So you want to sell your cards!
So You Want to Sell Your Cards!
By: Linda Selymes, Editor and Artistic Guide
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.
(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.)
- Approximately seven billion greeting cards are purchased each year.
- Women buy approximately 80% of all greeting cards sold, no matter who they are for.
- 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.
- The top selling cards are birthday cards.
- 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:
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
- It's a very good idea to have a business card that shows how people can reach you.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make sure if you want to claim expenses that you keep good records of costs you incur.
- 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!
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. :+)