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Crafty Business #4 – At the Show

So you’re sitting in your gorgeous new booth, watching customers walk buy.  Some of them glance your way, some stop and browse, some keep on going without stopping…it can be disheartening.  Or as I’ve heard teenagers call it – a BUZZKILL.

Or maybe you’re so busy you’re wondering why you didn’t ask someone to come help, you’re making sales left and right, maybe you’re starting to run low on stock…it can be exhilarating.  Or as I’ve heard teenagers call it – a BANGIN’ TIME.

Either way, you better be ON YOUR GAME.  And this was something I touched on in a previous post.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked by a booth where the artist was frowning, on their phone, arms crossed, general body language telling me they were not having a good time and they were going to let you know it.  And I can equally tell you how many times people have come by our booth because we were having a good time and they wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Now that crowd didn’t necessarily lead to sales, but the minute a customer walks into your booth, a sale is made – either on the spot or in the future – a customer will remember you based on your attitude.  Not only that, I can’t tell you how many times show organizers scoped us out and then invited us to future shows.  So a great way to find out about potential show opportunities is by having your GAME ON while at your show.

Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz gives FANTASTIC advice on selling to your audience.  I have subscribed to several of her marketing courses and each time, I’ve learned invaluable strategies for making a show work for Book-Inz.  I strongly suggest you find a small crafty biz consultant that connects with you and follow them.  There are several in the industry, not necessarily wholly geared towards crafty businesses, but a lot of their advice and direction can be used in our craft business.  Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl is another one.

Another aspect of being at the show is keeping track of sales.  Everyone has a system that works for them, whether it’s a spreadsheet, an inventory tracking system, or just writing things down on a piece of paper as items are sold.  But there’s more to a crafty business than just what you sold.  Some of the things you need to remember is that the fee you pay for your booth is tax deductible, BUT, it’s also a cost associated with your show.  Many times you’ll hear another crafter say, “I made my booth fee.”  That just means they’ve sold enough to make back the money they spent.  They’re not profiting, but neither are they at a loss.  I really don’t have a tracking system I can recommend because Book-Inz is pretty simple.  I only bring X amount of each Book-Inz and then take inventory when I get home.  Easy peasy.

I have been asked about show tracking and what I can tell you is that there are several types out there.  Handmadeology.com has a Show Sales Tracking Spreadsheet.  I’ve never used it, but as with everything else I’ve gotten from that website, I imagine it’s not only good, but worth the money. Sometimes, making your own spreadsheet works for the interim,  because no one knows the details of your business better than you do and a one size fits all system may not address everything you need/want to track.

At a minimum, you should be tracking your sales, the booth fee, meals, travel (mileage), lodging, cost of goods (I base this on raw costs), and other expenses (such as marketing, printing, etc).  Just remember that while it may seem like you’re operating at a loss now, once tax time rolls around and you’re deducting all those expenses, you might come out ahead.  And it generally takes a couple  years to break a profit out of all those expenses.  Don’t despair.  You just might be the one who has the next big thing and no worries for anything ever again!

All of this to say – there’s still work to be done!  Craft shows are not just a set up your tent and sell your wares kind of thing.  But I also want you to know that while it’s hard work getting out there and putting a face to your crafts, it’s also just so much fun getting out there and meeting people who are as in love with what you create as you are.  It gives me such a thrill when strangers come into our booth and tell me how much they love their Book-Inz!  It means I’m not the only weirdo in the world who thinks Book-Inz are awesome! 🙂

And it will mean someone else finds your creations just as valuable and amazing as you do.  That’s a feeling no one can duplicate.

Until next time, Keep Calm and Read On!  And if you have a question, please feel free to email me at book-inz@att.net, I am happy to answer your questions!

And if you’re curious about Book-Inz, click here to view our latest offerings!

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Crafty Business: Craft Shows Week #4 – Booth Set Up

Setting Up Your Booth

So you’ve scheduled your first craft show and you’re ready to go, right?  Have you given any thought to how you will present your creations in their best light?  Some tables, a few tablecloths, some price signs, and poof – you have a booth, right?  Well, not so fast.

