Learn How to Write Greeting Cards!

Writing greeting cards is a great way to satisfy your creative urges and earn some extra money to boot. If you’re like most people, you’re convinced that you could write Birthday cards just as good as the ones down at the local drugstore. But, like most people, you don’t know how to get started.

By the time you finish reading this eBook, you’ll not only know how to get started in greeting card writing, you’ll know how to be successful at it too.

Click here to order the complete 12,000-word eBook on Amazon for just 99 cents! In it, you’ll find:

• Nine basic rules that must be followed when writing greeting cards
• Eight insights that will help you better understand the greeting card business
• Eleven business tips that will help you present yourself as a professional
• Sixteen techniques that you can use to write greeting cards that sell
• Techniques for writing T-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs and Post-it notes
• Dozens and dozens of examples of cards and related products I’ve sold to all the major greeting card companies

Below are excerpts from the book to give you an excellent idea of what to expect.

Unless otherwise noted, all the card ideas presented in the book were written by my weekly card-writing group or an individual within the group. All these ideas were sold to a major greeting card company. Click here to gain some insight into how our group operated.

Click here to read my Q&A interview about greeting card writing with the Renegade Writer website.

Click here for a funny story about me hearing Wayne Dyer mention one of my birthday cards during an interview.

Okay, let’s start with the nine basic rules that must be followed when writing greeting cards. Some are more important than others but all of them must be taken into consideration.

RULE #2: The card has to have a “me-to-you” sentiment. You’ll be much more successful at writing cards if you get in the habit of using the word “you” more often than the word “I”. Sure, you’ll see some cards where the joke is about what happened when “I” went looking for a present or what “I” think about getting older. There are always exceptions but the vast majority of successful cards have a strong me-to-you message because greeting cards are about relationships. Here are some examples:

COVER: Happy Birthday! I’d like to borrow your secret for looking so young.
INSIDE: I mean, since you’re not using it.

COVER: Know what I find attractive in a man?
INSIDE: Just look in the mirror.

COVER: Happy Birthday to my Older Brother! You may not know this, but you’re responsible for my very existence!
INSIDE: Mom and Dad knew they could do better.

COVER: Happy Birthday, Mom! I sure wish you’d start acting your age!
INSIDE: I’m getting tired of having people ask me if you’re my sister!

Now let’s take a look at eight insights into the card business.

INSIGHT #3: Keep your eyes and ears open. In the course of a typical day, you’re bombarded by hundreds of ideas for greeting cards. You may hear a phrase from a nearby conversation that you can build a Friendship card around. You may hear a joke from a coworker that gives you an idea for a great Birthday card. You may see a happy couple strolling hand-in-hand down the street and get inspired to write an Anniversary card. When you train yourself to be more aware of what’s going on around you, your creativity will blossom.

After you do this for a while, your antenna will always be up. For example, I was dropping my daughter, Erin, off at junior high one morning. I needed to go in the school too, but she said, “No! Let me out, then wait five minutes before you come in!” So as I was sitting in the car waiting, I was thinking, “There’s got to be something here.” And sure enough, I came up with an idea for a button: My parents are more embarrassing than your parents! Of course, Erin and all her friends wanted one.

Another time I was telling Erin how cute she was. “In fact,” I said, “you’re Mega-cute.” And I thought to myself, Hmmm, that would make a good button.” And, sure enough, I sold it. Of course, I gave Erin half the money I got for those two buttons because she was my inspiration. She was quite pleased.

It’s time to take a look at the business side of the greeting card industry via these eleven business tips.

BUSINESS TIP #3: Aim for quality over quantity. It pays to put a lot of thought into your ideas. If you’re writing dozens of ideas in a week’s time, you’re probably not spending enough time on each one.

Some people seem to think that quantity will assure them a sale. That simply isn’t the case. Too many mediocre ideas may dull an editor into overlooking one that might otherwise have promise.

The flip side, of course, is that some writers send in too few ideas, or even just one idea at a time. When someone pins all their hopes on a single idea, editors know they’re not dealing with a professional writer.

Editors generally agree that it’s best to submit six to fifteen ideas at a time. An editor will then be able to make a fair assessment of your abilities without getting overwhelmed by an avalanche of ideas.

BUSINESS TIP #10: Trust your editor. The greeting card business is built on trust. Many beginning freelancers are concerned that a card company may use their ideas without paying for them. If that ever does happen, it certainly is rare. Freelancers are the lifeblood of the industry. Companies are always on the lookout for good writers who can make money for them. It doesn’t make sense for a company to rip off an idea; they’d ruin their reputation and the best freelancers wouldn’t do business with them. Companies want to keep you happy so you can make lots of money for them in a long-term relationship.

