You’ve been working on your lettering, perfecting your style and getting comfortable with the materials. Now you’d like to take it to the next level by turning your hobby into a true business.
It isn’t uncommon for talented creatives to want to start earning some money from their hobby. We’ve done the same—first by selling our work to family and friends, then at local craft shows, and eventually teaching others how to create their own calligraphy.
Whether you’ve never sold a piece of your work before or you’ve become the go-to artist in your circle of friends, there’s a number of things to keep in mind as you take the next step into business ownership.
Of course, just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you should make it into a business. Selling pieces of your art is a completely different (beautiful) beast than creating art for fun, and it’s not for everyone. But if you decide to give it a try, here’s what we recommend.
Know your calligraphy style
Many talented artists embarking on a business venture with calligraphy make the mistake of trying to do everything and please everyone. But marketing yourself as the Jack of all trades is incredibly difficult. You need to know your calligraphy style. Are you a traditional wedding calligrapher, or do you want to create modern signs for home decor? The path is very different. Not only is the style different, but the tools you use, how you market yourself, and your ideal client are completely different, too.
One of the joys of owning your own business is that you get to focus on the things that you love to do. When we first started selling products at craft shows, we tried to do it all—wedding-related items, cards, mugs, quotes. As a result, we wasted a lot of time and money creating products that are still stored in our garages… products that we give away because we’re no longer running that part of our business. But, we’re glad that we gave it a shot!
So before you embark on any marketing or decide what you’re going to sell, know what you want to create and sell so you can present yourself in that light. And if you aren’t sure yet, spend some time experimenting like we did, and you’ll learn pretty quickly what you’re passionate about.
Present your work professionally
It’s important that you learn how to take good, quality photos of your work so you look like a professional that takes her business seriously. You need to choose the right samples to photograph and use the right lighting; a shadowy snapshot at the wrong angle isn’t going to cut it. Just search for a product on Etsy and note what catches your eye—chances are, it’s going to be the products that are presented beautifully.
We have a mini course that can help you present your work in a more professional light, so you can get started on the right foot.
Determine where and how you will sell
You have limitless options when it comes to where and how you’ll sell your art. You can build a website, set up a booth at local craft shows, use social media and email marketing, start an Etsy Shop, or use good old fashioned word-of-mouth. The route you go depends on your own tech savvy, who your target customer is, and how much time you want to invest.
Having your own website allows you to control the entire process, from customer acquisition to product development to shipping. The downside is that you have to maintain the website yourself and take care of every single step along the way.
Opening an Etsy shop allows you to reach customers globally, but adds in a factor of shipping products. Participating in local craft shows is an excellent way to meet your customer and build relationships in the community, but don’t forget about setup and takedown time for your booth.
Pricing your work
If you’re creating quality artwork, you’ll be competing with bigger names and even corporate giants that can mass produce calligraphy pieces and hand lettered signs.
But that doesn’t mean you should price your work the same way! Creating handmade art is valuable and should be priced accordingly. Will you charge by the hour for a project like addressing wedding invitations, or a flat rate for something like a beautifully-written quote on a quality canvas?
While we’re not experts in pricing products since we only dabbled at the beginning, we love the Happy Ever Crafter’s Panic-Free Pricing course and always recommend it to calligraphers that want to make money.
Practice, practice, practice
It’s important to practice your craft and your sales process before you market yourself to the world. First build your website or Etsy shop, then have friends and family members who want to buy from you shop your site. Allow them to go through the whole process and give you feedback on the checkout system you use, delivery and quality of product. Bonus points that your friends and family can give you testimonials that will help you sell to new customers, too!
We’re so lucky that in today’s connected, digital world, there are so many options for creating a business of your own. You, too, can do what you love from home, from a local boutique, from a craft show, and make some money while you do it.