How to get passive income with print on demand

How to make passive income with print on demand
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The Complete Printful + Etsy guide

Print on demand is one of the easiest ways to make money. If you are an artist or just a creative person with a sense of humour, there’s no reason to not use this service. I recently decided to make my own store and put my art in it and the results were pretty nice. It actually turned out to be a really nice way to make passive income.

I’ve decided to gather my knowledge and create a complete guide, from start to finish on how to make a store like this yourself. I will describe every possible part and trouble I went through, so you don’t have to. Since I had an amazing experience with Printful, I grabbed myself an affiliate link and started writing. This affiliate program is dependent on your sales. In other words, if you are not successful, I am not either. So, let me help you create your own store and make it the best it can be.

What do you need to start?

First of all, you need a Print on Demand service that will make changing your art into a real product easy and convenient. I wanted a service, that would mean the least amount of work for me and stumbled upon Printful.

What is Printful exactly?

Printful is a very user-friendly service that allows you to upload your designs and directly edit them on the page in their mockup editor.

Why Etsy?

The second thing you need is a website or an online store where you can show your products. In my case, I chose Etsy because my audience was small for a standalone shop and the fees did not really bother me that much. If it is a good or bad choice, that’s up to you to decide as your business might be different and it might be better for you to get a Shopify page, Squarespace or any of the other ways to create a store page. Printful is compatible with a lot of platforms. See the comparison here.

Put your creativity to use

The last thing you need is an idea of what you’ll put on your products. This can be anything. In my case, I already had art that I’ve been selling on other websites, so all I needed to do was grab it and put it on the products.

Don’t worry though, if you think you don’t know how to draw, there are other ways. You can always use quotes, photos, anything really. Just look around at what products have. Bonus points if you can make it customizable. Look at Printful’s product page and see what you’d like to put your designs on. For me it was phone covers, for you it might be t-shirts or posters.

How does it work?

Connect your stores

So now that you have your own Etsy store, signed into Printful and have the first ideas on what to print, you need to connect your platforms. Go to your Printful dashboard and click Stores.

1. step – Stores tab

Next, scroll down a little and select the “choose your store’s platform” window.

Here you click on connect at the platform you picked and then follow the tutorial on the page. For Etsy, it was pretty much 2-5 minute setup. And now you’re done. Let’s see how to create your first product.

Your first product

The Printful Part

Go to your dashboard again and click on Stores. Here, you’ll see your Etsy store with its status that should show “Active”. Next to the status you’ll see the column “PRODUCT SYNC”. Click on “Add”.

Now you should be brought to the product selection screen. The first thing you’ll see are clothing items but don’t forget that Printful offers many more.

Printful product page

Design your product

I personally went for “Accessories” and then iPhone and Samsung cases. Once you select your item, you are brought to the mockup editor. I’ll select a Samsung phone case for this one. You’ll get to a screen that looks something like this:

Samsung phone case design

Go and drop your design into the circle, or just click on it to open up Store’s file library. Phone designs generally need pretty tall designs. Just have a look at some of mine.

Store’s file library filled with my phone designs

How to make a Photoshop template for your design

Whenever I was making my designs, I would take a screenshot of the phone and then insert it to photoshop, then crop it so the canvas is as big as the phone. Next, I would make the image bigger to be at of a high enough quality so the end product would be great for print. This way you can make sure you won’t lose any details from your art or that you’d lose any control over the image’s final look. See the following tutorial.

Step 1: Insert the image in photoshop.
Step 2: Press C and crop the image
Step 3: Go to Image -> Canvas size and make the smallest side at least 4000 pixels. The longer side should readjust accordingly if you have the chain selected.

You might be asking why I didn’t provide you with the exact sizes you need for the phone. If you’ll follow these three steps, you can find the right aspect ratio for your design on any product in the Printful store, or any other, really. What now?

It’s your time to get creative!

Now it’s your time to shine with designs. Remember, it doesn’t have to be necessarily a drawing. People love quotes. If you can edit a text of someone’s name in a cool and stylish way, do it! Etsy has an option to make things customised so don’t be afraid to use it. You can also make patterns or print photos – yours or the photos the customers send you. Use your imagination! There are no limits!

