interested in doing craft shows but not sure how to handle it as a hobbiest

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Forum topic by gurnie posted 02-04-2010 07:32 PM 2639 views 1 time favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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342 posts in 2998 days

02-04-2010 07:32 PM

So i have been woodworking for around 3 years now and I have found some projects that i can mass produce and enjoy producing. I was thinking of trying out a large craft show that they hold ever year in December at the local community center. the booth prices were $200, and i know this sounds like its a lot, but its a HUGE show in the DC metropolitan area, so $200 didn’t seem so bad.

Specific details on the craft show can be found here

The catch is i am a hobbiest, i do not own a small business. So i have no idea on what i need to do in order to enter in the craft show and be legit. How do you handle sales tax? Can you be a hobbiest and still be in one of these craft shows?

Is it acceptable to just accept cash and checks?

I was planning to mostly sell wine stoppers, intarsia Christmas ornaments, small boxes, and maybe a few kaleidoscopes, cutting boards. So mostly items in the $10-50 range but maybe a few items in the $100 range

But mainly my question is how can you be a hobbiest still and enter in these craft shows and be legit?

-- Please visit my Etsy site, or You can also follow me on my artfire blog:

21 replies so far

View john's profile


2370 posts in 4344 days

#1 posted 02-04-2010 08:01 PM

I am doing my very first wood show next month and i am also interested in knowing what to expect .
I am also a hobbyist but they called me and asked me if i would be interested in displaying my work there so of course i said sure !! :)
I won,t be charging any tax on my stuff seein that it is just a hobby .

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

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Steve Peterson

370 posts in 3045 days

#2 posted 02-04-2010 11:29 PM

California makes it super easy to obtain a sellers permit. Just one form to fill out. If there is a fee, it is very reasonable, like $10 or so. All this does is allow you to collect sales tax and send it in. There are free evening classes set up by the state to explain the rules and allow you to ask questions.

A business licence is the next step up, but that costs more.

Of course every state is going to have slightly different rules.

-- Steve

View SteveMI's profile


1091 posts in 3257 days

#3 posted 02-05-2010 12:10 AM

Michigan allows you to get a sales tax number even if you are only filing on your personal 1040. Most county governments will let you register as a DBA (Doing Business As) for very small fee.

After that, search this site and some others for advise on getting an account to accept credit cards. Several ways and I’m no expert. Some have instant approval over cell phone and others you file the paperwork after the fact. Costs and risks to each. For the under $20 stuff credit probably isn’t a big deal, but you would feel awful if someone really wanted one of you higher price items and didn’t have cash on hand.

I looked at the link and you are fortunate they are taking such a hard stand on not allowing commercially manufactured items. And having the items juried will help you be able to compete fairly instead of trying to sell across from tables of China resell.


View Kieth's profile


39 posts in 3099 days

#4 posted 03-22-2010 05:25 PM

I just found out today that there is a vendor show that will enable me to sell my pens and stoppers etc… This is purely a hobby and as such I understand that I will still need to collect sales tax but am confused on the income taxing. For me, I spend more in supplies to make all of these things and really just interested in making enough to keep buying more supplies. Does anyone know how this works? Is this creating a small business? If yes, then I assume there are write-offs for inventory and expenses etc. I guess part of my confusion comes from the fact I am a 1099’er and I seem to remember that one of the sticky points was that you had to realize whether you were actually a business or a hobby.


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4541 posts in 3037 days

#5 posted 03-22-2010 06:26 PM

I do one craft show per year and it is completely for charity. The only compensation I accept is a small amount that covers the cost of my materials. Everything else goes to the charity. In my opinion, this is a good way to get started. I don’t have to worry about sales tax or anything else. Someday I will probably sell for profit in another venue, but my experience in this charity event is very helpful. I’ve pretty well learned what sells.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View rozzi's profile


323 posts in 3284 days

#6 posted 03-25-2010 12:09 AM

I only go to one event each year. They do make me collect or at least pay sales tax on the things I sell. Those who organize the event provide me with a form to fill out and mail in to the state. If I don’t do it they will not let me back in the show the following year, so, I can only assume they also provide the state with a list of vendors.

-- Duane, Iowa

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3031 days

#7 posted 03-25-2010 12:38 AM

Contact the people running the show to find out what the rules are. They might also have rules about what kinds of things they will allow you to sell.

