So you’re thinking about starting a stationery business – what should you do first? I’ve been a calligrapher and wedding invitation designer for 7 years, and I teach people how to start a stationery business. In this post, I’ll give you the first 3 things you should do when you’re thinking about starting an invitation business!
In addition, I’ve got this free stationery design course that might kickstart your invitation design business. It goes through programs to use, papers, envelopes, and all kinds of other helpful tips especially if you want to start a wedding invitation business.
What type of stationery business should you start? I divide stationary businesses into 3 main categories: wedding/event, personal, and business stationery. You can absolutely fit your stationery business into multiple categories, you just have to find what works for you!
The type of stationery business you want to start comes down to who you want to serve. Would you prefer to serve people on a specific event basis? Or would it be more fun to serve other business owners, or do you like selling a lot of different things to a lot of different types of people? This question is really important to nail down when starting a stationery business, because it can give you a lot of direction. And then, you can always grow and change your stationery business as it makes sense!
So no matter which type of stationery business you’re starting, what are the first few things you should do to create a successful business making stationery?
The first thing you should do when starting a stationery business is learn about paper and printing. We’ll start by talking about stationery paper and invitation papers. There’s so much more about stationery printing and paper types that you can learn in our Print + Paper Vendor Guide! But this post will be a brief intro into the most common types of invitation papers.
There are 3 main types of stationery paper:
Smooth paper is common for greeting cards, photo printing, and projects with a lower budget (it’s the cheapest type of paper). It’s also used for invitations and art prints in some cases. Eggshell invitation paper is great for wedding invitations and art prints and has a little bit of texture to it. It works really well for printing watercolor designs. Cotton stationery is really textured and made of natural fibers. It’s the most costly on this list, and it gives a great impression when used with letterpress printing (more on that soon!).
In general, you want to use 100# or heavier paper for standalone stationery pieces. Paper weights are measured in # which are “pounds” (not hashtags!). Lighter papers are good for things like envelope liners, anything that needs to be folded (greeting cards should be around 100#), planners, notepads, etc.
Here’s a bit of a better description about Stationery Paper Types!
Stationery printing can be really tough, so I recommend doing a lot of research here! I’ve done a lot for you and share all of our favorite vendors in the Print + Paper Vendor Guide. There are a lot of different types of stationery printers, and different print methods for invitations and stationery of all types. The most common stationery print methods are going to be:
Digital or flat printing is what you think of when you think of printing. You can do this in-house or outsource your stationery printing to any of the vendors in our guide. Our favorite vendors for beginners are PrintsWell Fulfillment and StationeryHQ (tell them Laney sent you to help me out a bit!).
Digital printing is the least expensive stationery printing option and works well for papers of 120# or lighter. A lot of printers cannot print heavier paper than 120#. Flat printing can also be used for really any design, but is an especially nice option for watercolor stationery, or stationery that uses a lot of different colors (you’ll learn why in a minute!).
Your digital printers are usually inkjet or laser printers, and each works well for different things. Here’s a video explaining some of the differences between an inkjet and a laser printer for envelope printing:
Sure, you can. You can print stationery at home, or in a million different places. There are a few key differences between places like VistaPrint and places like PrintsWell or any of the other vendors I use.
First, you may find a smaller selection of high-end papers. These companies aren’t focused on printing wedding invitations or high-end stationery. They likely don’t offer really thick papers, cotton papers, etc. They also don’t offer print methods like letterpress or foil stamping, and tend to only offer digital printing. Secondly, you’ll be able to apply for wholesale accounts with these stationery printers once your stationery business is created, so the pricing is not all that different. The quality of the printing and the paper will be much better, and the pricing won’t be much more!
I actually get my business cards from VistaPrint (I paint them after to give them a really fun feel!). But I don’t print most of my client work there unless it’s a really simple job, on standard papers, with a need for keeping the budget really low.
Letterpress printing is a beautiful way to upgrade your stationery. It requires making a die of your design. That die then attaches to a machine, rollers roll ink onto it, and then it’s pressed into the paper. This means that letterpress printed invitations will have an indention in the paper. You can actually feel the print pressed into the paper. That’s why we love cotton paper for letterpress printing. It makes a beautiful impression.
Because of the die cost and the cost for a person to run the press, letterpress printing can get costly. You also need a new die and a separate press run for every color in your design! If you’re doing a large run of 10,000 greeting cards, that cost divides out pretty well. If you’re doing 50 wedding invitations or art prints, however, it may get kind of expensive. So letterpress printing works well for larger quantities of the same design, or for a client with a high-end vision!
