Business Idea: Font Design
If you’ve got creative skills, then font design could be a terrific home business!
Typography is a critical element of effective design. Smart businesses recognise the importance of typography in their branding and marketing, so great fonts are in high demand for all sorts of uses – from t-shirts to websites.
There’s a growing number of online creative marketplaces that connect designers with customers, so it’s super easy to get started selling fonts – you don’t even need your own website (although it certainly helps).
I recently came across the work of Tom White, who sells his fonts and other creative design products under the branding of Tom Chalky. Tom has published a fantastic blog post on the lessons learned from operating a home business, a journey that he’s shared with his fiancée and business partner Abbie. Tom’s post has some terrific insights on how to run a successful online home business and it shows the potential of selling creative work (namely fonts). Many of the tips are applicable to any online business, so even if font design is not for you – it’s still a great read.
Here’s a brief excerpt from Tom’s blog post:
Our very first premium font, Bobby Jones, launched with great success and within weeks we received an email asking for a custom license. We shortly learned that it was to be used as the headlining font for an international marketing campaign for Beats by Dr.Dre. We sold them a custom license that allowed full creative use throughout the company. I knew nothing about font licensing, and it never crossed my mind. During the call to the design agencies art buyer, we agreed on a price that was double what he first suggested. It was an exciting call. Then after months of silence, I’m sat next to Abbie drinking a hot chocolate watching ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of Here!’ and in the commercial break, this advert is aired (all of the text is Bobby Jones). I nearly choked. I was rewinding, recording, and rewinding again. It was also used everywhere online, and on their packaging. This was huge for us and solidified the choice to design and sell fonts.
The full blog post is well worth reading.
There are a number of online marketplaces where you can sell fonts and other creative works. This gives you immediate access to an existing customer base.
Here are three of the main marketplaces:
If you’re interested in operating your own shop or marketplace, check out our previous article: Ten ecommerce platforms for selling your products online.
Tools of the trade
You’ll need some tools to design your fonts, the most crucial of course being a computer. Below is a quick list of helpful tools for font design.
A computer isn’t really optional for font design – it’s essential!
It’s helpful to have a good quality, reasonably large monitor for design work. A small screen makes it much harder to see what you’re doing, so spare yourself the squinting and go for a decent size. I’ve found that a 24 inch monitor is adequate for most design work. Higher quality monitors display colours and fine details more accurately, which is very helpful for design work – so it’s best to avoid the cheapies if you can.
If you’re planning to create and sell hand drawn fonts, then a scanner will be important for converting your artwork into digital form.
For hand drawn fonts a graphics editor will also be required. There are free options available, but Adobe Photoshop arguably offers the most capable solution.
FontStruct is a free online font creation tool, although it is limited to TrueType Font (.ttf) output only.
FontForge is a free desktop software solution. The user interface is less user-friendly than some other options, but it does offer some advanced capabilities.
Type light is a free version of the Type font editor (which is listed in the paid section below).
Fontlab offers a range of paid desktop software solutions for font design.
Type font editor is a paid desktop software solution.