How to Make Money as an Artist with Print on Demand
There are a handful of ways for artists to make money online. Selling print-on-demand products on your eCommerce website is one of them.
With print-on-demand, you can showcase your photography, comics, illustrations, calligraphy—anything you've created—on a blank product. And as a result, you have a desirable, one-of-a-kind product that isn't seen or sold anywhere else.
It's a win-win scenario. Your customers get unique products they love and you make money as an artist.
Okay... Sounds good, but where to start? Here! You're in the right place already.
Keep reading to understand why it's worth starting a print-on-demand business and how to sell artwork on a variety of products to customers around the globe.
How to make money as an artist with print on demand:
Learn how print on demand works
Curate your product selection
Fine-tune your art to work for product designs
Price your products with room for profit
Create an online presence
Work on your marketing strategies
01. Learn how print on demand works
Print-on-demand is a business model where you sell customized products on your storefront without keeping inventory.
It's like dropshipping products, but with your own custom designs.
The way print-on-demand works: say you have an online store and are using a print-on-demand service like Printful. When a customer orders something from your store, Printful receives the order and you get a notification. Printful prints, packs, and ships the product to your customer on your behalf. Simple as that.
Print-on-demand is the more eco-conscious choice over bulk manufacturing because this model produces only what's ordered. That means you make money as an artist and don't harm the planet with excess waste of unsold products.
There's no risk of slow-selling items because nothing's produced without an actual order from a customer. So in theory, you could list hundreds of products on your storefront (if you wanted to). Now, let’s get into whether you should.
02. Curate your product selection
Imagine entering an online store. You see a design you like on a hoodie and think it looks great. Then you see it on towels, stickers, pillow cases, and leggings. Suddenly the design doesn't look great anymore, and the products feel cheap.
You want your artwork to be the star of the show. It has to look premium. That's why curation is the way to go.
By creating your product line with specific types of products (like eco-friendly apparel or mugs), you can define your niche.
For example, if your products are mostly wall art and your designs are illustrations based on fairy tales, you can market your store as the go-to for decorating nurseries, kindergarten spaces, or children's hospitals.
Some niche print-on-demand product combinations to sell:
Wall art - posters, canvas, framed prints
Jewelry - earrings, necklaces, bracelets
Bags - fanny packs, tote bags, backpacks
Sportswear - leggings, tanks, shorts
Of course, you can sell anything that's your jam. Just keep in mind that your product assortment should make sense to your customers. Selling a mix of baby bodysuits and men's leggings may be difficult to combine into a cohesive product line.
In addition to keeping your product list neat, offer a limited amount of product colors.
Yes, people like to choose between options, but you have to be smarter than that. To ease their decision-making process, don't give your customers too many color choices.
For instance, let’s say you’re selling print-on-demand T-shirts. Printful carries a shirt that has over 40 color options to help artists like you pick the colors that'll work best for a design. Generally, you can go up to 10 color options for a product—just don't offer two similar-looking colors like silver grey and ash gray.
Bottom line is—don't be afraid to give your customers limited options. You'll help them make clear decisions and that'll result in more sales for you.
03. Fine-tune your art to work for product designs
As an artist, you probably have some designs in mind that you think could work for print-on-demand products. Your next step is to adjust those designs to make sure they print out just as you envisioned.
Design for specific print areas
Each product has its own areas that can be customized with your designs. Some products, like phone cases, have smaller customization areas, while some products, like leggings, can be customized all over.
Whichever product you choose to customize, look out for its design guidelines to create the perfect print file. To get the file guidelines in the Printful catalog, click on a product and scroll below its photo until you see the tab File guidelines, then click on the tab and follow the directions.
Sticking to design guidelines will ensure your final artwork looks crisp and vibrant when printed on the product.
Match designs to the right products
It's easy to envision how your product will turn out with Printful's Mockup Generator, a tool that allows you to place and modify your design as you go.
Now, why is the Mockup Generator so awesome? It'll let you see right away whether your corgi butt pattern looks good on your phone case or not, or if you perhaps should replace the pattern with a single corgi butt close-up.
