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Right Time For A Handwriting Service?

Here's a little irony: At a time when handwriting is being supplanted by technology, a growing little niche market has emerged for handwriting services.

(And that's not just the plot of Her.)

It makes sense. The supply of the handwriting-capable is dwindling, so the demand for those who can still make neat cursive words is increasing.

The Chicago Tribune recently ran a piece about a new start-up called Handiemail that uses the digital marketplace to sell analog handwriting services.

From the Tribune:

Handiemail and similar businesses have emerged as letter senders have shunned traditional mail in favor of electronic mail and photo cards. The number of individual pieces sent by First Class mail fell by more than half in 2013 from 2004...Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based industry research firm IBISWorld forecasts that greeting card publisher revenue will fall over the next five years at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent to $5.4 billion...As a result, handwritten notes are becoming as retro-hip as Edison lightbulbs.

The basic premise of the Handiemail handwriting service is that clients email them a message and a recipient, one of Handiemail's letter writers turns the message into an actual handwritten letter, and the company mails it out for you. All messages are written by real people, and nothing on the letter or envelop reveals that it came from a handwriting service.

For one-off personal letters of 230 words or less, the cost is US$10 for the United States and US$11 for international letters. Business or bulk letters vary on a case-by-case basis.

All in all, not a bad start-up idea, especially when you consider that, while the market for personal letters might be small, the market for business letters is not. There are corporate clients looking for handwriting services to create customer thank-you notes, sales letters, and hand-addressed envelopes.

In marketing, personalized letters or postcards have long been regarded as one of the most effect means of generating new leads, whether in retail, professional fields like accounting and real estate, non-profit fundraising, or political campaigns. In Forbes magazine, Micah Solomon describes how HEX, a tech accessory retailer, built a loyal customer base by writing 13,000 individual thank-you notes to customers who made a purchase.

(For another great example, read this post on the New York Times' small business blog explaining how something as simple as postcards and thank-you notes can make big impressions on customers.)

MailLift handwriting serviceOf course, there is plenty of competition, from Handiemail, from other start-ups like Letter Friend and MailLift, and even from individual practitioners and boutique handwriting services. There's even a non-profit called Snail Mail My Email that writes personal letters for free.

But there is still plenty of opportunity for people with well-developed handwriting skills, whether in starting small local services, or in going to work for one of the handwriting services (Handiemail and MailLift both hire letter writers).

And that opportunity will only grow as the pool of the handwriting capable continues to shrink.

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