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When I was looking for a side hustle, I came across print-on-demand merch. I looked at some t-shirt designs and feel that I can do it too. I started selling my designs on TeePublic and Redbubble in September 2017. My first sale of two stickers only came in March 2018. The sale only made me US$1.50 but there is no cost on my side.
To date, I have made US$1,909.85 (S$2,529.57). For the past few months, I have been making about US$50 a month on average.
If you are interested in graphic design, this is one of the side hustles that can provide you with some income. The only input you need is your time and creativity, with no cash outflow if you do not run advertisements.
What Is Print-On-Demand?
Print-on-demand is the opposite of mass-produced pieces like what you find in Uniqlo and H&M. You pick the design you like and pick the type of product you want it to be printed on. The manufacturing only starts after the order is placed. It is not limited to clothes but you will be able to place the design you like on various products.
The range of products include
- Laptop cases
You get a commission of about 20% for every piece sold. Examples of TeePublic’s commissions are as shown below.
|Product Type||Product Price||Commissions|
|Clothes||US$14 – US$45||US$2 – US$8|
|Stickers||US$2 – US$2.50||US$0.50 – S$0.75|
|Mugs||US$11 – US$15||US$2 – US$4|
|Masks||US$6 – US$15||US$1 – US$2|
|Notebooks||US$10 – US$20||US$2 – US$4|
You can see the full list of the different type of commissions for TeePublic here.
For Redbubble, you are able to set your own commission levels.
How Does Print-On-Demand Work?
Step 1 – Designing
Whenever I have some ideas, I will write them down. I will then use illustrator to create the design.
There are some requirements like the size and dpi that you will need to fulfil to make sure that your images can be uploaded to the platform.
Step 2 – Uploading To Platform
Next, I will upload the designs to the platform and there are several other inputs we need to tweak.
Title, Description And Tags
The title is the only other thing the customer will see first besides the design so it should represent your product accurately. It will also contain keywords for customers to search for your design.
You can add a description of what your design is about.
As for the tags, it is additional keywords that you think that when people search for them, your design is what they are looking for.
Tweaking The Design On The Merch
You can resize and position the design by dragging it to make sure it looks good on the various product types.
The colour of the product should also match your design. For example, if your design is black in colour, it should only be available on light coloured products and vice versa.
Decide Which Product Types To Sell
I usually just fit my design for all product types as it just takes a few more minutes. But if you think that your design does not look good for certain products, you should disable it.
Step 3 – Wait For Sales To Come In
That’s it. You can just leave it and wait for your first sale to arrive. You just upload the design and the platforms will handle the rest like website hosting, manufacturing, logistics, payments and basic advertising.
If you would like for them to reach out to more people, you can run ads or post them to your social media. I personally do not do so as I don’t agree with using ads and social media to influence purchase decisions.
If you don’t run ads or post them on social media, your products can be discovered when customers search for the various keywords or if you are lucky, the platforms might include your designs when sending out promotional emails.
What Do You Need To Start?
Here are some things that you absolutely need to begin selling.
Print-on-demand Sellers Account
You need to decide where to sell and then open an account with the platform and set up all the necessary details.
I personally use my computer but technically you will be able to do so on tablet and mobile but having a computer will make your workflow much easier.
The industry standard is using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator but Ii you need free design software, you can take a look at Gimp, an open-source image editor.
You will need a PayPal account for them to send you money once you make a sale.
Take note that there might be minimum sales before you can withdraw your proceeds.
For TeePublic, they consolidate the sales monthly and send you the proceeds in the middle of the following month.
For Redbubble, there is a minimum withdrawal amount of US$20 so it might take a few months before you get enough sales to receive your first paycheck. They also send the proceeds in the middle of the following month.
Benefits Of Print-On-Demand
Zero Upfront Costs And Fuss-Free
There are no fees to open the account and you can start selling right away. You can focus on designing and uploading while they will handle the rest.
The bad point is that they get quite a big cut of the sale but for me, it is perfect as I don’t want to deal with anything else besides designing.
Less Waste Created
Although it is less efficient as we cannot harness economies of scale, every product sold is based on a sale. Each product will be manufactured only when an order comes in. There will be no leftover designs that cannot be sold off and made obsolete.
The designs are not mass produced so what you get will be pretty exclusive. You can also use the platform to custom print your own designs ad-hoc even if you don’t want to be a seller.
My Results Selling On Print-On-Demand Platforms
I have 2 brands, A and B, on both TeePublic and Redbubble. I will be representing them as
- TP A – 600 Designs
- TP B – 130 Designs
- RB A – 401 Designs
- RB B – 128 Designs
I have also attached the number of designs that is available in each store. Basically, the more designs you have, the higher the chance of your design catching the eye of the customer.
For the past few months, I achieve an average of US$50 a month. It isn’t a lot but it can cover some expenses and it is extremely passive. I just upload the designs and the platform will take care of everything else.
The yearly sales had an increasing trend from 2018 to 2020 but it looks like 2021’s sales will not exceed 2020’s.
Sales Quantity By Product Type
I have the most success on clothes, stickers and masks. I occasionally get my designs printed on phone cases, mugs and pillows.
Sales Amount By Product Type
Clothes have a higher margin compared to other products so combined with the high quantity sold, the majority of my sales comes from printing my designs on clothes.
Can You Do Print-On-Demand Full Time?
When I receive this email, I thought it was a scam as they asked for a lot of personal information. They sent me some stickers as a reward for achieving the master status.
I made about US$600 over 1.5 years at the time of the e-mail. If I can be in the top 25% of all sellers just making US$600, most designers are not making a living wage off these platforms.
There are definitely designers that make thousands a month but they are in the top 1%.
Those that really succeed have one or more of the following
- Thousands and thousands of designs uploaded
- Run advertising campaigns
- Have their own brand and following
Environmental Effects Of Buying Clothes
Since I had the most success with clothing, I would also like to address the environmental effects of clothes.
In Singapore, only 4% out of 106,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste was recycled. The rest landed up in Singapore’s only landfill that is projected to be filled by 2030.
Print-on-demand creates less waste than mass-produced fashion. However, this does not give us the excuse to overconsume fashion. I would like to advocate that we should just buy what we need and don’t overbuy clothes. You don’t need twenty t-shirts all with different designs. Sell off or donate clothes that you no longer want to wear. Try not to buy excessively in the first place.
Print-on-demand platforms are a great fuss-free, zero cash outlay for a side-hustle if you are into design. You can just design, upload and the platforms will handle the website hosting, manufacturing, logistics, payments and basic advertising. It might not be feasible as a full-time gig, but it can provide some pizza money.
Fashion is a major source of waste so only buy what you need.
If you would like to start selling your designs, you can sign up using my referral link for TeePublic here (Referral Link).
If you join as a TeePublic designer via my link, I’ll get US$1 for every product you sell up to US$1,000. You will still get your full commission.
You can also join as a Redbubble designer here.