There are no pat answers to your questions, but I'll give it a shot.
I've been doing shows for 15 years or so. First of all, realize that
just to do one show will involve an investment from you. Once you
have the equipment, the cost drops as you continue using it, so plan
to do at least 3 shows. Initially, I suggest that you do one-day
shows near your home. Keep travel costs low and work to get local
If you start out by doing indoor shows, you won't need to buy a
canopy and self-contained lighting equipment, plus bad weather will
be less of a factor in your success. You can use card tables
initially, (but you'll want to upgrade after a while) so see if you
can borrow them from friends, or rent tables from the show organizer.
Don't forget table covers - I sew, so I tailor covers to slip over my
tables, and use fabric that is wash and dry! Business cards can be
inexpensively printed from your computer - have at least 150/show to
If the interior is dimly lit, you'll want to highlight your work.
Electricity is usually available at indoor shows, but you'll need a
heavy-duty extension cord, power strip, and several lamps. Drafting
table lamps that are on extendable arms work well, and can be
clamped on the edge of a table. Don't forget some sort of chair, a TV
tray type table for your cash box, receipt book, pens, and cooler for
drink and food. I NEVER eat from food vendors - a holdover from my
days inspecting them. I can't afford to get sick during a show!! (The
stories I could tell about their ideas of "sanitation!")
You'll want some kind of display. Initially, that may be as simple
as putting earrings through fabric stretched on embroidery hoops.
You'll get other ideas as you "shop" some shows. Security may be an
issue if you have items priced >US$100 - perhaps a case or some way
to secure them.
ASAP GET A SALES TAX NUMBER!!! At least here in Kansas, the state
dept. of revenue is watching such things closely. The other financial
thing is to spend a few bucks with a good accountant to get books set
up and understand what records you need to keep - planning ahead will
make your tax reports sooooo much easier.
Is it worthwhile? - Sometimes it is and other times, it's a bust.
Expect both results. The best way to determine if a show will be
suited to your work is to go and look it over for a few hours. See
what kind of booths are drawing a crowd. Observe if many people are
carrying purchases - if you don't see many, than it's a crowd of
lookers. Why are they just looking? Is it because the prices are too
high, quality is poor, etc. If you look at things as a shopper,
Is it better to do a few each year? - Well, how much stock can you
produce? Assuming that you have a sellable product and the price is
right, that will be your limiting factor. Since you don't know the
answers to those two questions, I'd suggest that you make up a nice
variety of stock - things you can brag on. Select four shows that
you feel are right for your work and apply to them. Be prepared with
jury photos. For a relatively inexpensive way to document/photograph
your work, see if your scanner will provide good images. My first
scanner gave amazing images, but my new one is a disappointment in
that area! I've observed that shows with modest entry fees (US$75)
are more relaxed about jury photos, but as the entry fee climbs you'd
better plan to have professional quality photos.
What is the normal cost? - Hard to define normal. Start with your
show fees, then determine and add up the following: photographs,
displays, tables and covers and lamps, tax accountant's time, travel,
lodging and meals for multi-day shows... these basic costs will vary
greatly, and you need to think through what you want to do before you
do the math. I'm not listing the cost of making stock as I assume
that you are making it anyway, but it really should be part of the
I'm sure you'll find lots of wise advice from other Orchidians. Best
of luck and let us know what happens,
Judy in Kansas