Specific types of artwork look better on certain products:
Patterns - all-over print products, like leggings, skirts, and dresses
Line art - jewelry, framed prints, t-shirts, and hats
Collage - blankets, bags, and canvases
Photography - any type of wall art, like framed prints
Visuals with transparent backgrounds - phone cases, hats
The freedom to create is up to you! Experiment, but keep the design file guidelines in mind. At the end of the day—focus on creating designs that you'll want to wear and look at. That way your customers will appreciate them too.
04. Price your products with room for profit
This is where you decide on your product pricing to make money as an artist. By selling print-on-demand products, you'll only have to pay when an order is placed. So when a customer buys from you, you'll get two transactions:
Your customer will pay you the retail price you set
The print-on-demand service will charge you the product cost and fulfillment
Whatever is left—that's your profit. To ensure your profit stays high, consider including these extra charges in your product's retail price:
Taxes, depending on the order's shipping location
Payment processor fees, depending on the payment provider you set up
Shipping costs, depending on the delivery address
The good news is that you can set up your product pricing however you want. Printful ensures the best quality product and printing techniques so you won't overcharge your customers.
But what's the golden mean to get enough profit and keep your product prices reasonable? Here are the most common product price ranges for printed products:
Hoodies and sweatshirts: $33-61
Phone cases: $15-32
Tip! Price your products with rounded numbers like $20 for a cleaner look. The less numbers a customer sees, the easier it will be for them to understand the pricing. If you want a sale vibe on your store, then go with prices ending with .99 or .49 because these are generally associated with discounts.
Sum up the time and effort you've put into creating the product design, description, and concept and reflect that in the price! If you invest yourself in creating a great product, you're a lot more likely to make money as an artist!
05. Create an online presence
Now you know how print-on-demand works and already have some product and pricing ideas in mind. Next, it's time to start an online store, connect it with Printful, and build your online presence.
When it comes to setting the right mood on your online store—keep it true to yourself! If you're an artist who loves vivid colors, then go for it in your eCommerce website design. If you're someone who's all about that minimalist lifestyle, then embrace that no-clutter look on your storefront too.
The main thing to keep in mind when setting the look for your store is your products. Make them the centerpiece of your store. Put your products in front of your customers' eyes and they'll be more likely to buy them.
Once your store is set up, ensure your customers have an easy-breezy time navigating your store and buying from you.
Before you release your store for the whole world to see, share it with your friends or test it yourself. Buy something from your store and complete the checkout to see if everything works smoothly (i.e. no corgi butt popups over the checkout button).
Finally, invest time in branding your store on social platforms.
Social media marketing is a whole world to explore and learn about. One piece of advice—don't create an account on each platform you've heard about. You might end up spending more time managing your accounts and not getting enough sales and awareness out of them. Build your brand only on the platforms that your target audience uses on a day-to-day basis.
06. Work on your marketing strategies
The key to marketing is understanding that it isn't just about running discounts on your storefront. Marketing involves:
Writing alluring product descriptions
Organizing sales, promotional campaigns, etc.
Creating quality product photography
Regularly posting on social media
Working on all of the marketing points might feel overwhelming at first, especially if you just started making money as an artist.
Start with the marketing strategies that'll ensure sales in the long run. Begin with writing product descriptions and keep SEO in mind while you do.
After you complete the essential marketing activities, think about advertising and sales campaigns. Here are some ideas to use in marketing activities:
Market your products as environmentally conscious by explaining that they're created on demand and there's no waste of unsold products. Customers value brands that value our planet.
Offer free shipping for orders that reach a specific value, like over $50. Customers are more likely to buy extra products if they see they can save on shipping costs.
Organize your product selection by mixing lower-priced products with higher-priced ones. Customers are more willing to justify buying a $35 shirt if they see that other shirts next to it sell for $40.
This may be the end of this blog post, but it's just the beginning of your journey to make money as an artist with print-on-demand. You know the game and have insights on product selection, creating designs, pricing, and marketing. Now it's just a matter of getting to work. Good luck!
Una is a content marketer at Printful with a keen interest in marketing psychology and a completely fine attachment to her 20+ houseplants.