Forget the shopping mall: local markets for everything from fresh produce to arts and crafts are popping up in neighborhoods large and small. The offerings at these markets can be hard to resist, but tough on your wallet.
But what if you could leverage your local market to make a little extra cash on the weekends?
What you might not see when you’re perusing your local market are the hard-working porters who assist vendors throughout the day. These porters help vendors in unloading their vehicles, setting up their tents, and packing up at the end of the day. If vendors must park far from their post for the day, porters can be invaluable for guarding goods or lightening the load for vendors.
Who Hires Market Porters?
Amina Ahmad started selling handmade candles and eco-friendly home goods several years ago at the Fenton Street Market in Silver Spring, Maryland. In the first few years of the market, porters were volunteers and came mostly from local high schools. Ahmad says she tips $5 or $10 to a porter who helps her move her goods from car to site in the morning and return to her aid in the afternoon.
Now, she’s not only a vendor but also the vendor relations and marketing manager. As the Fenton Street Market has grown, it has added two porters to its payroll. “One of [those porters] has been with the market since the second season,” she said, and earns tips from the vendors on top of his wages.
Jessica Blaszczak, Market Manager for the Sparket Creative Market in Crystal City, Virginia, recalls paying porters $10 per hour at past markets, with tips on top of that. Since Sparket is a new market during the lunch hour, she relies on one assistant to help vendors set up at the market.
“They’re awesome to have at markets because they help both the vendors and the market manager, especially if the market manager is say, five feet tall and does not enjoy putting up tents,” Blaszczak says. “Tents are a necessity at outdoor markets, but can be a pain in the butt. It’s nice to have someone there to help with them.”
When this decoupaging artist is setting up at other markets, Blaszczak will tip $15 or $20 to a porter to helps her put up her tent in the morning and take it down after the show is over.
How to Find Work as a Porter
Want to get in good with your local market? “Talk to the market manager. If he or she can’t help you, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction,” says Ahmad.
“Definitely get to know the vendors,” she advises. “They might need a break later in the day to grab lunch or use the bathroom, and porters can stop back to help.” Some particularly helpful porters get recruited to assist vendors at other markets.
Wonder if you’ve got what it takes to be a market porter? All it takes is a willingness to help and the ability to do a bit of heavy lifting. If you’re naturally an early riser, you’re perfect for the market scene.
How Much Can You Make?
Based on tips alone, helping a couple of vendors could earn you between $40 and $80 a day. Add in the beauty of the outdoors (let’s just hope for good weather!), the chance to meet your neighbors, and the opportunity to enjoy local activities and art. Could there be a better weekend gig?
If you’re not sure how to find out about markets near you, check these sites:
While this site catalogs volunteer opportunities, remember that most porters are paid in tips, and experienced vendors recognize this.
Search for farmers markets near you and remember that while vendors might need a hand, other guests like musicians might need assistance with their gear as well.
You might be surprised at the number of people who have reviewed their favorite local produce and craft markets.
Local Tourism Offices
Your county or state tourism board likely features seasonal markets on its website.
Your Turn: Have you worked as a market porter? How much extra cash did you make?