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What are printables and how can you sell them online?

Wondering what a printable is? Printables run the gamut from planners, calendars, stickers, and more. Get examples of the different types of printables you can sell.

Your friends keep talking about printables.

They use printables to make those gorgeous planners you see on Pinterest, for their children’s craft time, and even for the beautiful artwork you see at their houses.

But what exactly is a printable?

Why are so many people excited to print things in an age when everything is going digital?

And how do people actually profit from selling printables?

You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers for you today with this guide.

First, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about printables, from what they are to how to make your own, then we’ll close out with what types of printables are a big hit and the tools everyday creators are using to make them thrive.

The most pressing question is up first: What are printables?

What are printables?

Printables are one of the most popular digital downloads to sell online and include downloadable planners, diaries, journals, stickers, art prints, coloring pages, and more.

Printables are popular for many reasons.

Firstly, printables are highly customizable.

With how many novice- and professional-grade graphic design tools there are available, you could create an infinite number of printables regardless of your skill level.  

Secondly, printables can be used to add vibrancy and personality to any occasion or object.

Abby Lawson of Just a Girl and Her Blog made this printable student binder , for example.

The Petite Planner made stickers for bullet journals and Three Kids, Three Cats, and a Husband made printables for a family vacation to Disney World -- and that’s not even scratching the surface of all the types of printables available.

Now you may be thinking: It’s great that people can create printables for any occasion, but do people need printables? And more importantly, will they pay for them?

As fun and whimsical as some printables can be, many serve a practical purpose as well.

As an example, research has suggested that taking notes by hand can help students process information by putting it in their own words. For that reason, it may be more effective than note-taking on computers.

Plus, not all students know how to take good notes, or organize their notes to facilitate better note-taking and studying -- which is where printables come in.

Another possible reason behind printables’ popularity is how easy it is to create personalized printables.

Around 26% of Americans have personalized a product across industry categories, with many customers wanting to be involved in the customization process .

In fact, personalized products are such a hit that 1 in 5 shoppers are willing to pay a 20% premium for personalized goods and services.

So, what are printables? They’re a bankable side-hustle that people aren’t just willing to pay for, but pay a lot for.

And they’re willing to do it online -- which brings us to our next point.

How can printables be sold online?

When it comes to selling printables online, you have two primary choices: to sell them on your own website or a marketplace like Etsy.

It can be tempting to sell in a marketplace when you’re not sure how to sell digital downloads from your website , but it’s not always the most profitable or stress-free option in the long-run.

Website builders like Shopify , for instance, don’t support online courses or memberships, thus limiting your growth if you want to expand into other digital products offerings.

WordPress , on the other hand, can require more technical effort than many people have time for.

Basically there are a lot of pros and cons to consider when trying to decide between selling digital product marketplaces vs. on your own site .

Let’s use Etsy, a popular choice for selling printables, as an example.

Selling printables on Etsy

The benefits of selling on a marketplace like Etsy:

  • A trickle of traffic from the deluges of traffic the marketplace’s site gets each day

  • You don’t need to purchase website hosting or a website builder -- most marketplaces let you build a product page for free

  • Technical issues are handled by the marketplace

It’s not, of course, without its flaws, and some of them are significant. The cons include:

  • Massive amounts of competition that can encourage race-to-the-bottom tactics, such as this creator who had to lower her prices to stay competitive

  • Rules that you must comply with, even if they don’t align with your own policies and practices as a business

  • Rules that can change at the drop of a dime and which can sometimes help the marketplace more than it helps individual creators, such as Etsy increasing its transaction fees to 5% in 2018

Marketplaces like Etsy are sounding a little less desirable as a selling platform right now? Then you could always create your own business website.

Selling printables on your own site

28% of business websites were made for under $500, so it’s totally possible to create a beautiful and functioning website without having to sell a planet.

But just what can a standalone business website offer you that a marketplace page can’t? Among many other things, the perks of selling from your own site include:

  • You can direct visitors to specific sections or products on your website instead of the marketplace guiding them to similar products from competitors.

  • You can customize your website, so it’s both memorable and reflects your brand’s colors, style, personality, etc.

  • You can sell unlimited products.

That being said, selling products on your website isn’t perfect. Some drawbacks include:

  • You must pay for your own website hosting and CMS/website builder.

  • You are responsible for resolving technical issues (depending on the website builder)

  • You’ll need to coordinate your website, payment processor, email service provider, and other integrations on your own

As you can see, there’s no perfect answer for where makers should sell their printable downloads.

But there’s another option: Podia.

Podia allows creators to sell digital downloads (including printables), community memberships , online courses , webinars , and coaching .

It also comes with a 100% free, easy-to-use website builder that lets you create a custom site with unlimited product pages.

Podia’s platform comes with a landing page and website builder, email marketing tools, and best of all: no transaction fees on paid plans.

Sign up for a free Podia account to see for yourself just how easy it is to set up your website and start selling printables.

Whichever platform you use to sell your digital products, this digital download strategy checklist and tips for selling more digital downloads should help boost your sales.

Now, we’ve done a lot of ‘telling’ today -- but we haven’t done much ‘showing’. Let’s check out some real-life examples of printables that excel.

