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10 Tips for Starting Your Handmade Card Business

Updated on November 28, 2017
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Ms. Venegas has been using origami to make rosettes and medallions since 2003. She shares art/craft techniques and ideas on the Internet.

10 Small Business Tips for Selling Handmade Cards

  1. First Thoughts About Selling Handmade Cards
  2. About Niche
  3. Save Money on Supplies
  4. Buy in Bulk
  5. Tools
  6. What About Packaging?
  7. Pricing Handmade Cards
  8. Keeping Records for State Sales Tax
  9. Monthly Records
  10. A Website for Your Business

1. Selling Handmade Cards

"Working at home" is the new buzz. It sounds easy, but if you go overboard the profit will be hard to see. For the hobbyist card making is fun. Are you someone who has been making cards for your own use and wondering if you should expand involvement and sell your creations?

These ten card making business ideas and tips will help you decide if you want to start a business. Also, keep a hobby going and use the practical tips to cut costs.

Handmade cards with monoprint and paper folding.
Handmade cards with monoprint and paper folding.

2. About Niche

One thing to think about is your card making style. Keep this aspect in mind, because in the end a niche or a unique look will sell your cards.

There is an advantage in having a drawing style, painting, or collage look that would make your work pop and draw interest. Make your cards distinitive and your own statement.

Some ideas are paper pricking, stitching on paper, pop-ups and quilling. Explore your potential for a distinctive look in designing greeting cards.

3. Save Money on Supplies

Hold back on purchasing supplies. Buy only the supplies you need to get an inventory established. Don't stock up. Do that after you have made a little profit.

Start with the packaged blanks and envelopes available at the craft stores. Experiment to see if card making is something you want to do long term.

Budget Tip
Use your coupons. Share the first buys with a friend and split the cost.

Do not go overboard on supplies
Do not go overboard on supplies

4. Buy in Bulk

Cutting and scoring your own cards opens up color options and will save you money on a per card basis. For cutting and scoring your own cards hunt for card stock by the sheet at craft stores when it is on sale.

After making a little profit start stocking card stock by the ream. The choices to buy in bulk are the linen whites and ivories or vellum and textured card stock in 80 lb. cover weight. The 65 lb. and heavy card stock make beautiful crisp cards. The heavier papers sell as cover card stock on the internet.

Budget Tip
Do not buy anything you think you "might" use later. It hurts your budget, and those small extras cut into profit at the end of the month.

Envelopes

To sell handmade cards for a profit think about purchasing envelopes by the box. A good source is Kelly's Paper. There are two in my area and I visit both to take advantage of the bonus bin buys for premium card stock in 25 to 50 sheet packages. Be persistent and you will find the bargains in your city.

Envelopes by the box for card making
Envelopes by the box for card making

5. Tools

Save by continuing to use to the same paper cutter or other tool purchased many years ago. If you have to buy a new tool sell the old one to a friend.

Budget Tip
Stop all urges to buy that shiny wrapped new tool or cutter displayed at the store. You may not need a new scissors, either. I bought a new one last year, but still use the old one the most. It's over ten years old! That money could have been spent on something else.

Try not to overstock on tools
Try not to overstock on tools

6. What About Packaging?

Within a year of selling cards, I decided not to include extra packaging. Two shop owner associates never asked about it. While selling at the Farmer's market customers did not want individual card protection. Less packaging will mean lower costs for both you and your audience.

Packaging is one thing that infuriates me about big box stores and all modern retailers. So much plastic, cardboard, and wrappings.

For information on packaging search the Internet for 5x7 clear cello bags. Dozens of sites will come up. Go with the seller that gives the best deal and the best shipping.

Budget Tip
Go small on packaging by searching Etsy under supplies. Artists will sell in small amounts from their bulk buys giving you the option to decide before stocking up on 1000 cello bags.

