More on selling at art markets

If you fancy a go at selling your work at art markets or art fairs, here are some details about how I went about it.

Stock

First you need to make enough stock to sell, photographic prints in my case. I don’t expect to sell a lot at each market so I don’t take any duplicates but I do take some of the same pictures in different sizes. I want to get as much range as possible so I can fill up the stall and give the customers plenty to look at and also so I can swap and change around to see what gets more attention.

I sell prints that are mounted and matted but not framed, as well as framed. I do all the printing and mounting myself. It’s hard, time-consuming work and probably not the most cost-effective way to do it. I do it because I can get them exactly how I want them and because it’s more satisfying. You can buy ready-made mats but they assume your pictures are a standard aspect ratio and not all of mine are. On the other hand, keeping your pictures to a standard aspect ratio means the customer can put them in standard size frames, which is a good selling point.

For the frames I’ve standardised on a brushed aluminium frame which looks really good and is robust and stands up to lots of hauling about. It also disassembles easily so I can change the picture. This came in handy the other week when a customer wanted a print framed so I took a picture out of a frame and put the customer’s picture in. Again, this is easier if your pictures are all the same size and aspect ratio. I don’t make the frames myself, this is too specialised for me.

Stall or show equipment

The events I’ve done have supplied either a table or vertical panels. I take:

  • Display easels
  • A table cloth
  • Shelves to allow different heights on the table
  • Two floor mounted print browsers
  • A table mounted print browser

I got useful display easels from here which fold up for easy transport. The shelves are just short wide planks with blocks to raise them up. This lets me raise the height of the back of the table so you can have lots of depth in my display.

The print browsers are essential. I put mounted prints in them and I can have a lot of stock to browse through. I generally put framed prints on the table prominently on display to draw the customer to the stall then they can go through the mounted prints in the browsers.

For some art shows they supply vertical panels so mostly I take framed pictures for these but you can also take the print browsers if appropriate for the venue.

Take plenty of business cards or flyers so people can take them away. They might then come back to your web site. Make sure your next market date and place are on your site. You can get good business cards very cheaply on the web nowadays. I got mine from vistaprint. Advertised as £5 for 100, they end up as £10 with VAT and postage but they’re decent quality. I did my own design using their web site design tools.

I find that especially with the unframed prints the customer will very often look at it then turn it over to look at the back. So I always put a nice label on the back with the title and information about the picture.

I use a very sturdy backing board for the mount. Customers will sometimes hold a large mounted print by one corner so a thick mount board is essential to stop it collapsing when held this way.

Being optimistic, assuming you’re going to sell a lot, take plenty of wrapping material. For framed prints you ideally want to wrap with some protective cushioned stuff like bubble wrap. For unframed prints you can just put them in plastic bags.

Taking payment

I only take cash or cheque. Cheque isn’t so secure but I just don’t worry about it. Nobody has their cheque books with them anymore. I’d like to take credit card but not until I’m turning away significant business because I don’t have it.

Pricing

I wish I knew. I think you need to take the venue into account and think about what people are expecting to pay at that venue. I’m not convinced that sales volume is directly related to price. I think if you price it too low people might assume it’s poor quality. However, at a street market people are buying on impulse so you don’t want the price to put them off. I have found that offering a discount works well. Especially at the end of the day you can say “if you like it, I’m doing a 10% discount because we’re into the final hour”.

Otherwise – larger is more expensive than smaller, framed is more expensive than unframed. Work out the cost of production and add your preferred mark-up, then consider what the market expects or will bear.

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