Cursive writing has been slowly becoming extinct for decades, but its surprise comeback has ignited a passionate community of calligraphers who have turned their craft into a business. If you’ve always loved gliding your fancy pens onto paper and create classy handwritten posters, greeting cards, invitations, envelopes, menus and other creative letterings on a wide range of media, now’s the time to cash in on your passion. Here’s how:
1) Practice Makes Perfect-for-Selling
Calligraphy is a skill not many people have, but if you practice often and take time to learn from books, online courses and workshops, you’d find your artwork getting better by the day. It could be feedback from your friends on social media, or a 100-piece wedding invite gig offer from an acquaintance, but you’ll definitely know when your work is store-worthy.
2) Gather Your Startup Capital
Let’s face it – you may have started calligraphy as a hobby, but once you turn it into a business, you’ll require some kind of startup capital to buy more equipment and supplies, such as pens, markers, ink, paint, brushes, calligraphy pens and stocks of specialty paper (parchment and calligraphy paper). If you’re going to promote your work online, you’ll need extra cash to set-up a website, produce business cards, invest in a good camera and set aside marketing funds.
Depending on the amount of supplies you already have before you decide to put up a calligraphy business, your startup capital could be as little as $100 or as high as $1,000. And since you won’t have an employee or a brick-and-mortar store, almost all your sales would be for profit.
3) Decide on an Angle
In order to get the attention of customers, you have to develop your own style. There are tons of resources online to get inspiration. Check Pinterest, download as many fonts as you can, visit websites of other calligraphers to see what kind of classic and modern calligraphy styles are out there.
Fortunately, handwritten calligraphy can be so similar that no person can copyright their work. Using quotes, lyrics, and other copyrighted words and then selling them for profit, on the other hand, is against the law.
Once you’ve decided on a calligraphy style and practiced it to perfection, you then have to figure out a game plan to market your handwritten work. Do want to focus on the wedding industry, or diversify and try out various markets?
4) Price & Sell Your Product on Etsy
The minute you’d decide to sell calligraphy, you have to be ready with pricing (even if you don’t have any customers yet). There’s nothing more off-putting to would-be buyers than when they catch you unprepared. It can be tricky, since this industry doesn’t follow a “one size fits all” pricing. However, you can compare prices of other sellers on Etsy and go from there.
Many calligraphers start with a lower price than market prices, but don’t go too low that you’ll end up losing money. You can increase prices as your skills improve. As a starting point, note that calligraphers charge about $1 to $5 per wedding invitation, but those would longer text can be priced a lot higher.
Before you market your product on Etsy, make sure you have your own ordering system in place. Set up a work calendar, so you can easily check if you can accommodate orders as they come in. When creating an Etsy listing, ask customers to fill-up a quick questionnaire that includes deadline, number of orders, writing media (watercolor, ink, markers, etc.), colors, and information about the text that will be handwritten. Do the math and send your customer a quote. If he/she agrees with the price, create a new Etsy listing specifically for that customer. Begin the work once your customer buys that customized listing.
5) Join a Community of Creatives
The comeback of calligraphy also resulted in various communities popping up both online and offline. Join a calligraphy group where you can learn from people who have successfully turned their craft into a profitable business. It’s also a great way to discover new calligraphy styles, develop marketing skills, and seek feedback from people who knows best.
Aside from regular contests, these groups also hold calligraphy exchanges which are a popular pen-pal-like activity where participants send and receive handwritten postcards and other artwork by mail. Both contests and exchanges are a fun way to practice your skills and receive much-needed feedback, especially for those who are just starting out.
6) Master Your Craft
It doesn’t matter if you’re busy with customer orders or not, but you have to spare time to master new skills, new calligraphy techniques, new media, and more. Adding specialties to your offering could double your earnings significantly.
The Bottom Line
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, calligraphers and other fine artists earned $53k in 2010. Many calligraphers also sell ready-made products on top of their custom orders, which ensure that even downtimes could produce money in the end. Like any business, marketing will also dictate the sales you’ll receive, so learn how to spread-the-word (both offline and online) your calligraphy products and services.