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

More Articles on the Handmade Card Business


The Greeting Card Business

Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017 paperback) If you like to make greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them nationwide.  Learn about changing trends in the indie card market and niche opportunities available for artists. Book includes detailed guidelines on pricing cards for a profit, getting professional feedback on your designs, finding sales representatives, pitching your card line to them, approaching stores, and the industry standards you should follow. Information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals and calendars.

Start and Run a Greeting Card Business From a British author, whose country has a long history of greeting card design, she takes you step-by-step through the process of starting and running your business with lots of useful practical advice to help you, including: - Deciding what type of cards to produce - Finding your market - Dealing with printers - Copyright and licensing - Pricing and profit. Kate's note: Some specs are different (card sizes) since it is UK standards.

Greeting Card Design This volume features a vast array of fun, elegant, simple and imaginative greeting cards designed by internationally-known artists, illustrators and calligraphers. With over 300 full-color photographs of creative, popular, and inspiring greeting card designs, this invaluable sourcebook showcases the very best of what is happening in the industry today. Accompanying text explores the history of the greeting card industry and examines the major contributions from the leading innovative companies.

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.

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.


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.

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.


Janette Fuller, M.Ed. said...

Thank you for a very informative article. It takes me MUCH longer than 3 minutes to make a card so I am looking forward to your next article on how to simplify your card design.

papermusings said...

Great questions! I wish I had these as a guide when I first started. There are days when I get a large order for a particular design and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I decided to add it to the collection. I find myself asking these same questions for new designs. But sometimes I can't help myself and those labor intensive ones that take much longer than 3 minutes get added to the mix.

M. K. Zeppa said...

Actually, this article should be required reading for any craftsperson who wants to make a business from their craft.

Kate Harper said...

Papermusings--maybe some tips of my article on "how to create a card factory" would help you make things faster. See

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Faye said...

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