Things to keep in mind

Use high-quality images

If you are using your own art and not just Printful’s text, use high quality! Print on demand prices can be pretty high due to the nature of things, but the convenience is worth it. Make it also worth for your customers! Printful will let you know the level of quality of your resolution.

Printful’s Print quality

Another thing to bear in mind is:

WARNING! If you are using semi-transparent colours add a background!

This is a big thing I found out by disappointing one of my customers. The printers have no idea how to deal with semi-transparent stuff. I did not know this. My art used a lot of splash brushes of different transparency, so imagine my surprise, when I got an image from my customer that showed this:

A perfect example of a justified full refund. Thank you, dear customer, for letting me know.

Since I couldn’t afford at that time to order samples of different phones, I would never know this happened if the customer wouldn’t let me know. See this as a warning. It’s easily fixed if you add a background or just always use 100% opacity on your brushes, but damn it was a shock. Shirts and other designs would have a similar problem. If you are not sure about your design, you can always order a sample from Printful for a reduced price.

Check all your variants if your art fits

Some of the products can have different variants. It’s a great idea to include as many as you can, but be sure to also check if your design fits in each variant. Sometimes it might be working badly with the colour of the t-shirt, sometimes it has to be moved to not be covered by a phone camera. Check and make sure.

Adding variants to a product

Mockups Printful’s secret weapon

Have you ever wondered, how you will show your product to the world? Well, the answer is simple. Mockups! Now that you are done with your design, just Proceed to Mockups at the bottom left.

Here Printful will offer you a wide amount of mockups for your product. They are all generated through their algorithm, so you don’t have to worry about bad lighting or hiring a professional photographer. You also have a choice from two or more styles. With phone cases, you can pick from, Default mockups and Lifestyle mockups (don’t worry if you don’t see your art shown on these. It will be shown when uploaded to the store). They both have their advantages. So, what are they?

Two, very different mockups.

Default Mockups advantages:

  • Simple
  • Big
  • Show art better on smaller devices
  • No distractions
Default mockups showcase

Lifestyle Mockups Advantages:

  • They generally look prettier
  • The surrounding texture can make your art pop
  • The customer can imagine what the design will look like in real life
Lifestyle mockups. Sometimes the design doesn’t show until later.

Whichever set you choose, I’d recommend sticking to it and make your store thematic. It might make one design less valuable if you use default mockup on it while the rest has a mockup with a luxurious watch.

Almost there!

Now we got to the screen where I spend most of the time. The rest is easy. You just put your design in, check if its okay and select a mockup. Here though, here we have this:

Description page

Every single one of the things you see (except for product section) is vitally important for your product. How to approach this? Well, I haven’t really mastered all the details about this, but here are my two cents

Product Title

On Etsy, it can be 140 characters, including spaces, and it’s the first thing people see. It also plays a big role in Search Engine Optimization or SEO. The more accurate your title or part of it is to what someone looks for, the better. Use all 140 characters or at least most of them. For example, my title for this case is:

Beautiful Snow Owl • Winter bird phone case • Samsung Case for S10 S10+ S10e S7 S7 Edge S8 S8+ S9 S9+

As you can see, I put all the variants into the title as well. With phone cases, a lot of people will search terms like “Bird phone case Samsung s10”, which, as you can see, are all the words that appear in my title, thus it has a higher chance of appearing. Find what works for you and your product. Experiment or read up on it on the internet. A good title is free traffic for your store.

Description

As you can see, Printful adds some description for you, just in case you were planning on leaving it empty. It describes the material and some general description. What I usually do, is also add a description of my art and other offers into it. The longer your description and more informative, the better. Etsy recommends that you use at least 500 words. Tell the world what’s special about your product. What inspired you in making it and what should people use it for as an example. Is your product a funny quote from a movie? Describe the scene. Does your art have a special place in your heart for you? Let people know why. Put important information like material and sizes and then just unleash your inner writer.

Tags

If anything helps the most from all the things you can write, it’s the tags. You get 13 and they are the 13 most important words or phrases for your product. The more accurate tag is to what the person looks for, the higher the chance of it is to appear at the top. I’d say more so than with the title. Choose wisely and don’t forget to use some of your tags to describe your products.

