For some hand lettering is a hobby, but for others it’s more than that. Lettering is a skill that some artists want to make a career from, but is this actually possible?
If I had been asked this question two years ago when I was a complete beginner at lettering, I would have said no and that’s what I genuinely thought at the time. I did not think it was possible to make a career out of being a lettering artist. I thought maybe an artist could do a bit of lettering commission work here and there, and then do other unrelated work the majority of the time to earn enough money. Perhaps you think the same, or like me used to think this too.
I was very wrong to assume that hand lettering couldn’t provide a sustainable income. As I learnt more about lettering and as I came across more lettering artists, I began to realise that it was and is entirely possible to make a career from lettering. I discovered artists who are able to support themselves through primarily using their lettering skills. Artists such as Jessica Hische, and Jon Contino have been working quite successfully by making lettering for a number of years. They do occasionally mix in some illustration too, so this can also be a useful skill to have. As you read on I’ve provided some examples of ways in which you can use your lettering skills and knowledge to build a career and income.
Host lettering workshops or talks and share your skills.
Create products with your lettering on, such as prints, cards, hats, coasters and t-shirts. Then sell your products on your own website or Etsy.
Use sites like Society6 which apply your lettering to pre-made products, and earn income when those products sell.
License your work to go on all sorts of things, like stationary and homeware.
Create hand lettered type faces and sell them.
Share your hand lettering knowledge in a book and publish it digitally.
Create monthly goodies for donations through platforms like Patreon.
Get commissions for lettering work including logos, branding and wedding stationary etc and charge for the work.
There are a few more ingenious methods for earning an income that other artists have discovered besides the methods mentioned above. It’s always worth doing a bit of research to see what other lettering artists do to earn money, as it might not be as obvious as just getting commissions. Try researching some of your favourite lettering artists if you haven’t already, as you’ll be surprised what you can learn just from their websites.
The most important thing you can really gain from this article though can be found in the title. I didn’t write ‘Can You Have a Successful Career…’ I wrote ‘Can You Make a Successful Career…’, and there’s a big difference between the two. There would have been nothing wrong if I had used ‘Have’ instead of ‘Make’, however a hand lettering career doesn’t normally just fall in your lap. You can’t just send a Resume / CV off somewhere and become a paid lettering artist. To earn an income as a lettering artist, you have to make it happen and make a career for yourself. You have to put time and work in, you have to get your work out there in the world. Sometimes you have to find or create opportunities, they won’t always find you especially when you’re first starting out. You may need to come up with some of your own creative ways of earning an income that are perhaps a little out of the box. In the end though, if you are truly passionate about lettering it will be worth it, you’ll be earning money doing something you love.
It’s been amazing to see readers of Lettering Tutorial develop businesses and income. I’ve seen a few do it. One reader has worked really hard, and now has a number of hand lettered products for sale on Society6 and their own shop on Etsy. This was all accomplished within a year too!
I definitely wouldn’t recommend going out and quitting your day job, but if you do want to begin earning as a lettering artist perhaps start with one of the examples above and see where it takes you. Methods that have worked well for one artist may not work as well for another, so try out different things.