Craft Market Selling 101: A Beginner's Guide

Here it is! A handy Crafttuts+ how-to guide for selling your handmade products at markets. I've compiled a bunch of information based on my own first-hand...

Here it is! A handy Crafttuts+ how-to guide for selling your handmade products at markets. I've compiled a bunch of information based on my own first-hand experience selling handmade wares at markets, as well as some top-notch tips from Australia's industry insiders. Together I hope we can give you a kick start to something that will no doubt be fun and very fulfilling for your creative venture.

Are You Ready?

So you've been making amazing handmade creations for a little while, maybe selling them online or taking commissions from friends and family. You know you have something special going on and you want everyone to get in on it. Sure selling online is going great and lets you reach people across the seas and in all the nooks and crannies of the world, but you are thinking that you might want that 3D experience too.

Selling zines at the MCA Zine Fair via My blog

You haven't really thought as far as opening your own brick and mortar store (yet) but you still want customers to be able touch and feel the great things you make. You want them to try them on, pick them up and imagine them inhabiting their favourite rooms and spaces at home.

You think it'd be rather nice to get to know your customers face-to-face, to chat with them as they browse, and tell them first-hand the special stories behind each of your products. Well my friend, it sounds like market selling may be the thing for you!

Know Your Market

When I first started doing markets, things were definitely not as awesome as they are now. In my local area, there weren't that many specialised markets just for contemporary handmade goods. I tried my hand setting up shop at various vintage, trash 'n' treasure, and community markets, but found it hard to make sales because my ideal customer just wasn't shopping there. And if they were, they weren't looking for handmade stuff at the time - they'd be looking for a vintage treasure or a pre-loved bargain and weren't willing to part with the kind of money it took to buy something handmade.

One of my first ever market stalls! via Heartbreaker

Amazing legends like the folks at Australia's Finders Keepers paved the way for a local revolution with their unique market concept – a place just for handmade vendors to sell their work. Nowadays there are many different options for handmade sellers hoping to find a market that might suit them.

A quick search on Google will reveal many of these sorts of markets that are closest to you – places where you'll be guaranteed to find customers who have come for the sole purpose of seeing what you have to offer, and getting their crafty mitts on a piece of handmade goodness.

To figure out which market might suit you best, jot down a few notes on who you think your target customer is. Where do they hang out, what other things might they buy (other than your stuff of course), and how much money might they be willing to spend. Then, do your research and see if you can find a market that sounds like the kind of place this customer might hang out.

One of my favourite sites at the moment for Australian market searching is The Market Roll – a comprehensive directory of handmade markets in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. (Don't worry, a quick internet search will more than likely yield great results for those of you in other parts of the world!)

Secure Your Spot

So you've chosen a market and you'd like to apply for a stall. Great! Most markets have a set of application guidelines on their websites and some have online submission forms - which is even better. Make sure you read all the application information and guidelines as a first step!

A cute stall from the Renegade Craft Fair LA via Cute and Delicious

What next? I asked the amazing Brooke Johnston, one half of the power team behind the prolific Finders Keepers markets to share her top five tips for a successful market application. Consider this your personal check list for every market you apply for!

Brooke's Market Application Tips
1. The first - and in my opinion - the most important tip, is to introduce your product with clear, high quality images. This is not the time to be conceptual - these images have to be a concise representation of what your product is. Get creative with styling if you think it will assist with the description of your product, however make sure it doesn't over-power your work as it needs to be the hero.

2. When writing your bio and description of what you make, keep it brief! But not too brief - something in the middle is ideal. It's not the time to write an essay, just be honest and clear about your product and your processes.

3. Make sure you display a certain amount of professionalism in your submission - this includes spelling and grammar. Both these things are very important. First impressions last!

4. Include images of past market displays and events you have participated in. If you haven't had a market stall before, describe in detail your intentions or set up a mock display and photograph. This gives the selector real insight into how you present your product. This could be the make or break of your submission, so make sure you put some thought into this.

