what it looks like to prepare for markets
Do you like shopping at local markets and wonder what goes into the prep for makers?
Or maybe you’re about to go to your first market as a vendor and are wondering what you need to do to prepare?
I’m sharing my whole process and everything I have to do to prep for a market today!
1 - Design products.
Before you know what kind of packaging and materials to order, and what your booth needs to look like, you have to know what you’ll be selling!
I design new products year round and try to add a new print, card, or lasercut to my online shop every week. I used to bulk design a bunch of new stuff right before a market season (twice a year) but realized that added way too much to my pre-market schedule. Additionally, it’s better for your SEO when you update your shop regularly instead of only large updates twice a year.
However, I always need to be thinking a month or two ahead for my products for any holidays or season items. That means thinking of Christmas and Holiday products in September, Valentine’s products in December, etc. By the time Christmas comes along I’ve been thinking about it for so long that I’m waiting for it to leave, ha!
2 - Order packaging and materials
Around two months before a market, I need to decide what products I’ll be bringing to the market and what materials I need to make all the product. This means stocking up on papers I use for prints, wood and acrylic I need for laser cuts, or folded paper and envelopes for my greeting cards. Once I’ve sorted out what I need for products, I order it!
About a month before a market, I need to figure out what packaging I’ll be needing for all my products. I have most of the packaging I need always on hand to ship for online orders, but I need to check if there’s anything that needs re-stocking or if I’d like to package something differently for the market. For example, when people purchase prints from me online, I package them in a plastic sleeve and put them into a cardboard mailer or cardboard tube for larger prints. For markets, however, I’m switching to a cardboard backer because it’s more economical and will be less wasteful. I’m also switching to eco-friendly packaging from Ecoenclose, which I’m really excited about!
At the same time, I also need to make sure I have all the print packaging that I’ll need: like business cards, thank you post cards, and stickers!
3 - Build the Booth
I have changed around my booth a few times but I think we’ve landed on one that we’ll stick to for a while. The last time I updated it was right before my biggest spring market which added a lot of stress to the week before the market to make sure it got done! My booth is made to fit a 10x10 space (preferably a corner) so if I’m ever in a market where I can’t have that booth size, I have another set up that fit into a 5x5 space. Hopefully we won’t have to make another version for a while!
How we made this booth:
We painted 4’x8’ MDF boards grey. I love white, but with white prints I wanted a slightly darker colour to help my prints stand out a little more!
We framed the MDF on the back side and added support beams, and then screwed each wall together! There are 5 portions to the walls: 4 x 4 foot portion and 1 x 2 foot portion for additional length on one side.
Since the booth is in the shape of an L, it self-stabilizes and doesn’t need braces to keep it upright. Yay!
The booth cost us around $350 to make.
4 - Make Everything
Once I have everything designed and the materials I’ve ordered have come in, it’s time to make everything! The only thing I outsource is my foil printing (so those designs get sent away to my printer) but otherwise my husband, Mitch, and I do everything! I make all the prints in house and Mitch heads to a community shop to do all the laser-cutting.
This market season is the first time we are working ahead! We started producing for this week’s market (it starts tonight, check out the details here) about 6 weeks in advance, which is very ahead of schedule for our normal timeline. After Scattered Seeds we have Third + Bird six weeks later, so we’ll likely be making product that whole time as well depending how much we have left over.
5 - Pre-Package Products
I like to pre-package as much as I can before markets to avoid needing to do that during the craziness of the market day and have a more efficient and timely process at the market. This means putting prints into plastic sleeves and folding cards and putting them in envelopes. I don’t put cards into their own sleeves ahead of time because I don’t want to be wasteful. In general, when people buy one card they also buy more, so I’d like to be efficient with my packaging to both save money AND the environment, so I just package those up at markets to avoid waste. No need to have 5 individually wrapped cards when you could put them all in one package!
6 - Set-up the Booth
Booth set-up is when this all finally comes together! Different markets do it differently, but all the markets I currently take part in do set-up at least a day before the market (and sometimes a week - the best!). We pop up the walls, set up our stock shelf, add shelves to the walls for cards, tape up all my prints, and nail in all the laser cuts to display throughout the wall! Set-up usually takes around 4 hours or so for us. I love getting this done before the market and then knowing I can chill until the market begins!
7 - Sort out all the other details
Make sure you have pricing signage!
Have a way to process payments. I love using square because you can take credit and debit tap payments, but it’s always good to have a healthy float for everyone paying in cash.
Have an inventory system and a way to track sales. I also use Square for that, even when people pay by cash because it keeps track of the items I sell and how much tax I owe at the end of a market.
Have your logo/business name displayed somewhere.
The Reality of Market Prep
Here’s the thing - market prep is a lot work if you couldn’t tell. And for most makers, it’s not the only thing we’re doing with our time. Many makers are doing this on the side and making it happen on top of their full time job. Other makers are doing it part-time while juggling a part-time job. Other makers are doing it and trying to keep their kids alive too. And there’s me, trying to balance all the other work that doesn’t stop (like wedding work and client work and online order fulfillment work) at the same time.
The reality is, we work until 2am. We work evenings. We work non-stop to do what we love. It can be seriously exhausting beforehand - but it’s all so fun and worth it to interact with shoppers and markets and have the things we worked so hard on be purchased.
I love what I do. Even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.