Heartwork Essentials: Markets

Top 5 tips for being successful at markets … that have nothing to do with your setup.

1. Create relationships

With event organizers

Having a good relationship with the event organizer(s) means you have a better chance of coming back for the next one, especially if it is a juried event. It can also result in extra promotion, a good booth location, and other opportunities. If it is an option, becoming a sponsor can double down on those perks. It doesn’t always make financial sense, but can pay off if you find you love the event and you can afford to. Also, finding ways to be cheerful and helpful, even when it isn’t popular, can go a long way in a relationship. Put yourself in their shoes and make a friendship. The event organizers almost always have a lot of experience and can teach you a thing or two, if you are willing to listen.

With fellow vendors

It is 100% worth it to make friends with your fellow vendors. Maybe you have a ladder and they need to tie something up high… or maybe you need to go to the bathroom while it’s really slow and need someone to watch your booth… whatever the reason, making friendships will ensure you have more fun, and help you be successful, both in the long term and short term. Promote each other. Praise each other. Learn from each other.

With attendees

When people attend and walk through your booth, be friendly, helpful, answer questions, and tell them a bit about yourself. If they have a good experience, they will be more likely to purchase from you on the spot or in the future. Even if they don’t, you might make a new friend, become a mentor, become a student… who knows! 

Imagine finding out toward the end of the conversation that a customer follows you on social media or already owns some of your work. You might even have clients who were friends with someone you know or who has bought your work before. Now imagine that they didn’t see your best side or came specifically to meet you and found someone else working your booth.

You don’t have to approach every person, and in fact, I don’t think you should. Give people space to think and peruse, or talk to their friend. Sometimes their friend will do a better job of convincing them they need the item, then anything you could say.

Customer relations are the cornerstone of your business and should be a priority. Keep an eye out for the related post next week on talking about your art.

2. Choose the right event

This is maybe the most important thing you do if you want to be successful at whatever event you choose. Research different events, their booth fees, the vibe they promote, the advertising and promoting they do, the venue location (start with local shows to keep travel expenses down), the parking availability, the attractions or ‘extras’ for the event… all of these play a big role. If the event organizer can’t get a lot of people there, including the RIGHT people (meaning, people who will spend money), it doesn’t matter how awesome your product is, you’ll have a disappointing experience.

Once you chosen the right events for your calendar, be careful about how many you do. More markets = more money = better, right? Not necessarily. Think about your product and your audience. If you sell something that is consumable, you’ll probably be okay. Customers will want to find you to replenish. If you sell original art or luxury items, you might consider giving people a little time to build up excitement about your new work and cultivate a following of collectors. If someone thinks that they can always buy your work, then they may not value it as much.

3. Promote yourself

Promoting yourself is all about creating buzz before the event. This is the magic of social media! You can often pre-sell pieces by promoting new work before the event. You can also put work out there that ’will only be available for purchase at the market’, which makes people want to come to your booth first before things sell out. If you have a blog, it would be a good idea to write posts about certain buzz-worthy pieces or new processes that you are trying out in your studio. Take snapshots of different things you will be selling and get people talking (and sharing). And keep it up during the event!

4. Be professional

Be professional in manner and dress. You don’t have to dress fancy for every event, but be well-groomed and look like you take your job seriously. This is your business, your brand, you must represent it well. Even if you don’t feel like being the type that greets others first, or smiles and engages in conversation easily, FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT! Don’t talk about others negatively, especially in front of your customers. Remember that how you look and act definitely matters in your success.

5. Keep evolving

Make sure that you keep growing as an artist. Try new things, explore new mediums, keep being creative. It’s important to stay relevant in the art community and your customers will love taking that journey with you. Also, it gives them a reason to keep coming back to your for more art!

Lastly, have fun! Hand out business cards like crazy, take future orders if possible, and make connections. A successful market isn’t just about the sales made during the event, but also about the relationships and sales made in the following months that resulted from something that happened at that event.

Heartwork Essentials: The Legal Stuff

Today Heartmade Essentials is tackling the legal stuff. Why, you ask? Because we all want to be responsible business owners. And some markets and wholesalers require you to have all your ducks in a row. And, technically, so does the state of Texas.

