How To Start A Printables Business In Just One Weekend

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Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

Sticker Crypt is the internet's premier source of free advice for artists and small business owners! 

Selling printables is an easy way for you to get started with your brand new Etsy shop. Creating printables is as easy as learning how to use any digital art software like Canva, Photoshop, or Procreate, and learning to make things that people want.

You could set up your printables shop in just one weekend of hard work and start making money selling printables right away. Here's how.

What are printables?

Printables are digital downloads that you sell on your own website or on a marketplace like Etsy or Design Cuts. These digital products enable your customers to print out their own stuff instead of going to their local big box store to buy supplies.

Great examples of printables include gift tags, stickers, printable planner pages for binders, recipe templates, and even printable wall art. The printables market is large, but it does keep growing, so there's plenty of room for you to make money.

How do you make passive income selling printables?

The secret to making money on any product is finding the right customer. The key to selling printables on Etsy is discovering – and dominating – a specific niche.

A niche is a subset of a market that you understand better than anyone else. When you focus on a specific niche, you can become an expert on that topic and provide immense value to your customers.

Once you've found your niche, the next step is to create products that appeal to that group of people. In order to do this, you need to understand the people that make up your niche.

I know we've been talking generically, but let's give a specific example here.

Customer Profile: Janet, the Preschool Teacher

A daycare teacher playing in the woods

Janet is in her twenties, unmarried, living in an apartment with her small rescue dog Rusty. She tries to eat healthy, but feels like it's really hard to cook for just one person.

She feels underpaid and unorganized at work, but she really loves the kids that she teaches. She wishes there was something out there to help her.

You'll notice here that there are potentially two problems to solve: “feels like it's really hard to cook for just one person” and “unorganized at work”. These are both niches that you could address with your shop.

Selling digital products is all about handing the answer right to your customer. Someone buys something because it fits what they need, or it's close enough that they can modify it to solve their problem. As long as you create digital downloads with that in mind, you're bound to be successful.

Alright, without further adieu, let's get into the plan. How would one start a printables business in just one weekend? Let's make it happen!

Day One: Friday afternoon/evening

Goal: Get your brand put together, set up your business accounts.

The first step to any business is getting out there. You don't have to begin sharing anything yet, but getting all of the bumps ironed out of the actual process of selling things is going to help you immensely. So, when you get home from work, you'll need to set up your Etsy shop.

You can set up any shop you'd like, I've just chosen Etsy because it comes with an audience and it's easy to activate in just one weekend.

Activity checklist:

Create your business brand

  • Choose a business name
  • Get a business email
  • Pick a business color scheme and font scheme
  • Create a placeholder logo

Take care of housekeeping

  • Register your Etsy account
  • Set up at least one social media page: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok
  • Upload banners and profile pictures to your Etsy account and social media page

I know that seems like a lot, but it's actually key for you to sell online whether you're selling digital downloads or physical products. Your printables business isn't going to thrive without some sort of identity. And even though Etsy keeps trying to eliminate small business branding, your Etsy shop could benefit from a good brand, too.

You'll notice that nowhere in my list is, “decide what to sell” – because it doesn't necessarily matter for your brand yet. You know you'll be making printables, and that's all you need to choose a quick name and get started. You can always rebrand later. Plus. We'll choose that in the next section.

Photos placed on printer near table with cup of coffee

Alright, let's get into a bit more detail about these tasks.

Task 1: Creating your business brand

There are a bunch of tasks grouped together up there that are basically, willing your small business into existence. You can use our naming guide to pick a name.

After that, you'll need to pick out a logo and color/font scheme. I find that Canva is a really great tool for this, but you can use any tools you'd like to develop your brand. Remember: it doesn't have to be final. Just good enough to get started.

Task 2: Filling out the details

The other task you'll have is filling out account details. Upload profile pictures, write a sentence for the “About Us” section. Enter your payment details on Etsy. Try to get as much housekeeping done as you can on this day, so that you don't get sucked into it during your two design days.

Are you done with those tasks? Congratulations! You've got an online shop! Get a good night's sleep, and we'll start the real work in the morning.

