Filing the correct paperwork for a show can mean the difference between having a great event, or being turned away the morning of the show because you didn’t have one piece of paper signed off. In general, the earlier you have your paperwork sorted out, you can claim the best vendor spot within your budget, and avoid late fees.
Many art blogs and websites are vague with the technical details of what’s required for paperwork. Larger shows may have a vendor-only log-in page, so you may not know exactly what is required of you until you are approved as a vendor. The following lists my personal experience from my first show and depending on the event you apply to, there may be more or less requirements.
For the 2019 Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show held in Daly City, California, I had to fill out the following paperwork:
- Vendor Application
- Vendor Contract
- Temporary Seller’s Permit
- State Fire Marshall Form
- Certificate of Liability (Insurance)
- Parking Pass Permit
- Booth Furniture Rental (optional)
- Ad space (optional)
Prior to even applying for a vendor booth, you should contact the event organization to get a feel if the event is right for you. An organized group will have statistics for the past attendees, number of vendors available, etc. Once you have an idea of the event, you can make the determination if you would like to start the application process.
Now to get into details of each form:
1. Vendor Application:
Unlike college applications, the initial vendor application is usually free. The application is usually a simple online form that you can submit through the event’s website. Besides your basic information, you will need to provide a general description of the goods you plan on selling, and make a connection with how the audience attending the event will want to purchase your products. If you have a website or online store, you should also provide links to these so that the organizers can see pictures of your merchandise and your prices.
2. Vendor Contract:
If your application is approved, you will be sent a Vendor Contract. This is the agreement between you and the event organization. Read the contract carefully because it is a binding agreement. If you violate any of the terms listed in the agreement, you may be asked to leave the event. Many of the items will be commonsense such as no open flames, no loud music, and no display items that may be hazardous to the public. If you have any questions about the contract, ask before you sign. Once you sign the contract, you are obligated to pay a deposit, or the full amount of the booth fee.
3. Temporary Seller’s Permit:
Most events will require you to register for a Temporary Seller’s Permit. This permit gives you permission to sell goods for the duration of the event and collect tax on all items sold. If this is your first time selling in person, you will need to register through your state’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration. For California, their application process is online and very straightforward. I was able to complete the application within a few hours, and I printed my Temporary Seller’s Permit at the end of the application. Remember that you should always keep good records of everything you sell. You are required to submit the taxes you collected at a specified date after the event. Failure to submit your taxes on time will result in a late fee fine.
Upon completion of the application, you will be issued a unique number that will be tied to your name on the Seller’s Permit. This number will be a required field in most vendor applications or you will need to provide a copy of the Seller’s Permit with your signed Vendor Contract.
In California: The Temporary Seller’s Permit must be displayed in your booth.
4. State Marshall Fire Form:
In California this is a simple two-page itemized list which outlines all of the potential fire hazard items that are not allowed in a vendor booth. Some exemptions are allowed if you are running a food booth and cooking food over a heat source. For artists, many of these items are not applicable.
In California: The State Marshall Fire Form must be displayed in your booth.
5. Certification of Liability:
Just like taxes, insurance is a part of life and there is no way to avoid this paperwork. If the venue of the event is large, they will often have a third-party insurance agency they work with. Special event insurance coverage will cost around $20-$40 and will be in effect only for the duration of the event. It protects the venue and you in the unfortunate case something bad happens within your booth space. Just like the State Marshall Fire Form, if you’re an artist, you probably don’t have anything that is hazardous to the public, but it is a required precaution that each vendor must take.
The Certificate of Liability is not required to be displayed in your booth, but you should have a copy of the paperwork in an easily accessible location if you are asked to show proof of insurance.
6. Parking Pass:
Parking at large events is a hassle but most event organizers will work out a special deal to give you a discount on parking (especially if this is a 2+ day event). Prepaid parking will save you a lot of time at the parking gate and there is often an ‘express lane’ for vendors with their pre-paid parking passes. Many times, this parking pass will give you unlimited in-and-out privileges. This will come in handy if you suddenly realize you forgot to pack an item and need to make a last-minute shopping trip.
I was required to mail the parking pass application with a check for the pass and a self-addressed, stamped envelope so they could mail me the physical parking pass in return.
7. Furniture Rental:
I will be covering furniture in a “How to Design Your Booth Space” section coming up. But if you determine that you need to rent furniture, many event organizers will partner with a local furniture rental agency to arrange for furnishings to be delivered to your booth space (note that the setup and arrangement will be all up to you). The services each furniture rental agency provide will vary, but they often have a complete list of items available for rent with the dimensions and color options. If this is your first event, it may not be practical to spend several hundred dollars on brand new furniture (especially if you are unsure that you will be doing more events in the future). I always recommend asking family and friends to borrow tables and chairs for the weekend (especially if they camp outdoors or tailgate). But if you have a small vehicle or limited access to furniture, rental agencies may be the right choice for you.
Tip: Plan the layout of your booth and make a list of the furniture you will need. Anything that you cannot acquire on your own will need to be rented. Turn in your furniture rental form and payment as early as possible to guarantee that your furniture will be there on time. Rental companies often have a first round ‘cut-off’ date. After that date (typically a month before the event), rental prices will double or even triple. Call the rental agency a week after you turn in your application to verify that your order has been received and all the items are accounted for.
8. Ad Space:
Advertising your booth is a great way to get your name out there before the show, and after the show is over. Each event is different and they offer different advertising options. Ad space can be anything from a small logo of your business on the event website, to your name printed on their list of vendors on the official flyer, to a full-page ad in a brochure. For printed ads, the deadline for submissions will be several months before the event. For digital ads, the deadline is usually a bit later. In any case, the earlier you submit your ad design, you will have more options and may be able to choose where you want your ad to be placed.
If you made it down this far, congratulations! This really shows that you are serious about applying as a vendor. The upfront paperwork is what prevented me from applying to shows in 2018. Now that I have one event under my belt, I have a lot more confidence in applying to other shows in 2019.
Don’t let the application process intimidate you. Many event organizers are very patient and are accustomed working with first-time vendors. The vendor application process is structured to be straightforward because vendors are an important part of the event! You as a vendor can bring something very unique to the table and positively impact the event attendees’ experience.
Part 3 of this series will be covering how to find the right event for you.