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

Howdy All

A long time reader here....I want to thank this site's members for all the knowledge I've acquired from spending hours, no....days reading here. Have spent weeks of research in gathering info for my first fair & I'd say at least 50-60% of useful knowledge gained has come from you folks. Although this site is dominated by you Eastern types (I'm close to the other ocean), most of the discussions are applicable anywhere.

To best answer my question, you should know that unlike most of you, I am into this racket strictly for kicks. Retired from the real world, I enjoy digital painting & if I can find some blind customers who are willing to pay for my prints, it'll be a nice ego boost. I'm spending discretionary income on this & any money received will go towards putting a dent in my expenses, & of

The 2nd item to understand is that I have no use for or desire to have a Smart or Cell phone.

After aligning most of my ducks (tent, products, permits,etc) in a row, I thought it would be a simple matter of going with Costco's merchant payment processor, Elavon. Alas, the lack of a Smart phone is now biting me in a unmentionable place. Their mobile device costs 8 C-notes plus monthly cell phone charges, etc,etc.

I've done a small amount of research of the services most often mentioned here, Square, Paypal, etc. It appears that all those services rely on having a Smartphone or tablet device.

IF I have to get a tablet or phone I will bite the bullet & do so. If a service's mobile device is available that's cheaper than the cost of a phone or tablet, I wold go with that. But at $800, it would seem to foolish to go that route. Elavon allows you to suspend their service if you have no events in a certain month, but I would still be on the hook for monthly ATT charges. I have 2 fairs booked in June so there's some time to do more research.

Even if stuck with a significant upfront cost, I would like to avoid monthly charges. I simply have no idea at this stage if my art will sell. I'll do a few shows & if it's a bust, I'll go back to my prior life. I would hate to be paying off a cell phone contract after all my art-supplies are sold.

Your thoughts on this dilemma would be very appreciated.

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It certainly wouldn't be unheard of to be a "cash only" business. If you are only selling prints, say less than $75?... many people carry around that amount of cash. Parking and alcohol are often 'cash-only'. It will certainly hinder you as most prefer to use their cards, but like you said, if your work doesn't sell (enough) or find this new venture isn't the right fit for you. Based on what you've described, I'd wait at least one show and get a feel for the response and then make a decision afterward.

Another lower risk option is to purchase a used smart phone and sign up for service on a month-to-month basis. Just make sure you purchase a phone that is compatible with the service you want to sign up with. A used smart phone will be a couple hundred bucks. Good luck!

I suggest taking cash and checks for your first show, and finding out where the closest ATM is located. I remember doing about 3 shows some years ago , before square without taking cards, and people will go to the ATM if it's close.

Also you may suggest to someone, depending on the sale, and perhaps if it is a local show, that they can send you a check when they get home.

I have done that a few times when it was totally legit as to why the customer didn't have the money, and the checks were in the mail right away.

Thanks to both of make a good point that I didn't consider, ie, don't take CCs at this early stage. Yes, Loc, my largest size prints will be some where south of $50.

Since I almost always pay by CC if the cost is over $10, I just figured most folks don't carry much cash on them.

Other thing that might influence your advice is that both of the upcoming events are not  typical Art Fairs. Both are run by a local city, one being a Classic Car show (I paint semi-abstract Classic Cars & dogs exclusively) & the other is a Birthday Bash for the city with bands, food etc. I think I'll be be the only artist at both of these. People will be attending without really intending to buy things, & they may not have much cash or checks with them. That fact makes having the capability to accept CCs somewhat important...I think.

Looking into a used phone or iPad device is also something I should consider, but that brings me back to having to sign up for cell service....sigh....

I had to look up an idea for you since I thought it was obsolete but another option is a manual imprinter. For $25 on amazon, you can buy a old fashioned swiper but you will still need to find a credit card processing company to sign up with. Not sure if there will be a monthly fee but it's worth looking into to. Most of us used this as a backup option 10+ years ago.

Agreed that you don't have to shell out big bucks on a new phone - I have an Iphone 6 in perfect condition that I'm currently selling for $200.  I upgraded recently.  There are plenty of smart phones that are used in perfect condition that people just don't need.  You can find them on Craigslist, Letgo and other sites.

I'd also like to throw out a question to the group related to Steve's question.  How much actual CASH should we bring per show?  Our art ranges from a low of $50 to $5,000, but I wasn't really thinking we'd need cash for change in that range?  Would really appreciate knowing how much we should have and in what denominations - this is our first year (inaugural event was AENY '18) and we have a show every weekend from the end of May through Sept.    Thanks for the advice!