Day Two: Saturday Morning Session

Goal: Make your first two products

Here's the time for you to shine. You said you were going to do the thing, and now it's time to actually create printables for your customers.

It's at this moment that many people experience choice fatigue. They get so caught up in the possibilities that they never actually start making their digital printables. We're not going to let that happen to you, right?

I'm going to give you the method so you can focus on creating. If you've got a different tool or method – feel free. I'm just trying to save you from decision fatigue.

Person using a smartphone

Task 1: Customer Profile

Your first step, if you haven't already thought it through, is to develop a customer profile like we did above, in the niche section. You can use Janet, our preschool teacher, if you want to. Or, generate your own. Think of friends or family that might buy your Etsy printables and come up with a 3-5 sentence description that includes:

  • Demographics: name, age, job, etc. of your ideal customer
  • Supporting facts of the lifestyle: are they a pet owner? Are they vegan? Do they love Jesus?
  • The problem they have: What's the rub point in their lives? What's the problem they're trying to solve?
  • Your solution: I didn't include this in the above one, but it's obviously where we were headed. What's your solution to their problem? How will it help them?

In your solution, you want to brainstorm FIVE products that will help them solve their problem, and a SIXTH product that is a bundle of a few (or all) of those products. These will be the products that you're designing.

Task 2: Sign up for Canva and start designing.

Canva is a free, easy tool for graphic design. Canva's subscription is reasonable, and I believe they have a free trial. But you can do most things with the free version. The only true restriction is fonts: you can't upload your own fonts if you have the free version of Canva.

Canva has a lot of great, free templates that you can use to kickstart your design process. It's a drag and drop software that's incredibly hard to break, so you should feel free to experiment. If you're really concerned about messing something up, just make a copy before you start making changes.

For this morning session, you want to successfully create TWO designs. Here are a few design guidelines:

  • Don't include more than two fonts on a single page
  • Don't include more than three sizes of text on a single page
  • If you include clip art elements, make sure that they're a similar style across the page (e.g., all lines are thick, single color schemes)
  • Include your brand somewhere inconspicuous: on the bottom edge of the page, in the header, etc.

I recommend focusing on design one and completing it, then moving onto the design two. Designing printables is about developing printable ideas that flow easily from one page into the next. Your printable products should have a theme, because it will encourage folks to purchase multiple Etsy listings.

The Easy Option If You're Feeling Stuck

If you're scared of designing a full page, why not design a single gift tag? When you're happy with the design, duplicate the page and switch the colors. When you're happy with those colors, duplicate again and switch the fonts. BOOM! You've got four gift tags that you can sell as a single gift tag set. Your first product is done.

Remember, your goal for this morning is to have two completed products. When you've got that done – take a break! Make yourself some lunch. Walk the dog. Come back in the afternoon/evening when you're ready to have another round of creation.

Day Two: Saturday Afternoon/Evening Session

Your goal in the evening is straightforward. Since you're going to sell printables, we need to design some more! You don't need to wait to set up your Etsy shop until you have hundreds of designs, but it's good to create at least half a dozen or so digital printables to get started.

Every listing you have is a chance for people to see your products. Selling printables on Etsy is a numbers game. Your passive income success will be determined by just down many digital downloads you can produce, tweak, and sell.

Ok, now that I've scared you, it's time to get down to business.

Goal: Create two more digital downloads

Yep, that's right. Saturday is just your design day. So, get to work. If you're making a closely related set of items, then just make copies of your previous two designs and start tweaking.

If you're making different products altogether, take a moment to write down your color schemes and fonts so that you can at least transfer those. Your digital downloads will benefit from similar design elements.

Here are a few ideas of bestselling printables that you can use to make your designs:

  • Printables that coordinate with popular holidays (Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas)
  • Printables for a specific occasion or event (a baby shower, a wedding)
  • Printables that are themed around a hobby or activity (scrapbooking, cooking, knitting)
  • Printables with motivational or inspirational quotes

Apply these ideas to the niche audience that you identified earlier in the day, and you've got a recipe for success.

After you've created your third and fourth design, you're done for the day! I'm going to recommend that you don't skip ahead, but if you must – you can start brainstorming your social media posts for when the weekend is over!

