So just because it is January you think you can take a deep breath and chill on the couch eating cookies and reading a book? NOOOOOoooooOOOO! If you are trying to make your hobby into a business, you have to get busy applying for shows.. yup… in fact I had an application due Jan 13th for a show in July!
Last year my hobby started to look like a real business. As my husband and I discussed it, I realized I had better start planning. The last few years I’d use my Google Calendar app and kind of willy nilly fill it in as I found shows and applied and was rejected or accepted. I had a few that I’ve consistently done and a few new ones but really had no rhyme or reason as to how or when I applied.
This year I knew had to be different because I already had my first show of 2015 booked before the end of 2014. It is February 28-29 thru March 4-8th. I am in a retail market at our local home and garden show. Last year I did the last weekend and I decided to just go for it and do the whole show this year. I started to make payments on my booth 6 months ago. I have to say it is nice to be able to make several payments vs coughing up a large fee all at one time. The same promoter also does a Holiday Market and already sent a notice out for us to let them know if we would return in 2015. I also already have a notice to pay fees for a show I will do again in September.
Create a calendar to track shows applied to, been accepted to, payments due etc
So I needed a plan… and I decided to use an old school paper desk calendar and red and green markers… ok I also scribbled some notes on days and have added stuff in other colors. I needed a way to see what I wanted to apply for, when the application and jury fees were due and when the shows dates were. Here is the first 3 months on my calendar of ART SHOW DOMINATION.
I have already added more information to these first 3 months and you don’t want to see what the rest of the year looks like. Once you start doing juried shows you have to start planning way ahead of time.
I do get some invitations to return to shows I’ve done in past years. This doesn’t mean I will automatically get in again, it just means I am on the mailing list. I also have some new events I’ve never tried to get into and one that I tried to do before I was ready for that level of show. Unfortunately there are also a few shows that I won’t be returning to this year.
Keep track of your sales to consider whether or not to apply in the future
So how do I figure out which shows to apply for, which shows to return to and which shows get dropped. Well, number one is usually sales. Did I make money. Next up is how far are they from home. If I have done the show in the past I also consider how easy was it to set up and break down, how many people attended and generally how did I feel about the show. Did I have FUN?! Yes, even though it is work you should have fun too.
Ask other vendors/artists which shows they recommend to apply for
To find new shows I rely on word of mouth, you find out about good shows from other artists at shows. I also use Zapplication. Zapp is an online site that many of the shows use to accept applications. You can search for shows in your area, by what time of year they are and by when the applications are due. I tend to mark shows I am interested in as my favorites so I can just view those, but I also will look at shows in my region. I also use the Art Show Reviews feature on Art Fair Insiders. I know I’ve talked about this site before, but it has been a great resource as I have worked my way up from church craft shows. Many times I can search on AFI and find blog posts from artists that have done shows that I am interested in. There are also some groups on Facebook for art show reviews. I just joined Juried Art Services which is another site for applying to various shows.
This year I am also considering joining one or more Art Guilds. You have to jury in, but there are some reciprocal shows that if you are in one you can get into their shows. I joined Ohio Designer Craftsmen this year, as part of my acceptance into both Winterfair – Cincinnati and Columbus.
Be sure to attend shows that you might want to apply to next year
Many of the shows I want to do I attended many times in the past as a customer. I would advise new artists starting out to go to as many shows as you can and walk the show. See what kind of vendors they have, are the crowds big and carrying packages, most artists will tell you in general terms if they feel they are at a good show. You can also look at other artists who make what you make and see what kind of price point they are at. Does your work look like it is at the same level of the other artists? Do you have the ability to make enough inventory? Do you have a booth and display set up?
Photos are key to getting in juried shows.. get a professional or perfect your skills
You will need to have photos of your work and booth to submit with your applications. You can check out Larry Bermans blog posts about what kind of photos you will need and how to take them. You can also pay him to take your photos or fix the ones you have already. I have learned so much just from reading his website.
