How fancy is your handwriting? Fancy enough to create and sell your own font?
Designers can sell fonts online and earn passive income.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Just as the complicated history of fonts, wherein web designers used images as text on websites, earning money from font design can be complicated if you don’t know where to start or where to market your work.
Fonts have been a huge part of web design, ever since designers and programmers decided to make sites “look nice.” From then on, gone are the black backgrounds with neon green font, and then came a plethora of cool-looking fonts for everyone to use.
Today, the font family used in a website is considered as heavily as the site’s color palette, voice of content, and logo – it’s a part of branding.
If you have the eye for good design and the skills to match, you could sell fonts online and actually make a killing.
However, you do need to decide on several considerations, such as how much to price the fonts, where to sell your work, and how to market fonts continuously.
How much can you make selling fonts?
When it comes to licensing commissions, 50% rate is the average among font retailers like MyFonts, but there are rare 70% commissions from foundries like Fontspring. In most cases, you are the one who will set the price for your font, and receive the agreed-upon commission whenever the site makes a sale.
Finding the best royalty rate should be your priority, but your considerations shouldn’t stop there. You should also consider where you’d want to sell your fonts.
If you’re new to this industry, the first thing you’d want to know is how much to price each font. Unfortunately, the question doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Several things would dictate the amount of money you can earn from selling fonts online, such as:
- Whether you sell it via a font foundry (vendor/publisher) or a font reseller (retailer/distributor).
- Whether you’ve agreed to a one-off payment, or continuous commissions
- Whether you’ve created only one or multiple fonts
- Whether you plan to market the fonts (and how good you are at marketing)
- Whether the font retailer markets designers’ fonts
- And so on…
How do you sell your font?
There are 3 methods to sell fonts online, but each method has its own pros and cons.
Unfortunately, every designer’s needs and skills are unique, so the best method of selling fonts on the web depends largely on these factors. Compare and analyze which one is best for you:
1. Join a Font Foundry
As a designer, once you join a foundry, you’ll be selling your work within that site and whichever resellers that site has within its network.
This is an exclusive set-up, so you can’t sell your fonts anywhere else.
Your chosen foundry has the right to sell your font within the bounds of the contract you (and other designers) signed.
The main issue with foundry that you should know is that every foundry has a well-written pricing agreement. Royalty designers get from foundries range from 20 to 50 percent, but you have to read the fine print. Most foundries only pay the percentage of wholesale font price, which means designers will be paid smaller amounts if the font has gone through two or more channels.
In a few foundries, designers earn percentage of the suggested retail price, even if the font was sold directly off the foundry or through a reseller’s channel.
Font Foundry Pros:
- Fonts under foundries are sold through multiple channels, which means your font would have better exposure beyond the foundry’s main site or store
- Foundries protect their designers and the designers’ fonts against piracy
- You don’t need to market your own font
- Foundries will handle customer support for you
- Font resellers prefer foundries
- No administration or business knowledge needed
- Get design assistance (not all foundries)
Font Foundry Cons:
- Smaller income if fonts are sold by resellers
- No control how or where your work is sold
- Stuck in a contract
Go with a foundry if you think its library can accommodate your font style and that your fonts wouldn’t get buried under millions of fonts. Learn how much assistance a foundry can provide you when it comes to marketing and communicating with resellers.
And before you sign the dotted line, make sure you know (and agree to) the length of your contract with a foundry.
2. Work with a Reseller
You’ll know if a site is a reseller if the fonts come from multiple foundries (mostly, when it re-directs you to another website when you’re interested in a particular font). Good examples of resellers are Fonts.com and MyFonts.
Every reseller has a specific customer base, a font style preferred, and even promotional methods used.
Resellers go to a font foundry and make a deal to sell the fonts within the foundry’s library.
In this method, foundries get about 40 to 65% of the retail price of the font. Designers do have control on pricing their fonts, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re trying to compete with a huge font market.
More often than not, resellers can sign contracts with multiple foundries using the same fonts. However, some resellers like Veer use “exclusivity” as a marketing technique. You should know the resellers’ techniques in marketing the fonts of designers, and if you’d be okay with the strategies they use.
Font Reseller Pros:
- Fonts are sold in various channels
- Fonts reach wider audience
- Designer keep pricing control
- Sign with multiple resellers
Font Reseller Cons:
- Smaller percentage per sale
- Resellers have thousands of fonts (your work may get buried by other fonts)
Go with a reseller if you’re confident that your fonts would shine amidst thousands of other fonts.
