The internet has brought us a lot of bounties: unlimited cat gifs, Amazon, and the ability to have tacos delivered at 1 AM without talking to a single soul.
It’s also brought us printables. I’m talking about templates, planners, patterns, and stickers -- among others -- to download, print out, and deck out our day-to-day with efficient style.
They’re not just a great add-on for consumers, though. The creators behind them are banking some serious passive profits.
And no, you don’t have to be a graphic designer or printer expert to join those creators. Adding printables alongside your online courses, memberships, and digital downloads takes just five simple, no-fuss steps and a few tools of the trade.
Today, we’ll tell you how step-by-step, but as usual, let’s start with talking about why selling printables online should be your to-do list ASAP.
How do you make money selling printables online?
The easiest way to sell printables online is by selling them as standalone or bundled digital products.
Some of the most popular types of printables include:
- Budget planners and worksheets
- Cards and invitations
- Coloring books
- Crafting patterns and stencils
- Meal planners and shopping lists
- Weekly/monthly/annual planners
But as you’ve probably noticed, there are thousands of free printables available -- how could you ever profit from selling them?
The answer is surprisingly straightforward.
How can you sell printables when there are so many free printables online?
There’s a simple way to convince people to pay for your printables: make them more valuable than the free options for that specific audience.
Say your audience frequents Instagram, home of the world’s prettiest photography. When they’re showing off their organizational skills, do you think they’ll want a bland, monotone spread, or something with vibrant, photo-ready designs?
Chances are it’s going to be the latter or something like I Heart Planners’ products. Bursting with color and personality, their planners are a great fit for people who want a little more whimsy and a little less grey in their grocery lists, chore charts, and more.
Aside from adding a more personalized design for your audience, you could offer more thorough information or advanced templates.
For instance, suppose you’re creating a financial planner for people who want to get out of debt in the new year. In addition to the printable planner, maybe you’ll send them weekly financial tips and inspiring stories to complement the content in your printable planner.
Like The Postman’s Knock did for her calligraphy printable, you could also include video content with your printable product.
Videos aren’t limited to art-and-craft type printables, though.
If you’re creating a meal planner, you could give people access a series of gated YouTube videos about how to deal with meal planning during the holidays, recipes on a tight budget, and so on.
Alternatively, you could share access to one video per week for the next month or year, or use email newsletters, webinars, and masterminds to enhance the value of your printable.
To profit from printables, you don’t need to have world-class artistic talent or a totally unique idea -- but you should know what your audience is looking for and cater your printable to their preferences.
As for how to do it, we’ve boiled it down to five simple steps.
5 Steps to making money selling printables online
Step 1: Come up with your printable idea
To create a printable that sells well, learn what your target customers want.
The easiest way to do this is by contacting your email subscribers and surveying or interviewing them.
Even if you’re just starting out, you should work on building your email list from Day 1 (here’s a comprehensive guide on how to build an email list to get you started).
An email list gives you an easy-to-access group of people to communicate with as you’re trying out printable ideas.
Plus, since people signed up to your list to learn more about your brand and products, they’re the perfect people to promote your products to as well.
Just consider, for example, that Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich earned around 80% of the revenue from his first online course from 4% of his email subscribers -- and Ramit’s is just one of many email marketing success stories.
If you don’t yet have a list, go on Pinterest and pick some printable pins from creators you admire.
See who follows their content, and check out their boards -- what kind of printables do they pin? What are their hobbies?
For example, from my Pinterest board, you can see I’m interested in easy and affordable vegan recipes and meal planners with floral themes.
From that information, you could create a meal planner with a floral design and promote it to people like me.
After looking at what individual consumers like, take a look at your competitors and fellow creators to see where their printables excel and fall short.
And if all of those tactics still don’t turn up too many printable ideas? Take a walk.
Research has found creative input increased by 60% on average when walking, so make sure to give yourself a little time to lose yourself in a leisurely stroll and let your creativity run free.
