Teela Cunningham spent every day as a graphic designer at an agency wondering if her days as an artist were numbered.
With a creative director that constantly rejected her designs, she felt squeezed in both directions. “My life happened when I got home from my day job,” she says. “I was miserable, spending so much time working for someone else who didn’t believe in my aesthetic.”
She always dreamed of starting her own business, so she started sharing her art and tutorials on how to make fonts and other digital products online in 2013. With each new tutorial, business grew. “I was shocked at the reception,” says Cunningham. “I was selling digital products, and the courses allowed me to deep dive into a topic. I really enjoy teaching and we kept racking up subscribers until I could quit my job and pursue this full-time in 2015.”
Her most popular course? Learning how to create and sell fonts online—and it’s easy for anyone to get started.
It’s easy for anyone to create and sell fonts online
A font creates a visual and emotional feeling. Brands, email newsletters, and blogs these days demand typefaces that feel uniquely them. “If you're watching commercials on TV, in the grocery store, or browsing online with anything that appears handwritten, those are hand-lettered fonts,” says Cunningham. “They’re way more human and more appealing to people, so any company or individual wanting to make a statement purchases their own font.”
Graphic designers of all levels take Cunningham’s course, who stresses that it’s something anyone can do. “We've had teenagers and 8-year-olds go through the font making course. It’s a pretty detailed process but you can be really creative, adding in all kinds of fun features that make the fonts stand out on different marketplaces,” she says.
As a graphic designer—or even an aspiring one—creating a font requires only a few online tools and a little bit of creativity. They’re quick to create and don’t take much overhead, giving you room to play around with different options that appeal to a wide variety of customers.
Most of all, selling digital products has never been easier with tools like ConvertKit Commerce. “Maybe you love handwriting, or calligraphy, or just dreamed of typing with letters you’ve created,” says Cunningham. “You can make that a reality with just a few tools.”
6 secrets to creating and selling fonts online
Cunningham didn’t always have a thriving, six-figure business. She spent years at her day job, wondering if her tutorials would take off.
The font-making part is the easy part. “I taught myself font-making,” she says. “It can be a detailed process, from scanning your hand lettering to editing them in Adobe Illustrator and creating font software with spacing or other textures.”
But when it comes to selling the fonts, she’s learned a few things along the way that can help any creative get started:
1. Build a community
The foundation of selling any product or service isn’t the item itself. It’s the community you build around it.
Cunningham says it’s the number one thing to focus on when you’re just starting out. On her website, you’ll find calls-to-action to “Join the tribe,” rather than “Buy now.”
“Building a community is so incredibly important,” she says. “You can’t just make a font and expect it to sell like hotcakes. You need to invest in a community of people that understand who you are and what you offer.”
You’ll ultimately receive more sales by creating a solid foundation of loyal customers tied to your community, rather than constantly churning out new products. That means:
- Showing up consistently over time in the medium you choose, whether that’s YouTube videos, a blog, or through emails
- Offering value beyond your specific products, like advice, free resources, or connections between community members
- Listening to customer feedback and showing, rather than telling, what you can do
It takes time to build a business, but you’ll surprise yourself at how successful you can be by focusing on value. “I get thank you emails from people around the world every week. I’ve never felt so fulfilled by anything I’ve ever done, and our business has never done better,” says Cunningham.
2. Market your fonts as brand-defining
When you sell a product or service, you’re not just selling what you do, you’re selling why you do it. Fonts aren’t something most non-designers pay attention to, but they define brands all the same. “Fonts create different emotions and feelings when you look at them, which is the beauty of hand-lettered fonts,” says Cunningham. “You can send a message and elicit a feeling at the same time depending on the application of that font.”
The right font is special and stands out, from Nike’s bold, futuristic font that says speed and agility:
To Apple’s sleek, clean lines:
And Anthropologie’s colorful, casual script:
Try to imagine Anthropologie’s script advertising a Macbook.
You can’t, and that’s the point.
Design, like any aspect of marketing, is a tool for growth. It’s not just about making something beautiful, but eliciting the right emotion. Before someone has read a word of your blog, email, or website, they’ve already made an impression of who you are and what you stand for—and font choice is a key piece of that. It’s your job as a designer to show potential customers how your fonts fit into that brand strategy.
3. Design fonts for specific purposes
When creating a font, choose a specific purpose. No font is one-size-fits all. “People try to design fonts that are too versatile, like you can use it anywhere and for anything,” says Cunningham. “But designing a font for a specific purpose makes a big difference.”
Fonts are relatively easy to make, so there’s no need to overthink it. The more specific its use, the more likely someone will identify with it. “You want someone to say, ‘I’m looking for a children’s font,’ and then when you show the one you built for that purpose, they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s the font for me, because it’s perfect for what I’m looking for,’” says Cunningham.
Take popular kids site Monica + Andy, for example. Their logo is a friendly, playful handwritten font, with the rest of their typeface round and comforting.
Or playful and round Mini Mori:
It works because it matches the brand’s purpose and audience. Says Cunningham, “You’re showing them that your font was created for that specific need, and that sells itself. I always recommend keeping things niche.”
4. Promote your fonts with real-life mockups
Bring your fonts to life by showcasing them in real-life scenarios on your website that match its niche. “Make your preview images with your font used for its intended purpose, whether that’s mock ups on t-shirts or branding or whatever they were meant for,” says Cunningham.
Another way to show off your fonts is through a video demonstration, like this social post from Cunningham to promote their font course.
View this post on Instagram
“I also always recommend making a screen recording with QuickTime or something like that for social media,” says Cunningham. “It’s always cool to see people type with handwriting and get a sense of what it looks like.”
5. Package fonts with other resources (including freebies)
Offering free design tools, courses, ebooks, and advice in addition to your fonts builds community and provides more value for your customer. “What’s been really important in our business model is generosity and coupling free resources with paid opportunities,” says Cunningham. “The majority of our business has been built on offering education, and that really makes a difference on how people think about your brand when they are ready to purchase.”
It may seem counterintuitive but think of it as a form of equity. For every positive interaction a prospective customer has with you, you increase your brand equity—and when they are ready to make a purchase, they’ll think of you first.
That’s exactly why Cunningham offers free resources, including free fonts. “If you’re making this a long-term investment and you’ve committed to the process, create a free font and start an email list, because those are going to be the people who really love what you’re doing,” she says. “My free font has been downloaded so many times since it’s what I offer as an opt-in gift for our email list. It’s a good way for beginner font makers to get their name out there and capture people interested in your style and what you have to offer.”
6. Find the right marketplace
When you’re ready to sell your fonts, you’ll need to find the right venue. Typically, there are two options: self-selling on your website, or finding an established font marketplace. But there are pros and cons of each:
- Self-selling gives you complete control over how, when, and where you sell your fonts. The only fees you pay are your business costs. But if you don’t already have an audience, it can take time to be found and tricky to coordinate logistics.
- Selling on an established marketplace automatically grants you access to high-traffic spaces with clear processes and gives you instant credibility. But it can take a bit out of your profit in fees and open the door to increased competition, or even hijacking.
Cunningham recommends a few font marketplaces for beginners. “If you don't already have an audience built up on your own website, there are a few places I recommend. I sell on Creative Market and my own website, primarily,” she says. “Fontbundles.net is another popular one, but it’s difficult to be accepted as a seller because they’re extremely selective. The Hungry JPEG is one that’s more welcoming to new font makers, and both platforms have a large user base so there are definitely buyers.”
There’s no one solution that’s right for everyone. But if you want to skip the ecommerce marketplace altogether, you can easily sell creative products directly from your ConvertKit account with ConvertKit Commerce. All you need to do is set up your product details, customize your product page, and embed that page to your website, a landing page or share the direct link with your audience. Here’s how:
How to set up fonts in your ConvertKit Commerce store
We’ve built our tools with creators in mind. You don’t need to be on a paid plan or have a fancy ecommerce integration—all you need to do is set up payments and create a product to start selling.
To get started, sign up for a ConvertKit Commerce account and click Create a product in the Products tab. Then:
- Add product details, set a price, and choose “Digital Download” as your product type so customers can get your font file automatically once they purchase. We recommend zipping resource packages together and adding the zip file to the product page, so you can deliver multiple files at once. Click “Create Product” to launch.
- Customize your product page, checkout page, and confirmation page so it matches your brand’s look and feel, including updating description copy, adding images, colors, and of course, fonts.
- Automatically send a receipt email that includes the font file to your customer’s inbox after they purchase. Customize and click “Save.”
Any additional questions? Click here for the full guide.