SWMBO and four friends ran a craft show here for several years and had pretty strict rules about what the sellers were allowed to sell. That rule started when a couple of people tried selling stuff they had bought from overseas. They also were pretty sticky about kids toys, etc due to the potential liability of hazardous finishes.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Kieth's profile


39 posts in 3099 days

#8 posted 03-29-2010 02:27 PM

Thank you for all the responses and I hope I was adding to this thread and not hijacking it. LeeG very
good info on the taxes.

View degoose's profile


7228 posts in 3317 days

#9 posted 06-12-2010 12:35 PM

It would be nice to have a quality show such as you have provided a link to…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View gurnie's profile


342 posts in 2998 days

#10 posted 06-12-2010 04:09 PM

I agree 7X10 is small, but this is my first show and i don’t want to buy a huge space and find out that my space looks barren.

So far i have kept supplies receipts related to the show in an envelope. I have not yet got a tax ID yet because i was going to wait till i got into the show. Well i just got news of being accepted a week ago. I’ve already sent of my payment for the spot.

my fiance’s dad use to work for the IRS (he is retired now). So i get what you mean about the tax people :) I am going to submit my application for a tax ID soon. Anyone know how long it takes to process? I’d assume 6-8 weeks. The show is in December so I’m ok.

So far i have cut (not shaped) 30 intarsia ornaments. I am almost done with my intarsia photo frames (there’s 8 of them). I’m starting on my first two cutting boards. I haven’t started kaleidoscopes yet. I think the intarsia ornaments will be the big seller- they’ll be priced $20-30 and i think that’s a good price to sell things quick around here (DC area tends to be a bit expensive).

So how did you get a hold of your credit card machine? did you go through your bank and they offered it to merchant’s? Can you just barrow it for a month for your show or do you have to buy the whole system. i think i need to be able to accept credit cards, i am just a little out of the loop on how this works.

-- Please visit my Etsy site, or You can also follow me on my artfire blog:

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342 posts in 2998 days

#11 posted 06-12-2010 04:09 PM

i forgot to thank you for your response. thanks :)

-- Please visit my Etsy site, or You can also follow me on my artfire blog:

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3854 days

#12 posted 06-13-2010 01:52 AM

You can apply for a tax ID online and have it within a couple of weeks. If you are from out of state, you can get a temporary vendor sales tax form from that state, and most shows supply them in the show package.

The fancy wireless credit card machines are nice, but there are monthly charges associated with them. You may want to look at Propay. You pay a $60 yearly fee, use a knuckle buster and process the cards manually online after the show. This way, if you don’t do shows for a few months, you don’t have monthly charges. You can also call a charge in on your cell phone. I do this for large purchases. Boardsmith is right. If you don’t accept credit cards, you will have low sales. People today may be curbing the use of their credit cards, but I see a lot of debit card use.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Kelly's profile


1994 posts in 2907 days

#13 posted 06-13-2010 02:06 AM

Since I’m not set up for credit and debit cards, I, some times, make a deal with individuals whereby they buy me something I need/want with their credit card. In some instances, this can make it easier for them to buy, since a Sears card allows them to make installments. I’ve gotten a significant amount of toys this way.

One advantage of a going the tax number route is having one will enable you to purchase materials at wholesale prices. The savings on wood can be as much as fifty percent. Other things, not so much (and no, the big box stores won’t give you any break beyond sales tax). Another advantage is you may have enough tax breaks (tool and equipment purchases, show fees, etc.) to bring your total “tax liability” down. I started my business thirty plus years ago. My tax “obligation” dropped from thousands to one hundred fifty dollars for the first year.

And yes, you can just accept cash and checks (ask for photo ID, write the license number on the check, etc.). It’s your business (We The People may do anything not proscribed by law, in contrast to government, which may only do those things prescribed by law).

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3013 days

#14 posted 08-27-2010 09:31 PM

I know I’m bringing up an old thread here, but what I’ve been looking into lately is similar to this situation. Here in Denver, over the last couple of years, farmer’s markets have been popping up in the metro area. So I started doing some investigating a couple of weeks ago on how they are run, what you need to do to become a vendor, etc.

