Sure, calligraphy and weddings go together like Pb&J. But don’t be mistaken, there are SO many opportunities out there for calligraphers that don’t involve working in the wedding industry. Today, we brought on Shinah Chang of Crooked Calligraphy to share about why she chose not to focus on working in the wedding industry. Listen in as she dishes out her best tips for finding your calligraphy niche, creative passion, and ideal customer. Plus, catch the marketing and Instagram growth strategies that have contributed to her success. Grab a notebook — you’re going to need it!
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How did you first find calligraphy? Why do you think it spoke to you so clearly?
I’ve always kind of doodled and handwritten, you know, my name and stuff in the margins of my notes. I’m sure a lot of calligraphers can relate to that. But I also, I just didn’t think that I was creative, growing up, and especially when I was working in law, I didn’t think that doing something creative for a living was even remotely a possibility. So I kind of just put it aside. And I ended up exploring so many things. And it’s kind of poetic that I came back to calligraphy and it totally makes sense. But I really think it’s the mix of with modern calligraphy, you can express your personality. So clearly, you can really express how you’re feeling. And you can express that in the way that you’re writing but also what you’re writing the words that you’re writing. So to me, it’s just such a versatile craft. It has that double meaning.
Also, It doesn’t take much to get started. It doesn’t feel super, super intimidating. Like maybe realistic oil painting does. And it just, I just really fell in love with it. And I found it because I just saw a workshop on my Instagram feed I was scrolling through in 2016 No, no 2015 kind of looking for creative, you know, things to do. And I saw this workshop by Angie of Angelica Inc. I took one three-hour workshop of hers and then just went down the rabbit hole of calligraphy.
Did you know from the beginning you did not want to be as involved in the wedding industry?
I think looking back, I have never personally been super into weddings or wedding planning or thinking about my own wedding. I would never personally pay thousands of dollars for a calligraphy wedding invitation suite. Like, I’d rather spend that on whiskey. I think maybe it just wasn’t aligned with my personal values, which is a really good place to start. Okay.
But then I also, I had heard, you know, you hear that someone’s a calligrapher, you think weddings, that’s kind of the big stereotype that’s out there. So I kind of had an idea that I didn’t want to do weddings, which is why I started out in greeting cards, like making greeting cards. Okay. But, you know, I didn’t move away from weddings immediately. I tried some stuff in weddings, along with a lot of other things. And then that’s when it really cemented that, okay, I it’s not my jam working with individual brides. From there I decided to try building my business in another way.
What tips do you have for creatives who are trying to figure out what they want to do and who they want to serve in their biz?
Tip #1: Identify WHAT you like to do and WHO you like to do it for
Examples of WHAT: writing place cards, designing products, teaching.
Examples of WHO: individuals, small businesses, third parties, corporations.
Tip #2: Market to attract that exact kind of work
Don’t just do things for “exposure” or to “grow your audience.”
You have to market in different ways to reach different clients.
What marketing strategies have contributed most to your business growth?
The best thing I did with my marketing was really ask and listen to my audience. So I had to really get to know who I was talking to, and what specifically they were struggling with, what specifically was holding them back from working with me or purchasing my product? Like, what is their pain point and struggle? And then you can really talk to those people in a super specific way that makes people go, Oh, you’re, you’re like, in my head? How did you know that? I totally want to learn more from you. So for me, that’s really been since I want to say 2018. That’s when I really launched my first online course to teach calligraphy. And since then, I’ve been really focusing down niching down, like really focusing on teaching. And it’s just my marketing has gotten better and better as I get to know my audience more. And that’s just it’s asking, you know, it’s asking people, why didn’t you buy? What’s the one thing stopping you? Like, what’s the one objection or fear? And then really, talking to people about it, and understanding it, and then trying to address it.
How/when did you really grow your instagram following?
When you’re building up your Instagram, it all comes down to those same fundamentals of knowing who you’re talking to, and trying to understand where they’re coming from and what might interest them. So it really helps to focus down and really get clear again, on what you want to do and who you want to do it for.
I think leveraging stories and having them work together with your feed, and then getting people into your DMS is a really good place to start. So really thinking about your audience, and kind of how they might want to see things and what might get them to actually engage with you. So let me try and come up with an example. Say you are selling greeting cards, instead of just posting
a finished photo of your greeting card on your feed, and saying, I really loved creating this greeting card design, here’s a link to my shop.
I find that it’s so much more engaging to give a little sneak peek in your story saying hey,This is how I designed this card, here are some of the sketches that I did. Here’s how I refined it, maybe here’s how I got it into the computer. And then, you know, I’m thinking about these two designs, and then having your stories kind of lead into your feed post. So saying, you know, bringing your audience along on this journey of creating it, and then ending the stories with Okay, check out my feed, I just posted what the final design is, go check it out. And that way your audience is like, oh, I’ve been on this journey. And now I want to see what that final design is, I’m totally gonna check out that feed post. So check out the feed post, if you can ask, then in that feed post in the caption, if you can ask a question or get your audience to engage even there.Save it, share it like it, you know, tell me which design you like best or something like that. Who would you give this to something easy like that, then that gets them not just looking at your feed but engaging with your feed. And then you can go back to your stories and kind of continue on with Okay, this is the design I’m going with and you kind of continue on from there. And then you can ask people, hey, if you want to purchase this, or if you’re interested, send me a DM and I can link you to my shop.