From a legal standpoint, ideas can’t be copyrighted; only the expression of those ideas can be. That means that every original line you write is automatically copyrighted.

A copyright, however, does not prevent someone from taking your idea and producing their own version of it. Someone can take an idea, put it in a completely different visual presentation and allege that he or she thought of it first. It’s virtually impossible to enforce a copyright. If a person really wants to copy something, there are ways to get agonizingly close without going over the line.

For example, Gibson, the person I initially wrote for was once profiled in the local newspaper. The reporter asked him what his best-selling shirt was and Gibson told him it was, MY NEXT HUSBAND WILL BE NORMAL. Almost overnight, it seemed like other companies came out with the exact same shirt. I was up in Wisconsin Dells a month later and saw a ripoff of the shirt in a gift shop there. Here’s why that happened: ideas don’t get ripped off until they’ve been proven successful. As soon as unethical people find out that a product’s been making money, they’re going to rip it off. Gibson now refuses to say which of his shirts are doing well.

Another sign that a shirt is doing well is when it appears in a number of different catalogs in a short amount of time. A friend of mine called me to tell me she had just seen a woman in Oprah’s audience wearing a GARAGE SALE GODDESS shirt, which was written by a member of my group and generated over $12,000 for him. Unlike our version, the three words were in block letters with no artwork so someone obviously picked up on the fact that it was selling well and put out their own version of it.

Recycled Paper Greetings used to put their fifty best-selling cards on the wall at their headquarters in Chicago. People would come in the receptionist area, take out a notepad and copy everything down. The company wised up pretty quickly. They began posting an assortment of cards—their best, their worst and everything in between.

The bottom line: Don’t be concerned about getting ripped off. Except for T-shirts, which generate royalties, freelancers get paid upfront for their ideas. So if your idea is lifted from the company that paid you for it, it’s their loss, not yours.

Now let’s examine sixteen techniques that you can use to write greeting cards that sell.

TECHNIQUE #4: Be kinder and gentler. Not everyone who buys a Birthday card wants to make fun of somebody’s age. If you can write warm, fuzzy Birthday cards that also manage to be clever, you’ll make editors very happy. Here are a few examples:

COVER: I put a dollar in this card for you because I figured if all your friends gave you a dollar . . .
INSIDE: . . . you’d be a millionaire! Happy Birthday!

COVER: At your age, it’s important for a good friend to take you aside, look you straight in the eye, and very openly and honestly tell you something that you may not be aware of . . .
INSIDE: You look terrific! Happy Birthday!

Of course, “kinder and gentler” also works for other kinds of cards too. Here are warm and fuzzy Anniversary and Valentine’s Day cards.

COVER: Happy Anniversary! If you take a close look at your little finger . . .
INSIDE: You’ll see that I’m wrapped around it!

COVER: Happy Valentine’s Day! If you were the only boy in the world and I was the only girl . . .
INSIDE: I’d like that.

You may have noticed that I emphasized “humorous” greeting cards in this post. You may also have noticed that the humorous category is a broad one. Humorous cards may be serious and sentimental as long as there’s a clever twist to them, no matter how subtle. Here are a few more examples of kinder and gentler humorous cards:

COVER: Do you know how wonderful and thoughtful you are?

COVER: I didn’t know I would fall in love with you . . .
INSIDE: .. . . so many times.

COVER: Thank you. That was very kind, considerate and thoughtful.
INSIDE: As usual.

Now, even though those cards seem pretty straightforward, if you look at them closely you’ll see that they all use an ever-so-slight twist to get their message across. When you open them, there’s a surprise. It’s very subtle but it’s there.

Okay, let’s tackle the business of writing T-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs and Post-it notes. Let’s start with the two basic rules for writing successful T-shirts.

RULE #2: Your shirt should appeal to a large, but specific, target group of people. In other words, when someone is browsing through a rack of shirts and sees GARAGE SALE GODDESS, she’s going to say, “Oh, I’ve got to get this for Pam, it’s perfect for her!” That’s the response you want to elicit. If you can get people to react like that, you’ll have a successful shirt.

Here’s another shirt we did that did fairly well:


That sold because everyone, it seems, knows a lawyer or two.

