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shawnhar

1st "Big" Show, happy, I guess?

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Not big compared to some, but certainly our biggest, 200 vendors, 2 days, maybe 3000 people went by the booth, just a wild guess, I really have no idea what attendance was. I would say it was a mid-size show. We did not sell a single item over $20 and grossed $800 for the whole show, 550 the 1st day, which is the most we've sold in a day, but it still felt disappointing as we had set a hopeful goal of 10x the fee, another vendor at different event said that was her break point to repeat a show or ditch it, sounded good to us. Still though, a very nice milestone as that is what I make in a week at my "real" job. Really mixed feelings, I want to call it a win, but somehow it's a bit of a let down, then again it's only been 14 months since I started throwing so I should check those expectations. We literally had everything decent we've made in the booth, except my wife's x-mas ornaments.

Weather was awesome so that was a relief, getting rained on every time was getting really old.

One person asked why the prices were so cheap, specifically 20 for a mug, said everywhere else they went (other festivals/states) they are 25-30 or more, said there was another potter here selling mugs for 12, and he wondered what was wrong with them or if they were imported from China. That same potter had mugs last year for 24 if I remember correctly, I could only guess they were priced lower based on last year's sales, but I have seen you guys mention here more than once that pricing too low destroys the perceived value, and they bought 4 of my mugs. That guy is a good potter too, felt weird. 

booth.jpg.6a288f6c0d56887ae5e593b61869ae5b.jpg

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10x booth fee is a very generalized, and somewhat arbitrary, benchmark for seasoned art fair folks, so don’t feel bad that you didn’t meet that mark at your first medium sized show. It’s not a very meaningful measurement. Booth fees are all over the place, some are too high or too low, so basing your goals on the booth fee is not a stable place to measure from. The more meaningful number is net profit per day, and overall net profit. The calcuation includes booth fee plus all other expenses, such as hotel and gas. Also, what’s considered “good” for any other artist does not apply to you. Every one is at a different place in their business development. You should only be comparing yourself to yourself from last year. 

You did a great job!

Edited by GEP

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Hey way to go! Now you have inventory, sales and stats. Your next show is just replacing the pots you just sold and a few more 'new' forms to try.

I know hearing about $7000-$8000 shows from others can be really depressing but I think very few potters do that kind of dough and the ones that do have spent many years finding the right line up of shows that work out that well for what they make. 

Ya know I think all stats are important right now so you can keep track of whats working and what's not. I would try if possible to find out from one of the show folks what they estimate the attendance was so you can have something to use for future comps. Sounds like you did about 50 sales and that means there are 50 or so folks that like pottery and liked yours enough to buy and today all of those folks have your pottery proudly in their house. No one buys a $20 mug unless they really like it. Now it's just a numbers game and product fit. If you get the sales up to 100 and your average up a bit it more than doubles but the expenses don't and that dough looks better, right? I think you also got a taste of the fact that at these types of shows small items seem to be really popular and I think most of us try to have a number of small grabs as it will be most of the sales. The bigger, pricier stuff just moves more slowly.

Don't forget to have fun! 

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+1 for what everyone else said.

Now repeat after me: 

"other people's prices are not a reflection of my work." 

Without knowing anything at all about that other potter's work, any reason I can think of for that person selling a $12 mug is only a guess. Maybe they were seconds, or a discontinued design, or they don't want to make mugs anymore. Maybe they have a hard time seeing their own value and tie the worth of their work to their sales numbers. (Don't do that last one. You'll drive yourself into an early and anxious creative grave.) 

 

I think a better formula for wether or not a show is profitable is to add your booth fee and related costs, your travel expenses including food and 1/2 the value (basically a wholesale price) of all pots sold. That's how I figure my net sales, as Mea talked about. By this metric, if you have a small sale that you made a relatively low dollar amount at but your overhead was low because it's one in your hometown, that can be more profitable than a show you made a couple of thousand at, but you were out of town for 3 days and paid a high booth fee.  The 1/2 value of the pots covers all your materials, and if you've priced things properly, some pay for you as well.