You can buy a used clean smart phone. Or check out some of the "time based" phones where you pay for the minutes you use. Almost all new phones are smart now. I was one of the first people who accepted credit cards at my booth. I paid 350 for a frankenstein phone/cc machine. My sales THE FIRST SHOW went up by two thirds. Paid for the phone. Rethink not getting a smart phone my friend. And welcome to this century! :-)

As a side note, my first bank offered that "we can freeze you account when you are not using it thing." Unfreezing was supposed to take 3 days. It took 3 weeks and I missed the using account on a show. 

All of this was in the stone age! About 2006 (?)

Whatever you do, stay away from Elavon. I used them years ago and they were nothing but a nightmare.

Well, it seems I have to go the Cellular route one way or another if I want to take CCs.

Luc, thanks for the suggestion, but since it doesn't work w/ chips or the none-embossed cards, I better pass.

Because me eyes ain't as sharp as when I was a Legend In My Own Mind, I should go the ipad/tablet route as I'll have difficulty reading a phone. Checking Amazon, I see ipads 2 are selling in the low $100s.

Can anyone recommend a cell phone provider that charges month to month? I won't be using the phone (I assume the ipad has one built-in ???) for anything except payment processing.

Per Robin, >>Rethink not getting a smart phone my friend. And welcome to this century! :-)

No way....the world must acclimate itself to me, not the other way around!

My Ex-wife used to call me The Uni-bomber because of my er...obstinate can see why she had to go. :-)))

Weldon, when I told the Elavon salesman I might be interested in them only if there was a decrease in the $800, he indicated he would check & get back to me. That was a few days ago.... they ain't on my list any longer.

I'm with you Steve~I tossed my smart phone-don't want it-don't need it! Steve & I just have  cheap pay as you go phones-NO CONTRACT!  As far as taking credit cards, we use Square, an Apple iPad, chip-reader (one-time purchase), a Hot-Spot (portable Wi-Fi-one time purchase for about $50.00 on sale)) We also use Verizon pre-paid because of their great coverage, & we don't have a contract. Also just to give you an idea, pre-paid data at Verizon is about $30.00 a month for 2 gigs. Just make sure that your tablet is compatible with Square-not all are, but many Apple products are.  Also, if you only do shows 8 or 9 months out of the year, this is great because you only pay as you go! Good Luck to you! Kathleen & Steven

Steve Mill, I share your opinion about cell phones and I just got my first one this year. I took my wife's old one when she upgraded.  I only got it because at my age, 74, I felt I should have it for emergencies when traveling alone.  Only family has the number.  I have used an Ipad at art shows for several years. I'm not in it for kicks as I like to make money and invest it to make more - going down the road of having lost two fortunes (tech bubble in 80's(?) and wife's post cancer health insurance) and building the third LOL.  I find that shows can go either way where sales are predominantly credit card or predominantly cash in Colorado resort areas. Foreign visitors tend to pay cash, tourists both, locals use cards or a few checks. My prices range from $3-$10K.  There are the monthly bank fees to pay when there are no shows in the winter and few studio card sales.  It is simple a cost of doing business. I upgraded my Ipad this year. It was listed online for $360 but I called Verizon and got it for $218.

I want to endorse the iPad + Verizon combo. I also use the iPad to run slide shows of my wider range and esp. stuff too big to take to shows; then I just grab it to do a sale. I thought I would be stopping and starting the Verizon data service, but it's so handy that I keep it on all the time (and I take it as a business expense for sure).

But I do want to dissent about Square. Everybody loves Square, but me! Square gobbles up your customers' info and doesnt share it with you. And good luck finding anyone to reply if you need help with anything. I still have a Square accoount but never use it except when I have to run a chip card for a large amount (less often than I'd like) because I've been too cheap so far to buy a chip reader for PAY ANYWHERE, which is what I use all the time. Same cost, you see customers' names and emails if they enter it, and you can PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL A HUMAN BEING. They're very professional. I know, they're owned by some big bank we all hate, but it works very well.

Some other folks here have mentioned pay-as-you-go plans which could be a good option for you. Another option - which will reduce your monthly costs but carries some fraud risk - is to buy the cheap/used tablet or phone and use Square in its offline processing mode, *without* purchasing a mobile data plan. Then when you go home/back to hotel/etc. connect the tablet to wifi and let the transactions process.  

The risks of course include that if the customer canceled the card, or reported it stolen, or the card expired between the time you accepted it and the time you connected to process transactions, or if they used a canceled or invalid card in the first place, then you are out both product and profit. Of course the same would be true with one of the old style knucklebusters.  You also need to make sure you connect & process within 3 days or the transactions will expire, and you can't delete and reinstall the app while transactions are still pending or you'll lose them. More info here:


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