If you’ve ever wondered why envelope calligraphy is so expensive, this article and its accompanying video will offer clarity! Skill, time, and physical toll all play into what a calligrapher charges. This is also a must-read for anyone considering using their calligraphy skills to start a business.
When I first learned about the concept of offering envelope calligraphy services to make extra money, I was 24 years old and idealistic. It sounded too good to be true: all I had to do was write an address on an envelope, and someone would pay me for that? As I took on more and more envelope addressing projects, though, I realized that there’s a lot more to envelope calligraphy than meets the eye.
Today, we’ll talk about why envelope calligraphy is so expensive and why it takes a special kind of person to be able to do it. If you have the time, I recommend watching my video on this topic. I’m going to try my best to articulate it in writing, too!
Why is Envelope Calligraphy So Expensive?: The Video
Why is Envelope Calligraphy So Expensive?: The Article
There are three factors that go into the cost of envelope calligraphy: acuity, time, and the toll it takes on a calligrapher’s body. While material costs are something to consider, they’re going to account for very little of the cost. (That said, a client should always be sure to provide high-quality envelopes. It’s difficult to create calligraphy that doesn’t bleed or feather on sub-par envelopes.)
A good calligrapher pays attention to tiny details. They’re going to go the extra mile to ensure that the calligraphy is centered, vertical strokes are parallel, and flourishes are thoughtfully placed. Mitigating factors, like an address line that doesn’t have any descenders, are dealt with appropriately to avoid awkward spacing.
In short, a calligrapher has to be experienced and have a keen eye. In order to cultivate that, he or she has to possess a number of problem-solving techniques and know what it takes to make the calligraphy look stunning.
Excellent envelope calligraphy looks effortless, but it takes a serious chunk of time. As I show you in my video, there are guidelines to draw (and get rid of), words to center, and flourishes to plan. If you don’t use a waterproof ink, it’s also an excellent idea to protect the calligraphy so it doesn’t smear in transit. Furthermore, a calligrapher can always count on making mistakes either with spelling or spacing, which means that they’ll need to start over and make another envelope.
When I’m not trying to hurry, I can easily spend 30 minutes making seemingly plain envelope calligraphy. Don’t get me wrong: there are shortcuts that you can take. Those include using a light box to shine guidelines up through light-colored envelopes, not centering address lines, and/or using waterproof ink (like Ziller). However, those shortcuts only shave a bit of time off of the creation process. No matter what, more time translates into better results.
Any good calligrapher will aim to sustain good posture. However, no matter what you do, writing out multiple addresses in one sitting will take a toll on your body. Many of us end up hunching at various points during the creation process, and it’s not good for a body to sit one way for hours at a time.
There are ways that a calligrapher can ensure that they can comfortably write for longer. Maintaining an awareness of posture and using a relaxed pen grip helps a lot. It’s important to get up and take breaks, too. The best thing a calligrapher can do for themselves is to ensure there’s plenty of time to complete an envelope calligraphy job. That way, addresses can be written in manageable chunks of time over several weeks or months.
If you’re a calligrapher, I don’t want to discourage you from offering envelope calligraphy services. I just think it’s important to be realistic about what’s involved and make sure that you’re compensated accordingly! Most, if not all, professional freelance calligraphers offer a variety of services to balance out their envelope addressing jobs. Those projects likely include some sort of design: invitations, menus, signs, etc. Generally, those types of projects offer more compensation for less work. If you’re going to do envelope calligraphy, you have to love it because it’s a difficult way to make a reasonable profit.
For those who are looking for envelope calligraphy services and feeling sticker shock, I hope that this article clarifies why calligraphers charge what they charge. To be honest, a quick search on Etsy has me baffled at the low cost! Nearly all calligraphers on the platform charge less than $5 per envelope. If I threw my hat in that ring with a formal and meticulous pointed pen style, I would be making less than $10/hour with my calligraphy skills. For comparison, McDonald’s here in Boulder is currently paying $19/hour.
When and Why to Do Envelope Calligraphy
A few TPK Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course students take the course with the primary goal of calligraphing envelopes. Generally, those students have a wedding coming up (theirs or a loved one’s), and they want to save money and/or make the calligraphy more personal. I think that’s a great reason to learn calligraphy, and it usually serves as the gateway to a rabbit hole that results in many subsequent projects.
If you’re going to start a calligraphy business, I applaud that! But, I’d advise diversifying so you don’t have to rely only on envelope calligraphy for your income. Learn how to use the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator) so you can offer design services (invitations, menus, etc.). If you have a flair for illustration, offer your clients customized maps. Furthermore, consider making family trees, writing out quotes or passages, all sorts of things! It’s all a learning process, and you’ll figure out what makes the most sense for you.
To clarify, I don’t offer envelope addressing services. There’s no way I could justify taking the time to write this blog post if I did! I want to put this information out there, though, because people should understand how much goes into making a beautiful envelope. It’s not an effortless way for any calligrapher to make money, so those who offer the service genuinely love doing it. If you’re one of those calligraphers, “write on”; I’m rooting for you!
I hope that you enjoyed today’s video and article! If you have any questions or input, don’t hesitate to contribute to the comments. Thanks very much for reading!