How to start a Print on Demand Business and actually sell designs

Contents of this course

  1. Introduction
  2. Start with the right mentality
  3. Upload your first design
  4. Starting Properly
    1. My First Print on Demand Sale
    2. Brainstorm Niches
  5. Resources
  6. Where to go from there

Who are you and why should I bother reading this article?

I’ve wanted to write this post about how to start a print on demand business for a long time, so I’m glad to finally get around to it. There are so many sources you can draw from, and when I started out, I was both excited and clueless. I read a lot of articles, and watched a lot of videos, but what I never found was a good, long tutorial to take me form nothing to something. I’m hoping this can be one of these articles!

This page will include nearly everything I’ve done so far to go from £0 per month to over £1000, passively.

Everything in this page should be able to take you from absolutely no experience, to your first few sales and some stable income.

I have been working with print on demand and passive income for five years. I was at one point making over £1300 a month on Redbubble. You can read about that here:

I’ve been running this website for a while and I just felt it’d be nice to have a good tutorial, all in one place, to take somebody from zero to something.

Who should use this print on demand tutorial?

If you’re just starting, or haven’t started a Print on Demand business yet, then this tutorial is for you. Simply read it, and apply the steps given. It’s free. Some of the links will be affiliate links, and there will be ads, but that’s it. The info is all free. We’ll start off by uploading to TeePublic, a very beginner friendly and potentially lucrative marketplace, before moving onto others.

We’ll also explore how to effectively source art, text and create designs which sell.

So where do I start?

If you want to start a Print on Demand business, there are lots of places to begin. You could start with your own website, or you could upload designs to an established site, such as TeePublic or Redbubble. Both have their merits.

In short, we’ll be thinking about what we want to achieve, and then over the course of a week or two, we’ll be creating designs to list on a third party print on demand site, such as TeePublic or Redbubble. After a week or two of consistent uploading, you’ll get sales. It is often simply a numbers game, quantity over quality, at the start.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be using TeePublic, but this process can be recreated on any print on demand platform.

Starting with the right mentality

It’s important to have a realistic mindset of what you’re going to achieve with print on demand. You aren’t going to be making hundreds of dollars from day one. You might, it’s possible, but you probably won’t. You probably won’t make a substantial income within the first few months either, just something to keep in mind.

What is possible however, is a nice tidy side income, a little bit extra that slowly grows, over time, each month. Take a look at my Redbubble income, over a 5 year span.

Income from Early 2016 to Early 2020, showing the amount of time I spent doing basically nothing with a tiny trickle income. Click the image for the article.

At the start, I wasn’t even making anything substantial at all. Maybe £50 a month. I didn’t even make the minimum threshold some months. Added to this, I wasn’t even putting any effort in, I was happy with with no effort, small income. I wish I knew sooner, as it could have been a no effort, big income.

As a case study, I started a side Redbubble account, just to replicate my initial success. This went very well, going from £0 to £100 in just one month, then just over £100 the next. While it’s likely that you’ll start small, and slowly trickle up, you might also notice that some pieces of work you upload become a hit.

The 80 / 20 Rule

Something a lot of people throw around is the 80 / 20 rule, where 80% of your profits come from 20% of your work. Don’t be discouraged by this. Simply put you’re going to have good designs, you’re going to have bad designs. This isn’t something to worry about at all, in case you were wondering. You can only game the system by uploading more.

I had some clear designs in my Redbubble portfolio which were selling so much more than others. In fact I would be shocked if one of my designs did not sell every day.

Googling it.

This is a tutorial, but it’s also a challenge. This tutorial assumes some basic confidence in using a computer and graphics editing software such as Photoshop. If you don’t know how to do something then follow this simple process:

  1. Find out what you don’t know
  2. Google how to do it
  3. Proceed to learn

These three steps will help you so much in life, not just in Print on Demand. Maybe it’s how you found this article. (Hopefully, if my SEO is any good).

Quality over Quantity

This is more of a personal thing, but after five years in Print on Demand, I feel that quantity is better over quality, to a point.

If you’re starting out, you’re much better to throw up one hundred ‘Poor’ to ‘Okay’ quality designs, versus ten or so ‘Good’ designs. My mantra with this sort of thing is simply, as follows;

Start shit, improve later.

Even with something like Merch by Amazon, which has a fixed number of slots, you’re better off uploading something rather than nothing.

Let me show you a currently live design, which I have sold, which took me about one minute to make in Photoshop. I don’t mind sharing this because the niche is so broad. This sells now and again on Amazon.

The Scotland Flag / Alba, on Amazon. Click to view the product page and description.

Look at how simple that is. It’s a public domain text, a public domain font, and a simple faded overlay. Five minutes, not even that. I didn’t even put any research into that, I saw someone wearing something similar and decided to make my own version.

Ask me why I haven’t made hundreds of shirts like this for every country? Well you’ll find the ‘Flag on a T-Shirt’ niche is highly saturated, so much so that I am shocked that I actually make sales on this.

The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that if you want to make money, you should swallow your perfectionist attitude and focus on making designs. This isn’t an art business (yet), it’s a numbers business. You want to make sales, not become the next Michelangelo. Something to keep in mind is that ten ‘Okay’ designs are going to be seen ten times more than one ‘Good’ design.

