Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I am a clothing artist who does original apparel designs (T-shirts, hoodies, tank tops and the like). >=90% of my sales are at festivals and events, particularly in the summer months, when I normally do a show every weekend. I've always found it incredibly difficult to generate any kind of online sales (I blame Amazon). 

With the cancellation of events due to COVID 19, where is everyone selling besides festivals and events, if anyplace? What sites/strategies online have worked?

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I too am a t-shirt designer. To answer your question directly: I do about $500/month of online sales which I don't consider significant but that's with no advertising.... Typically past customers, people who do google searches, some viral social media posts from others have been ways people go to my website. I received 2 online orders just this morning.  (My focus is on other stronger revenue streams). I took the liberty of checking out your website. I like the designs and can see why you would have a strong response at festivals. If I were marketing your designs online, I would join FB groups who are Lincoln fans, push/get your Instagram acct active daily with hashtags about Lincoln. Your designs are colorful and super visual which is perfect for Instagram. You could even make the subject line about how Lincoln would address Coronavirus. Do give-aways to good causes and have them brag about you online. That should get some eyes to your website. Etsy might be a good option for you. But as mentioned by others, it's not going to be an overnight success. By the time you find success online, the coronavirus will be long gone... hopefully. But here's some other suggestions.

Look for art museums, college bookstores, gift shops to carry your line. Obviously not now but in the near future. Wholesale is my main revenue stream. I am sitting on about $25K worth of orders now, over half of which has been postponed but I still am filling about $10K worth.

So if your revenue streams are festivals, wholesale and online, that would greatly alleviate your dependence on one revenue source. Good luck!

 

My other revenue streams in the past besides festivals have been shops and wholesale. I find people tend to buy my shirts offline mostly, perhaps it's even part of the offline experience. At shows, I'll have people try a few different shirts on before settling on the one they like, people like to touch, feel, and try on clothing, this isn't possible online. I have people who've driven to shows in other cities to buy my shirts (they look at my online festival schedule) instead of buying them online. I think you're right that by the time I have an online presence the COVID 19 stuff will be over. But that doesn't help now. I will try Etsy to see if anything happens there. I do want to make a Lincoln fighting coronavirus design!

I feel a podcast coming on ...

Hi Connie, I had a feeling you might say that. :) But instead of doing a podcast of 'creating online sales', why not one  about what the post-coronavirus art fair artists looks like?... are we going back to the status quo putting all our eggs in one basket? Knowing what we know now, do we put any 'safeguards' in place? how do we diversify? i could add to the diversification of revenue but it may be more interesting to hear the experienced artists address potential changes if any.

personally the biggest problem i've had with art fairs is from a business model, it's a terrible 'barrier to entry' for someone trying to make it a full time business. jury fees, initial canopy/display costs, paying so far ahead of time for booth space, being dependent on the weather. there is no other industry I can think of that is this difficult to enter. can you imagine if musicians had to pay a festival to play, bring their own stage, set it up and then maybe sell their music downloads to make a profit? and i haven't even gone into the goals of a promoter vs. artist. that's a whole different set of challenges. for those who have been able to make it work is a huge testament to their artistic talent AND business acumen.

while i have some suggestions of what i would do differently, i'd love to hear what other more experienced artists will do.

Great idea, Tran. In the past I have done several podcasts around that theme, including artists starting their own shows, artists hosting studio tours, various Facebook sales events. Just like this site is an endless source of information if you "search", our podcasts at ArtFairRadio.com are always available and full of good stuff. Most of our guests have been people like you (and including you), who've been in the business for some time and are willing to share what they have learned. But this is also an evergreen topic. 

My focus right now is to address immediate needs and get some basics done to prepare for post-Corona. It will be different, no doubt. 

I've been creating my shirts for over 10 years and I've had more trouble selling online than anywhere else. I feel like I've tried everything and still can't get people to visit my site. Yet when I do a show I almost always do pretty well. It's like my shirts are made for people to look at them in person. 

