18 Tips for Selling at Outside Art Fairs and Markets

It’s around this time of year, we begin planning for selling art outside at various fairs, markets and salons. With this in mind, I’ve updated this FAP post to include more helpful tips for selling your art from any remote locationtips for surviving “untimely” shifts in weather; and added some great links to other tradeshow articles and experts.

May through September (even October for those of you in milder climates) are great times to display and sell your art outdoors. Art enthusiasts prefer to be wandering outside, so why not take advantage of everyone’s good spirits by participating in at least one outdoor exhibition opportunity this summer! If this is your first time exhibiting outdoors I know you will find this post particularly helpful.

18 Helpful tips for making your next outdoor art exhibition profitable and pleasurable.

Sell more art by making it easy to say “yes”

1 When selling from a remote location, make it possible for your potential buyer to use their PayPal account. Establish your account in advance, then use your mobile smart phone to login.

2 Offer to deliver the artwork. Take a deposit, and then full payment when the art is delivered. Set some boundries for example post a sign that says ” Free delivery inside 25km”.

3 Bring a portable power-pack. We have a power-pack about the size of a getto blaster. It affords us 3-5 hours of power. More than enough to power our laptop and a couple of spots (lights) for your work. We got ours at Canadian Tire for about $100, newer versions provide more time.

4 Offer a “Money Back Guarantee Policy”. Often art buying decisions require approval of a spouse. Make it easy for them to take it home, see how it looks….chances are their spouse will approve the purchase when they see how much the other loves the artwork.

5 Invite another artisan to join you in your booth. Guests of your “booth-mate” will spill over into your area. Even if they didn’t come looking for art, they may know someone who is an art collector.

6 Proudly display your name and type of art. Hang your sign, high-up so that it can be seen at a distance. The sign should include a keyword (or words) that describe your art. e.g. “Landscape Photographs by….” Branding, branding, branding!

7 Choose a corner booth if possible. Keep your booth open from 2 sides to encourage traffic. Push tables to the back or one side (if you are selling smaller prints or cards). Make your business cards easily accessible. In this article by artist, Emma Girard, a minimum of 1000 cards for the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition is recommended. Be sure to bring a friend to help work the booth with you, this will help when you need a break and allow you to focus on conversations with each guest.

8 Practice your “one-liner”. Be prepared to discuss your art, what or who influences you creatively. Read this Fidelis post about “Selling your art in 30 seconds”.

Selling outside requires some extra planning. How to prepare for mother nature

9 Arrive early to get a parking spot as close to your tent (booth location) as possible.

10 Borrow or rent a moving dolly to get your items to and from your vehicle.

11 Buy a commercial canopy that is meant for repeated use over a long period of time. Commercial canopies are more expensive, but far more durable, and have more wind and water protection. Some have waterproofing, and all have replaceable parts. We found a self-expanding canopy at Costco for $200 CAD. It takes two people to expand, but it was very fast and withstands a lot of wind.

12 Carry an extra tarp or two for a quick fix to cover merchandise, fixtures, or even the tent in a bad weather situation. For the best prices and variety of colours on tarps, shop wholesalers, surplus and liquidation retailers.

13 Keep lots of water and a cooler on hand for cold drinks, and a chilled washcloth or towel for hot, humid days. Use a roll-away cooler, and stock plenty for you and your guests.

14 Use bungee cords and zip ties to secure your tent or other items to your tent.

15 Make sure to stake your tent to the ground if you are on soft ground or it is windy. Buy or make four weights for the tent legs, and bungee cord them in place. This will help your tent from sailing off in a high wind. Sand bags can be made inexpensively. We use special weight bags from our studio, used to prevent tripods from tipping.

16 Keep a plastic Rubbermaid(s) for items that cannot get wet or dirty. Include a container big enough to protect your art if possible. Indoor or outdoor, you can never have too many oversize bags, always stock a full box of XL garbage bags for packaging and protecting.

17 Have a plan of action for when the bad weather hits, because it will. Know who does what.

18 Bring extra clothes or layer your clothes (including shoes) for changes in temperature and comfort.

Being a from Canada, I am always happy to promote another Canadian blog. Please visit the Snapshot Travel Blog to learn more about the Port Credit Outdoor Art Show in Ontario, Canada (shown in this posts photo).

Another Canadian Outdoor Art Exhibition worth putting on your calendar, The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, July 8-10th, 2011 (video in this post).

One last bit of advice. It’s always a good idea to visit a tradeshow or art fair the year before you participate as a vendor. Take a good look around, note best locations, review booths to avoid (too much sun), close to entertainment stages (too loud), proximity to washrooms and parking. All of these details will help you arrive better prepared. There are many great placing on the Internet for learning about exhibiting and selling at tradeshows. In particular, I like to visit TradeShow Coach, Susan Friedmann’s Blog and watch her YouTube videos. Susan’s principles apply to booth indoor and outdoor tradeshows, as well as they will prove helpful with planning your next art exhibition or gallery show.

If you have any tips about exhibiting art outdoors, we’d love to hear them.


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