Rileigh’s Niche Selection Tips That Helped Her Make $30,000

Rileigh’s Niche Selection Tips That Helped Her Make $30,000

Print on Demand is still one of the best ways to make money online, even with the tough competition on marketplaces like Etsy and Shopify.

Today, we’re chatting with Rileigh, a successful POD seller who cracked the Etsy code and earned $30,000 in her first year.

Rileigh not only raised enough money for a trip around the United States with her partner in a converted school bus, which they are currently converting for safe travel but also developed a new love of entrepreneurship – she even met our Printify Team in person. 

She has plenty of insights to share about making money with POD on Etsy, especially when it comes to niche selection.

Hi Rileigh, When and How Did You Start Your POD Journey?

“My partner and I were living in Japan and had a hard time getting part-time jobs due to the language barrier. I was scrolling through TikTok one day and discovered a video about POD. The idea really appealed to me because I’ve loved designing t-shirts ever since I was a kid in middle school.

I watched several YouTube videos and eventually opened up an Etsy Shop. That process happened while I was in Japan, but I continued building the business when I returned to the US in February 2023, despite having to work two jobs while finishing my final college semester.

I had begun putting real effort into the business by April and May 2023. After seven months of hard work, I hit 100 sales, and by the first anniversary in October, I had sold 500 items. After a successful holiday season, my total sales had passed $30,000, and I’m now starting 2024 having achieved over 1,000 sales.”

Rileigh’s Niche Selection Tips That Helped Her Make $30,000 1

Was There a Turning Point Where You Figured Out How to Increase Sales?

“Initially, I was putting in plenty of hours but wasn’t seeing any progress. The simple fact is that I didn’t really know what I was doing. 

I had watched hours of YouTube content on how to start a POD business, but I was creating designs for teachers and nurses, and t-shirts with inspirational quotes. 

Those kinds of niches have thousands of listings on Etsy, and there’s huge competition. It wasn’t until I started researching lower-competition, high-search niches that I began to make progress. Once I’d begun focusing on keywords and search volumes using tools like eRank, my sales skyrocketed.”

How Do You Market Your Designs?

“Funnily enough, my day job is doing marketing for a non-profit. However, all the traffic for my POD business comes directly through Etsy

I’ve tried using Etsy ads and working with influencers, but those tactics only helped me make a couple of sales. Most of my success has come from organic Etsy traffic, and I make 50% of my sales in a single niche.

I think the secret is working in smaller niches that people are passionate about. Once people find your designs, they’re more likely to share them with friends, family, and the wider community. 

I’ve also started an email list, which has been pretty helpful as you’re more likely to get repeat business that way.”

Do You Have Any Advice for Selecting Lucrative Niches?

“My best advice is to avoid designing items that try to appeal to everyone. 

Do your research, explore niches and trends that are selling well, and try to find a unique angle

You can even start to screenshot and save certain color schemes, patterns, and fonts that are trending and apply them to your designs.

I’ve even had success using popular phrases and slogans from oversaturated niches and applying them to completely different genres. In some cases, those designs have easily made 25 sales, so the research has quickly paid off.”

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Is There a Specific Criteria You Use When Doing Niche Research?

“When using eRank, I’ll look for keywords and niches with less competition. 

For example, a generic term, like football shirts, might have 1,000 monthly searches but a high competition rating of 15,000. If you divide the 1,000 searches by the competition rating of 15,000, you get a figure of just 7%.

I’ll add those figures to a spreadsheet and look for favorable niches with higher percentages of people searching for items. 

Some of the micro-niches only have 100 searches per month, but the people hunting for those items are much more likely to find your listings and make a purchase.”

Don't You Have to Be Passionate About a Niche to Be Successful?

“I’m not sure that you do. Of course, you need to be passionate about creating great designs, or you’ll never succeed, but I don’t think you need to be invested in a particular niche to do well in it. 

For example, there are retired grandmas out there who love pickleball and are searching for a t-shirt. I can easily learn about the sport and get enjoyment from making cute designs that they’ll love.”

Does Your Etsy Store Have a Large Number of Product Listings?

“Yes, I have a lot of listings. I think selling on Etsy is a lot like fishing. If you have more poles in the water, you’re more likely to catch a fish

I currently have around 3,500 listings, which dramatically increases the chances of someone finding me.

For each design I create, I’ll upload multiple listings using different Printify products. For example, I might have one design on a Bella+Canvas t-shirt and another on a Comfort Colors sweatshirt. That means that out of 3,500 listings, I’ve probably created about 800 unique designs.

Another way I’m able to upload lots of designs at once is by using templates. For example, if I was making a World’s Best Nurse t-shirt, I’d also branch out and create World’s Best Mom and World’s Best Teacher versions, too.”

Rileigh’s Niche Selection Tips That Helped Her Make $30,000 3

That's a Huge Figure. How Did You Manage to Upload So Many Designs So Quickly?

“I found a great way to get as many listings as possible in my Etsy Shop is to not worry about connecting each one to an individually published Printify product. 

Instead, I simply create as many listings as possible on Etsy and manually create and fulfill the orders on Printify as they come in. 

