Can You Make Money from Fonts?
Originally, this was so that I could go back and review it later to make changes, but I’ve realized that this information + my experiences might be helpful to others that are starting out. To be fair, I’ve only done font design for three years, so in many ways I’m still “starting out” in my journey. I feel like it’s been 0-60 in a lot of ways, though!
Font Design – Year in Review
During 2019, there were 27 new releases! I originally thought it might be cute to have a character count, but 27 font releases is a lot to go back and tally up the number of characters for! We’ll just leave it at 27 — approximately one release every two weeks — some of which included multiple fonts. (And also a special release because I had a crazy idea with the Mardi Gras font that I was DYING to see in action just in time for the celebration — mission accomplished!)
Not too shabby. This just shows me that it’s amazing what a bit of planning and perseverance will do!
I set my goal for 2019 as $50,000 in earnings. The final tally?
Drum roll, please … !!
As of 29 December, I’m sitting at just over $55,000.
Give or take a few hundred – I’m not going to get that crazy-specific. This doesn’t take into account the cost of doing business, promoted listings or advertising (on Etsy, Facebook, etc.), and any business expenses I’ve incurred along the way, like new software, new tools, and such. Just a number tied to the sales that came in.
Can I just take a moment to say that it’s incredibly WILD that I’m making money by literally making letters???? I cannot say enough good things about Teela’s Learn Font Making course. If you’re here reading, and wondering if it’s worth it … INVEST IN YOURSELF. April 2020 will mark 3 years of font making & lettering – it’s mind boggling to me that this thing I love to do has given me a livable income.
Full disclosure: I included my SVG earnings in the above number, as well, since I do sell hand-lettered SVGs in a few of the places that I sell my fonts. In the end, basically writing and designing letters earned me the above amount. I would have never been able to refine my SVG files without constantly and consistently lettering for fonts, and I would have never been able to produce some of the fonts I did without lettering for SVGs. Even though the end product is not the same, the process is very much related – namely, the lettering, and it’s also helped me to refine my cleaning process on fonts!
I want to make mention of this, because as a font designer, making hand-lettered SVGs is something that has bolstered my font income. It’s given me a bit of an outlet, as well, when I want to create something, but don’t want to spend the same amount of time as creating a new font. I think that hand-lettered SVGs are a great way for font designers to dabble in something a bit smaller, and also get a good read on what their customers might be looking for as far as style goes.
As an example, I had quite a few folks interested in my SVG files that also wanted to know the best font(s) to match them to make small additions, like a person’s name. Since Dear Journal was designed based on my overall hand-lettering style, I’ve been able to recommend it as a great fit for my hand-lettered files. And guess what? People are buying it.
Fonts I Released in 2019
Take a look at these lovelies!
(They’re all clickable, by the way! Visit each individual font to check it out a bit more closely!)
How I did it
I planned ahead.
In late 2018, I began lettering, programming, and branding fonts to plan for their 2019 release. It meant that I spent 4-5 months *not* releasing anything, but I felt that the consistency of releases in 2019 would outweigh the lack of new fonts being pushed out toward the end of 2018. During those 4-5 months, I wound up with enough to get me through July 2019. So, in the beginning part of 2019, I used that time to letter, clean, program, and brand fonts for August through December. By the end of June, I’d rounded out the rest of the year with fonts scheduled for every other week! (I even have a few stowed for January 2020!)
So what did I do with the rest of my year, if I had 2019 scheduled out for font releases by the end of June? Well, I planned for 2020, of course.
Between May and July, I began lettering alphabets every single day. I set a goal to letter at least 100 alphabets in various styles. I stowed them for review, cleaning, + programming for the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, in order to keep up with the one font released every two weeks. I don’t have a concrete goal to release a new font every two weeks for 2020, but I do know that consistent releases helped with ensuring a steady flow of traffic and interest.
I’ve also spent a TON of time bolstering my SVG collection, and adding them to my website. Whenever my Etsy sales started taking off, I realized adding these cuties to my website might be a good idea!
