How to Survive Your First Market as a Maker

Markets can be tough, especially if you have never done one before. I remember my first market experience fondly. It was a bittersweet experience to say the least. The market was all wrong for my product, I didn’t even have an official business name or a sign, no business cards or labeling to speak of, not to mention the fact that I was shy and paranoid of failure—it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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My little bro managing one of my earlier markets!

After 4 years of doing several markets every year, I have a few tips and tricks for makers who are new to the process. I believe everyone should have a successful market experience every single time, and I also believe that it is 100% possible. Take these pointers into consideration prior to signing up for your first market, and let me know how things go! I’d love to know if my method works well for others.

6 Tips for a Successful Market Experience

Determine a budget before you start researching markets

If you go in to your market planning with an idea of how much you are comfortable spending, you are less likely to overspend on things that are unnecessary. Sometimes it’s true; you do need to spend money to make money. No one said you need to spend a fortune, though. Decide how much you are willing to spend on the table fee, any decorations, a giveaway, packaging, etc., then try to stick to that number! It’s always better to start slow than to go overboard, so find an amount that you can make work for your business. If things are successful, you can always increase your budget for the next one!

Not every market is right for you, so choose wisely

Like I said, my first market was a huge waste of time. I signed up for the cheapest market I could find, which just so happened to be at a local church that I am not a member of. I was treated as an outcast and mostly ignored because it was a church event—but it wasn’t necessarily closed to the public (which is why they accepted my application). If I had done a little research beforehand I might not have made this mistake.

Check out the advertising of the market (Instagram, Facebook, their website). See how much engagement they are receiving and from what type of customers. If you make beard oil, maybe the local Women’s Show isn’t the right choice for you. Pay attention to the price of the table fee. Is part of it being donated? Are you okay with the choice of donation and does it align with your business or morals? Are the prices different for the size of the space? There are lots of things to consider with table fees and I could talk about it for HOURS!

Create a packing list a week before your event

Creating a list ahead of time will give your brain an entire week to think of things you should be bringing with you.. Trying to pack the day before the event will just stress you out and you’ll be constantly wondering if you have everything you need. Brainstorming and mentally preparing at least a week before the big day will help prepare you more than anything else.

Don’t overstock yourself

I see this question a lot: “How much stock should I bring with me?” I have seen an equally different number of answers to the question. In my opinion, you shouldn’t be bankrupting yourself to try and provide endless amounts of stock. What if it doesn’t all sell? And then what if you can’t sell it later? If this is your first market, you should bring at least enough stock to earaccessories-beads-boutique-896018n you back your cost to attend (table fee, decor, packing, etc.) plus enough to give you a nice wage for the day.

For me, I knit toques. If I sell each adult toque for $35.00 and I spent $150 for my market, and I want to earn at least $200 for standing there all day, that means I need to bring at least 10 toques with me. That’s manageable! I’d feel comfortable bringing double, or even triple that amount of stock to start, no problem. Ask yourself those questions, come up with a number you need for inventory, and see if that makes sense. It’ll take some testing to figure out the right amount of stock.

Dress to impress, smile, and engage 

You are representing your business by standing at a market with your items. Do you want to have last night’s dinner stains on a shirt and your hair in a sloppy bun because you pulled an all-nighter getting ready for the big day? Probably not. Dress to impress, because your first impression on a customer can have a huge impact. If the products you make are wearable, make sure you are wearing one!

A smile goes a long way. Not everyone feels comfortable standing out in a crowd talking to strangers, and I get that. But even a simple “Hi, how are you?” is better than silence and avoiding eye contact. No one is saying you have to be the world’s most talkative person at the market. But if you are the quietest, I can almost guarantee you’ll have a bad time.

Work on projects (if you are able) during the market

There is nothing more interesting to passersby than seeing someone working on their craft. I get quite the giggle out of a lot of people by speedily working on toques while I stand and chit-chat with customers. They are amazed and think I am doing something akin to magic. This helps me attract more customers and sell more product because people are genuinely interested in what I am doing. It makes the item they buy more personal knowing that someone made it with their own two hands. If your business allows you to do something similar, I highly recommend working on a few things during the market! It’s a great conversation starter and could even help you turn over a few more sales.

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There you have it! There’s no big secret to having a successful market. Just a little bit of time and effort can go a long way. Take your first market as a time to step out of your comfort zone. Be proud of your brand and the products you make. When people see that exuding from you, you’ll be surprised at how many people start to stop by your booth and look at what you have to offer.

That’s all I have for now—let me know if you see any success with these tips! Good luck at your markets, and happy making!

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