DIVING into a Wedding Stationery Business (Top Tips)
Ready to take the dive into starting a wedding stationery business?
Are you bursting with passion, creative zeal and having your mind racing with not only designs for your wedding stationery business but you have also spent the last two weeks pinning away wedding stationery on Pinterest?
As a hand painted wedding invitation, calligrapher and stationery designer, I am two years in to the game and although I feel as though I am still very much as the start of my creative endeavour, I have learnt some essential nuggets of wisdom.
By the way – if you would like to be alerted every time I post new content or blog the ups and downs or great content about the stationery / calligraphy business, get on my subscriber list here:
This article will cover what I should have done, and moreover what I should have stayed, way clear of in the beginning, so that hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.
In this wedding stationery business article I would like to not only share as much valuable information, links, mentors, courses, where to source materials, debunk SEO myths, but more importantly I want to share exactly what you SHOULD NOT NOT NOT DO!!!!
No matter how sorely tempted you are to do it, just do NOT make the same mistakes that I did!!!
So let’s start right at the beginning:
It always seems impossible until it’s done – Nelson Mandela
MY FIRST STEPS INTO THE WEDDING STATIONERY BUSINESS WORLD.
I spent many weeks pinning wedding stationery from other designers as an inspiration point to start designing. Having come from an arts background and having a degree in Textile design, I knew I had something to offer.
I knew I could design really, really, well.
I knew I could excel in this. But what would be my unique sellng point, what would set me apart?
I literally had absolutely no idea. I had no signature style yet and didn’t even know how to position myself and in my mind I remember thinking, but I am just another one of them out there in the sea of wedding invitation designers.
Right back then, I thought there was only one main competitor out there. I had no idea that calligraphy and watercolour was fast making its own movement of workshops across the country.
What did I do to get myself kickstarting for a wedding stationery business?
For 6 months straight, and I mean it, for 6 months straight I just went into a design immersion and created design after design after design. I really did have the luxury to do this, with my husband being the primary breadwinner, I had already left work to further my study as a teacher and had some savings on the side.
- If it is at all possible do not stop working and design slowly on the side.
- My mistake was that I should have kept my job as a source of security and income and only left when I knew that I had regular orders coming in.
- This way you will not have the desperate mentality when orders are not coming in and you will not feel like giving up with zero finance coming in. You can carry on developing on the side slowly, until orders start coming in.
My plan was simple.
- Create a portfolio of stunning designs, have them professionally photographed and pop them up on a website and start selling.
I remember looking at my designs with such love. I thought I had produced the most dramatic, elegant and stand out designs in the realm of stationery!
Boy was I wrong!!!
A COHESIVE PORTFOLIO
Now looking back I really needed that time to just allow myself to start in order to develop in a cohesive look.
I needed to give myself the luxury of time and just play with paint and hone my calligraphy skills. When I ventured into this business, I thought my style and my calligraphy were good enough.
They were NOT!!!
So this is where you need to just stop comparing yourself to all the other wedding stationery business owners out there. Just switch off all of those Instagram accounts and stop Pinterest surfing and find some original sources of inspiration.
As I began to close myself off and continue to work more and more on just creating and playing around with more and more illustrations, I stepped back and saw a commonality throughout the wedding invitations.
I knew that I wanted to go down the specialising in hand painted wedding invitations “route” and that would be my stand out feature.
Also, my portfolio was beginning to have a defining look, a sort of signature style. I started to fall in love with dramatic, intense designs, that were rich in colour and I often gravitated towards using golds and blacks as my base colours.
I began mixing blacks and golds with other lighter colours and knew this was how I could position myself.
A very particular style began to come about with a secret sauce of:
Envelope liners, acrylic large flowers, crest designs, Baroque style, watercolour washes and very detailed flourished calligraphy.
- I loved creating the most elaborate envelope liners, like crazy elaborate!!!
- I began to specialise in acrylic large hand painted flowers, everyone else was doing watercolours.
- I liked to create my own monogram/crest design, each suite would have a different styled crest.
- I loved using a heavy baroque/European influence which made my style stand out.
- In all of this I also added into the mix watercolours and hand calligraphy, rather than having to outsource calligraphy.
- My calligraphy was also starting to take shape after two years.
- I began to use more flourishes within my calligraphy, rather then modern brush writing which was everywhere!
DON’T BE AFRAID TO STAND OUT.
I also remember coming across a very niche wedding blog, called Rock n Roll Brides, that was all about edgy brides who are loud, confident and sought our an alternative style, with brightly coloured wedding dresses instead of romantic white weddings.