In the beginning, when you’re simply trying to test things out and list as many items as possible, I think this method can save a huge amount of time.”

Was There a Point in Your Journey When It Became Easier to Make Sales?

“I can’t speak for other platforms, but on Etsy, it seems like the more you sell, the more the site pushes you up the listings. Positive reviews and having your items favorited can also give you a boost. 

Overall, it’s exponential. So, although in the beginning, progress felt slow – I’m sure now that I have reached 1,000 sales, it will be significantly easier to reach the next 1,000.

When you first start out, it feels insanely slow. My advice is to stick at it because one day, you’ll look back at the numbers and realize people have spent $30,000 in your shop. The whole concept is so cool, but I still sometimes find it hard to believe.”

Your Hard Work Has Definitely Paid Off

“A lot of YouTubers make out like POD is passive income, and that’s definitely why it appealed to me. Obviously, it can be passive in the end, but to get there, you’ll need to put in a great deal of work. 

There are people out there making hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many of them have stopped making new products. 

In the beginning, though, you need to put the hours in and invest in your business so that you see the returns later on.”

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How Are You Preparing for Upcoming Holiday Events in 2024?

“I’ve not been going long enough to be properly chasing holiday sales, but I’m beginning to get more prepared. For example, I uploaded Valentine’s Day designs in early January, which is still a little late, but I was only just over the hustle and bustle of my first major Q4 season.

On platforms like Etsy, it takes six to eight weeks for the algorithm to pick up on a listing and for it to gain traction. 

Right now, I’m concentrating on more evergreen designs, but I’ll still upload some items for Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, and St. Patrick’s Day.

Most shoppers on Etsy are looking for individual items they can’t find at places like Walmart. I think that means if they’re spending $35 on a t-shirt, they’re going to want to wear it more than once a year, which is why I’m mostly sticking to those evergreen niches.

With all of that being said, it’s hard to ignore Halloween and Christmas. My biggest sales came during the last Q4 because I really focused on Halloween listings in my shop. Etsy absolutely gets more traffic in the holiday season, so you’re likely to pick up more sales in whatever niche you are in.”

Do You Have Any Tips on How to Price Items?

Don’t be afraid to set realistic prices that make a decent profit. You’ll notice a lot of $5 or $7 t-shirts on Etsy, but many of those are in children’s sizes and used as a loss leader strategy. 

Also, if you stay away from the popular genres and really niche down, then your customers will be more likely to pay more money for a unique design they can’t get elsewhere. 

When it comes to pricing specifics, I like to sell all of the different colors and sizes of shirts for the same average price. I find my average base cost and add the profit margin I’d like, so I’m still making a profit on the bigger sizes. But my 5XL is the same price as the medium, one price for all the sizes. I don’t believe people of bigger sizes should pay more for their clothes.”

Has a Customer Ever Made Your Day?

“One of my customers was looking to buy one of my designs but wasn’t comfortable wearing it on a t-shirt in public. 

I offered her a 50% off voucher and told her I’d experiment with some stickers and tumblers. In the end, she refused to use the voucher and thanked me for creating the new items. 

She wanted to help a small business owner and was happy to pay full price. I thought it was so cool that she wanted to support me as a creator.”

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What's the Biggest Lesson You've Learned So Far on Your Journey?

Keep going, and never give up. I could easily have quit after seven months of hard work, but luckily, I persevered. 

My biggest piece of advice to anyone starting out is to remember that you’re building a business. Invest as much time as you can because it will definitely pay off in the long run.”

How Does It Feel to Hit the $30,000 Revenue Milestone?

“I’ve reinvested some of the money, of course, but it’s still a life-changing amount. My partner and I hope to build a school bus conversion so that we can tour around the US, and that takes a lot of money. 

POD has helped with that and also meant that I’ve been able to pay off some of my credit card debt.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s completely overwhelming to think that I’ve designed a bunch of things on my laptop that have not only earned $30,000, but over a thousand people are now out there wearing them

It makes me feel good and that all the hard work has paid off.”

How Has Printify Helped Shape Your Business?

The Printify Rockstars Facebook group has been the biggest help to me, especially when I was first starting with POD when I lived in Japan. 

When I had no idea what I was doing, I was able to tap into a whole community of like-minded people who were willing to share tips and teach others how to get started.

As the last Q4 season was building, Printify was holding its Amplified conference and had announced that they were going to pick three people from the group to attend. I joked with my boss that I would need time off to travel to Latvia, and suddenly, I got a message that I had been picked.

That was a huge turning point for me and my POD business because I got to meet people who had found success and made a career doing the same thing as me. 

It inspired me to know that while I was working on my computer listing Etsy products, other people out there were already living the dream.

I also realized that Printify is so much bigger than I expected. The founder started out selling laptop sleeves, and now there’s a network of people and companies behind the scenes working together so that t-shirts from my small business can be worn all around the world.

I keep reminding myself of all this when I’m punching away on my laptop and that what I’m doing is just as important as Jeff Bezos building Amazon in his garage. 

If all of this is still around in the future, I might even be showing my grandkids how to run the business.”

Make It Happen Today!

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