Running your own craft fair
Using the craft fairs search section, you can find events taking place around the UK and organisers to contact about booking stalls. However if you are struggling to find handmade arts and craft fairs in your area, you might like to considered running your own events.
If you have read our guide and would like to learn more about how we can help, then please contact us (selecting from the drop list: 'Running your own craft fair')
The purpose of this guide
In this guide to organising a craft fair, we will provide you with information which will help you to decide whether running a craft fair is something you or a group of friends or other craft exhibitors would like to do. You will find resources on this site which will help exhibitors and visitors to find craft events by location and date.
Why run a craft fair
There are many craft exhibitors looking for suitable places at which to show their work and people looking to purchase quality handmade items for their own homes or as gifts, which are not available from high street stores. If you are finding it difficult to locate suitable places at which to sell your work, you could consider organising your own craft fair, providing an opportunity for you to organise shows where arts and craft makers would like to exhibit their own handcrafted work.
Many artists and craft people lament the lack of events local to
them, where only handmade work is shown. An option might be for individuals or group of exhibitors to come together and run their own craft fairs, allowing them to have some control over where they exhibit their work. If you establish a good reputation, there is the potential to attract a growing following and promote arts and crafts to a wider audience. Holding a successful craft fair requires a lot of work, but it provides an opportunity to build a network of arts and crafts people across your region, support the craft community and meet new friends.
You could on the day find friends or relatives to help out, so that you can also manage your own stall. However you might decide it is better to focus your energies on being a good host. If you have teamed up with a number of other exhibitors to run your own events you could take turns.
As an organiser you will have to work hard to establish a good
reputation and build a successful regular event, so you should try to
ensure you give a good first impression to the local arts and craft
community. You want to build your reputation based on the value of
what you provide to exhibitors and visitors. You want people to
remember you and talk about you for the right reasons. Hopefully you will also enjoy running your own shows and benefit from the opportunity to meet more people appreciative of arts and craft whether as creators or buyers.
A suitable date and time
The first thing you have to do is decide when you want to run your
event. Craft fairs are usually held for one or two days and often at
weekends, although some larger shows could be run for up to a week.
Depending on the venue, typical times to run them would be from 10am
to 5pm. During Spring and Summer you might be able to hold a fair at a
music festival or other such cultural and social gatherings. Evenings are often popular during the lead up to Christmas, when people are
looking for something special to give as a gift or to use in their
festivities. Try to find out if there are other activities taking
place locally, which might not be craft related but could still bring
more people into the area, attracting more potential visitors. You can use the craft calendar to find events running on particular dates.
Holding your craft fairs at regular intervals, such as the first
Saturday of each month, could help to raise awareness of your craft
fairs and promote them more cost effectively by including this fact in
leaflets, posters and adverts.
The chart above right gives you an idea of comparative volume of craft events that run each year in the UK. It shows that there are events all year round but that the season really kicks off in April with peaks in November and December on the run up to Christmas. This trend is partly weather related for outdoor events and coincides with seasonal celebrations like Easter.
Choosing where to run your event
Your choice of a suitable venue and location are essential to holding a successful craft fair and will be influenced by the time of year and whether you live in a village, town or city. Factors to consider include the number of exhibitors you expect to have and the number of visitors you think you will attract. When you hold your first event you might want to start small, perhaps hiring a church hall for example and with a limited budget this might be your only option initially. As you gain experience and become more successful you could begin to hire larger venues.
Venue owners or managers hoping to attract organisers to begin running craft events at their otherwise unused venues, can list their facilities on the site in the craft venue search section.
If you are considering organising craft fairs in your area but are
uncertain which locations might be suitable, you could carry out a
little research by visiting potential venues and drawing up a short
list. Owners or managers of the property might welcome the opportunity
to have regular fairs run at otherwise unused facilities, as it would
provide them with an additional source of revenue and you could
suggest that they also add their venue which could be linked to your
craft fairs and the craft exhibitors attending them. Outdoor events
could attract more passing trade and be held at locations such as
parkland, but weather concerns might require you to also hire
marquees. Hosting events indoors could
provide a more comfortable setting, particularly during the colder
months and make it easier to provide services such as catering and
facilities such as toilets. Adequate parking and suitable
accessibility both for exhibitors unloading their stock as well as visitors are essential. You should also consider public transport links for visitors as well as the potential for passing trade, which could be limited if you are in an out of the way location.
To build and maintain a good reputation you need to select the right venue in the right location both to attract the exhibitors you need to book your stalls and the customers looking to buy arts and craft work. When you have done your research and found a suitable venue available within your budget, contact the owner and arrange to hire their facilities for the date and times you want them. It is best to book just one event initially, until you have had a chance to run it and determine if the venue and location are right for you. Ensure that you have any commercial bookings agreed and confirmed in writing.