I thought to myself, if this wedding blog can be so specific in their look and be highly sought after because of that, I could do the same with my wedding stationery business and really stand out from the crowd.
Yet at the same time I had to be very very brave and confident in myself to do this with my style.
There was practically NODOBY doing using the edgy colours or highly detailed illustrations that I was coming up with. I even had one or two creatives commented that I needed to create some mainstream more pinky/plain designs to attract any clients.
That was very scary to hear!
Yet I stuck to my ground.
When I did hear that, remembering the Rock N Roll Bride and even designers like Alexander McQueen and Paul Smith who both set themselves completely apart from the norm and made them vastly successful, those examples somehow propelled me on.
It is only when you find a way to stand out of the crowd as much as possible, with what you offer, or the services you provide, or the way your branding looks and the colours you use, will you manage to attract the right client and repel the wrong client. Your wording, the images you use all have to match and naturally compliment the designs that you will create.
BRANDING, oh BRANDING!!!!
You must delve deeply into the world of branding and what it means.
I have seen photographers websites that really look like they have been slapped together in one night by a teenager, with all sorts of photographs with strange couples, zero direction on a chosen look, such as fine art look, or choosing to focus on adventurous couples, elopements, destination weddings, luxury wedding etc…
This very photographer had no idea why she not getting any clients!!!
It is because their portfolio not only sucked, but they had no cohesive refined look, nasty fonts, and their other social media screamed the same too.
Starting your wedding stationery business involves much more than just choosing the right logo, but the branding and the messages that your “look” portrays is key to attracting the right types of clients!!!
Learn more about branding here with this watercolour illustration course from skillshare, here.
Also you can see this video with how to create a brand on what sets you apart, here.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME!!!
To be brutally honest, you have to prepare yourself and know that business, really good sustainable businesses are not made or launched in the space of 3-6 months. I have spoken to many many creatives about this.
Listen to this podcast, were another stationer from Momental Designs, discusses how she waited for four year before she left her full time job.
You may get dribs and drabs of some clients to begin with but you can then go for some very long period with nothing happening and you need to stay focused on your end goal.
This will take time and you just have to have the patience, put in the hard work and have the sheer dedication to stick it out. If you are passionate enough and do work hard, you can do this.
This is excellent encouragement below, beware some swearing but the lesson is very real and very important.
SO rounding off, the first lot of lessons are,
- Create a cohesive strong collection that sets you apart
- Don’t give up your day job or at least work part time to support yourself
- Educate yourself about branding
- Know that this will take a lot of time, don’t dwell on where you are now plan for the future, know that it will take perhaps a year or two before you become established
THE COURSES LOWDOWN
While you’re in the process of finalising your portfolio, don’t jump into setting up your website or designing a logo just yet, rather than do that too early and waste a lot of money, take your time to put together a really credible portfolio and try to learn as much as you possibly can, in the way of courses.
Here below, I have painstakingly searched for wedding stationery design courses and been on the below courses, specifically geared toward a wedding stationery business.
I have listed them all here for you to take full advantage and load yourself with all the right skills.
- Skillshare has everything from illustrator, photoshop skills, to branding, setting up a portfolio, launching your business, marketing and more! They have pretty much got every area that you might need help with (you can get one-three months as a free trial).
- Atly. To build my knowledge base for a wedding stationery business, I did my very first stationery 101 course with Atly. There were a few interviews with other stationers too. Be sure to select the right course that suites you. You have courses that also deal with wholesale, if you would like to go into stocking your stationery in shops and boutiques, these courses are a good option for you.
- Design House Prep School. These courses are specifically for a wedding stationery business, covering all sorts of areas like pricing for profitability, digitalising calligraphy and artwork, the art of saying no, no such thing as a bad client, sketching designs, branding and watercolour themes.
- Monvoir also offer artwork digitalising classes and we as in person workshops and a calligraphy summit, that occurs at certain times throughout the year.
For podcasts, I highly recommend:
If you need help with pricing, this book is perfect for calligraphy rates:
YOUR WEDDING STATIONERY BUSINESS NEEDS A LOGO RIGHT?
Here’s to the logo hunt…..
Now that I’ve shown you the best courses to take, I’d like to talk about my whopping mishap with my first ever interaction with a fellow creative for a logo design that went disastrously.
I was far too excited and jumped far too quickly at the first logo designer that I found.
My husband is Portuguese, so we were a little romantic in the notion that wouldn’t it be great to hire a logo designer from lovely Portugal. So we together found a great website of designers and creatives and this logo designer in question has a reasonably presentable portfolio of logos.
Now this is the major take away here.
