I have another friend who went an alternate route: Exhibitions. She stays home and sends her work off to exhibits. I think there is still a huge investment in time. There is no shortcut for doing the work and taking (or having taken) good photographs of your work to be formatted and submitted to a jury for selection be it a festival or an exhibit. But once selected she merely has to box up her work and ship it to the exhibit venue. And unlike most fairs most exhibits have cash awards for Best of Show, 1st Place Painting, etc. The awards, unlike fair participation, look really great on art vitas and help you go to the next level which is seeking gallery representation. And you don't have to acquire all that booth furniture and lighting.
A lot of public funding organizations like arts councils put on exhibits as well as festivals. Moreno Valley Arts Council, of which I am a board member, buts on both Artsfest, and Arts about Town, a small entry level fair, and this year the Winter Invitational which we are promoting on Facebook. BTW if you don't belong to an arts organization or two it is hard for the IRS to take your art deductions seriously, but more importantly art organizations are great resources for exhibits and fairs etc. And Facebook Fanpages are becoming a good resource. Also Google call for entry websites and chambers of commerce in areas you might light to visit.
To enter an exhibit you need to find the exhibit, download the pdf application (it is all going digital these days), and carefully read the application. There are various restrictions as to size of finished piece and format and size of digital images (almost always jpg and cropped to the unframed image). This is really easy if you are a photographer. More difficult if you are a jeweler or painter. But you should be maintaining a digital portfolio of your work from day one.
With MVAC's Winter Invitational and the 18 Days Exhibit I just entered, applications can be filled out on line, paid on line, and images submitted on line. Certainly beats the days when you had to have your film images translated to slides and labeled and mailed. Then you wait the decision of the jurors. A lot of time I do not frame a piece until it is accepted. Framing is the pricey part of art. Photography requires matting and frames and it is definitely easier to store on CD's. You will read the phrase "gallery acceptable matting and framing" often. If you have a question about that visit a gallery or two and check it out. But the economy is even effecting that. Gone is the need for elaborate heavy frames. Paintings on artists canvas with painted edges can even be unframed as in our Winter Invitational.
I personally have decided after cutting down the number of festivals and fairs I do to concentrate more on exhibits. It gets my work out before the public while I sit at home and man my studio. And interface with other artists and art organizations to seek out those exhibits I want to enter.