Are you a maker? Do you want to start a small business and sell your creations at shows, events and online? I can help. Below is an outline on How to: Sell at Events.
I also offer consultations on:
- Business Philosophy & Brand
- Vending Online
- Marketing Materials Design
- Signage Making
- Profit & Loss Tracking
- Income Tax Responsibility
Contact us for more information and rates.
How to: Sell at Events
Step 1: Business Name
Do I need a business name? No, but having a business name is a great way to express your style and build brand recognition.
What would I use a business name for? You will use this business name for marketing, social media, your Seller’s Permit and Income Tax Schedule C form and business license if you require one.
How do I choose a name? You can incorporate your name like ‘Betty Smith Designs”, or create a unique business name that encompasses your style, your focus and your perspective.
Do I need to register my Business Name? It’s not necessary but you can if you want to protect the name. Do a Google search to make sure the name isn’t already being used. If so, check to see if it’s a registered name and what that business does. If your business is different, you can still use the name but I recommend including the business descriptor on all marketing materials.
Can I just use my own name? Yes. You will use your name on your Seller’s Permit, Income Tax Schedule C.
Step 2: Business License
Do I need a Business License?
Yes: If you establish a physical store, a business license is required or if you open a Business bank account or credit card.
No: If you have a home-based business and vending at events, online, home parties or mail order sales.
Step 3: Obtain a Seller’s Permit for Sales Tax
Do I need a Seller’s Permit? If you plan to legally vend physical goods in your state, then yes. You will be required to collect and track sales tax on eligible goods, and file and pay your sales tax annually. Reputable events will require you to have a Seller’s Permit, to meet the requirements of their Event Permit.
What if I vend Services? In California, services like body painting or sewing, are sales tax-exempt and does not require a permit. For other states, check tax requirements.
How do I get a Seller’s Permit? You can apply for a FREE California Seller’s Permit from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, at the link below. Allow 1-2 weeks to receive your permit.
Obtain a California Sellers Permit
Can I include the sales tax into the retail price? Yes. Customers so appreciate having the sales tax built in since it’s less complicated at the POS (point of sale). It just takes some accounting math at when it’s time to file Sales Tax.
My consulting services includes pre-made accounting spreadsheets using Google Sheets. Contact me if interested.
Step 4: Set up Payment Services
If vending at events, be prepared to accept credit cards, Venmo and cash.
Square: To accept credit cards: sign up with Square on your mobile device. You will be sent a Square device that works with a phone jack, so if your phone doesn’t have one, purchase a dongle. Square also offers stand alone payment devices.
Square collects a merchant service fee on each transaction. Payments are automatically deposited into your bank account within a few days.
Square has amazing accounting features, so you can enter items and inventory into the program, and it will track what you sold and inventory.
You can also track cash sales in Square.
Venmo: This online payment system is a great way to take payment remotely, as most young people use it. You will be assigned a QR code that customers can scan for easy payment. Venmo sends you a notice when the payment is complete. Venmo collects a merchant service fee on each transaction. Payments are automatically deposited into your bank account monthly. You may use Venmo to pay others.
Zelle: If your bank accepts Zelle, you may accept payments. Most banks don’t charge a merchant service fee. Payments are deposited directly into your account within minutes of the transaction. You may use Zelle to pay others.
Paypal: This online payment system is great for in-person and online sales. Customers can pay you using your email address as your identification on Paypal. Paypal collects a merchant service fee on each transaction. Payments are held in a ‘wallet’ until you request a transfer to your bank account. You may use Paypal to pay others or order things online.
Cash: Be ready with change; $40 in ones, $60 in fives, and $5 in change if you are not including sales tax in your retail prices.
Obtain a zippered bank bag for your cash bank.
Use a binder clip to keep change in your pocket, moving larger bills to your cash bank bag.
Checks: Unless you know the customer, I don’t recommend accepting checks at events. It’s an extra step to deposit and check fraud is a possibility.
Step 5: Sales, Expenses and Sales Tax Tracking
This is extremely important for sales tax, income tax and profit & loss tracking. Your expense are deductable on your Income Tax Schedule C. Consider using bookkeeping software like Quickbooks, or create your own spreadsheets to track everything. Log all sales, including cash, Square, Venmo, Paypal and Zelle. Log all expenses as they happen and file all expense receipts. Scan paper receipts so you can keep electronic files. You’ll thank yourself at tax time.