I don’t even want to tell you how not fun it is to set up your booth in the middle of winter and take photos for applications. I redid my entire set up at the end of 2014 for the sole purpose of going up in show levels. So I also needed to take pictures before the weather turned. It has been interesting. I am probably more worried about my booth shot than anything else. These are my two options and I honestly don’t know which one I will use. I may switch back and forth and see which one gets me into the most shows. But I really prefer the one on the right.
I also have to make inventory and make sure I have enough cards and bags. I already have some nice banners. You just can’t have identifying information in your jury photos.
So yup.. I have jumped back on the hamster wheel of photos and applications and show set up and break down. Somewhere in there I also have to fit in my family and my “real” job. But I have my master plan well underway!
The longer I do shows, the more I change my booth displays and set up. It is a never ending evolution. When you first start you grab a few folding tables, a couple of table cloths and you go set up at a show. This was my very first show…
It was an indoor event called Revenge of the Recessionistas. They provided me with the table. I had been selling stuff to friends and customers at the hair salon where I worked so this was the next step on my quest for world domination via jewelry! I used stuff I already had and somehow even then knew to go up and varied levels and boy I packed a ton on that one table.
I then added some tables to my next few shows and my display evolved over the last few years….
My most recent set up style
I get a lot of compliments on my booth design and layout, but I am really tired of the table covers and risers. The covers are always wrinkled no matter how carefully I iron and pack them and to really go to the floor I’d need to add a border. The other problem is that as I go up in the show system they get more and more particular about those tables. Some insist on pedestals, glass cases etc. I honestly could not see how to afford paying $200 per pedestal for Pro Panels.
Yes they look nice… but seriously… I am a starving artist.
Well I am about to show you how to turn two plastic 5 shelf units into 5 pedestals. You can go from this………
to fabulous for under $200. This set is from Walmart but I got mine at my local grocery store. They vary in width, I went with an 18 inch set. Then the fun begins!
photo by Debe VanderHeide
This is the naked shelf broken into a pedestal size unit. Debe was lucky and scored her shelves from a Craigslist ad. I am taking the bottom shelf off of each of the 2 units I purchased and adding pvc legs so I can make an extra 2 shelf pedestal from them.
photo by Debe VanderHeide
Here is the finished result set up at the first show she used them at. Pretty impressive if you ask me! She got a friend to sew the covers for her and added painted boards to the tops.
Some hints and tips… you will need at least 8 ft of fabric to go around each unit of shelves. I know mine stand about 37 inches tall and I needed 4 yards of 60 inch wide fabric (and I still had a gap in the back) to cover 2 pedestals. Velcro is your friend. I added velcro to the sides of the tables and the covers. I purchased desk tops at IKEA, the Linnmon is the perfect size. Other artists used boards they cut to fit. I am also adding some nobs on the bottom of my shelves so if someone leans on them they won’t move around. Kharisma added elastic to the back of hers to keep them tight. And yes, she used the super professional staples to hold it on. LOL! You also get the shelves to keep your stuff off the ground.
photo by Kharisma Ryantori Sommers
Here are a variety of booths and set ups using these simple yet effective shelf units.
Photo by Betsy Baker
Photo by Robin Ragsdale
Photo by Kharisma Ryantori Sommers
Photo by Ashley Lozano
As you can see you get a variety of set up options and whatever style you want you can create by using your favorite fabrics. I also like that at any time I can change the covers and change the look of my set up.
I have to thank Robin Ragsdale of Adorned by Robin if not for her, I wouldn’t have known how to make these. I asked her where did she first hear about it and she told me she started to make these about 7 years ago working a trade show. I therefore crown her Queen of the Shelf/Podiums. She also posted this great little video of setting up a booth. Shelf Booth in Action
Thanks also go out to Kharisma Sommers of Popnicute, Ashley Lozano , and Debe VanderHeide of Deb V Designs… without their input, sharing and encouragement I would have no idea how to do these shelves. So, looking to change your look, step up your booth, climb the ladder of shows? Maybe instead of a ladder you should use shelves!
