How I started a Hand Lettering Business | LovePaperCrafts.com

How I Turned a Hand Lettering Hobby into a Money Making Business

I have been practicing calligraphy for over two years now. It is such a beautiful hobby I couldn’t help but want to learn how to do it myself. It is a classic story really, that all started with a boy and a girl falling in love.

How I got started with Calligraphy

It all started after I got engaged and started planning the wedding. After picking a date, the invitations were the next priority. After spending weeks browsing through invitations the only thing I knew was that I wanted the envelope to be so beautiful that it immediately set the tone for the wedding with beautiful hand addressed calligraphy and vintage stamps.

Being a do-it-yourself kind of gal I set out to learn calligraphy. I had done some old school calligraphy when I was much younger. You know, the kind with the flat marker that requires you to turn the marker a certain way to get the right kind of line but I wanted beautiful modern calligraphy and I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even know what kind of supplies I needed.

My first lesson in Calligraphy

I started doing tons of research and I came across the Skillshare class: Introduction to the Art of Modern Calligraphy by Molly Jacques. It was exactly what I was looking for complete with a list of supplies and lessons that started from absolute beginner to lettering on envelopes and using different color inks.

I took the course over a week and spent an hour or two everyday just practicing. I started with straight lines and then circles until I was writing full letters and eventually words. It wasn’t easy. I filled up pages and pages of practice letters until my hands started moving on their own. It was almost like muscle memory had kicked in and each letter I would write would just flow right from the nib.

hand-lettering-for-business

In addition to learning on Skillshare I also picked up the book Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thrope. The video class was great because I could actually see it being done. It gave me a better understanding of what I was doing. The book was geared more towards applying what I’d learned on actual projects and using it for the wedding. It came with several pages of letters with different styling. This book really helped to develop my style.

Addressing my wedding invitations

After a few weeks of practicing I set out to address some envelopes. I hand addressed both my save the date cards and the wedding invitations. All of them. It was great real world experience. I learned that not every envelope is easy to address. My save the date cards were done on a kraft paper envelope. The result wasn’t horrible but it was difficult to write on and I ended up wasting a lot of envelopes. So I switched to a beautiful gold linen envelope for the actual invitations that was much smoother and easier to write on.

I received tons of compliments on both the invitations and the save the date cards. I began to wonder if this was something I could do part time to make some extra cash. Lots of people getting married and lots of people need letters addressed so why not.

Starting a Calligraphy Business

I decided to start using hand lettering to make money about a year ago. I wanted to address letters and make cards to sell online and at craft fairs. There are so many ideas for hand lettering businesses. I believe that everyone should find their own passion and turn it into a business. It’s easy to start with just a Facebook page, Etsy store and a business card.

happy-birthday-hand-lettered-greeting-card

Generally, when you sell lettering services on Etsy most clients that you get will be engaged brides looking for wedding invitation addressing. I choose to go a different route because I wanted to get repeat business. I didn’t want to have to search for my clients every single month, I wanted them to come to me.

Hand Lettered Envelope | LovePaperCrafts.com

Direct mail marketing is still one of the most popular forms of marketing for local businesses. If you really want your business to stand out and ensure that your letters are opened, sending a hand addressed letter is the best way possible.

I decided to start with realtors. Why realtors? First, because their information is easy to find and because they are constantly marketing with direct mail. So I went to Google and gathered up 25 local realtors names and addresses. I focused more on luxury realtors because they are more focused on presentation and making a good impression to higher end clients. I sent just 25 hand made cards in beautifully addressed envelopes. On the inside I wrote about my business, including my Facebook URL with examples of my work and I included a business card.

hello-friend-hand-lettered-greeting-card

I received 4 orders from my first 25 cards and those 4 realtors ordered a total of 1150 envelopes. At this point I’d spent maybe $250 on supplies and mailing materials. I made over $4,000 from those 4 calls. One realtor ordered 500 envelopes! I charged differently depending on colors desired, envelopes and volume. It took me roughly one week to complete all of the envelopes, working around 4 hours a day. To save time, I generally calligraphy just the name and write the address with a thick pen. $4,000 was a good extra chunk of change in my pocket, especially for around 20 hours worth of work.

Growing a Hand Lettering Business

I started to wonder if I could turn this into a part time job with full time pay. To grow the business, I expanded out to other cities and followed the same model of sending out about 2 dozen cards with my information and business card. I’ve also tried the same with other companies that send me direct mail marketing but realtors have by far been my best clients. I’ve grown my little hand lettering business to a point where I work around 3-4 hours per day and make enough for ends meat. It’s rewarding, I love making pretty things.

hand-lettered-greeting-cards

I also visit local farmers markets, mailing stores and boutique paper shops to sell my hand made cards. These are usually really simple cards that I can make and duplicate in just a minute or so. I’ve gotten great feedback from these.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I will post another update soon with all of the frequently asked questions I get about hand lettering.

