Is it really possible to make a living as a hand lettering artist?

You have no idea how excited I am about this little mini series I’m about to share with you!

Over the next few days, I’ll be showing you a total of three ways you can make money with hand lettering. I call this The Trifecta.

The Trifecta

While we’ll be talking about The Trifecta as it pertains to hand lettering, it really applies to any pursuit you have. The three methods of generating revenue are:

  1. Client Work
  2. Products
  3. Teaching

People mistakenly assume that in order to make a living at something, all of your revenue must come from one source.

In other words, if you don’t get enough client work coming in to pay your bills, many people assume you’re sore out of luck. “Oh well, I must not be able to make a living! Time to throw in the towel!”

But this is far from the truth. From the outside, it may appear as though other freelancers and entrepreneurs make their living from a single source, but even if some of them do now, it almost never starts that way.

The good news is your income doesn’t need to come from just once source! Yes, eventually you can make a living from any one of The Trifecta, but you can also eventually utilize all three.

Let’s talk about client work first.

Start With Client Work

Client work is the quickest of the three ways to make money. We’ll be talking more about products tomorrow, but they’re more of a long-term strategy.

For client work, someone hires you, you get paid 50% immediately, you do the work, and you get paid the remaining 50%.

This is why I recommend client work as the starting point. Not that it’s easy to do if you don’t understand how to find clients for hand lettering, but of the three options, it is the easiest start with.

In this series, I’ll be showing you how starting with client work can give you momentum that will lend itself to creating and sell products as well as teaching later on.

Clients Want Hand Lettering

In an increasingly digital world, people want to be reminded that there is a human behind the images they’re seeing. They want to recognize that someone with a soul was behind something.

Hand lettering brings an organic character to a design that fonts don’t and people like this. You know if people like it, companies want to use it to reach people.

Businesses are in the attention game. In order to sell, they need attention. When something attracts attention, it can be used for profit. This is why even for a business-to-business advertising campaign, Las Vegas hired me to create a series of hand-lettered designs. Even though this was for business, they know it’s what works! What better to stand out in a sea of corporate formalities than something hand made?


Build Up a Body of Work

You attract what you project. If you want to get hand lettering jobs, you need to display the kind of work you want to do.

Make it clear that you’re available for hire. I mean really make it clear. A lot of people have a “Contact” page on their website. It just says “Contact”. Is that what you want people to do? Contact you? Or do you want them to hire you? Be clear!

If your primary goal is to attract clients, then have a bold link that says “Hire Me”! Make it easy for clients to get in touch and give them a clear path.

Instead of a plain page with a boring contact form, use that opportunity to show the potential client exactly what working with you will be like. Show them your process. Take them through what the project will look like. Ask compelling questions on your questionnaire so you can tell if they will be a good fit (we talk more about these exact questions in the Master Class).

Replace Practice Time With Clients

Let’s say you’ve been spending 2–3 hours a night practicing lettering—specifically using the kind of deliberate practice I’ll be showing you in first module of the Starter Class when Learn Lettering launches on July 27th.

Let’s also assume that by this point, you’ve been practicing for about six months and you’ve started building your skills, putting out work, and building up a portfolio.

Well, when you get a client commission request, you can simply use the time you have allocated for practice to work on that commission.

In theory, since work isn’t quite consistent enough to quit your day job (we’ll talk about that more in a moment), you can always switch back to practicing whenever there’s no requests.

This is what I did for a couple years before I took my hand lettering full time. I was practicing in the evenings and on weekends and whenever someone asked me to do a custom piece, I’d just use my practice time to work on client work.

Since I already had a day job paying my bills, I didn’t need the extra money I was making (after all, I was just spending my normal practice time!), so I saved the money.

This saved money eventually allowed me to create and fund my own products (which continue to sell today, years later). We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

The Overlap Technique

I mentioned a moment ago I had a day job paying my bills when I started this. This is very important.

The number one mistake people make when starting out is taking on whatever clients they can get. This is Scarcity Mindset rearing its ugly head.

We try to take whatever work we can find with no regard for whether or not the client will be a good fit, or will pay us what we’re worth, or will follow our process because we get desperate.

This desperation comes when we rely too heavily and too soon on one source of income to pay the bills. The problem with this is taking on bad clients only leads to more of the same. A lot of people will tell you that you have to “take whatever you can get” when you’re just starting out, but this is not true!

If you are overlapping with a day job while you pursue these three streams of revenue we’re going to be talking about in this series, you’ll have your bills covered already and you don’t have to compromise. You can afford to be selective and take on the right type of clients who will respect you and value your work.


Get a Day Job in a Different Industry

Your first instinct will be to get a day job that you kind of like. Maybe even one that employs your creative skills where you get to draw or design.

The danger is that you will come home from your day job drained of the right kind of energy you need to work on your hand lettering.

Here’s exactly how you know if your day job is different enough: do you come home from your day job bursting at the seams with energy to work on your side projects and client work? If not, you know it’s the wrong day job.

The right day job will charge you for your passion. The wrong one will drain you and deplete the right kind of energy you need.

I talk more about this here: “Why does my day job need to be in a different industry?”

Looking for some more homework? Listen to this: The Overlap Technique: A Crash Course

The morals of the story today are:

  1. Your income doesn’t have to come from a single stream.
  2. You don’t have to be full time before you take on clients.
  3. Cover your bills with a day job so you can afford to be selective.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Next week, I’ll also be telling you about a special bonus class that’s only available for the first 48 hours after Learn Lettering launches.