Supporting Local Artists and Selling Photos in New Ways
This week is National Small Business Week (April 30 thru May 6th and May 6th is Small Business Saturday), I found it necessary to write a post about doing business with local small businesses and artists. My little business has been in existence for quite a few years now. Most of those years it has existed in the background of my career, as extra income and a way to learn new things. It wasn’t until I was laid off from my career and had trouble finding another well paying job, did I make the decision to turn my “extra income” gig into a full blown business. Just a little over 7 years ago, my small business has grown from being extra pocket change to paying my bills. One of things that I think has made my business continue to grow is always searching for new, innovative ways to sell my photos and help businesses with their marketing.
Finding New Ways to Sell More Photos
Several summers ago, a fellow photographer and I dipped our toes into selling our images at Arts and Crafts Festivals. Despite our lack of preparation, (meaning we didn’t really get a bunch of inventory for this experiment, we both just took images that we had entered into juried art shows that didn’t sell) we were both pretty successful for 2 newbies to the art festival circuit. This success with our first festival motivated us to want to apply for more festivals and fairs. But we both knew we had a lot of work to do. We needed our own booth setup, inventory, and we needed to submit more applications to more festivals for more opportunities. One of our booth neighbors at our first art festival told us to check out FestivalNet.com. FestivalNet.com is a website that basically lists all festivals across the United States. They may not know about every single festival, but what’s on this site is pretty comprehensive, a great place to start our search for what is out there. We did some searching and quickly found out of some other festivals we might like to try. We quickly realized that it wasn’t that simple. Most festivals have a jurying process, which means that you need to apply for acceptance into the festival and set up your booth for sales. It was already July, and most festivals were full by this time, so we bagged the idea for the year.
Getting the Gear
In the meantime, we were able to buy a used booth setup from a fellow photographer who was upgrading his setup to a much larger booth. Again, not doing much advanced planning of our next festival endeavor, we managed to get accepted into a festival in a Colorado mountain town that was a couple of hours away. Tourism is very high in the town, so we knew Colorado images/products would be good sellers at this fair. We were set for festival adventure #2.
Planning is Your Friend
For festival adventure #2, we did a little more planning. We started to create unique, one-of-a-kind products to sell more photos. Face it, every photographer in the State of Colorado has a picture of the Maroon Bells in their portfolio. So how could we be different? Here’s where my sister and her love of making things out of wood and photography merge. We started dumpster diving for old pallets, old fences and any other kind of reclaimed wood we could get our hands on. We began making these rather cool frames to mount metal prints of my images on, instead of traditional wall frames with glass. My sister learned a lot about distressing wood painting techniques and these cool collaborative works of art were created. We began to show others our work and post images of final products to our social media accounts AND PEOPLE JUST LOVED IT! So 5280 Restore & Décor was born, and quickly became a joint effort with Taking Stock Images Photography. However, the real proof would come when we set up shop at festival adventure #2.
We quickly found out that our creations were a HIT! Despite a weekend of crappy weather, we did really well with sales and decided we were on to something. Unfortunately, this festival was in August, so the festival season was again drawing to a close. However, we now had some decent intelligence about what we were going to do for next year’s festival season and knew we needed to put a plan in place, starting with getting applications out over the winter months.
Putting Our Plan into Action
So by March of this year, we have been accepted into 3 art festivals for this summer and are waiting to hear if we have been accepted into a fourth. We started to make a list of things that we needed to tackle to make our festival adventure #3 a success!
- A New Booth Setup – Last year we quickly realized the setup we had was a PIA (pain-in-the-arse) to transport and setup, without adding MAJOR expense to our budget. At last years festival, one of our neighbors was using a setup called Flourish Panels that went with our tent. Basically, it was our EZ-Up PopUp Tent setup, with mesh walls, that folded up into a neat package similar to our tent, instead of the hard walls with metal pipes. So simple to setup and super easy to transport. We purchased our setup and we are ready to rock. I have to tell you WAYYYYYY easier than our previous set-up.