The particular market I’m interested in runs every Saturday morning and early afternoon, for 22-weeks. You pay a $120 fee to attend all of them. Or you can just attend one or two, but it’s $20 each time. They expect you to collect sales tax (so you need a Tax ID), and also carry liability insurance. Just thought I’d throw that out there because nobody had mentioned liability insurance. I have not begun to check on insurance yet, so I am in-the-dark on that aspect of the situation. If I eventually did form a business, it is something I would carry anyway, but in just wanting to “test the waters”, I’m not sure how much it is going to cost? Liability insurance is obviously something I need to check on. In addition, they also review your application and what you will be selling, in order to ensure that it fits with their image of the market, and that not just anybody is coming in selling cheap imported items (or whatever).

This particular market is fairly small, with maybe 15-20 vendors, most of which are food related, which makes sense, since it’s billed as a farmer’s market. So I thought this would be a good place to draw from, selling cutting boards, etc. The area this is located at is in a middle-upper class neighborhood, with a young crowd in attendance, in general. I think that most people attending the farmer’s markets around here are interested in not only getting fresh produce, but supporting the local economy. They enjoy mingling with the people that make the items or grow the items.

There is another market that is not too far away that is much larger, with exponential attendance figures too. I’m not sure what the costs and rules are associated with this one. I’m sure it falls in line though. This farmer’s market is in an upper-class area. That’s not to say that the average income is that much higher than the smaller one. I really don’t know if that is the case or not, as it’s located within a shopping mall parking lot. I may also check into this market as well.

For me, just starting out, I thought that the smaller market would be a better fit, at least to start with. A lot less hussle and bustle and a bit more relaxed. I can only assume it woudl generate less sales and less exposure. However, that might be a good thing… to start with. It would allow me to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and still possibly begin to establish a bit of localized recognition.

This is all a ways off, as I wouldn’t be participating until next year. At this point, it is merely something I am considering. And again, just getting started, it would be a fairly minimal expense to “test the waters”.

Has anyone set up a booth at a farmer’s market, or something more along these lines, compared to a regular craft or artisan fair? Was it beneficial, or a complete waste of time? I think with the right selection of items, this might be able to be successful enough that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. Items I am so far considering are: cutting boards (including end-grain), salt and pepper shakers, breadboards, wine bottle balancers (there is a local wine booth there), candleholders for the table, possibly coaster sets, cork trivets/cork trivet kits, cork tray kits, cork message board kits. Kitchen and table items, basically.

I don’t yet have a website, but will likely eventually get one. I should also take advantage of a few tricks like making a snazzy business card holder for my cards. That’s something else I’ll have to do eventually too.

If you’ve got any input on the farmer’s market question, feel free to throw it out there!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View gurnie's profile


342 posts in 2998 days

#15 posted 08-27-2010 09:45 PM

Well an update to my story and a comment on John’s statement.

Credit cards: I went to my bank and the looked at propay. While my bank had a good offer, propay beat them out because the bank wanted to charge me a monthly fee while propay doesn’t. So i think i’ll go ahead and go with propay.

John about the tax id; i’m in Virginia and i was allowed to submit my paperwork online (it was just a online form i filled out). at the end of the process i had a retail tax id certificate I could instantly print out. they also sent this to me in the mail about 2 weeks later with my tax id and a piece of paper that allows me to collect sales tax in Virginia. As far as i know as a sole proprietor, i have done everything the state has required me to do. call your dept taxation for your state and see if they can send you a booklet with everything you need to do / fill out. that’s what Virginia offered to me and i followed the steps (which included how to access the online form). I think that’ll help you a lot right there.

You ask for how much have people invested before their shows. Well I think I have spent around $700, of that $250 was the cost of the show. I need to sit down when everything is finished and get an idea how much did i spend per item in order to make the item. It sounds like a lot of money to put down but in theory I’ve made $2000 worth of Christmas ornaments. I have other items to build too, but for the most part i have bought everything I need for my show. So i am hoping i don’t have to spend much more. (at my show i plan to sell intarsia Christmas ornaments, kaleidoscopes, hand mirrors, birdhouses, gnome doors, band saw boxes). I have 4 more months and i am feeling pretty good.

i honestly don’t understand the tax number and how it can get you a lower price on wood. Right now i just pay by board foot. How does someone use their tax number to get the wood tax free? kelvancra can you explain?

-- Please visit my Etsy site, or You can also follow me on my artfire blog:

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