Here at Printify, we’ve spoken to dozens of sellers who’ve cracked the POD code. We scoured these success stories to bring you their ten biggest POD obstacles and how to overcome them.
In this article, we’ll share the biggest POD obstacles ten successful merchants faced and how they overcame them. Let’s dive right in.
1. Managing Time Efficiently
Amanda Heiser, or SketchyMandy, is an influencer with an impressive follower count. Amanda uses her social accounts to connect with fans and promote her print-on-demand store. However, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
“The hardest thing for me is time management. I still work a 9-5 – print-on-demand is my side hustle. I have to be strategic with my time to ensure I respond to customer messages and check that all the orders are going through. When I factor in designing, it means I have to think a long way ahead.
If anyone plans to start a store, I’d tell them to think about how they plan their day. You need to be willing to compromise and make sacrifices. Sometimes my husband has to take care of things alone, and I’ll often do my designing while we’re both watching TV.”
If you need help managing time efficiently, try the Pomodoro Technique. This time management hack breaks a work period into 25-minute chunks, separated by five-minute breaks.
The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is that a timer gives you a greater sense of urgency. In addition, this method of working can help you schedule tasks more efficiently and stop you from feeling frazzled.
If you still need help managing your time efficiently, check out our mega-list of over 50 productivity tools to achieve more in 2023.
2. Getting Bogged Down by Minor Details
Jenny and her husband created successful Etsy stores using print-on-demand. They can now live abroad while managing their businesses for just 30 minutes a day. Though Jenny admits, it can be easy to get bogged down with details when starting.
“When you’re first getting started, it’s essential to concentrate on going through all the setup stages, naming your store, and creating a logo as quickly as possible.
People spend too much time thinking about the setup part of the process and get completely stressed out.
I only overcame it after realizing that you can always go back and tweak things later. I didn’t want to be tired out before I’d even created your first design.
After feeling very overwhelmed initially, I focused on making the first five sales. It was generally smooth sailing after that.
All the little steps you have to take to set up the store can be very tough to work through, but there’s always time. Focus on making your first sale instead.”
Online communities are great for helping you solve issues you never faced before. They’re excellent places to meet new friends who will motivate you to succeed.
3. Making Your First Sale
Christina Umerez, from Toronto, mastered print-on-demand so quickly that she was able to quit her regular job in less than a year, eventually fulfilling her dream of becoming a full-time traveler. However, like many newcomers to POD, sales were slow initially.
“Growth was slow at the start because I was still working 9-5. When starting out, many people are put off by the initial lack of activity. I found that sales become exponential once things get going.
It might take five months to make a hundred sales, but only five weeks to make the next hundred. The main thing is to keep putting in consistent effort.
I began posting 10 or 20 new designs a day. Every moment of my spare time was devoted to the project to produce more print-on-demand designs. It takes a lot of listings to find a design that people resonate with. I have uploaded over 800 designs, and only a handful sell daily.”
Eventually, the hard work paid off. After starting her POD business in April, Christina made $12,000 in November and December of the same year.
If you currently need more sales, devote a set amount of time each day to upload more new products.
If you haven’t yet built up a decent back catalog of products, there are other ways to improve your chances of making your first sale.
Etsy is a very visual platform, so experiment with product photos and colors to find out what grabs people’s attention. Use this article to pick the right colors and styles for your designs.
Follow our comprehensive Design Guide to get the best quality products for your customers.
4. Taking on Too Much When Starting Out
Online entrepreneur Rich Khun has been self-employed his entire life, taking on graphic design gigs at 14 years old. Although the self-styled Hustle Ninja is a gifted marketer and influencer, he often felt overwhelmed during the early days.
“Being an entrepreneur is all about trusting yourself and staying patient. When I was in my early twenties, it could get pretty depressing at times, as I needed to realize how complicated things could get or that it takes time to build an online business.
When people are struggling, they often ask me about purchasing printing equipment and how to print their T-shirts. They want to do it all themselves, even the fulfillment.
I tell them to try print-on-demand first to see if they enjoy the process. Let someone else handle the logistics so you can concentrate on making sales.”
Rich is correct about letting someone else handle the printing and logistics when starting out. A print-on-demand business model means you don’t need to invest a lot of money to get started, and you won’t have to deal with the nightmare of storing and posting your own stock.
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5. Underestimating High Holiday Demand
Working as an MRI technician during the pandemic, Heather faced an uncertain future, turning to print-on-demand to help boost her income. Her efforts were wildly successful, netting profits of over $200,000. However, the journey wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is in quarter four. The holidays are nearing, orders are increasing, and a demand for more customer service comes with this.
If you’re not prepared, or you don’t have someone to help you – it can get out of hand. By starting early and building up slowly, you’re reducing the risk of overworking yourself.”
The best way to manage the busy holiday period is to be prepared well ahead of time. It’s never too late to take advantage of the biggest sale season of the year. Plus, you can always plan for next year.