I thought she looked credible, yet none of her designs actually struck me. I thought being a designer, if I showed her some examples/images of what I was looking for, she would be able to come up with something similar.
NO, NOT AT ALL!!!!!
IT WAS AN EPIC CATASTROPHE.
The logo that she designed in the end for me, after lots and lots of communication and my filling out a huge form with what sets me apart and my branding ( complete waste of my time actually) she truly created the most plain, pathetic logo that my 10 year old son could have easily created in a word document.
She gave me 4-5 versions/ concepts of the same dreary designs!
Not one logo resembled any of the examples that I had given her.
I lost a LOT of money, when she refused to change the logo.
The more I tried to influence the creative direction, the more resistance I felt!
I then went to look through Behance, which is a wonderful creative platform and found a wonderful designer. I loved all of her work, every one of here logos seemed to strike an immediate chord with me and resonated so deeply with me, that after reading the reviews, I knew I had found my logo designer for my wedding stationery designer.
She created the most perfect logo which shows on my website today. I am still in love with it and don’t want to change it at all!
Takeaway lessons here:
- Only use a logo designer whose work you are absolutely in LOVE with!!!!
- Ask them what happens if you don’t like the design and how many separate concepts and design revisions they will make for you.
- How many versions of the logo can they offer you, one for print, for web, a circular version for social media?
- Avoid paying all the money upfront and only agree to paying 25-50%.
- Be very, very clear with your instructions and the examples of what you are looking for.
- If you can jump onto a call with them to see if they are open to you leading to design, rather then them dictating the design direction. Ask them questions about how they work.
- Ask for a timeline. How long is the logo design expected to take?
Here are some of my favourite logo designers:
WEBSITE, WEBSITE, WEBSITE!!!!
Ok, so I had built up a coherent collection for my wedding stationery business, my logo was all set, the next big purchase on the list was the website.
WHICH DESIGNER SHOULD I WORK WITH?
As you may find out when you dive into the world of trying to find the right website designer, may of the designers out there are very pricey, and often fully booked!
I cannot tell you how many emails I sent out to web designers that I found via Pinterest. No one was responding and it was ludicrous!!!
Then I decided to play it clever and do something a little off the cuff and crazy.
I am British and I did some research and found that with the exchange rates £1000 roughly gave me $2000 Australian Dollars. I wasted an enormous amount of money paying a custom website designer where I could have used a gorgeous DIY theme and remade my website again later down the road.
Again, I was way too excited, didn’t check any testimonials, or even know what I was looking for. But I did some searches specifically based on an area, such as website designers in Adelade etc…
I found a website designer who made tons and tons of promises. She promised to give me the website of my dreams and not stop working until I was 100% satisfied. She promised to help me get my website on the first page of Google.
Both were HUGE HUGE EPIC LIES!!!!!
Not only did she deliver a website that was half down with upside down images but she did absolutely nothing, and I mean NOTHING IN TERMS OF SEO!!!
SEO: this means search engine optimisation. Pretty much you work on your website so that it appears naturally upon the first pages. I cover SEO and everything that you need to know about it below!!!
I was really furious, but there was nothing I could do about it.
And she knew it.
SO MY TAKE AWAY LESSONS FOR YOU ARE:
- Use flothemes for your website. Prices start at $240 and the websites are beautiful!
- Use Squarespace for easy to use themes that you can manage yourself.
- Go to Fiverr. This is pretty awesome for the LEAN entrepreneur that has pretty big dreams but a low budget. Make sure that you check through all the rating and read the reviews first though!!! If you just want to get started and need some very reasonably prices freelance website designers to help you put a site together.
- DON’T TRUST ANYONE who promises to get your website on page one. It is not possible for a new website to get on page one. Google takes a long time to trust new websites and you need to create a lot of content to get ranked naturally.
Let’s Dive into SEO
But wait…what on earth is seo?
SEO: Search engine Optimisation.
When you search for anything on Google, the results that come up on the first page (that are not adds) are all ranked by Google based on the content and how you optimise (put together) your website.
I was told for a wedding stationery business getting on one of the first pages of Google would be almost impossible.
I WAS DISTRAUGHT!!!!
THE WEBSITE DESIGNER HAD PROMISED I WOULD BE ON THE FIRST PAGE!!!!
I decided to take matters into my own hands and started doing lots and lots of reading articles and endless, endless research. I reached out to seo experts to get advice.
This is one of the very first things they told me (amongst 10 other areas of improvement):
Firstly, as a new website it takes a lot, a lot, a ton load of time for Google to trust this website and begin to rank this site. I found out that it can take up to 10 months for Google to start trusting a new site!!!