Upload your first design

People learn in different ways, but I find that jumping in and working it out later is the best approach. In this section, you’ll sign up to TeePublic, Create and then Upload a design. At the end of this small section, you’ll have your own TeePublic account that you can use, with a live design that can be bought.

We’ll do this now just to get a hang of the upload process for TeePublic. It’s basically going to be the same for every other POD platform. First things first, lets sign up. LCick the link below to be taken straight to the signup page.

Click the link, and follow the process.

Once you’re all signed up and confirmed, we’ll head over to Creating our first design!

Thinking of a name for your shop

This isn’t as big a deal as you might think, as most people simply won’t see your shop page, only your design title. If you have a name in mind, you can use that, if not, then just keep it simple, use your own name or mess around with it a bit. If your name is say, Genghis Khan;

  • Gekh Designs
  • Genkware
  • KHAN
  • GK Apparel

Honestly, most people will not care. I’m only saying this because I am one of those people who will spend ages on this part when it is ultimately meaningless.

Account settings

You’ll want to make sure you can actually get paid, for this you’ll need PayPal or Payoneer. Head to your account and make sure your settings are correct there. Artists receive their earnings via PayPal or Payoneer on the 15th of every month with the previous month’s sales, but this is the same across all POD sites so don’t worry. If you make a sale you’ll get paid!

Creating your First design

Keep it simple for your first design. If you’re comfortable using Photoshop, then feel free. If not, then head over to something along the lines of Photopea.

This is also a challenge in testing your mentality, if you aren’t comfortable with Photoshop or similar, why is that? You’ll need to be if you want to design T-Shirts. Sort that out.

Here’s what we’re aiming for:

  1. 5000×5000 Dimensions
  2. Transparent background
  3. White Text with a fancy font of your choosing
  4. Save as a PNG file
An artistic marvel if I do say so myself.

That should have been pretty easy to handle without further instruction, but it’s fine if you had to Google it too. Don’t worry about where to store your file, we’re simply uploading a design now to get comfy with the process.

Uploading your First design

Find the ‘Upload a Design’ page, by hovering your mouse over your icon in the top right and clicking ‘Upload a Design’. It looks like this!

Select your file, or drop it in to start the upload process. Here is the beauty of TeePublic; you upload one file, and you can put it on many different products at once! It’s all so simple and quick as well. Our 5000 x 5000px file doesn’t cover wall tapestries, but we can worry about that later!

That’s a lot of product types for one measly upload!

What you’re aiming for here is very simple. You want to make sure of the following:

  1. Can I read the text on every design
  2. Do the colours provide enough contrast
  3. Is the text positioned correctly?

Spend some time getting used to the tools, TeePublic is great place to start because of the ease of uploading for all product types, it’s much quicker than even Redbubble. Experiment around, there are lots of options to explore for each product type.

Title, Description and Tags

The Title is what the customer will see. The description is what they will see when they open the page. The tags are the terms a customer will use to search for your product.

You want to have a catchy title and some good tags. The description can’t hurt, but honestly more often than not I just copy and paste the title in there. For now don’t worry too much, you’re just using this as a dummy run.

It varies between platforms, but if you’re given the option, you’d do well to optimise your tags. These will be your main audience source. For now, it’s best to keep it simple.

What would you use to search for this? Type in a few things, see what TeePublic suggests. On TeePublic, it’s best to max out your tags, so use all fifteen given.

Product colours

It’s generally thought of that darker products sell better than lighter ones, which is why we have white text for a black or dark T-Shirt. You’re given the option to select the colour palette from which a customer can choose, be sure to select ‘Dark’.

TeePublic will automatically suggest colours which work well. More often than not, I simply select ‘Dark’

All done!

When you’re happy, click ‘Publish’. Wow. Simple eh? You’ve just published your first design.

You could, and this isn’t even a bad idea, just rinse and repeat that process. Here is some advice I have given to people who ask me how they should start this sort of thing. I have suggested this to a friend recently and he has been making a few sales every week, from only 20 or so designs uploaded.

  1. Create 50 text based designs in different niches
  2. See what sells
  3. Create more designs like that

It can’t hurt now to just jump in and do your own thing. A massive part of this process is learning on your own. Learning what sells, learning little tips in Photoshop, learning quicker ways to upload. All you may have needed was a little kick in the bum.

If you’ve read this far and still haven’t tried it, then sign up to TeePublic now and give it a shot.

You could have something live and kicking and ready to sell in ten minutes.

Starting Properly

Well done, you’ve set up a TeePublic account and got something listed. The biggest hurdle in anything is to go from zero to one, so for now we’ll focus on getting our first sale. Getting our first sale on any platform does a few things; it makes us realise this is possible and also validates our process.

As soon as you make your first sale, selling Print on demand products goes from being a thought to becoming reality. It will make you realise that your ideas and designs are good enough to be sold. Before you get sales, it’s very easy to think that you’re doing something wrong, so it’s important to realise how much of a hurdle your first sale really is.

My First Print on Demand sale

My first sale in the print on demand space was a sticker on Redbubble. I was really happy. I earned 13p from that, $0.17. A tiny amount, but it made me realise that what I had uploaded could sell. As soon as I made that sale, I uploaded many more designs in a similar vein. These designs were selling years later.

It doesn’t really matter what your first sale is, or how much you earn from it. Your first sale will be a good moment and you won’t forget it!

Brainstorm niches