It’s probably not a surprise for me to say that Illustration is competitive. Having a makers business in general is competitive, but print makers especially so.
Did you know in the U.K. you are never more than 3 feet away from an illustrator?
Ok, so I made that up. It’s not true. Sure feels like it though, right? Thing is it’s not just the attention and adoration of joe public you are competing for. Shelf space with stockists and table at markets are competitive too. Not to mention anything from big social media account shares to commission opportunities.
In this post though I’m going to focus on fairs. At the time of writing this it may be summer but we are coming to the end of the season for applying for Christmas craft fairs. There seems to be more and more popping up, but still not at a rate comparable to the amount of new stallholders emerging all the time.
Christmas is, obviously, the busiest time of year for makers’ retail sales. It’s exactly the time of year you want people to be thinking of you and browsing your products. But successfully applying for good fairs this year has been difficult for me this year. At the beginning of this year I was accepted to some really well regarded fairs and it was brilliant. Fast forward to now and I have currently applied for a whopping 20 fairs for the Sep-Dec 2019 season. I have been rejected by 8, accepted by 2 and still awaiting the outcome of 10 (although I wouldn’t like to hold my breath for any). These are fairs in my home city and across the country too.
So what to do?
What to do indeed. Although it’s upsetting, it’s just a reality. I’ve come to terms with it and have a few ideas for things to do. Firstly, I still have my stockists and online store. I am not going to miss out on Christmas sales altogether, just some market ones. I’ll ramp up my online promotion, focus on my stockists and promote the butt out of commissioned pieces. Plus I have some commissions to complete right now anyway and last Christmas I got a few specially commissioned Christmas orders. This year my business has grown and so I expect more this year.
Secondly, I could just let myself have a break. I have plenty of other things to keep me busy beyond markets, and I have worked really hard this first half of the year. I did a lot of markets in the spring and I have had a fair few large painting commissions over the last few months. Not to mention new stockists. I haven’t created much art for arts sake and I’ve barely touched clay in months. A break without fairs is pretty well deserved at this point.
Thirdly, I can just critically analyse my stall and try again. I’ll see what the success rate is of these outstanding applications. Ultimately, I can just work harder to improve my craft and branding. This is something I would do whether I got accepted or not, but it at least gives a clear response to my work from a stall organisers point of view. I can think how to stand out from the crowd a bit more. On the other side, maybe I can look into new markets too. Find my audience, my crowd, my niche.
Lastly I just want other makers to know that I am going through this too. A rebellion against all that is making yourself look flawless in the internet. It is hard work, it was always going to be. Accepting rejection is just part of business, and if you can do that then the only way is up from there!