I ran weekly sales on my own fonts. My website itself has never seen a ton of traffic, but every little bit helps. In this case, it didn’t really help. Ya win some, ya lose some. Here’s hoping 2020 will be an improvement!
I said yes. A lot.
What did I say yes to? Deals and & more sales.
I ran weekly sales on my own fonts through my website (like I mentioned above), and occasional sales on Creative Market. In addition, I pre-set about one week every month to go on sale on my Etsy shop. I dabbled in a few coupon-based sales (ineffective) to compare, and decided that I’ll stick with an overall percentage markdown here & there (10-15%). I don’t think it drove more or additional sales overall, but I do think that people will take note of the fact that something of stellar quality was marked down, and they’ll probably want more.
A little side note about Etsy + SVGs: A while back (in October 2018), I made the decision to remove SVG files from my Etsy shop to focus on fonts exclusively. What I found was that their removal caused a significant drop in visits, which meant a significant loss of income on my Etsy shop. No, seriously, look. It completely TANKED. That massive dip is impressive, but what’s even more interesting to me is that bringing back the SVGs meant that it recovered almost immediately. Sooo, I guess I said “YES!” to continuing SVGs, as well.
What’s funny is that I didn’t think that they made that big of a difference, but they most definitely did! When I brought them back — and I also made some new additions. Or, like hundreds of additions. Throughout 2019, I added SVGs consistently.
Even though SVGs for crafters aren’t really fonts, I definitely count them in my income because they’re all hand-lettered the same way my fonts are. If you skipped over the bit further up top, I mentioned that the process for hand-lettered SVGs has helped me to refine my process for fonts & vice versa. I recommend this for anyone looking to bolster their font income + keep practicing lettering. As an additional little tidbit of information – a lot of the same people that purchase SVGs also purchase fonts. A lot of my SVG customers come back for fonts; a lot of my font customers purchase SVGs.
Anyway, back to saying yes a lot! The greatest single deal I ran was with SoFontsy. On top of participating in their regular bundle offerings, they ran my Entire Shop Font Bundle for a limited two days. This brought in a whopping $2000+ for me, and really helped to solidify my April numbers. In fact, I met my monthly goal before we even hit the half-way point in the month!
What did I say no to?
I won’t name names here – I know + understand everyone needs to make their own decisions about what may benefit them. There was one group that approached me twice to run deals, but their percentages did not stack up with my expectations. Their original offer was 30% to the designer. I let them know I needed more than that, and they said the best they could do was 40%.
Initially, I agreed to this, and asked for more details on the contract. They provided the contract, but never specified an end date on this deal. It didn’t give me a very good gut feeling to have to ask questions regarding end dates, what I was obligated to, etc. When questioned about it, they let me know that deals run from 2 months to 2 years (!!!!), depending on what the designer wants. They also required that I not sell the same deal at a lower price while it was running with them.
While I understand the basis of this, I don’t quite like the open-ended deal and being obligated to maintain pricing because of *them.* In addition to this, they boasted 87k+ subscribers through e-mail, affiliates, and social media. When I did some research on this, I was surprised to see that they had a large number of Facebook followers, but very little interaction on their pages. The interaction that *was* there didn’t seem very positive — it seemed like there were quite a few people that made purchases, but were not very happy.
So, this deal got a no from me.
There was a second group that sorta seemed the same. I approached them about running a deal, but communication was very spotty, and their contract terms were less than clear — I had to ask for specific information that you’d think they’d be up front about. Whenever I realized it reminded me a bit of the aforementioned group, I decided to nix that idea, as well. While I remain open to deals like this, I think I’ll be sticking more to the tried & true.
For what it’s worth, I’ve run deals with Font Bundles, Hungry JPEG, Pixel Surplus, Mighty Deals, and So Fontsy. I actively sell on Font Bundles and So Fontsy. I used to sell on Hungry JPEG (find out why I don’t anymore). Pixel Surplus and Mighty Deals are … well, deal-based websites. I don’t think a seller can have a shop there.
I submitted fonts for certification on Creative Market.