After you’ve gathered all of this data and inspiration, you’re probably bursting at the seams with ideas.
As a new printable creator, it’s better to focus on one or two specific printable types, such as meal planners for those following allergen-free diets or geography worksheets for homeschooled elementary school children.
Niching can help you focus your creative energies into creating a product that a small but dedicated group of people will love and potentially buy.
Besides, it’s much easier to make a small group of people happy and make a profit than to try to appeal to a broad, diverse audience.
For example, Michelle Cehn and Toni Okamoto’s “Plant-Based on a Budget Meal Plan” printable caters to people who want to follow a nutritious vegan diet on a $25 per week budget.
Still, if you do want to branch into several loosely related or unrelated niches, it’s probably better to create separate storefronts for them, like Trina of Oh She Creates did for her digital products.
Then, once you’ve got your idea down, it’s time to head to the workshop.
Step #2: Create your printable
You do not need design skills to create a Pinterest-worthy printable, but you do need an internet connection and a willingness to get in touch with your artistic side.
Keep in mind that whatever design tool you use, you’ll likely need to pay some copyright or licensing fees so you can use their artwork in paid products.
Canva is probably the best to get started with since they have a very generous free plan that creators can experiment with.
Let’s take a quick walkthrough Canva to see just how easy it is to create a printable.
For our example, let’s assume I’m creating a printable birthday invitation.
First, go to your Canva dashboard and click “create a design”.
Next, browse through the dropdown selections and pick “invitation”.
This will take you to a blank canvas.
Now, you need to figure out the colors and patterns that work best for your design. A tropical theme suits the season, so go to the “background” button to set your colors.
A dash of iconography to jazz things up wouldn’t be amiss.
Fortunately, you don’t have to come up with your own iconography if your topic is broad enough. (If it’s not, you can find great iconography at Flaticon.)
Birthdays are pretty popular (everyone has one, I hear), so let’s check out what premade elements Canva has. To do this, go to “elements” and type your keyword -- “happy birthday” -- into the search bar.
Scroll through until you find a graphic you like, then simply drag and drop it into the canvas. You can repeat this process for any images you want to incorporate into your invitation.
If you want to add extra details -- like a place for the time and date -- you’re going to need to put some text together. Click on the “text” option to add headers and body text.
No drag-and-drop needed for this step. All you have to do is click on the text type and it will appear on your canvas.
If you double click your text, you can change the font type, font color, spacing, and more.
Then, once your invitation is ready, click the downward-facing arrow in the top right corner to download your printable.
And there you have it -- see how easy it was to create a gorgeous graphic in just a few minutes?
But creating a beautiful printable is just half the battle -- you still need a price to match all of the time and effort that went into it.
Step #3: Package and price your printable
Printables have earned a handsome income for many creators.
For instance, printables comprise a significant part of Emily Burton’s income, which allows her family to live a nomadic RV lifestyle.
Maker Sarah Titus made $52,060 in her first month of selling printables after running a successful blog.
To get started on the same path, there are two main pricing strategies you can use for pricing digital products: cost-based or value-based pricing.
With a cost-based pricing model, add together the cost of the time spent creating the product, the materials you needed to make it, taxes, and how much you want to earn after all of those expenses, and you’ll arrive at your product’s price.
Value-based pricing, on the other, involves a lot less number-crunching because it’s based on the value your customers believe your product to have.
You can also assess the value by comparing your printable prices with those of your competitors’, and then adjust your price based on the quality of your products, how long you’ve been in business, and et cetera.
If you feel you still won’t be able to price your printables as high as you want, consider bundling them -- or selling them paired with one or several other items -- instead.
Research has shown that bundling encourages consumers to buy things sooner -- but there’s a catch.
Bundles can encourage sales, but only when there’s an option of buying a product individually or in a bundle. Having a bundle-only option decreased sales by 20%, one study found.
Aside from bundling, you could also try upselling or cross-selling to your customers as they’re checking out, which Podia makes a breeze to do.