Here goes! My first transparent money post.
I’m embarrassed to say my set of 2012 books leaves something to be desired, but for my first three months in business a simple spreadsheet worked well enough. Though now that I look back at it I already see a few missing expenses. Like the all-important $200 fee I paid to register my booth at Renegade. Oh well! There is my money shame.
I applied to Renegade Austin in October 2012. The fair was Black Friday weekend. In six weeks or so, I went from no business and no product to being at a craft fair for two ten hour days where people judged me and my goods and instantly made decisions whether or not to purchase them. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and it was completely worth it.
The turnout to Renegade Austin events from what I hear from others is that Austin absolutely pales in comparison to Chicago, the original Renegade location. This is mostly due to the event’s location and the fact that it is a newer event. The Palmer Events Center is an out-of-the-way destination in Austin where attendees have to pay for parking. It’s not ideal. Having absolutely no baseline either way, I won’t be able to make a comparison until I attend the Chicago event next month. I just want to clarify that I don’t think what I earned at the Austin Renegade necessarily reflects Austin Renegade in particular. I have no way of knowing what a “typical” take is at a fair, though I heard from one vendor that the goal is to make 10x your booth fee.
So for my very first Renegade which was my very first craft fair and my very first experience with selling anything that I’d made, with no idea of how to price things or advertise them or anything, I grossed $485. This amounted to about eight or so scarves and a couple of knit ornaments (I wish I had exact figures to tell you but I don’t. I only remember that my striped scarves were $50, hound $55, ruched $65 and ornaments were $10). I sold no journals.
The event fee was $200 like I said above. We paid $20 for parking for both days, about $10 for gas, $40 for food, and the yarn I used for the scarves I sold was about $25. The square fee for the sales was about $14. Then 6.25% for sales tax (about $30), because I did a silly thing and included it in the price of my goods…I won’t go into detail but yes, I am an idiot. This all comes out to about $340. So I took home $145. For just the eight or so scarves that I sold, I spent about 20 hours weaving and trimming and twirling the ends (I’m much faster now). That’s a $7.25/hr rate.
Math! It works.
1) For the love of everything, when you decide to include sales tax on the price tag, DO IT RIGHT. Do it as a percentage of what you are pricing the item as, round up, then TACK IT ONTO THE PRICE TAG. I was an idiot, charged $50 for a scarf (which is what I wanted to earn from making the scarf) then paid the sales tax out of that. DUH. Instead I should have taken the sales tax rate (let’s say 8%), and charged $54 for the scarf.
2) Price everything correctly! Figure out what you want to make per hour, and account all of your time into this. Michael Nobbs wrote a really great Important Work letter about this specifically for people with chronic illness, which he does not have online, unfortunately. The formula is this: Monthly monetary needs x 12 months / Hours per week you can work x 52 weeks. For those of you with chronic illness who cannot work normal work loads, be realistic about how much time you can *actually* spend working each week. This year I am selling hound scarves for $88 apiece instead of $55. This much better represents my time and energy. I think they will sell, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
3) Be a stationary vendor. I talked all about that here. I did a craft fair two weeks later, wove front in center in front of everybody who walked by, and grossed $744 with two more custom orders. This can’t all be attributed to just weaving in public, but it definitely helped. People saw what I was doing and instantly understood it. This converted to sales, I’m absolutely sure of it. Oh, another interesting tidbit: at Renegade, where I did not weave in front of people, I had several people tell me my prices were too high. At the market where I had my loom set up, people told me that my prices were way too low (and they were).
4) Choose your fairs wisely. This year I decided to skip Austin in favor of Chicago because of the great things I’ve heard about the Chicago fair. Climate is important for my product as well. Chicago=cold. Texas=usually not cold. I do not regret Renegade Austin at all, though. It was incredible for me because I made so many connections.
5) When you are starting out, apply to anything you can. Once you get your foot in the door, start asking around for which fairs are the best for other people, and then make your own decisions. From Renegade, I made a few fans, multiple contacts, and additional sales. Renegade is why I have goods at Mockingbird Domestics and Space Montrose in Houston. Renegade is really why I have a business at all.
6) Right now, get an envelope out and write RECEIPTS on it. Then stuff ALL of your business receipts from the fair into it. Any food you buy, gas you buy, etc. KEEP THEM IN ONE PLACE. Then get Quickbooks and learn how to use it. I still haven’t done this. Do not be afraid of money! It is the measure of success in your business.
Now please enjoy this alpaca:
Any questions? I’m happy to answer them.