A little bit ago I was trying to figure out how to get some commissioned opportunities. I wanted to build my brand, experience, and skill set in chalkboard lettering. It started to feel like I was spending all this time learning about hand lettering and practicing and I couldn’t share it with anyone.
I came across this website where hand lettering artist Lauren Hom exchanged her hand lettering services for food. When I saw this I thought it was perfect. Chalkboard lettering was a skill I wanted but I had no way to practice or gain experience. Because of this, I didn’t feel comfortable charging for my services right away. By setting up a bartering system I was able to gain exposure and experience so that in the future I can begin to charge more than just free mac and cheese and a soda.
But, I can never say no to free mac and cheese. Never. I LOVE mac and cheese…SO MUCH.
And I got my free mac and cheese! Multiple times! And I also got a complimentary 60-minute massage from a luxury spa.
How I Got Gigs
I started by taking notes on my phone of every restaurant I saw on my walk home that had a chalkboard sign outside their shop. When I got home I looked up the contact information for every restaurant I had written down and sent each one an email.
I attached this flyer, explained who I was, and why I was doing what I was doing. Surprisingly enough I heard back from a couple local restaurants and booked my first couple gigs! I usually met the manager of the store to talk about what they wanted me to do. Once I got an idea of what the store was looking for I asked for the dimensions of the chalkboard I would be designing. Most stores never gave me this info though which was kind of annoying. I would then go home and come up with a very, very, VERY, rough sketch of what I was going to do. If the store actually managed to give me the dimensions I would use that and if not I would just guesstimate. The sketches didn’t need to be too exact. I just wanted to get a sense of the word placement and composition before going in for the real deal.
BRING YOUR OWN CHALK MARKERS!! These are the exact chalk markers I use. I made the mistake of not bringing my own chalk markers the very first time I did a sign. I was stuck with old, frayed, unpigmented, horrible, awful, streaky markers. These markers were SO hard to work with. I wanted to impress the store SO bad but it seemed really impossible with these DEVIL MARKERS. After I finished, I went home and ordered my own right away. Writing with chalk markers definitely comes with a learning curve. However, they are so pigmented it really makes it worth the investment
How Chalkboard Lettering Got Me a Free Massage
While taking notes I noticed that there were so many different types of businesses besides restaurants that had chalkboard signs. I didn’t want to limit myself to just restaurant so I started to reach out to other types of businesses. I obviously couldn’t ask for food in return, so instead, I asked them for compensation however they felt comfortable. Whether they wanted to offer me a complimentary service or real life, green money, it was up to them. I ended up hearing back from a high-end spa not too far away from where I lived. I met up with the owner at the spa (where I got to pet THE CUTEST DOG EVER) and explained what I was doing. She told me the types of services they offered and I told her I was interested in getting a massage or trying flotation therapy.
Pro Tip: PLEASE take better pictures of your work than I did
She ended up offering me one complimentary massage or two complementary flotation therapies. It was really awesome to be able to pamper myself during finals season. It was even more awesome to walk down that street with my friend during an ice cream outing and seeing my sign on the sidewalk!
I really think this is an awesome way to further develop your skills and get the word out about your services. I do think its important to know your value and know when its time to start charging money. As much as I want to convince myself that mac and cheese are priceless in the end I am a broke college student who needs some cash. I know it can be exciting but I try not to take on more than one unpaid project a week. Your time and talent are valuable!! Your goal should be to buy your own mac and cheese whenever you want. It should not be a plate of mediocre restaurant mac and cheese once a week!
If you’re just getting started with hand lettering and want to learn the basics, check out this post! I recommend all my favorite hand lettering books that helped me learn!