How to Start a Greeting Card Business

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Image of a card under a pen

A Quick Overview of The How to Start a Greeting Card Business

The greeting card business can be a successful venture if you develop the right niche, but expecting your greeting card business to make a killing with every new card you put out there.

You should probably decide on the kind cards you want to develop are you the one that makes funny cards, the one that makes cute cards, or the one that makes crude cards?

By having a focused plan and a concept of what kind of card you hope to sell, you may gain an advantage over your competition. Buyers will know exactly what kind of product to expect by looking at your greeting cards or visiting your website.

If your working with retailers, though, know the market you’re dealing with before sending blindly. If you focus on fart jokes, Hallmark might not be interested. On the other hand, novelty stores like Spencers tend to love that sort of thing.

What you’ll need to get started:
  • A Few Greeting Card Designs
    If you’re not an artist, you can find a talented artist who might do the work for a percentage of sales.
  • A Trip to the Local Print Shops
    If you don’t want to put your home printer to the task of printing dozens and dozens of cards (and you probably shouldn’t try to print dozens and dozens of cards with a consumer grade computer printer), you’ll want to shop around the local print shops like Kinkos and Staples. Check the phone book and other local listings, call around and see who’s willing to give you the best deal on printing some cards (maybe just a few hundred for now, and if they sell, you can reinvest into producing more cards).

Designing greeting cards can also allow some degree of self-expression. Yes, your business goal is simply to say “Get well soon!” or “Happy Birthday!” but allowing your own sense of humor and artistic sensibilities to work their way in should, hopefully, connect you with customers and get you off to a good start.

Approximate Daily Hours Needed:

General Hours of Operation – When your business is open – Because this business is a creative endeavor, your hours of operation are not standardized, outside of appointments with clients who may wish to carry your greeting cards.

Licenses:

See Our Page on Licenses and Permits

Approximate Minimum Startup Cost:

Bare essential – $500-1,000

Skill Set:
Employee & Job Consideration During The Start-Up Phase Or In The Future:
Equipment, Supplies, & Services During Start-up OR In The Future:
  • Imaging software
  • Cardstock or heavy-weight paper
  • Printing press
  • Screen printing equipment
  • Die cutting tools
  • Embellishments such as rhinestones, glitter, ribbon, etc.
  • Specialized paper stock such as rice paper for wedding announcements
Monthly Expenses To Consider:

List of Common Monthly Expenses

Tips & Considerations:
  • Find out all you can about the trends in the industry. Know your competition: in particular, their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you identify your competitive advantage. Keep from emulating the competition’s strategy. Instead, make the most of your own advantages.
  • As a greeting card artist, you can work in any medium or style that you prefer; pastel or oil, abstract or impressionist, illustrator or photographer, sentimental or serious.
  • You can increase your chances of success by doing the right research. Study the various cards on the market. Visit local card shops to find the names of companies whose product line is compatible with the kind of work you do. Then, take your list to the library and look up in the current issue of Artist’s Market to find out their submission procedures. You can get ideas from their submission guidelines. Learn what they’re looking for, study the cards they have on the market, and check out how they want you to submit your graphics or verses. Find out what’s working for them, then integrate these lessons in your own operation. This will give you a firm idea of the designs that would be salable to other people.
  • You also need to know about the “technical aspects” of this business; where to sell your cards, printing, and color, buying the right paper and envelopes, renting spaces, and finding a sales rep or distributor. You have to experiment on various materials to come up with original designs. The more original your designs, the better alternative you are offering to the market, and the greater your chances for success. You also need to be a good writer or partner with one to produce the verses for the card.
  • The best way to test your concept and see what kind of market there might be for your cards is to professionally print up a small selection of designs and take them to a local boutique or card shop. Ask the manager if he or she would carry them for a few months to see how well they sell. Another option would be renting a space at a street fair or flea market for a few weeks and displaying your cards. Ask shoppers for feedback and test several price points. If your cards are so unique and eye-catching that you make a lot of sales, you’ll know to move forward with your plans. If not, you won’t be out much money and you’ll have gained experience. Remember that sales are what count, not nice comments from polite passersby.
Pros and Cons:

The Pros:

  • If you are an artist, it is fairly simple to turn your full-size artworks into greeting cards
  • This business is highly expandable. You could adapt your designs to magnets, bookmarks, etc.
  • Low start-up costs

The Cons:

  • Although it sounds like a natural way to monetize your original artwork, selling greeting cards is actually a difficult business to make a go of, experts say. The quality of a homemade card probably won’t be high enough to sell, and producing cards professionally; with quality paper, fine inks, professional folding, and packaging can be xpensive.
  • There are the complexity and expense of copyrighting your work and the risk that it will be pirated, no matter what you do.
  • Greeting cards command a very low price and have a relatively short life cycle, yet require a fairly high expenditure in advertising and marketing to acquire clients. One would need to sell many greeting cards in order to absorb the required initial marketing, packaging, and advertising expenditures.
  • The business has really changed with the Internet and computer printing. So many companies have gone out of business because they sit with the inventory and there’s no remainder market like there is for books.
Type of Customers:

Your customers are everywhere from those who impulse-buy to those who like to purchase special greeting cards for special occasions and holidays. In my opinion, it’s better to target retailers that will be willing to sell your cards on their shelves.

Statistics:

Even with growing competition from e-cards, the greeting card industry remains very strong. Industry estimates show that over 7.4 billion cards were sold to Americans last year, which breaks down to approximately 235 cards sold per second!

The good news is that about a third of these cards are created by freelancers. If you have the talent for photography, painting, calligraphy, and writing, this may be the business for you.

Revenue:

The greeting card industry is a whopping 7.5 billion dollar per year business in the United States alone.

Overall, you can make a little or a lot, especially when it comes to highly individualized and specialized cards. Look at the cost of cards at local retailers and imagine how much you would be able to charge accordingly. The key to high revenue is selling cards in volume.

Resources:
Equipment and Supplies:

Create for Less

Kooky Kards

Associations:

Greeting Card Association

Software:

Greeting Card Maker

Hallmark Card Studio

Greeting Card Studio