Plus A Step-By-Step Guide To Making Your First Sale.
In the midst of a life-altering pandemic, Heather had to face a difficult challenge. While working in the medical profession 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, and after quitting her day job, she’s coaching you on how to do it for free!
Getting a successful print-on-demand business off the ground isn’t easy. But Heather managed to start and run several hugely successful stores across Etsy and Shopify by catering to several popular niches. Now, she teaches other print-on-demand entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses using her tried and true methods.
In this article:
…and much more!
The Pandemic Hits And Pushes Heather To Print On Demand.
Heather’s road to print on demand wasn’t a straightforward one. She started her career working in the medical industry. After studying for five years, she was certain she’d found her path in life. “The medical industry is a great place to be,” she says, “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 she worked at decided to cut back hours. Most routine operations weren’t happening, so there was no need for orthopedic staff. Instead, much-needed time and money were going to the staff required to help face the pandemic.
Although this was understandable, it put her in a tricky situation. She had just bought her first house and suddenly found myself working minimal hours with big bills to pay. Because she was certain things would soon return to normal, Heather decided to search for a side hustle that would see her through the difficult period
POD And The Magical World Of No Inventory!
It just so happened that 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 all came flooding back. But, my initial thought was regarding inventory”. Like many, Heather thought running a textiles or fashion business meant spending cash on buying products before ever knowing if people would buy. Although a fun idea, it didn’t seem like a viable route for her at the time.
It wasn’t long until she learned one magical thing about print-on-demand – something that changed everything – you don’t need inventory! Fast forward, and Heather decides to give this print-on-demand business a whirl.
Why She Chose Print-On-Demand Over Other Hustles.
As earlier mentioned, Heather has always loved design. She tells us that art and design have always been a part of her 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 Heather on the medical route. “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 medical field, she was always torn between it and design. So, when she saw print-on-demand, it gave her the itch to return to what she had loved before. “At the time, I thought it would be a great hobby. I could design and create to help me unwind after a day at the hospital.” Later on, print-on-demand allowed her to monetize and create a side hustle out of something she already love doing.
In The Beginning, There Was Strife.
Heather started with a competitor company, designing and selling neck gaiters. But, it wasn’t long until the pandemic caught up with this venture too. Print-on-demand services were struggling due to a backup in production. Frustrated, Heather decided it wasn’t meant to be and went back to the hospital.
Things were picking up the pace back at the hospital. All the scans, treatments, and surgeries that were on hold because of the pandemic resumed. Soon, she was working double her old 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.” Heather had had a taste of the print-on-demand lifestyle and craved for more. She wanted to try her failed pursuit once again.
Starting All Over Again.
In January 2021, Heather decided to jump back in and give everything she had to print on demand. She moved away from neck gaiter because these weren’t widely accepted in the States as masks. Following her long-lost childhood dream, she decided to make T-shirts. “To be honest it wasn’t smooth sailing at first. There was a six-week period where I had zero sales.” Determined, this time she kept pushing. She got through the six weeks, and sales began coming in.
This time round, Heather knew she had to appeal to more people. She began creating T-shirts that would resonate with different niches. “I actually remember my first sale. It was 5:00 AM, and my phone buzzed. And I was like, ‘uh, what’s that noise?’ It was Etsy saying I’d got a sale!” That 5 AM sale got Heather motivated. It was so inspiring to see someone buying her designs. So she started posting more.
By the end of spring, She had over 200 listings on Etsy and was selling all kinds of products from the Printify catalog. Her struggles at the beginning had opened Heather’s eyes to what she was doing wrong. She now knew that if she tried different niches and products, She’d know which ones sold the best and direct her business in the future.
Why Choose To Partner With Printify?
Heather has used a different print-on-demand service for her neck gaiters but had a bad experience. When searching for a new print-on-demand 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 print-on-demand company she had worked with had higher price points resulting in smaller profit margins for her business.
