Plus, a Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your First Sale
During the pandemic, Heather faced a difficult challenge while working in the medical field as an MRI technologist – her hours were suddenly cut back. Looking for something to make her bread and butter, she turned to Print on Demand with Printify.
$200,000 later, she has quit her day job and is teaching other print-on-demand entrepreneurs how to start and scale their businesses for free.
One of her tips for success is selling in various popular niches. The rest? You’ll find out in the article below.
In this article:
The transcript of our conversation has been shortened and edited.
The Pandemic Pushes Heather to Print on Demand
Heather’s road to Print on Demand wasn’t straightforward. After five years of studying, she was certain she’d found her path in healthcare.
“The medical industry is a great place to be, and I honestly thought I’d have a safe, secure, and fulfilling job for the rest of my life.”
But then the pandemic hit.
As it did for many, COVID-19 put several hurdles before her. The hospital cut back her hours because they stopped routine operations, and there was no need for the orthopedic staff. Instead, the much-needed time and money went to their frontline workers.
Although understandable, this put her in a tricky situation. She had just bought her first house and suddenly found herself working minimal hours with big bills to pay. So, Heather looked for a side hustle to see her through the difficult period.
Print on Demand and the Magical World of No Inventory
She came across a few YouTube videos talking about Print On Demand.
“If I’m honest, it took me back to a childhood dream I had. I always thought designing t-shirts would be really cool.
I’d draw up t-shirt designs in my free time, and these memories came flooding back. But, my initial thought was regarding inventory”.
Like many, Heather thought running a fashion business meant buying products before even knowing if people would buy them. Although a fun idea, it didn’t seem like a viable route at that time.
It wasn’t long until she learned something that changed everything – you don’t need inventory in Print on Demand. Fast forward and Heather decides to give it a go.
Why She Chose Print on Demand Over Other Hustles
Art and design have always been a part of Heather’s life.
“Before I graduated high school and took the medical route, I earned scholarships to do art. I even went as far as applying to a college in Indiana for illustration and graphic design.”
However, personal reasons led her into the medical industry.
“My father had a serious heart condition when I was in high school. I’d be in and out of the hospital visiting him, and that inspired me to change the pathway I was on.”
Even though she loved the job, she was always torn between healthcare and design. So, after discovering Print on Demand, she got the itch to return and do what she loved.
“At the time, I thought it would be a great hobby. I could design and create to unwind after a day at the hospital.”
In the Beginning, There Was Strife
Heather started designing and selling neck gaiters with another company. However, the pandemic caught up with this venture too, and print-on-demand services were struggling due to a backup in production. Frustrated, Heather decided it wasn’t meant to be and returned to the hospital.
The procedures that were on hold resumed, and soon Heather was working double her standard hours.
“We were severely short-staffed, and I was unhappy. Of course, at first, I wasn’t sure where this sadness stemmed from. My job was back to normal, more hours meant more money, so I didn’t have to worry about bills. But I felt so low.”
When Heather saw what the print-on-demand life could bring, she couldn’t shake the thought of it. So, she decided to pursue it once more.
Starting All Over Again
In January 2021, Heather put everything she had into her print-on-demand business. She stopped selling neck gaiters because these weren’t widely accepted in the US as face masks and decided to make t-shirts instead.
“To be honest, it wasn’t smooth sailing at first. There was a six-week period where I had zero sales.”
Despite that, she persisted, got through the six weeks, and sales began coming in. What changed this time was that Heather knew she had to appeal to more people and find different t-shirt niches.
“I actually remember my first sale. It was 5 AM, and my phone buzzed. And I was like, ‘Uh, what’s that noise?’ It was Etsy saying I’d got a sale!”
Seeing someone finally buying her designs was so inspiring – it motivated her to create more products. By the end of spring, she had over 200 listings on Etsy and sold various items from the Printify catalog.
Exploring different niches and products showed exactly where her business needs to go in order to grow.
Why Partner With Printify?
Heather used a different print-on-demand service to sell neck gaiters but wasn’t satisfied with the experience. When searching for another company, she came across Printify.
“One of the biggest perks for me is your low pricing. I’m able to sell competitive products, such as t-shirts and sweatshirts, on Etsy and still make a profit.”
The other service had higher prices resulting in smaller profits for her business.
Another reason she enjoys working with Printify is her ability to work with various printing partners. For example, if something goes out of stock, she can choose from several other providers to replace the item.
“The company’s popularity, cheaper pricing, competitive product range, and great customer service made me choose Printify. You take care of your merchants, and I value that”. – HeatherxStudio
“Plus, now I get to do this full-time, which is something I never imagined while in the medical profession. It’s pretty cool.”
How Catering to More Niches Helped Grow Her Business
Growing her business and maintaining the flow of new products was hard work, but she knew the time and effort would pay off in the long run.
Heather went from zero sales in January 2021 to make $250,000 in revenue by December.
