How to sell art at an outdoor festival – Part 2

How to sell art at an outdoor festival – Part 2

It was the big day of the Ashland Strawberry Faire.  I got my booth, my supplies, and all my art together in Part 1.  Will somebody love my art enough to take it home with them, make it a part of their lives?  You never really know.  Anything can go wrong at an outdoor booth; poor weather, low turnout, or just plain bad luck.  Every fair or show is an opportunity to observe people and learn what you can do to make your work as appealing as possible.

“But I do good work! Shouldn’t it speak for itself?” Unfortunately, it never does.  Think of it this way:  If you were out shopping for a specific product, and saw one brand in a sleek, captivating package, and one brand in a cheap-looking package, which would you think is the better item?  Sure, a discerning customer may examine both products carefully before choosing one, but the bias is still there.  Most people who go to faires and shows are just there to look around and enjoy the faire, and aren’t planning to buy art, so it’s more important than ever to project quality. It only takes a little extra thoughtfulness to showcase your good work in an appealing way, and it usually costs very little, so why not make your work stand out?

Set up at the Ashland Strawberry Faire

I posted reminders about the Strawberry Faire on social media the week before, the day before, and the morning of.  I made sure to add the location and time, and a picture of my work, so people could know what to expect to see when they got to my booth.  That’s another thing that only takes a few minutes to do, so even if it only brings a few extra people who otherwise wouldn’t come, it’s worth the effort.  Other than a few posts throughout the day, I tried to stay off my phone while I was in the booth.  I didn’t want anyone who came by to feel as though they were interrupting me, or that I was unavailable to talk.

Set up at the Ashland Strawberry Faire

One thing that I didn’t have was a sign.  A well-made sign is always great to help your booth stand out, and to help people remember who and where you are.  But after purchasing all my supplies, I didn’t have the funds to have a sign professionally printed.  So, I improvised.  I used colored chalk to write out my name on the ground in front of my booth, and drew a cute frame and flowers around it.  That turned out to be a mistake.  People didn’t want to step on my drawing to come into my booth!  It would have been better if I had left the sign out altogether.

Set up at the Ashland Strawberry Faire

As the first attendees trickled past, I paid careful attention to where they looked and walked.  I had placed my biggest paintings at the front of my booth to catch people’s attention, and placed my second-largest in the center at the back, to draw them in for a closer look.  Most people came from the left, so I put my “best” painting in the right front corner, turned towards where they were coming from.  My goal was to get them to make a loop inside the booth as they looked at my work: Right wall, back wall, table on the left, then back out and continue down the street to the right.  I quickly noticed a problem: Nobody was even looking at the table where all my prints and business cards were.  It was like the whole table was invisible!  My husband suggested we move the table to the front, angling it slightly so the table “opened” up the space, and put the large painting behind the table instead.  In this new arrangement, business cards were on the end of the table furthest from the booth, which seemed to signal that they were okay to take.  People began to notice and browse my prints as well.

All my sales happened between 12 o’clock and 3 PM.  That makes sense:  When people first arrive, they want to see everything before they make a purchase.  At least one buyer had chosen his favorite painting when he stopped by my booth earlier in the day, but didn’t actually buy it until he’d had time to walk around and think about it.  Nobody was buying anything later in the day because the afternoon simply got too darn hot to do much shopping. Attendance sharply dropped as it got hotter, but fortunately my booth still had plenty of shade.  I really lucked out with my booth’s location – in the afternoon, the sun was slightly to our back, which made a shady spot at the front of the booth.  Those who were still walking around were more than happy to linger in my booth to get a bit of shade, and they got to look at my paintings while they cooled off!

Despite all the time, the heat, and the effort, I’d say that this year’s Strawberry Faire was a success!  I ended up with lots of new ideas, and made enough money to cover my expenses, buy new art supplies and pay for next year’s booth, and treat my family to dinner.  And with everything that I learned, I’m confident that I can do even better next year!

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