I have been a fan of Molly Suber Thorpe since I stumbled upon her first book, Modern Calligraphy, three years ago. With its gorgeous photos and encouraging tone, Modern Calligraphy can’t help but inspire you! Based on how much I enjoyed Modern Calligraphy, I was excited when Molly offered to send me a copy of her latest book: The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook. It arrived a couple of weeks later in a gorgeous envelope!
I tucked in to the book nearly as soon as I received it. Upon finishing the last page, I decided to write a review because … well, I wish this book had been around when I started my business!
Synopsis of The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook
When I first started The Postman’s Knock, then a little Etsy shop offering custom calligraphy, I was clueless at best. I had no idea what to charge for calligraphy and design services, so I charged next to nothing. The basics of intellectual rights and commercial vs. individual pricing eluded me. Eventually, you figure it out — but The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook could have saved me years of learning and uncertainty.
If you’re at the beginning stages of starting a calligraphy-based business (or you just want to do it as a side hustle), then this book will be your best friend. In it, Molly offers crucial information about pricing, policies, and different types of artist/client agreements. While I found all of the information in the book to be helpful, there were some parts that really resonated with me. I’ve outlined them below:
First of all, as Molly points out, a lot of people don’t consider “calligrapher” to be a serious profession. If you make your living in the art/calligraphy field — especially as a freelancer — many assume that you’re a “starving artist”. Molly’s book nips that mentality in the bud by examining average pricing from calligraphers nationwide. And … guess what? The average calligrapher’s salary is $72,000. That’s nothing to sneeze at!
One of the most valuable pages in the handbook is page 36, which lists the average prices that calligraphers charge for their services. This page is a fantastic guide to help you figure out what to charge for your own services in order to work toward that $72K (and beyond) salary!
2. Business Growth Tips
Molly rightly points out that calligraphers can vastly expand their earning potential with a willingness to go digital. In The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook, she doles out tips for creating a user-friendly website, photographing your work, and designing a logo.
If I just lost you at “digital”, reconsider. Several years ago, I had a vendetta against Photoshop and Illustrator … I was all about strictly working with pen and ink. When I started TPK, however, it became apparent that I needed to lose the luddite mentality to help my business grow. It was frustrating, but eventually I learned the Adobe suite (and I later made a video course over digitizing artwork and calligraphy for those who have the same hesitation that I did)!
3. Copyright and Intellectual Property Information
Here’s a good question: if you design artwork or calligraphy for a client, what rights do you retain to that artwork? Can you take credit for the artwork and display it in your portfolio and on social media? Or does the client own all of the rights to your design?
I have to admit that this is an area that I was not familiar with before reading Molly’s book. The information she provides about client-artist work agreements and copyrights is extremely educational. In some cases, you may not retain any rights to your work at all. In fact, your client could take credit for it if s/he wanted to! Molly walks you through how to avoid that situation and form an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both the creator and the client.
If you’re interested in making some income from your dip pen talent, I highly recommend The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook! When you have a moment to read it, you’ll want to dig in with a highlighter in hand. Molly’s transparency about pricing and process is unrivaled, and I think that a lot of calligraphy businesses will get a running start because of her generosity in sharing information.
I hope that you enjoyed this book review! If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of Molly’s book, you can get it at your local library, bookstore, or Amazon.com. Thanks very much for reading TPK, and enjoy the rest of your day!