So I went to this seminar on Saturday about how to increase your sales at an art fair. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I didn’t know there were some rather obvious things I should have known. Don’t want to start sounding like a lamer version of Donald Rumsfeld here, so I’ll stop the “knowing” thread.
Anyhow, I took several pages of handy notes in addition to the printed pages they gave us to take home. In the interest of brevity, I’ll only go over the interesting points that were new to me.
First off, the all-encompassing point of the seminar was to show the many ways you can and must look professional if you wish to have a lot of art sales. The more professional and business-like you and your booth look, the more willing the public will be to accept the idea of higher prices for your work. Being sloppy and haphazard brands you as unbusinesslike and can make people uncomfortable dealing with you.
Plan your display to catch the attention of passers-by. You only have about 4 seconds to present yourself and your product before they walk past your 10 feet and on to the next booth. How you hang your work so it will be instantly seen is very important. “Hot spots” for viewers passing by are the two inside front corners of your booth and the center of the back wall. Put your best, brightest, most attractive art pieces there. The back wall is extremely important–put something large and attractive right in the middle, then symmetrically place other pieces up and down alongside it. Make sure everything hangs level and stays that way…otherwise, “sloppy”…
Have a very short, prepared speech about who you are and what you are selling memorized. Repeat it to every person entering your booth. No detail about how you do your work or why you are an artist or what your work means. Just name, I’m the artist, these are (name your media). It was already known to me that over and over again visitors will ask the same questions (are you the artist? did you do all these yourself? is this oil? is this watercolor?) so if you have the right intro prepared you can take care of all that right at once. We worked on these intros individually in front of everybody and got feedback shown by the audience raising their hands when they started to lose interest. That was really an eye-opener! My intro eventually got pared down to: “Hi! I’m Alli and I’m the artist. I painted every one of these lily pads myself. They’re oil, but they fool people sometimes because they can look like watercolors.” End of story.
What you do after your “intro” is leave the person alone so they don’t feel you’re hanging over them like a vulture and they can look at your stuff in a relaxed way. Straighten out paintings on the other side of your booth, rearrange stuff on your table, do whatever housekeeping makes it look like you’re still available but not pushy.
Title your work! I always do, but a lot of people just put “Untitled 21” or whatever. “Untitled” is not a title! Having titles helps people develop a relationship with your work. You want people to relate to your work! In the same vein, NEVER put a price sticker on the front or side of your actual work. Make nice professional looking labels with title and price. They can be hand made or computer printed, but they must be on the tent wall separate from the work. Why? Stickers on work look cheap. Having official-looking title/price labels will also help reduce the haggling. If your art isn’t cheap, why make it look that way? Also why–because nobody wants to have to ask the price, look for the price, or worst of all, have to go to the artist and ask for the price list where everything is numbered and then they have to find the piece they’re interested in on this huge list.
Don’t ask for a booth space with access to electricity. The organizer will most likely put you next to a noisy smelly generator and you won’t be happy–or able to easily communicate with your visitors. A marine battery should easily take care of basic electric needs such as lighting, laptops, phone charging.
If you keep all your framing simple and consistent you can also keep it looking neat and fresh by bringing a black or white paint pen with you to touch up incidental scratches that are inevitable when you are part of a traveling art business. Keeping your frames consistent in and of itself is important. You want people to concentrate on the art and if you have a different frame for every piece then they start “frame shopping”, adding to the confusion. Confused people don’t buy. Keep it simple and eliminate the variables. Also, consistency promotes a stronger body of work.
What to say once a conversation has started; and what not to say. They comment it’s too expensive. Reply, yes it is expensive, but it is one of a kind and may not be for everyone. They ask how long it took to make. Reply, for example: This piece took about 3 months but also many years to work up to this level. The entire series has been developing for 20 years. They ask how much it is. Reply, telling them confidently in dollars (“four hundred fifty dollars”, not four fifty…some will invariably assume you really mean $4.50). They say they’ll have to think about it. Reply, adding some more interesting information about your work–don’t take their statement as an end point. And, never say “thank you” until a sale is completed, even if they give you a compliment. If they say they like your work, ask which one they like best and what about it makes them pick that one. Hand them a card and ask them to tell their friends about you. They make a lowball offer. Reply, I wish I could sell it at that price–and give some value added, such as delivering and installing a large piece if they live nearby.
Lastly, the appearance of the artist in his/her booth. Wear neat, clean, but very simple clothes. If your audience starts talking about your clothes, they’re not talking about your art (if you’re a jeweler or wearable fabric artist this obviously does not apply). Solid colors are best, and colors that harmonize with the rest of your booth. Wear a name tag! For added emphasis, you can even put a ribbon on it that says “I am the artist”.
There was a lot more to the seminar, but I can see your eyes glazing over already…😊