An open house is one of the ways that you can earn money to offset your craft habit or earn some extra income for your household. Many crafters would like to sell items they make, but don’t want to make a commitment of “becoming” a business. An annual or seasonal open house is the perfect answer to the problem. Selling crafts is a great way to do this. If you are selling crafts on a regular basis, an open house can help you sell off older inventory and interact with customers at a slower pace than an outdoor arts and crafts show. An open house takes some planning, but the effort can bring in some cash.
First check with your local government about any regulations on selling crafts they may have to you holding an open house. My own community treats this event like a garage sale. I’m not allowed to have more than 4 a year and each must be spaced about 2 months apart. I must not allow cars to block or interfere with my street’s traffic nor may I block any neighbor’s driveway.
Next, you should call your state’s Department of Revenue and find out if state sales tax must be collected. In the state of Florida, it is required that state sales tax forms be filled out and returned with proper payment even if you don’t hold a Sales Tax Certificate meaning that if I only have one open house I must collect sales tax on each item sold.
Once you know what’s expected of you from your local government and state government, consider these questions:
- Do you want to hold your open house during the week or weekend?
- What dates are open on your calendar?
- Do you want your open house during the day or set evening hours? Or do you want an open house from an early morning hour through the evening? Set the hours of your event.
- Who can you invite? Start making a list.
- What will you sell? Do you want to invite other crafters to sell items?
- Where will you display the crafts for sale within your home? How will you display them?
Timeline: Most of the effort involved in an open house regards preparatory work. This timeline will help you plan your event efficiently and effectively.
- At least 6-8 weeks before the open house… you should sit down and plan a time line.
- At least 3-4 weeks before the open house… you need to get the word out by invitation or announcement.
- At least 1-2 weeks before the open house… you need to have all the inventory (your handmade items) completed. Then you will have to price each item. You’ll need a list of all the items in your inventory.
- The week of the event… you’ll need to get your home, especially any rooms needed for the open house cleaned and prepared for the guests.
- On the day of the event… you should have the home or rooms set up with all your handmade items with a receipt book and plenty of change ready. Post any directional signs on street to help guests find your home.
The Invitation: Be sure to include the following relevant information in your invitation. Be creative with your design!
- What: The open house, or a creative event name.
- Who: You! Be sure to add your contact information, including phone number and e-mail, in case someone gets lost or has questions.
- When: The date and hours of the open house.
- Where: Your address with a map, especially if you are inviting anyone who hasn’t been to your home before.
- Why: Be sure to include a list of items that will be for sale with the price range, as well as other incentives, like those listed below!
More Ideas and Incentives: These little enhancements will will inspire your guests to stay longer and purchase more or your handiwork.
- Refreshments: Punch, cookies, finger foods and other snacks are great!
- Babysitting: Hire a neighborhood teenager to watch young children as mom shops.
- Discounts: The first 10 guests get 10-15% off the first item they purchase. One spring open house I had a basket of plastic eggs that each guest could pick one. Inside was a coupon for 5% or 10% off the total purchase. Get creative!
- Door prizes: Have an hourly door prize of small items. Or make a gift basket and have a drawing for it.
- Bring a friend: Any guest who brings a friend along gets a prize or discount. I would make a special ornament basket letting both the guest and friend pick one.
- Free gift tags: Especially great for a Christmas open house. I would create gift tags using my computer and address labels. Each guest who purchased $25+ would get a sheet of the gift tags. One year I designed my business card so it could be folded. The front of the folded card was a doll graphic, inside was blank and the back had my name and phone number. I got lots of calls from people who had been given one of my items as a gift and wanted to order more of the item.
- Sneak peek: This is something I started after hosting several open houses. For special and loyal customers, I would offer several hours of shopping the day before the actual open house. This way my loyal customers got first pick at the items up for sale.
- Guest book: Anyone who signs the guest book for future open houses is given a small item as a thank you. This is one of the best forms of advertising. Word of mouth can help grow an open house. Always remember to ask your guests to sign in with mailing address and phone number so they will be notified of your next open house.
Do you have any other tips for hosting an open house? If you’ve hosted an open house before, or if you plan to do so in the future, post your ideas and techniques in the comments below!