Paying others to make your Cards

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?


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.


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.

Make sure no one else is around where you are working, so you won't be interrupted.

Divide up your card tasks. My cards have 2 tasks: gluing and bagging.

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.

Really concentrate on working as fast as you can in a comfortable way.

When you are finished gluing 100 cards. Stop and write down the number of minutes it took you.

Take a break and let your cards dry.

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.

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.

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.)

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).


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.

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.

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!

Here are some other staff you might want to hire:

Order Entry Clerk

Systems Analyst

Warehouse Manager

More Articles on the Handmade Card Business

Card Making Ideas

 The Complete Photo Guide to Cardmaking This book includes step-by-step photographed instructions for a wide range of techniques, as well as projects to accompany each area of card making. All paper-crafting techniques that can be employed for card making are thoroughly covered, including a comprehensive description of paper types available, folding options and techniques, coloring and image transfer methods, and adding embellishments. Inside, you'll also find methods for using a computer to design and print cards. More than 80 projects give you lots of ideas and inspiration to create cards of your own, using the techniques you've learned. Unique envelope templates and a helpful source list are included.

 The Encyclopedia of Greeting Card Tools & Techniques Featuring hundreds of handmade cards from leading artists, plus step-by-step photographs of key skills.Sidebars on today's most creative card makers showcase their areas of expertise, from Dee Gruenig's rubber-stamp designs to Alli Bartkowski's quilling.

 Start with a Scan A guide on how to transform raw, scanned images into attractive, finished illustrations. Filled with hundreds of illustrations, it starts by covering the technical basics of scanning, and provides the information needed to get images out of the computer and onto the printed page. The rest of the book shows how to scan almost anything (burlap, clip art, family photographs, found objects) to create a quality piece of artwork. Learn how to create textures and backgrounds, transform photos into graphics, and work with type. Two chapters discuss scanning images for the Web and using scanned images in arts and crafts projects. Book is a resource for scanner users who want to focus on illustrative techniques rather than technical issues.

Creative Lettering: Techniques and Tips from Top Artists

Sixteen calligraphers, painters, collagists, card makers, fiber artists, and graphic designers—give their personal perspectives on lettering. They all offer their favorite tools, how they use them, their signature technique with step-by-step instructions and photos, and an alphabet sampler of their own font.

Uncommon Cards: Stationery Made with Found Treasures, Recycled Objects, and a Little Imagination

This DIY guide contains eight sheets of cardstock and basic stitch patterns that can be completed with nothing more than a needle and thread, either by hand or machine, transforming a blank card into a whimsical, inspired, one-of-a-kind design. The perfect expression for birthdays, graduations, or a simple thinking- of-you note, each design incorporates inexpensive and easy to find household items such as strips of fabric, brightly colored plastics, handmade stamps, and more.

The Print Making Book: Projects and Techniques in the Art of Hand-Printing

Techniques include relief-, screen- and mono- printing – all using tools and materials that are easy to source and use at home in your kitchen, bathroom, or garden. There are easy-to-use templates, step-by-step illustrations, and full-color photography throughout.

 Clean and Simple Cards: Celebrate the Basics of Design Theory

More than 45 card designs are provided, with full instructions and close-ups that display card details, and the book includes source lists for recommended supplies to replicate the designs at home. The uncomplicated projects make the book suitable for beginners, and more advanced crafters will appreciate the outline of design theory that enriches their existing card-making experience. The basic tools and techniques of card creation are also covered, from stamping to hand-coloring.


Unknown said...

I make photo greeting cards and to save time and mess (i have never met glue I couldn't get on everything) I use a Scotch ATG gun. It uses double sided rolls of tape and saves me huge amounts of time. When I first started I used glue sticks,big waste of time and money ,as well as they dry up and the photos fall off eventually. I bought the gun through United manufacturers and I get all my card blanks, envelopes and sleeving through Hope this is useful to someone, Tina

Julie said...

I second Christina's suggestion - I now own 3 ATG guns (1/2" and 1/4" tape guns) and would be lost without them. It is a very efficient way to adhere paper pieces. Thanks Kate for these posts - it's all very interesting.

Toni Wall said...

Kate, thank you so much for this educational post! This is the best information I have seen for those of us who are designing handmade cards.

Valerie Krist said...

Sometimes you really DO have to sit down and do this to see how much time it really takes. Usually, it's always alot longer than you think! Thanks for the informative post. I also like your assistant :)

Homegrownart said...

Thanks for this write up, Kate. It was very informative. I love making cards, my friends don't seem to understand how time consuming it can be. I agree it does get easier when making multiple copies of the same card. Although, the most I have ever made of the same card is 30. Cheers! Lourdes

CMS said...

Kate, this is so informative, thank you! I'm a long-time card marker, but this is the first time I've taken it seriously. I look forward to learning more about how you have actually marketed your designs. That is so exciting! You are quite an inspiration! Thanks again!

Unknown said...

Kate, I've been struggling with some of the business steps in my homemade card company for a while now. Your articles are the first I've found that actually address the REAL issues of making money with this wonderful business. Thank you sooooooooo much! Sandi