A note from the FNO
Greetings FNO Artists and Craftspeople,
Meet our new friend Glenda who has written for you an excellent
article, from an accountant's perspective, about the art/craft show
Festival Network Online
A Craft-aholic Accountant Goes to a Show by Glenda Larsen
If there is a craft
fair within day-trip range, I’m there! I am
an accountant and I am fascinated by the world of handcrafts.
Pottery, fiber, wood work, metal crafts; the finished products, the
processes, the imagination, and the skills of the artisans all feed my
soul and my own desire to create. I also like to own pieces that
I find beautiful or interesting.
I am an accountant by trade and I work with artists who are growing
their art into life-sustaining businesses. While I go to fairs
and festivals to feed my spirit, I can’t help thinking about the money
ebbing and flowing behind the crafting. Shows and festivals are
the heartbeat of the crafts business. I’d like to share a few
thoughts as a craft shopper/ purchaser, and as an accountant thinking
about the financial part of the crafting business.
When I attend a show or festival, I try to see the whole event.
Some booths draw me in, while others get a walk-by. There are a
few elements that make a difference to me.
If there is someone in the booth that is obviously engrossed in working
on something, I tend to stroll by. Somehow it feels like I am
interfering with their creative process. Time at a show needs to
be time to sell, not time to create. You might have a few works
that are in various stages to talk about with interested folks, but
focused creating, while fascinating to some, does not always contribute
to a welcoming atmosphere for many shoppers.
On the other hand, I also tend to avoid booths where the artist or
booth-tender looks bored, anxious, or kind of grumpy. With these
folks, I feel like the burden of the interaction is on me, and that if
I don’t buy something, I am a big disappointment or a big waste of
time. I usually do not purchase anything on the first tour around
the show. I go back after I check everything out. I’m more
likely to revisit a booth where I connected with someone and had a
brief, upbeat chat about the goods for sale.
Please try to have a great time when you work a show! Smile at
folks that come near your booth. Initiate short conversations
about your favorite pieces, what you like about the town that the show
is in, what you just read in a magazine about your type of craft, where
you are from, how you do your work…that kind of thing. Try to
avoid serious, in-depth discussions unless you can artfully include
other nearby folks. I tend to view artisans as magical people who
should not be interrupted. Try to stay alert to folks that are
ready to buy.
I think it’s smart to have another person in the booth with you.
That person can say promotional things that the artisan couldn’t say as
gracefully about himself or herself. The artist can then be
available to answer questions, to carefully wrap the items, and to be
very grateful for the customer’s interest and purchases.
Please be prepared to make purchasing items a simple and careful
process. Practice the routine if you are new to the show
game. When a customer is ready to make a purchase, try to be
there to help them. Many times I have put something back because
the booth tender was engrossed in a conversation and didn’t seem to
notice that I was ready to buy. This is when having two people is
really helpful. One can sell, and one can process sales and
package the items. It is great when safe, easy-to-carry packaging
is provided. Bubble wrap and sturdy bags with handles are
marvelous. Pack things for folks knowing that they might need to
carry it around the whole show. If possible, put your name and an
image of your work on the bag (free advertising). Display the bag
in your booth, so customers will know how you pack things.
I can’t help but notice the money procedures in craft booths. A
systematic method of taking cash or checks, or processing a
credit/debit card transaction sends a subtle message that you value the
sale and you are prepared to manage the transaction efficiently.
Have a short check-list taped to the table so you don’t forget
important parts of sales transactions. If you are going to deal
in cash, please invest in a dignified cash box, unless you are selling
very inexpensive goods. Something just doesn’t feel right when
the seller pulls a wad of bills out of a pocket. A cash apron is
better if you must keep the cash close to your person.
Periodically put large quantities (more than you would need to make
change) in another safe place so you are not flashing large amounts of
cash to customers.
Take payments by personal check seriously. Post your check
writing information clearly: “Make checks payable to…”, “please
print phone # and Driver’s License # on check”. Take the time to
compare the Driver’s license with the number written on the check (and
the person in front of you!). Craft fairs are not usually haunted
by predatory types, but anyone can overdraw an account. Write or
stamp “for deposit only” and your bank account number on the checks
immediately, and deposit the checks as soon as possible. I
recommend that, if at all possible, have credit and debit card
capability at your booth.
Please take the time to write out a receipt for the customer.
Have receipts that produce a duplicate copy for your records. Note on
the receipt the method of payment and attach the credit/debit card slip
to your copy as well as the customer receipt. It is a
good idea to provide contact information on your receipt so the
customer can reach you for additional purchases or refer a friend to
you. Sales receipts will help you evaluate the success of
the show, so include information on them that will help you identify
what was sold. You may also want to gather e-mail addresses for
newsletters, other marketing efforts, or after the show follow-up.
Pricing your goods is an art in itself. I would recommend that
you clearly mark the price on items at a show with the sales tax
included in that price. You will save yourself time by not having
to look up sales tax, and you can deal with even dollars. Post a
sign that says “sales tax included in price”. People feel like
they’re getting a bargain if they don’t have to add on sales tax.
I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true.
If craft shows and festivals is where you sell your goods, take the
time to evaluate each event before the memories go cold. Tally up
the costs for booth space, mileage, lodging, travel meals-all costs
associated with being at the event. Do an analysis of what
items sold, and write up notes regarding the sales. When you
subtract the cost of creating the items for sale, and the costs of
being at the event from the sales at the event; how profitable was the
show? Take some time to evaluate your sales and your costs to
help you plan for the next year or the next show.
Artists participate in shows and festivals for a variety of
reasons. Some like to be a part of a big event, some like to
interact with the public, some like to put their products out there to
get reactions. Almost everyone is hoping there will be some
monetary reward for their efforts of creating objects and showing
In addition to quality work and correct pricing, making money at a show
is directly related to how you work your crowd, and how you manage the
transactions in your booth. Focus on the people attending and the
joy you get from creating. Have systems in place to smoothly
transact business. Take someone with you to share the
experience and the workload. Evaluate the experience so you
can plan for the right product offerings, appropriate pricing, and
manageable costs in future shows.
Craftspeople, thank you for sharing your work with the world! I
hope my perspectives as an accountant and a fan will help you make the
most of your show experiences in the future.
Glenda Larsen is the owner of MoneyMatters-Asheville. Her
business provides gentle accounting, tax and business planning services
to artists and small businesses in the Asheville, NC area.
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