Here is a sneak peek at my new shelves. The first one is the original box, the second shows the painted tops and the last one is the table covers I made.
And another good thing…. you can store all the displays and art show stuff on the shelves when you aren’t using them!
My husband just asked me… when is off season again?
I used my shelves for the first time this weekend at an indoor show.. I only had a 5 x 8 space and this is what they looked like….
This year I got to the point in my jewelry making (or is that selling) career that I started looking at bigger shows. I’ve done well locally and was encouraged by several of my mentors to spread my wings. It is kind of scary, like jumping into the deep end of the big kids pool. I’ve learned a lot via the Creative Bead Chat group on Facebook and a few other groups, but I needed to find a place where there were a lot of experts who could hold my hand through the process.
I saw an article from Larry Berman and as I clicked the link it took me to Art Fair Insiders. If you haven’t heard of him, he is THE GUY when it comes to photographing your jury photos. I don’t have the funds to pay him to do mine, but he kindly shares his experience on both Art Fair Insiders and his own blog. My pictures were definitely holding me back so I took all the information he freely shared and started to change how I took and edited my photos.
I then decided to wander around Art Fair Insiders to see what other information I could get. I joined, not so much because I needed another group to keep track of, but because you can only see so much as a visitor. So much information… freely shared to help me climb up to the next level of shows. One of my favorite things to do is go look for a review of any show I am looking at applying to. They allow all members to write reviews that include number of visitors and sales. You also get to write how you feel about a show and if you would go back. I always check to see when the review was written as sometimes a show changes over the years and an old review may not relate to the show today. I also check out the discussion area to see if anyone wrote about a show recently.
I’ve changed my tent, my table layout, my displays and my photos… all due to information gleaned from the other artists. I am pretty proud of how my jury photos come out now. Yes it is work but that work pays off. Jewelry always receives the most applications and anything I can do to stand out I am willing to try. This year I got into all but one show I applied to, and I got into two shows that are rated in the top ten by Sunshine Artists, Winterfair Cincinnati and Columbus. I really believe that all the information I got from Art Fair Insiders helped me to reach goals I never thought I would.!
My new booth setup
Art Fair Insiders is Creative Bead Chat on steroids. A great group full of experienced artists willing to share. You can learn from people who do art shows for a living and figure out what you need to do to up your game, you can learn about what type of set up you need for some of the big shows (who knew I’d have to fire proof everything and there is a spray for that), the really brave post pictures of their booth for review.
How do you find out about shows? Please share!
Wearing my fancy boots.. I am all set up to sell sell sell
So many different card readers.. how do you pick? I plan to compare Square Up, Paypal Here and Amazon Local Register. Many of us use the Square Card Reader. I’ve been at shows and watched vendors all around me pulling out the little square and swiping cards. Every so often I’ll see others, but right now Square has “cornered” the market (ha ha). A few vendors still use the more traditional card processing machines, I was at a gem/bead show this year and anyone using them couldn’t get a signal. These are usually attached to a traditional Merchant Account through a brick and mortar bank. I use to set up merchant accounts and there are any number of positives and negatives to this type of processing. In most cases there are any number of monthly fees even if you don’t use the reader that month.When I got my first card processing account I used a company called Pro Pay. I did the old fashioned knuckle buster and entered it all when I got home. If it was a big sale I could use my cell phone and follow the prompts to get an authorization. They offered a mobile version but it was pricey and when I only did a few shows it wasn’t worth it to me. If you want to go the more traditional route, don’t just look at your bank, check out other card processors and compare rates and fees. At my hair salon we use Omega Card Processing… but we don’t take American Express.
