When my daughter was born fifteen years ago, I left my Art Director job to stay home. I did a little freelance work, but focused on starting a custom invitation and announcement business. Since I didn’t draw and paint the way I do now, the business was part work and part creative outlet. For a while I really enjoyed it, and created some beautiful things. I produced everything myself – trimming and folding, and often added hand details – bows, buttons, layered paper, etc.
At this point in the industry there were some websites out there, but nothing like the explosion that was to come. I did this on the side, while taking care of my three little kids, from 2000-2007/8. Over time I realized I was spending a lot of time – because it was custom work – designing, finding paper, etc. And I didn’t necessarily get paid for all of it – there was only so much I could charge (that people were willing to spend). It no longer felt like a creative outlet. And by this point, I was taking drawing and painting classes.
The way to make money was to offer a few designs to pick from – and then just fill the orders. But as a designer, what was the fun in that? At the same time, that I was losing interest in the business, the economy shifted. People were not willing to spend money on invitations. Also, the internet was exploding with cute, affordable designs. I toyed with the idea of opening my own online shop. In the end I didn’t, because there was so much competition, and I was burned out.
I started working part-time in an office (email marketing). I found it a nice break from the three little kids at home, and it was much much easier to separate work and home. I spent several years working, outside the house, as a Graphic Designer, dabbling in freelance work from home, and the occasional invitation. I now work exclusively for myself, directly for clients, offering Graphic Design (print/web), and Marketing (social media/email).
What is so amazing, is all that has happened since 2007. Randomly, on Twitter I found Thortful. Thortful is an app, that allows you to upload a card design – make it available to others and/or print it for yourself. They are new, and are just cards. (They are based in the U.K., so I’m wondering what shipping to the U.S. will be.)
Of course there are so many other sites that allow you to upload your designs and purchase and/or sell them on stuff. The one I’ve know the longest is cafepress.com. In the last few years, I’ve learned of society6.com, zazzle.com, redbubble.com, spoonflower.com. Many of these sites have their own twist. I’d love to know, do you have a recommendation?
I’m not sure as a designer, which gives you the best chance of actually making money – again there seems to be a lot of competition. I wonder if there are people out there who make a chunk of their living off these type of sites. It is nice, that you don’t have to handle the production. That you can outsource it without producing large quantities (that you don’t need/might not sell.) You can focus on being a designer. What an amazing world we live in. And what’s coming next?!
10 thoughts on “A Valentine’s Day Card and a past career”
Thanks for sharing your story Eileen. Your varied career path as brought to a good place. I think it’s tough to make a living on the Internet, there is lots of competition. But, the good news is their are millions of customers. 💕😄
Sharon, thank you! Your comments mean a lot to me. It’s a journey for sure to find my niche but I can’t complain. I feel like I’m getting somewhere. 😄
That’s all that matters, right? 🎨😍
Hi Eileen, I thought about doing offering some of my art through a company such as Society 6. I decided to order from it and see what it was like first. I learned a lot doing this and found that it was pretty expensive for shipping, took a long time to get it and wasn’t packaged that well – at least for a print. I know there are many companies out there so my suggestion to you is to place an order with them first and see how you like them. I used to sell jewelry but got burned out like you in your card making business. I probably didn’t spend enough time researching before I jumped in with both feet! lol! 🙂 Wish you much success!
Jill thank you for sharing your experience. You are right, trying it out is the best way, and looking for quality. I just ordered a card – so I’ll let you know how long and what it looks like. Thanks again Jill!
What a journey you are on. Really appreciate your sharing your experiences and the things you have learned along the way. It is very inspiring and encouraging.
Thank you Haunani! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s so good to hear that it’s helpful!
The design business has changed wildly in the last 20 years. I think actually there is too much choice out there now, and in fact it’s more difficult to make a living creatively without pandering to the masses. Your choice of an office job with creation being for creation’s sake seems wise. And yes, quality…hard to produced quality without expense. But no one wants to pay…(K)
Sometimes I wonder if these sites are making money off the designers ordering their own products, and the designers aren’t making anything.
That sounds about right.