On Friday I like to I like to post something I recently designed.

Here's a coaster released by Thirstystone.

Some of my gift items can be purchased retail, on Amazon.com such as the rubber stamps, embroidery kits.


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Advantages of a Handmade Card Business Part 5: Higher Retail Price

(card images: © Kate Harper Designs)

Most handmade Cards sell for over 2 or 3 times the price of a printed card. This has several advantages:

1. You don't have to keep your unit material costs as low as commercial cards.

In a commercial card company, with large production scales, every penny counts in printing and producing greeting cards. The profit margin may only be 15% of the wholesale price (about 11 cents per card). For a commercial company, there is not always enough breathing room to take risks or to use more expensive materials.

A commercial company may have to keep envelope prices down to one or two cents each. They do this by buying huge quantities. For a handmade card maker, this is not usually possible. Because you are buying smaller quantities, you may always have to spend 5 to 7 seven cents (if not more) per envelope.

Ultimately, this should not be an issue, since you are not trying to compete with a commercially produced card. Ideally, you have a better quality item at a higher price and you receive a higher profit margin per card. Two cents isn't going to break you, like it might the commercial company. Therefore you don't have to match their prices nor do you have to keep your unit costs as low. You have more pricing leeway to play with.


2. The store makes more profit per card.

The handmade card is an advantage for the retail store also. For each hand-crafted card that's sold, the store makes about twice the profit it would with a commercial card. If a store sells a handmade card it may get a profit of $1.50-$2.50, whereas a commercial card may only bring them .75 cents. Consider the premium of shelf space that would be taken up by a commercial card, for a mere .75 profit. Wouldn't it be better for the store owners to put a product in that same place that is not only going to be more beautiful, but bring in more profit?

You might be tempted to think that no one, including yourself, is going to buy a "high priced" greeting card, but research shows that price is the last consideration when customers purchase a greeting card. A customer is more interested in trying to convey an appropriate message to a friend or relative. If the words fit, they will buy it, regardless of the price. Haven't you purchased cards impulsively simply because it fit someone you knew?


3. The salesperson has to ring up less items for the same profit.

It takes a sales clerk longer to ring up ten items at $1.50 than five items at $3.00. Ideally, a store wants the least number of transactions for the same amount of profit.





See Other Advantages of a Handmade Card Business:


Handmade Card Business Part 1: Financial Investment

Handmade Card Business Part 2: You Change Designs Quickly

Handmade Card Business Part 3: Financial Investment

Handmade Card Business Part 4: More Designs & High Quality

Handmade Card Business Part 5: Higher Retail Price

Handmade Card Business Part 6: Homebased

Handmade Card Business Part 7: Easier for Beginners

Handmade Card Business Part 8: Card & Gift in one

What does an agent look for? Advice from Jim Marcotte

I asked Jim Marcotte, licensing industry veteran, agent and owner of Two Town Studios, to be a guest writer and talk about what a licensing agent looks for when considering an artist. I wanted to know from an agent's point of view, "what are you looking for?" when artists approach them. Here is what he had to say:

In art licensing, like any business, you will see people come and go both at the agencies and among those working on their own. Of course there are a host of reasons why this happens, often personal circumstances dictate the change, but over the years we’ve honed our opinion of what it takes to make an artist successful over the long term – attributes I like to call “The Second Set”.


The “first set” would be what every agent can quickly evaluate – marketable style, good art skills, product understanding and maybe some experience. These are immediately evident as soon as we crack open a portfolio, and are essential to success in this business. The problem is that while all of those are necessary, they are certainly no guarantee that an artist will be able to compete in the marketplace.


" Licensing is about your clients and their products, not your art." -Jim Marcotte


The Second Set attributes are much harder to appraise – hence the difficulty many artists have locating an agent to sign them. Agents are generally cautious because a failed artist relationship, and we all have them, is not only very frustrating for everyone involved, but also expensive for the agency in terms of time, money and possibly even reputation.


So what are we talking about here? What else could it take to make a career in the art licensing biz? Here are a few more important characteristics, in no particular order:


  1. Imagination. A continuous flow of new ideas, fresh concepts and new takes on old stand-bys. Successful licensed artists always seem to have many ideas going at once, and they are constantly starting, changing, discarding and evolving them.

  1. Curiosity. What is this market about? Why do some things sell and others don’t? What is that figurine made from? What companies produce big gift lines? And so on and so on – successful licensed artists are very engaged in their world.

  1. Competitive Spirit. There is stiff competition for every licensing dollar from many different directions. Successful artists really want that contract, are willing to do the work required to go after it, and if they don’t get it are asking why not, and what can I do to land the next one.

  1. Focus. You should treat this as your chosen career, not an opportunity to test the waters or dabble a bit in licensing. Get your priorities straight, because you will need to respond quickly and reliably to every request no matter how you feel about it. Licensing is about your clients and their products, not your art, and a thick skin is required.

  1. Patience. An artist needs to take the long view and plan to be in the business for years. Sustaining that effort is very difficult, particularly in the beginning, but absolutely necessary in art licensing. Almost every well known artist in this business has built their career over decades – one design and one contract at a time.

  1. Confidence. The ability to trust in your vision and go for it, and if it doesn’t work, to remain confident that your next idea will. Artist angst has killed many a promising career. Work at becoming really good at what you do, know that you are good at it and take your best shot every time.

Not only are these hard to evaluate before agreeing to begin a relationship, we cannot teach someone this - you can only teach yourself. An honest self-examination of your skills will go a long way toward understanding what you have to offer an agency – and ultimately will do wonders for your career.



Jim Marcotte and his wife, artist and author Ronnie Walter, founded Two Town Studios in 2000. Two Town Studios is a successful art licensing and brand development agency representing 8 experienced artists.

We have over 300 active licensing agreements that generate
millions of dollars in licensed product sales annually. Our designs have been licensed on giftware, all types of stationery, partyware, home and wall decor, garden product, fabric and woven goods, figurines, tabletop, cards and calendars, needlework, scrapbook products, packaging and more.

Our licensed product is sold at all levels of distribution - independent and boutique stores, mid-tier and mass such as Target, WalMart and Michael's, grocery, drug, catalog, internet and broadcast marketing.

Advantages of a Handmade Card Business Part 4: More Designs & High Quality

The main advantage of handmade cards is that you can afford to offer many more designs. Multiple color printing, on the other hand, is expensive. It would limit how many designs you could offer.

Also if you look closely at commercially printed cards, the materials used are usually of lower quality than that of a handmade card. The card itself is usually thin and under 60 lb weight. Often they are not protected in a cellophane bag. As a result they tend to get damaged in the store from over handling. Also, printed cards tend not to use high-quality envelopes with square flaps, deckled edges, or wide varieties of colors.

Makers of hand-crafted cards, on the other hand tend, to use all of these materials so that the cards are much more attractive.

For special occasions like a wedding or birth, I believe customers prefers to buy high-quality, hand-crafted cards, especially if the recipient is going to keep the card as a momento. As one card maker put it "handmade cards are a relief in a world gone mad with mass producing everything. It's is a "real person" product you can give to another "real person" customer.


See Other Advantages of a Handmade Card Business:


Handmade Card Business Part 1: Financial Investment

Handmade Card Business Part 2: You Change Designs Quickly

Handmade Card Business Part 3: Financial Investment

Handmade Card Business Part 4: More Designs & High Quality

Handmade Card Business Part 5: Higher Retail Price

Handmade Card Business Part 6: Homebased

Handmade Card Business Part 7: Easier for Beginners

Handmade Card Business Part 8: Card & Gift in one

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