Here’s a bit more information on how letterpress printing works:
You may have heard of gold foil stamping, which is a print process that is very similar to letterpress printing. The printer will create a die for each different color or foil type, and then they’ll press it into the paper. The main difference is that instead of ink, the die will press a thin sheet of foil into the paper.
Despite the common name, foil stamping does not have to be gold! You can use a large number of different types of foil, including matte, holographic, brushed metal, and more!!! Gold happens to be the most popular color, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. I love to create invitations with rose gold foil, copper foil, and even holographic foil invites!
So once you’ve learned about stationery paper and printing, what’s next in the journey to starting a stationery business?
That’s right, it’s time to actually do the stationery design part of being a stationery designer! I truly believe there’s no better teacher when starting a stationery business than practicing.
The best stationery design programs are the industry standard – the Adobe Creative Cloud. My favorite programs for designing wedding invitations are:
My Adobe Playlist on YouTube has a ton of useful tricks and tips for using Adobe programs in your stationery designs.
You can use YouTube or Skillshare courses to learn a lot more about graphic design for your stationery business. The best part about using Adobe programs is that there are millions of tutorials all over (free and paid) that you can access to learn how to use different Adobe tools for stationery or invitation design.
If you are starting a wedding stationery business, you’ll want to learn the invitation etiquette! I have a blog post all about Wedding Invitation Wording.
As you’re designing your first stationery pieces, I encourage you to design the same piece in a few different ways. Just design something you like and then start over from scratch and try again. See what different directions you are taken in! If you want to start a wedding invitation business, I have a free course here that you can watch all about Invitation Composition and Layout! It’ll help you learn what different layouts say from a graphic design perspective, and show you that design is more than just making something pretty.
If you design personal stationery, you have a little more freedom to just create something that you enjoy and other people will enjoy too! There’s less of a functional purpose, but personal stationery can also include things like greeting cards, notepads, calendars, etc. that DO have a functional purpose. So I challenge you to research the function behind your designs to make sure you’re not creating something that’s pretty but not functional.
If you want to start a business stationery business, then your designs will incorporate a lot of branding and color theory principles too! You may be working with branding that’s already been created, but it’s important that your designs “say” what the company wants them to and give off the right impression for the company you’re working for. In corporate marketing, good stationery design can really improve a brand’s overall presence!
It’s hard to spend money in your business before you’ve made money. But when starting a stationery business, you will learn so many invaluable lessons by actually printing your stationery. So if you learn to design beautiful stationery, but don’t know how to produce it – your clients will not be happy when they receive subpar product. Printing stationery is literally half of the job (sometimes even more!).
As part of your practice, make sure you produce a few pieces from start to finish. This way, you’ll learn about printing processes, file setup, papers, etc. even more than in your research from step 1.
The best way to order sample prints for stationery is with digital printing. Companies like PrintsWell and StationeryHQ have small minimums that will not break the bank, while still teaching you a lot. You’ll want to learn about bleeds, trim marks, and color printing – which this video can help you with!
Now, what’s the third step in starting your stationery business? It’s to share your stationery with the world!
Now that you’ve learned about stationery papers and printing, and practiced designing stationery pieces, it’s time to share that work and get clients for your stationery business!
That depends on what type of client you’re looking for! If you want to sell to engaged couples, you’ll look in a different place than if you want to sell to businesses, or dog moms, or yoga teachers, or whatever your specific niche is. I have a whole worksheet you can download to figure that out for your stationery business! Ideal Client Worksheet
The most common places most people who are starting a stationery business like to market are:
Personally, I get most of my clients from Instagram as well as networking with wedding planners and other wedding vendors! I also get a lot of business just by living my work out loud! I talk about my work and share it with everyone I know (not to an *annoying* level, or at least I don’t think so) and I often get clients from my personal network who got engaged and want to support me! The lesson here is that the more you live your work, the easier it’ll come.
But how do you get those other clients? I’ll give you some basics!
And last, but of course not least – learn the platforms! Every platform is different and has its own pros and cons. So if you learn them individually you’ll have more success on each one. I have a very extensive resource community for marketing specifically that you can access at www.TheClientBundle.com (it’s all about getting clients, and not just for stationery designers!).
But if you’re not ready for that, I have over 30 free videos to get you started on marketing your stationery business here:
There you have it! Once you’re able to accomplish those 3 things, you’ll be off and running with a super successful stationery business! If you’re looking to expand and grow your stationery business, I hope you’ll join our monthly membership community just for Stationery Designers. It’s called Stationery School, and you can learn more at www.designbylaney.com/stationeryschool !
Hi, I'm Laney!
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I make wedding invitations and I teach artists how to work smarter, make money, and run a business that works for you.