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Old 02-27-2012, 10:27 AM
Inky Quills Inky Quills is offline
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longevity and sustainability

Hello,

I've been working as a calligrapher for a bit over a year now as a side job after my regular 9-5. I do mostly wedding envelope addressing, so its very repetitive. I'm contemplating in the future trying to scale up my business to the point where it can be mostly/completely sustainable without the regular job. I have a few questions for some of you full-time calligraphers.

1) Is there a trick to doing high volume on a regular basis without injuring your shoulder muscles (namely my non-writing shoulder) from stabilization of me and the paper? I find that after a few days of busy writing, my shoulder gets very sore.

2) When doing the math - it would take me doing 60 envelopes a day, 5 days a week to make a bare minimum living, provided I could get business all year long consistently. Do you find there are other ways to make money and make the job worth it, or is it a continuous losing battle?

Basically, I' m wondering if there is ever a future in doing this full-time, or if it will always be a side job for financial and physical reasons.

Thanks for any/all input.

-Luke
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Old 03-27-2012, 08:17 AM
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Hiraeth Hiraeth is offline
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Re: longevity and sustainability

Hi Luke,

I run a calligraphy studio out of my home and yes, you can earn a decent salary doing calligraphy but you will probably never get rich.

When I first started out, I was pleased if I could do 35 sets in a day but after doing this full time for three years, I can regularly do 75 sets per day and have done 90 in a marathon session. In other words, you get faster and more accurate as you go along.

With that comes pain and discomfort, as you've already discovered. I have arthritis in my hands and I've had to have custom ergonomical pens made--that has saved my business. I've also just finished my first round of physical therapy--8 weeks of physical rehab which has helped tremendously! I learned exercises for neck and back, ergonomics, hand exercises, prevention and pain management and it's worked wonders. I wish I had pursued it three years ago when I first went full time--it would have saved a lot of pain and misery.

As for getting work year round: I do work all year round but there are ebbs and flows. January through September is very busy with March, April, and May being the busiest. Things slow down a bit around the end of Sept. but then pick up again in late November through New Years then the cycle starts again. It works for me because I love the fall and I enjoy a break that time of year.

Wedding work is steady and reliable but I've learned that I need to pick up corporate work as well for financial reasons as well as creative reasons. It's fun to have a challenging assignment amidst all the envelopes and place cards.

If you love lettering and you would be looking for every minute to devote to picking up the pen anyway, then maybe starting a business is for you. The work can be repetitive and solitary but doing what you love, being your own boss, and working from home has its charms.

Lastly, I'll be honest. I'm married and we have my husband's income, too; if we depended on my work alone, my calligraphy business (at least at this point) would not cover all the bills.

Good luck and let me know if I can help in any way.

K
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Old 04-04-2012, 02:04 PM
Inky Quills Inky Quills is offline
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Re: longevity and sustainability

Hi Kim -

Thanks for the advice. I had some more specific questions, so I PM'd you.

-Luke
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Old 11-20-2012, 12:51 PM
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winking cat press winking cat press is offline
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Re: longevity and sustainability

Luke.... the questions you ask about productivity, and earning a living are common to all of us who produce work by hand. I hear it a lot from letterpress folks who have the same problem: producing enough to earn a good living.

My answer to that question is simple: If you can't produce enough in an eight hour work day to earn a living, then you aren't charging enough for your work. The way I see it, you are a professional.... just like a carpenter, or a lawyer..... and you deserve to earn a good living for what you do. Thus you should charge accordingly.

Remember, not everyone can do what you do and many customers will pay you a decent price for your work. Some won't..... but that person probably doesn't like to pay much for anything, and is most likely to whne and complaing that envelope A is a tiny bit different that envelope B. You don't need that customer anyway.

I have found that by trying to compete on the basis of price is the sure-fire path to economic failure. There will ALWAYS be folks who charge less. They are like a plague on the artistic marketplace.

My strategy has always been to charge more than the competition, and sell my work based on quality, not price. Yes, I do have fewer customers.... but the higher price more than makes up for the difference, AND I have a lot more time to devote to each piece.
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Old 12-07-2012, 12:08 AM
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Re: longevity and sustainability

I am able to integrate the Celtic patterns and Calligraphy into my art. I do not do straight calligraphy mainly due to my age. The variety I create helps me from hurting my shoulders.

I do hope someday to create Calligraphy + Celtic + Art into large prints, and possibly calendars.

Always good to hear from others.
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Old 12-19-2012, 10:57 AM
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Re: longevity and sustainability

Birdhs..... If you are inspired to make large calligraphic prints, then now is the time. I do understand the constraints of time and physical limitations..... but life is short. If you don't do your large prints and calendars now, then when?
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