Step 6: Online Presence
Social Media: Having an online presence is key. It’s how customers find you and how you Use social media promote product and events. Choose a platform bases on the demographic you are trying to reach. It’s worth it to take time to learn new platforms.
Below is a chart of Social Media based on demographics, posted by Worldstream.com in April 2022:
Do I need a website? A website is your online business store-front, where anyone can find you online. On your website, visitors can find information about your business; your product, your story, upcoming events, how to order, etc. All your social media posts can point people back to your website.
Step 7: Business Cards
These are nice to have, but not necessary. If you have a good sign with your contact information, customers can simply take a photo. However, with a good design, you can use your cards as price tags as well.
Order Business Cards: You have a few options.
Vistaprint is often the best deal, and allows you can design your own with their templets.
Etsy: Consider ordering from makers on Etsy, some offer design services.
Rubber Stamps: If you don’t want to commit to a large order, consider ordering a custome-made rubber stamp that you can use on blank cards, signage, price tags. Custom rubber stamps and blank cards can also be found on Etsy.
Card Holder: Don’t forget a business card holder for your table. DIY a decorated Altoid tin.
Step 8: Booth Signage:
Good signage helps customers browse your booth on their own, as some may not ask questions.
Booth Banner: Create or order a banner with your business name and simple description or motto. Example: Serenity – Boho Clothing and Accessories.
Order Custom Banners: from Etsy or Vistaprint . Make sure to order with grommets so your banner is easy to hang.
Sign Your Product: Create rigid signs for specific product, especially if you don’t want to price things individually.
Design Signs: If you good on the computer, design your own signs on Google Docs, it’s free. Print Signs: Printed signs can be laminated or or put into picture frames that can stand or hang. Loose paper signs at outdoor events blow around.
Laminators: This is an inexpensive way to make reusable signs. Shop online for laminators and laminator sheets for the best price. Avoid buying laminator sheets at office supply stores, you’ll pay a premium.
Hand Write Signs: If you have nice writing, hand-make signs with card stock, poster board, foam core or painted thin wood flats, that can be repainted and reused. Write with Sharpie Paint Pens for good visibility.
Hang Signs: Either punch holes in the corners of signs or use binder clips. Hang signs with S-hooks or cord. Clear packing tape works well on some surfaces. Avoid visible masking or
Step 9: Large Booth Gear
For indoor events, you will need:
Folding tables: These are a must, available in 8′, 6′ and 4′ rectangle and 3′ squares or rounds. If you usually do events alone or have limited physical capacity, consider smaller folding tables, they are lighter and easier to fit into a vehicle. Some fold in half and are more compact, but can be lighter weight. I prefer the Lifetime brand for their durability.
Folding Chairs: Have a folding chair for yourself, and one for your helper, visitors or customers to use if they need a break.
Table Cloths: For a professional look, acquire table cloths. They don’t have to match, but having a color theme helps establish your style. You don’t have to buy new, table cloths and home decor textiles can be found in thrift stores. Large binder clips are great for securing cloths to the table.
Fixtures: To best display your goods, obtain suitable fixtures. Again, these don’t have to be new. Get creative with things like wood boxes, old suitcases, wood branches, etc. Wood blocks or bricks make good risers. Search the web for ideas of DIY fixtures. If hanging goods, lightweight S-hooks are great, available online.
Buy Racks: Lightweight racks that can be disassembled are available online.
Hanging Racks: Use poles with rubber stoppers, chain and heavy S-hooks to add hanging racks to your structure, not recommend for EasyUps.
Build Racks: Design and create custom sturdy clothing racks using custom sized poles and joiners, these can be disassembled for transport.
Step 10: Other Gear
Storage Bins: Invest in a modular storage bin collection. If you can, avoid cardboard boxes that can be easily damaged and are had to pack efficiently.
Bins with Lids: These stack well, but opt for bines with lids that lock, especially if being transported in an open truck bed. These can be found at stores like Target.