Step One: The DBA

A “doing business as” (DBA) name allows you or your company to do business under a different name. There are a bunch of reasons for filing for your DBA:

  • You want to use a business name and not your personal name. As a sole proprietor, your name and your business name are legally the same. For example, if you are John Smith and you have a consulting business, the name of your business is John Smith. The same is true for general partnerships. The business name is the same as the partners’ names. Filing a DBA allows you to transact business under the DBA name instead of your personal name.

  • Your bank often requires a DBA to open a business bank account so that you can write and deposit checks or get a credit card under the business name.

  • Some clients may require you to have a DBA in order to contract with you. If you’re a freelance graphic designer, for example, you bid to do work for a local corporation. 

  • Your company is entering a new business area not reflected by your current name. You may expand to a new medium or product line and having a more descriptive name could be beneficial.

  • You may have another business or website that you’d like to operate in addition to your existing one. Imagine that your company makes and sells women's skincare. You also produce a line for men. Knowing that these two lines need completely different branding and marketing, you might file a DBA and create a separate website specifically targeting this audience.

The state of Texas requires all businesses to file a DBA. This applies to sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and corporations. The specific process for obtaining a DBA varies from county to county, however. If you want to file a DBA for a business operating in Houston, you will need to register your DBA in Harris County.

Visit the Harris County Clerk's Office website and access the Assumed Names Search page. Using the "Search" fields, enter the assumed name that you hope to establish (such as "Jane's Consulting Services," for example) and click "Search." You can then find out instantly if your desired business name is available. If the name is already in use, think of a different business name that you can register.

Download and fill out the appropriate DBA form. If your business is a corporation, you must fill out form 205. If you have an unincorporated business with one to three owners, use form 207. For four to 13 owners, use form 207A. If your business has 14 owners or more, use form 207B. You can find all of these forms on the Assumed Names page at the Harris County Clerk's Office website. 

Step Two: Sales and Use Tax Permit

Most states require seller's permits, which provide authorization to collect sales taxes on purchases within that jurisdiction. In Texas, this type of license is called a "sales and use tax permit" and any individual or enterprise selling or leasing tangible personal property or services within the state must have one.

The Texas' Comptroller explains who must obtain a Texas seller's permit. First, to determine whether you are “engaged in business," the state looks at whether your business:

  • Maintains a physical place of business, such as a warehouse, distribution center, sales room, etc., within the state

  • Uses a sales representative or agent who operates within the state or independent salespeople involved in direct sales of taxable items

  • Receives rental or lease income from a property located within the state

  • Promotes any event involving sales of taxable items

  • Otherwise conducts business in the state through others

While the above list is not comprehensive, it covers the most common factors considered. Notably, Texas also requires a seller's permit for those who provide taxable services, such as data processing and insurance, or even digital goods. Regarding online sales, Texas residents who “sell more than two taxable items in a 12-month period and ship or deliver those items to customers in Texas" must have Texas seller's permits. More information can be found on the comptroller’s website.

You can apply for a Texas seller's permit online through the Texas Online Tax Registration Application or by filling out the Texas Application for Sales and Use Tax Permit (Form AP-201) and mailing it to the Comptroller's office at the address listed on the form.

On the application, you must provide information about you or your business, such as name and address, as well as a tax identification number—either your Social Security number (SSN) or employer identification number (EIN). If a business doesn't yet have an EIN, the Comptroller will issue a temporary one until you receive it and issue a new permit thereafter.

Texas doesn't charge a fee to acquire a seller's permit, but you may be required to put up a security bond, the amount of which the Comptroller determines upon evaluating your application.

Once you receive your Texas seller's permit, the state expects you to display it and collect sales taxes on taxable sales. You must keep track of taxes collected and pay the appropriate amount of sales and use taxes to the state quarterly or yearly.

Those are the basics kids. You can do it yourself, but you may find that a little help is in order if your situation is more complicated. An attorney or online legal services company can help you make sure your business is in full compliance with tax laws and regulations. You can also ask your fellow makers. All of our Heartmade artists are happy to point you in the right direction if you need some advice.

