Landing Your First Calligraphy Client with Mock-Up Suites

There’s a nasty little catch-22 that comes to all new calligraphers. They’ve honed their skill through drills and practice, and now they are ready to land their first wedding client.

It usually goes like this:

  • Bride reaches out to calligrapher about doing their suite.
  • Calligrapher does a footloose worthy dance scene around their bedroom/office and pours themselves a celebratory glass of wine (5 o’clock be damned). Calligrapher settles down, and professionally responds to her first potential client that she’d love to be of service.
  • Bride asks for samples of other weddings calligrapher has done.
  • Calligrapher breaks out into a nervous sweat. Likely pours a less-celebratory glass of wine.

No one wants to hire you without looking at samples, and you don’t have samples until someone hires you. Conundrum, aint it?

Not so fast.

There’s a simple little trick that can make any green business owner look like they’ve been doing their craft for more than a minute. Two words: Mock-up suites.

What is a mock-up invitation suite?

When people use the term mock-up suites, they usually mean one of two things. The first is in reference to are when you impose your own calligraphy on a stock photograph of stylized blank pieces of paper. With a simple google search, you can find links  to downloadable wedding invitation suites that are just waiting for your brilliant touch. You can customize them, working with the design elements that come with the suites, or delete all the details and input all your own calligraphy and artwork. While these will cost you some dough, they’re saving you cash by skipping over paper, shipping and printing costs (not to mention the time and prop costs it takes to create a flat lay and photograph your work).

The second meaning for mock-up suites is when you create, print, and photograph a fake suite for a made-up couple.  While this is a little more work than the first option, it certainly gives calligraphers and invitation designers more creative control. You can choose the exact paper you want, mix and match papers, add extras like raw silk ribbon and wax seals, and photograph the suite just as you like.

I’d suggest going with the first option in the very beginning, and once you have some experience with suite sizes, paper types, and more, moving on to option two. There is lots to be considered when using option two of mock-up suites. I learned them all the hard way, so let’s save you some trouble and spill what I know, shall we?

Things to consider when creating a real-life mock-up invitation suite:

-Determine whether or not you are able to print from home. This will affect what kind of paper you choose for your mock-up suite. For instance, if you don’t have a home printer, using handmade paper is off the table for you. No commercial printer will touch it. If you do have a nice home printer, you can print on handmade paper from home.

-If you’re printing on handmade paper from home, select the “sample packs” available on most paper seller’s websites. Many even have a “photoshoot option.” Some of my favorite handmade paper vendors are Pressed Paper, Farmette Press, Share Studios, Saint Signora, Silk and Willow, or Fabulous Fancy Pants.

-If you’re going to print commercially, you’ll want to find somewhere  local to do this. Online commercial printing will not be cost effective, as their pricing is typically meant for bulk orders. Call around for quotes from local printers in your area, or head to more cost friendly options like Staples or Kinkos. While it’ll cost you next to nothing to print one of each piece in your invitation suite, realize there are limitations with places like these. They typically only work with white and a really awful, yellowy cream.  They also don’t print on the specialty sizes you’ll need for smaller pieces like an rsvp card. However, they were one of my favorite options starting out. Simply use their paper cutter to cut your smaller pieces down to size. When you’re cutting, you’re edges need to be straighter than Ron Swanson. If your lines are skewed, your flat lay will end up looking unpolished and icky in the final photo. That’s right. Icky.

Speaking of icky, there are a few things that are frowned upon when creating mock-up suites. Let’s go over them right quick.

The Absolute No-Nos of Creating Mock-Up Suites

  1. Don’t take another calligrapher’s styled flat lay and replace all their artwork with your own stuff.


When you see a calligraphy suite that’s been styled and photographed, you’re looking at someone’s craft and hard work. You’re looking at their property. We’re not just talking about the calligraphy you see, we’re talkin’ the whole shebang. The layout of the paper? That’s theirs. The precious little floral in the corner? That’s theirs. The cascading ribbon laid effortlessly across the details card? You guessed it, babe. Also theirs.

I know it’s tempting. Because we’ve all been there. Because starting is hard.  Because the photographs you’re looking at are stunning and original—which is exactly why you can’t have them. When you take that photo and replace the calligraphy with your own, you hurt the artist, the photographer who took the photo, whoever else helped contribute to the vision of the shoot, and yourself. The best thing to do when temptation comes calling is to think of how you’d feel if you saw your work on someone else’s website. We’re a tight little community, mostly made up of super rad business ownin’ ladybabes. It’s essential that we have each other’s backs no matter what.

If you’re tempted, tell Satan to get behind you and then holler at your girl. Seriously. I will help you. We will get it done, but we won’t rip off those we respect. Cool? Cool.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, ready to rolling?! If so, steal this list of my best ideas for creating mock-up suites and other valuable content at home.