Secondly, the website that I had designed had ZERO TEXT!!!!
I LITERALLY HAD NO CONTENT ON MY FIRST PAGE, JUST IMAGES ON MY HOMEPAGE!!!!
CONTENT ON THE HOMEPAGE
For Google to recognise and rank my website at all I needed to have content on my website’s front page.
As the seo expert that I reached out to explained, when he came across my website, he had no idea what my website was about. He was confused and thought that the site was a photography site, featuring photographs!!! There was no text at all to explain what I did, or what I offered and this could cause people to quickly bounce off my page.
I looked at my competitors and saw that the sites ranked on the first page for my niche “hand painted wedding invitations” all has around 300- 700 words on their website’s front page.
I set about, immediately creating some content for the front page.
PHOTOGRAPHS NEEDED TO BE OPTIMISED
All of my photos needed to be sorted out.
The whole website was a mess!!!
When you naturally upload a photograph to your website it will have a weird name img 573574… or like this saying “screen shot…” On the page that you upload it, if your keyword is “hand painted wedding stationery” you will need to name your photos using the same word.
Why do you need to name your pictures? Google cannot see images. So you need to explain what the image is about.
The website designer failed to tell me that I not only must name my photos but also reduce my photographs size.
Normally a photograph is around 2MB when you transfer a photo from your camera to your mac.
You must resize it so that is is around 200-400KB. 400KB is quite large, but if you can manage to resize your photos on photoshop for the web, that is the best option for you, it resizes your photos without loosing image quality.
To start with if you are using a PC or a mac, just go to tools and hit adjust size. You can reduce the file size there.
When you upload the image onto your website, make sure you fill in the alt text field as well.
Here’s a great article to help you understand why you need to optimise your images for the web and some tools to help you as well, see here.
HOSTING YOUR WEBSITE
To begin with I used Bluehost as a host for my website.
I chose the cheapest hosting plan and as a start up, I suppose it was ok, as I didn’t have a blog, hardly any text and just a very bare portfolio.
Yet, I was told later by a seo expert that Bluehost was too slow as a host and I needed to transfer my site to a faster host. Now I have transferred my site’s hosting to a better company called Siteground.
They have lighting fast loading speeds due to local servers.
Google loves fast loading website and actually penalises slow loading websites.
Not only did I transfer my hosting, but I purchased a plan for 3 years. That is makes your business say to Google, this business is more credible because it aims to stick around for years- not just one year.
MY MAJOR SEO MISTAKE
One year into my business I wasn’t hardly seeing any traffic and Goggle wasn’t really paying attention, despite my adding a YOAST plugin to help with seo and keywords.
So with some of my savings, I decided to go for it and really give my website a huge boost and opt for a seo agency.
ANOTHER HUGE MISTAKE!!!!
I wasted a shed load of money, paid an agency for 3 months to seo my site and after 3 months I finally saw my website on the first page of Google when you searched for my niche, “hand painted wedding invitations”.
IT LASTED FOR 1 WEEK.
Then my website dropped like a stone to maybe the four or fifth page where it was when I started off.
I took matters into my own hands and just seo’d my own website.
HOW DID I BOOST MY RANKINGS IN GOOGLE FOR MY WEDDING STATIONERY BUSINESS?
CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT.
Write blogposts with long content. That’s right LOOOOOONNNG content. Blog writing with relevant articles is a wonderful way to attract your ideal clients and position yourself as an expert. No 300-500 word blogposts will NOT do. Those days are long gone.
Think 2500+ articles, rethink your titles, use relevant other keywords related to your topic, use internal and external links.
If you feel stuck on what to write, and you certainly don’t feel like an expert, well believe me, I have been there and I can totally relate!!!!
I remember right as the start of my business, coming across youtube videos that would say write content, whether it is a vlog, a video, a podcast or a written blog, but position yourself as an expert.
I felt as thought I was learning myself. How could I dare to position myself as an expert when I am only just starting out?
It actually felt dishonest to even dare to claim that I was an expert.
Nevertheless, you are good at some things that other people can learn from you.
BLOG PORTFOLIO ITEMS
Why don’t don’t you write a long blog post on each portfolio item you create.
Instead of just placing pretty pictures up in a gallery, start from the very beginning of how you use a point of inspiration and start to create a wedding stationery suite, or a hand painted wedding invitation design with calligraphy and hand painted details. How you go about incorporating watercolours, which envelope colours you select to compliment or contract with the design?
This way you can use your portfolio as you build your business to help with your blog.