I posted about this in early May 2019! I submitted a few fonts for certification on Creative Market in March 2019, and received certification in May. Once those fonts passed certification, I submitted a few of my best sellers — Spring Market, Barcelona Nights, and Farmhouse Country.
Creative Market originally took 40% of Certified products as their commission, but this changed in December 2019 – they now take 40% of all product sales, so there is no difference between the commission rate for Certified and products without the Certification badge. So, I submitted more because…why not? I quite like the idea of someone vouching for the quality of my product.
Creative Market says that shop owners with Certified products get better visibility, and make more sales. I didn’t notice a big change in my visibility, or in my sales. I will say, though, that I believe it adds a bit more professionalism to my shop. The blue Certified badge is essentially something that says Creative Market vouches for the product. If some products are Certified by any given maker, it’s likely a safe assumption that the rest of their products are quality, as well. I certainly make that leap, so I have to imagine that other buyers will, as well. If that’s all that comes of the certification, I’m satisfied with that!
I asked, and I received.
For whatever reason, the thought never occurred to me that I could be sending coupon codes to upgrade single font purchases to the all-inclusive bundle that I offer, especially through Etsy. I realized that if I didn’t ask them to upgrade, or provide them the opportunity to do so, I would likely never see these folks again. Same goes for SVG purchasers!
Wouldn’t you know, there were a fair amount of them that took me up on the offer. The All-Inclusive Bundle is a pretty stellar deal, with savings of over 95% and access to all future fonts. Why wouldn’t they want to upgrade?!
Reflections on the Hustle
Overall, this $50k in 2019 goal was an interesting pursuit that I’m happy to have undertaken. It’s shown me that something that I love is most definitely a viable source of income — a livable one, at that. (Eh, depending on where you are, I suppose! SoCal, maybe not so much, lol!)
Font design is a hobby + a passion, but what I wanted to make sure of was that it didn’t fall into the “daily grind” category. I’m not going pretend that I’m not here to make money from it, because I am, but in order to still love what I’m doing, there were definitely stretches of time in which I didn’t do anything font related. Why? Simply because I didn’t feel like it, and I didn’t want to grow to dread something that I actually *do* like.
Plans for 2020
Slow down. A lot. (Who am I kidding? I intend to slow down, but will it happen? No.)
I spent 2019 batch-preparing what I was working on. In 2020, I can’t say that I won’t do the same, but at the outset, I want to go back to seeing the process from start to finish. I’ve got some totally programmed fonts stowed away that need a name + a brand to go with it.
2020 should be less about the volume of fonts produced, and more about the quality of fonts produced. I’ve found that I’m more likely to buy a font if I know it has alternates + ligatures, so the vast majority of alphabets I’ve lettered recently do include at least one full set of alternates for lowercase letters.
I’m also excited to expand my SVG offerings!
For what it’s worth, I did meet a few of my big personal goals in 2019, which I’m quite proud of!
For starters, I rocked the macarons multiple times! Truth be told, the first few batches were kind of ugly, but they tasted pretty good. I managed to get a few good batches a bit later after practicing. Now that I feel like I have a good handle on it … well, I haven’t made a batch since, which is probably a good thing! I didn’t tackle the souffle this year, but I think I’ll give that a try in 2020.
Second, I got to visit a few places I’d never been before! We took a trip to Germany and Austria in November. It was perfectly timed – before the snow happened so it wasn’t too cold, but late enough that all of the Christmas Markets had started. I’m certain that Christmas will never be the same for me again, because it was totally magical in the markets. Or, maybe that’s the gluhwein talking. The markets (and we went to quite a few) were hands down my favorite part of the trip!
Third — and probably biggest for me — is that I took total control of my health, lost weight, and now have those old jeans back in the rotation. It’s made such a difference in every aspect. 50 lbs gone for me!
In 2020, I’m going to keep the “visit a new place” goal in place (Ireland, fingers crossed?!), and I plan to maintain all of the hard work I’ve put in to lose 50+ pounds.
Happy New Year, y’all! Wishing you the best 2020!