Bravery or Self-sabotage?(Ten Top Tips for artists doing their first festival stall)
Last weekend was my first experience of face to face selling. Before now I have only been advertising on social media and relying on word of mouth. When I saw the opportunity to have a stall at the Riverside Festival in Leicester, I figured there wasn’t much to lose...
Standing there for the first hour as people passéd by without so much as a hello or a glance at my artworks, I realised there probably WAS a lot to lose - most importantly money and self-respect!
I had paid out hard-earned cash for my little stretch of railing, for good quality prints and cards, for a card reader, for printer ink to print out signs and marketing information etc and it suddenly dawned on me that I might not actually make a penny.
I stood there on the street with my artworks pegged up on a wire thinking it might actually be less humiliating to stand there with my underwear pegged up to dry. I realised that people who knew me were going to be passing and wondered what on earth they would think of me. Who did I think I was? Who did I really think would want to look closely at my work or even buy some of it having done so??
Thankfully, these thoughts and feelings were short-lived and as the festival got going, it quickly became apparent that there really were people out there who appreciated my work and yes, plenty who wanted to buy some too. Panic over!
It ended up being a really positive experience. It was lovely chatting to budding artists and potential buyers about my techniques and inspiration. I made enough sales to have made the experience financially successful but most importantly was able to hold my head a little higher as someone who could officially declare myself a local artist, getting myself out there . It felt good to step out from behind social media and deal with people in the flesh.
It was certainly a learning experience and I thought Id put together a list of tips for other first time art stall holders and to remind myself of these things next time I have a stall.
So here you go, my ten top tips.
Invest in a card reader. Very few people carry cash these days and it’s so easy and convenient. I bought a SumUp reader on the recommendation of a friend @Beakybe and I noticed a number of other stall holders had the same one. There is a small charge for transactions but definitely worthwhile.
Remember leads and power banks to charge the reader and your phone so that you can use your reader successfully.
Take lots of photos of the event and share on social media. I got a couple of additional sales to people who were unable to attend this way.
Make your stall eye-catching. I relied on my artwork to draw attention and seemed to get away with it but other people had big bright cuddly toys, interesting sculptures, fairy lights or bunting to give a festival vibe and draw people over.
Make sure you’ve got big signs with your prices. People can feel awkward asking and you may miss a sale. They also know you are being consistent with your selling price this way too. I had a special offer for the festival but anyone who had bought from me online would see that the original price I was claiming was consistent with what they’d paid. Include a big “Card payments accepted” sign too.
It may be worth investing in a trolley of some sort. My husband helped me carry things from the car but I could have managed alone if I’d had some wheels to help me. You can get festival trollies from as little as £10. I think I’ll invest in one for next time.
Take snacks and drinks. Once you’re set up, you can’t leave your stall unless you’ve got a willing helper. For this reason, it’s also worth arranging for at least one friend to pop over to give you a loo break at some point, although the stall holders seemed to help each other out with this issue too.
Practise your assertiveness ready to deal with people who cotton on to the fact you are ‘trapped’. I had a few lonely souls get very comfortable chatting away to me about their lives but found this was off-putting to potential customers. I had to learn to say “Anyway, lovely chatting to you but I’d better get back to selling” after chatting for a few minutes. Say it like you mean it or you’ll spend the day providing free counselling to passers by!
Be yourself, be approachable and be enthusiastic about your own work. People who buy art are investing in the person as well as the artwork - they want to feel confident that you mean business and will be producing more artworks in the future and building your profile as an artist.
Have fun and try to arrange an opportunity to free yourself up for a walk around the festival yourself so you can chat to customers about other things that are going on and build a relationship with festival organisers and fellow stall holders.
If you're reading this and have experience of selling or buying art at events like these yourself, please get in touch if you can add anything to the list. I’d love to hear from you!
Bye for now