Tips for joining and selling your art at artisan markets

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If you’ve been selling online for a while and you’d like the chance to bring your art into the real world, artisan markets can be a great way to increase sales and visibility without the commitment of a brick-and-mortar store. It can be an opportunity to get to know your customers face to face and share the stories behind each of your works. With this step-by-step guide to joining and selling at artisan markets, you’ll be an expert in no time.

sell art at artisan markets
Photo by iStock.com/AlxeyPnferov

Knowing your audience

Your local area may have a couple of artisan markets already, but how can you tell if they are right for you? Look for places that specialise in handmade goods to maximise your chances of finding the right clientele, even if that means travelling a little further afield. Do some market research. If you’ve been selling online, you may already have an idea of who your target customer is. Ask yourself questions like: Where do they socialise? What do they buy? (aside from your work, of course!), and How much money do they usually spend? Find a market that correlates with this information. A quick search on Google will bring up all the markets in your area, go through these listings and highlight the ones most suitable for you and your artworks.

Applying for a stall

Most markets have application guidelines on their website, so read them thoroughly before applying. Introduce your work with clear, high-quality images, and keep the descriptions of your products concise. Include any images you have of previous markets you’ve done, but don’t worry if it’s your first time, a mock display made at home, or a detailed description of your envisioned set-up will suffice. Browse similar markets for inspiration beforehand. A clear application will give administrators insight into how you present your artworks and if you’ll be a good fit for their venue.

Top tip: In the run up to Christmas, there’s no better time to join a artisans market! Try to secure a spot in mid-fall to take advantage of holiday buying. Read our guide on how to make and market Christmas art.

Preparation

This one may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how one small oversight can make or break your day. Double-check to see what is included in your market stall fees. Will there be chairs? Do you need power? These differ for every market so pay careful attention and bring with you anything that’s not included. Create a checklist of all the things you’ll need. The night before, price and label everything as you pack, crossing them off as you go. This will make sure you don’t forget anything, and save you having to price things on the day.

Pricing and payment

Have clear, consistent pricing across your items. There should be a logic so that the customer understands your rates. For example, consider pricing by size — one price for small works, another for medium, and the highest price for larger pieces. Having a mixture of price points ensures there’s something for everyone, no matter what their budget. That said, it’s a good idea to price according to the venue. If your larger paintings are too expensive for this particular market, bring more of your smaller works. Make sure your items are clearly labelled with your prices visible, as people may feel awkward asking.

Make sure you have a plentiful float, and round up your prices to whole numbers to make it easier giving change. Accept all possible payment options to maximise sales, including credit cards. Card readers start from as little as £20, so it’s advisable to invest in one of these beforehand.

Presentation

Be creative with your display! A minimalist layout can let passersby feel like they’ve seen all you have to offer in one glance, without stopping. Plan your space carefully so as to showcase your work in the most visually appealing and practical way possible. Draw up a couple of sketches in advance, experiment at home, and take a look at sites like Pinterest for inspiration. Keep in mind what people will see at eye-level — what will draw their eyes to your table? Utilising vertical space will give your stall extra impact. You could make a festive banner with your brand name on it, and carry this design over to make bags, boxes, stickers or swing tags. Often, it’s the personal touches that make you stand out. Over time you’ll develop a signature that people will know to look out for. Keep the most expensive items toward the back to protect them from sticky fingers, and remember, the more inviting the layout, the more curious people will be.

Be present

Here, it’s all about finding balance; too laid back and you risk losing business, but being too pushy can be off-putting. Say hello to passersby, and engage with potential customers, even a smile can go a long way! Increase your approachability by standing up occasionally, and never be on your phone. If a person approaches, make yourself available, ask them if they are looking for anything in particular. Tell stories and create conversations, sharing the backstory behind an artwork can help the customer feel connected to the piece and increase the likelihood of a sale.

What next?

Markets are about more than just sales. They can be great advertising opportunities to find new fans and get your work known. Have business cards readily available and offer them to everyone who approaches. Even if someone doesn’t buy your art on the day, they may in the future. Having a newsletter sign-up sheet on your table is another way to increase your network and client base. Make a note of what tends to sell and what doesn’t, and use that information to improve going forward. Most importantly, don’t get disheartened on the bad days. It can be frustrating when business is slow, but it doesn’t mean you should give up. Keep at it and learn from your mistakes, it’s all part of the process!


About The Author

Stephanie Gavan

Stephanie is a writer and visual artist from Liverpool, UK. She graduated from Goldsmiths College, London in 2014, where she studied Fine Art and History of Art. Previously, she worked as a Communications Assistant for Liverpool Biennial and co-edited feminist zine Queen of the Track. After two years of studying and teaching languages in Venice, Italy, she is currently undertaking an MA in Writing at the Royal College of Art.

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