Flip-Top Clear Bins: I prefer these sturdy bins because the lid is attached, they have holes to zip tie them shut and they stack very well together. Use masking tape to label your bins, this makes set up much easier. Empty bins can be covered with a table cloth and used as extra display space. These can be found at home improvement stores.
Utility Supplies & Gear:
Gear Boxes: Obtain a heavy duty divided gear box for small gear. Designate a heavy duty bin for heavy gear.
Supplies: Pack assorted sizes of S-hooks, binder clips, zip ties, bungie balls, bungie cords, clothesline rope or paracord, masking tape, gaffer tape and clear packing tape. Avoid duck tape which leaves a residue.
Tools: Bring a paratool or pliers, a hammer and assorted screwdrivers.
Power: If you are using power, bring a 20′ heavy duty extension cord and power strip.
Cart: Most events will require you to haul in your stuff, so if you don’t have muscle for carrying heavy loads, consider a folding flat cart or dolly. It’s always a good idea to ask about the load-in area.
Cargo Straps: Invest in some quality ratchet straps to secure things to your roof rack or truck bed. These can also be used to secure your shade structure in windy conditions. Bungie cords and rope are not as secure for high risk uses.
Step Stool: If hanging things above your reach, bring a small folding step stool. Avoid standing on folding chairs.
Administrative Supplies: Pack a notebook, pens, sharpies, scissors, safety pins, scotch tape, price tags, sign-making materials for last-minute signage needs.
Suitable Vehicle: The size of your vehicle will determine how much you can bring to a show. You will need room for product, fixtures and gear. A hatch-back vehicle with a roof rack, truck or van is ideal.
U-haul rents cargo vans, pickup trucks and box trucks. It’s cheaper for local events since mileage will be low. Reserve your rental weeks in advance.
Set Up Clothing: Wear sturdy shoes and clothes for set up. Pack gloves to unpack your vehicle. Scrapes and cuts can happen. Change into your ‘sales’ clothes after set up.
Back Support: If you are prone to back problems, use a back brace to set up.
First Aid: Pack a first aid kit with meds like pain relievers, allergy pills, digestive aids, Emergen-C and cough drops, because talking a lot causes a dry throat.
Food: Event food can be expensive to plan ahead. Use a cooler-bag to pack snacks, prepared foods, cold drinks including caffein and water in a refillable container.
Include: Flatware, napkins or bandannas, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and a trash bag.
Step 11: Shade Structure for Outdoor Events:
If you plan to do outdoor events, owning your own 10×10 shade structure is a must. Borrowing one can be problematic, especially if you have never used it before. If you damage it in use, it’s becomes an issue.
EasyUp type structures are great. Prices range depending on the quality, so invest in the best one you can afford. Keep in mind, EasyUp structures are bulky and heavy, so make sure it will fit in or on your vehicle. The canopy fabric blocks sun and rain, but catches wind, so you need ground stakes for dirt or grass, and weights for asphalt. These usually come with the structure. These structures are not designed to hang things since the top support rails are slanted.
Make your own shade structure: The benefit is you can make custom sizes, it’s often less expensive and the parts break down to smaller components, easier to transport in pieces. This structure is great if you are hanging clothing since the poles are horizontal and sturdy.
Structure: Use aluminum conduit pipe and metal joiners You’ll need an angle grinder to cut pipe to size.
Metal conduit is available at home improvement and hardware stors.
Metal joiners available at: Yuma Bargain Wharehouse
Shade Cloth: Tarps are waterproof but acts like a sail in the wind, so you’ll need more tie-downs and guy-lining. I recommend mesh shade fabric, the wind moves through it. I personally love Aluminet, a silver reflective mesh cloth that deflects the sun, so it’s super cool underneath.
Shade Cloth available at: https://shadeclothstore.com/
Bungies: Attach shade fabric with bungie balls. Bungie cords in assorted sizes are useful. Available online.
Step 12: Book Events
Find Events: Do a Google search for events in your area in January, when Spring & Summer events are posted. Do the same at the end of summer for Holiday events.
Track Events: Create a spreadsheet by event date, booth fees and other deciding factors to decide which events to do.
Book Events: Once you determine an event is right for you, book it as soon as you can as some events fill up. Always ask about the cancellation policy before paying your Vendor fee. Expect to sign a Release of Liability form, very common at events. Stay in touch with the Vendor Coordinator and ask questions.