Let me tell you, it is NOT easy.  Our booth is a work in progress.   We started with two tables and a display my brother-in-law made from my vision.  (He’s really good at that, by the way, so if you’re in the area and need an intro…) And it worked.  For a good long time it worked.  It was a folding wooden display with hooks to hang Book-Inz from the metal rings.

And then a customer told me about magnetic paint.  Kind of like chalkboard paint, but magnetic.  Six coats later, I had a magnetic display.  Which, had I thought it out, made perfect sense!  How better to display the magnetic properties of Book-Inz than on a magnetic display?

And then I needed more display space for all the new Book-Inz I was making.  Enter two black picture frames with metal flashing. That worked even better! So now I’ve got a mishmash of displays, two MORE tables…

And then I saw a vendor with raised tables and discovered bed risers.  You know, those large plastic upside down cups that lift your bed height?  Yep.  Four sets of risers later, we had an even better display.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Because it didn’t stop there!  While trolling Pinterest (a fantastic website if you haven’t been), I saw a diagram showing how to make a frame for canopy walls and away I went!

So I went from this:

To this:

 

And whatever your display, you’ve got to make it fit into whatever amount of space the show organizers are offering.  Sometimes it will be 10×10 (typically the standard), other times it will be 8×8, and then other times it will fall somewhere in between.  I’ve done shows where the space was 20×10, 6×8, 5×8, and even 6×6. And that’s another consideration to have when deciding how to set up your space. Is it configurable to fit ANY size space or will I have to start all over with a different display each time I get a new booth size? Of course, you could also only apply for shows that have the space you want, but then you’re limiting your customer base.  And not only do you have to make sure it’s configurable, you also have to make sure it’s not so unwieldy that you can’t set it up and tear it down in less than thirty minutes.  Well, you could take an hour if you wanted, but why would you?  Our old set up had us torn down and in the car within thirty minutes.  Our new set up takes a little bit longer, but also looks so much better and gives more space for customers to browse.  Ask yourself these questions: How many dollies will you need to load/unload?  Can you set up and tear down by yourself if you had to?  Will you have help available if you are by yourself?

I want to stress that your booth does not have to be perfect from day one.  Just like with your creativity, inspiration will come from the most random places.  Your booth set up is going to be ever evolving.  At least until you have discovered that sweet spot of display, time, and space. Because having multiple configurations is a headache, I’ve been there.  Some of the best advice I never took was to set up your display at the house the first time and time yourself, work out the tweaks, catch those little things you might not have noticed while constructing it from pieces.  In your mind, you’ve probably got a wonderful vision of what it looks like – real life isn’t always the same.  And did you catch where I mentioned I never took this advice?  Don’t make my mistake.

And look at others’ booths while you’re out and about, scoping your next craft fair application, there are also a few other ways to get inspiration for your booth.  One of the best I’ve found is Show Me Your Booths, a Flickr site.  There are actually a few craft show booth sites on Flickr.  Meylah.com has a great ideas post about your booth set up.

And all the materials you use for building this fantastic display are deductible expenses on your income tax.  How’s that for nifty?  Now I’m not telling you to go out and build the most expensive thing you can find to have a big deduction, it doesn’t work quite like that.  I’m just saying that you need to save those receipts from Home Depot and Lowe’s for your tax return…

So go find inspiration, get some supplies, and get to building!  Until next time, Keep Calm and Read On!

PS – I have had several readers contact me with further questions.  I am more than happy to answer them through email at book-inz@att.net. And I will also post your questions anonymously with my answers – if you’ve got the question, chances are someone else does, too!

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Book-Inz Random Thoughts: Craft Shows #2 (Money Talks)

Last week I started a Wednesday series on the various topics related to getting into the craft show circuit.  I’m not sure how many posts this will entail, but I assure you at the end of this series you will have the rudimentary knowledge you’ll need to get yourself out in front of the buying public as a professional crafter.

