To Market, To Market: An Experiment in Failure

This year has marked my first venture into “selling stuff”, instead of just “selling myself”. It’s been a little hit-and-miss: my Valentines seemed popular (they were listed on Ooh! Shiny! and in the Etsy blog, and I’ve heard loads of positive feedback), which was immensely exciting, but they didn’t sell like mad. (They didn’t really even sell like slightly-unusual.)

First lesson learned: just because you make something that people like, doesn’t mean that people will actually buy it.

This weekend, at a friend’s suggestion, I booked a booth at a local farmer’s market. For only $60, it seemed like a wildly clever business idea. How could I possibly NOT make a fortune?

Well, not only did I not make a fortune, but I actually didn’t sell a single card, unless you count the one that I traded a bookseller for a tattered copy of The Slang of Sin. There were quite a few people who came by and told me how much they liked them, and one person even asked how much they cost (they were next to a sign that listed prices, but that seems irrelevant).

At the market
"I just don't get it! Are my cards not pretty enough? Why does nobody love me?"

Midway through day two of sitting behind a booth, bored to tears and trying desperately not to leap on everyone who walked past, I realized that nobody would ever buy one. What was I doing wrong?

Second lesson learned: research your market.

Of course, I didn’t think to look around me, but once I did, I realized what I had done wrong–I’d come to the wrong place entirely. It wasn’t even so much that people weren’t buying from me, as it was that they weren’t buying from anyone. I’m still not quite sure how anyone at that market sells enough to make a profit, but perhaps they did better in other parts. The busy bits seemed to be the “food court” and the flea market tables.

Had I done my research and actually visited this market prior to committing an entire weekend to it, I may have had a little more luck with it.

Melissa at the market
The charming Miss Laverdure kept me company, and helped fill my table, on the first day. I doubt I would have survived the weekend otherwise. (She's also an excellent negotiator, whereas I just giggle and act like a moron.)

Third lesson learned: bring a book.

I forgot how boring it can be sitting around waiting for customers that never appear.

Fourth lesson learned: Don’t take it personally.

It was midway through that second day that I started really doubting myself. Four hours seemed like forever away, and, while I knew that I wouldn’t be selling anything that day, I was determined to stick it out ’til the better end. Prior to that point, my abysmal failure hadn’t gotten me down. I kept having to remind myself that the whole affair was an experiment, and that it’s okay to fail. (Not that I plan on making a habit of it.)

Apparently showing a little cleavage doesn't even help matters.

Fifth lesson learned: stores will sell your things FOR you if you just ask nicely.

Thanks, Duly Noted and Love, Me! Not only is it totally exciting to think that things I made are in a real-live shop, now I get to stay home and make more!