Now that you’ve had a few days to look around and do some research, you should have a list of possible shows you’d like to do. It’s time to make some calls and get down to setting it up.
Some of this information will be available on the show’s website (if there is one) and application/registration forms are often there, as well. You should still try to make personal contact with the director or show staff to ask some additional questions. When you make contact, there are some questions you should ask before committing to a show. Show directors are used to being asked these questions and will not be surprised or disturbed to have you ask.
Key questions for ALL shows:
Obviously, price and space size are of primary consideration. Is this a juried or non-juried show. If juried, what is the process?
Additionally you need to know: How many years has this show been held? How many crafters/artists will be participating? How many of these participants have done this show before? Are there limitations on numbers of folks in various categories like jewelry, woodworking, pottery, etc. Is there an admission fee for shoppers? How many shoppers/visitors has this show attracted in the past? What type of advertising and publicity will be done for the show? Is there any major change this year as opposed to previous years for this show? (Examples of this would be adding live entertainment, changing the venue, suddenly charging an admission, etc.)
Are there rules pertaining to your actual booth display such as specific tablecloth specifications, height limits, can you have a candle burning or music playing, signage, must all boxes be completely hidden, etc. Once you have these answers, you can make an educated decision as to whether or not this is the show for you.
If this is an indoor setup, ask what the access to the building is like. How close can you park to the door to unload? Are there steps to maneuver? How far will your space be from the door? Will everyone be unloading at the same entrance at the same time? Will you be set up against a wall? What is the lighting like in that room? Will all the displays be in one area or will they be in several rooms and/or hallways? If the answer is several locations throughout the building, what percentage of the crafters will be in the same area as your display? Will electricity be available, and if so, is there an additional charge?
***So what is the significance of these answers? The first four relate to how easy or difficult it will be for you to get your display into the space and set up. This will let you know if you need a wheeled cart or if one will even be of any use (steps) and will give you an idea of how much time will be required to just get your load inside the building. If everyone will be using the same entrance, you will want to get there as early as possible as this will be a very congested area and you may be double or even triple parked for the unloading process, causing some foot traffic congestion at the door. If you will be set up against a wall, you may want to take advantage of that with your display design. (In most cases, you will NOT be allowed to tape or attach in any way to the wall but may lean something against it.) Lighting is an important consideration as hallway spaces can be very dark even during the day and you may need to consider bringing your own lighting. The last question will tell you if your display will be away form the crowd or off the beaten path. If that is the case, you may not want to do this show.
If this is an outdoor show, a primary question is whether the event goes on rain or shine. You will want to know how close you can drive to your actual setup space. In some cases you can drive right up to the space but in many municipal parks you cannot drive onto the grass and must schlep your booth and merchandise a fair distance across rough ground. Again, you will need to know if steps or a steep hill is involved . Will your space be set on level ground or is it possible you will be adjusting to a hilly area. Can you drive support stakes into the ground? Is the show known for high winds? Is the show set up within a confined area or is there open access. (Open access often means there will be shoppers milling around while you are setting up.) What are the restroom facilities like? Is there a source for running water? Electrical access is somewhat rare at outdoor shows and almost always involves a sizeable fee and special arrangements.
After this discussion, be sure to thank the contact person for their time and assistance. Ask to be provided with an application or registration form and determine the deadline for submitting that form and the appropriate fees. (Often the forms will be available online.)
Armed with all of these answers, or at least as many as you can get, you must make the decision as to whether or not to do the show. Once you sign up to exhibit at an event, you are committed to that event or are out the money. In most cases, application and/or registration fees are non-refundable unless the show is canceled by the show sponsors. If it rains, and you simply decide not to do the show, you will be out the money.
***Fee Clarification - I have mentioned several fees throughout these articles. There are three distinct fees involved in doing craft shows. All of course, require a “registration fee” (also called “space rental fee“). Juried shows often require a “jury fee” (generally $5-$15) paid whether you are or are not accepted to participate. Some shows also require an “application fee”, paid up front with the jury fee but before the space rental. Again, application fees are never refundable.
I’m assuming you have found a good show to try for your first event, so go ahead, fill in the registration form and make it official. Now we’ve got a goal date to work toward in getting your display and merchandise ready.
A word about taxes and licensing:
At this point in time, you need to determine if you need a sales tax permit/license or vendor’s license of any kind. In most states that have sales taxes, you will be required to collect that tax for ALL sales made within the state. Many states have temporary permits/licenses available that will cover one specific event or a specific time period (often 30 or 90 days). There is normally not any fee to obtain a sales tax permit. Applications can often be done online or by phone. You will need to contact your State office of taxation for information about obtaining such a permit/license.
The County Clerk’s office can generally tell you if you need a vendor’s permit/license. In most cases, a vendor’s permit is not needed for craft shows where you are selling merchandise handmade by you. (Resale items normally DO require such a license.) I have done a few shows where a municipality did require temporary permits but that information was provided by the show promoter and generally was handled through them.
Okay, go out there and get that paperwork done! We'll meet back here to discuss the booth setup and displays you will need in Part IV of this series.