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So you want to sell your cards!

So You Want to Sell Your Cards!
By: Linda Selymes, Editor and Artistic Guide

Stamp Credit: Art Impressions

I've been thinking about this subject for a while.  First of all, I do sell a few of my cards.  Many of my friends ask me if I sell cards, if I'll make custom cards for them, where they can buy them, etc.  Secondly, I've learned a lot by trial and error  about the right and wrong ways to go about it.  What I will share is from my personal experience, and not very scientific.  At the end of this article I will give a list of resources, including some books you can check out if you want to turn your card making skills into a business.

First of all, you need to decide WHY you want to sell your cards. Do you have a huge inventory of already made cards you'd like to decrease?  Do you want to make a little bit of money to subsidize your hobby?  Do you want to add a small income (as in profit after expenses, including your time) to the family's income?  Or do you need to make a living?  Another way of saying this, is: will this be something you do in your "spare" time; or will it be a primary use of your time.......you know.........like a job!  The way you go about it may vary depending on your financial goals and the amount of time you have.

In this article, I will deal primarily with the first two reason, since that's where I'm personally coming from.  I've got a lot of cards, and I appreciate being able to subsidize my hobby.  I wouldn't MIND making a little profit, but that's not my primary goal.  I am a retired executive with a decent retirement income (at least it used to be, before the latest economic crises, lol).  I'm primarily an artist now; and that's how I want to spend my time.  Therefore, at this time at least, I do not have a huge profit motive.  When I HAVE to get some extra money, I go teach classes!

So with that as a background, here's my two cents worth.

Industry Statistics

(These stats were gleaned from several different sources, but came primarily from The Greeting Card Association which deals only with the industry in the United States.)

  1. Approximately seven billion greeting cards are purchased each year.
  2. Women buy approximately 80% of all greeting cards sold, no matter who they are for.
  3. Greeting card prices, sold commercially, range in price on the low end from 50 cents to about ten dollars.  These are almost always mass produced cards, not handmade cards.  The average price is about $3.95.
  4. The top selling cards are birthday cards.
  5. The best selling seasonal cards are Christmas and holiday cards.

Okay, so now we know a few statistics.  With that many cards being sold in this country alone, there has to be a potential market for us, people who make handmade cards.  Here are some of them:

  • Wholesale
    This is where you sell to a retail store or shop, for resale to the consumer.  The normal markup is 100%.  This means if your card is going to sell for $5.00; the shop will pay you approximately $2.50.  That may sound like a lot but it's almost universally true.  I grew up in the retail business, because my Dad owned a variety store, then a wholesale company, and I owned a yarn shop for ten years, so you can take my word for this.If you live close to a resort community, and you design cards around a theme that match that area, you might find a niche where people will pay more for handmade cards.  One of these days, I may look into this.Know the consumers at the stores you solicit.  I once went to a high end boutique for women and took a bunch of what I thought were gorgeous scenic cards and the owner politely informed me that those were "men's cards" and her customers wouldn't buy them.  She loved the glitzy, glittery, flower cards though!  The only problem was that they took so long to make, I wouldn't get anything for my time.
  • Craft Fairs
    If you go the craft fair route, you will be selling directly to the consumer, and will not have to deal with wholesale markups.  But there are still costs involved.  You have to pay for the booth, maybe tables, and lighting, and you have to consider your driving costs to get there, if you will need help (like to take a break) lunch, and maybe other intangibles.  You will also have to decide how you take payment.  Will it be cash only?  Will you take checks (pretty dangerous in this day and age)?  What about credit cards?  If you take credit or debit cards you will need an arrangement with a bank and there is a charge for that; plus you will need the equipment to process their credit/debit payments.  Still, I know several people who have been very successful at making money at craft fairs.On a personal note, this is one that doesn't particularly appeal to me.  I don't like the idea of having to be in a certain place, for a certain prescribed period of time.  I worked for almost 50 years at jobs where that was a requirement, and at this point in my life, I no longer want to do that.  However, if I were 20 years younger, I might go for it, lol!
  • On-Line, EBay, ETSY Shops
    Again, here, you will be selling directly to the consumer, and won't have to worry about wholesale markup.  You may still have to pay a percentage to someone for each transaction (i.e., EBay, or Paypal, or others) for the privilege of using their service.   If you don't have the skill to do your own website, you will need to pay for someone to do it for you. I actually know almost nothing about ETSY shops, and I guess I need to do some research on that, because I know several people who have been successful with these online shops.

And Here is My FAV!
This is the only way I know to sell your cards without any overhead at all (except for your supplies).  Do you still have a job?  Show your cards to your co-workers at break or lunch time.  (Please don't steal from your employers by doing this on their time.)  Chances are you will get orders (especially from men who absolutely HATE going into a shop to buy cards).

Check out friends and relatives.  They will often buy your cards.  I'm fortunate in that my sister is a real estate broker, and she  and her agents send out dozens of cards a year; and they love the idea of having a handmade card to send out that shows they care.

I also have a local restaurant in my neighborhood where the owner and the wait persons always want to see what I've done lately, and they often buy my cards.

I've taken my cards into my dentist's office and the staff there often buy cards from me.

Always have cards in your car or your purse, wherever you go.  You never know where you will find a customer and sell a card.

