Friday, 1 October 2010

Ways to make money from your Greeting Card designs – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about what I had learned from my experience of trying to sell my Greeting Card designs to publishers. If you’ve had no success with approaching Greeting Card Publishers, or if you are just in too much hurry to wait until a publisher finally chooses your designs, there are many other routes open to you, such  as -

Using the services of an online Print-on-Demand, or POD store.

On the whole these are more popular and better established in the US than elsewhere, though the idea is spreading and I have had some of my pastel paintings offered as greeting cards through UK company,, since 2005.

How does it work?

The American online PODstores all operate in much the same way, though there are a few minor variations in the details of how they work.

Basically, you as designer will create an account and a ‘store’ with the operator of the PODstore. You will then make your images to the exact size specified by the online store (usually 5” x 7” for greeting cards) and conform to the resolution requirements, after which you upload them to the PODstore’s website. This done, you will give your card a title and description, choose keywords that apply to your design and consign it to a suitable category that will aid customers in searching for what they need. And that’s it! The rest of it, the printing and shipping, is done by the operators of the PODstores and when your cards are sold, you will be informed by email and your commission will be credited to your account.

One of the positives about selling this way is that forums attached to these websites mean that you will not feel alone with either your triumphs or your frustrations and there is usually someone who can help you with any technological difficulties you may have. And feedback from other artists can help boost your confidence if your experience of trying to get your designs published has left it feeling a little dented. Although, of course, you are all competing for sales, there is a good feeling of community.

If this sounds too easy, there are a few disadvantages of using this method of selling your designs to be aware of –

·    The competition is huge because it is global. Greeting Card Universe alone is currently approaching 400,000 greeting cards on its website!

·    You will almost certainly need to spend a good deal of time promoting your ‘store’ and this can be a lot of work! Most artists who succeed in selling their designs in this way have a blog, join facebook and twitter and are constantly searching for ways to ‘promote’ their wares. Although this doesn’t cost money it can eat up large amounts of time that you could otherwise be spending creating new designs.

·    The commission is not great! You need to sell a lot of cards to make this more than a pocket-money operation, and those who have succeeded in earning a worthwhile amount have usually built it up over several years.

·    The lack of direct contact with customers means that the only feedback about what people are looking for comes from the PODstores’ statistics and they may not answer the questions you have.

·    You need to be aware that Greeting Card Universe has a review process for approving your designs. This review is not based on artistic merit but on practicalities, such as avoiding important elements of your design being too near the edge, using accurate keywords or tags, and placing your design in the correct categories. This can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating but artists are assured that this leads to more sales and I have found that to be true.

·    You will only receive your commission when you receive a threshold amount so if you have very few sales, it may take a long time to receive any money at all!

Some of the PODstores you may want to check out are – (or .com if you are in the US)

More suggestions and comments very welcome!

Next week, we'll begin to take a look at the third main option - making and selling your greeting cards yourself!



jeanlivingsimple said...

Part 2 is very, very helpful and informative! I was really lost about where to start and what to expect.

I will share this post on my Facebook page.

Thanks Judy!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Jean - very glad you found this helpful! I don't pretend to be an expert on anything (except teaching reading properly!) but if someone can benefit from what I've learnt from experience, that's all to the good!

And thank you very much for sharing this post on facebook - I haven't found your facebook page yet. Is the address on your blog?

Nicki said...

Hi Judy,

I always find your posts to be full of great info. It is wonderfully generous of you to help others with your experiences.

Thanks for commenting on my blog- it was nice to hear from you.


Carole Barkett said...

Great info all together in one spot

Judy Adamson said...

@ Nicki - thank you for your comment. I suppose it's the teacher in my that wants to pass on what I've learnt :)

But silly of me to post the link to my 'en plein air' post - realised afterwards that you'd already read it! Sorry! But I loved your squirrel story - hope some of my followers will read it!

And I love watching the way your painting is developing. You must be thrilled with the way it's going too?

@ Carole - your comment and Jean's make me realise I'm getting Very Old! But it doesn't bother me when I think how much more I'm doing now than when I was younger, and far more exciting things too! It's never too late...!