Another reason she enjoys working with Printify is she can work with a range of suppliers. If something goes out of stock, for instance, there are several different providers who can cater to her needs.
“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
Expanding Her Business Helped To Promote Sales.
Heather went from zero sales in January 2021 to make $250,000 in revenue by December. Expanding the business and maintaining the flow of products was hard work. But, she knew the time, effort, and energy would pay off in the long run. “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.
In the beginning, Heather started with one niche and in hindsight, was pretty vague about it. After much deliberation, She decided to expand to more niches. She started in the positivity niche before moving on to the workout niche. From that, She went into career-orientated niches, and then the mom niche. Although having such a broad product range was a lot of work, it meant she had items in every niche. and since Etsy is an organic traffic machine; the more traffic you bring to the site, the better it is, it wasn’t long before she had a bestselling product in every popular niche.
“I still work in many niches, and there are a few reasons I’ve decided to keep this store structure.” Diversifying made her store successful. Especially because 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 the neck gaiters, she was using a credit card that had an excess of only $300. “My sales were coming in so quickly that I was hitting my card limit.” She had to increase her credit line several times to stay ahead of orders, and as a beginner, this was tough. It was something she was unaware would happen and was worsened by the fact that she had to navigate this development alongside an influx of sales.
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 respects, she was lucky because she had three years of experience in customer service. But, this was still something new she had to learn as part of owning her new business.
Guide To Making The First Sale For Beginners
Step 1: Avoid burn-out by scheduled publishing
The beginning can be tough, Heather warns. You require a lot of products to get seen and be successful. “I add three to five listings a day on Etsy. This is a strategy I recommend for my Etsy course students.” Designing and ordering these items is time-consuming and can be stressful. By doing a bit at a time, you’re reducing the risk of overworking yourself.
Step 2: Make publishing only a few listings a daily habit
“You need to be consistent to get results. Plus, the more items you create, the better a designer you’ll become. Give yourself time to do better market research, to create and advance 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.” Heather teaches these elements in her course. She helps people streamline the learning experience and develop a profitable store without the hurdles she faced.
Bonus: All you need to know about the Etsy customer
“Etsy is a very visual platform. Shoppers value aesthetic products. 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 mock-ups do very well on Etsy. On Amazon, it wouldn’t garner the same interest.” Unlike Amazon sellers, Etsy users need to consider how their product caters to the tastes and styles of customers.
Venturing Out To Shopify From Etsy.
Unlike her Etsy store, Heather decided to cater to a specific niche on Shopify. The store only sold T-shirts and Sweatshirts. And she also decided to take the social media route for marketing. “I started an Instagram, Facebook page, a TikTok and for a while, it worked. I grew my store to around $35,00 in revenue in six months.” But when Heather began teaching print on demand on YouTube, she had too much on her plate. Something had to give, and so she decided to close her Shopify store down.
“The traffic was phenomenal, and I could see it increasing, But with the customer service demands and social media, it was all-consuming.” Heather had to make a decision for her mental health. She loved teaching, and still had a successful Etsy store. Instead of spreading herself too thin, she decided to focus her energy on the things she enjoyed most.
“I have the skillset 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, setting up and running each store is the main difference. “On sites like Etsy and Amazon, the platform has its 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 Run Successful Businesses.
Heather’s coaching story starts on Facebook. When she first joined print-on-demand, she also joined several Facebook POD groups. Heather soon found herself answering questions surrounding common issues people were experiencing. Soon, she realized she spent a lot of time helping others and not focusing on running her stores. That’s when she decided to start her coaching business to serve 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 learn and invest in Heather’s course receive a much deeper understanding and education on the topic. She says she’s that they are really keen to run a successful store and are willing to dedicate their time and energy to learn from her and her experience.
Continuing To Run A Successful Business Despite The Challenges.
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 repeat buyers and developed a dedicated fan base for her products.
“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.
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