What are examples of printables that sell well?

Printables cover so many categories that the definition of a “popular” printable will vary according to your niche.

For example, there were an estimated 1.69 million homeschooled students in the United States in 2016, so homeschooling-related printables could potentially be lucrative.

62% of people who used a budget said it made them “feel more in control” of their money, so printable budget planners may be worth selling, too.  

However, you won’t want to create generic homeschooling worksheets or budget planners. Instead, you should make them with a clear-cut and well-researched group of people in mind.

You could focus on math worksheets for seventh-graders who don’t enjoy traditional math exercises, for instance, or create financial planners for single millennial women living in major cities who want to get out of debt quickly.

Even though it seems less profitable to appeal to a very specific group of people, it’s actually the much more sensible option from a business perspective.

It’s much easier to make a small group of people with very distinct preferences happy and have them recommend you to others than it is to satisfy a broad, vague niche.

To get an idea of what’s in-demand, go on Etsy and Pinterest to see what the most downloaded or pinned printables are, respectively.

You can also get on social media to see what printables people are sharing and commenting on the most. Don’t forget to interview your email subscribers, friends, and other members of your audience, either.

While all of this can seem excessive for selling a printable, conducting customer research is essential so you can create printables your customers will actually buy.

58% of content created by top brands was irrelevant to their audience, and as a smaller creator, you don’t want to waste time or effort on projects or products that won’t help you grow your business.

So, who is performing at the top of the class? All kinds of people.

Becky of Mom Beach made $113.57 in one month by selling printables, for example, with her top-selling product being a toolkit about scrap metal (remember how we said it was important to appeal to a niche?).

Similarly, this creator made $341.92 in one month by selling bachelorette party-themed tattoos and digital downloads.

As inspiring as these stories are, there are plenty of creators who’ve seen even higher earnings from selling their printables.

Tamara of Paper del Sol made nearly $30,000 from selling printables by the end of 2017, with a wedding planner she created even trending on Pinterest and Google images at one point .

Lastly, Kelsey of Paper + Oats was able to grow her business from a few printables and freelance clients to a business that helps other makers who want to sell digital products.

Profitable printable downloads run the gamut from financial planners to coloring books, and from industries as diverse as homeschooling to allergen-free diet planning.

There is one thing they all have in common, though: eye-catching designs and layouts. That’s where the tools of the trade come in.

What tools are used to create printables?

You really only need two tools to create and sell printables -- a graphic design tool and site builder.

You could create your printables in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, though you need some colors, templates, and icons to give them personality and style.

Canva , Fotor , PicMonkey , Piktochart , Venngage , and Visme , are all reputable and novice-friendly graphic design tools that won’t break the bank.

As for where you sell your products, your options are as vast as the Great Plains and include WordPress, Shopify, and Podia.

Sign up now

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Join the 150,000+ creators who use Podia to create websites, sell digital products, and build online communities.

While not absolutely necessary when you’re just starting out, landing page and sales page builders can be used to help you grow your email list and attract more sales, while email marketing tools can assist you in nurturing your email subscribers to become customers.

To get the maximum effect from your landing pages and grow your email list more quickly, you should give away free digital downloads (also known as “ lead magnets ”) as a “gift” to encourage more people to join your list and receive more targeted promotions from you.

Morning Motivated Mom gives away goal-setting sheets as her lead magnet, and Nap Time Alternative offers access to her Freebie Library as a signup incentive.

Aside from using free lead magnets to drive more leads, you can also attract more subscribers and sales through content marketing. Content marketing involves sharing helpful and educational content with your subscribers to earn their attention and trust.

As an example of how important content can be, consider this: one report found consumers were 131% more likely to purchase from a brand immediately after reading educational content from that brand.

But just what should you share?

Blog content is helpful, as are videos, podcasts, infographics, and free printables, such as Views from a Step Stool’s solar system board game .

If you’re not sure what kind of content to create, look to your competitors and fellow creators for inspiration.

25% of B2C marketers never look at the competition, and 15% only look once a year.

That's far too infrequent if you want to stay on top of your game and produce content and printables that are in-demand.

Basically, the tools to create and sell printables are the same tools you need to create any kind of info product -- something to make it pretty (graphic design), something to make it buyable (a product page builder), and something to make it special (you).

Create and profit from printables today

Printables, or downloadable planners, journals, stickers, and art prints are among the most lucrative and popular digital products to sell.

As someone looking to generate some passive income or scratch a creative itch, printables can provide a low-overhead and high-profit way to earn more money.

Specifically, four great reasons to become a printable product creator include:

  • Printables span virtually every niche and event, so there are always more printables you can create to expand into new niches

  • You can sell printables both on your own website and a marketplace, or whichever platform you find easiest to use

  • It’s entirely possible to earn a side- or even full-time income from selling printables, as many digital product creators have shown

  • Printables are very affordable to produce -- you only need a graphic design tool and simple website builder to get started

So get out there and start ideating. I’ll bring the ink.

About the author

Taylor Barbieri was a content writer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. Taylor enjoys learning foreign languages, fiction writing, and pugs (in no particular order).