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How to be Successful at Craft Shows as an Introvert!

There are plenty of great reasons to attend craft shows as a vendor. Making money selling your work, getting your work in front of new customers, making connections in your community both with new customers and with new maker friends (and even maybe local shop owners that might want to stock your products in their store!) are all benefits of being a craft show vendor. Despite these positives, if you are an introvert, there can be just as many reasons NOT to want to become a vendor. Craft shows can be loud, crowded and intimidating–especially if you are completely new to the experience. I wanted to share some of my top tips to help ease into the world of selling at craft shows and be more comfortable and confident in the long run!

1. Find the RIGHT shows for you and your product & attend them BEFORE you apply to be a vendor!

Different people attend different shows. It is important to look for shows that cater to people that you feel you could hang out with in real life. This will help you feel more comfortable and more willing to open up and chat with people at the show. I used to love smaller shows at coffee shops as well as shows at larger events like Chomp & Stomp in Atlanta GA (A Beer, Chili & Bluegrass festival!). The people that came to these shows felt like “my kinda people” and it was easy to be myself and feel super comfortable as a vendor. This is especially important if you make and sell products that are very niche. For example, if your products could be considered “alternative” or “adult” (maybe you use curse words or raunchy humor) you may need to be sure the show goers appreciate that kind of humor!

Sometimes this is as simple as checking to see if some of your favorite places ever host craft shows, pop up shops or handmade holiday fairs. You can also look for shows with a theme that fits the type of item you create like vintage markets, punk rock flea markets, etc.

Finding the right shows can definitely take trial and error and I always suggest attending shows as a spectator first before trying to become a vendor. This will give you a feel for the people attending and help you decide if you should apply to be a vendor the next year!

2. Bring someone with you to the Show

This can be a friend or family member, it doesn’t matter as long as they are confident and have a basic knowledge of what you make and sell. Having someone at the show with you can provide a sense of moral support, help boost your confidence in the moment, and another bonus? When you need a sandwich or a bathroom break, they can cover for you!

If you can’t bring someone with you, make sure you arrive to the show in plenty of time to get your space set up and then before the doors open, take some time to walk around and introduce yourself to the other vendors–or at least to the vendors you are closest to! This will not only put you at ease by making you feel like you’re surrounded by friends, rather than strangers, it will also warm up your conversation skills so you feel more relaxed when the first customer hits your booth.

3. Put the Focus on Your Product or the Customer

People don’t just come to craft shows and holiday markets to buy gifts and art. They could do this online or at a big box store. People come to these kinds of events for the community and connection to local artists and makers and to find unique, one of a kind gifts. Don’t be surprised if show goers want to know more about how you created your products and the story behind them. People buy from PEOPLE–this means they are seeking out a connection to you and your work. Selling at a craft fair in person gives you the opportunity to meet directly with customers and show them how passionate you are about your product and what you do. All you have to do is be brave enough to show them the personality behind the product. This may be easier said than done and is often the most daunting part of attending craft shows as an introvert but, the good news is, if you’re passionate about what you do it’s much easier to share that passion with others.

For introverts, the idea of talking about yourself or having the focus be directly on you can be enough to make you swear off the idea of selling at craft shows but it doesn’t have to be all about you. It’s often easier to focus on and talk about your product rather than about yourself so here’s an exercise you can do to make talking about your products easier.

Think of one or two things that you feel are really exciting about your work that you can share. It may be that you love the yarn you used for your baby blankets because it is just so incredibly soft. Or maybe the scarves you create are all one of a kind and the colors and stitches you use for each one make them unique. Maybe the yarn you use is ethically sourced and a big part of your brand is sustainability. Maybe you create items that are SUPER functional. These are all things to think about before the show–and even as you plan out your inventory! If you aren’t excited about the things you are creating to bring to the show it will be hard to get other people excited about what you are selling!

Putting the focus on the customer is another way to keep from feeling too “in the spotlight”. In general people like to feel important and noticed so complimenting someone on something they’re wearing, a tattoo, their hairstyle, etc. can instantly make them feel comfortable and more likely to open up to you. You don’t have to be insincere, but when you really do like something, let people know!

Another way to focus on the customer is to ask the questions. The more questions you ask, the more likely you are to find a common interest. For instance, when I find a fellow tattoo addict, I could talk for days! 😂 See tip #4 for some generic questions you can use in almost any situation!

When you are just starting out at craft shows, try to pay attention to the other vendors around you and pick up on the types of things they say about their products and how they interact with shoppers. Stay authentic to who you are but don’t be afraid to use some of the icebreakers, questions, and techniques they use, to chat with show goers!

Photo Credit Bonnie Heath – Atlanta GA, Indie Craft Experience Market

4. Practice the Small Talk & Know it’s Okay to be Repetitive!

Remember, you are not going to have to have a full on conversation with every customer that stops by your booth–remember, they might be introverts too! Having a generic and simple greeting ready for shoppers who stop by can keep them (and you!) from feeling like a conversation is required. Here’s my go-to:

“Hi! Let me know if you have any questions about anything you see, I am happy to help.”

Prepare some open-ended questions you can ask when you’re feeling on the spot. You don’t have to write them down (unless you want to!) but have a few in the back of your mind that you can use with shoppers throughout the day so you’re not scrambling to find something to say when you’re caught off guard. Here are a few that will work in almost any situation!

  • Are you looking for any particular gifts today?
  • Have you come to this show before?
  • How are you enjoying the show so far? See anything you can’t live without?
  • Do you live in this area or are you visiting?

It is highly likely (and NORMAL!) for you to use the same lines and ask the same questions over and over with different customers. To you, it might seem repetitive but to each shopper, it’s new so it immediately makes conversations easier!

5. Bring Something to Work On (but don’t ignore people!)

Introverts know firsthand that shyness can be taken the wrong way by others. Although friends and family members may know you are just quiet, strangers can mistake that quality for being rude or standoffish. I find that having something to work on can break the tension and even give you an easy conversation starter when someone visits your booth!

I usually bring small crochet projects that I can work on either while sitting and standing and when people come by my booth/table they’ll often ask what I am working on. Sharing what I am making is an easy opening for a conversation. If there is slow time during the show, it is also nice to have a project to keep me busy, but I make sure to take breaks every few stitches to look around and make sure I am not ignoring anyone who might have stopped by my booth or my table.

I hope you found these tips helpful! Let me know in the comments if you have additional tips or tricks that you have found helpful in situations like this that may help someone else!

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