10 Steps to Better Art Show Sales

By Carolyn Edlund

Want to increase your art sales at fairs and festivals? Here are ten tips to make the most of your show.




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?

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.


Art Show Booth


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.

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.

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.

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!

Encourage 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.

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.


Art Fair crowd


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.

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.



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  1. Fantastic advice as always Carolyn.

    At a recent art show, I did a few of the ideas you suggested above. I make and use acrylic transfers of my own original art in my collages.

    I took a few of the transfers with me which I had made for future work. It was a great way to engage with collectors who came into my booth, who were fascinated by the process.

    It taught me a valuable lesson – I have to remember that the little things I take for granted in the way I create my art, are like magic to the average public.

    • Very true! Once at a show a woman looked at my work and said, “I don’t know how it is humanly possible to make these!” She had no idea.

      Your abilities and talent are very special, and magical to the public. Use this fact to help them become new owners of your art!

  2. That is great advice Carolyn.

    While a lot of these tips are just good common sense, it is helpful to be reminded of them and to remind ourselves that we are indeed business people as well as artists.

    • Jaime, I agree! I’m always reading articles on how to improve my own business too.

      Even when you already know great ways to sell, through experience or intuitively, it is important to be reminded or validated.

  3. I don’t know how it is humanly possible to make these>> make me smile 😉

  4. I am glad I found this site, actually from a link on google+. Another set of ideas which need careful consideration. THanks

  5. I appreciate that you (re)tweet these older articles because the information is still relevant and helpful for artists and the business of selling art 2 years later! (I just found this article via your recent tweet)

    Mahalo for sharing your insights 🙂
    ethyrical artist

    • Thanks Donia! I actually removed dates from articles because for the most part they are “evergreen” and relevant at any time.

      • Yes, it’s a great strategy. I only noticed the time passage because of the dates of previous commenters – which again, is good because it shows that the info and advice you give people is sound and not fleeting! 🙂

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