Heartwork Essentials: Instagram

Instagram is probably the single biggest thing to happen to the creative community in the last decade (at least). It has become the number one way to share your creations, hopes, dreams, and coffee shop meetings with your adoring public. It has also become that thing that consumes ridiculous amounts of time and causes tons of anxiety for small business owners. Today’s Heartwork Essentials is taking a dip in the shallow end with quick answers to a few of the questions we get asked most frequently about using Instagram.


Just do it. Post what you want, when you want. If you are putting off using Instagram because you are afraid your content doesn’t look like everyone else’s, stop worrying about. People would rather see anything from you on a regular basis rather than one post every few months because that’s all you can manage while you’re trying to meet some visual standard that you have in your head.

Be genuine. People want to see your personality come through in your posts. Be quirky. Be real. Show your face if you’re comfortable with that or don’t if you’re not. But whatever you share, make sure it’s you and isn’t fake. People can tell and it doesn’t resonate with them the same way.

Business or personal account? This choice is more about your preference. There are some solid reasons for keeping your business account separate. The main one is that you can keep the personal stuff personal. Pics of your kids, dogs, drunken Friday night shenanigans, etc. may be best left off the business feed. Being genuine doesn’t have to mean letting the public have access to every part of your life. This is more important if you are not your brand, like a brick and mortar store or service-based business. As an artist, it may be fitting to have some of that bleed through so people can see how your life influences and informs your work. Having said that, keeping up with two accounts is hard and may not be feasible.

The algorithm. Dear lord. The algorithm. It’s become the bane of social media existence. But here’s the thing, it’s not actually as bad as everyone makes it out to be. And the 7% thing … hoax. Yes, of course, we all preferred the chronological feed. Let’s look at it from Instagram’s perspective. They had a HUGE user count but really low interaction rates … that’s right all you Instagram stalkers, we’re looking at you. They were afraid people weren’t seeing relevant content and would leave the app causing the whole thing to fail. Enter the algorithm. The most important concept to understand is that the user is now ultimately in control of their own experience. The posts they comment on, heart, and share will sort higher while other types of posts move down in their feed. All of this activity teaches the algorithm what content they value. As a contributor, you need to realize that those engagement numbers you’re watching nonstop are not something that you have total control over. Not all of your posts will be relevant to all of your audience. So breathe, and then let some of the algorithm angst go. Here are a couple things to remember:

  • Your followers are just as busy as you are. They don’t have time to endlessly scroll through Instagram to find your content either. They’ll miss some of your posts. It doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped liking you or your work.

  • Use hashtags!! Change them up for each post. Use them to find new audiences. Do a little research and see how the accounts you follow use them and which ones.

  • People are sick of ad content. And that doesn’t just mean the sponsored kind. Take a survey of your posts and make sure that they aren’t reading as ads to your followers. A lot of what small businesses post boil down to available products in their web store or at a market. Make sure you are being a little more creative with sharing your work and it isn’t always ending in a push to your store.

  • Those quotes that are everywhere … guess what, they actually get sorted lower because of the high ratio of text to image. They remind people of ads. Be selective when using them.

  • Improve your photography, writing, and planning skills. There are a ton of blogs, courses, and other types of info online for this. Do some research and identify those areas where you can make some improvements over time. There are apps to help with photos and planning posts.

  • Engage with others! Be part of the community. Those likes and comments that you want on your posts? Everyone else does too. Be thoughtful and generous with your hearts and comments and let people know that you’re there to support them. They’ll reciprocate. Everyone makes new friends! Note than Instagram rates comments longer than 3 words more highly when considering how engaging a post is, so all those emoticons don’t necessarily count. Use your words people!

Fake followers. Please don’t participate in Instagram pods, buying followers, the follow/unfollow game, etc. Anything that sounds too good to be true, probably is. While you will have an initial boost of activity, these practices do not result in permanent growth for your account. Nor will these people be truly engaged with your content which is key to staying relevant on the platform and making sure your posts are being sorted higher in people’s feeds.