She credits her success to selling in various niches, like:
“I still work in many niches, and there are a few reasons I’ve decided to keep this store structure.”
Different niches peak at different times of the year, and some categories are seasonal.
“I’ve noticed April and May are ideal for career-oriented products, but these items are less popular in June and July.
Having so many products tailored to different people, occasions, and seasons means I’ve developed an advanced understanding of Etsy and its consumer base.”
What to Expect When You're Expecting Huge Sales
Heather had a backend problem right at the beginning. When she was selling neck gaiters, she used a credit card with an excess of only $300.
“My sales were coming in so quickly that I was hitting my card limit.”
Keeping up with constantly increasing her credit line to stay ahead of growing sales was tough, especially for a beginner.
Heather also struggled with product issues.
“Just like in any retail role, you’ll have defects and human errors. I’d receive emails from people who had sent the wrong address after shipping.”
In some instances, she was lucky because her three years of experience in customer service came in handy.
Tips for New Business Owners
Step 1: Make a Schedule to Avoid Burnout
When starting out, you need to create many products to get seen and succeed.
“I add three to five listings a day on Etsy. This is a strategy I recommend for my Etsy course students.”
Designing products and ordering samples is time-consuming and can quickly become stressful. Be kind to yourself and do a bit at a time. Ideally, make a realistic schedule for publishing your products.
Step 2: Improve Your Skillset
“There’s no point in having hundreds of products if you don’t know how to set up your store and complete listings.
Give yourself time to do market research and advance your skillset.”
For example, the more items you create, the better a designer you’ll become. In her course, Heather helps people streamline their learning process and develop a profitable store without the hurdles she initially faced.
Bonus Tip: Everything You Need to Know About the Etsy Customer
Etsy shoppers love aesthetically-pleasing products and visuals.
“I’d describe Etsy in contrast to Amazon. On Amazon, visuals are clean, clear, and basic. But on Etsy, people value things that look good. For example, boohoo-themed mockups do very well on Etsy. On Amazon, it wouldn’t garner the same interest.”
Unlike Amazon sellers, Etsy sellers need to consider how their visual style caters to their customers.
Switching It up for Shopify
When Heather opened her Shopify store, she catered to one niche and only sold t-shirts and sweatshirts. Plus, she took on marketing her products on social media.
“I started an Instagram, Facebook, and a TikTok page, and for a while, it worked. I grew my store to around $35,00 in revenue in six months.”
However, when she started teaching Print on Demand on YouTube, Heather felt she had too much on her plate. Something had to give, and she decided to close her Shopify store.
“The traffic was phenomenal, and I could see it increasing, but with the customer service demands and social media, it was all-consuming.”
She loved teaching and had a successful Etsy store, so instead of spreading herself too thin, she focused her energy on what she enjoyed most.
“I have the skill set to build a successful POD store. I want to open the door for others to do the same”. – HeatherStudio on Youtube.
The Differences Between Selling on Etsy and Shopify
According to Heather, the main differences lie in setting up and running each store.
“On sites like Etsy and Amazon, the platforms have their own customer base. So all you need to do is add your products, photographs, and descriptions. Etsy and Amazon are well established, and people go to them to find what they want.
On Shopify, you’re responsible for the complete design and functionality. You need to drive traffic yourself, alongside all the other tasks required to run a print-on-demand business. All that work gives you a debatably better profit margin. But setting up a Shopify store is definitely trickier.”
Becoming a POD Coach to Help Others Build Successful Businesses
Heather’s coaching story starts on Facebook. When she discovered Print on Demand, she joined several print-on-demand Facebook groups and began answering common questions from other sellers.
Soon, Heather realized she was spending a lot of time helping others rather than focusing on her stores. That’s when she decided to start her coaching business and help the people asking for her expertise.
“I began by making YouTube videos, but I was still receiving tons of messages from people seeking one-to-one guidance. Now I coach via my website HeatherxStudio.”
Heather recently launched her free Etsy Plus Print-On-Demand Crash Course.
“I have a mix of free and paid-for courses, so I can best serve everyone at different stages of their print-on-demand journey.”
Those who invest in Heather’s course gain a much deeper understanding of Print on Demand. She says her students are keen to run a successful store and willing to dedicate their time and energy to learning from her and her experience.
Running a Business Despite the Challenges
When asked about her biggest challenge so far, Heather says:
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is in quarter four. The holidays are nearing, orders are increasing, and with this comes a demand for more customer service.
If you’re not prepared, or you don’t have someone to help you, this admin can get out of hand. But, these struggles have also been my biggest wins.”
Her dedication to customer service has brought her lots of returning customers.
“I’d also say burnout has been a big challenge for me. I know that I’m not the only print-on-demand business owner who’s been in this position.”
It’s important to remember that no one can create a successful Etsy store overnight. Small tasks every day lead to big success, and that’s what she continues to teach her students.
If Heather’s story has inspired you to start your print-on-demand journey, click here to join Printify.
Make It Happen Today!
Share the article