biz chat: are craft shows worth it?

Robo Roku booth RCF

Doing shows are a lot of fun, a great way to meet people in your industry, get your name out there, and ideally make money. When you’re just starting out, shows are a fun way to broaden your reach, and learn what people think of your goods. After at least a year of doing shows small one-day ones to bigger 300+ booth shows you’ll need to start realistically crunching the numbers on the shows to see if they’re worth it anymore.

First, you’ll need to do a check-in with yourself on how much your business needs to be bringing in. Add up your monthly expenses including mortgage/rent, utilities, phone, gas, groceries, savings, everything you need to pay each month. Multiply your monthly expenses by 12 and now you have your must-have income goal.

Let’s say your needed amount is $50,000/year
(and you’re going to work a typical 40 hrs/week with 2 weeks vacation time)
40 hours a week x 50 weeks = 2,000 hours
$50,000 / 2,000 hours = $25/hr

That hourly wage gets factored into your pricing structure.

If you do a 2-day show that’s open eight hours a day you’ll probably end up working 22 hours from set up to tear down.
22 hrs x $25 = $550 (increase this number if you have booth helpers)
Booth fee $500
That’s $1050 you need to make just to be reimbursed.

If at the end of the show you have $1050 in your pocket, you didn’t profit, and the show was not worth your time. Remember how we price?
You have to deduct your costs of time and materials of everything you sold, so $1050 then becomes $787.50.
You also have to pay taxes, so that’s another deduction from the money you have in your pocket.
Did you buy tables and fixtures for displays? Another deduction.
Did you buy food while at the show (or before the show to pack a lunch)? Another deduction. (even if you can write it off, it still counts)

By skipping a show that has proven to not be profitable you can spend that time reaching out to magazines, stores, and blogs.
You can use that money on advertising, put it toward doing bigger, more profitable shows, or expanding your product lines.

What’s “awesome” or “good” to one person, may not be “awesome” or “good” to you. Consider the source. Is this person making a living off their business? Is this a part-time thing for them? Is this person a one-person operation? If you run the business with a partner, both of you need to be compensated. The bigger your business is, the more expenses you have, they may not need as much income as you.

If you’ve never done the show before ask someone that is doing it full-time. Ask them “was the show worth it?” this is a very direct question, and if you pay attention to their face, you’ll have your answer. Vendors don’t want to bad mouth shows and get a reputation, but if you ask a direct question, and really pay attention to their answer, you’ll find the truth. Check out Unanimous Craft for some reviews, too. Just remember vendors don’t want to bad mouth shows, your best bet is reaching out to someone personally. I’ve seen friends post on social media that a show was great, though they told me personally it was terrible (including figures). When you make a good chunk of your income from shows you don’t want organizers to see you complaining publicly.

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