Discover some top tips for using your photographs to make extra income in a special way
There are lots of great ways to make income from your photography, aside from selling your time as a photographer for events and occasions. Selling prints, creating photo books and selling your work for publication in magazines, book and websites are all good routes for making income.
Another excellent way to monetise your work is to use your shots for greetings cards. Although it’s unlikely to be a huge money spinner, it’s a great side project that should complement the rest of your portfolio and could open up plenty of other opportunities.
If you’re not sure how to get started, here are some tips to get you going…
1 Consider your theme
There are of course lots of times when customers might want to use greetings cards. There are obvious times of the year which you might want to target - such as Christmas - but you might also want to think about options which work well all year round, such as birthday cards, or blank cards with space for people to write their own messages.
2 Choose appropriate pictures
While you might have lots of excellent photographs in your portfolio, it doesn’t necessarily translate that all of them will work well as greetings cards.
This could largely depend on your theme - for example, if you’re making Christmas cards, typical designs might include snowy themes, robins, Christmas decorations etc. But also think about how well your image works at the small size of a greetings card - does it have lots of elements that might get lost at a smaller size, or is it a clean, graphic type design.
It can help to print out your photos at typical greetings card sizes and lay them out in front of you - or put them on a mantelpiece or shelf - to consider how well they work, how much impact they have and to try and identify a set with which to experiment with.
3 Adding text, graphics or additional design
If you want to add text or additional graphics, make sure you choose images which have space to include these elements, and that type or graphics won’t get lost.
Of course, it’s not mandatory to have any of these elements on your cards, but it’s worth experimenting with - again printing out your prototypes to see how well they work. You might also want to consider things like borders and so on. Take a look at other photography-based cards to see what works well, and perhaps what doesn’t.
4 Don’t forget the inside or back of your card (great for branding)
You’ll be forgiven for spending a lot of time thinking about the front of your card, after all this is the most important element and where your photograph will be displayed.
However, you also need to pay careful attention to what will go inside. Maybe that will be a generic message (i.e. Happy Christmas) or maybe it will be left blank - neither is right or wrong, but it needs some thought.
The back of the card is an excellent place for self-promotion, making sure that anyone who receives the card knows who’s responsible for the great image on the front. Include your name, website, and logo if you have one. You might also think about including something like a small QR code. These are increasingly popular and can lead customers directly to something like your online store or booking page.
5 Think about physical dimensions, card type and envelopes
Once you’ve chosen the photograph(s) for the front of your cards, considered what will be inside on the back, it’s time to choose other important aspects. This includes how big the card will be (typical sizes are 6x4 or 7x5 inches), what shape it will be (most cards are rectangular, but square is also popular, as is slightly unusual shapes such as longer, thinner rectangles), and the card type if you’re printing the cards yourself.
The card type you choose may have an impact on your profits - as the higher quality you choose, the more you’ll need to charge. But if you want to create the best impression, it can be worth investing more in card stock. Don’t forget to also make sure your screen and printer are calibrated for accurate colours, doing a few test runs along the way before committing to a full print run is a good idea.
Put some thought into envelope choice too. Again, the more you spend, the more you’ll need to charge, but some nice finishing touches can add an air of quality. For example, coloured envelopes, or those with coloured insides can make your card seem a bit more special than the bog-standard white.
6 Can someone else print your cards?
Another approach is to get someone else to print your cards for you - this can take away a lot of the stress and hassle.
There’s lots of companies out there that will print cards for you, at various prices, usually dependent on how many you order - as well as other obvious considerations such as card quality and so on.
Do some price comparisons between different companies, as well as thinking about how the cards will look. If the company offers sample prints so you can get a good idea of how yours will look, order them in.
Don’t forget to factor in additional delivery times if someone else is printing and creating your cards - many companies will take at least a couple of weeks to turn this around. You may be able to pay extra to expedite the process, but again, that will eat into your profits so it’s better to plan in advance.
7 Make sure you follow appropriate printing guidelines
If you do choose to go with a third party printer, make sure to read and follow whatever printing guidelines they have in place.
This can include things like making sure that the image is supplied at the correct DPI (dots per inch) and ensuring you understand printing cutoffs (i.e. where anything from your image may be lost in the final cut of the card).
Again, it makes sense to build in extra time to your production process for checking that your cards have been printed correctly and how you wanted them, in case you need to re-order.
8 Choose a place to sell - and in good time
There’s lots of different places you might consider selling greetings cards. Online is probably the go-to place for most people these days, and there’s a variety of online marketplaces - such as Etsy or Folksy - which is a good place to start.
With places like this, you’ll usually find that the marketplace takes a cut of anything you sell - but you’ll likely reach a much wider audience than you might be able to achieve alone.
You might also want to consider setting up your own website with an eCommerce platform. This can be a little trickier, but if perhaps you’re already doing it for other things in your business, it’s the obvious route.
Physical sales are also a good idea if you can put the hard work in. This can mean attending things such as craft fairs, as well as seasonal offerings such as Christmas markets. Here’s there’s usually a fee for setting up a stall, but with lots of passing business it can be worth it - especially if you can sell higher priced items, such as prints or photoshoots - at the same time.
Again, timing is everything. If you want to sell Christmas cards for example, it’s no good only setting up your shop in late November or early December, as a lot of the market has already gone by that point. You should be thinking about creating designs and getting prints made at least three months before any physical event to allow for problems and delivery.
9 Think about pricing
Pricing up greetings cards can be a tricky task since there’s such a big variation in prices. However, it’s very likely that most people aren’t going to be prepared to pay huge prices for a simple greetings card, so while you need to factor in all your costs, you should also be realistic.
Think about how much you’d pay for a greetings card in a standard shop, and consider whether you’d be happy to pay a lot more for it just because it was from a photographer you liked.
If you’re selling online, you’ll also need to factor in delivery costs, which can really push the price up for the end consumer. A good way to bring costs down is to sell your cards as packs of 5, 10 or even more, so that there’s only one delivery cost and you can reduce the price per unit.
You can usually be a bit cheaper with physical sales, since you won’t have to factor in delivery and so on. Remember that pricing doesn’t necessarily have to be fixed - if something isn’t selling, think about reducing the price, and similarly, if something is flying off the shelves, maybe you have priced it too cheaply.
10 Submit your designs to greetings cards companies
Another top tip for getting more traction on your greetings cards designs is to submit them to established cards companies for sale.
Usually you will either get a one-off payment for using your design, or you’ll be assigned a percentage of royalties from sales. This means that per unit, you’ll end up with less, but, with big companies you are likely to sell far more, so it can be worth it.
The best way to find out who is accept submissions for card designs is to do a simple online search for “submit greeting card designs”, and you’ll usually find a host of companies who are looking for designs to sell - as well as information about what they are looking for, including submission guidelines.