So that’s a way to approach posting on Instagram. That’s so much more in depth and engaging and considerate of your audience than just popping a picture up.
Tell us about your favorite calligraphy project to-date!
You know, I really like the kind of personality I like taking on new kinds of projects, and just learning from each project that I do. So I know this is gonna sound super cliche and like my expected, but it’s kind of the newest one.
That’s my favorite, I know. But, um, so I recently got hired by Johnson and Johnson. They’re sort of a women’s speaker series that they do to create custom calligraphy.
gift cards. Basically, it goes with the gift box for each of their speakers. And they’re, they’re pretty awesome speakers. I can’t say who the names are, because they haven’t been announced yet. But it’s like a calligraphy bucket list kind of people.
But yeah, that was a really fun project, because it was just getting to write these individual names in a really kind of flourished, stand out kind of way that was different from my typical calligraphy design stuff. And it was working with a different kind of client and on a different kind of timeline. And I even brought in another calligrapher to help me with the notes. And so yeah, that’s not to say that’s my favorite project today. And that that will probably change as I get other projects to do.
How do you stay inspired?
I find that I really have to create some boundaries for myself and step away from my work in a more intentional way. I’m sure you ladies have heard it that once you turn your hobby into a business, it changes, right? Like it becomes work. And it just doesn’t have it can’t write it can’t have the same quality that it did when you were doing it just for fun. But I find if I push too hard, being in my calligraphy and being in my work and forcing myself to do it every day, then I get burnt out. So I like to do other creative things. So I did a huge macray hanging over the holidays just to put on my studio wall. And that was really fun because there’s something totally different from calligraphy. We’re starting a garden in my backyard right now. And that just kind of gives me a lot of joy. And I like doing a lot of physical work. I take walks. I sometimes take out a huge piece of watercolor paper and I just try out different colors and doodle and scribble on it like a toddler. So I guess I’m saying I love calligraphy and sometimes there’s a quote that will just inspire me so I have to write that right now in a calligraphy style. And then sometimes I have to step away from calligraphy. And then I come back inspired.
What does the average day at Crooked Calligraphy look like?
My day to day has a lot of computer stuff. And not as much calligraphy as I would like to be honest. I think that happens to a lot of business owners where you think you’ll just want to do calligraphy all day. But running a business is so much else other than calligraphy. That has to be taken care of. So I actually am at this point in my business. I’m in year six. So I started in January 2016. And it’s now 2021. So I actually have a team now, which is crazy and I never thought I would employ people but so it’s kind of a lot of fun. I spend a lot of timetalking to my team, and managing people and sort of addressing any issues that come up. It’s working with my Facebook ads team, you know, to make sure those are going well. It’s creating content for Instagram, and you know, my facebook group and maybe put up on YouTube. I’m actually really excited. I’m launching my own podcast The Shinah Show soon.
Have you hired any day-to-day tasks for Crooked Calligraphy out to other people?
This has been really recent, my business grew so much in 2020. So I really never thought I would be leading a team because I thought I was bad at it.You know, you’re always learning and growing in business. But right now I have an operations manager, okay, like, Oh, my God just takes care of logistics and making sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do, and project planning and all that jazz. I have a sales and marketing assistant, who helps me with sort of repurposing content for Instagram responding to comments, talking to people about my course, that kind of thing. I have two teacher’s assistants that work in my course. So I have my course is called modern calligraphy 101. It teaches pointed pen calligraphy, sort of from the ground up, and we offer personalized feedback to every student in there for all of their weekly projects. So that’s definitely something that I could not do on my own. So I have two of my former students who are doing that, like giving personalized feedback, just making sure our students are having an awesome time and learning amazing getting personal attention. Again, really, that’s my core team right now. But I also have a Facebook ads agency that I hired to do my Facebook ads. I actually just brought on a podcast producer, who’s going to be doing this all the editing and putting it up on all the things. I have bookkeepers. I think that’s it.
Is there anything you’re hoping to leave behind in 2021?
I’m gonna try and leave behind imposter syndrome in 2021. I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy. But I just the longer I do this, maybe the older I get. I’m turning 40 this year, you know, and then the more experiences I have. I mean, I, a couple of years ago lost my best friend to cancer. He was 37. I mean, that kind of stuff just shows you the more you do this, like, Why hide? Why hold yourself back? Because you’re afraid that it might not go perfectly? Or you’re afraid you’re going to fail? Why do that? When you don’t have all the time in the world, if you’re going to be honest with yourself, you know?
Do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?
The little message that I wanted to leave with people today is that there was so much more possibility out there than you think. Especially especially if you haven’t had models for this, especially if you haven’t really dove into what creative entrepreneurship looks like. There are so many ways I hope you’ve heard you know, just in this hour long talk. There are so many ways to make money just with calligraphy. Imagine all the other things and I didn’t used to think this either. When I was a lawyer, I thought I had to be a lawyer or something like it for the rest of my life in order to be safe and secure. And it’s just not true. So if I can leave people with just that, that thought that maybe there’s way more possible out there than you think then done. I’m happy.