In today’s economy, we have seen massive growth in small, independently owned businesses. One of the keys to going into business for yourself is to do something you enjoy and you can keep enjoying day after day, year after year.
For many people, knowing how to start a calendar business and make your own calendars is the perfect small business idea.
Whether that is to supplement your income or build up the profits to be your own full time boss, or maybe just to let the world know about your photography, creativity or design skills.
People who do well with a calendar business typically include those with artistic talent including graphic designers, artists and photographers. But other calendar topics do really well too.
What sort of calendars are the most popular?
These topics are what I call the silly-funny niche. (An excellent example is I Can Has Cheezburger which pairs photos of cats with quirky captions).
The Cheezburger team found that there is an ongoing, insatiable desire for oddball Internet humor, including general stupidity and disastrous mishaps. But there is something fascinating about the whole I Can Has Cheezburger angle, not to mention the books, greeting cards and desktop calendars that evolved from it.
We’re serious about making the world a happier place and count a passionate fan base of 24 million people who upload more than 500,000 pictures and videos as well as view 500 million pages and 110 million videos each month.
You guessed it – all their book, calendar pics and web content is submitted by viewers.
“This year alone, the company will generate a seven-figure sum from advertising, licensing fees and merchandise sales. The company has published five books based on its blogs. One (Lolcats) hovered on the New York Times list of miscellaneous paperback best sellers for 13 weeks. Three more books in production, along with greeting cards and desktop calendars.”
- Todd Sawicki, the Chief Dollar Man from I Can Has Cheezburger.
Here’s some questions to ask yourself:
What content, niche, trend or fad can you tap into that excites and interests people enough to compel them to submit and contribute images, videos and be a part of a community? How could you use those images to create your own calendar, printed materials or books?
Food for thought?
I know it might not be relevant to say that McDonalds sells about 6.5 million burgers every day of the year but it’s certainly relevant to say McDonalds takes the record for the most calendars sold in one year – 1,476,442 Pokémon calendars by McDonald’s Japan on 7 January 2010.
It does seem that the more unusual your approach the more calendars you sell. But then again the stuff we know and love seems to be popular too…
“Of CalendarClub.co.uk’s customers’ purchases, approximately 25% are of pets and animals. Around 7% are football-related, while 27% fall loosely under the entertainment category.”
Do we still prefer something physical?
“The continued level of interest in this most analogue of devices is all the more remarkable given that it has, at least in theory, been superseded by technology – smartphones come equipped with personal diary planners and online calendars are available to all. But wander through any shopping centre and it quickly becomes apparent that the traditional version remains popular. Many of those on display feature pop stars, football teams and celebrities. Others feature household pets while others rejoice in such titles as Goats In Trees, Yoga Cats and The Romance of Steam (railway engines).”
How to be different
One important consideration when looking to make your own calendars is how do you differentiate yourself and your brand? If you already have an existing brand for a company or artwork, you can build off that.
For example, if you are a photographer who shoots panoramic landscapes then the next logical step would be to compile your best images into a calendar template and get out there to chase down some feedback and opinions.
But, you definitely want to make sure you have something that sets you apart from the rest of the crowd when entering the printing and calendar marketplace.
Funny cat pictures, cute stuff and the calendar business
Here’s some beautiful and unique calendars available on the market today that you can look at and analyse how they’ve gone about getting to the published calendar stage:
Scroll down for the underwater dogs calendar. Above is a 2013 flora and fauna calendar from Etsy.
Animal calendars (example: Underwater Dogs)
This type of calendar is something that takes planning, patience and excellent photography skills.
Animals – especially cute or funny images – have a big draw in the calendar market (as we mentioned above). People like to be able to look at cute and funny images to help them smile and laugh. In fact, people like a good, simple break from real life.
Although we love Ansel Adams photography we thought this Tom Mallonee photo would impress.
Photography calendars (example: Ansel Adams photography)
For many years, Ansel Adams artwork has been popular in office settings, doctor’s offices and homes around the world. He was a photographer who developed new methods for taking photographs and is known particularly for his black and white photos of the American West.
While his images are widely distributed, it would be hard to say Ansel Adams’ calendars are unique. (Then again, I guess they are unique in his own certain way!) Having the license to reproduce and sell popular art is one way to make money selling calendars.
See below for the fractal calendar example. The image above is from the Etsy calendar range too.