Once you figure out the items that people like to buy from you, that makes for more profitability as well. Keeping track of what items sold will help with this. Sometimes I think an item isn't that popular, but I'll check my square numbers and realize I sold a lot more of them than I thought. 

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so, shawnhar, are you courtney or david ?  or courtney david.    

you did well for a first show.   aren't you glad you waited until you had everything lined up?  the canopy, the shelving, the layout and the confidence in your own work.  good for you, taking on a big show like that one.   being part of 200 vendors is intimidating.   do not let it throw you.   and do not listen to other vendors stories or philosophy.  

people by pots because they like them.   you can be one of 2,000 and if a buyer likes your work, she will pass up the others for yours.  check out what sold and make more of them.  and something just a little different because the buyer already has one of them but will like the new work as well next time.  

good for you!

(only suggestion is having at least a back wall to keep distraction to a minimum.   sometimes the wind means you cannot have a back or side wall but you only have 10 feet of privacy.  for a sale to happen the customer has to be able to concentrate on your work, not the loudmouth nextdoor.)

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19 minutes ago, LeeU said:

DUDE!!!! YA THINK???  What you've accomplished is amazing, and inspiring. 

yes check them at the door.Now do it again and again and learn where your market is best.

Could you post a list of the forms at this show and I can think about what is needed to the list for sales.

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Great job and congrats! And your booth looks fantastic! 

Question for Shawn and the more experienced - what rate do you pay yourself for time on site? Minimum wage? $15/hr? $0/hr? 

At my first show I was super excited to sell about $600 for a 7 hour event...until I realized that the time required for two people pricing, packing, setup, actual show time, breakdown, travel and unpacking was roughly 26 man hours (hey - it was my first show!).  

Because there was no show fee, I essentially "earned" enough to cover clay and glaze, but not the labor and overhead for producing anything. 
(Note that this realization did not dim my joy by a single iota). 

I'm curious about how others mentally approach this factor. 

 

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8 minutes ago, kristinanoel said:

Great job and congrats! And your booth looks fantastic! 

Question for Shawn and the more experienced - what rate do you pay yourself for time on site? Minimum wage? $15/hr? $0/hr? 

At my first show I was super excited to sell about $600 for a 7 hour event...until I realized that the time required for two people pricing, packing, setup, actual show time, breakdown, travel and unpacking was roughly 26 man hours (hey - it was my first show!).  

Because there was no show fee, I essentially "earned" enough to cover clay and glaze, but not the labor and overhead for producing anything. 
(Note that this realization did not dim my joy by a single iota). 

I'm curious about how others mentally approach this factor. 

 

I don't feel like ceramics is something you calculate an hourly wage for, at least not for the part time professional.  When you factor in research into glazes, forms, throwing time, trimming time, adding handles or sprigs, decorating, glazing, firing, marketing, show fees, taxes, website costs, shipping, equipment/maintenance costs, supplies, travel, setting up and tearing down, sitting in a booth all day, etc.  You're going to be making a small hourly wage.  The nice part though is that you are constantly doing something different/new/exciting, so it doesn't always feel like work.  Theres always work to be done, and I feel like it's more a lifestyle than it is an hourly wage.  Think of it more like working on commission with no base salary. Lol

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3 hours ago, kristinanoel said:

Great job and congrats! And your booth looks fantastic! 

Question for Shawn and the more experienced - what rate do you pay yourself for time on site? Minimum wage? $15/hr? $0/hr? 

At my first show I was super excited to sell about $600 for a 7 hour event...until I realized that the time required for two people pricing, packing, setup, actual show time, breakdown, travel and unpacking was roughly 26 man hours (hey - it was my first show!).  

Because there was no show fee, I essentially "earned" enough to cover clay and glaze, but not the labor and overhead for producing anything. 
(Note that this realization did not dim my joy by a single iota). 

I'm curious about how others mentally approach this factor. 