Before You Begin

So you have a crafty hobby that looks like it might make a worthwhile business.  Or you’ve been making things as gifts and someone has mentioned you should start selling them.  Or you’ve been selling online and feel like you’re ready to meet the buying public.  Or any number of other thoughts that have somehow lead you down the path to craft shows.

But first things first – MONEY.  It’s always about the money.   Where do you put the money, how do you get the money, how do you keep the money. If you’ve already established the money side of your crafty business, I’m most likely repeating what you already know.  And just maybe I’m sharing something you didn’t know…

I’m not going to talk about business models, or corporations, or any of that highbrow business stuff. You can pay an accountant and attorney for that information and I strongly suggest that you do at some point in your business affairs.

I’m going to get you set up as a sole proprietor running your own small crafty business.  Because you need to have a separate accounting for crafty business money – EVEN IF YOU’RE USING THAT MONEY AS PERSONAL INCOME. Here’s why – supplies can be purchased tax-exempt, most expenses on behalf of the crafty business are deductible, and craft fair booth fees can add up quickly! Not to mention travel and meals.  I’ll get to that in a minute. In fact, I’ll just be giving you the steps now and explaining the why’s and wherefore’s further on.

First things first – get yourself down to your local county courthouse (or sub-courthouse if you live in a larger metropolis) and file a DBA.  AKA “Your Name DOING BUSINESS AS Your Business Name.” In Texas, it’s about $20 to file and you keep this name for ten years.  As the court clerk who took my filing says, “And in ten years, I hope you’re rich and I’m retired!”  CAVEAT: This only protects your name in the county you file.  If you want to protect your name in multiple counties, you can either file DBA’s wherever you want OR you can file as a corporation and trademark your business name.  If you’re going that route, I strongly suggest you see an attorney and an accountant who can explain the pros and cons of that mess.  Not that it’s a mess, but it is an incredible headache if you choose to undertake it by yourself.  If you’re going corporate, get professional advice and don’t go it alone.

Second – This one is iffy for most people, but it was the first thing I did.  Get a post office box.

Third – hightail it to your local bank (sometimes your personal bank will give you breaks when you open a business account) and set up a small business checking and savings.  Get one set of checks and a debit card.  NOTHING ELSE.  No merchant account, nothing.  Just get basic business checking and savings.  And use your new PO Box street address.

Fourth – In Texas, go here and apply for your Sales Tax and Use Permit. It’s easy, quick, and you’ll have your number issued at the end of the process.  Print out the signature form, mail it in, and you’ll have your actual paper permit in two to three weeks.  For non Texans, your State Comptroller’s office will have the information you’ll need to apply.  Keep in mind, there are a few states that do not collect sales tax, so this may not apply to you.

Fifth – Set up a Square account (www.squareup.com).  No, I am not a paid affiliate for Square.  In my personal experience, Square is the easiest and quickest way to accept credit card payments in person. No contracts, no monthly obligations, even the card reader is FREE – just a straight fee based service that’s comparable to PayPal in costs. The only caveat here is that you will need a cell phone with smartphone capabilities. Square works on iOS and Android platforms. I talked about using Square in a past blog post.

Now you are set up to do business in the State of Texas.  And why is this so important?  Because for Texas, and any state that collects sales tax, you have to file an accounting of your sales for tax purposes.  This is what makes your business legal.  If you sell anything in the State of Texas, you are required to collect sales tax, PERIOD. You can be fined $500.00 PER DAY for operating a business without a Sales and Use Tax Permit in Texas.  *NOTE: For y’all who don’t live ‘round here, this is an important issue to research in your state.

The other part of having the Sales and Use Tax Permit in Texas is that you can make tax exempt supply purchases at most, if not all, retail establishments.  Once you get your permit, make several copies and take them to the various local businesses where you purchase supplies.  Usually the businesses will have a form for you to fill out and attach a copy of your permit so you don’t have to present it every time you make a purchase.

One way or another, the State is going to get their sales tax, capisce?

