Paying others to make your Cards

HIRING CARD MAKERS
Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper

When you hire card makers, how much should you pay them?

Ideally we all want to pay people a lot and make them happy! But first you need to figure out what you can afford and what your expenses are. Besides materials, you need to assign a per-piece-manufacturing rate for your card. In other words:
How much time does it take to make each card and how much can you pay people to make each card?

TIME MOTION STUDY

The first thing you need to do is a time and motion study. This will help you figure out how much time it really takes to make your cards.

You will time yourself making different parts of the card, and then add up all the time to get a total. Here are tasks you might break up into manufacturing categories, depending on your card line: cutting, pasting, gluing, painting, adding the envelope, and packaging the card in a cellophane bag.

For example, in my article yesterday, I demonstrated how I made my own cards. Here is the way I would divide the tasks: 1)gluing the pieces on the cards and 2) putting them in cello bags with envelopes.


HOW TO DO A TIME STUDY

STEP 1: MATERIALS
Get all the materials out for 100 hundred cards and put them on your worktable. (Ideally we would want to make more like 500 cards, but I'll use 100 because it's an easy number.) Make sure they are for only one design style.

STEP 2: QUIET TIME
Make sure no one else is around where you are working, so you won't be interrupted.

STEP 3: LISTS THE TASKS
Divide up your card tasks. My cards have 2 tasks: gluing and bagging.

STEP 4: DO THE FIRST TASK
Get ready to do the first task: Gluing. Write down the time on the clock, and immediately start gluing the cards.

IMPORTANT:During this time, don't watch TV or talk to anyone. Don't answer the phone or the door. This will disrupt your pace. If you stop to answer the door, even if you subtract that time, your pace will be very slow when you return to the task and your numbers will be inaccurate.


STEP 5: WORK FAST
Really concentrate on working as fast as you can in a comfortable way.

STEP 6: WRITE DOWN YOUR TIME FOR TASK #1
When you are finished gluing 100 cards. Stop and write down the number of minutes it took you.

STEP 7: TAKE A BREAK!
Take a break and let your cards dry.

STEP 8: DO THE SECOND TASK
Now do the same thing, except this time, you will be doing the second task: assembling the envelope and cello bag.


STEP 9: WRITE DOWN YOUR TIME FOR TASK #2 Again: Note the time you started and when you are finished.

STEP 10: ADD UP YOUR TIME
You should have two numbers: The minutes it took to glue 100 cards, and the minutes it took to bag 100 cards. Add together your total minutes and get a grand total.

STEP 11: CALCULATE HOW LONG IT TAKES YOU TO MAKE ONE CARD
Let's pretend you total time was 100 minutes. That means you made 100 cards in 100 minutes. That means each card took 1 minute to make. Before you think that it is impossible to make a card in 1 minute, let me tell that by using my manufacturing method, I was able to make one card in 24 seconds without rushing. That is how important it is to set up a "factory" system (versus making one at a time.)

STEP 12: ASSIGN A WAGE
First of all, translate all your numbers into per hour. So if you make 100 cards in 100 minutes, then you can assume you make 60 cards in 60 minutes (more or less). This number is important when you start determining your wage.

Now take the number of cards you can make in an hour (60) and divide it by the wage you expect to pay someone (Let's say $10 an hour) This will give you the piece rate pay of 16 cents per card. So that means you can pay someone 16 cents to make a card. (For more information, see IRS guidelines for contract workers).



OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

I always tried to aim to pay double or triple minimum wage rate, but that's because I wanted good people who would stay with me long term. Don't dismiss the idea of a minimum wage rate at the beginning, especially if your card makers want to work at home. To them, this is a big perk so they don't have to commute to a job everyday.

COSTS TOO MUCH?
If you find that your cards take too long to make and you can't afford to pay someone, see what part of your card making is taking the most time and try to eliminate it.

If part of your time study involves cutting or folding paper, consider having a printer or copy store do this. They can do thousands of cards quickly at pennies per card, whereas paying someone to do this by hand could cost 5-10 times more. Having a printer score cards, especially can save you a lot of time and money.

OTHER OPTION:
Once you make and sell over 1,000 cards you need to consider hiring labor. When I first started, I gave my cards to organization that did contract factory jobs. They even did a time study for me for free and offered to pay 12 cents to make each card. I couldn't believe it! It sounded like so little! Eventually, I found it easy to contract my piecework out to artists who also worked for other people. Artists are great people to hire!