Pay attention to your overall grid. Anyone who already follows you may not see it on a regular basis, but this is usually the first place potential followers go to get an idea of your content. Despite what some social media experts would lead you to believe, that doesn’t mean you need to spend all your time curating every post to build the most perfect grid. You should, however, keep the audience for that view in mind and check in every now and then to make sure you have a good mix of content, nothing sticks out as “off-brand,” and that the overall picture accurately reflects you and your work.

See you guys out there in the trenches. Look for us in the comment section and say hi!!

[Editor’s note: I 100% realize that all of this is easier said than done. And while I am full of tried and true advice for other people about the ins and outs of social media, I am still trying to reliably do even half of these things on my own feed. I guess it is true what they say … the last thing you have time to do when you work for yourself, is work FOR YOURSELF! There is also so much more information out there, so what we’ve covered here might not be the answer for you. Do your research and make the best decision for your situation. – Sonja]

Heartwork Essentials : Email

One of the things we are most proud of about Heartmade is our commitment to artist development. We’ve advised makers on everything from booth design to pricing to branding. And now, we’re bringing some of those tidbits to the blog so everyone can benefit. Welcome to Heartwork Essentials where we’ll be going back to basics for running a small business. Whether it’s your side hustle or your main hustle, if you expect it to support you like a business, you have to treat it like a business.


Getting an email that is specific to your business is one of the easiest steps you can take towards legitimacy. Whether it is a free gmail account (ex: makershop@gmail.com) or one that is branded with your website domain (ex: name@makershop.com), having that dedicated address to receive all your business correspondence is key. This separates your business communications from all the day-to-day emails and spam that permeate a personal email address. It is also way more professional and easier to remember than that email you’ve been using since college, a la gltter_grl72@hotmail.com. People often know your business name before they know you personally and, if they aren’t the same, you could be doing yourself a real disservice.

Gmail is of course the absolute easiest way to do this. You can secure a free account in a snap. There are other platforms that provide this as well. The most important this is to get one that is yourbusinessname@provider.com. If your business name is taken, go with something close that makes sense. Or go with your social media screen name. As long as it is consistent with something that you are promoting to the public.

There are many different opinions out there on whether a branded email tied to your domain is better than a free account. We won’t address that here, you can google it if you’re interested. Having said that, most web services providers include a free email when you pay for hosting and if you have that option, absolutely make use of it.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t use contact forms or social media direct messaging. They definitely have their place in a communications strategy, but they have their own challenges.

Instagram direct messages do not all show up in the same place. When you follow someone, you’ll see messages from them by tapping the handy paper airplane in the top right corner of your screen. When you don’t follow them, read new customers, you have to go looking for those messages in your inbox. That’s right folks. You could be missing out on tons of business if this is the only way that people can get hold of you. Instagram has a great help section that covers all of this.

Facebook messaging is more reliable but if you manage a separate page for your business you have to turn on the function to get notified and be able to respond in Messenger. If you are juggling more than one extra page, it’s easy to miss this or confuse your personal and business conversations.

Website contact forms are perhaps the most impersonal way to interact with your audience. Users have the feeling that their really important question is going out into a void and, unless you have your form set up correctly, sometimes it is. It is also not a one-click response to reply. You often have to make the effort to start a new email to the person and you lose the context of their original question or request.

Now that you have your email sorted out, you know what is even more important? READ AND RESPOND TO THOSE EMAILS. There is nothing more frustrating than emailing to inquire about a maker’s services and getting absolutely no response. Or getting one that clearly indicates that they didn’t read a word that you wrote. If a customer or business partner has taken the time to write you a detailed email, you should give them the professional courtesy of reading and responding accordingly.

Managing an email box means checking SPAM and Junk folders to make sure that nothing has ended up there in error. If you are going to set up filters to keep your inbox smaller, go check those folders.

You never know what opportunities you are missing out on if you are managing your correspondence poorly. We’ve all made these missteps and we know … believe me WE KNOW … that it’s hard and time consuming to run a small business. Communicating with your customers and peers is essential to your success.