Greetings cards make up a multi-million dollar industry; an industry whose products enable us to convey the messages and sentiments we are unable to put into words ourselves. With its visually led product offerings the Greetings Card industry provides a number of career opportunities for illustrators, artists, printers, and copywriters. But as with any industry is can be difficult to know where to start especially if you are just fresh out of college or university. So if you are thinking about becoming a greetings card designer, or maybe it has not been something you have even considered, until now then read on for some handy tips from our guest contributor, Ese…
You have finally decided to do it and start your greetings card business, Yipeee!
Hopefully, you would have thought long and hard about this and realise your passion lies within creativity. First of all, well done. Greetings cards really is an exciting business to venture into and can lead to other potential creative possibilities. My name is Ese and I am the founder and designer of Sweet Design Studio, a contemporary ethnic greetings card, and gift brand. I absolutely LOVE what I do and would not change it for anything in the world. I began my journey not knowing a clue about the greetings card industry but through trial and error (many errors) I think I know a thing or two about my industry. Through my own experience, I’ve managed to discover the 10 vital things to do to build a great greetings card business- enjoy!
I cannot stress this enough!
I came across one lady who used Microsoft Word to create her greeting cards, MICROSOFT WORD! If this lady had done her research she would have realised that creative software such as Adobe InDesign or even Photoshop or Illustrator is the best option for a more professional result. Doing your research is key for a smooth and successful process. Research into areas such as, which printers to use to print your cards, the types of files to use, suitable envelopes and cellophane bags and much more are the necessities you need to know for your greetings card business.
2) CHOOSE YOUR DESIGN SOFTWARE
Whether your cards will be handmade or not you are going to need design software that will enable you to edit and add additional features to your artwork such as a barcode. Personally, I use all the Adobe Creative Cloud programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign). I have used them for years and I am really used to them. Luckily, there are now so many other alternatives to use, some of which are free such as Canva and Pixlr. If you can, it is best to experiment with the different programs to see which ones work best for you.
3) STALK OTHER GREETINGS CARD PUBLISHERS
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are good places to start. Look at things such as, which of their posts get the most engagement, where they go to promote their cards, which shops stock their cards, what other products they make and so on. Even follow their followers and get them to convert to your business.
4) VISIT CRAFT FAIR EVENTS
Doing this would usually be the starting point for any new and emerging greetings card publisher looking to debut their collection. Craft fairs are a great way to not only look out for other designers you will be competing alongside, but it is also great for inspiration. When visiting craft fairs, do not just shop around, talk to the designers, ask questions, take their business cards, explain what you want to do. You would be surprised by the advice and tips designers at these craft fairs are willing to share with you. And remember to sign up to these craft fair events so that you can attend more in the future, and when the time comes even trade at them.
5) SUBSCRIBE TO GREETINGS CARD INDUSTRY PUBLICATIONS SUCH AS GREETINGS TODAY MAGAZINE
For those of you who are not aware: Greetings Today is the UK’s no1 monthly magazine dedicated to the greetings card industry. It is great because the magazine advertises things such as greetings card printers and much more. You can even submit your own work and get it featured in their up and coming issues. Greetings Today is free to bona fide greetings card businesses, visit their website and put in your details and you will be able to receive their magazines by post (if you live outside the UK you will have to pay postage).
6)ATTEND TRADE SHOWS
Trade shows are a lot different to craft fairs. Trade shows are for retail buyers, distributors and licensing your designs, whereascraft fairs are purely for consumers. Trade shows are a great way to see how other greetings card publishers display their cards to potential buyers, their branding, and gives you an idea of how many cards and/orcollections you would need for your venture. Again when visiting trade shows speak to the greetings card publishers but keep it short (they are working and focused on getting the attention of retail buyers) so getting there early is best. Not all trade shows are free for the public but the ones that I know are free are Top Drawer and Pulse in the UK, so definitely sign up with them to get access.
7) HAVE A THEME AND STICK WITH IT
Having a theme for your cards and sticking to it is what is going to establish and set you apart from other greetings card publishers. People are going to remember you for that theme, and Google search will work on your side. I specialise in ethnic greetings cards celebrating women so that has established me as a publisher of:
a) ethnic greetings card
b) female greetings card
Tip: find a theme this is niche. You will probably think everything has already been done but if you do your research (as mentioned before) you will probably discover something different and unique.
8) ATTEND NETWORKING EVENTS
This is really good practice for introducing yourself as a greetings card publisher, as well as listening to other people’s ‘elevator pitch’. Attending networking events definitely helped me in terms of confidence when I started out. It is a great push in getting yourself out there to speak to others and exchange business cards. It is something I still do today as I have found it to be a great confidence booster, I have even made a couple of card sales through these events, and I made new friends.
Tip: if you have samples of your greetings cards, bring them along and show them when talking about your business. Also, find networking events that are free, to begin with.
9) START OFF SMALL AND GRADUALLY GROW
Starting any business is exciting but do not get carried away and burn out. For greetings cards start off with debuting a small collection of cards. With this, you will not need to spend a lot of money. Customer feedback is key so it is important that you note down what they think and from this you can see which designs they are drawn to the most and with that, you can change your collection based on that particular design. Most importantly you want to create a great customer experience so they would be happy and spend their money on your cards.
10) DON’T THINK JUST DO
Yes you are going to make mistakes but that is what is going to make your business grow, that is what is going to make you become an expert, and that is how you will know and understand your business. Overthinking will delay your process, fill you with doubts and knock your confidence. There really isn’t a perfect time to start anything but doing it when you least expect it will push you to keep going and will make you learn and discover so much about yourself and your business.
– Ese, Sweet Design Studio
Ese is one of the talented illustrators featured in our book Fashion Illustration Africa, and you can find more about her and her range of greetings cards and gift products by visiting Sweet Design Studio.
[Image credits: The images shown belong to Sweet Design Studio. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]