Product sections

This part serves solely for your categorization. You can create your sections in Etsy shop manager, Listings and on the right you’ll see Sections. There’s a small button right to it called “Manage” if you click on it, you can add any section you want. Generally though, this part is not needed.

Shipping

As the last thing, you can see the shipping prices at the bottom and a possibility check free-shipping, meaning you will cover the costs in the final price. If you don’t select it, the final price for the customer will be what you create in the next tab, plus the prices you see here. For example, you set up price for your phone case to be 20$, the customer will pay about 25 because the shipping might cost 5$ Speaking of prices, let’s see the last page.

Example of the price page

Money, money, money

So, here we have the price page. Printful shows you the prices without tax. It might seem bit shady, but it has a simple reason. The tax in your country will be different from the country of someone else. Keep that in mind when selecting your final price! Now, Etsy also takes a small fine for transactions, so make sure you count on that as well. To calculate the final price, use the following equation:

((Printful price + Printful tax) + Etsy fee + Profit) + sales tax = Final Price

Remember, Etsy will tax you for the sale as well from the final price of the product. Yes, there’s a lot of tax stuff, but don’t worry, you can probably deduct Printful Tax later as a deductible cost for your business and make it part of your profit. Do not quote me on this though. Find a financial advisor or read up on it. It should work this way, but it can differ from country to country.

Does this seem scary? Don’t worry. It’s just because you see this all at once. In the end, it ends up being pretty mundane once you do this once or twice. The reward is the fact that once you publish your product on Etsy, you don’t have to touch anything and it makes you money. And you can put as many products as you want. Anyway, click submit to store and let’s go to the final part!

The Etsy Part

Now that you submitted your first product to Etsy, let’s jump right into your dashboard. Go straight to Listings and you should see 1 item in your drafts on the right. There are two ways you can do this now. First is the lazy way, where you click on the checkbox at the item and then you press activate at the top. Do you want to be lazy? Of course not! Let’s do things properly. Click on the cog icon and go to edit.

Product edit screen on Etsy

Let me describe to you, what every section is and what you need to do if you import a product from Printful.

Photos

Well, this part is pretty self-explanatory. You can move the pictures around or replace them with your own. If, for example, you are customizing your items according to the customer’s needs, you could put a photo in that says “YOUR PHOTO HERE” on the phone and then have another picture that shows you, putting their photo on the case with all the arrows. You can be really creative here, so go ahead.

Listing details

This is where the rest of the magic happens. You are near the end, but here are still some important steps you need to take. So what are those? Let’s have a look.

Title

I pretty much explained most of it before. Can be filled on Printful. Nothing changes here. You need to catch the customer’s eye and satisfy the algorithm.

About this listing

According to Etsy policy, if you are using your art on print on demand items, the answer to “Who made it?” is always “Another company or person”. Later down I’ll show you where to add Printful and how.

Category

This should be pre-selected by Printful, but make sure everything fits.

Primary and secondary color, Pattern and Theme

These parts are never filled out by Printful and that’s because these describe your art. Fill them out as accurately as possible. People look through Etsy using filters and these options here are basically telling Etsy where to put your product. They are also free tags, so if your 13 tags include the colours you are using, you can just fill out the primary and secondary colour here and use different tags instead. This way you are increasing your chances of being shown to people.

Additional Options

Same thing as the previous paragraph. Fill out as many as you can.

Holiday and Occasion

These speak for themselves. If the item is made specifically for the occasion or a holiday (not a gift that could be given at those times), fill them in. A good example would be a Christmas sweater or an Easter bunny hoodie. Things that do not belong here are for example a cat t-shirt, even though the person could buy it for someone as a gift for Christmas.

Renewal options

I’ll leave this one up to you. It’s easier to have it on Automatic, but Manual can be a great way to find out what products don’t work or products that need more work at. How, you ask? Simple. Whenever your product is sold, part of the fee that Etsy takes is a renewal fee. In other words, the product will be longer in your store without the need of you doing anything. If you’ll only have Manual on, you can see which products never sold, if they move to inactive after their renewal period is over.

Type

Since you are in this article for print on demand work, your’s will be Physical.

