Yes, I'm sorry, Christmas in June! Well, it's 115 days to Christmas apparently, so the Great Festive Countdown (yeah ...) has already begun!
To be honest, if you make and sell your gorgeous handmade things, now is the time you need to be considering Christmas fairs, whether booking them or making extra stock to make sure you're not overworked in October-November!
Getting your new product lines out there now means you have a better chance of things being picked up by magazines or other exciting advertising opportunities, and also gives people the chance to drool over them and add them to their wishlists, or to bookmark them for later.
If you are considering doing some Christmas fairs, then you should start looking, and booking, fairly soon. Some places you can just book. Some places are "curated" which means you send an application (and/or a deposit) and then they let you know later whether you have been accepted. Other fairs are by invitation only. Most fairs have limits on the number of stands of any one sort, so early applications are advised especially if you work in jewellery.
The definition of a good craft fair is tricky, as a good fair can mean different things to different people. A craft fair can sometimes be the only time of year an artist or crafter leaves the house and puts themself and their work "Out There", so it's a great opportunity to get feedback and gauge customer reactions to your work and pricing structure. Success for you might be getting some lovely comments on your work, it might be handing out lots of business cards or building your mailing list, it might be selling loads of stuff or it might be breaking even, or it could be a combination of any of these. It's up to you.
So I'm looking for a new craft fair where people will buy all my products ... what do I do and where do I look? Well, that's a tricky one, and customers won't come flocking to your stand to salivate over your work just because you've booked a prime position at an expensive fair. These things can help you to attract new customers because it gives the impression that you are successful, but they are not the be all and end all. Having a loyal following of repeat customers who follow you and buy year after year is a much more sustainable way to build your business.
A craft fair can be an opportunity. A craft fair can be a disaster. I've certainly had fairs over the years where I've stood and smiled and sold nothing, fairs where I might as well have stood in my back garden in the rain and burned a £10 note every hour for 8 hours, but those fairs have also taught me valuable lessons about how to display my work, how to advertise, how to deal with craft fair organisers and other stall holders. Always smile and be polite no matter how trying the circumstances - it does really help and word gets around very quickly if you're rude!
Do your research. Work out whether the sort of people you want to sell to will shop at the sort of fairs you are planning to attend. Who is your ideal customer? Draw a picture of their life and consider how you could reach them to show them that your product is exactly what they need for their home / wardrobe / cat / dog / etc.
For instance, if your theme is horses or pets, consider getting a stand at a County Show or a farmers market, or other similar outdoor event. If your theme is haute couture hats then you might be better off at a fair at or near a racecourse or wedding venue, or even taking out an advert in a fashion, horse racing or bridal magazine instead. If you specialise in wedding favours, go to a wedding fair.
Also, building up trust is key to making good sales. If it's your first time at a new venue, people may walk straight past, or stop and take a look but not buy. I have had people come and chat to me for two or three years in a row before making a purchase. People love to hear about your artistic journey, the reason you made a particular piece.
Customers are for life not just for Christmas. Treasure them - they are making the decision to spend their hard earned cash on an object made by you, which will be with them for many years to come.
This does not mean they get discounts though. Remember you have to make a living from this.
I hope that has given you some things to think about. If you have any top tips to share then please do add them in the comments :).
Experienced silk painter, glass fuser, teacher, enthusiastic and inspirational.