Ever wonder how some artists seem to have their work in galleries across the nation? You may have heard that trade shows are one way to make this happen, but you might also be unsure if a trade show is right for you.

Trade shows give you the chance to talk about your brand, make in-person connections, and secure large-scale deals. They also require a lot of pre-planning, execution and post-show work. If you are considering a trade show, you should know that it is a big commitment and could be the only big marketing push you do all year.

However … it could be the only show you do all year!

Not having to jump from art fair to art fair is a big draw for a lot of artists. Getting your work in front of retailers could (and often does) result in a long list of orders to fulfill. Often you will be selling your work in bulk at a lower price, so you will be spending more time in the studio making work, but less time traveling from show to show. Having a plan to handle a potentially large order will be key to enjoying what trade shows can do for your art career.

These are some things to help you decide if a trade show is right for your business before you sign up.

Do You Thrive on Face-to-Face Interactions?

To be successful at a trade show you need to be approachable, friendly and able to deal with the many questions and comments that will come your way. It will also be worth your while to network with other exhibitors to find out what other artist are doing to grow their business.

Trade shows are very social events, which can be exhausting, so think about if that sounds appealing to you or think of strategies to deal with the stress of a high-energy situation.

If the idea of talking to buyers about your work all day makes you want to hide in your studio, you don’t have to completely nix the idea of a trade show. Consider hiring a temporary studio assistant to trade off tasks with you throughout the day. Or, convince a close friend or family member who is outgoing and would be willing to come along with you — just make sure you make it worth it for them!

An emerging artist or student could learn a lot from your experience there and could be a life-saver when you need a break from talking to the crowds. The relatively small investment in paying for an event assistant can more than pay for itself in the future order and sustained relationships with galleries and retailers.

Does Your Work Fall Into a Niche Category?

If you have a niche, trade shows may be extremely profitable for you. Trade shows can be great for artists who focus on a very specific subject or item that is not always easy to come across.

It can be hard for art buyers and gallery or shop owners to find new offerings when it comes very specific niche artwork and if you fall into one of these niches, trade shows could be the place for you.  

Do You Have the Budget & Resources?

A trade show can cost up to thousands of dollars to participate. In addition to the fees as an exhibitor, you can also expect to spend money on your booth display, tables, marketing materials and handouts, travel cost, and time that could have been spent creating. You will also need to have enough inventory on hand to be ready to fulfill orders.

You will have to decide if the cost to attend will fit into your marketing budget or if you would rather spend those dollars elsewhere.

If you do decide to sign up as an exhibitor and it does not go as well as you expected, just remember to also spend your time there to learn about what others are doing in your field, make some professional connections, and get your name out there.

When participating in an art trade show, knowing your available inventory and adjusting it afterwards will keep you prepared to grow your art business.

Looking for a system to easily keep track of your work?  Give Artwork Archive a try and print professional inventory reports for potential buyers at your next trade show.