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What's Considered A Good Amount In Dollars To Sell At A Day Art Show?

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What's considered a good and great amount in dollars to sell at a day art show for a pottery booth? I know there are a lot of factors to come into play like weather and location but putting it aside, ball park it. Or what amount would you be happy with? 

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This is a very individualized question, and everyone's answer will be (and should be) different. I caution new sellers not to compare themselves with other sellers, especially more experienced sellers. You can mislead yourself greatly by doing this! The only measurement that matters is "How am I doing compared to my own goals and expectations?" So put your energy into figuring out your own goals and expectations, rather than other potters' sales. 

 

It's ok to make comparisons in the context of "Someday I'd like to sell as well as him/her. How can I improve my work and business practices in order to get there?" But not in the context of "Something is wrong with me or this show, because so-and-so sells a lot more than me."

 

 

Anyhow, my answer to your question, specific just for me. 23 yrs making pots, 15 yrs selling pots, 7 yrs full-time:

 

Not worth going back unless there were limiting circumstances such as bad weather: $1500 or less

 

Good, but would still replace the show with a better 2 or 3 day show if available: $1500 - $2500

 

Great, would hold the date for next year: $2500 or better

 

The best I've ever done at a one-day show: $3700

Chris Campbell likes this

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This is an imposable answer as everyone's level is so different and the same is true with so many types of venues .Also booth size and show participation is key.What you will be happy with is also so different for so many.

Doing shows for decades and building a customer base is key.-When you start out smaller take home care just apart of the deal

after 40 years that do not cut it.

That said my one day show after doing that show for 44 years on the 4th of July-a double booth take home just under 4K

a typical local show or nearby  one (few hoist drive-2 day) is 4-9k

a traveling show a long way  away say 3 days can be 10-18k-it all depends if its double booth and you have been there 20-30 years every year?

And if you stay ion the same spot(location in show)

We all start out with a table  of wares and a few hundred dollars and feel good about it at some local small event.

I'm always happy with whatever I make.I have not done a new to me show in decades.

I'm on the west coast and have been at this full time since 1976.My customer base is huge.

What works for you will be only for you -and thats the way this works.

The factors are to diverse to have any meaning for all of us-its only what feels good to YOU.

GEP and Chris Campbell like this

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> We all start out with a table of wares and a few hundred dollars and feel good about it at some local small event.

 

So true. At first a few hundred dollars can be a terrific show.

 

Every show is a learning / building experience for the next one.

You learn how to sell and what pieces of your work sell.

You listen to what people are saying about your work ... what they want.

So at first it's not all about what you make, but more about "going to school".

 

I do not bring a ton of inventory with me anymore so I count on selling more than half of it ... 2/3 gone is great.

Dollar amount depends on the level of work I brought with me.

Roberta12 and GEP like this

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The size of the show is a big influence on income potential...you cannot expect the income from a show with 1000 visitors as one that had 20000 visitors.

 

I do a lot of small local one day shows, if i come away with a few hundred i am happy for the day. My expenses were low, no travel, no hotel, i meet my fellow local artists that i see every year and the show is usually on the waterfront, so a pleasant day spent on the waterfront with artist friends and i made some money too...gravy lol. but then if i do a larger event with a much larger entry fee, longer travel, strangers i haven't met, lots of rules(small shows tend to be looser on the rules), and more stress i have higher expectation. What that expectation is really all depends on many factors.

 

One show i do a is so loose on the rules that if you show up with a blanket and your work, you are all set. I actually did the blanket thing on a day that was expecting rain. I wanted a set up that would be fast to break down if bad weather came(this show also has a policy that if weather is bad, you pack it up). I threw a tarp on the ground and a blanket on top and set up a blanket full of stuff that came from one bin for easier pack up...sadly 2 hours later the rains came. i was gone with a 15 minute pack up but i made $90 in two hour on a rainy day from stuff on a blanket...i was incredibly amused.

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It depends on expenses, travel time, ease of load in/out, etc. Most one day shows I do are cheap and easy, so anything near $1000 is well worth the effort. I had one last year where I did $1800 at a 6 hour show. I did a 3 hour plant sale at the local organic farm 1 mile from my house this year and sold $400- that's a great way to spend the morning. The best I've ever done at a one day show is $3600, but I don't necessarily expect to do that ever again. If I can sell $100 per hour I'm generally pretty happy. 