OTHER WORKERS:
Here are some other staff you might want to hire:


Order Entry Clerk


Systems Analyst



Warehouse Manager


Scanner Cop



Handmade Card Business Articles by Kate Harper

Backcopy:What to print on the back of your cards

The Handmade Card Business: Card Codes

The Handmade Card Business: All About Envelopes

Starting a Handmade Card Business: Manufacturing

How to Make a Living in the Handmade Card Business

Making Cards: Questions to Ask

Simplify Card Making for a Profit

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

Paying People to Make Your Cards

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

(Step by step instructions also featured on Instructables website)
Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper

It may seem unbelievable that I serviced over 2,000 stores for about 15 years making cards this way, but it worked great. Of course, after awhile I paid other people to make the cards.

Here is an example of a manufacturing process for a card business.

THE TASK

In this task, I need to glue two items on a card, and put them in a bag with an envelope.

This picture is an example of probably the worst way to set up for this task, and will probably take 3 times longer. 

Here are better ways to do it:




BETTER SET UP

Lay cards in a row and start adding glue.

Overlap the cards in areas that are not going to be glued. You can get more cards on the table that way.





GLUE

Notice I added glue on the cards, but I didn't glue anything on it yet.

Since the glue takes awhile to dry, I know I will have time to lay down the pieces before it dries.

Partially dried glue is ideal, because when you place something on it, it has more "stick" to it than fresh runny glue. Runny glue tends to let things slide around too much.

ORDER and DIRECTION

The pieces are placed down starting with the top row. Note the order and direction of both gluing and placing the pieces.

Drawing a circle of glue is a whole lot faster than a square shape, and it sticks just the same. Note also the card has a pre-printed black frame, to help the cardmaker guide where the glue should be placed.



STACKING

Is it time to remove the cards from the table to glue another set?

No.
Don't remove anything. Put a second stack on top. I can make this stack go about 10 levels high.



ENVELOPES and BAGGING

This picture is an example of how NOT to set up your workspace for bagging.
Put the cards and envelopes in locations on your work table so that you never cross one arm over another. This is very inefficient.
Also, if you are throwing away paper scraps away every minute, make sure the garbage can is on the same side of the table as the hand that is throwing the scrap away.

BETTER SET UP

The picture shows the pieces near the hand that will them up.

PRODUCTION TIP
Break up card production into segments.

Do all of your gluing at once, then all your bagging, etc. This not only gives the cards time to dry before they are packaged, but you will develop a faster rhythm. Also, you lose a lot of time adjusting when you transfer from one task to another.

Bagging cards is a great thing to do while watching a movie. Card gluing is a great thing to do while listening to music or talking on a hand-free phone.


STORAGE


The most efficient way to store cards is in long envelope boxes, which resemble shoe boxes. Allot an entire box per card style (see photo on right). You might notice the blue paper clips and the red post it's. I used the paper clip to warn me the card style is running low, and the red post it's to remind me I am going to drop this card, and to not remake anymore.

Group cards into 6's or 12 when putting them in the box, (that's the way card are usually sold). You can do this by rotating every 6 cards.

Don't store cards in damp areas. Dampness can cause the envelopes flaps to stick to themselves. Also, don't pack cards too tight if you use cellophane. It has a tendency to stick to itself since it is biodegradable. Bags need to "breath."


Handmade Card Business Articles by Kate Harper

Backcopy:What to print on the back of your cards

The Handmade Card Business: Card Codes

The Handmade Card Business: All About Envelopes

Starting a Handmade Card Business: Manufacturing

How to Make a Living in the Handmade Card Business

Making Cards: Questions to Ask

Simplify Card Making for a Profit

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

Paying People to Make Your Cards

How to Simplify Card Making for a Profit

Handmade Card Manufacturing
Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper
There are many ways to simplify your card design to save costs. I am going to use the card sample to the left as an example of how I simplified a design.

COLORS
I reduced the card color from 4 to 2 (only Black and Red). My stores felt the colors could easily be dropped since they didn't add much to the design. This card worked better as a "Less is more" design. Can you get away with a fewer colors? Printers often charge more for extra colors. Try using an Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper, How To's, Products, Start a Card Business, **Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper,envelope as one of your colors.

MATERIALS
Do you really need all the materials you are using for decoration? Or can you just get away with a few?