5. Make sure the images you include in your submission are cohesive. Don't include a piece you made 10 years ago alongside something current, as it will be a poor representation of your product. Selectors look for ranges, collections and products that will be visually striking - not just bits and pieces.

On The Day

Now that you've secured a spot at the market of your choice (how exciting!) it's time to make sure you are 100 per cent prepared and that your stall will stand out from the others. Angela D'Alton, Etsy's Australian Community Manager, is no stranger to curating the perfect market stall. In fact, she's pretty much a pro. In her opinion, an eye-catching stall is “nicely presented, clear and well-stocked".

Minimalist stalls aren't likely to make her want to stop and hunt for something special, because she feels like she can see it all in one glimpse as she walks past the stall. "The less intimidating a stall is, and the more inviting the layout, the more I want to see what's been made and what's for sale,” she says.

The less intimidating a stall is, and the more inviting the layout, the more I want to see what's been made and what's for sale!

When designing a successful stall layout, Angela suggests drawing up how it will look in advance so you know what to do when you get there. “Keep in mind the size of your stall, and always think about what people will see at eye level, and what will draw their eyes down to the table where your goodies are!”

Angela's Market Stall Checklist

  • Make sure you put small and/or expensive items closer to where you'll be (helps avoid sticky fingers!).
  • Always have a mixture of price points. Some people want to spend money, others want to have a quick handmade fix.
  • Always check to see what's included in your market stall fees - i.e. public liability insurance. Will there be chairs? Do you need power? Some of these things are vital and are different for almost every market, and if you aren't paying attention it can effectively wreck whatever set-up you've created.
  • Price (label) everything as you pack - that way you don't have to worry about it when you get there.
  • Always make sure you have a decent amount of change, especially $1 and $2 coins, as that's the thing that often goes first.
  • If you don't have an eftpos machine, think about finding a quick alternative way of receiving non-cash payments.
  • If you are selling clothing, take a portable steamer or iron to make your clothes look their best when you are presenting them.
A gorgeous stall set up. via Oh, Hello Friend.

And Beyond...

Hopefully your first market will be a roaring success! Now it's time to ensure that customers and new fans of your business keep coming back for more. Make sure that people remember you and your brand by giving everyone as much information as possible. A plentiful stash of business cards for people to take away is essential for any market stall.

A sweet and simple stall setup. via Deadweight

Carrying the branding from your cards and into your stall decoration and swing tags will help, too. You could make a festive banner or sign with your business name or logo on it, picking something that matches your brand aesthetic. For example, I made a strand of fabric bunting that spelled out my brand name and took it with me to every market stall. It became a signature that customers could look for each time they visited a market.

If you have an e-newsletter, having a sign-up sheet at your table will get you new subscribers (and potential customers) in a flash. And if you're going to be selling at the same market regularly, you could make a flyer detailing the dates you'll next be setting up shop. You might also want to include contacts for where customers can find you online to keep momentum going - even when you're not selling there.

I made a strand of fabric bunting that spelled out my brand name and took it with me to every market stall. It became a signature that customers could look for each time they visited a market.

A note on not-so-successful market days. The truth is, they do happen every once in a while. I've had times where I've not made a single cent the whole day I've been there. This can be frustrating (especially if your stall rental was really expensive) and disheartening too! If on the off-chance you experience something like this, don't despair! It really is so hard to predict whether, on that particular day, a market will be super-busy and bustling or if customers will be few and far between.

This is because there are so many factors that contribute to a busy or quiet market day. These could include things like the weather, a customer's plans for that day (which may or may not not include time to shop), the time of year, and even the economic climate at the time. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try again. The next market could be a killer success! It's all part of the process.

Great stall colour scheme! via Short Story Design

As you do more and more markets you'll find out what works for you and what doesn't. You'll get to know your local markets inside-out and you'll really get into the rhythm of it all. No doubt you will also find yourself building up a clientele – a fan base of people who love your stuff and keep coming back for more.

Even though market selling can seem a little daunting at first, it's an extremely rewarding and fun part of having your own brand and I hope you enjoy every step of your new adventure. Good luck!

We'd love to hear your top market selling advice. Share them by leaving a comment below!