16 Comments

  1. Hi! I have read and reread this post so many times! I decided to start Handlettering as a side business after sending out Christmas cards last year. I LOVE your idea of contacting realtors though- I’ve gotten supplies ready to go, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for the note itself. I’m struggling with not writing too much, getting straight to the point, in a way that is memorable to them!

    1. So glad you found this helpful! I completely understand not wanting to write too much. On the inside I usually write in my own normal handwriting (nothing fancy) For realtors I keep it short and simple. I write something to the effect of “Want to get your clients attention? I can help with that.” I will add my business and contact info. I usually throw in a business card or two as well. Something that shows them the value of the service will also work “Did you know you can get triple the response rate with hand addressed envelopes?”. Short and simple usually works best. I would try a couple different things and see what works best. Good luck!

  2. I’m an event designer part time but I want to start a side business for calligraphy. This post gave me the extra boost I needed to start right away. Do you have any other advice for someone just starting out?

    1. My first tip is don’t be afraid to start. You never know what can happen. There are so many opportunities for hand lettering and you never know what it can become until you try it. Second, practice every single day even if you’re already a professional. Over time it becomes like muscle memory. It becomes easier and the better you get the more you can make. Lastly, in my business I started with real estate agents but get creative with your marketing and clients. Being an event designer, you could definitely start with brides to be just to test the waters. I hope these tips help you.

  3. My love!
    This article gave me soo much encouragement with this article! Iam also starting a calligraphy business and I struggle a bit but you gave my a real push! Your marketing ideas are BRILLIANT!
    I have a question: Did u have a lot of likes on fb back then what you send the letters to the real state agancy? Do you think that u have to have a big fan community to advertise yourself? Cause this takes time and i was wondering if you need it or can start right away?

    Big hugs and greets from Spain! ,,

    Kim

    1. After I made the page I invited my Facebook friends and family. I think a little over 100 of my friends liked my page at the time. That was a decent start. I had the page for a couple of months before I sent out my first set of cards so I had filled it with some photos and posts at that point. I completely understand not wanting to go the Facebook route. You could opt for a small, one page website that just explains a little about you and has samples of your work. That way you don’t have to worry about building a fan base first.

  4. Thanks for this great article. For Realtorsome, we much of the cards were personalized. I.e. “I hope you loved the house at 2500 Cleary Lane. Let me know if you want to see it sgain. ” or did you only customize the envelopes for them?

    1. For me, I’ve only done envelopes completely hand lettered. But I have done some lettering for some greeting cards like birthdays and anniversaries and had them printed for realtors. It saves me time in the long run to do them this way. I usually do 3 different designs so there is still variety. They still have a custom organic, lettered feel to them but it takes a lot less time for me to do them. Everyone I’ve talked to about them has still loved them. In my case, the realtor has usually written their own greeting on the inside anyway or had it printed. They usually know the client better.

  5. Chelsea, I am so happy I found this post! Thank you for willing to share your knowledge!! Any tips on how to price my work? I have no idea how much to charge. If you could please at least give me an idea on where to find this I would really appreciate it. Thank you!!

    1. My basic starting price is $3.00 per envelope but I give discounts the more envelopes that are ordered. I go all the way down to $2 per envelope if more than 500 are ordered. I up-charge for different envelope colors, materials, return addresses and greeting cards.

      The basic formula for pricing should be cost of supplies + cost of your time. For example if you want to make $75/hour and you can letter 30 envelopes in an hour that’s $2.50 per envelope. If cost of supplies (don’t forget your marketing) is $0.20 per envelope you should be charging at least $2.70 per envelope.

      Hope this helps!

  6. Hi! I am a teenage who wants to start a business in hand-lettering but I have NO IDEAAAA where to start! Please help!
    Thanks <3
    Tiffany

  7. Thank you so much for writing this! I really want to make extra money that doesn’t involve driving around (my car is on its last leg) so I’m going to try this in my area. My question for you is: did you offer different envelopes for them to use or did they supply the envelopes or was it some other arrangement?

    Thank you for answering. 🙂

    1. I completely know what you mean about making extra money but not wanting to drive. I hate driving it would be a nightmare for me! I do offer envelopes, I have a supply of white, cream and tan colored envelopes but some of the realtors and other businesses I work with want their own color of envelopes for branding purposes. When they want their own color I often ask for a sample first to make sure I have a brush pen that will work on it and that can be read. I don’t except an order from anyone using their own envelopes before getting a sample first to ensure I can maintain good quality.

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