Hot Home Business: Greeting Card Designer

Want to work from home but not sure what you can do? The Hot Home Business Directory helps you find a business to run out of your home, lists the skills you need to do it and tells how to get started and where to get more information. Read on to find out if this Hot Home Biz is for you!

What you'll do:
Design and market greeting cards.

Skills you'll need:
Artistic skills, copywriting capabilities, technical skills, often with both traditional and digital artists' tools. A reasonable understanding of basic printing terminology.

Equipment you'll need:
Traditional artists' tools (brushes, paint, pens, ink, drafting table, etc.), digital tools (a computer with software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator). A good portfolio and sample case. Note that not all artists use digital tools, but almost all do, at some point, make some use of traditional tools. A collection of paper samples from your printer or stationer.

Start-up costs:
Up to $5,000 for equipment; $2,000 for printing and paper, $1000 for marketing. If you've already got the right tools, and plan to do most of your marketing by cold-calling, you can start up for as little as $400, about what it will cost to pay a printer to do a small run of a few designs. Note that some card-makers only produce handmade, one-of-a-kind cards. While this allows you to sell your cards for a higher price, and eliminates printing costs, it does make the process far more labor-intensive.

How much you can make:
The US greeting-card business is a $6.85 billion industry, involving over 1,500 companies, according to the Greeting Card Association. Hallmark Cards, the nation's largest card-maker, had revenues of $3.6 billion in 1996. Smaller companies can expect to make somewhat less: Don't expect to make more than $25,000 your first year -- if you throw yourself at it full-time. And be prepared to lose money if, for example, you get stuck with unsold inventory. Remember, though: Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall started the company by selling picture postcards out of a shoe box.

How to break in:
Go door-to-door to small card and gift shops that are willing to take your stock on consignment. Says former greeting-card designer Nick Nebelsky: "You get sales like any other way you do business. Cold-calling, advertising, press releases, direct mail, phone solicitation, word of mouth. The first three were the most successful for me. Shop-owners and customers like to know that you designed the cards you are selling. Local shop-owners might even arrange for a 'meet the designer' promotion in the store, much like a local author would have a book signing." Nebelsky also advises meeting with potential customers and soliciting their advice as you're designing your line. You can also market your cards on the Internet, but be warned: It's not a secret weapon anymore, and a search for greeting-card companies on Yahoo! turned up over 100 entries.

For more information:

"The Complete Guide to Greeting Card Design & Illustration," by Eva Szela, North Light Books. $29.99.

The Greeting Card Association publishes several books and tapes on the industry, all of which are available at a premium to non-members. A complete list is available on the GCA's Web site at


Greeting Card Association
1200 G Street, NW, Suite 760,
Washington, DC 20005
Telephone: (202) 393-1778
Fax: (202) 393-0336

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