Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How To Be a Great Vendor

*NOTE: this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for like....forever.  Meaning I've really been thinking about it. Enjoy!*

I considered titling this blog "How Not To Be a Giant Flake"  But then I was worried that some people might not appreciate my humour.  And then I thought, well if you are offended by that, we probably can't be friends.  I'm just kidding...my point is...none of us WANT to be a flake... but...

...most of us can remember a time when we were total flakes.  Bailing on a friend's request for coffee.  Not picking up a phone call  (GUILTY!!!!)  Spacing on an important date. We all know it's not cool,  but when it comes to the handmade world, your word is a bond, especially when you're applying for markets.

By no means am I the definitive authority on Do & Do Not's when applying for markets, but I think we can all use a little reminder to make sure we're working together for a respectful, inclusive handmade community. So I wanted to share some of my tips to be an awesome vendor (who gets great reviews and gets invited back!)

1).  Don't Apply If You Can't Committ to the Show
Maybe you're clean out of stock.  Maybe you're going on holiday the weekend before the market.  Don't bow to the pressure of applying for that market.  I know it's hard - I also want to do all the things all the time.  
But if you're not ready, be real about. It's not gonna be good for you, and you know it...deep down, you know it's not going to be fun.  You're gonna be stressed and end up resenting the market.  And you're going to be in a bad mood the day of the market, and that affects the vendors around you AND the shoppers.   Keep the love alive for your business and don't put so much on your plate.

2).  Don't Apply and then Recind your Application prior to the application closing date
See #1.  But really.  Let the application close.  If you get selected for the market, graciously bow out and let the next person on the waitlist take your place.  Applying and pulling out before the close of the applications just looks bad. It also makes you look unorganized; like you don't have your poop in a group.  (PS How much do I LOVE the phrase "get your poop in a group"? ROFL) Maybe you don't think this is a big deal, so let me put it another way.  Imagine you applied for a job on Monday, and the posting was accepting applications until Friday.  Now imagine you calling the store/office on Wednesday to tell them you DON'T want to apply for the job.  Think about how that manager would interpret the situation.  Then imagine in 6 months you applied for that job again....?!?!?
To me, this is what it looks like when you apply for a market and then cancel before the applications close. It's weird. It's unprofessional. It's unorganized. Mostly, it's confusing. And it telegraphs to me as a market organizer that you didn't really think about what applying to the market meant and entailed.  This also might affect you if you want to apply for that same market in the future!  Remember, it's a small community - you always want to put your best foot forward.  Honesty is the best policy (see #5).

3). Actually read the Terms & Conditions

Hands up, we're all guilty. But only frustration comes from NOT really  reading the terms and conditions.  

"No, you can't have a refund. "
"Yes, you have to donate 30 Swag Bag items. "
"No, you won't have room to bring your farmhouse kitchen sink in addition to the 8ft table that's being provided."

Markets have terms and conditions for a reason, usually because they had that EXACT thing happen to them in the past! So terms & conditions come from learning experiences-not evil vengeance.  As a vendor I get A LOT of emails in a short period of time because I only sell from September to December.  These emails are long, detailed, and from multiple events.  YOU MUST READ EVERY SINGLE ONE! Maybe a few times - I have done this more than I'd like to admit.  I think I read the email, when in reality I scrolled through it while I was watching TV....and then I have to go back because I can't remember what time set up started ;)   
Here's what I do - make a folder in your inbox where you put all your contracts and info emails from each market, each season.  That way if you do forget something like where you're supposed to park on the day of the market, you know where to go and find the information instead of bothering the organizer, who already sent you the information you needed. And yes, I know, of course it's much easier to fire off an email to the organizer who no doubt knows exactly the answer to your question.  But they're busy. And they already sent you that information.

4). Don't Be Late                             
 This should seem obvious. It's not.  

Don't be late with anything.  If you have to pay by next Friday, make sure you pay by Thursday.  If you have to be at the venue by 9:15am be there by 9am, even if you have to wait in your car until the doors are actually open (I do this ALL THE TIME). EVERYONE'S time is valuable, not just yours! Be respectful.  If you're running late because of a traffic accident, deathly ill child, or your car broke down, phone the organizer.  Being late because you didn't get up early enough to grab a coffee is NOT OK!  Not having enough time to set up is a detriment to you and the market.  Think about when you're running late for work, how stressed you get, and how that affects your WHOLE DAY! Think your sales are gonna be good in that emotional state? Nope. Every market is like your first day of work for a new employer.  You want to show up on time, look the part, be ready to work, and generally be awesome. 

5). Be Honest
Easier said than done, I know.  Especially when you think you might hurt someone's feelings.  Maybe you applied for two markets, got in to both, and now you have to back out of one? Or maybe finances are tight and you need some extra time to pay?  Don't fib your way through an email to try to save my feelings.  You know how you can usually tell when your kid/friend is lying...yeah, same here.  Just be honest in your email.  In MOST cases (actually I would like to say ALL cases, because I have YET to meet a market organizer who is 100% heartless) the market organizers are here to help you have a successful event.  If that means you need a payment plan, need a couple extra days, just be honest with us because we want to help you! Seriously.  I believe that most markets truly want their vendors to succeed and have fun. I know that Jill & I have an "intense" application and a stricter payment deadline than other markets, but that doesn't mean we're ogres! 
OK, sometimes, on Monday morning before coffee, it's border line. But honestly, we're here for our vendors and we really value the relationship we build with them, because without vendors we're just two crazy ladies in an empty hall. 

Did I miss any key tips that you think new vendors should know before jumping in to the handmade world?  Disagree with me? LOL Or did I hit the nail on the head?  Let me know in the comments below!

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