Spring craft market season is upon us and, as I come to the close of another show application process, (applications for our 9th annual spring market close Feb 28th!) I thought I'd put together a little something on my thoughts regarding what I look for, how to actually stand out and...you know...maybe get in!
I've been hosting markets since 2010, and the part of my job where I have to choose between makers is never easy.
All too often I see perfectly great products (and people) either poorly represented or not given a fair shake at being selected simply due to a bad submission.
So here it is straight from the organizer's mouth...
HOW TO APPLY TO A CRAFT SHOW
Do your Research
When considering a show, it's always a good idea check it out in advance to ensure your product is A) a good fit and B) in line with the show's aesthetic and audience.
Check out past event photos on social media, find the event website and do some digging.
Best of all, visit the show in person as a shopper. Find and talk to makers who have participated in the event in the past and join any Facebook groups the show might have.
For example, we have a "Cheerfully Made Maker Chat" Group where past and future makers can connect and learn from one another. We also always create a dedicated Facebook Event for each show so troll that thing.
That's what the internet is for.
A simple search on Facebook can sometimes turn up all the help you need.
Make Sure You're a Good Fit
Not all shows are created equally. Making sure your product is a good fit for the event is really important to both your success getting accepted and your success once you're in.
If you make a high end product that might be considered more "fine art" than "craft" you might not want to waste your time in a craft show that caters to the DIY crowd.
Alternatively, if you tie dye vintage tees for $40, you may not want to apply to a show where you'll be in the company of fine artists and their $3000 oil paintings.
Also keep in mind that markets are seasonal, so it's important that if you're applying to them year round, your product isn't!
Maybe you're a knitter for example.
Do you just make wooly winter scarves year round, or do you have a lighter weight product for spring that might be a good fit? And if not, stick to winter shows and spare yourself the discouragement of being passed over.
Submit a Complete (typo FREE) Application
Please read the application in full.
I know it's not the MOST fun part of being in shows, but I spent a lot of time crafting that sucker, so please, for all of our sakes, just read the thing.
Make sure any questions you might have haven't already been answered (or can't be easily Google'd) before contacting the organizer for more information.
Also, don't rush it.
Proof read your application before hitting send.
I can't tell you the number of times I've received an email address with a typo and then had vendors wondering why I hadn't contacted them. (Dude! I couldn't!)
If we ask for a weblink give us a direct link. Don't just give me an @whatever. I need the full www.whatever.com/whatever.
The more I have to dig around and problem solve, the more likely I am to just move on to the next applicant.
Pay attention to details like image request sizes and extensions. If you don't know how to send me a good looking .jpeg then I'm probably just going to go ahead and assume that your social media feeds aren't too hot and you will likely present me with future technological issues.
Have GREAT Pictures of your Work
Be prepared to submit good quality, attractive photos with your application. I count on using these images for promoting the event and YOU, so the easier you make that for me the better.
If you REALLY want to stand out, show me images that fit well within my own brand.
Call Me Sugar Unicorn Bath Bombs
Maybe they have a pop of colour because you noticed the images in my feed always have bright shades in them. Also, if you make something similar to a million other people out there, show me what makes yours different.
There are generally two types of images I look for. A beautifully (yet simply) style "lifestyle image" of your product being used, or worn, or in some sort of natural habitat and/or a beauty shot of your item on a clean white background.
WHITE. Not beige or yellow or full of shadows. Something you could find in a lookbook or in a magazine that a graphic designer could easily plop on a page.
When we do our Etsy events, EtsyHQ often asks me to round up images they can use for promotion. These are the kind of photos they're looking for.
When you have one chance to make an impression, pictures are EVERYTHING. INSIDER TIP: My friend Amy Eaton offers some fantastic, easy to follow courses specifically for makers. Learn more about her HERE.
Pick a Lane
Your product line needs to be cohesive so pick a specialty and stick with it. If you sell soap and also jewelry, it makes me think you don't quite know who you are yet as a maker.
Our shows work to help makers turn their craft into real life money making businesses, and you simply can't be good at everything.
Show focus in your product line to better your chances of acceptance.
Sous Sous at our Spring 2018 Show
Know How to Talk About Yourself
It's important that in your application you include a great, concise description of you work. And not something just copy and pasted from your website either. I don't need your "mission" or your life history so don't lay that stuff on too thick.
I want to know the what, how and why of your work. Just the compelling basics please. Get your message across and get outta there.
Apply on Time
Maybe this one should have been closer to the top, but it feels kinda obvious.
It might sound harsh, but special treatment is just too much to ask for when you're applying a larger show. We deal with so many applications and we sort them all digitally, so late applications are a big ole pain and often a deal breaker.
Being late to apply, or asking us to extend a deadline only lets us know that you aren't the most organized person in the world and we might be setting ourselves up for more trouble if we make concessions for you this early in our relationship.
Be a Good Member of the Maker Community
Don't be too needy or whiny or precious.
We're all in the same boat and everyone is equally entitled to be accepted. Be prepared to wait until the application process is over to hear from the organizers and don't ask for early acceptance unless it's life and death.
We're busy and we already feel the pressure having to sort through applications knowing some people aren't going to be happy.
Also, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
If you were a jerk, were difficult to work with, high stress, grumpy to your neighbours, showed up late or tore down early at the last show...there's a very good chance the organizer won't remember you fondly.
Like a one hundred percent chance.
Don't be Discouraged
If you don't get in this time, don't let it get you down (and definitely don't be mean about it).
Our shows get an average of 3x the applications we can actually accept so a big part of the reason not everyone gets in is straight up numbers.
Our jury's choices are often based on how many makers we can accept in each category and honestly every year is different.
When I first started organizing shows in 2010, everybody was making jewelry.
Then it was baby harem pants, and now it's basically anything that involves essential oils.
We can't have a show full of the same stuff. That's all that is.
Now, if you've been down this road a few times and you still haven't got in, it's probably time ask for feedback!
Use tools like our Facebook community, or talk to fellow makers about what you might do differently.
It truly may not even be your work that's missing the mark, but rather your application.
So keep applying!
Aaaaand if you do decide to attend the show as a shopper, come say hi and tell me you're going to do just that! I'll probably remember you come next show time!