AMAZON LOCAL REGISTER
Amazon Local Register
A new and bigger dog just entered the mobile card processing arena. This week Amazon released its own version of a card reader. There are a lot of reviews but I doubt anyone has had a real chance to use it. Mine is on order and I’ll use in in Sept at my next show. I am going to address some of the reviews and issues that are out there as of today (Aug 17, 2014). The reader costs $10 and later in August will be available at Staples… just like many of the others. Amazon says it will offset the cost by waiving the first $10 of your processing fees. They are enticing us with a 1.75% per swipe fee until Jan 2016 and then it goes up to 2.5%.
They do NOT support all phones… from their page: Phones
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5c
- iPhone 4s
- iPhone 4
- Samsung Galaxy S3
- Samsung Galaxy S4
- Samsung Galaxy S5
- Fire HD and HDX
- iPad Mini
I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.. it installed easily and if I wanted I could manually process cards while I wait for the reader to get delivered. I suggest going to the app store – either google play or iTunes and download the app to the device you plan to use. It will let you know right away if it is compatible or not. Reviewers have complained that they purchased the readers and the app wouldn’t work for their device, but as I read on many were “rooted” . Yea, I know we are artists… to us a root is something a plant gets or what happens to my hair when I don’t color it soon enough. For the few techie/geeks out there you know what it is and for the rest of us, don’t worry, it isn’t something you do by accident. Another big complaint is that at this time you can’t just add it on to your current Amazon account. I know I had an Amazon Payment Account on mine for one of my online stores, but in order to use it you have to change it to a business account and you need to talk to customer service to get this done. I imagine the phone lines are burning up with people wanting to do this. The easier route for me was to open an Amazon account with a different email address and set it up as my “business” account. From there I followed the online prompts and opened an Amazon Payment account. I did this via the app on my phone. YES you DO have to give them your SSN or EIN. Seriously to the negative reviews on Amazon.. every card processor is required by Federal Law to have this information and to send a 1099K form to you if you process more than $20,000. I allowed them to immediately verify my bank account… and was signed up in about 10 min.
BANKING: You do have options for receiving your deposits.. you can set up an auto deposit daily/weekly/monthly or you can choose to do it manually. The money in the account can also be used to buy stuff from Amazon. I would imagine it is the same as most where money will go to your account the next business day when it comes to a weekend. I will return with an update once I have processed cards at a show. I currently have it set to deposit daily. A few other complaints came as people anxious to see how it worked manually processed a card number and then were told there was a hold on the amount… duh… in this day and age of card hacking, if the card isn’t swiped there is a higher likelihood of fraud.
REPORTS: They have reports of all kinds…from what is selling and what time of day you are the busiest. You can sign in via your Amazon Payment account on your computer or just use your phone to view the reports. I have my phone set up to send stuff to my printer in my house so I can print a report if I need it. The ability to talk to a live person if you have a problem makes it a plus in my mind. I always have worried about what happens if I need to call up Square.
OTHER COOL OPTIONS: The app offers a catalog so you can take pics and list product names/prices and at checkout you can just tap them to add them to a sale. I have been looking for a way to do this to track inventory better, so I will have to try it out along the way. I wish they offered more than one sales tax to be saved… at this time you have to change it and if you are like me you sell in more than one state at shows. They only offer email receipts at this time… or you can get a compatible printer and do a printed receipt. I’ll post an update mid September as to how this works at a show.
Many of us have had PayPal accounts for years. I decided to get a card reader as another payment option. The swiped rate is 2.7% with no other transaction fee. Every so often I get someone who wants to pay by check! Paypal is the only mobile card processor that offers a check processing for NO FEE. You take a picture of the front and back of the check and it is deposited! Now so far I’ve never been burned at a show, but if it was a big check I’d be worried… so this makes PayPal look like a good option in that case. They also have customer service .. real people to talk to. When my debit card was hacked a few years ago they caught it and called me. None of my money was lost. People can also pay you with PayPal. If they have the PayPal app on their phones they can “check in” to your store and pay you via the app. I would be curious to see that happen.. I know Square offered a similar application, but I’ve never had anyone want to pay me with it. To get the Paypal card reader they do a background check … and in a day or so they sent me the reader free of charge. I could have gone to Staples and purchased one, but I wasn’t in any hurry. There is some buzz out there about the readers not working on various phones due to how they fit in the headphone jack. I plugged mine in and it was instantly recognized.
