Make Buttons for Fun and Profit

As an often-hungry freelance cartoonist, I’m always on the
lookout for ways to earn some extra income … and with as little expenditure of effort as possible! Well,
not long ago–when I was “volunteered” to help with my
daughter’s Camp Fire Girls bazaar–I stumbled onto an
easy method of getting that spare-time scratch.

While at the fair, I ran into a friend who had recently
obtained a “button” machine from a company called
Badge-A-Minit. By combining my cartooning ability and his
equipment, we made quite a hit with the patrons of the
bazaar. And even after that day was over, requests
continued to pour in for school buttons, campaign
buttons, and buttons with “adult” themes.

Granted, my drawing ability helped our business expand
rapidly, but–as you’ll soon see–you don’t need
to be artistically inclined to make buttons.

Getting Started

My wife and I were aware–from “bazaar day”
on–of the tremendous possibilities the little
nonelectric device could hold for us. However, we decided
to postpone the purchase of a button maker until we could
afford to buy one of Badge-A-Minit’s more expensive
machines. Our friend, you see, owned a small hand-held unit
that cost (at that time) $24. We thought that a more
durable model would better meet our needs, so we held
out for a sturdier bench type that went for $94.

The press is sold with enough badge parts to make 250
buttons, so as soon as I received the machine I began
to practice. And, just as quickly, I started accumulating
“goofs.” It seemed no matter how hard I tried, at least
eight of every ten buttons turned out wrong. Eventually I
realized that the problem wasn’t my technique. Rather,
the plastic dies that had come with the machine were

Naturally, this discovery resulted in a flurry of letters
to the Badge-A-Minit company. I’m happy to report, though,
that within three weeks the firm sent me two new sets of
dies, as well as 50 new badge parts to make up for those
that had been ruined. (In fact, I’ve found the company to
be more than fair in its dealings.)

Once the new dies were in place, it didn’t take me long to
begin earning up to $30 an hour with my new business. And
how–you may ask–did I round up customers so
quickly? Well, I simply took my equipment to school
carnivals, swap meets, fairs, conventions, club meetings,
and political rallies. I called area boards of education
and the local chamber of commerce, and checked each day’s
newspaper for listings of local events at which I might get
permission to sell my wares. Such happenings can be easy
pickings for folks who know how to slant their buttons to
each individual get-together.

And, although I usually draw my own figures and cartoons,
you could simply cut out photographs, comic strip
characters, or whatever illustrations you need. Remember my
friend who introduced me to the button business? He can’t
draw a straight line with a ruler … yet he set up a
very successful enterprise by using his Polaroid camera to
create personal badges. For $2.50, he’ll snap a requested
photo, trim it, and mount it on a button.

The Proof Is in the Profits

My total initial outlay for equipment and materials came to
$101.10. This amount covered the press, a pair of scissors,
some felt-tip pens, fine-tip pens, colored pencils, typing
paper, and a small suitcase to cart the kit around in.
(If you decide you’d rather begin with a little hand-held
button-maker, you can lower that cost by $70.) I already
owned a portable drawing board and camp stool … and I
hand-printed my signs.

I priced my cartoon creations, which I called “BUTTOONS,”
at $1.50 each. The profit from the first 250 badges I made
was $258 (naturally, I still had occasional failures). Of
that money, I spent $63.95 (plus shipping) to purchase
parts for 500 more badges, and was able to pocket the rest.
Once those buttons were made and sold, I bought 1,000 more
badge components and again “kept the change.”

Later on I located another source that offers badge parts
similar to those sold by Badge-A-Minit, but at lower
prices. The company is called Mr. Button Products.

Ways to Save

I’ve found I can produce 15 identical sketches on one
standard sheet of typing paper. Then I take the master
sheet to a local printer and have it copied as many times
as is necessary to fill my order. The cost is low, and the
reproductions are well worth the expense because of the
time they save me. One word to the wise, however: Don’t
count on getting accurate color reproductions in
spite of what the printer may tell you! I learned this
lesson the hard way while making 322 cartoon badges for a
state senator. I ended up having to handcolor the whole lot. My feelings toward a certain printing firm became
darker with each pen stroke.   

You’re on Your Own

You’ll probably discover–as I did–that your
operation’s worst enemy is often you yourself,
because if you’re not careful you’ll end up giving away a
lot of “freebies.” This practice will sometimes produce
future orders, but generally isn’t a good idea.

And there you have it. I’ve told you more than enough
to launch your own button-making career. Just remember to
keep your eyes and ears open for upcoming events, to spread
the word about your business, and to realize that anyone is
capable of cashing in on this moneymaking home enterprise
idea. So what are you waiting for? Get going, and be the
first buttoneer on your block!

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368