Security envelope on monoprint
Security envelope on monoprint

7. Pricing Handmade Cards

What is your time worth? All artists and craftsmen want a return for their time and talents. Most likely, few will see a living wage from making greetings.

Comparing the cost of cards at your local stationery or CVS can be a guide for your pricing strategies. My preference is to price lower than commercial greeting cards. If a few designs take more time or have special elements the price will go up.

Selling in the farmer's market arena and fairs offers lower overhead costs. Customers at such events are looking for bargains. No doubt many events will cause you to believe you are only supporting the venue managers.

Specialty stores buying bulk from you will allow saving on sales tax, overhead and time. The only expense may be your trip to the post office.

Profits can be low no matter what decisions you make on pricing. Remember the whole business venture can be your reward.

8. Keeping Records for State Sales Tax

In California if you sell at any craft fair or farmer's market you will need a seller's permit. This permit is the record the state uses to collect the state sales taxes you owe for the merchandise you have sold. The state franchise board have people that can help you over the phone with the official forms. As of 2010 filing in California is via the internet at www.boe.ca.gov. Official instructions are here.

The permit offers some advantages. Sales tax is not charged with wholesale. Selling to a store owner by bulk is wholesale and they charge the sales tax to the customers of their store. Also, your seller's permit allows you a sales tax break on supplies bought at wholesale stores.

Keep records on expenses and each month track if the balance comes out in the red or in the black. Gauge success by the year. If in the end the figures actually show a profit, be happy.

Budget Tip
Slowly build your supply inventory. If you spend too much on supplies one month watch shopping and not buy anything the next month. At year's end any card making papers you have amassed is free inventory for next year.

9. Monthly Records

I keep track of the amount of cards made, instead of each sold. It is almost impossible to keep a count when selling at fairs. Know how much money you start with in the cash box, and at the end of the day count the difference for the profit.

The Dome record book, like mine pictured above, should reflect: money spent for all expenses, profits, and a list of the items made for sale.The whole process is a fun occupation.

Keeping the records is like a scrapbook and can be a reminder of your business journey. A favorite part of card designing is shopping for paper and display items. See the process happening with good accounting.

Online Exposure
Online Exposure

10. A Website for Your Business

The last element to consider for a small business is a website. Many online platforms offer tools for building a website on your own. Try a few sites out before giving up, because they are not all made alike. Your own knowledge of computers will make one platform easier to use than another.

Consider the audience your cards or business draws. If your customers are Gen X or Millennial, a website would be a plus. Young shoppers have the phone at their finger tips and buy from handheld devices. They prefer seeing photos and snippets of information a website can offer.

Two things to consider about a website:

  1. Saving Costs. Accept website building as a personal challenge and save on the expense. It is also an avenue of creation.
  2. Saving Time. Hire someone to build your website and save time for your real passion.

Small Business Advantages

There are many advantages to pursuing a business. Some benefits I have enjoyed are:

  1. Customers find my greetings intriguing, a personal affirmation.
  2. The small business has improved my online skills.
  3. Opened new outlets for writing. Expressing myself has gone beyond making cards.
  4. Meeting new people interested in art.
  5. Meeting people dabbling in the small business world.

Do you have a woodworker in the family? Use the ten tips for any hobby in the household. Enjoy the small world of business and find new avenues of engagement with a favorite art or craft.

© 2009 Sherry Venegas

Do you have tips of your own to share?

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 21 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to make cards for charity but that was so many years ago. Your tips engaged me once again. Your cards are very pretty.

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 23 months ago from La Verne, CA

      Phyllis, I am glad the business tips were helpful. I been using article platforms like HP since 2008 and the beginning of last year,2015, I finally built a website for the niche card embellishments I like to make. I thought I was a bit savy about the internet, but getting into a website was a learning curve, but no harder than HP, just different.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 23 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Sherry. Thanks for writing this very informative and interesting hub. Your tips and ideas are fantastic. I bookmarked this hub to refer back to it. I was looking for this type info to help me get serious with card making. I love to make cards for Valentine's Day and have a site that eventually I will open a store for my crafts (dolls and cards). Thanks again.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 3 years ago from United States

      You always have the best craft ideas and tutorials! What an awesome suggestion for a home-based business. You have been very generous to share your expertise and advise.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      There is some great information here. Thanks. The tax thing has always made me squint and keeps me from jumping into a small business.