You have to consider the target market of each reseller and discover how a reseller markets fonts, deal with customers, and handle complaints. Check if you need to place your fonts exclusively to a particular reseller (or if you can sign with multiple resellers) before signing any contract.
3. Sell Fonts Online via Your Own Website
This method is probably the riskiest and hardest among all 3 methods, but if you succeed, it will all be worth it.
You’d have to know how to build a foundry, market your exclusively-designed fonts, find customers, and handle post-sale customer service all on your own.
If you’re planning to open your world to resellers, you also need to learn how to negotiate and maintain these relationships for the long run.
The most obvious advantage of going at it on your own is that you receive 100% of the font sales every time. Check out Jeremy Tankard and Lineto if you’re looking for inspirations of designers successfully creating and selling fonts online.
The major downside to starting a font empire from scratch is that you’ll have to be willing to give a lot of time, effort and hard work to bring paying customers to your store.
You have to make a name for yourself to bring in people organically, so you should also develop a long-term marketing plan (that involves social media and paid ads).
Selling On Your Own Pros:
- Get 100% of font sales every time
- You have total control over every aspect of your business, from store design to website elements, marketing strategies, pricing, and a whole lot more
- You have direct access to all your customers, so you can build long-term relationships if you want to
- Designers have full control over their brand
Selling On Your Own Cons:
- Creating a storefront, handling sales, and providing customer support may require extra funds (or additional effort from your part if you don’t plan to outsource these tasks)
- Marketing may be costly
- Juggle font designing and performing business tasks at the same time
Go with this route if you are absolutely sure you can commit to designing fonts and marketing them on your own.
Building your own foundry from scratch isn’t easy, but the fruits of all your hard work will be worth it if you do it right.
The cool thing about these three methods of selling fonts is you can succeed and earn passive income online whichever path you decide to take.
However, the amount you’d likely take home will depend on factors, such as number of fonts for sale, percentage of revenue, overhead costs, and more.
Tips on Marketing Your Fonts
Whether you decided to sell fonts exclusively to a foundry, sign with multiple resellers, or sell fonts online on your own storefront, website, Facebook page, Deviantart page, and so on, promoting your work is the best way to find more customers who would buy your work and improve your income dramatically.
1. Decide on a Niche
Let’s face it.
The typeface or font industry is a fierce one. Ask anyone who has tried to make a living off designing fonts and you’ll be discouraged completely. But if you’re smart with how you find your market, you’ll be able to craft fonts based on a very specific niche.
With every font that you create, add special characters (numerals, small capitals, ligatures, etc.), and provide versions with different widths, weights and styles (italic, condensed, etc.) to be as exclusive to all markets as possible. If you’re willing to extend this courtesy, you can think about global usage and how you can convert a Latin font into a non-Latin font.
Find a twist that you can explore, so that all fonts you create are authentic and irresistible to font buyers.
2. Invest in Yourself
You have to get the best software if you’re serious about font design.
Just like in any skills-based profession, you have to continue learning and being up-to-date with font design trends. You have attend workshops, read up on other font designers, and improve your skills with new gadgets.
3. Break the Rules
Follow this advice from Alex Haigh, founder and creative director of HypeForType:
He says: “Typefaces such as [Alex Trochut’s] Neo Deco are incredibly unique. It would be really refreshing to see artists and designers take a more experimental route. We’ve got thousands of sans-serif fonts, so why not create something no one has ever seen before?”
If you have to break the rules and redefine font design to make people notice, then do it.
4. Skip the ABCs when making photos and Videos
The traditional way of showing off fonts is to display the ABCs using the featured font. While this continues to be an effective method, you can always try out different presentation ideas, such as:
- Instead of ABCs, use connective words (“with,” “my,” “and,” etc.) and common words (“love”) when displaying the font
- Create videos showing ways the customer can use the font (as flyers, website template, and so on)
5. Offer Freebies
If you went with a foundry or reseller, check if you can include freebies with the fonts you’re putting for sale. For those selling fonts on their own channel, take advantage of giving away freebies to your customers. People love free stuff, even if it’s just a set of holiday fonts that they won’t be able to use for months.
The Bottom Line
You have to understand that you can’t replace the revenues you get from selling fonts with your full-time job. It is possible, but it won’t happen overnight. You’d have to build your reputation or create numerous fonts for sale before you can make a killing with font design. Add the business decisions and marketing techniques you have to learn, and you’ll understand how hard it is to make it big in this industry.
However, if you do make it, every hard work, contract negotiations, marketing efforts, and investment placed into this business will be all worth it since you’re getting paid to do something you love.