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Hi, newbie here. Really need some advice.....

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  • Hi, newbie here. Really need some advice.....

    Hi there,

    I'm Helen and I'm new here - well, that's not strictly true, I used to come on here a little bit AGES ago, but not been online for ages, so I feel like a newbie again.
    Anyway, I've recently been considering turning my handmade card hobby into something a bit more, so I've been a making a few more cards than usual and taking them wherever I go to whip them out and show people if the opportunity arises. And, I must admit that I've been very suprised by the resction I've been getting, just in the last week and have already been taking orders for my cards.
    Now, this has taken be a bit by suprise and, to be honest, im not totalloy organised and don't really have a good 'stock' of cards, if that makes sense?
    So, the advice I'm after from you lovely lot, is how many cards/designs do you think I should be working on having? Should I make duplicate copies of every card I make so I always have on sample? BAsically, I'm just after some general advice for geting this going and not looking totally unprofessional when people ask me for things.

    Any responses would be really gratefully recieved,

    Love Helen X

  • #2
    Hi Helen,

    I love handmade cards and would love to see samples of yours if you could post some pictures!
    With regards to keeping a stock, your situation sounds quite similar to mine. I am a Ceramic Artist and I make objects such as vases, bowls, sculptures, coasters, clocks, wall plaques... Every piece of work that I make is an individual one off and no 2 pieces are ever the same, so it is hard for me to keep a stock of items which are all the same. I tend to photograph my work and use the photos as examples, because most of my originals have either been sold or on display in a gallery or exhibition.
    With your cards you could make them to order, and ask people for an idea of what they would want on it perhaps? Have you looked into taking part in any local craft fairs? You might be surprised at the outcome. Many craft fairs I do have stalls for card makers and they seem to do well. Of course you would have to build up a large stock first. It sounds exciting! Good luck

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    • #3
      Thanks for the reply Charlotte. Yeah, I have told people that I can make cards to their requirements/personalise them etc, which I think people like. I will certainly post some pics of my cards on here tonight if I can, so keep an eye out for them.
      I've also been to a couple of the county markets/fairs where I live, and they told me that they'd be happy for me to sell my cards there once I've got myself organised (just moved house you see, and got 2 toddlers at home too!).
      I'm also wondering wether it's worth creating a website? I'm so new to all this, now that it seems to be moving on a level. It's very exciting though.
      And your ceramics are stunning Charlotte - what a talent you have!

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      • #4
        It can all seem a bit daunting at first, I think it is important to be organised. Deal with your priorities first. I think it would definitely benefit you by having a website - you could get business cards printed with your contact details and website address on them, and every time you meet someone interested in your cards, hand them a business card! I keep a handful in my bag all the time. You can get cards printed for free at Vista Print.
        thank you for your comments about my work. I graduated in 2008 where I did a BA Surface Decoration degree, and worked in Ceramics. I'm just in the process of finding my own feet and juggling my making with a full-time job but it seems to be going well so far. My best advice to you would be organisation! And if you set yourself goals and work hard to achieve them, you will do well

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        • #5
          Cant give you any advice about business or cards but wanted to say hello and welcome anyway
          Diane
          Reach for the moon-if you miss-you'll still be amongst stars




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          • #6
            Hi Helen & welcome back
            Sarah

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            • #7
              I've not gone pro with selling my cards yet...seems too much time & effort required. To start with though it is brilliant being able to take a stash with you - I tend to keep a small basket in the car with a selection so when I see friends etc if they mention needing a card for something I can bring them out and show them.
              At my old work, I used to keep a load on my desk and people would ask to see them, then word would get round and I'd then get orders for specific occasions. I also have some at my MIL's B&B which people can buy.

              As I only make them for my enjoyment and then sell what I can to recoup costs, I don't make more than one the same - some will use the same embellishments, so i have several with the same theme, and obviously my style's quite similar on them, but if I was going to get a bit more serious I'd make sure I have 5 similar of each version. But otherwise people who've bought my cards like the fact they're handcrafted & therefore unique.

              Good luck with whatever you try
              Blog: http://yarnhillcrafts.blogspot.com
              MISI shop: http://yarnhillcrafts.misi.co.uk
              Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/YarnHillCrafts/

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              • #8
                Hi Helen,
                To start with I'd try and have 1 of each of the main occasion cards e.g new baby boy and girl, new home, anniversary, wedding, sympathy etc and birthday cards for a boy, girl, man, woman, and some family members. Once you've worked out what sells then I'd do more of those particular ones. I take orders from friends and a couple of local toddler groups and personalise them. I also sell them va my local farm shop on sale or return. If you're doing larger events then you'd need to have a reasonable stock but if it's mainly to order then you only really need to be able to show examples of what you can do.
                Gail.
                http://www.stallfinder.com
                Twitter http://www.twitter.com/stallfinder

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks very much for the replies everyone - I really appreciate it!