I started out with inexpensive shows like local farmers markets and the like and over the past 10 years worked my way up to doing a show every weekend during the summer. I really wish I could keep doing that. That, and selling to shops - while that was never as big as festivals for me, it's still significant. But people aren't even visiting those right now.

I bet I could sell more shirts than online by hanging a few in my window and putting up a sign that says "PayPal me and I'll bring you a shirt". Or if I could outfit a vending machine with t-shirts.

Connie, I'd love to do a podcast with you about sustainable online success. Let me know if you are interested, and we can brainstorm a more specific topic. ~David 

Unfortunately one of the best tools for your web site is no longer available. That's the exposure you get when you do an art show and have a sign with your web site domain name hanging in your booth.

We've always recommended a domain name that doesn't need to be spelled when you tell someone. Preferable your first and last name with the first letter of each word in upper case so it can be read easily. I can't count the number of times I've seen domain names for businesses on their vehicles, all lower case letters and it was impossible to read as they drove past.

Now though marketing has shifted to social media, you still need to target your potential customers any way you can. That should be the focus of this thread.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

I have a mail list of over 1200 names I've collected over 10 years. I started marketing to them in mid-March and have sent a follow up email each week. I was able to make enough to pay all my bills through April. I offered 30 and 50 percent off select pieces (not on everything) and a teaser of what to look for next week. I don't know if I can maintain that volume of sales for multiple months, but there are buyers out there and that's what marketing is all about.

I'm a contemporary painter, so my comments won't help Chris, but may help someone else.

I've had my paintings on SaatchiArt.com and Singulart.com (the latter is by invitation only, they hand pick their artists), and sell very well. By very well I mean 12-15 large paintings a year. Singulart.com is newer to me (only on 5 weeks) so I have only sold one painting (60”x60”). SaatchiArt takes 35% and pays for shipping. You cover the cost for you to package/crate your artwork and build that cost into your price. Singulart is 60 (artist)/40 I think and they pay for shipping and reimburse for packaging costs.

I also of course sell at 18-20 art festivals/year and am diligent about getting emails from any and all interested collectors even if they're not ready to buy at a particular festival. If they're interested in my work, they're pre-qualified. They may not be ready to buy at the art show, but I’ll be able to connect with them when they are ready to purchase.

I have an online sale for my list once a year near the holidays which is equivalent to 2+ worth of art show $, and have now launched an online sale due to the covid19 situation. So far it’s going quite well. I’ve had 14 buyers so far, with the largest purchase at $4000. I also know other artists who ARE selling online from their websites even during the pandemic, at discounted rates to their collector lists.

I use Constant Contact to house my email contacts by geographic location. This way I can target emails to areas of the country where I am having a gallery show or will be at an art festival. For my annual online sale and my current sale I use bigcartel.com. I use Big Cartel because I'm only having the sale up for about a week, and it's cheap and easy to use. $9.99/mo for 50 products. (https://www.bigcartel.com/pricing)

I'm currently deciding between Shopify and Squarespace for my regular website. In other words, I want to turn my regular website into an e-commerce site because this is where things are going IMHO (in my humble opinion). All of the galleries that I show in have websites that allow someone to purchase online. Some gallerists I've spoken to have less foot traffic in these recent years and are relying more and more on online sales.

My current website does have pricing and a paypal button but the website hosting entity I use feels/looks a little clunky to me. That's why I'm deciding between Shopify and Squarespace, who are both more polished options.

I hope this helps give you some ideas, especially if you have an email list.

I read Inc magazine, they also have a great online newsletter. Here is a list of their “survival guide” for businesses during the covid19 crisis. It’s meant for large or small private/public companies, however, there are tidbits of information that you may find helpful:

https://www.inc.com/business-continuity-cash-flow-coronavirus-crisi...

Go with Shopify. Hands-down for countless reasons I will be covering in a few weeks on here. I read what you wrote and what you need and will want in the future, and Shopify is a great match for you, but there is a learning curve. And, I have NO pony in their show. I just know both platforms. Once you work through that, the rest is smooth sailing.

Thanks Carol - appreciate your expertise :)

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