The Etsy Blog

How to Do a Craft Show Without Breaking the Bank handmade and vintage goods

At the start of spring, many Etsy sellers start to ponder the craft fair season. How far is too far to travel? Which events are a good fit? And, a question many sellers grapple with: How do I do it on a budget? Nichole Jeske, owner of Paw and Claw Designs – along with other seasoned sellers – shares her thoughts on the subject.

Almost every crafter or artist who has toyed with the idea of doing a craft show or market has asked, “Will it be worth it financially?” You might fear that you’ll buy the booth displays, pack up all your work, travel several hours, get a motel and pay a huge booth fee, only to have poor or even nonexistent sales. You worry that you’ll end up with less money than when you began. I’m here to tell you: Do not fear! I began selling at a large weekly event in 2006. It was surprisingly affordable for me to get a booth set up for under $200 and to secure a booth for as little as $10 per day. I quite often make at least $100, get many leads for custom orders and hand out about a thousand business cards per season with minimal effort. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from experience, as well as some great advice from other Etsy sellers.

Start Planning Now

Start now, so you won’t feel rushed. Keep your eyes open for display ideas year round, even if you only sell at shows during the summer. Stash them in your basement until it’s time to use them.

Browse the Bargains

Check for deals at yard sales, thrift stores and sales. I found an EZ-Up style tent for $30 in the clearance section of a sporting goods store. These popular craft fair tents often sell for hundreds of dollars new. As a bonus, it’s pale beige, with green edging, which makes me easy to find in a sea of bright blue and white. If a potential buyer says, “I’ll stop back later,” then I can say, “Look for the beige tent!” I’ve hit local church rummage sales and thrift shops and scored fabric table coverings for a dollar and a jewelry display for a mere fifty cents. I even spoke to the manager at a local liquidation store to see if I could have the jewelry displays when they were done with them. I was able to pick up level T-Bars and a bracelet stand for nothing at all.

Check Out Weekday Shows

If you don’t work a day job, you might be able to find lower priced shows that take place during the weekdays. Some of the shows in my area are as low as $20 per day, compared to $250 or more for a Saturday show. Sure, the traffic will be less, but for the price, you can still move quite a bit of product and hand out lots of business cards.

Sell Locally

Some of the major expenses of selling at shows are travel, food and lodging. By vending nearby, you can avoid all these expenses. Another benefit? Many shows organizers will allow you to set up the day before a show. However, do this only if the show space is secure. An hour or so of time saved in the early morning is not worth losing a large amount of inventory to theft. Pack your own food and drink for the day of the show; a $4 bottled water will eat up your budget quickly.

Team Up

Some shows allow booths to be shared by two vendors. If you share with a friend, you can get double the manpower for half the price, if you split the booth and travel costs. Just make sure your items work well together. For example, your evening bags would work very well with your pal’s  crystal jewelry, and this could help increase both your sales. However, baby burp cloths, with cute hand-sewn animal embroidery, wouldn’t be so complementary. Pair those with a business that sells knitted baby hats and booties instead.

Have Fun

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. No matter how much planning you do, things often don’t go as planned. Embrace the excitement, and sometimes, the chaos. Sure, you may have had a different plan in your trial run at home, but if the wind is blowing your displays down, you’ll have to change your plans. Above all, be enthusiastic about your work. Confidence in your work will make a much better impression than a picture perfect display. When you count your money at the end of the show, you can be that much happier that getting there didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Seller Handbook Best-of Archives | More Craft Show Articles

  • MoonMystic

    MoonMystic says:

    Some great ideas! I think I'll try one of those this year. ;)

    7 years ago

  • heavensearth

    heavensearth says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I guess the key is to figure out what you need well in advance.

    7 years ago

  • thepairabirds

    thepairabirds says:

    Good tips. And, I would like to go on record (whoa, sorry for that bad pun) and say the vinyl record necklace stand is pretty sweet!