I once submitted a shirt with an extra sleeve on one side. It said, NUCLEAR POWER PLANT GUARD. Obviously, it didn’t sell. How many people are going to see it in a store and say, “Oh, I’ve got to get this for Bob, it’s perfect for him!” I mean, how many nuclear power plant guards are there? Concentrate on a target group that millions of people could belong to. There are millions of women who love to go to garage sales. There are millions of cat lovers. There are millions of people who clip coupons. Choose your audience and then write a shirt they’d be proud to wear.

Keep in mind that only positive labels work. A T-shirt company is not going to produce any negative dieting shirts because who would want to wear a shirt that says, “I’m fat and I need to lose weight”? Write a message that someone would be proud wear so they can announce to the world, “This is who I am!”

When you’re writing a label shirt, start with the phrase, “I’M A (BLANK).” Fill in the blank and then drop the words, “I AM.” What you’re left with is the label.

Well, that’s it! Read this book and you’ll be ready to start making money as a freelance greeting card writer. Before you know it, your mailbox will be stuffed with paychecks! Good luck!

Click here to view all my posts related to writing.

Click here to see all my humorous posts.


If you feel more stressed than blessed . . . if you have more confusion than clarity about how to live your beliefs . . . if you long to live a richer, happier, more meaningful life . . . you will find a wealth of insight and guidance in Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.

Through God’s Eyes is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the only book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.

Readers everywhere are discovering that when you challenge yourself to look through God’s eyes, the world around you changes, and so do you.

Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to be.
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to.
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier.

Click here to order your copy of Through God’s Eyes from GodsEyesAmazon.com.
For an inscribed copy, click here to e-mail Phil for information.

Click here to visit the Through God’s Eyes website.

Click on the link below to download a FREE 28-page chapter!

Click here to read endorsements from authors and thought leaders.

Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers.

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Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.

Like to learn more about Through God’s Eyes? Here is a free 44-page PDF sampler from the book that includes:

• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
• endorsements from authors and thought leaders

Just click on the link below to download your free PDF sampler!

Schedule a Mastery Mentoring phone session with Phil to learn how to apply principles of spiritual living more effortlessly and effectively. Priced affordably! Click here to e-mail Phil for details.


Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.

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In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?

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sixty-seconds-coverPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.

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Here is a three-minute video introduction to Sixty Seconds.

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36 Responses to “Learn How to Write Greeting Cards!”

  1. twelveoranges aka Anna Says:

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the link. These are practical advice. When you mentioned that a card has to have a ‘me to you’ sentiment, I can’t help but share our best seller cards in Manila is/was (not sure now) the ‘Between You and Me’ (BYM) line. It has really long texts and really sentimental. =)

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yep, people like those kinds of cards because they typically can’t express such sentiments themselves so articulately. THey definitely fill a need!

  3. Miriam Evers Says:

    Fascinating to hear the views of the man behind the sweet and funny words. Thanks for sharing your tips Phil!

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Miriam! Thanks for dropping by!

  5. wordsandtoons Says:

    Wow! These are the most insightful and helpful tips about greeting card writing I’ve ever read. I’m a cartoonist and humor writer who has had numerous cards published by major companies (including Shoebox), but I still learned an enormous amount from this. I wish I had come upon it a few years ago; it would have helped me avoid more than a few stumbles.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Phil!

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    My pleasure, wordsandtoons! Glad you found it so helpful. Congrats on what sounds like a fun card writing career!

  7. Michele Says:

    Thank you for being so generous and sharing such insightful information.

    I was wondering what a realistic yearly income can be made from writing greeting cards?

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That depends entirely on how skilled you are and how prolific you are. That’s what’s so great about writing greeting cards. You can write for one hour a month or three hours a day!

  9. Marty Says:

    SOOO much great information. You made the subject so interesting I’m going to do it! What an inspiration you are.

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you enjoyed the post, Marty! Good luck!

  11. Victoria Klein Says:

    Such a fantastic article, Phil! I found your website via the interview you did w/the Renegade Writer blog (also great!). I’m submitting my first greeting card ideas today & am excited to try this new creative outlet.

    I do have a question though. As discussed in your article, I’ve also come up with some ideas for t-shirts. Is there a listing of t-shirt companies that accept ideas that I can work from?

  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you found the post helpful, Victoria! WIsh I could help you with the T-shirt list but it’s been a few years since I’ve submitted T-shirt ideas and I’m not up to date on who to submit to.

  13. wayne meyer Says:

    I am writing a report on you and I would like to know how you started to write poems.