Here’s why you should get a PO Box – if you’re online and don’t have a PO Box, anyone you purchase from or sell to now has your home address.  Or work address.  And given the economy and other factors, having large packages frequently shipped to your office isn’t always kosher.  Having everyone know your home address isn’t safe, either.  USPS now has a service that allows you to write your PO Box address as if it’s a street address and will accept deliveries up to 70 pounds from ANY shipper on your behalf.  Not only that, but they will also email or text you when your box has mail.  And this service is FREE. A small box is about $75.00 a year and a very small price to pay for peace of mind.  Do you really want to risk a disgruntled customer showing up at your home or workplace? *NOTE: PO Box rental fees are tax deductible.

Your business checking account and debit card will allow you to make these purchases in a way that makes that accounting easy to calculate on whatever basis you are required to file.  In Texas, small businesses such as ours typically file quarterly.  I don’t know about you but I am not the most organized person in the world (this is a HUGE understatement) and having all of my receipts in one place with the bank statements to back them up (rather back up my faulty memory) makes it a snap to file those quarterly tax forms.  The other thing your business account does is keep your business spending separate from your personal spending.  THIS is a HUGE deal for Federal tax purposes.  *NOTE: Bank fees are tax deductible.

I’m not really but sort of segueing into Craft Show Booth issues, which is an entirely different section of this series, but here it is: The fees you pay for your craft show booths are tax deductible.  I repeat: the fees you pay for your craft show booths are tax deductible. Did you get that?  I only emphasize it because I have talked to craft show vendors more seasoned than I who DIDN’T know this.  Use your business account for all transactions related to your business.  Please.  I am doing you a huge favor by stressing this one point.  When you start your tax process next December/January/February/March (please don’t start in April), separating personal from business will be your largest headache ever.

Other things that are deductible that you might not know about: service fees (PO Box rental, postage meter, annual domain renewal, web hosting, etc.) Just about any money you pay for a service for your business is deductible.  So is mileage travelling to and from shows, even local ones.  As well as meals purchased the day of the show and during travel to and from shows. From here on out, in future sections, I will add a note that the suggestion is also tax deductible. Eventually, you’ll see why keeping the monies separate is such a big deal, if you haven’t already come to that realization.

Square.  Credit card processing.  Another big deal when it comes to selling at craft shows.  Sure, you could sign up for a merchant account and get locked into multi-year contract with monthly fees on top of processing fees on top of the cost of the equipment…but why do that kind of damage to your cash flow?  While I’m sure there are other companies out there that do the same thing that Square does, this is who I chose to go with and they have been good to me and for me.  Accepting credit cards is a benefit to you AND to your customers.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately, most people don’t carry cash anymore.  I know I don’t.  And having the ability to accept credit cards takes away the old excuse of ‘I don’t have any cash’ and sometimes spurs the customer to purchase more.  I know for Book-Inz, there was a noticeable uptick in quantity sales when I started using Square.  So do your research and set yourself up with an account.  Your customers will appreciate you and your bank account will thank you. *Note: Credit card processing fees are tax deductible.

Next week, we’ll talk about finding your shows.  Until then, Keep Calm and Read On!

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That pesky cell phone battery

In my last post, I mentioned needing electricity for charging your smartphone while at shows…and that I had a gadget for that, too!

Meet fueltank from callpod – http://www.callpod.com/products/fueltank

Courtesy of Callpod.com

Plug it into your wall and charge it overnight.  Unplug it and take it with you.  Holds enough juice to recharge your battery in full!  Two models, the Uno and the Duo.  As named, the Uno charges one phone and the Duo charges two.

 
Uses a rechargeable lithium battery and comes with three adapters and a coupon for a free adapter (if the three you receive don’t work).  One adapter was for the iPhone, so I didn’t even need to use the coupon.  It also comes with a handy travel pouch to carry all the gear with you. 
 
