People always ask me for advice when it comes to selling their work and setting up tables at our Art Fairs. So I thought I would go through a few of these more frequently asked questions to help give some advice and guidance based of previous event’s we’ve hosted.
This is also in video format which you can watch here – How to sell at an Art Fair
Personally – I haven’t sold at an art fair so don’t take everything I say as a guarantee just as a suggestion or something to keep in mind if you’re new to this or want to make sure there’s nothing you’ve missed! So here goes:
What to bring?
Obviously each artist is different, everyone has their own styles and specialties. My advice would be to look through your Instagram or social media and find the pieces that have had the most interactions, a lot of likes, comments or shares etc. The Top 9 Instagram app is a useful feature for quickly getting your most popular pictures. These will likely to be your most popular sellers. However, the larger variety of things you can display the better your chances to catch someone’s eye.
Another good way to work out what people might like is to do an Instagram poll. If you’re not sure what to bring ask your followers what they prefer. I think as artists it’s so difficult to judge your own work, as you’re in your work, you’re surrounded by your work all the time. There may be ones you don’t really like, but someone else might really love it so give your audience a chance to have a say and you’ll have a better idea of what to bring.
I will also day, depending on costs, to think of different sizes, A4 and A3 are the most popular in terms of prints and give people a chance to chose what is right for them.
How many of each print would you recommend?
As above, it depends on the popularity of that print, if you’ve checked what your most popular images are print more of those. In the past I’ve also seen someone that sold out of a particular print, but kept the last one behind and took orders for it and posted the prints to them buyer after the event.
I don’t have a set answer for this one, so ask someone that has done previous fairs. We have so many artists that have sold at our events, so reach out, ask them for advice! Everyone is so lovely, just drop them a message mentioning you’ll also be selling at the Art All Dayer and I’m sure advice will follow.
This one is a bit trickier. As our audiences contain a mix of people from different areas and spending limits trying to cater to them with variety is always helpful. We have students who will have a couple of quid to people with more disposable income who can afford to spend a bit more.
I obviously can’t tell you what to price your work for, what I can tell you as a guide way of pricing is to think of your hourly rate and then calculate how many hours it took to create the work. On top of that, add how much the materials cost. Is the postage and packaging costs included? Add that all together and see where you’re at and adjust from there if needs be.
If you don’t feel that way works for you instead try adding all your costs up, and work out how much you want to make as a total, and add that on. A lot of the people that have come to our fairs to sell their prints for around £20 – £40 on average for A4 and A3 sizes. You probably don’t want to be the most expensive stall for a certain print size if everyone else is selling for a more average price as it might deter customers from buying from you. However at other events you want to charge more, or you find the audience type have more money, so you can up your prices there.
Forms of Payment
I get asked this quite a lot – the way we work is that you as the artist are responsible for your own payment. Obviously cash is always a given, but nowadays I think everyone should have a card reader. They’re not too expensive to buy and contactless payments are the more popular option. We use SumUp, which is a n app with a card reader that costs about £19 to buy, and with every transaction they take 1.7% as a charge. Zettle is also very similar. Those are what I’ve found to be the cheapest, however there are other ones available.
I know personally I don’t carry cash anymore so we really recommended getting a card reader, it connects to your phone, you can input the amount you want to spend, and the customer just taps to pay and you’re given the option to send a receipt which allows you to input an email. At other art fairs I’ve purchased art using Paypal, as all you need is an email. So this a similar method to a card reader, not as straightforward, but a good option if that’s not available to you. Bitcoins can also be an option but to be honest, I’m not too familiar with it so asking an artist who is would be a good place to start if that interests you.
Display your prices! Have your prices quite clear for people to see because some people can be nervous when they come to art fairs so it can be quite daunting talking to the artists. Label your work with the prices to make it clearer for people buying and you won’t miss out on a sale because someone was too nervous to ask the price and decided to leave instead!
How to display your work
Think of ways to make your table stand out, look around your house for inspiration, it doesn’t have to be expensive, innovation always catches people’s eyes.
I think levels are important, so you want things at different eye levels to catch peoples attention. You can bring boxes to stand things on, have things lay flat, on easels etc. I’ve seen people use crates or make tabletop wooden display racks. I’ve seen people use a cake stands for jewellery pieces. I’ve even see a drying rack on the table, and it worked! Those types of things will make your table stand out.
I would highly advise that you have a nice table cloth. The tables we use can be a bit worn and used as we hire them externally so you can’t expect them to be brand new and shiny as much as we would love them to be. A nice table cover doesn’t have to be expensive, a heavy duty one would be ideal to hold everything down, also don’t forget to give it an iron!
Business cards and something to take away is always a good idea but it depends on what your budget is, business cards can be expensive, but flyers may be a cheaper option. Or using off-cuts of your artwork with simple printed text on the back. There are non-expensive ways to have something someone can take away and it gives customers time to think if they want a piece, giving them the option to contact you at a later date.
Framing/ Packaging your work
I think for display, it’s nice to have a couple frames but have the option of non-framed prints. Frames can be quite personal to each person, they might have certain themes in their homes that require certain frames to match. So having frames on hand and letting them have the option to choose a frame or unframed is important.
If you have sold something, how are you going to package it up for people to take away? Are you going to use an envelope? Wallet? A carrier bag? These little things make a big difference to the buyers experience so have a think about what you’re going to put the artwork in. For jewellers I’d recommend some tissue paper, it’s always nice when they have tissue papers with the little sticker seals. When ordering prints or materials save the packaging those items get delivered in as they can be used later for yourself, such as poster tubes or big envelopes, as you never know when you’ll need them.
Speak to the buyer!
This one is key! I would highly recommend you talk to the guests and the attendees. As a potential buyer they are unlikely to start a conversation with you, it’s quite daunting, even I, as a quite chatty person, wouldn’t initiate a conversation first. If you see someone walking past and they stop, or even hesitate to have a glance, say ‘hi, thanks for coming’, see where the conversation goes. This is a point that goes beyond art fairs, people like to buy things from people they like. They’re more likely to spend money the more comfortable and friendly they are with someone. Also, a compliment goes a long way, and learning/using their name is also a very positive thing. Just do what you can to start a conversation, they are there because they’re art fans they want to see artwork, look around find new things, so you already have common points of interest!
Another example of this, we went to an art fair and spoke to this artist, their work wasn’t quite our style but they were really, really, lovely, so much so that we looked through all of her work just to try and find something that was for us just because she was the loveliest person. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a piece to match our style but that might not always be the case!
Last point, where to get more advice? If you don’t know, if you’re worried or have questions do just ask people, the worst that can happen is they don’t answer, you won’t lose anything if this happens you won’t be any worse off. Look at whose done art fairs before, people post their tables on Instagram so look how they’ve displayed it, ask questions if you want to know more, where they got the tablecloth from, their stands, the variety they display. I’m sure people would be more than happy to give a little bit of advice. I really do think the more people you speak to the better, you’re going to get different points of view and help you create the best display for your work.
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