    Thank You,
    Wayne Meyer
    7th grade student

  14. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Hi, Wayne! Nice to hear from you. I started writing song parodies in grade school. I’d sit at an old manual typewriter and tap out humorous versions of popular songs. I also wrote funny poems about baseball, a sport I dearly loved and still do. Starting in fifth grade, I wrote some more serious poems as well. Here are a couple of God-oriented poems I wrote in sixth grade:

    As I noted in the following post, my daughter, Erin, was twelve when I wrote the five poems that I contributed to “Kids Pick The Funniest Poems.” Erin and I were in full goofball mode, so writing them was easy and fun!

    I also wrote some other kids’ poems around the same time:

    I still like writing baseball poems. Here are some I wrote about the Minnesota Twins:

    Speaking of my daughter and baseball, here is a song I wrote to celebrate her childhood:

    Please let me know what other questions you have! Good luck with your report!

  15. ananya Says:


  16. Phil Bolsta Says:


  17. Kate Harper Says:

    Hi-I posted an interview with an American Greetings Writer and Author today on my Greeting Card Designer blog if you are interested: http://kateharperblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meet-master-of-greeting-card-writing.html

  18. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks, Kate! I bookmarked the interview and look forward to reading it!

  19. spunkyduckling Says:

    Hi, Excellent tips. thanks. Came over from twitter. Makes me want to try my hand at writing cards. Well I’ll sure think about it.

  20. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, spunkyduckling! Good luck!

  21. Catherine Says:

    I have one of the Shoe Box cards that says on the cover “Men Are Scum” inside “For A Moment There……” It was never sent to anyone and I was told they were taken off the shelves due to its strong insinuation. Is this card worth anything ?? Thanks for your time AND thanks for this site. You’ve helped me alot. Betsy Nein

  22. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Hi, Catherine! You know, it never occurred to me that greeting cards may have collectible value. I can’t imagine that they would. You’re right, that care was pulled off the shelves because of complaints that it was too harsh. I remember seeing it on a card rack myself and thinking, “Whoa.” Glad you enjoyed the post!

  23. Teresa Schwartz Says:

    Dear Phil, I’ve been devouring greeting card business pages and blogs for some time now, but when I found yours, it was like being in front of a personal tutor answering all your questions and giving you advice. I’ve not read anything like that in some time. Thanks so much! Keep up the good work!

  24. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much, Teresa! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and found it helpful!

  25. Teresa Schwartz Says:

    You know, I do have a question I’ll ask here in case others are curious too….
    What if you sent your cards to two sites and they both accept them…how would you handle that? You mentioned that situation in Business Tip #4.

  26. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You have to turn one of them down, Teresa, which may burn a bridge. There’s no need to tell the other company about the situation; just say thank you and accept the check.

  27. guillaume Says:

    hey Phil, interesting stuff!
    I thought you might also want to have a look at this website: http://www.scribbler.co.uk/
    it reflects very much the “English greeting cards humor” from the moment!
    they also accept design and idea submissions, like publishers.
    good luck!

  28. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks, Guillaume, I’ll check it out. I did quite a bit of writing for Paper House Group, an English greeting card company, but that was a number of years ago.

  29. Tara Says:

    Just a thank you, Phil, for such a wonderful article. Inspring, indeed! I look forward to applying the techniques you describe above! Thanks, again!

  30. Phil Bolsta Says:

    My pleasure, Tara. Glad you enjoyed it!

  31. Kim Hitzges Says:

    What a great article! I was actually looking for your book and ended up here. Thanks for sharing the information and tips!

  32. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Kim!

  33. Kim Hitzges Says:

    I’ve not been able to find a copy of “How to write Humorous Greeting Cards” to purchase. Are there no copies available??

  34. Phil Bolsta Says:

    No, it’s out of print. But this blog post contains the entire text. Thanks for your interest!

  35. Michael Vaszari Says:

    Phil, I’ve sold well over 2000 humorous and studio ideas since 1963 and find that lately, Companies are taking sometime months to respond and usually return your material without purchasing any ideas. What is going on? Are other writers experiencing the same thing. Help please.

  36. Phil Bolsta Says:

    First of all, congratulations on being so prolific and successful, Michael. I tip my hat to you. As you well know, due to industry consolidation and other issues, the freelance market for writing greeting cards is much smaller than it used to be. Have you communicated with companies about their needs and expectations? It may be wise to start such dialogues, especially if longtime editors have been replaced. The fact that you’ve been writing for fifty years suggests that industry turnover may be an issue for you because this business, like greeting cards themselves, is all about relationships—and you’ve likely outlasted many of the editors whom you enjoyed good relationships with. That said, I have not been active in this market myself for a few years now so I can’t speak to any specific developments. I wish you luck, Michael!

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