Starting a Wedding Industrial Revolution with Julie of Up Up Creative

Julie Green of Up Up Creative is doing some revolutionary things with her business this month. I recently chatted with her about her new project and what it means for her, her customers, and the wedding industry in general.

In a nutshell, what do you do?

In a nutshell, I’m a graphic designer and an indie entrepreneur and I run a small in-house print studio. I specialize in modern, bold typographic designs, hand-drawn patterns, and non-sappy invitations and greetings. In the last year or so, sort of by mistake, I’ve shifted almost completely towards wedding stationery — invitations, thank you notes, maps, etc — mostly because I enjoy working with my wedding clients so much.

Tell me about the Wedding Industrial Revolution project (if that’s what you’re calling it. If not, correct me!). What is it and what does it do for your clients?

My project. It has a few different little names. I started out calling it Up Up Yours in my head because that seemed funny and clever and just seemed to suit me. But then I started calling it an industrial revolution because part of my goal is to get a dialog going about how we can change — and by change I mean make more meaningful and more personal and more thoughtful — the wedding industry.

I get a lot of flack for being part of the big-bad wedding industry, and sometimes I’m even embarrassed to tell people what kind of graphic design I do most. But really, I think the wedding industry is kind of completely awesome, or at least it can be awesome.

Weddings are community events. They bring together family and friends but they also bring people together with the professionals who work in their own communities. They bring people together with artists and artisans. They bring people together with indie businesses. In fact, I can’t think of another event or industry that encourages just these kinds of comings-together. When else will most people hire a photographer for anything? And do you think a florist pays the rent and feeds the family on foot traffic through his flower shop?

The truth is, while you can certainly buy elements of your wedding at Walmart (not to pick on Walmart; seriously, I’m not into making that argument now), you really can’t just go buy a wedding there. You can’t have a wedding without supporting your community and the people who live there. Or maybe you can, but it’s hard. You’d have to work hard to avoid supporting local artists, sellers, makers, and doers.

But I think I’m digressing. Back to the experiment.

After a very mainstream greeting-card-industry spring, I found myself very navel-gaze-y in terms of my business. I spent a lot of time with numbers and spreadsheets and articles on business growth. I fiddled. I faddled. I frowned and furrowed. I thought hard about pricing structures and things that make college students fall asleep in their required intro to business courses.

And suddenly I found my own self falling asleep and I realized I needed to do something crazy, and quick.

So I got to thinking about the things that make me tick. The things that make my business tick. The messages I want to send and the questions I want to ask. The conversations I want to start. I considered dying my hair fire-engine red and then instead I decided to do something crazy risky and bold, but something that had real potential to wake me up and get me excited.

I decided to let my customers name their own prices on their wedding invitations. For the whole month of September.

This is not something people usually do with tangible goods because when you’re selling real things that take real time to create, you’re looking at pretty sizable costs. Which is to say it’s very very possible that I could end up getting really screwed with this experiment. Which I can’t even come close to affording.

It’s not a position I recommend putting yourself in, truth be told.

But something about it is really exciting to me, because in my heart I just believe that this is going to be so awesome. It’s going to get people talking to me about things I think about often: things like value. The value of handmade. The value of working with a human being. The value of getting what you want. The value of awesome design. The value of one-on-one.

What inspired you to begin this project in the first place, and what do you hope to gain from it?

Pricing is one of the things we entrepreneurs obsess over, and one of those things brides (and other people involved in wedding planning) do, too. But it’s not something we get to converse about. It’s not something we usually get to negotiate or discuss between us. And I want us to talk about it. I want to see what my work is worth, but also what my approach to weddings is worth. I want to see what indie business means to people. I want to see what happens when I invite people to think hard about what they can afford and what choices they can make with their money.

How can folks spread the word about this project?

I’d love it if my project would get people talking. Even if you’re not in the market for invitations (and by the way, nothing says they have to be for a wedding — you could use them for whatever event you’d like to invite people to), I’d love it if you’d take this project as an opportunity to talk about value. To talk about how we decide what something’s worth. To talk about how we decide what to spend money on and what not to spend money on. How we prioritize. I’d love it if you’d spread the word thoughtfully, in other words. Tell your friends. Let them get in on it, too. But do so in the spirit of getting the conversation started.

What I’m doing is crazy and risky, but I hope that it will have rewards in it not just for me and my business and my customers but for all of us in the handmade community. I hope that I’ll walk away from this month-long experiment with good stuff to share — lessons and advice and thoughts. But I need people to know about it in order for that to work. The more people who participate, the better the results.

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What do you think about naming your own price? Tell us in the comments!

Want to participate in Julie’s project or simply learn more? Check out her project web page (and be sure to watch the cute and informative video – it’s well worth it!).

9 thoughts on “Starting a Wedding Industrial Revolution with Julie of Up Up Creative

  1. I LOVE this idea! I also love your work Julie! As someone who does wedding invitations I think your idea is great and also slightly wacky, which makes me love it even more! I have been working with clients more and more asking THEM what their budget is so that I don’t get carried away in my designs, but also to be even more respectful to their wants and message for their special day. Everyone should have the opportunity to have something that speaks and is unique to them, is done professionally and that they want to pay for. Custom design is not just for the rich or the masses, it is and should be for everyone.

    I’m definitely interested in hearing the outcome of this project!
    Sara

  2. As someone who provides a service, asking customers to name their own price is tough for a few reasons:
    1.) the fear that it will be lower than what we feel we deserve (ego)
    2.) the reality that it won’t be enough at the end of the month to pay the bills (survival)

    But I really like this idea. The new economy is forcing everyone to look at things differently, but it’s also making services which were considered “luxury” only recently, more accessible to everyone.

    I think it has the potential to really build communities around trading goods and services locally. Liking it more and more …

  3. I had a new service but no clients for it yet. So I thought of a way to at least attract a few customers to try it out and write a review for my site. In a newsletter I announced that for the month of August, people could set their own price for the service. I immediately got 6 people signing up for the service. It’s too early to tell if it was worth it in terms of money, since they haven’t paid yet, but the ones I worked with so far (3) were all very enthusiastic and sent out great tweets about my service. So far it worked really well. Now let’s wait the efffects on my bankaccount.. :)

  4. Okay, I have a question! Does the client state their price before seeing the design, or is this a product that is already designed? So you show them the design and they name their price?

    I’d be interested in trying this out with my hand-lettering projects (not invitations though) to see what the value is. It’s something that I wouldn’t break the bank over, but would be more of an experiment. Interesting…

  5. I like the idea behind this. But how I view it: This means the client sits down and says I want to spend “$$$” dollars on wedding photography. I reply with, that will get you “…. photography” They say, great, I will take that much (or shop around). It is a wonderful idea in the sense that the client then gets their budget and you provide what you can for that amount. OR you say, hmmm, unfortunately I can’t offer that date to you for that amount…As in order to feed my family I have to take on someone with a higher budget, Or you say wonderful, so happy you value you me so much! It can help everyone, client and vendor understand their place in the process!

  6. Really interesting idea. I’m just starting out so I’m not sure I could afford to do this at the minute. However, I do talk with my clients about what it is they want and how much it will cost right at the beginning so they know where they stand. If it’s out of their budget we simply take another route.
    My worry with letting clients choose their own price is that they don’t always appreciate the amount of work that goes in to creating and sourcing products and that a lot of people are looking for bargain basement prices but top quality products.
    I’d love to know how it works out, good luck.
    P.S your designs are beautiful.

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