Day Three: Sunday Morning Session

Goal: Create your final design and a bundle

Alright kids, we're almost to the end of our journey in setting up our printables business. Our last step in the design phase of selling printables is to create just two more designs.

By now, you should be feeling comfortable with designing your printable products. You've made four, you've got one big one left, and then choosing stuff to put together for a bundle. You're well on your way to passive income.

Thoughts on pricing

As you craft these final two designs, start thinking about pricing. Most printables business ranges from $0.99-$4.99 for single items, and prices may fluctuate depending on whether you're selling printables on Etsy or on your own website.

Pricing is easy to change, so don't worry too much if you feel like selling printables on Etsy is going to be more expensive than selling on your own website. It will be, and that's ok. Etsy is a volume game, and passive income means that you do the work once and then reap the benefits for a while after.

What's next?

Well, in your final session, we're going to actually sell printables! Or at least, post them online. You've done the hard part to create printables, and now you've just got to set up your Etsy to sell digital products, and your printables business will be alive and well. Let's do it.

Day Three: Sunday Afternoon / Evening

Goal: Actually start selling digital downloads and Etsy printables

You've got five designs and a bundle, so six listings total that you'll need to post on Etsy. When you create a listing, you'll need to upload images, write a description, and do titles and tags, too. This can be super intimidating, but let me tell you a secret: if you do it once, you can just copy the listing for future, similar postings. It makes uploading a new digital product a breeze.

So, all that being said, it's time to upload to your Etsy store. Open your shop manager and go to the Listings tab then click the little “Add a new listing” button.

Notebook office writing mathematics

Notes for Etsy Printables

Because it's a digital download, you'll have to select that in the settings. After you get everything set up, it will ask you to upload files (near the bottom of the listing). You can upload separate files, but I recommend you ZIP them all together. Windows provides basic ZIP functionality. Just select the files you want to put together, right click, and click “Add to Archive” and BOOM! A ZIP file.

The main benefit of a ZIP file over individual files is that you can include a Terms/License document with their purchase. This lets you lay out what they can and cannot do with your files. I always write that folks cannot resell my digital files, but they can sell physical copies of my stuff.

This is more applicable for printables like stickers and laser cutting files, but you just want to make it very clear to your customers what they can and cannot do with items from your printable business.

Etsy Printables and Listing Fees

When you're ready, hit that publish button. A dialogue will pop up telling you that you've got to pay Etsy $0.20 in listing fees, and your listing will be active for 4 months. If you've followed my referral link, you'll get your first 40 listings free.

Etsy SEO: Tags, Titles, and Descriptions

An entire business has sprung up around Etsy SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”) — figuring out how to get yourself found. We can't really cover that in detail here, but just be aware that, as you embark on your business, you'll need to do some work on SEO.

There are two services that can help you optimize: Marmalead and ERank. You can also just use common sense. In your tags, put what you think your customers will search for. Use ever available tag. Longer tags are better. Then, write your title using some of those tags. We have guides to SEO available right here on Sticker Crypt when you're ready to learn more.

Follow up: Beyond your weekend

Congratulations. If you followed my plan, then you've got 6 listings, live on Etsy. You have at least one social media account ready to go, and you're hit the ground running.

What should you do now? The most important things you can do are (a) create more Etsy printables and (b) share, share, share. No one knows about your printables business because it's new.

So, get out there. Join some groups. Meet other business owners. Share free printables. Let people knwo that you've started a new printables business, and can they please share your Etsy printables with their friends?

Don't get too hung up on whether or not your friends and family are buying from your printable business. Many people won't buy from friends and family – and that's ok. They're not necessarily your customers. You want to get in front of your customers.

So if you're selling to Janet, the daycare teacher, then you need to join some daycare groups, some cooking groups, or whatever else she might be interested in. Get the message out through those affinity groups.

Don't push TOO hard though. Don't spam groups. Don't demand that people buy your stuff. Provide value in your comments and brand, and customers will follow. This is the way.

I hope you've enjoyed this free guide. If you've got your Etsy store live – why not share it below? Show us your first printable in the comments! Browse some of our other guides, and let us know what else you need so that you can successfully sell on Etsy. We'll be waiting!

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