                  I got a couple more orders today from the toddler group I take the kids to, and I guess one of the best ways to become known is by word of mouth, so I'm currently just mentioning it to everyone and, more often than not, they're interested in buying a card of some kind or another - which I'm more than happy to do!

                  And with Mothers day coming up, I'm going to concentrate this week on getting some Mothers days designs and cards made and take them to display at the playgroups we go to - which usually get really busy!

                  I know it's starting off small, but that's the way to go I guess. And I love doing it anyway, which is the main thing of course

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                  • #10
                    I don't sell my cards (bet the O/h wishes I did though!), but my 2p worth would be as follows:

                    You are at the best point to make a decision where you want to go with your card making.. you make a few and you sell a few, so whether you want to give the local cardshop a run for its money, or continue as you are, any decisions you take now wont be too difficult... setting things up retrospectively can be a nightmare.. and disheartening if you find you have to re do something to fit your business plan!

                    I would sit down with pen and paper and write down what you actually want to achieve.. an outlet that means you can have another excuse to make a few more cards, some regular "pocket money", a secondary income, or a fully fledged business. Be honest about it, and write down a (long!) list of all the less favourable aspects too - if you decide it is to be a business, remember that you might have to sit and churn out 1000 cards to a deadline.. and selling 20 cards a month might mean spending more in materials and petrol and other costs than you raise in profit.. I certainly wouldn't want to put you off or discourage, but in business, be businesslike, assess the weakness as well as the strength.

                    If you do decide to do something more formal, try contacting your local small business advisory group, most areas have them, the local council should be able to advise - they are government funded and the aim is to help people with little or no business skill get a business going.. and keep it going. Some are good, some less so, but free help is always worth looking at.

                    Going back to your basic question.. what sort of cards do you want to make?? there are topics on here from folk dreading the next commission because the client wants something tacky or tasteless, and others who would like a client to inspire what they do.. what do YOU want? - write that on your bit of paper too! (it is becoming a business plan by the way, but don't let that scare you!).

                    If you prefer to make very individual cards, I would make just a few to carry around as samples - a couple for each occasion, if on the other hand, you don't mind knocking out 20 the same, I would spend a few hours building up a decent stock before trying to promote them.

                    If you are just going to carry a few sample cards, try and theme your designs and styles - have a few of each type. As an example, if you made a butterfly themed card, it would be worth having examples to show how the same "style" could be a birthday card, a friendship card, thank you, with sympathy, and so on.. Rather than making a card in every design and colour option to cover every eventuality (you will end up with a thousand permutations, and arms like a gorilla!) A scrapbook can be a great way to do it, as each layout becomes a single theme, and you can show how all the permutations can work, and the layout itself becomes a great advert for your personal style which potential clients will enjoy looking through.

                    Websites are of questionable value. You can go and buy an off the shelf solution from companies like "Mr Site" who offer a wide range of templates, online sales facilities etc so it is possible to get an online outlet up and running quite cheaply, but as well as the initial financial outlay, you have to remember the cost of setting it up (your time probably) and the fact that it has to be maintained. Also, a new website is like a shop on a backstreet in a village that has a bypass - the only customers that go there, know it is there already!

                    Unless you have the skill and knowledge to make your site high profile (there are endless guides and tutorials about driving traffic to your site, it is more a case of time to learn, than any real difficulty), your site will be frequented by family and friends predominantly and you are unlikely to make a unique sale that would not have occurred without the web presence. The other issue is quality.. a good website has you going back time after time.. a poor design can look very amateur and perhaps not showcase your products in the best way.

                    Before committing to a website I would also consider how people shop for cards.. For example, many folk tend to only buy a card a few days before the occasion, or, maybe like me, they buy a card they come across that has particular resonance with a person or event.. I probably wouldnt think to browse a card website "on the offchance", and if it was an imminent event, I would still go to the highstreet or wherever and pick one so I could write and post it there and then..

                    Not everyone on this forum and elsewhere that has their own website has a good one.. so creativity in one field does not necessarily flow in to another!! Yes over time, if your cards are popular, you may gradually build up a new customer base, but there are easier and better ways to do it.

                    Consider using someone else's website.. It is far easier and free to use something like facebook or similar to create a web presence, and if you sell through that outlet, you can always use paypal to process payments on your behalf.