Finding exhibitors for your craft fair
You should carefully consider the type of event you want to run and who you are appealing to. Decide upon the requirements for the exhibitors you want to invite to have a stall. If you are trying to promote handmade UK arts and craft work, then take the time to find the right exhibitors. You could use the craft exhibitors search section of our site to find local exhibitors to invite to have tables. Try to find an interesting range of artists and craft people working in a variety of mediums. Visitors should be able to appreciate the skill that has gone into creating what is on show. You want people to recommend your shows to others and to build the reputation of your craft fairs as a place to be.
When people approach you about hiring a stall to
exhibit at one of your shows, ask for a description of what they do and to see several pictures of their work, including if possible a photograph of their table display from a previous show. Exhibitors who join UKCraftFairs as standard members can include in their craft listing a photograph of their work and multiple images if they have promoted membership. The quality of the images could help you to decide if they might be suitable. Ideally an exhibitor will also have considered the nature of your event and the suitability of the work that they create and sell. Exhibitors who are friendly, engage effectively with potential customers and have well designed stalls selling handmade arts and crafts at the right price are likely to do well, provided there are sufficient visitors looking to buy on the day.
Marketing and advertising your craft fair
Effective marketing and advertising is essential if you are going to run a successful craft fair and the options available to you are influenced by the available budget. Whilst a good venue and location can help to attract some visitors, if sufficient people do not know where and when your event is taking place turnout is likely to be disappointing for your exhibitors. Unhappy exhibitors might not book tables again in the future, making it difficult to build the positive reputation which you want and need.
Some types of advertising can be inexpensive or even free, for example use of the internet, social networking and word of mouth. If you are going to hold a small craft show, appearing in local press or on radio stations which cover the area is worthwhile. Include a telephone number, email address or web address for potential exhibitors or visitors to contact you or find more information. A suitable memorable name reflecting the nature of who you are and what you do can help to raise awareness.
Remember to find out about the size and type of audience for any media
you decide to use, as you want to reach sufficient numbers of your
target market. You could also design your own range of marketing
material such as pens branded with the name you are holding your events under.
Organisers who are members of UKCraftFairs can login to the site and list the events they are going to run, including relevant information such as transport links, booking terms and table size. Events can then be found by exhibitors using the site to find craft fairs to show their work at, as well people looking for places to visit and buy arts and craft. Organisers events will also appear in Craft Weekly the week before they are run. Organisers can find exhibitors to engage with and invite to hire stalls and people can see the range of crafts and other activities which could attract people to your shows. You could include QR codes in your marketing material and have promotional videos made for your events, which might also feature exhibitors showing their work.
Relatives and friends could help you to distribute leaflets promoting your craft fair, which you could print yourself. You could ask about putting up posters in local shops, libraries and community centres. You could enquire with the local council, about putting up banners at road junctions leading towards the venue and on the day, provided you abide by regulations, directional arrow signs which can help people to find the venue location. Signs and banners should be weather proof, easy to read and not pose any sort of hazard to passers by.
On this page
When you list on UKCraftFairs the events you are going to run,
they will appear in Craft Weekly, on the
Thursday before the week they take place. It is free for anyone to
subscribe to Craft Weekly and by letting your visitors know about it
you are helping to promote what you do. This could help to attract
more visitors to your future craft events and potential
customers for your exhibitors.
Some legal matters to be aware of
As a craft fair organiser it is important that you are aware of your legal obligations and that you inform exhibitors of the legal requirements they must meet, if they want to have a table at your craft fair. You must provide exhibitors booking tables with your full contact details, such as name, address and telephone number. You will need to have public liability insurance to cover against damage to property or injury to people visiting your event and venue owners should ask to see proof of your insurance when you hire their venue.
Exhibitors should have liability insurance to cover them for damage
or injury caused by their stall or products they are selling and
remind exhibitors to bring proof of cover with them on the day, or
ensure that on their signed booking form they accept liability for any
damage or injury caused by themselves or their products. Inform
exhibitors clearly what they are paying for and ensure you get the
information you need from them. Appropriate documents will be required
if exhibitors are using machinery, for example as part of a craft workshop or craft demonstration and catering services must have the necessary health and safety certificates.
Managing your events finances
It is essential that you properly manage the finances of the craft fairs that you run. Only book one to begin with, until you have proved the fair is a success and you can be confident of continued future success. You need to cover all of your costs and make enough profit to pay for future shows. The main costs which you are likely to incur will be hiring the venue and paying for advertising. When deciding upon table rates for exhibitors and whether to charge entry fee to visitors, consider these and any other costs, as well as what is reasonable for the likely footfall. After you receive payment from the exhibitors for their table hire, send them a receipt. Realistically you might be lucky to break even when running your first craft fairs and many organisers have to work very hard to earn a reasonable profit.