 

https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/daily/ceramic-art-and-artists/ceramic-artists/the-hourly-earnings-project-potters-salary/

I did this research project all the way back in 2010, but I was making an average of about $32/hour when I sold at art fairs. That includes all the time it took to produce the pots too. I haven’t calculated my hourly earnings rate recently, but these days at the shows that I used for my calculations, I am making maybe to twice as much in gross sales, and sometimes far more than that.

(For example, at my 2010 Open Studio, I grossed $4328 in sales, and made $46/hour.  At my most recent Open Studio in 2018, I grossed $13,843.)

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10x booth fee is the wrong way to look at it. Say I do a show that has a $200 booth fee and I manage to sell $2000. Then the next week I do a show that has a $350 booth fee and I sell $2000 again. At the cheap show I did 10X, at the more expensive show I did 5.7X. Does that mean the more expensive show isn't worth doing again? Heck no! I simply made $150 less at that show. Big deal. Plus there are a lot of other things to take into consideration. Maybe the more expensive show was easier to do, or was closer to home, or had a faster load in and load out procedure, or air conditioned bathrooms instead of port-a-johns, or they provided lunch, or they had better booth sitters, or had free breakfast or even a dinner on Saturday night, etc. It's worth $150 to go home feeling good instead of exhausted and cranky. It's not about some random multiplier, it's about the actual dollars and the experience.

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7 hours ago, kristinanoel said:

Great job and congrats! And your booth looks fantastic! 

Question for Shawn and the more experienced - what rate do you pay yourself for time on site? Minimum wage? $15/hr? $0/hr? 

At my first show I was super excited to sell about $600 for a 7 hour event...until I realized that the time required for two people pricing, packing, setup, actual show time, breakdown, travel and unpacking was roughly 26 man hours (hey - it was my first show!).  

Because there was no show fee, I essentially "earned" enough to cover clay and glaze, but not the labor and overhead for producing anything. 
(Note that this realization did not dim my joy by a single iota). 

I'm curious about how others mentally approach this factor. 

 

If anyone needs further frame of reference, I think I earned about $300 on my first night market. It was 7 hours in the cold and the pouring rain.

 

I don't think paying yourself an hourly rate in the fashion you're talking about is a useful metric for any self employed person who's just starting out. The primary reason for this is that you can't pay yourself money you haven't earned over and above your expenses yet.

Mea's already pointed out her formula for figuring out how much per hour she earned, which is a really awesome metric for looking at where you made your most profit. This can help you direct your future efforts in places that will give you your best return on your time and energy. But this method is figuring out what you earned (past tense), rather than what to arbitrarially pay yourself. It's working back from a point.

If you're looking for an hourly wage to use in a pricing formula, that's not a really useful method in our situations either.  If you figure that as a beginner you can make 10 mugs/hour(random number there), but a more intermediate person is making 20-30 mugs an hour because they've become more efficient and better at what they do, then the intermediate person is being paid the same wage for more work. The person making 100 mugs in a day(Mark C, cough cough) is really getting hosed if they use that formula! Not the way we want to rationalize things. If you're looking for pricing methodologies, I can link to a couple of threads if you'd like. There have been some good ones over the years here.

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11 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I don't think paying yourself an hourly rate in the fashion you're talking about is a useful metric for any self employed person who's just starting out. The primary reason for this is that you can't pay yourself money you haven't earned over and above your expenses yet.

Exactly, even if we had sold every single item in the booth, we'd still be in the negative.  I haven't "made" the 1st dollar yet. This show did not even cover the cost of the tent, signs, shelves, lights, chairs and booth fees. BUT... I knew that going in,  we are just now  getting to the cash flow stage where we can have more money coming in than going out. The booth is "mostly" good, the kiln, wheel, tools, clay, glazes, buckets, bats, plastic, etc.... Heck I spent over 1500 just on classes last year, which it totally fine, I view it as tuition. That was a lot of money going out with little to none coming back the other way. But most of that is done now and I have all the tools and materials needed to start making money, the 400# of clay sitting by the wheel should put us in the black.

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