Schedule: Keep a tight reign on your calendar, so you don’t overbook yourself, and schedule prep time and recovery time so you don’t burn out.
Step 13: Recruit Help
Do I Need Help? Vending at events is a lot of work. Usually set up and take down is the same day, plus drive time so you could be looking at a 12-hour day. It all goes more smoothly with two people.
Recruit: Ask a family member, a responsible child or a friend. It is appropriate to compensate your helper in some way, depending on your relationship. Just make sure to prearrange an agreement. Working on assumptions can hurt a friendship.
Step 14: Price Tags
Decide what kind of price tags you will use:
Research sticker and tie-on tags online, both pre-made and DIY options.
Buy or Order Your Tags: This is a quick and easy option
Do this 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you can get exactly what you need, and get them in time to price your goods.
Avoid waiting to the last minute and having to buy whatever the store has.
Where to Buy or Order Price Tags:
Craft stores & Office Supply stores have a decent selection, but you will pay a premium.
Order online for the best selection, allow for shipping time.
DIY Tie-on Tags – Order a custom Rubber Stamp:
A business card size is great for large items, and double as business cards
Order custom rubber stamps from Etsy, Vista Print, Office Supply Stores
On the stamp, include Business Name, What you make and Contact Info.
Stamp onto craft-board tags as needed.
DIY Tie-on Tags – Craft-board Tags: This is more work but looks more professional
Order pre-made blank tags with holes already punched
Or cut your own from card stock, new or upcycled craft-board.
Punch the holes with a hole puncher.
Use cotton string to tie tags to goods.
For a charming hand-written look, use a fine point Sharpie
DIY Sticker Tags:
Order colorful masking tape
Handwrite prices with a Sharpie
Step 15: Price Your Goods
Do Your Research:
Check out similar hand-made goods on Etsy other online selling platforms, to find out the price range.
Your Price Range:
Decide what you want YOUR price range to be. Depending on the venue and demographics of attendees, prices will range from $10 to $100+. Items priced from $30 – $50 sell best at most venues.
Track Your Making Time & Expenses:
Decide what your hourly rate is, then do the math per item.
Figure out how much your expenses are per item.
Determine the total cost of materials + your time per item.
Deciding on a Price – Compare the Following:
Price of similar goods researched.
The total cost per item, multiply by 2.
How much you would pay for similar goods.
Optional: Build the Sales Tax into the Price:
Customers appreciate this.
This is more work for Sales Tax Returns, but it makes sales go smoother.
With all these numbers in front of you – Choose Your Price:
Determine lowest price you will sell the item for.
Determine the amount you would like to sell the item for.
Use the price you would like to sell it for. If a customer is wavering on a purchase, you can offer s lower price, knowing what your bottom line is. This is also appropriate if a customer is considering buying more than one item.
Step 16: Plan Ahead
To-Do List: Create you To-Do list with deadlines to stay on track.
Booth Set-up Plan: Draft out how you will set up your booth ahead of time.
Back-up Plans: If your booth is relying on something that is iffy AND vital to your operation, have a Plan-B.
Be Self-Reliant: Plan to bring everything you’ll need for a successful event.
Create Packing Checklist: List all your product, fixtures, tables, shade structure, gear, provisions etc., to avoid forgetting things you need.
Plan Take-Down: By the end of the event, you’ll be tired so before you begin packing up, have a snack, hydrate and have come caffeine. Most accidents happen during take-down so take your time, pack methodically and label bins as you go. You will thank yourself later.
Step 17: Manage Expectations
Expect Mishaps: There are a lot of moving parts to vending, so don’t get derailed if something goes wrong, or you forget something. Improvise and keep moving.
Keep Expectations Low: To avoid disappointment, set your sales goal to cover your expenses. Everything is gravy after that. You never know how sales will go, so go easy on yourself. At the end of the day, you will have gained more experience regardless of sales.
Learn What You Can: Observe other booths for ideas, ask other vendors, questions, take notes and photos. Get to know other vendors to network with. Offer help if your neighbor needs an extra hand, they will do the same for you.
Enjoy the Experience: If you are new to vending, just focus on the experience. Bottom line, make it fun and enjoy yourself.