                    The other easy option is to upload your photograph collection of samples to a photo hosting site like photobucket, snapfish, flickr or the like.. you don't get a snappy short link to direct folk, but it is a simple and free way to show people a large volume of images

                    one cardinal rule, no matter how you sell or how much you sell, ALWAYS put your contact details on the back of your card!!

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                    • #11
                      Well I have not been on here for the past few months due to moving house, new job and day-to-day routine getting in the way, but I do think its great all the responses and general helpfullness from everyone!

                      I started out a few years ago making my own wedding invites and then friends asked me to create theirs and then other general greetings cards. I now have a website and business cards and plenty of support but no faith!

                      My main problem is lack of confidence in myself. I sell only to friends and family who often tell me to try approaching shops but I dont know how to go about this or what deal to try and negotiate.

                      I do feel I need to either do more with this or stop altogether....

                      But on a more positive note - its great to read everyones advice and experiences.

                      Kim

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                      • #12
                        Hi Kim, I'm so with you on the lack of confidence in my work -- I have never sold/tried to sell my cards, though I have often thought about making them for charity. As I tend to theme my cards on Sparky the dog, who came from Manchester Dogs Home I have often thought about selling some to raise some cash for them.

                        What I would say with regards to taking it further is ALWAYS cost in your labour at a decent rate.. if card making is to be a business for you, make sure you pay yourself appropriately - if you can't make minimum wage from cards, get a full or part time job that does, and use the income to pay for your hobby!

                        As a "beginner" - especially one that perhaps lacks the nerve to "sell hard", your best bet is probably a sale or return deal, then all you have to do is persuade an outlet that it is more or less risk free for them to try your product for a couple of months, either offer them a commission per card so you set the price, or offer them a wholesale price and let them charge what they think is reasonable - you might get more per card in an up market art or gift type shop than elsewhere for example, and always better to trust the judgement of the owner who should know what sells well, and at what price..

                        If you do offer sale or return, ensure that you provide a good inventory of any stock you leave with them, get them to sign to say they agree the totals and make sure you write some terms and conditions - number 1 being that they are responsible for the items, and will pay the agreed price to you for any cards that they are unable to return (whether sold, pilfered or mislaid!)..

                        One thing I would seriously consider, though I have never seen it done.. is to make a container for the cards.. Maybe buy (or make) a decent box or tray that will take a smallish batch of cards, decorate it in the style of your cards, and with a display board (think of the type of boxes sweeties come in, where the lid folds up at the back to say whats in the box!).. then, you can take in a box of 20 - 30 cards, the shop only has to find counter space for them, and you have the opportunity to advertise that your product is hand crafted locally etc... this means the shop has to do even less to promote them..

                        If you really feel too intimidated to walk in off the street, sit down with a piece of paper, and write a list of the outlets where you think your cards would be appropriate, then next to each one write out as many reasons why your cards are "ideal" in their shop.. think of any objections the owner might have, and write down why/how the objection is easily overcome.. you can either use this to bolster your confidence before you go in (always pick a quiet time when the owner/manager is less likely to be dealing with 100 other things!!).. or if you really really cant do it cold, pick a nice card you have made, put in a short letter saying you would like a few minutes of their time to come in and show them your hand made cards with a view to them stocking some on a trial basis, and send it to them (take the time to telephone, ask for the name of the manager/owner.. something addressed to "dear Mr/Ms Smith" will stand a slightly better chance than dear whoever, it will look like they are the outlet you have chosen specifically, rather than blindly mailing every potential store in town...

                        NB: don't write in the card! send a blank card in a proper cellophane bag, with an envelope and enclose your letter.. basically you are "giving" the recipient a useable blank card.. in the same way charities soften you up by sending a "free" pen when they mailshot for new donors!

                        Last thing I would say is that you do not know the person who says yes or no, and they do not know you. Be objective, and remember that there are a number of "valid" reasons why they may not be able to do business with you - dont take rejection personally.. Not every store stocks Nintendo DS games.. does Mr Nintendo go home and worry? no - they know that they have a good product, that is a good fit with a certain number of stores, and that they have to ask 100 to find the 10 best ones.. you should do the same! Oh, and if someone says "no" do remember to ask if they would be so kind as to give you feedback why.. you can use this to change your future pitch to a prospective outlet.. and if feedback is similar in several cases, take note, and see what you can do to make it easier for them to say "yes" - for example, if your wholesale price is too high, can you simplify your designs to make them quicker or less expensive to make.

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