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I currently only do 1 day local shows, it's not in the books for me to be able to travel any distance or be away from home overnight.

My situation is...

I've only been doing shows with pottery for about 4 years.

My most expensive show is $75 and most are around $50. 1 show cost me $0 to do as I was invited which was nice.

The rules are pretty good and I haven't encountered any "terror promoters".

The furthest show away is 30 miles one way and most are less than 20 miles with 4 of them being within walking distance of my home.

I never have to pay for parking, it's always provided.

Super easy setups and tear downs.

I use a pop up canopy or no canopy at all if the weather is good.

My set up breaks down into small pieces so I don't stress my body too much.

Most of the shows are in the 1000 spectator range.

Festivals usually run from 10 until 5, a couple start at 11 or end at 2, I only have one that runs past 6.

Amounts below are all approximate:

I average $500 a show, the most in 1 day was a little over $1100.

If I make less than $300, unless it's raining or something, I won't do it again.

Between $300 and $450 it's a let's give it another chance and see if I can build on it.

$500 and up it's a definite do again.

 

I am getting a nice schedule set and am hoping within a year or so I don't have to keep adding new venues. I'm looking to get up to 12 shows a year and this year I'm doing 10. I have my eye on 4 more shows to pick between for next year if the dates and such align in my empty spots. I also have back up shows marked on my calendar in case a show I am doing now disappears so I can simply slip another into that weekend. The shows I am looking at for next year I have gone to as a spectator or will go to this fall to check out the lay of the land. I am always talking to other artists, local, etc gathering information on festivals and such which I then research and if it looks like a possible I write it into my calendar to keep track of it.

 

As others have said you have to decide for yourself what makes a show worth doing and worth repeating, nobody can answer that for you. All my shows are easy, cheap, with little to no additional expenses so I can make less and still profit.

 

Good luck!

T

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Another way to look at this is the expense side-that just as important as the making money side.

Keep in mind I'm a professional and the scale is different than most. 

My cheapest show is my one day for a double booth (4th of July) its $250-it would be $140 for a single booth but I have not had a single there since the 90s

I drive 10 minutes-I left the house 6.30 am -drove  back to house at 6PM the show was over and I'm home in less than 12 hours-Thats a short day for my show world. My wife helped sell-I had 137 sales -average sale 29$

Thats my smallest cheapest show-it was my 2nd best 4th show in 44 years of them.

On the other end a 3 day show 1100 miles away- one way-7 day trip-thats a big show-700  art vendors

show fees for a double are $1,299, toss in 6 nights at hotels and paying a helper and eating out ( I have my own lunches always at shows).Lets round up to say $1,500 for that

thats $2800 in expenses and I have not sold a thing -I do share a room with another potter at some of the long distance shows which keeps cost down.I do not stay at dive motels so the cost is up on this part.

Now lets take into account the season this matters a lot in my business-say its spring at that show (I did this show twice a year for 25 years straight )the average spring is 10-13K  (spring and summer is less than xmas for me) for Xmas it can be 16-20 plus.Keep in mind the customer base is 25 years long at same venue.

Now lets talk about now-this market today.

It takes a long time to gain traction(make $)

IT TOOK ME WAY OVER A DECADE TO GET TO THE LEVEL OF A PROFESSIONAL in this field. The start was small(in the 70's) and the money was small-rewarding but small.I slowly worked up the ladder-in all things like display racks or quality venues. The fees went up but so did my sales .I had some starving years-learned to work smart.No short cuts on this. School of hard knocks makes you or breaks you-you decide. I got stronger and kept at it.

I learned to network with other professionals in my field-learned about what sold best for me and where and why.This takes decades really to get to this level-I know of no shortcuts-My whole existence on this forum is to help others from pitfalls that I have taken so you do not .

This all takes lots of time.

Thats still true today. No way to jump in and be a home run hitter right off-you need to play many a season for the dollars to be large. Just the way it is.