Search for what has not been blogged about yet or a blog post that is very easy to outdo.
If you find a round up post of the top 10 best wedding florist to follow on instagram, go an write an article with 20 best wedding florists on instagram with triple the amount of content and helpful tips. Then, just let it sit on Google.
You would be surprised the amount of areas that have not been written in a long blogpost form.
How about a review of a wedding venue that a bride of yours might be using. Visit the venue if at all possible, or email them or call them up with a set of questions and say you would like to interview them for an article. That way when your bride searches for that venue, she will come across your post and find out about you.
If you would like more ideas on what to blog, see this list here.
I used a combination of these two videos below to help me propel my content and at least start my content going. The guys from Income school and Brian Dean from Backlinko really inspired me.
Brians videos are invaluable in the seo world and not only educational but fun to watch too but don’t worry about getting back links, as the two guys below will help you out with in the second video.
Over time I have had various other stationers get in touch and ask if they should advertise on wedding blogs. So I thought as part of your insight into starting a wedding stationery business this is a very important area to cover, so again, you don’t make the same wasteful, wasteful mistakes that I did!
I honestly wish there was some valuable information like this out there when I was looking into this as well.
Yes at the same time, you may decide to advertise and it may work for you!
Every business has a different experience and on a case by case basis, you have to look at what has worked, where your clients come from ( always ask them how they found you) and then repeat what works.
Try to test advertising, or any marketing that costs a substantial amount in small ways before you place a larger budget and potentially loose lots of money for nothing.
I started off by thinking, that if I list my wedding stationery business on a leading wedding blogs directory, of course in the calligraphers/ wedding invitation section, that brides would see this and be racing to my door.
I reached out to as many blogs as I could to find out the costs of getting listed for one year. I approached and was listed for quite a large cost one The Ruffled Blog, 100 Layer Cake The Pretty Blog and quite a few others.
I was very excited to receive my little badges to show that I had been listed and I thought that it would seriously add to my credibility as a new stationer on the block.
EEERRR…..GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?
Not only did I waste a huge, huge amount of my savings, but I had no results at all. A complete, complete waste of money.
Rather than do that do this instead to get yourself on blogs.
- Go for some sponsored posts instead. A sponsored post once published will stay on the wedding blog of your choice and be a credible, good authority link going back to your website, which in turn will help your seo efforts, help Google to recognise and rank your site better.
- My directory listing expired after one year, whereas s sponsored post will never expire.
- Do some selective style shoots.
- Believe me, style shoots are a subject that I can write a book about with all the awful experiences that I have had.
- Yet from the 20 or so style shoots that I have done, only about 5 of them have been published.
- One or two of the style shoots have been published on some very sought after and highly regarded wedding blogs such as Strictly Weddings.
- Style shoots are a much better way of getting onto a very credible wedding blog for free. All you have to do is put in the time, effort and pay for the shipping.
Rather than spend a huge amount of money going to wedding fairs and go to all the hassle of hiring out a stall, (if you have done this and had success, then that is fantastic and well done to you) I would rather go this route:
Many top stationers actually make about 15-20 beautiful, beautiful packs of stationery, their best pieces and send them off to wedding planners that they would like to work with.
Now be careful here and make sure you use the right approach.
Don’t approach a top luxury wedding planner when you specialise in low end of the market stationery. If you create quickly printed, cheap invitations and stationery, then you will want to seek out the same wedding planners that deal with those types of clients and so for your wedding stationery business you will naturally be a good fit.
Similarly, if you deal with higher end stationery or middle end market stationery, find the matching wedding planners and send your items out to them.
Alongside this for your wedding stationery business, you can also send packages out to bloggers.
Offer wedding planners a 10% referral commission, that way there is something in it for them.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOU ARE A GOOD FIT?
Look at their instagram and facebook accounts. That should tell you how they position themselves and provide you with enough insight to know who they are likely to attract with their services.
Another great marketing tactic, rather than spending on wedding fairs, is this:
I came across this podcast with an interview with Andrew who is a photographer. He has a way of doing Facebook advertising that has enabled him to book, 6 out of 7 clients that he tests his strategy out on. In fact it works so well for him, that he even set up his own facebook ad courses. This add system works for him every single time.
So here’s the link, please try it!
I hope that I have provided some good insight here in what to do and not to do when setting up your wedding stationery business. It is not all set in stone and I am sure you may have done something differently and it may have worked wildly well for you!!
If you have any extra tips, chime in and let me know what you think!
Crimson Letters create exquisite, dramatic and luxurious, custom made wedding stationery, check out the website here > www.crimsonletters.com