Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preparing for an Art Fair - Part II

graphite sketches of people watching soccer game Sketches of people at a soccer game
graphite in small Moleskine

So now that I am done with my art fair, I have time to share the rest of my tips with you. If you missed part I of Preparing for an Art Fair, which dealt with managing the "stuff" needed for your booth space, you can find it here.

Part II deals with managing inventory and starts with making lists. I love making lists. Making lists makes me feel productive. So it's only logical that I chose to simplify my show prep by making this case, inventory lists.

I have an Excel spreadsheet for my note card and print inventory. In it I keep track of how many note card packs and prints are in inventory, maximum inventory levels and minimum inventory levels. The spreadsheet is set up to automatically calculate how many note cards and prints I need to make when I fall below the minimum inventory level for each specific image. It even has a column for production priority so I know what to make first. I swear, I could be a poster girl for Excel.

Now I know spreadsheets don't seem very creative and many people might be turned off by this tool, but I have to tell you it saves me loads of time. Before having the spreadsheet, I had to decide before every show how many note cards and prints I wanted to make. And of course, since it wasn't written down, I could never remember what I did for the last show. Plus it was too easy to get emotional about the whole decision. You know, thinking that this was going to be the show where hoards of people showed up all wanting the same print. Since I don't want to disappoint anyone or lose a sale it only made sense to make a few, or ten, or twenty extra prints of that image. Right?!??

With a spreadsheet the numbers are cut and dry, so I don't have to worry about being under-, or over- prepared.

I also have a handwritten list detailing the amount of each cash denomination that I take to a fair for making change. It makes a trip to the bank for rolled coins super easy. And it gives me a way to double check my receipts at the end of the day since I know exactly how much money I started with.

All the lists save me time by eliminating the repetition of figuring out how much of everything I need for every show. But, perhaps equally as important, they also give me confidence because I know I am well prepared.

In an ideal world I also mat and frame my paintings as soon as they are done so I don't need to have a framing marathon the week before a fair. The same is true for printing and packing note cards. I replace them as soon as I fall below my minimum inventory levels so I'm not making 30 or 40 packs all at once. Unfortunately I don't live in an ideal world, so sometimes this is more of a goal then a reality.

At the end of a fair, part of my wrap up when I get home is restocking bags (for putting purchases in) and business cards and returning the cash bag to its beginning values. That way I know everything is ready to go for next time.

Using this system I've had much better luck avoiding the pre-show stress-ball stage. I've also been able to take advantage of opportunities that showed up without much lead time. Best of all, I don't have to give up painting for a month leading up to a fair date, and my family has stopped avoiding me during that time as well.

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