I first had the opportunity to play with the fueltank at IndieGenius The Bazaar (www.beindiegenius.typepad.com) last weekend!  What a cool and handy gadget!  Didn’t need electricity to charge the phone for using with my Square.  I connected fueltank when I was at 50% battery and it took about 20 minutes to bring it back to 100%.  THAT was exciting because it means unless we’re outdoors, I won’t have to spring for electricity! 
 
AND, it’s on sale 50% off RIGHT NOW (use coupon code CALL999)
 
So let’s look at the numbers:
  • Typical electricity fee for shows: $10
  • One time cost for fueltank (ON SALE NOW!): $25, plus shipping = $35
  • Pays for its self in FOUR shows!

And considering IndieGenius was a two day show, it’s more than halfway paid for!  Instant cost savings!  Since it doesn’t require batteries to juice it up, there’s more money saved there, as well!  Can you tell how excited I am about this product?  🙂  Well, I get excited that we save money, too! 

If you use your smartphone for shows, please consider getting the fueltank.  I hope I’ve been able to show how useful and valuable it is for your smartphone and your bottom line!

 

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Accepting Credit Cards

If you’re a crafter who sells at shows, you really should look into accepting credit cards, if you don’t already do so.  Not only do we sell at craft shows, we also BUY!  And I won’t name names, but a certain vendor lost my sale last weekend because I didn’t have enough cash to buy all the products I wanted to buy and they didn’t take credit cards!  A $50-60 sale, easy, but lost to another vendor who happily took my card for her goods.

There are several programs and systems out there, some require a contract, some require equipment purchases, some require electricity.  And as a small vendor, we don’t really want to get locked into expensive contracts.  Some of the shows don’t even offer electricity as an option.  And purchasing equipment requires a cash outlay that isn’t always convenient for the business…

Meet Square (www.squareup.com), a nifty little gadget that hooks up to your smartphone via a FREE app for use with iPhone, iPad and Android.  No contract, no equipment to buy, no electricity needed…unless you need it for your smartphone! (And I have a handy gadget for THAT, too!) You sign up online, enter your bank information and VOILA!  You are set up to accept credit cards.  And not just the ol’ Visa/Mastercard, either…you can also accept Discover and AmEx, with NO ADDITIONAL COST!  That’s right, it costs the same amount to accept Discover and AmEx as it does for Visa/Mastercard!  And let’s discuess those costs, shall we?

  • 2.75% for each swiped transaction
  • 3.50% + $0.15 for each keyed transaction (sometimes the magnetic stripe is worn down, tell your customer to get themselves a NEW CARD!)
  • New users get the first $1,000 of each seven (7) day period deposited the next business day.
  • Accounts are periodically reviewed for deposit amount increases.
  • The little reader accessory is shipped FREE to you!  (We like FREE, a LOT!)

NO contract.  NO equipment to buy. LOW costs.  The fee is deducted before the deposit is made.  Each transaction results in a nifty little email telling you how much, where and what your daily tally is.  Not only that, but your app also lets you see what transactions have been made on your Square.

So enough about the technicals…here’s my personal experience:

I started using Square at the Funky Finds Spring Fling.  GREATEST crafter thing EVER.  I LOVE this little white plug in.  LOVE IT.  (Did I mention how much I ❤ it?)  🙂

Show was on both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday’s money showed up in my account Tuesday AM.  Sunday’s money was there Wednesday AM.  Direct deposit, baby!  And the other sweet thing?  Bank fees (including Square) are 100% tax deductible!  So you really didn’t spend a dime on those processing fees, did you?  Of course, you have to be a registered business to take those deductions, but still, how much more convenient does it have to be?

And as for sales?  There was a noticeable uptick in multiple quantity sales when my customers saw that I accepted credit cards.  The average credit card sale was $30.  My average cash sale is $6.  You do the math…

All of the above to say, if you don’t use Square, you need to.  Really.  It’s a great convenience for your customer and an instant sales booster for YOU!  And while we’re in this for the passion of our craft, I’d like to think maximizing our sales is somewhere in the next four items down the list.  This little white plug in gadget is your not so secret sales booster.

Go.  Sign up now.  You’ll thank me later.

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