Presenting your wares to the public for the first time can be spectacularly fun and horrifying all at once. A major introvert, I spent years trying to convince myself that I did not have to do the craft fair, the farmers market, or the pitch-to-retailers thing because I had a product of quality. I honestly wished hoped believed that I would become an internet soap-selling sensation just by creating an Etsy shop and hitting “Go Live”.
Sitting back and letting the masses flock to my shop sounded like a perfectly reasonable business model. Well, two years after my go-live, the masses still hadn’t gotten the memo. And after a heart-to-heart with a friend during which the phrase “fish or cut bait” was used at least twice, I finally allowed myself to admit something: the awful, embarrassing truth was that I was avoiding selling in person because I was afraid I was too shy to talk to strangers.
I mean, I know how to talk. I meet new people all the time. I don’t die or spontaneously combust or anything when I have to chat with them, but this felt so…different. My company, Squeaky Sailor Soap, offers handmade soaps wrapped in stories I wrote myself. What if people didn’t like my soap? What if they didn’t get my stories? What if they were jerks to me and I was so upset I never wanted to craft again? I was tying myself up in knots.
After the conversation with my friend, I realized the only way I was ever going to find buyers was to start selling in-person. So I took a deep breath and emailed a local farmers market. Did they need a soap seller? Why yes, they did!
Standing all terrified at my booth on day one, I started really considering how I might survive my allotted span of market days without having to scout for a bag to breathe into. As time passed, my how-to-survive list has slowly deepened into three basic tricks that I use to this day to get myself through major craft fairs without wanting to flee.
How to Sell Your Crafts: 3 Tricks from a Once-Reluctant Vendor
Start small, and talk to other vendors.
Start microscopic if you want to! For two years after walking the plank and selling in-person, I sold only at one small farmers market two miles from my house. After I set up, I’d use the extra time to go meet other vendors, help them set up if needed, and talk to them about the market. After working for a few weeks, I had some cool new friends – many of whom, I began to realize, were as shy as I was. Having friends meant that by the time the crowds showed up, I was already pretty
View your product through a stranger’s eyes.
As a maker, you know your process, you know your materials, and you know all the things you’ve done to get ready to sell. Your potential buyer knows exactly none of these things (unless you have a REALLY big sign). So when they come up to you, tell them what you do. Where you drove in from. How you live three blocks away and make all your items in your kitchen/garage/treehouse. How you learned to make them. Why you love making what you make.
Recommend your favorite product.
I finally figured this out after more super awkward “tell me if I can answer any questions for you” conversations than I care to admit. For some reason, telling people which of my soaps I choose to use on myself has translated into sales with incredible regularity. Pointing out your favorite gives you something to say while people are looking your stuff over. It also turns you from just “The Vendor” into a bona-fide human being with likes and dislikes.
Over the years, I’ve truly surprised myself as selling in person has moved from the thing I dread the most to something I deeply enjoy. Strange to say, as I’ve learned to open my mouth, I’ve also learned to open my ears. I find I get some of my best ideas on days when I’m out in the sunshine, just me and my EZ-Up, chatting away with strangers and letting them tell me what they think.
Are you the quiet type? How do you approach selling in-person? What are some of your favorite tips/tricks for the introverted seller? Tell me in the comments below!
- How to Sell Your Crafts: 3 Tricks from a Once-Reluctant Vendor - September 7, 2015