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

I am fairly new to festival selling. The last time that I exhibited was 2007 & 2009 as an emerging artist at the Des Moines Art Festival, which is a super festival for sales/attendance. I have to be honest, I got a little spoiled by both the sales and the fact that I really didn't have to do a lot to sell my work. People were just buying.

Now that I am back on the scene here in 2016, I have been to a few smaller festivals (which might be part of the issue), but I am struggling with sales. I get a TON of love your work, so beautiful, wonderful palette, ect. but I can't seem to land the sale.

I did a search for selling techniques here, but I couldn't find anything concrete. The one suggestion that stuck out to me was someone made the comment "Selling isn't Telling" and suggested getting the customer to talk more. Sounded like an AWESOME suggestion, but there were no actual examples of how to do that.

When people come into my booth now, I do start with telling them about the work, but that is not working. Any suggestions on what exactly I might say to get people interacting? Do I say something like "what piece speaks to you" or "what is that piece saying to you" I was hoping someone had some real life suggestions that didn't sound so lame.

Just a few concrete suggestions to get me started would be helpful.

Thank you!


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I FORGOT TO MENTION - I am a PAINTER so my work is not necessarily usable (like ceramics) it is totally a luxury item, which I feel makes it a harder sell.

Hi Brandi,

I guess, and I'm fairly new at this too, I'd just try to interact with the customer in a casual manner that doesn't make them feel pressured.  In addition to women's hats and handbags, I also make baby hats and felted booties and sell them at a year-round marketplace near home.  When I'm working the booth and someone comes in and starts looking at them, I will sometimes say "is there a baby in your life?".  Maybe you could expand on that and say "is there a bare wall in your life?" or words to that effect...just a thought. In any event, best of luck and let us know what works.

My most popular pieces are coasters and trivets from tumbled travertine.  It is hard to come up with something for my products similar to what Brandi suggested .... Do you have a _____ in your life (bare wall in your home, etc.)?

I do try to come across as casual but it is hard for me, I am not sure about the others here.  It is very easy for me to begin sharing about my coaster and trivets and other home décor telling how it's all done by hand, etc.  Concerning my coasters and trivets, it is important to me to let people know it's not mass manufactured because it's all too easy to find the mass produced stuff in department stores.  Usually when I tell (potential) customers that it's all done by hand and my hands have touched every piece in my booth, I get the ooohs and the aaaahs, etc.


Even after 3 years of doing shows I am still interested in better interacting with customers.

Oh, I just thought about something.  I usually have my tables set up as a U, with the U going into my booth.  Customers will walk buy, pick up a set of coasters that are on the outer edge of a table, look at the price, put it down, and keep walking, without ever walking into my booth.  I get very frustrated because they are not even asking the simplest of questions to find out why they sell for $28 for a set of 4 coasters done on tumbled travertine.  I am hoping the veterans here will tell me these customer are price point shopping and are not my real customers.  I do have plenty of people walk in.  It's just those who look at a price and keep walking.  It has been tempting to remove price tags from those coasters on the outer tables.  However not having prices can be a detterant also.

You have to break the ice, not them. They are afraid you are going to try to sell them something and start pitching right off.  Don't!  You need to gather information first.  Ask them something easy like, "are you from the area or visiting?" They don't want to hear a sales pitch first thing.  Do not remove prices.  It would be a mistake.  Not everyone is your customer.  Some have to walk.  It's more about listening than about talking and selling, explaining about the work.  It may be about YOU as much or more than the work, it may be about the subject or why and how you chose it.  It may be about fitting it into their decor (with the couch).  If you let that upset you, don't.  They don't know any different.  Get them to relax and talk about them selves then you know if they have contemporary or country taste, etc. You have to ease into the pitch.  If you do hard sell, you will be frustrated.  Hardly any will say anything negative.  Oh, there ale always those that think you want to be a starving artist and should give it away. Turn them into your friend and they will buy.