Edited by Mark C.
GEP, Pugaboo, Roberta12 and 2 others like this

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I think I had too high expectations for my last show, although it was expensive and a 3 day show. My best jewelry friend won't go back to a show unless she makes 5K for 2 days, at least 6K for 3 days. She works in silver, but her jewelry is expensive. So I figured that for 3 days, I should have made at least 3K for my time. Ha!!! Not even remotely close!! 

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I'm going to share some numbers because the "how much SHOULD I be making" question I think plagues a lot of people, myself included. If you're bummed about your sales on a given day, it can be a real head job to watch your friends who make jewelry or barn wood signs clear thousands of dollars on the same day you did $200.

(keep in mind, that jeweller spent a whole lot more money making her stock than you did.  She's out cash money, you're out time. Our materials are incredibly cheap by comparison.)

I'll start with a high-overhead show that I did at Christmas for the last 2 years. (I won't be going back to it this year.) 

2015: gross take, $2540. My net, I'd have to do a bunch of digging through receipts, but if it was similar to the following year, I would have kept about 1200 before taxes (which I didn't earn enough money in the year to have to pay.)

2016: gross take, $1279. Net, $200.  There were a large number of extenuating circumstances on this one, and I was not the only vendor who had markedly lower numbers over the previous year. These included an economy that was through the floor last year, with a 10% unemployment rate in the province. There were other organizational issues with this show that I found troublesome, and they seem to be persisting.  I won't be going back to this show, unless they get them sorted out. 

The high overhead show involved out of town travel (4 hour drive) for 3 nights, which I offset by staying with family instead of  in a hotel, and travelling back immediately after the show was done. I work alone, unless I can bribe a family member into spotting me off for an hour or so to go get food.

This show was expensive not just because of the booth fee ($1000 for a 10x10), but because it required a lighting setup that I didn't own previously and a more sophisticated look than my outdoor booth.  Both took a few tries to get right. It required a business license for a different city (it's the only city in my province that requires it)

By contrast, one of my lowest overhead shows is a farmer's market I do throughout the summer.  Booth fee is $48/day, they set up the table, I bring my tent, weights, stock and table dressings. One hour drive one way, 7:30 am setup and 2 pm tear down.  I allow myself to buy lunch occasionally, but generally I brown bag it because I can. Average expenses per day, including booth, lunch, square fees and gas are about $65.

2015: 5 days worked total over the summer, gross $775.  (Daily average $155)

2016: 9 days worked total, gross $2052 ( Daily average $228)

2017: 12 days worked total, gross $4480. (Daily average $373)

2017 also saw me with a lot of orders that came out of being at this market, some of which are included in the gross total because they were picked up at the market.  I give a rough estimate of $1000 worth of work, including a wholesale order for 30 mugs, that I got from putting in face time every Saturday morning, that isn't included in this total.

 

So sorry about the essay, but there really are a lot of factors that affect one's numbers, but if you track yourself against yourself, it's very satisfying to see when and where growth happens. My numbers are nowhere near what Mark's or Mea's are, but both of those two have been in business *a lot* longer than I have, even though I think Mea and I have made pottery for a similar amount of time. I'm putting mine out there as a business beginner, even though I'm kind of embarrassed by some of them, because I see a lot of other people having the same questions.  I spent a lot of time in the last 3 years being very frustrated with my numbers, until I really stopped looking at my friends' businesses, and tracked my own numbers against themselves.  No, it isn't happening as fast as I want it to, but it is happening .

 

D.M.Ernst, Chilly and Marcia Selsor like this

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How do you regular pros that do shows year round go about finding shows. Obviously you've been doing it for a while, but for someone who wants to start out, how would you suggest one goes about it the search?

I see these show-runners like Festival.net and Craftsmaster that charge an annual 'subscription' which sounds like a crock. Gives me carny shivers...

I haven't done a craft show since the late 70's, but I might try a couple if I can get some good input.

(located in SoCal folks)

On the amount sold question, by gosh I'd better make that overblown entry fee at least...

Edited by Rex Johnson

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On 9/22/2017 at 2:11 PM, Callie Beller Diesel said:

(keep in mind, that jeweller spent a whole lot more money making her stock than you did.  She's out cash money, you're out time. Our materials are incredibly cheap by comparison.)

...cheap maybe in materials, but in labor, especially the hauling the crates of ware and set up there's no comparison.

