things in bowls or tubs so they can be easily seen but not lost

Make sure you have your signage sorted.  Many people dislike asking what the price of an item is, and will not do so.  So everything on your stall should be clearly priced. Spend time on your signage so it looks neat and attractive – I have seen many stalls of lovely items that appear scruffy simply because of the hastily hand-written signs.

You can put things like boxes or books under your tablecloth – this can really help display items at the back better.

Don’t forget to decide where you will put things like your business cards, leaflets or promotional material.  It may be easier to pop business cards in a shallow box to avoid them getting knocked on the floor.

 

Setting up a stall dress rehearsal in the kitchen

Here is a picture of a stall dress rehearsal being set up in the kitchen. Arranging things and seeing how best to display the various types of items.

And finally…

If possible, leave your table up overnight so you come back to see it the next morning with ‘fresh eyes’. You may well spot things you hadn’t the day before.  It is also a great idea to have a friend or family member look too and see if they spot any things you could improve.

You may want to draw a little sketch of the finished stall for reference when setting up on the day.

Here is a link to my free, printable Craft Stall Checklist, to help you remember everything you need on the day.