About 6.5 billion greeting cards are sold in America each year, totaling somewhere between $7 and $8 billion in sales annually. If you're an artist with an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for writing a witty or expressive sentiment, launching your own greeting card business could be a smart endeavor for you. If you can latch onto even a small percentage of this multibillion-dollar business, you could find yourself running a successful and profitable company.
But what does it take to get a business like this off the ground? If you have no formal business training, it might sound overwhelming to start your own from scratch, even if you get to show off your artistic talent. There's a lot of planning, paperwork, and research involved in forming a company.
If you're questioning whether starting a greeting card business is right for you, this article will walk you through the steps to launch your company with confidence. We'll go over everything from naming your startup and the legal entities from which you'll need to choose to handling day-to-day operations.
Experience Needed to Start a Greeting Card Business
There's no formal educational path that ends with someone owning and operating their own greeting card business. Still, there are numerous skills that you'll need to learn along the way, whether they're self-taught or learned via workshops and/or certificate programs.
Obviously, you need to have some sort of artistic ability to design greeting cards. This ability is often self-taught but can also be learned through workshops designed for the greeting card business.
Graphic design skills will come in handy, too, if you want to digitize your card design to send to a printer or submit to a larger greeting card company for consideration. This is another skill that can be self-taught but you might consider in-depth workshops or certification programs for a complete understanding of various graphic design programs.
Important Decisions for Your Greeting Card Business
As a new business owner, you'll have several important decisions to make before designing and selling your greeting cards. Here are a few important areas to consider:
- Product line: First, you need to determine what kind of cards you'll sell. Will you create handmade greetings cards for online markets, like Etsy, or for local craft fairs? Do you plan to create digital designs to sell or create for larger companies, like Hallmark? Or maybe you'll try both avenues?
- Target market: You need to understand to whom you're selling your cards. Are you going the direct-to-consumer route or will you try to sell your cards wholesale to retailers? Maybe you want to design directly for corporate greeting card companies. You'll have a different marketing plan for each audience.
- Average range of prices: How you price your cards, again, depends on your target market. First, factor in the cost of labor, materials, and overhead costs. If you're selling to a third party, you'll sell them at wholesale prices (which is less than the retail price). As far as the right retail price is concerned, handmade and independently made cards will always cost a bit more than generic store-bought cards. Take a look at other independent greeting card makers to see how they're pricing their inventory to get an idea of what your prices should be.
- Hours: Since you'll likely be juggling multiple types of customers, each one will require a different time commitment. Before agreeing to any job, get an idea of how long it takes you to conceptualize and create each card. Factor that time into each contract design you take on. Also remember that once you've created a design, the only time associated with it after that is what it takes to have it printed. Be aware of the work on your plate so that you don't burn out, which is easy to do in creative fields.
- Business costs: You'll have several business costs to consider. The first is your art supplies. If you're handmaking cards, you'll need to purchase paints, markers, or another preferred medium, as well as card stock. If you're having your designs printed elsewhere, you'll need to purchase good design software so that you can digitize your creations to send to whichever printing company you choose. You might even consider hiring a graphic designer to organize your handmade artwork and designs in a greeting card format. Also, shop around for printing companies to find the best price. Other business costs include marketing and promotions, website costs, business registration and insurance, and fees to set up booths at indie markets and fairs.
- Business plan: All of the above information and more will become part of your business plan, which is an important document that will dictate how your company will operate.
Launch Your Greeting Card Company
Once you have your business plan ready to go, you can take the legal and promotional steps toward creating and selling your greeting card designs. Here are some of the steps you should take.
Legally Forming Your Business
Before you do anything else, select a legal business entity for your new greeting card company. There are four main types of businesses from which you're likely to choose: sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.
Each business structure has its own benefits, depending on the type of business you're in. The business entity type you select affects nearly every facet of your business, from taxation to your personal liability to funding, so think it over carefully.
Ultimately, you need to decide which business type works best for you. As a greeting card company, this will depend on the type of business you're doing. If you plan on selling your work to larger greeting card companies, you might do best as a sole proprietor. If you're launching your own brand, running an online shop, and selling your own greeting cards, you might consider forming an LLC, which offers more personal liability protection. Connect with a business consultant if you have questions about your specific circumstances.
Another important decision is what you'll name your greeting card business. You'll want something that conveys the tone of your brand and markets well to customers. At the same time, many states have legal naming conventions and requirements. You'll likely be expected to select a name that is completely unique to any other business already in existence, and some states prohibit the use of specific words in business names. Check your state laws regarding business names and compare your potential names against state databases of existing companies.
