Should You Stop Doing Shows?

Today's post comes as we are full steam ahead into summer craft show season. If you've got a lot of shows coming up or are in the middle of a bunch, you might be questioning your very existence. They can take a lot of prep work and can make for a grueling day or days (customers! sun! customers!). They can also be a place where you take your business to the next level.

I was talking with a friend who has worked with makers in really high profile ways. We were discussing all of the "shoulds" that that get put upon makers. And then she said something really controversial, "Oh, I don't even tell people to do crafts shows!" WHAT?! 

The two things that makers just starting out usually feel compelled to do are 1) join Etsy and 2) do craft shows. There are lots of reasons this advice makes sense and so it's not surprising a lot of newbies feel a lot of pressure to do these things. But for a lot of people they might not make sense to do starting out or they might only make sense starting out or they will only make sense under certain circumstances.

Your Business. Your Rules.

I'd hate to see you do things in your business just because everyone else is. Or because you have a weird sense of obligation to keep doing a show. Or because you fear you'll be missing out (craft show FOMO is real, guys) and all your friends will make millions at the show without you.

Craft shows in general are not one-size-fits-all and many large shows that people feel like they "have" to do are not really good for them because they don't attract the right audience for them. They are a TOOL. And your business might do just fine without that tool and in some cases will be better off without that tool. For some of you, though, it will be the tool you always go back to because it's so consistent (in my experience, those people are usually selling food you can eat at the show).

Don't get craft show FOMO about it. Make the decision that works best for your business and try to separate out the emotional baggage. You know you can't do everything and be everywhere. Figure out where your energies are best spent.

ROI Looks Different for Everyone

This is REALLY important. Sales from shows aren't always the only reason to do a show. And sometimes it should be. It really just depends. But it's always good to have expectations, do research and strategize for making the most out of a show.

Here are a few reasons you might do a show:

  1. Make a Nice Profit: This will probably not matter as much when you are starting out but as your business matures you will likely be looking for things to cut that don't pay you well for your time.
  2. Connections with New Customers: Likely the biggest reason for doing a show as a newbie. You can have face-to-face memorable interactions with people that can be hard to do over the internet.
  3. Connections with Wholesalers: There are some shows that are really great at this and others not so much. I also know people who will do shows and take a loss on their booth because they know they will meet buyers and get a bunch of orders after the show.
  4. Check Out Boutiques in the Area: If you are traveling to an area (it doesn't even have to be that far), while you are there you can kill two birds with one stone and check out local shops that might carry your product.
  5. Show Travel / Location: Like being able to write off your travel? Go to a show!
  6. Ease of Show Logistics: I know some vendors who will not do certain shows simply because the load in and load out is so horrible. You might be one.
  7. Vendor Quality: I know lots of people who do not want what they make even near or associated with in any way poor work, even if it makes them money. 
  8. Gets You Into Other Shows: Sometimes you might do a show so it will build your resume or get you into another show the organizer does. 
  9. Low-Risk Booth Fee: If a show doesn't cost a lot for a booth, you might say "Hey, what the heck... it's only a (name your price)." 
  10. Test New Product: If something is in "beta" it might be worth it to bring it to a show to hear actual customer feedback.
  11. Understand Your Customer Better: More feedback and also you can physically see who "your people" are. This can be huge starting out because you are probably making a lot of assumptions about who your customer is.
  12. Fun Show Environment: If you're going to be somewhere locked in one place for hours, it might as well be fun. Or not. Up to you.
  13. Great Reputation Among Vendors: If a show has a great reputation it might add more perceived brand value to your business.
  14. Your Customers Shop this Show: This is pretty important. If your people aren't at the show, well then maybe you shouldn't be either.

The Decider

In the Craft Show Decision Maker (sign up for it below!), you'll be able to rank how important these factors are and how much a certain show you're eyeing measures up. It's not meant to make the decision for you, but to help you really start to wrap your ahead around whether a show is really serving your needs or if you're doing it "just cuz." 

P.S. Megan Auman also has a great post about why she doesn't do craft shows, but you might want to think about it.

P.P.S. If you like nerding out with spreadsheets, our friends at Aeolidia also created one that helps you compare Etsy Shop Fees vs. Shopify's

P.P.P.S. I'm totally open to feedback about this! Even though you can customize the fields and begin playing with it on your own, if you see anything that will improve the Decision Maker for everyone, please let me know by emailing