Small craft fairs might charge from between £10 and £30 per table, whilst larger and better established ones might charge more, perhaps £40 to £100 pounds per table per day. There would typically be around about thirty arts and craft exhibitors selling their work at a smaller fair. Organisers running larger more widely advertised events, attracting many visitors might charge several hundred pounds per table per day, run fairs lasting for a few days or a week and have many more craft exhibitors showing their work. Regardless of the size of the event, it is important to have a good variety of exhibitors and enough visitors on the day to ensure that the stall holders have an opportunity to attract customers for their work and or get commissions.
Whilst many craft fairs are free to enter, some charge visitors an entry fee but this means having someone available to manage the cash. You could provide a stamp or wrist band of some kind so that visitors can leave and return later if they want to. When people pay to get into a craft fair they will expect more for their money, so you could for example include a free raffle entry, as well as additional activities and entertainment. You also have the opportunity to offer free or discounted entry to some people, which could help to boost visitor numbers.
Before your event and on the day
After you have found exhibitors for all of your available tables, draw a plan showing where each will be located, ensuring similar crafts are not put next to each other. A few weeks before the fair is run send an email to each exhibitor reminding them about it, along with any important information, such as a map, the time the venue is available for them to set up, the opening and closing time for visitors and any rules around clearing up after the fair has finished.
On the day stick table plans in a prominent position on the doors or walls and put name signs on each table, so that exhibitors can find the table where they will be showing their work. Remember to greet your exhibitors when they arrive, chat to them during the day and ask them how the day went for them before they leave. Also try to get some feedback from visitors.
Entertainment and other supplier services
There are suppliers of services which could help to improve the craft fairs that you run, making them more of a day out experience and attracting more visitors. For example on site catering or a cafe, entertainment in the form of live music, fairground games, face painting, performance artists or arts and craft workshops. You could perhaps provide suppliers with a free spot at your fair in return for a percentage of their profits. Remember though that your aim is to provide an enjoyable day out for visitors, so that they leave happy and your exhibitors do well. This will encourage them to come again and recommend you to others.
Exhibitor and visitor relations
Exhibitors will expect you to have found a suitable venue at which to run the craft fair and to do what is reasonable to attract sufficient visitors. Provided you have done these things, you cannot control how many people will decide to come or how many sales exhibitors will have
on the day or subsequently as a result of having a stall. If
exhibitors raise such concerns you should be able to demonstrate the
efforts you have taken to run a successful event, with the resources
available. Of course the more you charge per table per day, the
greater exhibitors expectations will naturally be. Some factors such
as the weather are beyond your control, but just ensure that you have
done everything that could have been expected of you to run a
successful event. This also highlights the importance of finding
exhibitors who are likely to do well at the events you run and for
exhibitors to find the best places for them and their work.
To reduce the risks of misunderstandings, you should communicate
clearly to exhibitors in writing, before they book a table, what you
will be doing to advertise the event and what they can expect from the
venue. For example the reach of media you are advertising in, the
variety of other arts and crafts exhibitors showing their work and
expected visitor numbers. Also inform them of any responsibilities
applying to them, which they need to be aware of. You should
communicate with exhibitors politely and respond to their questions
promptly and effectively. Ask about any special requirements they
might have and do what you can to help them. Greet exhibitors on the
day and ensure their table is ready for them to set up when they arrive. Remember that for exhibitors, it is not only about sales on the day, but also raising their profile in the world of arts and crafts which could lead to future sales and commissions.
Follow up work after your event
Getting feedback from exhibitors and visitors can provide a valuable insight into where you are going right and wrong in the running of your craft fairs. Using this information and increasing experience, contacts and resources, you can work to improve what you are able to offer to craft exhibitors and visitors in the future. You could send a brief email about the craft fair to the exhibitors to thank them for their support and telling them that you look forward to seeing them again at future events.
Organising more craft fairs
Based on your experiences you might decide to hold another craft fair at the same location or try organising them elsewhere. If you send out a regular
newsletter and you collected names and email addresses on the day, you
could also send out reminders of your future craft fairs. By organising successful well attended events, you could find a growing numbers of artists and crafts people to invite to your future craft shows and attract regular visitors who are looking for places to go, where they can meet exhibitors and buy handmade arts and crafts.
Interactions with other members
Using Interactions you can keep in contact with other arts and
crafts exhibitors, whether you are organising craft fairs together
or they are attending fairs you are holding. Rather than searching
through your old emails, using Interactions conveniently brings
together a list of your contacts and your conversations with them.
You can then easily update other members of your group regarding
your craft activities within a friendly and supportive environment.