Before, on this card, I had the long quote strip glued on a third piece of paper. I removed it. Instead, I used a very highly textured card back (not seen in photo) to give it a handmade paper feel. I made sure that I could still print my logo on this paper, (some papers won't go through a press) by asking a local printer.

Have you chosen difficult materials?
If you are making a collage style card and can't decide whether to use cloth or paper materials, consider how difficult it will be to cut them. Cutting 500 small pieces of cloth may be more difficult than cutting 500 pieces of paper.

PREPRINTING
Can you preprint part of the card, such as the back, text or the background pattern? Rather than rubber stamp the red image, I decided to eventually get it printed on the quote strip.

HANDSIGNED CARDS
Are you hand signing each card? Stop. Stores know it is impossible for a card designer to do this long term and still be happy (or sane). They want to know you are serious about doing business and will be around for awhile

BORDERS AND FRAMING
Do you really need a border? If you are trying to create a border around your design by using paper or handwork, try using a colored envelope instead, like I have used a red envelope in the example. It becomes as a natural border around the card.

PRECUT
Can you get cards pre cut, pre scored and pre folded? This card had all of these things, including a precut quote strip.

USE THE SAME CARD BACKS FOR EVERY CARD.
Avoid imprinting card ordering codes on the back of cards. Try to have the same back for each design (meaning, the actual card you are gluing or printing on). In a million ways, this will save you a lot of money.

Some stores may fight you on this and demand you imprint card codes, because all the big companies do it that way, but trust me, I ran a business for a decade and no one stopped buying from me over card codes. Once I explained to them it's just way too expensive to print 100 different backs for 100 designs, they were sympathetic.

If you print 5,000 copies of card #257, it will end up in your basement once you realize it is a bad seller. That's a waste of paper and a waste of money. Stores want you to imprint card codes for their reordering convenience, but remind them it may cost you $20,000 - $50,000 for that little convenience. You are trying to make a living too, and you can't take those large financial risks. Besides, in 90% of the cases, your sales reps already knows the card codes by heart anyway (because they are memory geniuses). Print one universal back to use with ALL your designs.


What is "Handmade," Anyway?

If you are machine printing part of the card, is it still handmade? Everyone has a different definition of what handmade is. In my case I was paying people to glue the card, put the envelopes in the cards and slip them into individual bags. I consider that handmade.

It's possible to take this card one more step and print the whole thing with an embossed raised edge (which I did). A card designer may not be able to afford the cost of machine printing and embossing, especially when they aren't sure if the card will sell.
Making a card by hand is also good way to test out a new idea before you invest a lot of money in printing it.
Don't worry so much if the card is handmade or not. Just remember that what matter is that you are the designer and people are buying your cards they like it! If you feel uncomfortable calling your card handmade, consider calling it handcrafted, hand assembled or Made in the U.S.A.!

Some purists may not want to reduce their handmade card designs to a manufacturing level, but if you want to make a good living in this business:

You need to aim towards what will sell, and what is not overly labor intensive.
Remember, your goal is to not be a card slave. Your goal is to make a living selling your art.

Find your own "sweet spot" when addressing these challenges.

For me, when I shop for cards, I'd rather buy a local artist's mass-produced machine-printed card, rather than a beautifully handmade card that was outsourced to another country. I like to invest in my community.

I hope you liked this article. Please leave feedback on the comments below. It helps me know what topics are interesting to you. -Kate



Handmade Card Business Articles by Kate Harper

Backcopy:What to print on the back of your cards

The Handmade Card Business: Card Codes

The Handmade Card Business: All About Envelopes

Starting a Handmade Card Business: Manufacturing

How to Make a Living in the Handmade Card Business

Making Cards: Questions to Ask

Simplify Card Making for a Profit

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

Paying People to Make Your Cards


Making Cards: Questions to Ask


Manufacturing Cards :

Questions you Should Ask
Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper
You should never be making the cards. What? Isn't that the whole reason you got into the handmade card business?

Maybe in the beginning yes, but if the business is going to grow and succeed financially, you cannot base your business model on you being the person making the cards.

Remember "making a card" is different from "designing" a card. A card maker constructs hundreds of cards a day. A designer is the one who comes up with the design, but does not actually make cards that end up on store shelves.

At first you will be doing both jobs, the designer and cardmaker, but as your business grows, you need to hire someone else to take over your cardmaking job.

