By Carolyn Edlund
Want to increase your art sales at fairs and festivals? Here are ten tips to make the most of your show:
1. Be present. Hiding out in the dark recesses of your booth, or doing a demonstration, but never looking up, speaking or engaging with your audience, is a surefire way to lose plenty of sales opportunities. At a recent street fair, 80% of exhibitors had underwhelming booth presence, while 20% of the artists were working at making sales. Guess who fared better?
2. Sell on value. Overheard at a jewelry booth: “My prices are so low for this type of glass work that I am driving other artists out of business. They are jealous because they can’t beat my prices.” Apparently this artist believes that her work is a commodity, and she is selling on price, not value – a losing game all around. She won’t earn very much, her competitors won’t either, and customers learn that art should be cheap.
3. Use smart signage. A fun or quirky business name, attractive banner or clear message engages fairgoers and draws them into your booth. Inside, use signage that shows your process or shares interesting facts about your work to increase their attention until you can engage them verbally.
4. Talk about benefits,not features. Benefits focus on the customer and tap into an emotional value to them.
- Feature: Is your art recycled, upcycled or sustainable?
- Benefit: Your customer will feel good about being eco-conscious.
- Feature: Is your handmade clothing machine washable?
- Benefit: Easy to care for, without cost and hassle of dry-cleaning.
- Feature: Does it come in a box?
- Benefit: Easily gift-wrapped or shipped.
- Feature: Is your painting on canvas, with a gallery wrap?
- Benefit: No framing cost; ready to hang.
5. Practice your pitch. Every artist needs to be able to speak clearly and effectively about their work. Write down your story, condense it to a reasonable length, and practice speaking about yourself, your inspiration and your art. This will help make you more comfortable in front of others, and your work will be more interesting to them.
6. Make your booth light and comfortable. Use plenty of lighting to really make your booth stand out. And if it’s hot, a fan is a great accessory. You could have the coolest booth around!
7. Encouraging touching. Place your work in their hand. Invite shoppers to try on wearables, and let customers handle your art if possible. This is an important step to getting them to feel “ownership” of the piece.
8. Use technology. Take an iPad or tablet to the show, and use it as a Lookbook to show great photos of your work to clients, to give an idea of how it works in a room setting, or show commissions you have done in the past. Use your smartphone with a Square to make credit card purchases a snap.
9. Smart merchandising. Using all levels in a fair booth can be visually appealing – but don’t over-clutter your booth. Allow each piece of art enough breathing room so it can shine. Think gallery (not discount store) when you merchandise.
10. Use space wisely. Small entrances discourage shoppers from coming into a booth, so keep yours open and accessible. Move displays forward if you have small items like jewelry, making it easy for customers to browse.
Author Carolyn Edlund is the founder of Artsy Shark and a business consultant, helping artists and creative entrepreneurs market and sell their work more effectively. Find out more here: