In early 2018 I set up a side project that I titled Malmesbury Card Company. Not surprisingly it was to make and sell greetings cards of the town of Malmesbury.
It was borne out of me being unable to find greetings cards of the town in a graphic style, to send to people after we had moved there. It bubbled along in the background, mostly as an online store and something I posted about on Instagram a couple of times per week.
In mid 2019 I rebranded it (and relaunched it) as Cotswold Poster Co. Since then it has grown into an almost full time venture.
In my rebrand there were two obvious changes to the name: Malmesbury to Cotswold and Card to Poster. The latter describes the core product and the former describes the niche area (in this case geographical) that I was covering. Of course a brand name doesn’t need to be this obvious but in this case it illustrates the changes well.
Pick the right product to focus on
When I started out I was following the principle of solving a need that I had myself, which was greetings cards of the town where I lived in a particular style. Just because I wanted greetings cards, didn’t mean the designs needed to only exist as greetings cards. I quickly realised that plenty of greetings cards actually feature smaller versions of bigger artwork.
In the second half of 2018 I began selling some poster versions at three markets in Malmesbury and they proved popular and obviously earned me more money. It became clear that there was a much bigger opportunity to be had in creating the original artwork (in my case, posters).
It was important to me to have an online store as it is my area of expertise and it’s useful to have an always-available place that people can buy from you. I soon learned out that there’s not much market for people to buy individual cards online but posters showed much more promise.
Don’t pick too small a niche
One thing Malmesbury has going for it is a good number of landmarks/views to design for a small town. However the size of the audience is small: not a huge number of people live here and it’s not a big tourist location.
A key early learning was that only really three designs of a place will sell. I created these within the first couple of months, yet I continued to create new designs of Malmesbury, reaching eight in total. Whilst there were valid and interesting places to design, they just weren’t interesting to most people.
If people are going to buy just one poster of a place, they are going to want one of the most famous landmarks, not a secondary one. I think I was motivated by filling out a complete range of greetings cards, a necessity that the rebrand to ‘posters’ removed.
The Cotswolds isn’t a huge geographical area but that shift in niche offered much more scope for new locations and posters. In fact there are so many interesting towns and villages that I now seem to permanently have over 50 new places on my list to design!
Importantly, each new location I cover is somewhere new for people to discover my work and a new search term for which I can appear on Google.