I use to set up next to a guy that had two folding suitcase displays on tripods who made silver and feathered earrings. He never had a drop of sweat on his brow and always walked away with with a pocket full of cash.

Pity the poor potter ;)

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At a recent show, I went out to dinner with some other artists. We were three potters and a jeweler. The jeweler showed up with her entire inventory in a backpack. The potters had a good laugh at the thought of walking around with our inventories on our backs. 

But anyhow, this is another disadvantage that jewelers face. They need to be super vigilant about theft. We can leave our inventory in our booths at night, and it's not a problem. 

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5 hours ago, Rex Johnson said:

How do you regular pros that do shows year round go about finding shows. Obviously you've been doing it for a while, but for someone who wants to start out, how would you suggest one goes about it the search?

I see these show-runners like Festival.net and Craftsmaster that charge an annual 'subscription' which sounds like a crock. Gives me carny shivers...

I haven't done a craft show since the late 70's, but I might try a couple if I can get some good input.

(located in SoCal folks)

On the amount sold question, by gosh I'd better make that overblown entry fee at least...

I've never paid for any of those services, and don't think it's necessary. The information is too broad to be useful. The only useful info comes from people whose quality of work, and business development level, are similar to yours. In other words, networking is important and we art fair artists do it a lot. Start small and local, talk to other artists along the way, over time you will find your niche. 

We had a recent thread about this, some good advice here:

 

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Just some additional thoughts about networking. You'll find that other artists are really generous and want to help each other. If you ask discreetly and respectfully, what do you think of this show? What other shows do you like? You'll get lots of good information. 

On the other hand, sometimes an artist asks me, what shows are you applying for next year? And I can tell their intentions are simply to copy my plans, that really rubs me the wrong way. They are looking for a shortcut to a successful show schedule, rather than doing the in-person research themselves. If they had more experience, they would know that shows that are good for me won't be necessarily be good for them, and they are going about it the wrong way. 

The difference in these two paragraphs is asking someone to recommend ONE show, indicating that you understand it won't necessarily work for you but you will check it out, and asking for another artist's ENTIRE show schedule. One is respectful and knowledgable, and the other is not. 

I have been burned by being too helpful at times. A potter asks me for a recommendation, I answer with a very profitable show that is also competitive jury-wise. Next thing I know, the other potter is out-jurying me. Sigh. I admit I am more careful about this now. I still want to be helpful, but not at my own expense. I prefer to talk to artists in other mediums, because there is no direct competition. 

clay lover likes this

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B) heh heh, can't trust anyone, especially 'artisans'...

 

I've sent a few e-mails to local potters represented in the L.A. area asking for input on some of the local 'boutique' shows here in Los Angeles. Not so sure I'll get any feedback.  They may be suspicious or think they have something to protect.

I don't care to waste my time and money on trendy self-promoting showcases for the Millennial and Gen Y crowd if there's no monetary payoff.

Terrible attitude I have, eh?

Edited by Rex Johnson

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It's a dog eat dog situation. That's why it's necessary to be respectful and aware of what you're asking, and what you're saying. And if you are, you will get lots of help!

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Recommending great show is double edged  as Mea pointed out-its best to talk to other non potters about  good shows.

My friend who is more high end than I and is a potter does a few shows I do and we always compare notes.

In get more cash than him at all shows he does better at one -I do better at another . Its the customer base age of show that affects this we think. The older crown does him better than me my middle aged families do better for me.

I know of no good so-cal show Rex-there must be one?

Edited by Mark C.

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On 9/27/2017 at 4:36 PM, Rex Johnson said:

How do you regular pros that do shows year round go about finding shows. Obviously you've been doing it for a while, but for someone who wants to start out, how would you suggest one goes about it the search?

I see these show-runners like Festival.net and Craftsmaster that charge an annual 'subscription' which sounds like a crock. Gives me carny shivers...

I haven't done a craft show since the late 70's, but I might try a couple if I can get some good input.

(located in SoCal folks)

On the amount sold question, by gosh I'd better make that overblown entry fee at least...

I have done a few shows that cost $500 for 2 to 3 days. No more. I am sticking to shows at my level that are more local and less expensive. Easier to make my $$ back. 

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