You can use iOS (iPhone 3GS and later) and iPad devices running iOS version 5.0 and later, as well as Android smartphones.
An Android device running PayPal Here must include the following specs:
• Android version 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) or later • 3.5 mm headset jack with microphone • Support for Location Services • Internet access (via WiFi or cellular data network) • At this time, PayPal Here is not supported on Android tablets.
I use PayPal most often when someone sees my work online and wants to purchase something. I can send an invoice and get paid. The app allows for an inventory list so you can tap and add it to a sale. Like with the Amazon app I will have to set the tax rate for the state I am in and it doesn’t offer an option for me to store several different states like Square. It does offer the option of mobile, email or no receipt.
By now most of us are familiar with this little white square.. It revolutionized how a small vendor/artist did business. More that 50% of my sales at a show are via credit/debit cards. I’ve never had an issue with Square. My funds are deposited the next business day. I get emails confirming each sale as well as telling me how much is in my Square Account (the sales less the fees) They recently started sending me a sales report at the end of each day. And when it comes time to file my sales taxes I can easily get a report for each show I’ve done. Since I sell at shows in more than one state it makes it easy to break down how much I need to send to each state.
The issues I’ve had are that the readers often require multiple swipes to get it to read.. when it works it is flawless.. but when you are swiping like a crazy woman, customers get a bit worried. They just sent an email that you can swipe if you are offline and process later. The problem you have is if the card is bad.. and the customer has the merchandise what then? But if you are in a black hole and want to take the chance it is available. The swipe fee is 2.75%. You can pick up a reader at any number of merchants and they will credit you for the purchase. Not sure about now, but when I got my 3rd reader because the first two were not working correctly I had to email them and request the refund of the cost of the new reader. They did it quickly once I contacted them.
A huge downside is the lack of a live person to speak to in case something goes wrong. On the upside, many of my customers have previously used Square so I don’t have to enter their info to send a receipt to them. They are very comfortable with the whole process. Square also continues to add helpful services.. like the library that allows me to have item pictures, names and prices so I can tap and add them to a sale. The also have an online marketplace that I can put a link to on my website so people can purchase these items. You add info for shipping etc. I have a few items in the shop but haven’t fully used it yet. They had an app called Square Wallet and if a customer has it, you can accept payments that way, but it appears to be something that wasn’t successful and they are not allowing new users of the app. The ability for me to have multiple tax settings is great.. I just tap it to turn it on for the state I am in. It is really my “go to” processing application at this time.
So now some stuff that applies to all three. All three companies have a solid app and reader. Each has its own pluses and minuses. For ANY of these you do have to supply your SSN or EIN. Federal law requires them to report your credit card sales on a 1099K once they reach $20,000. All of them allow you to record your cash/check sales (but these are not included in the totals on the 1099K) The 1099k will not reflect the fees you are charged so don’t forget to deduct them when doing your taxes. All charge a higher rate for keyed in card transactions.. this is due to the high fraud rate when cards aren’t present. All offer the ability to have printed receipts via a compatible receipt printer, but in my experience if someone wants a “real” receipt I can hand write one quickly without the added expense of the printer. I reviewed these three because they are all free of monthly account fees and are very recognizable names to the customer. If you Google mobile credit card readers/processing you will get a lot of options, jut ist remember to read all the fine print. As a micro-business I don’t have funds to pay for monthly statement fees and account fees if I am not using the services.
The last thing I’ll address is the coming of the “chip” card. Already used in Europe/Asia they are supposed to be help reduce fraud and it will require a different card reader. These are already in use in countries where this type of card is standard. I know I just got my first card with one but it still has the magnetic stripe as well. Square has already announced it will come out with one in the future, and when that day comes.. I guess I’ll write a new review.