Polly said...

Hi Judy, you have some lovely cards!

I enjoy these PoD opportunities because you can just upload your designs and forget them. Sales happen whether you're online or not. Even with no promotion I still manage to make a little money. I'm usually able to pay the farrier for the horses' hoof trims every six weeks. And the best thing is, it's free to open a shop. So I would encourage anyone to give it a go.

I also wanted to let you know about, another PoD but for fabric design. It's free but unfortunately, they do require that you order samples of your fabric so that you can proof them before they go up for sale. Your designs are viewable to the public though, and people can contact you with comments or if they are interested in the purchasing a particular design. Commission is only 10% :(

It's a little more involved than designing cards - creating an all-over seemless repeat is a challenge. The site will let you choose automatic repeats of a medalian type motif though.

They have a themed contest every week too, which is fun. There are some amazing designers there from all over the world.

Another good way to get your name out, is by participating at Illustration Friday ( They have a theme word every week, with all illustrations due in by Friday. It's not a competition, just a fun challenge and a nice community. I'm thinking of getting back into it over the winter months, when farm life slows down a bit.

Sorry to ramble so much. As I've been hopping around the net lately, I've found myself thinking "I wonder if Judy knows about this?"

So, I got it all off my chest. :)

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Polly - please don't apologise for 'rambling'. Your 'ramble' is full of helpful information, for me and probably for others as well. Thank you!

I'll certainly check out Spoonflower - designing repeating patterns for screenprinted fabrics is something I did a lot of at one time and really enjoyed it!

Yes, Illustration Friday is worth taking a look at. I've often wanted to join in but so far, never found the time :(

And that's really interesting what you wrote about uploading your designs to PoDstores and forgetting them. I warned about the 'promotion' side of things because that's what everyone says you have to do. However, I'm not entirely convinced about how much difference it makes. Several PRO-sellers on Zazzle wrote on the forum that they hadn't done any promotion! My sales through GCU definitely went up dramatically soon after I joined Twitter and started my second blog, but that may have been a coincidence!

It would be interesting to know what others think about this. Are we wasting our time with all the 'promoting'?

Polly said...

Your experience in screen printing puts you at a great advantage over there at Spoonflower, Judy. I hope it works out well for you if you decided to try it.

As for self promotion Oh no, you're not wasting your time at all! I just wanted people to know that it's not imperative to making sales. Number of cards in store seems to have some correlation though.

It's just that so much of my time is taken up with the farm and other interests, I'm afraid, any friends formed on the networking sites would soon get tired of me not returning to answer their posts. Then they'd say "I'm not buying from her!"

Actually, a little starvation would probably do wonders for my sales; if I had to rely on that money to eat, believe me, I'd be twittering up a storm! :)

gvart said...

Very interesting indeed! Thanks, this has given me some ideas, I have been trying to find a good website to sell my prints at for a while, but I still seem to sell the most from my website.
But I will try some of these, sounds great!!

Judy Adamson said...

@ Polly - I think what you wrote about the number of cards in the store might be very relevant. I've noticed that I get more sales in months when I upload a lot of new designs. Might be just coincidence but I'll keep an eye on how it goes in future and see if there's any correlation.

@ gvart - glad to have given you some ideas! I've found Zazzle quite good for selling prints. If you have any queries you know where to ask! BTW, I love the Golden Valley - the last valley in England and very different from the first valley in Wales even though they're so close. But both are spectacular in their different ways!

Steve said...

This is a great post, but as you mentioned, competition is HUGE!!!
I have spent the last 5 years building a portfolio of digital photographs and digital graphic designs for greeting cards and prints of various sizes. I am at the moment using photobox as my print house which are affordable and produce a good print, but even by adding the odd Pound to them after P&P selling is still hard work. I take my hat off to you Jean for all your hard work in this very difficult business.


Judy Adamson said...

Thanks, Steve - I think it is hard to make a living from greeting cards alone and most of us need to add in selling our designs on mugs, phone cases etc to make it all worthwhile.

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Jones Morris said...

Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot. Money as a Student

Judy Adamson said...

Glad you found it useful, Jones Morris.