Description

Same as on Printful. Nothing changes. The only difference here is that you can click the small button right under the description window that shows you how your product will be shown in google search, which can help you with choosing your first words so they have the highest possible impact.

Production partners

You should be filling out Printful here since they produce the physical items for you. Again, this is due to Etsy policy. You can choose to not show the partner to buyers, but I did so for transparency. You probably have nothing to select so your only option is now “Add a new production partner”. Here is how I filled it out. Feel free to copy it.

Printful production partner form

After you’re done, check Printful as your production partner and let’s continue.

Section

When someone visits your shop, they can have only items from a certain section shown to them. For example “iPhone cases” would only show those and not mix them with Samsung cases if your store is set up correctly. This category is solely up to you.

Tags

As mentioned previously in the Printful part, this is the most important thing in finding your products. Optimize them as much as you can. Don’t forget you can use phrases as well.

Materials

Basically tags, but for materials. Printful provides the materials they use in the description of the product. If possible, write them in your notes with all the different ways to name the materials. For example, the description of the phone cases has this as materials:

  • BPA free Hybrid Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) and Polycarbonate (PC) material
  • Solid polycarbonate back
  • Flexible polyurethane sides

And this is how my materials are written down and used: TPU, PC, Polycarbonate, Hybrid Thermoplastic Polyurethane, Hybrid, Thermoplastic, Polyurethane, plastic

As you can see I wrote down every possible combination just in case people look for that specific material. The closer you are to their search result the better.

Inventory and Pricing

You should be handling all this over at Printful as it’s less of a mess than this system. Ignore all of this here EXCEPT for Personalization.

Personalization

If your item is personalized, you want to use everything here that is offered. Fill out everything as clear as possible. Also, put the fact item can be personalized into the description, title and the picture of your product. It adds value to the item and people generally like personalized stuff more.

Shipping

If you are not planning on Free shipping then you shouldn’t touch this part as Printful takes care of everything. If you do plan on doing free shipping, you can have one item already setup from Printful, wherein price setup you select the checkbox show as free shipping and then you’ll get this option here:

Free Printful Shipping

Or you can just set up your own here if you forgot to do so on Printful, and select the stuff you see in the picture above.

And THAT’S IT! You’ve done it!

We finally got here. You can press Publish now and be done. Immediately, you should see your item move from Drafts to Active. Now you just have to drive the traffic to your item. If you have an audience, as I mentioned in the previous article, you can show them that you opened up your store. Another way is the ads. Etsy has its own marketing tools in the dashboard, but those are usually not worth it. Use other platforms to bring your customers in or just keep on adding products and eventually you’ll get your sales. If you have more questions, there’s a comment section at the bottom. Please, ask and I’ll answer to the best of my abilities.

All I can now is to wish you good luck in pursuing your dreams and many sales! See you in another article.


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6 thoughts on “How to get passive income with print on demand

    1. Hello Diya,

      Printful offers hoodies and t-shirts, but I suppose you didn’t like their pricing? You could have a look at other print on demand services like redbubble for instance, but you will have to drive people to it. The reasonable rates thing is also a big question. If you want your fans to have the best price, you can order stuff in bulk on Alibaba. It’s a site filled with manufacturers that aliexpress gets their items from. The products come out very cheap and at a reasonable quality for the price. You just send them your designs and they’ll send you your hoodies and t-shirts. The problem is, this process is more work and has an upfront cost. A lot of it actually as there is a minimum order amount at every seller. Print on demand, although pricey, makes it impossible to lose money. It really depends on what you want and what risks you are willing to take.

      Also, reasonable rates might be different from country to country. I am from the Czech Republic where these prices seem like a lot too, due to the economic state. That’s why most of my stuff gets bought from countries like Germany, UK, USA, Australia etc.

      Hopefully, this helped at least a bit. Thank you for your comment.

  1. This is a great stuff man. I really appreciate your effort full of value. You didn’t mention the payment setting require in setting up Etsy for African countries like Nigeria and others.

    1. Hello Emmanuel and thank you.

      I didn’t mention the required payment settings because I had simply no idea those are needed. Since I come from Europe, this is a problem I have never encountered. If you’d be willing to describe the problem more, I can add it into the article for other people in the future.

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