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I'm a newbie to the art fair circuit and have a question about doing shows alone. Right now I'm an army of one, meaning I set up, take down, and staff my booth solo. I don't have a significant other or a business partner and probably won't be getting either one anytime soon :-)

I'm looking for suggestions on how to get reliable and trustworthy help with shows while on the road. I know some shows offer booth-sitters, but many I've looked into do not. Getting  help with setup and takedown would also be nice at some point too.

Any suggestions on doing shows solo would be great...thanks!


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I'm a solo act for the most part myself. Setting up and taking it down just simply might take me a little longer. If you pace yourself and don't try and rush you usually isn't to bad. If I do need help most fellow artists are usually willing to help you out for a minute or two. I have found if someone isn't used to my methods its usually a hindrance having someone to "try" and help. As for breaks during the show. I take everything with me food &drinks. If they don't have booth sitters for "potty " breaks again usually someone around you will be more then happy to watch your booth for a few minutes. But be considerate they have there own booth to watch as well. 

Thanks Kendra! Great advice.

I'm in the exact same situation as you. Completely solo.

I agree with Kendra, sometimes the help is a hindrance.

Sometimes a show will have people who volunteer to assist. If I use them, I tip them, very well. However my pack has to be done in a specific way. You don't want to be barking instructions at those volunteering their help. As a result, at a show I had help with, it took even longer as things would not fit in my vehicle because they were not packed the way needed. Then, after a show that it took quite some time to find things.

Some shows can recommend people. If you search, way in advance, often there are local people who wait for the show to come to town. These people make extra money by helping out some artists. However, check their references, just like hiring anyone, both good and bad. Might be worth it for setup and breakdown. Often they are very familiar with different booth setups. Likely not worth it as booth sitters.

As far as, show supplied booth sitters, don't count on them. I've often needed them for a brief bathroom break and not had them come. Not reliable. It is not something we can often, schedule or wait long for. Neighbors are more reliable, however, with rare exception, you will lose sales. There are stories of other artists or booth sitters, making sales for you, while you are gone. However those are the exception. If you must leave your booth & you have someone to watch your booth, give them your cell phone number and ask them to call if anyone has any question. I've done this, when I came back, was told people came in, wanted to know a price, the “sitter” just told them to come back when I was there = lost sale. Don't count on the sitters. I have asked neighbor, then when coming back found the neighbor was sitting in the back of their booth, Facebooking, where they could not even see my booth.

Bring all your food & drinks with you, using judgment to forestall necessity breaks.

Expect that it will take you much longer to setup & breakdown, than those who are a couple - just part of the solo life.

Keep yourself busy during the day by constantly engaging potential customers, that is what you are there for.

Sometimes I ask neighbors to help me roll up trimline walls, in the morning, however in turn I offer and help them with theirs. (I never have gotten good at rolling them tight, myself).

Depending on your medium and setup, watch out for theft. Skilled thieves will know you are alone and distract you in one area, while their partner steals from the other area.

As for needing food or drink? I have met with food vendors before the show opens. Got their cell number and arranged for delivery of my food, when I call for it.

If you are new to this and depending on your physical prowess, practice setups & breakdowns at home. You may need to adapt dollies etc.

Apply the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared

You may be alone at the show, don't fall into the habit of entertaining yourself, looking at your cell phone or reading. This is a turn off to potential customers. Keep yourself busy talking with the customers, watching them and other artists, learning all you can. The best part...

No one to argue with... no one to get in your one to bother one to split all the millions with...just you the customers and some other wonderful artists :-)

Thanks for all of your help! I hadn't given thought to helpers being potentially a bit more trouble. Yes,  even though I've only done a few shows (all of them indoors so far), I do have my method. Good point about theft too. I haven't had a problem with that so far but as I begin to do shows with more foot traffic, I'll have to give that some thought. And that's a great tip to be in touch with food vendors before the show.

Thank you!


Nancy-Try contacting the coordinator of the show for a referral. They should be able to find someone locally to help you out. We do this at our biggest show. We hire a high school student (via the show) to help us in the morning for 3 hours. They are hard working and willing to help. 

Thanks...I hadn't thought of this. Super idea!


I'm mostly solo myself and, yes, it's difficult at times. The hardest for me is set-up - trying to raise a Trimline canopy by myself is daunting. But I can say that I've always found help for that job. Just having someone hold one side while I get some poles in place is huge - so I look for help as early as I can and then return the favor if I can. Still, about the best I can do is three hours for set-up.

Other suggestions are right on point. Try to be self-sufficient. Getting food at these festivals is always difficult by yourself - long lines and it's expensive - so I pack my own food, drink, snacks, etc. Be friendly to your neighbors, watch their booth, offer to grab them a drink and they'll help you. I've only been doing shows for three years but I was amazed at how friendly and helpful the vast majority of artists are.

I've also made my packing and unpacking as easy as I can get it. Put everything on rollers, roll it into my trailer and be done with it. So I try not to touch items multiple times.

I met a guy last year who puts ads on craigslist for help - he was right beside me one show - but he was still setting up when I was finished because he had to explain every step.

Thanks Fletcher!

If you are using Trimline, get their "Easy Riser" system. It lets one person set it up, much easier.

Right now I've been doing indoor shows so don't have a canopy (yet). But I'll keep this in mind because I'm pretty sure I'll be doing outdoor shows later this year.

LOL. I do, Larry. But boy those trimlines are heavy at 7 in the morning even with the easy riser. And the older I get, the heavier they become!


They are even heavier, at the end of the show :-(

Sometimes, I get lazy / hurried and just leave all the legs extended, plus install my 2 awnings frames and sign frame as well as my lighting poles, before pushing it up.

BAAAAAAAD move!!!!

Gets lopsided, almost lost it once.

Heavy. You would think I'd learn, after the first time. that an artist trait? It is mine :-)

Nancy, don't do what I do :-)


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