Sunday, September 2, 2007

How to be successful at a New Orleans Area Art Market

Now that the summer is fading away and the fall is approaching,all of us New Orleans area Art Market regulars (or semi:)regulars)are gearing up for the season. We're dusting off our tents, ordering credit card slips and washing tablecloths.

I am by no means the most successful or the most well known, but I've been selling since the first Bywater Art Market opened up the fall after 9/11 had a fledgling 22 artists in the driveway and roadway of Piety street. I've seen many of those folks drop out due to boredom, moving away or going on to bigger and better things.

I'll just share a few of the things I have learned in the past six years to make it a bit smoother for you. They really helped me.

1.Know your audience.No where is this more pertinent than with jewelry artists.It is really important to know who you are making your item for and whether they will show up at your market or not. When we first started out promoting our recycled items, we were most successful at Festivus where people were really looking for recycled items. We sold out every day and that was when I had to turn over making the shotgun houses to Heather as I felt like a factory.You've got to know who are the folks who turn out for such an event. Where is the advertising and what items will these people be most likely to buy. With the jewelry artists, we've seen many leave the markets and it is most likely due to the competition. If what you are making is not easily distinguishable from the next person, run, because you will then be stuck making money only if you lower your prices, or only look at this as a hobby and have someone financially backing you.If people who come to this particular Market are only looking for bargains or worse, ideas for their own crafting opportunity (you'll figure it out in about three markets or so), find the nearest exit.

2. Invest... in a tent.The weather is just too treacherous in New Orleans to not do this. Get a white one and the one that is the easiest to put up. Spend money on this because once you get a junk tent,you are stuck.Also get a white one. Most art markets dont want you to have a multi colored tent. They look unprofessional.Don't worry that you'll never get it up by yourself. The New Orleans group is very friendly.Even if you have a "W" sticker on your car.

3.Get yourself set up to take credit cards.Especially if one of the events you are selling at has alcohol. If you have a Paypal account, you can sign up to take them, also PROPAY has an affordable plan. Mr Imprinter on ebay will sell you the slips (inexpensively) and get you a knucklebuster. Research very carefully all of the details of the plan and what information you have to get from the customer to make the sale. Even two years post Katrina almost everyone here has a crazy address or mail situation, only a cell phone, and are difficult to probably is not a good idea to invest in the remote credit card machine until you are making a regular 3-5 thousand every event.

4. Display. This is one of my pet peeves about booths I enter where everything is cramed on one table , perhaps along with someone whose booth you are sharing.
People like me who like to spend money want a long focused look at the items. Let the eye be able to rest on one item at a time. Especially if you are selling your art work over the 100 mark.when I want a jumble sale I'm going to go garage saleing. When I spend my big bucks- I want a display that looks like someone cared and thought about it.

5.Location.Some markets you can get do first come, first served for a spot where customers are most likely to wander in and see you first. Or, first paid, first spot. The rule of thumb is the more people who see your stuff, the more sales you will have.You'll see quickly that the top sellers pay early and come early and get a front spot where the most people pass by.If you are serious about making money, get there early and pay early.Ask the person who runs the market. They are running the market because they want the artists to be successful.

6. Advertise. Put flyers up at coffeehouses and craigs list if you cannot afford the staggering cost of a Gambit ad. Post on, volunteer to put out the free flyers that the show is making for us. Call in to the Andre show, Wtul, whatever it takes. Also look for less expensive ads. We are putting an ad in Anti Gravity because they are so cool and less expensive than Gambit.Also, Where Y'at puts out a nice pre Jazz fest bible where you can get an ad comparable to the readership of Gambit but not the staggering cost.get a blog, post online, myspace, send out emails, get a website,whatever you can do to get the word out.

7. Get ready. Get organized in advance of the market date. You won't remember at the last minute when you are loading your car up. You'll be tired and sleepy.get all your stuff together in advance so you can focus on making stuff at the last minute. The last minute surge of creativy is always the first thing that sells out.

8. Get happy. Customers like happy not overly occupied shop keepers. Dont talk to much to your friends and family or be on the cell phone when customers come to your booth.Dont talk about your digestive problems or political issues within earshot.No one is at the art market because they like to shop at the mall so dont act like you work at Forever 21. Do talk about how happy you are with the turnout, the weather, someone's outfit, life, la la la. Become an art market happy lovely zombie.Frowny faces, tragically hip attitudes and whineys dont make sales.Dont roll your eyes when someone else does at your prices. People will come along who love your stuff as long as you love it.Talk about it if someone asks. Make eye contact if the customer does first. Make yourself smile.

9. Get Zen. This experience is really about what you put into it. The only thing you have control over is your attitude. If it is a slow day, have something to keep you busy, work you could be doing, etc. Positive attitudes bring more people into your booth. Think wax on wax off:visualize yourself making sales and doing what you love every day. Look upon what you make as a vehicle to get there.Selling is part of it too. Heather and I have just had to embrace this. Neither one of us are big time salespeople but we really love what we make. We just go with it like that and it works.

10. Know when to fold them. There have been a few markets, some super convienent, price and location wise, that just havent worked for us. Decide what your threshold for folding will be. If you have a steady crowd every market and the money isnt big but it leads to other sales, I'd say stay year after year. People will come back. If you go to 3 or 4 markets and you still dont get business,or it doesnt lead to comissions or bigger sales I'd get out.

that's all for now, hope this helps and see ya at the markets!

Market on the first Saturday: Freret Market,Gretna Art Walk and Northshore Art Market
Market on the second Saturday: Crescent City Craft Mafia? (have to check on this)
Market on the third Saturday: Bywater Art Market
Market on the last Saturday: The market formerly known as Mid City which is now Arts Market of New Orleans

Seasonal Markets/Festivals:
Festivus!,Preservation Resource Holiday Boutique,Chappell Craft Show,Mirliton Festival, Voodoo Fest,Wednesdays at the Square,Jazz Fest


Sara's Texture Crafts said...

Great new post - lots of helpful advice. If only I lived closer to go see what you do... Sara x

mags said...

hey, the Crescent City Craft Market, sponsored by the New Orleans Craft Mafia, has been on the second SUNDAY of the month. we've been on hiatus, though, for the hot months of July and August; i'm not exactly sure when we'll resume. possibly October.

but folks can keep checking back to our website, for updates about it.

thanks for the plug!

and, love your blog!


Miribella Designs said...

Thanks for such a helpful post! I'm starting some craft fairs up in Boston this month and the pointers were great.