Ask yourself: what happens if you get an order for 5,000 cards? Do you really want to make all of them? Are there enough hours in the day? Even if you could, chances are you will burn out and dread getting orders. Making cards is not fun after number #5,000 (or in my case #500!). You need to hire other people to do this.

Remember, you can still be a card designer, just don't plan to be the one holding the glue bottle in the business.

If you want to make a living in the handmade card business, here are important manufacturing questions you should ask yourself:

Questions You Should Ask:

1. Can you teach someone else to make the card like you do?
Are your designs so complicated that the person making them cannot repeat the exact way you paint circles or fold delicate Japanese paper? Ask a few friends to test it out. See if they can make your card according to your instructions.


2. Is the assembly an easy process to learn?

How complicated is it? Will it take a month to learn? Does it require being skilled at using special equipement or special art techniques? It took me 2 weeks to learn how to use a glue gun properly, so I would stop ruining the paper by dripping glue all over it.

3. Have you eliminated the "grey areas" of decision making, so that no matter who makes the cards, they will look alike?
Down the road you will need to hire help. When this day comes, you don't want to suddenly discover that no one understands your quirks about how you make your cards. Aligning things by eye can be difficult for some people and they'd rather use a straight edge, or perhaps you cut by things hand, but no one else can cut as fast or as good as you do. Maybe it's better to have a punch out cutter. Even though each handmade card is ultimately unique, it still has to match sales sample you have shown to the store.

4. Are you willing to give up being the one who makes my cards?
Did you have a fantasy of sitting at your kitchen table making cards while drinking a cup of coffee, a cat on you lap, and listening to Coldplay on your ipod? (Yes, I've done that) You can still do this once and awhile, but just realize you cannot grow a handmade card business doing this all the time. By the way, coffee and paper just never seem to mix, no matter how hard you try.

5. Can you make a card in less than 3 minutes?
Don't panic. You may think that you could never make a card in three minutes, but later on in this series of articles, I will talk about simple things you can do to redesign a card so you can make it faster, how to set up a time efficient work space, and how to do a time study.

Also, you will be surprised to learn that many of the extra special things artists put on cards, customers may not even notice or care about. Perhaps you make your paper by hand, but in reality the customer doesn't even notice it. They might be more attracted to something else on the card.


Don't try to set unreasonably high standards for your card. Remember, the card designer is always pickier than the customer. That's because artists are hard to please, and customers are merely "normal people".

-(with a smile) Kate Harper, Artist




Handmade Card Business Articles by Kate Harper

Backcopy:What to print on the back of your cards

The Handmade Card Business: Card Codes

The Handmade Card Business: All About Envelopes

Starting a Handmade Card Business: Manufacturing

How to Make a Living in the Handmade Card Business

Making Cards: Questions to Ask

Simplify Card Making for a Profit

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

Paying People to Make Your Cards

Starting a Handmade Card Business: Manufacturing

Manufacturability
Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper

"Manufacturability" is a word I use to describe the method of analyzing your card designs to see how they can be mass produced in an efficient and cost effective manner.

While you probably don't need to worry about this when you first start designing your cards, you might want to think about it early, so you don't create a series of cards that are too difficult to make on a larger scale.

Some people are easily put off by the idea of mass producing handmade cards. It sounds like a contradiction. Shouldn't handmade items be a labor of love that has special meaning? This is exactly the line that divides a hobbyist from a business person. Both people are skilled artists, but the business person is the one that intends to use their artistic skills to create an income.

There is nothing wrong with spending an hour making a card for Aunt Betty, but if you seriously want transform this "craft" into a business, you have to consider that your time is worth something.

You shouldn't be setting up your entire business just so that you can become the world's best card slave.

If I had to choose anything I felt should be taken seriously in the hand-crafted card business, it is the process of manufacturing. The key questions about how to chose materials, the way the work area is going to be set up, how these things can affect production time, and the quality of the work all need to be addressed.



Handmade Card Business Articles by Kate Harper

Backcopy:What to print on the back of your cards

The Handmade Card Business: Card Codes

The Handmade Card Business: All About Envelopes

Starting a Handmade Card Business: Manufacturing

How to Make a Living in the Handmade Card Business

Making Cards: Questions to Ask

Simplify Card Making for a Profit

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

Paying People to Make Your Cards

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