    7 years ago

  • thelindentree

    thelindentree says:

    thanks for the tips. i had no idea what to do about craft shows. now i do. :)

    7 years ago

  • ClickityClack

    ClickityClack says:

    Cheap, sturdy craft table. Go to your local Home Depot, Menards or the like and pick up some table legs usually under $10.00 on sale. Pair this up with a hollow core door purchased at Habitat for Humanity Resale store or other thrift store. These doors will be about 6 feet plus a few inches and around 30 inches wide. Your door can be a bit beat up because you are going to put a nice fitted table cover over it that reaches to the ground on at least three sides. These tables are just the right size for those 10 x 10 foot booths! And best of all, they are light weight!! Save your back, you'll need it later.

    7 years ago

  • blondechicken

    blondechicken says:

    Thanks for the great article!

    7 years ago

  • PortButtonsViNtAgE

    PortButtonsViNtAgE says:

    great article....I was starting to think about getting back into it for my jewelry....anyone hear on any on Long Island this spring? Would love to share a booth! convo me :)

    7 years ago

  • glasshousejewelry

    glasshousejewelry says:

    Very nice article! Shows can be a lot of work...but lots of fun too! I definately recommend doing a trial run of your displays beforehand. So, that way you won't be scrambling the day of the show.

    7 years ago

  • chocolateandsteel

    chocolateandsteel says:

    Thanks for featuring a picture of my craft show booth. I just wanted to let everyone know that I shared my booth with the super talented All of that artwork is Heather's. Go to her shop and check it out. She's amazing!

    7 years ago

  • bellabijoujewellery

    bellabijoujewellery says:

    Wow some really great advice! Ive only ever done one craft show, and it was a flop. I made back my money, but it was poorly organized and terribly advertized. I would sugggest if you know when you shows are in advance, hand out flyers and try to promote in that area. post flyers advertising the show at the local grocery stores and such-most have bulliten boards you can post things on!

    7 years ago

  • pawandclawdesigns

    pawandclawdesigns says:

    Everyone has such great ideas to add. My focus is jewelry, so it's wonderful to read others ideas for other products :) I just started to get my registration forms in the mail; I'm so excited to this season :D Don't forget about these threads ( which have grown even more since last i looked at them) and this great flickr photo poll to check out and visit. Many sales to everyone!

    7 years ago

  • janicej

    janicej says:

    Great info and very inspiring. Thanks!

    7 years ago

  • kellybot

    kellybot says:

    Nice article! Last year I put together a craft show checklist and loaded it to my blog for anyone interested. It's an excel spreadsheet that you can customize for your own type of craft.

    7 years ago

  • AnnMadeArt

    AnnMadeArt says:

    Thanks for all the good tips. I just started doing shows and this article is very helpful. I've learned very quickly that knowing all the facts about a show is very important. Knowing how many vendors, past attendance, etc. helps the selection process so I can be assured of a good show. I'm sure I'll learn even more as I go along.

    7 years ago

  • imakestuff

    imakestuff says:

    Great re-primer for a seasoned craft-show person like me! I cancelled two shows last year, distance + fuel prices! I am cancelling another show soon for the same reasons (plus I can't afford the $230. booth fee). We try to camp out at shows...another great way to save $$. It's getting to be where I won't do a show unless I can earn $2k or more. Otherwise it's just too hard with booth fees, and overhead/supplies. Don't discount your local farmer's market, and walk-on selling. Get there early and take a number. I've sold stuff like hotcakes. Although, it is hit and miss. Always ask other artists what shows are "good".

    7 years ago

  • ravenscraving

    ravenscraving says:

    Thank you so much for this!!! I'm dong my first art fair in April and the OCD person in me needs all the input she can get!! :D

    7 years ago

  • clockgirlkelly

    clockgirlkelly says:

    Thanks so much! I'll be doing a show in April. At work, when we unpack our retail, I've been collecting as much packing material (bubble wrap, foam, boxes, bags)so that I can slim down my overhead and avoid having to buy those things for shipping or the show! It can get expensive! If you have a local retailer who will save some of those things for you, take advantage of it!