- Dedicated Hot Spot for Payments – At last year’s festival, there were several times, the WIFI we were using wasn’t cooperating and we weren’t sure if payments had gone through or not. I let people take merchandise, hoping and praying sales had been completed (and yes, they did go through!). I upgraded my iPhone to the iPhone 7 Plus and got an iPad Pro for Christmas. Turns out, the iPhone has a personal hotspot, that I can turn on at our festivals, so we have a dedicated WIFI. We just have to make sure my phone stays in “airplane mode” during the festival. Phone calls and data don’t mix, so a phone call could cancel a transaction.
- Upgrading Payment Accepting System – With the advent of security chips on credit cards, we knew that our current way of accepting payments wasn’t secure and we couldn’t accept payments from people who had Apple and Android Pay. We now have an iPad Point of Sale setup with Square and a wireless device that can cover all the payment bases, including our own little handy-dandy chip reader.
- Inventory – Since our booth is now a combination of photography and woodworking, we needed to begin building inventory. I have so many cool new images that weren’t previously reflected in our booth inventory. We did a lot of research about new ideas and ways to present my images. I would love to show you, but you will have to come by our booth to see what we have been up to!
- Checklists – I have spent a lot of time developing checklists to ensure that we have everything packed and ready to go come festival weekend. I wanted to be able to “pack it and forget it”!
- Marketing – Since I am a marketer, I needed to put a marketing plan into place. I started with creating events on our social media channels and website, making sure that we continue to share the event to let people know about the festival. I also invested some money in having an ad placed on the festival’s website, which I am told gets 40,000 views a day at their high traffic times. At the festival, I am pretty good at starting conversations with people, but just in case, I am going to share with you my SECRET WEAPON, sure-fire conversation starter – DOG TREATS! Seems like everyone in Colorado has a dog, and they all come to art festivals with their owners. Last year we had a bucket of dog treats and a water bowl. Anytime we would see someone with a dog, we would ask if it was ok for their dog to have a treat, and like magic it started a conversation. Inevitably, that dog owner would drift into the booth for a look at what we were selling. Is it 100% effective? No. But sure does get things started!
- Purchase a Cargo Carrier for My Jeep – Just in case we need added space to carry more inventory, we purchased a carrier that fits in the hitch on the back of the Jeep.
- Purchase a Dolly – Another fatal mistake from last year is we didn’t bring a dolly or my little red wagon to run loads from the car to our booth site. Oyyyyyyy! Let me tell you, this was a MUST HAVE! Don’t ever do a festival without one (or two)!
- Make Hotel Reservations WAY in Advance – This should have been a no-brainer last summer, but we definitely learned our lesson. Because we waited until the last minute, we were stuck at this scary motel that was 45 minutes from the festival town. NEVER AGAIN! This year, we are booked for the entire summer, no sleezy motels for us this year!
- Have FUN! – Doing these types of festivals is a lot of work, and even though it’s “my job” I don’t want to dread doing them. I want to be excited about this adventure. All the people I am going to meet from all over the United States and world, who will see our work and maybe love something so much they purchase an item to take home to remind them of their trip to Colorado! To me, nothing is more flattering than someone purchasing your work to enjoy.
Well, we are a little more than a month out from our 1st festival, and here are the current dates we are booked for and where:
- June 10th and 11th – Grand Lake Arts & Crafts Festival
- July 8th and 9th – Grand Lake Arts & Crafts Festival
- August 5th and 6th – Grand Lake Arts & Crafts Festival
As soon as I hear from the 4th festival, I will be sure to post where we will be and the dates. So if you find yourself near Grand Lake, Colorado on any of these summer weekends, please stop by the booth and say hello! It’s always nice to see a friendly face we know! Gonna be a busy summer! AND PLEASE REMEMBER, to shop local and support small businesses and local artists!
Cheers from behind the camera and from our festival booth,
Taking Stock Images Photography