How to Sell Handmade Greeting Cards

Put a Business Plan in Motion

Taking a great photo of your handmade card is essential when selling online
Getty Images: Kohei Hara/Creative RF

If you love making cards and would like to take your card making one step further, perhaps it is time to start planning a handmade card business. If you are serious about extending your hobby into a business, take a look at some tips to get you started and put together an initial business plan.

The Card Making Business

Making and selling handmade greeting cards provides the opportunity to simply earn a few extra dollars or to build a significant income. Most small card businesses fall halfway between these two extremes. Handmade cards remain popular and many people like to give handmade cards to mark birthdays and other special occasions. The greeting cards market is a $7.5 billion annual industry.

Learn the Ropes

If you are starting a business for the first time there's a wealth of support and information available including online groups. If you plan to sell on Etsy, you will find many tutorials available to get you started. You'll also find a wide selection of books published on the subject of running a successful handmade business. When looking at books, make sure you find books that are up to date. The market for selling handmade cards and other products is constantly changing. Another great option is online training and workshops. 

Plan Before You Start

Before you start selling your handmade cards take a little time to plan. You need a business plan. Investing time in planning upfront can help you stay on track, meet your goals, and avoid any nasty pitfalls along the way. There are a number of elements you need to consider during the planning process. Where will you sell? Who is your target audience? What makes you unique? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer as you develop a roadmap for your business.

Determine Where You Are Going to Sell

One of the first things to do is to decide where you are physically going sell your cards. Are you going to sell online with your own store, on a managed platform such as Etsy, or through local businesses and crafts fairs? Word of mouth and selling cards to family and friends will only go so far when it comes to selling cards. Good research will help to determine the opportunities.

There is an increasing number of online craft marketplaces, such as Etsy, Amazon's Handmade, Artfire, and the many other specialist sites. Selling online is a viable proposition for anyone with access to the internet. No technical skills are required to set up an online store within these online handmade marketplaces. Starting a store on Etsy is relatively quick and easy to do. But, you will need to work hard at taking top-notch photos of your cards, crafting superb product descriptions, and learning about search engine optimization and keywords to really get your online business off the ground. Don't worry if this sounds daunting, the Etsy seller's handbook is a fabulous source of information and will help you get started.

Whatever option you choose, having your own online presence is key. Setting this up is not as difficult as it may seem. Take a look at a range of low-cost courses to get you started with your first website.

Who Is Your Target Market?

Identifying your target market is key. Your target market is the group of people who will buy your cards. Getting the word out about your product is your marketing plan. Knowing your target market will help you define your prices and determine where to market your cards. For example, if you sell cards which will appeal to hipsters, your target market is going to be very different than if you are selling cards for a kid's birthday.

If you are going to cover a range of cards and styles you will have a range of target markets and you will market-specific groups of cards to the relevant target market. Knowing your target market also helps you with marketing. If you know who this demographic is, you are much more likely to be able to reach out to them directly with your marketing efforts.

Social media is a great place to get the word out about your handmade cards. Whether it's Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, or another outlet, you have a tremendous opportunity to reach a wide group of people the world over. Look for Facebook sales groups, which are groups that allow selling to members. Some groups do not allow selling and you will risk coming over as spammy if you post in these groups without permission. Do a search on Facebook for Etsy groups. There are plenty to choose from. Instagram can also be a great place to show your work, just make sure that the link in your profile is to your store.

What Is Your Niche?

What sets you apart from all the other card making businesses out there? How will you stand out? If you take a look at the successful handmade card sellers on websites such as Etsy, you will see that very often they sell into a tightly defined niche. This is useful in a crowded market. If you are worried about competing in a very general market, take a look and see if there is a niche you can break into. This can be what makes you unique, and set you up as one of the only businesses catering to that segment.

Keep in mind that there are already many handmade greetings cards available. To be really successful, you need to offer something a little different. In many areas, the market is swamped with handmade cards. An example of a niche is a "green" handmade card business where all products used are recycled, sustainably sourced, or some portion of proceeds benefit ecology projects around the world. When you are thinking about a niche, a great place to start is to think about the things that inspire you or make you smile. 

Think Through Your Product

Think about the product that you are selling. Put together a product development plan that shows how versatile your idea is. Can it grow? Does that product spawn other products or idea that can potentially sell? While simply making some cards and putting them up for sale might prove successful, you will likely need more than the initial product. A product development plan will help take out the guesswork of how to make products that sell.

The most common reasons why a business fails are because no research was done on the product or the market and there was no product development plan, business plan, or marketing plan.

As well as planning the types of cards to sell, you will also need to determine your production calendar. Greeting cards are seasonal, therefore, you will need to start planning seasonal cards in advance to give you time for marketing prior to the season and to give you time to make and sell the cards in time for the relevant season.

The presentation of the cards—the packaging—helps make a successful handmade card business. A card that is neatly presented in a cellophane envelope looks more professional and can command a higher price than one that is unpackaged. Presenting cards in some form of packaging stops cards from becoming dirty or dog-eared and it also gives the ideal opportunity for further marketing. A label on the back with your phone number or website address could help you solicit further orders. Remember to consider shipping and packaging when factoring the costs per unit in your pricing formula.

Check Terms and Conditions of Stamps and Graphics

If you are making cards or other products using third-party graphics, remember to check out the terms of the artist. Not all font creators, stamp and graphics designers, and other artists allow you to sell work that you have created using their work. Some of these companies have restrictions. These restrictions might include limiting the number of cards made from any one stamp in a year or how the cards may be sold (for instance from retail outlets only and not online or from markets). Some companies require that the stamp information is placed on the back of the card or that the designer's name is credited.

Before starting a handmade card business that uses artwork from another designer, be it in a stamp form or ready printed, check whether this artwork comes with a commercial use license or if you have to pay for the licensed image (once or everytime it's used)? If you do have to pay for the image, make sure that cost gets factored into your pricing formula as you determine the per-unit cost of your cards.

Setting Your Price

You need to set a price for your handmade cards and ensure that you are covering your costs and making a profit. There's a very simple formula you can use as the base for pricing your cards which will help you get started.

Committing to the Business

When you are making a business plan, which should incorporate all of these planning elements, make sure that you will have the time available to build and maintain a card making business. There is a big difference between making a few cards for family or friends and running a small business.

The timely fulfillment of orders is an important part of building a successful card making business. The making of cards is just a part of the time required to run a successful card making business.

Marketing and promoting the business, creating new designs, sourcing products, and administration are the other aspects of running a business that will eat into the time available. You will need to allow for over half your time to be spent on the business side of things. You will also need to think about how you will handle the business if you decide to take a vacation, if you get ill, or managing extremely busy periods. This is why good planning is essential. It will help you avoid any nasty surprises later on.