5 Business Basics For Craft-Fair Vendors

You've carefully crated up your wares, packed the makings of a beautiful display, and filled your cash box with 10s, 5s, and 1s to make change. You're all set for your first craft fair, right? Not quite. Although these preparations are enough to get you started, covering your bases from a business perspective can help boost sales and make your fair activity go more smoothly. Here's what you need to step up your game.

1. Counterfeit money detector pen. As of 2015, about $147 million in counterfeit bills were in circulation in the U.S., and the most common denomination was $20. The second or two it takes to check a bill can keep you from losing hard-earned cash when you deposit your craft-fair proceeds at the bank. Check out a company like Counterfeit Buster for more information.

2. Credit card scanner. Credit card payments allow people to keep shopping after they've emptied their wallets. A convenient scanning system for craft vendors consists of a device that plugs into your smartphone or tablet, plus a merchant account with a payment processing company. If you're an occasional vendor, look for a company that charges a higher fee on transactions in lieu of a monthly charge. As a bonus, you can use your merchant account to accept online payments in the event you move your crafts to an Internet storefront.

3. Business cards. Business cards make you look like a pro. They also make it easy for customers to buy at a later date, whether because they're unable to spend the money to buy that day, or because they want to follow up with you later about a special order or purchasing additional products. Make your own cards on blank perforated paper, or take advantage of online stationery promotional deals offering free cards.

4. Mailing list. Choose one special product as a promotional give-away, and have customers enter by providing their names and email addresses. Include an opt-in disclaimer--note on the entry form that entrants give permission for you to send them occasional emails, but you'll not sell or share their information. The mailing list you build is a valuable marketing tool that allows you to inform customers of your next show, invite them to purchase between shows, or even share a newsletter or blog to keep them in the loop and promote online sales.

5. Bookkeeping system. If you plan to sell on a regular basis, and especially if you're thinking of opening an online store, you need a bookkeeping system to track income and expenses. This information is crucial for budgeting for supplies and pricing your crafts, and the documentation is necessary for tax-return preparation. The money you earn selling crafts is taxable, but you can write off many expenses if your craft sales constitute a business, or you can offset your earnings with some expenses if crafting is a hobby. Save money by starting out with free open-source software.

It pays to treat your craft-fair activity as a business, even if you're strictly a hobbyist right now. At worst, you'll streamline your efforts and gain a better sense of the true cost of your hobby. At best, you'll create a foundation on which you can launch a full-fledged business later on.