With your business structure and name selected, you're ready to register your business and submit all the legal paperwork that goes with it. This process varies by state, county, and (sometimes) city so check all of your local laws for the various licenses, permits, regulations, insurance, and other rules you need to follow when filing your greeting card business.
It's also important to understand your local tax laws. You may need to pay an annual business tax in your county or city. You'll also have federal and state tax requirements, which vary based on your business type. Most businesses - this includes LLCs - use an employer identification number (EIN) as their tax ID. You can apply for and receive an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you're a sole proprietor, you can use your Social Security number (if you have no employees) or an EIN.
After you've registered your greeting card business and have an EIN, you should open a business bank account. Check the requirements of the bank you're using; you'll generally be expected to have your EIN (or Social Security number), your business registration and other legal documents, your ownership agreement (if you've formed a partnership or corporation), your business license, your certificate of assumed name (if you have one), and an estimate of your monthly revenue.
There are a few other things to keep in mind, as well. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop or a commercial workspace (whether you rent or own it), you'll need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. This would be issued through your local building department and establishes that your space is up to local code regulations.
Find an Audience for Your Greeting Cards
There are endless holidays and special occasions to celebrate - Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, graduation - and a lot of people who want to share these celebratory moments with their loved ones. Really, who doesn't love to receive a good birthday card? The important question is how to reach your target greeting card audience.
As you launch your business, you should create a marketing plan to reach your target market using a mix of traditional promotional methods and digital outreach. Here are a few easy ways to promote your company:
- Create a website. Your website will establish a presence for your work on the internet. Whether you're selling directly to consumers or wholesale to corporations and retailers, you will use this site to show off your talent as a creative designer. There are many easy-to-use website builders. If you have something specific in mind, though, hire a web design professional. You can use a site like Upwork to hire talented freelancers for jobs like this. Also, if e-commerce is your biggest concern, consider using a platform like Shopify.
- Get on Etsy. If you're creating and selling handmade greeting cards, you'll want to be on Etsy. This site is designed for artsy and creative makers like yourself and the people who are looking for handcrafted items.
- Build a social media presence. Use social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to show off your work and connect with followers. Your social media should drive shoppers to your website or e-commerce site.
- Use branded media. Create a brand for your greeting cards using branded media: logos, social media banners, videos, blogs, and other content. These should be designed to engage and bring awareness to your business. As an artist, you might be able to do some of this work yourself or hire a marketer with graphic design experience to work with you.
- Join local organizations. Chambers of commerce, "shop local" guides, and networking groups are an excellent way of getting your name out there. You could find local businesses, card stores, and other retailers interested in purchasing your greeting cards to sell. They also tend to offer special markets and other events where you might set up as a vendor to sell your work and raise awareness of your business.
- Don't forget print media. There's still a place for traditional print mailers and other promotional materials. Business cards are a must for networking events and business-to-business mailings and marketing materials could help you reach retailers and corporations interested in your designs.
- Claim your online business pages. Many local shoppers use review sites like Google My Business to find businesses and services in their areas. They're an easy way to reach customers, so it's important to claim your pages and control your local presence on them.
Overseeing Day-to-Day Operations
As an artist who loves creating greeting cards and other works, it's easy to get bogged down by paperwork and administrative duties. Skynova's full range of accounting and invoicing software makes it easy for you to efficiently run your company at every stage of your business's growth.
Our platforms and business templates allow you to create a centralized hub for all of your accounting needs. Generate the documents you need to track your sales and expenses and streamline your bookkeeping.
If you're looking for a little help in the office, Skynova can assist in these areas:
- Billing: Create customizable invoices for each customer - whether a larger corporation or retailer buying wholesale products from you or a consumer buying direct - using our free invoice template.
- Receipts: Our receipt template makes it easy to generate receipts for customers.
- Packing slip: If you're shipping greeting cards anywhere, use our packing slip template to organize your orders.
- Deposits: If a commercial customer puts a deposit down on a larger order, keep track using our free deposit request template.
Rely on Skynova for Growing Your Greeting Card Business
There's a lot of work that goes into starting a greeting card company, from planning and research stages to handling your day-to-day operations once you're off the ground. Luckily, Skynova is here for you every step of the way.
No matter what your unique business needs are, we have a software module or template that can help you achieve your goals. Our full range of software products offers everything a small business might need for successful growth. Learn how Skynova can help champion your success as a business owner.