Many pro sellers prepare for key dates six months to a year in advance. We created this eCommerce holiday sales calendar so you never have to miss out on a big sale period ever again.
6. Lacking Graphic Design Skills
Terra and Josh opened their first store in January 2021. In the beginning, business was slow, with the couple notching up just a single sale in the first month and only a handful more in the second.
Terra worked on improving her SEO skills, hoping that more traffic would help, but she soon realized that her print-on-demand t-shirt designs simply weren’t good enough.
“I had to figure out how to design a t-shirt properly. Although I’d had some success selling digital products, I had never sold physical items before. At the start, I was putting out some terrible designs.
My first tip to anyone starting out with print-on-demand would be to sell products that you would be happy wearing yourself or giving to a friend as a gift.
Ultimately, I found my biggest success with Ziggy, a character from a 1970s comic strip that I was lucky enough to get copyright permission to use. Once I got into my stride with my vintage designs, things really took off.”
If, like Terra, your design skills aren’t up to scratch, don’t throw in the towel. Services like Placeit offer thousands of pre-made designs that you can alter to your personal taste or niche requirements without any graphic design skills.
Or, you could always hire a designer for a modest fee on Fiverr.
7. Trying to Build a Webstore From Scratch
Carole Knaus has a pretty unusual day job. For the last twenty years, she’s been part of a team of specialist sculptors who create cinematic landscapes for Hollywood blockbusters, including Guardians of the Galaxy, and the recent megahit, The Mandalorian.
Although Carole is no stranger to creativity and building things from scratch, she didn’t have experience building websites, which meant a steep learning curve as she moved away from selling on Etsy.
“I’m not a web developer. It’s definitely not my forte, and I spent a year on Etsy before moving my print-on-demand business to a dedicated website.
In the beginning, I thought it looked easy enough, but it took months and loads of mistakes to get where I am now.”
My store is now hosted on Shopify, and I’m pleased with how things turned out, especially as it’s just a free theme that I’m using. I didn’t think I’d be able to create a nice website, so I think it’s a big accomplishment!”
Carole made a wise decision to use Shopify to build her eCommerce store. The platform is beginner-friendly and removes the hassle of hosting and the headache of setting up a shopping cart.
8. Learning to Let Go
Before COVID-19 hit the headlines, Lindsey Ferris owned a corporate event production company she had been running for 12 years. Within months, she lost her business and had to make some tough decisions.
Fast forward to today, Lindsey is making a name for herself using print-on-demand and excelling at it, notching up nearly 5,000 sales to date.
Part of Lindsey’s success was due to her relentless work ethic, but she also had to learn how to walk away from design ideas that weren’t working.
“It can be draining at times because you spend so much time creating products. I’ve had moments when I think something will sell well, and it doesn’t. It’s not easy, but I have to force myself to get rid of it and focus on what’s working.
In my experience, what has helped most is to be very intentional in targeting what my customers want. I’m always trying to create more of what’s selling and what my customers give me good feedback on.
The trick is to look at it from a business approach of what’s selling versus what I want to make.”
A flexible, open-minded approach is the way to win as a print-on-demand seller. Research what your ideal customers are looking for, and offer designs that fulfill a need rather than relying on your personal tastes or preferences.
This article will give you actionable advice on researching and profiting from emerging trends, plus information on identifying the latest items shoppers are searching for.
9. Missing Out on Sale Opportunities
As another entrepreneur who lost her job during the global pandemic, Cassiy Johnson became a successful Etsy seller in under two years, racking up an astounding $525,000 in sales.
However, Cassiy struggled when starting out. Although she understood the potential of Etsy, she had little knowledge of the type of people who shopped there.
“My biggest challenge was finding what to design. When you start print-on-demand, it can feel like there are too many options.
Many designers struggle with knowing what to do and how to stand out. It took a while for me to work out the psychology behind purchases.
Because I don’t wear many graphic shirts, I wasn’t aware that people bought Valentine’s Day, Teacher’s Day, or Christmas T-shirts.
It turns out that these are huge sellers on Etsy, and once I’d figured out what motivates purchases and what people want to buy, I became successful.”
It’s probably becoming clear by now that we’re big fans of the Etsy platform, and so are many of our successful sellers. If, like Cassiy, you’re unfamiliar with what Etsy shoppers are looking for, check out our guide to 2022’s best-selling items.
10. Overcoming Personal Challenges
For our final tip, we’d like to offer the advice of an Olympic gold medalist, environmental activist, award-winning artist, and all-around inspiration, Niall Guite.
As a child, Niall was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and autism. That hasn’t stopped him from cramming more awards into a couple of years than many people achieve in a lifetime.
“I want to show people with intellectual disabilities that they can achieve something if they stick with it and just keep working towards their goals.
The secret recipe for success is staying motivated and working against all odds.”
Going against the odds doesn’t come easy, as Niall can attest. But if you keep at it, it just might work wonders.
We hope these tips help you troubleshoot and prepare for success even when just starting out. So why not give it a try and start designing? Begin working towards your dreams today.
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