A few more tips

  1. It's a very good idea to have a business card that shows how people can reach you.
  2. Be sure you know the angel policy of the company whose stamps you are using.   This is very important!  You can open yourself up to legal action if you violate this.  Every company you buy stamps from, whether rubber or digital, will publish their policy on their website.  Check resources below for a list of angel companies.
  3. Pay attention to how much time it takes you to make a card.  Some of my very favorites take so long to make I would never consider selling them.
  4. It probably doesn't need to be said to you guys, but your cards need to be perfect.  No ink smudges, background papers need to be squared, you know what I mean.
  5. Make sure if you want to claim expenses that you keep good records of costs you incur.
  6. In the United States, check out the IRS's policies about "hobby" expenses versus "business" expenses.

That pretty wraps up what I know about selling cards.  The resources I mentioned are listed below.  However, I'd like to add one final comment.  I know there are readers out there who are successfully selling cards, and I (and our other readers) would love to hear any tips you may have on this subject. Please leave us a comment.  If you disagree with anything I've said, let's hear it!  I don't claim to be an expert on this subject.  However,  I love this craft, and want to see us all get out of it whatever we need to help make us happy!  And there's nothing wrong with making a little money!

Happy Stamping!

 Resources:

Greeting Card Association
Etsy
List of Angel Companies
Book: How to Start Making Money With Your Crafts by Kathryn Caputo
Book: Crafting as a Business by Wendy Rosen

Oh, BTW, I did sell the card shown at the beginning of this article.  Don't think I made much money, but I know I at least made my expenses and got a couple of bucks for my time.  :+)

 


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12 Responses »

  1. Llinda, I have been fairly successful in selling my cards - friends, my dentist's office, small consignment shops, etc. As for pricing, I have found pricing them at $4.00 apiece or 3 for $10 helps people feel like they are getting a bargain so they always buy in multiples of 3. Also like one of your earlier respondees, I have made identical thank you cards with little gift packets wrapped in a fancy paper sleeve with a ribbon bow for one price and then packets of individual "blank" or thank you cards for somewhat more. Pricing strategy is important. Dotty

  2. Thank you for the article. My daughter and I tried the Farmer's market route last fall. It was not profiiable at all. Lucky if we made enough to pay for the space. We received lots of great comments about how wonderful the cards were, but very few were willing to pay our asking price - $3.00 for regular cards , $3.50 for Christmas cards. As you mentioned in your article, one must know the clintele.

  3. I have not made much at craft shows, but what does work is making packs of the same card. Some people will buy packs of cards instead of just one card. This is especially true around the holidays. Theme based cards do work for some shows, for example ballerina cards, etc. Ultimately, the bigger shows work better than the smaller craft shows, but they are more expensive. Getting a friend to share the booth or table will cut down on costs. Websites work if you can advertise. What sells is unique cards that only you can make!

  4. Linda, This is a really helpful article. These are very important things for a person to know. Thank you for doing this.
    Pat

  5. THanks for your advice, Linda. all appreciated by fellow crafters. Eleanor

  6. Thanks, Verna, for sharing your experience. It is actually quite similar to mine, although I never did the craft show. After I did some research, and thought about the time commitment, set up, break down, hauling stuff around, and having to be there for 8-10 hours, I decided not to do it. I, like you, do sell some cards, but it is definitely a sideline, and not really intended to make an income. Who knows, that may change some day; but not today, lol!
    Hugs;
    Linda

  7. Good information Linda. I tried the craft shows and I did not find them profitable at all. By the time I paid the expenses I was lucky to break even. Many looked at my cards and complimented me on them but they wanted mainly the ideas. That was a downer for me. I also sell to a few friends and family members but I tell them to donate what they feel they are worth. I found out that method was more profitable to me than setting a price on them. Reason being...they wanted the cards and not just the ideas. I also tried selling in a store situation too, but the demand to keep a constant supply of each type of card was like a job and it no longer was enabling me to enjoy my hobby gone wild of card making. Now I mainly do cards for myself and also for Operation Write Home which is cards for the soldiers to send home to their loved ones. And, I also enter contests and occasionally get a card published and that generates some compensation for me as well. I am retired and i want to continue to make cards but for fun time projects and not as a job or earning reason. I just thought I would share my experiences.

  8. Great information, Linda; thanks for the food for thought when considering selling handmade cards.

  9. Hi Edna. Thanks for asking your question. There is no single answer to this question. It will depend on many things, like how long it took you to make the card; what you think your time is worth (i.e., your hourly wage for making cards). Also the cost of supplies to make the card, whether you are retailing or wholesaling, and many other things. One thing you can do is comparison window shop at Ebay or Etsy shops to see what others are charging. As a card maker yourself, you can make a pretty good guess as to the cost to make the card and the time involved. Here is one more online place I just found that might give you some useful information: http://www.ehow.com/how_5953855_price-handmade-greeting-cards.html. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer, but I can't. For myself, I keep reminding myself I make cards because I LOVE to make cards. That is my number one concern. I also realize that many people will not pay me what my time is worth; so I will probably never make assembly line cards that can be completed very quickly.. I don't need the money that much, and I think that would bore me and take away from the pleasure I get from making my cards. Good luck to you whatever you decide! Happy Stamping, Linda (editor)

  10. Many people including my husband encourage me to sell some of my cards. So far, have only sold a few to one person. It seems it keeps me busy just keeping up with the cards I send for myself. That I enjoy and don't think I want to make a job out of it. But if I ever did, what price would be fair to both of us??? Edna

  11. Thanks for the article on card making. It has always been a challenge to come up with designs that are not too time consuming to sort of mass produce, yet have enough WOW factor to make them an easy sell. Look forward to reading more

  12. thank you for this info! I am constantly being told by family to sell and stop giving away! I might have to consider it. I known of some who do sell on ETSY. I may have to check that out as well.

    thank you again