    7 years ago

  • pawandclawdesigns

    pawandclawdesigns says:

    here's another great blog post with WONDERFUL tips.

    7 years ago

  • pawandclawdesigns

    pawandclawdesigns says:

    thank kellybot, another great bog :)

    7 years ago

  • Sneddonia

    Sneddonia says:

    Excellent tips pawandclawdesigns! I'll have to keep these in mind when I do my next show in a couple of weeks :)

    7 years ago

  • RianjaFashion

    RianjaFashion says:

    This was helpful. I'm preparing for craft shows in the spring.

    6 years ago

  • nomadcraftsetc

    nomadcraftsetc says:

    This is freakin' awesome! i am glad we found this!

    6 years ago

  • marcontraire

    marcontraire says:

    I would love to be in a craft show! This is great information, thank you!

    6 years ago

  • StarsandRobots

    StarsandRobots says:

    This is so great! I did my first show recently, I sell plushy toys, and at the last minute, I grabbed my son's bright green shag area rug to cover the table with, it really helped the stuff pop!

    6 years ago

  • beadelight

    beadelight says:

    Love your suggestions--they make a lot of sense. I may even try a show sometime!

    6 years ago

  • bazketmakr

    bazketmakr says:

    thanks for the tips. I am most interested in display ideas, and you hit on some i had not previously thought of. I may be going back to craft fairs after some years away from the routine!

    6 years ago

  • alankarshilpa

    alankarshilpa says:

    Thanks so much. These are great ideas and I'm going to start collecting booth decorating items this way. I was thinking if there is a way to connect with the etsian in my local area- San Francisco bay area. I think we desperately need a community where we can share ideas, space, worries, and above all - help each other. Dita- from

    6 years ago

  • OlliePop

    OlliePop says:

    I was able to borrow a great peg board back drop from the local art cost at all. And be sure I am going to keep my eyes open now all year round for great deals and ideas. Thanks for the tips.

    6 years ago

  • CelticKarma

    CelticKarma says:

    There is a big show here in NC around mid Nov. I am making things now for that show. These are great tips to get me started for my first show. Thanks so much for the tips.

    6 years ago

  • gini1231

    gini1231 says:

    Thanks for all the great advice!I am going to start looking around for display items now!

    6 years ago

  • Pir8t

    Pir8t says:

    What a great and in depth article! Thank you for sharing!

    6 years ago

  • mammysshop

    mammysshop says:

    Great tips, thank you for sharing them!!

    6 years ago

  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry says:

    Thanks for the great article, and creative ideas on how to set up a booth without incuring financial disaster.

    6 years ago

  • kinaloon

    kinaloon says:

    I love your cheap display ideas! I forgot about church rummage sales etc.

    6 years ago

  • bittersweetboo

    bittersweetboo says:

    Awesome cheap display ideas! I always drive around my neighborhood on trash pick up day to see if anyone has thrown out any good furniture or racks..anything I could reuse for display purposes, and it's FREE!

    6 years ago

  • OpusMuse

    OpusMuse says:

    Even though I'm not based in US, these tips are still helpful to me and given me more ideas to set up a booth. Thank you!

    6 years ago

  • andytourhead

    andytourhead says:

    I'm new to etsy and found this convo. I am getting ready for my first show and am seeking ideas on displaying artwork from the pop-up tent frame to avoid the expense of buying Pro Panel Booth Walls. I'd also like to avoid dragging a grid wall or peg board to the show. The pop-up does not have a straight bar for suspending cables. My artwork is lightweight but framed. Anyone?

    6 years ago

  • RooRooDesigns

    RooRooDesigns says:

    These tips give me the inspiration to try craft shows again! At my first (and only) attempt, I found the booth fee and booth location daunting. Any tips on securing a great spot from the organizers?

    4 years ago