I have heard that everyone has the same favorite thing to talk about, themselves.  It is hard for me to remember but I am working on that.  This past spring craft season, I would break the ice by asking if they had been to _____ show before, where are you from, etc. sort of questions.  It seems less threatening than jumping right into the pitch, as you say.  One of my goals is to get very good at that this fall and keep improving on building relationships with customers.

Let me start out by saying I'm not high pressure sells someone likes my work or they don't. My 1st rule is I don't say anything to people ( unless we make eye contact ) until they actually step into my booth. I like people to feel at home. Then I ask " How are you" " hows your day" Are you having fun at the show" Isn't this great weather" even if it raining, or 110 degrees I say something positive ( it could always be worse.) Casual conversation will keep them looking. So does a sense of humor. I try and make people laugh often, that way they always remember me or my personality. I don't talk about my art until they ask and if you keep them in your booth long enough they will but I never try and "sell" them anything. I can't tell you how many times people will come into my booth the next year just to say hi because they feel like the know me and thats ok too because if they don't by something usually the person they are with does. This works for me I want people to walk away from my booth and feel good. I hope this helps. 

Kendra, I am sort of like you.  As people walk by I will nod and say hello or something short like that.  I don't say much else unless they actually walk in.  I'll start off with "hello" or "hope you're enjoying the show" kind of thing.  Once that is done, if I continue, it is hard for me to stay casual.  My reaction is to want to do some customer education about my products as I have previously mentioned.  I have had repeat customers come in and it was much easier to be casual with them, versus new customers.

Thanks so much for the feedback ladies. I will keep at it. I am pretty much doing exactly what you are doing now, being nice, smiling, ect. I do feel like people leave having had a good experience, so I suppose that is positive. 

I love the audio CDs by Bruce Baker.  I do feel they are a little dated now as people seem to want to just look rather than buy, so I don't talk, talk, talk as he suggests, but I do talk at eye contact and try to chat/ be informative as the situation suits and the vibe I get - I think too much sales type talk makes people just want to escape!

I think a more modern approach has to do with keeping the work in front of the folks who admire it, time and time again. You don't have to toss out any sales pitch to these folks. You need to be a little savvy and pay attention to the conversations and buying indicators, but the folks who purchase paintings purchase them more for personal reasons rather than spontaneous or impulse reasons and thus quite normally close these sales themselves.

Keep expenses low. Get contact information for your prospects. Keep returning to the places you think you're customers will be. And let your customers know you'll be there.

NOTICE: I tried to look at your website to see your art, but it wouldn't work. Fix it and keep it working so your customers can see what you are doing. Keep it up to date and don't let it get out of date. Do the best you can with this, but be like Nike and JUST DO IT. WOOHOO!


Hi Barrie,

Thank you so much for the great tips and informative response. I think you are very accurate on the clients who actually buy paintings.

I just checked my site and it was up and working for me. If you have a chance to visit again and run into trouble - let me know. My degree is in graphic design and fine art so I am lucky to be able to keep my site up to date and looking lovely. Not sure if you had trouble with it coming up at all or trouble with it loading (visual issues). 

Anyway, thank you so much!



1. Demonstrate, visitors love to see artists work. It is a great opener and it allows me to share a story or tell them about my symbolism and hidden images that they can discover in certain works. I am more relaxed when I work and my passion about what it is that I do is very easily communicated.

As a 2D collage artist I'm able to work on my art while at events. I have heard that some shows will not allow this so read the rules.

2. Look for openings, when I notice an interest in a piece I ask them what is it they like about that piece. Using the information I just received I can then provide them with other options if needed, such a other works that have their likes or even commissions possibilities if they're looking for something specific.

3. Ask for their contact information, maybe they are not ready to purchase but they were interested in my artwork to come into my booth. I explain my email/newsletter policy. Only after asking for their info do I give them my business card.

It is important you have researched your event and know that the market will purchase 2D artwork and will have the income to do so.

Best to you.



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