Over the years of running my stationery business, Crafty Pie, I had a lot of people tell me they wanted to start their own wedding invitation business but they didn’t know where to start. Before I started, I felt the same way. There wasn’t really many resources online and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a web design background but not much of a print background. I had to learn everything as I went.
I was initially fraught with indecision and fear. Do I print everything myself or outsource to a printer? Should I start on Etsy or build my own website? Square flap or euro flap envelopes?? (the envelope flap struggle is real!) And so many more questions.
Now four years later, I’ve learned a lot about running an online wedding invitation business. A lot of it was trial and error. So I thought why not put together a list of tips to help the budding stationery entrepreneur.
1. Study the trends
Like any design industry, weddings are very trend driven. There are definitely some classic styles like black and white but it can be important to know what color palettes and design elements are trending to keep your designs current for the modern bride.
For example, the first couple of years into my business, my most popular designs were in a gray and yellow color scheme. This was a popular color palette at the time. But in the past couple of years in my business, brides were moving away from this color scheme. All things rustic and everything blush and gold took over.
So when you’re planning your first collection, check the latest wedding blogs, fashion magazines and Pinterest for inspiration.
2. Invest in Photography
If you’re selling anything online, having great photography is a must. But you don’t have to spend a fortune on gear to get good results. You will need a digital SLR (I personally have a Canon Rebel XTi from 10 years ago!), a tripod, lots of natural, diffused light (a window with a sheer curtain) or a lighting kit and photo editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. There are lots of tutorials online like this one and this one.
If you don’t want to invest in the gear or teach yourself photography, you have a couple of options. You can contact local wedding photographers and see if you can work out a deal to have them shoot your stationery. You can also work with them on styled shoots by offering your products for the shoot in exchange for permission to use the photos on your website.
Another option is you can pay to have someone style and photograph your items, but that might be a bit pricey when you’re just starting out.
3. Have Patience
Starting any new business can take time to grow unless you have tons of money to spend on advertising up front. It took me a few months to design my first invitation collection and then a month to get my first sale on Etsy. After that, the frequency of sales increased from there.
When I launched the Crafty Pie website, I was able to get some initial traffic from having built up a customer base and network of vendors. But I needed to keep the momentum going with a shoestring budget. So I focused on optimizing my page’s SEO and blogging consistently. I tried to put together content that my readers would enjoy and get value out of it. Some of my most popular posts were free printables and wedding invitation resources. After a few months, I started seeing results in the traffic I was receiving and converting that traffic to orders.
4. Create an Email List as soon as you start
I hear this from other entrepreneurs all the time. They wish they would have started their email list sooner and I would have to agree with that. Having an email list is the only marketing channel you have any control over. Google can change their algorithms and ruin your traffic overnight or Etsy can change their terms of service at any point. You don’t want to be at the mercy of any other platform.
So even if you don’t have a website right now, you can still use an email marketing service like Mailchimp or Klaviyo which both have free plans up to a certain amount of subscribers, create a signup form and direct your customers to it by adding a link in your email signature, your Etsy store, a pop-up on your website and social media pages.
5. Network with your industry
I found this especially important in the wedding industry. I met a lot of great, talented vendors when I worked with them on styled photo shoots. I also reached out to wedding planners and put together affiliate programs for them if they referred my products to their clients.
Not only does growing this network help with getting more customers, but I also formed some awesome friendships with some amazing people. And anytime my friends got engaged, I always knew some great vendors to refer them to!
6. Just start now
What are you waiting for? Seriously, just do it! It doesn’t take much investment to start if you’re starting with digital printing or selling digital printable files. My expenses the first month I started was about $500 for a Canon Pixma Pro 9000 printer, a paper cutter, supplies and a domain name. I eventually switched from printing everything myself to outsourcing it. But I learned a lot from printing everything myself and just starting.
So don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Just start and you can course correct along the way. You can always add or change products later on. Your business will grow and evolve.
Do you have any questions on running a stationery business or have any tips you want to add? Leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear them!
If you’re interested in starting your own online shop like an online stationery business, sign up for my FREE 7 Day mini course “How to Start Your Own Online Shop in 7 Days”