Space and world calendars (example: Fractal Cosmos calendar)
This style of calendar demonstrates unique and stunning artwork designed to catch the eye. People enjoy these things because they are unique — they bring a splash of color, warmth and imagination to any environment (especially your office!)
This type of artwork isn’t necessary expensive to produce, although it does require a certain level of skill. Making entry into the print market with something like this allows you to have a calendar that no one else does.
A good example of a unique angle is the fractal calendars by Alice Kelley here
The Tao Multilingual calendar is just below. The mini 2013 calendar above is a handmade from Etsy too.
Public domain calendars (example: Tao Multilingual calendar)
Using public domain is a clever idea for anyone considering starting a calendar business. With a handful of beautiful photographs (painted or even computer generated images), alongside the artwork or even superimposed on top of the images, there are sayings from the Tao Te Ching.
Printed in both English and Chinese, the sayings are from a book that is public domain, so the calendar maker doesn’t need to secure rights to use them.
This provides something unique in that it presents two languages, which can be appealing to those who have more worldly interests.
How to make your own calendars
Once you have settled on a base concept for the calendars to sell, you can move forward with the act of actually making the calendars.
First, decide on what type of artwork you want to use. Will you be using photographs, paintings, computer generated images or something else?
Other questions to consider:
Will you be producing the artwork, will you purchase rights to artwork from an art broker, or will you hire an artist – or team of artists – to do the work for you?
It is important to decide on the layout and style of your calendar when selecting artwork as well. The layout and size of the calendar will make a difference.
You need to make sure that the images you choose for the calendar are larger than what you plan on printing out. Images can easily be shrunken down to size. However, it can be difficult to stretch images out to larger sizes.
At the same time, you will need to make decisions regarding the font for your calendar. There are literally millions of fonts available today.
You want to make sure you select a font that gives you the rights to print for commercial purposes. You might be able to find a font that is free or you may need to purchase the one you like for your calendars.
A beautiful Paris 2013 calendar straight out of the Etsy archives too.
Ready to print your calendar?
Before you can print a calendar, you will need calendar software to lay the calendar out. Some people will do this by hand using a graphics program such as Adobe Publisher or Illustrator.
There are also a variety of programs designed specifically for calendars. This includes the popular Calendar Creator Plus, Amazing Calendar Creator and others.
You will then need to make the decision as to whether to mass print calendars through a professional printing company or print small numbers of the calendar from your own, high quality color laser or ink printer.
“Even among the most digitally-up-to-date, the appeal of a cardboard agenda hanging in one’s home is unlikely to fade any time soon – not least because it offers a decorative function, expressing one’s interests, personality and identity, that the alternative lacks.”
- From BBC magazine
Once you have these options figured out, you can move right along with standard practices such as setting up accounting, ordering software, distribution channels and so on. These are the key things to keep in mind when it comes time to make your own calendars.
Remember too that running a calendar business requires a great deal of forward planning. Anticipating 12 months in advance which calendars will be the biggest sellers once Christmas season can be a challenge even at the best of times!
Finally, the underwater dogs calendar and fractal calendar examples you were looking for!
Create your own calendar (at home?)
Another option to sell calendars is to use Etsy. As a global marketplace, you can virtually open an Etsy shop from anywhere.
This is definitely a good way to get your foot in the door and get a feel as to whether your calendar will sell. (I’m planning to try it myself). Etsy has 15 million buyers and businesses and you can list an item for 4 months or until it sells for $0.20 with a 3.5% sale fee.
I use some of the Etsy calendars on this page simply because they are excellent examples of beautiful, home-made calendars. Of course, anyone can do this – you just need motivation and artwork or photography in mind.
What can you sell on Etsy?
Etsy provides a marketplace for crafters, artists and collectors to sell their handmade creations, vintage goods (at least 20 years old), and both handmade and non-handmade crafting supplies. Regarding calendars I understand this means a calendar you’ve printed yourself say on linen, canvas, recycled paper or archival photographic paper.
- Here’s a good, low cost calendar and printing company
- Here’s where you can find out more about the fractal and animal calendars
- Here’s our own free 2013 calendar to print out
2013 calendars approx 9 x 12 inches on Etsy by individual shop owners (some printed using eco-friendly, soy and vegetable based inks and recycled cover stock and packaging).
So what do you think? Confident and ready to make your own calendars now?