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 4 years ago from La Verne, CA

      @bryan-lynch1: Bryan, I hope you see some successes with your new business. Small compliments are just as rewarding as being wildly successful. If Etsy goes flat try Ebay and local craft fairs. Skip the expensive Chamber of Commerce street scenes unless you can share a booth with someone.

    • profile image

      bryan-lynch1 4 years ago

      I just started out a little Etsy-based card making business. I don't have the money for a big beefy paper-cutter, but Joann and Michael's stores are just down the road from me so I have the option. I really appreciated this advice and will take a lot of it into serious consideration :D

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      excellent page :) - I usually buy a card making kit (or used to when the boys were young) so they could make a card as a craft, but these days, I use an online program to send cards out (just easier for me) - making cards is such a fun project to do with kids

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      Great tips for those interested in making and selling their own greeting cards. I like that you included the importance of record keeping and business tax info.

    • oddobjective profile image

      oddobjective 5 years ago

      I love cards and I think people have truly lost the point of cards. I have bookmarked this page as I have made some cards in the past and am always looking to learn more.

    • paperfacets profile image
      Author

      Sherry Venegas 5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      @anonymous: Hi Fawn,

      I use background papers on many of my cards. Many of the embellishments will go on the background and then I put the background with the embellishments on the card with the photo splits. A box of 850 splits lasts a long time at 5 splits per card. I have a friend who likes to use the Zots.

      Gluing small objects onto the card stock I use just a dab of white tacky glue and spread it flat with my finger and take off excess glue and leave just a tacky amount. You will not have a glob to squish out the sides. You will be surprised how a little dab will do the trick. Card stock 80 lb. and heavier will hold up good for that. While I am working on the next card the one I just finished gets a pressing with a a heavy punch or other object hanging around the desk.

      Happy to help, Sherry

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. I do have a question, what type of adhesive do you use for letters or small embellishments with paper? I have several issues with white glue because of the ooze or making the paper wrinkle and not look appealing to the eye. Thanks!

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 5 years ago

      Very interesting! My grandkids and I enjoy making handmade greetings cards for various holidays but nothing as pretty as these. Thank you for the lovely ideas.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 6 years ago

      Thanks for the info. I have the same cutter shown above. You mention using sandpaper with it. How do you use it? The idea of also using a record keeping book is helpful, because there is nothing like seeing the figures in black and white.

    • cheryl-wright profile image

      cheryl-wright 6 years ago

      I love that you've included budget ideas. I sell my cards to a local gift shop, and also (mostly) make them for friends and family. Many craft products are very highly priced, so I constantly look in $2 type shops. You can often find good quality items in those types of shops. Also look out for specials wherever you normally buy your craft supplies.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 6 years ago

      I just wanted to say that this is a comprehensive collection of tips and practical solutions for small business. This was a wonderful topic to share. See you around the galaxy...

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Oh this is really great (I am not the craftiest person, though). I love the creativity behind this and your detail of 'how-to' is so explanatory. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Sincerely, Rose

    • fionajean profile image

      Fiona 6 years ago from South Africa

      I'm a terrible hoarder - got it for my gran - keep wrapping paper from gifts I've received if I like it. Have a box of it and now I know what to use it for. Thanks - making cards fro clients is a great and inexpensive way to make them feel appreciated.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      At many art supply stores there are large sheets of beautiful paper. These sheets are more expensive ($3.99-$7.99), but you can get many, many tiles from one sheet, and the paper is nice enough to make a little more expense worth it, especially if you have a reason to make many identical items.