Printables are a great side business because they require a little work up front and then virtually no work on the backend. Creating a printable and selling it online isn’t as complicated as it sounds.
You create the graphic, post it on Etsy and then every time you make a sale you make money. There’s no maintenance required and no need to make a new product every time one of your items sell.
How to Make Printables
Printables are a fairly easy thing to make. The first thing you need to do is come up with an idea. For example, the blogger behind this website, Millennial Boss, has a shop called The Swag Elephant where she sells printables for bachelorette parties.
Let’s use bachelorette party printables as an example.
How to Come Up with an Idea for a Printable
Here are the steps we recommend you follow to come up with an idea for your printable product.
- Research printables on Pinterest
- Research printables already selling on Etsy by typing in keywords and seeing what returns as the top results.
- Think about a problem that someone has that could be solved by a printable and start brainstorming what type of printable could solve that problem.
- Think about printables related to special occasions, gifts, seasonal, etc. Is a holiday coming up? What printable would be fun to use in the celebrations?
- Sign up for our email list below to get a list of 25 printable ideas to sell online
How to Create A Printable
Where to find fonts and graphics OK for commercial use
Next, choose your images, text and other elements that you want to be in the printable. There are two important things to note when choosing fonts and graphics for printables.
- The fonts and graphics must be OK for commercial use
- You can find free fonts and graphics OK for commercial use on Google Fonts, Da Font, and Creative Market
This is a bit of a learning curve but it’s important to make sure you meet all font licensing requirements before using them in your printable for sale. This sometimes trips up new sellers but here is a YouTube video on commercial use fonts and graphics.
My favorite place to get fonts and graphics is Font Bundles which runs $1 sales often and comes with a commercial use license. I’ve bought over 50 items for $1 each that have lasted me months. Each item you buy can come with hundreds of clipart pieces if you buy bundles.
How to layout the printable
Next, figure out how to lay it out. If you’re not good at layout, there are programs available that can help you. Below, I go through some of the software that will help you create a printable. They’re all pretty intuitive, so you should have no problem.
Here are two tips for creating your printable layout.
- Maximize white space
- Don’t use more than two fonts at once
Once you’ve created your printable, save it as a PDF. The PDF is essential because that’s what people will download on their home computers. Now, there are some types of printables where it would make more sense to save as a jpg or png so that is something you have to research by seeing what other sellers of this printable offer in their downloads.
The best thing about selling printables is that you only have to make the printable once and they can be downloaded an unlimited number of times. You can set the quantity available to 999 so you never run out and customers can keep buying!
You do not need to be a graphic designer to make a good printable.
The one piece of advice I would give (saying this as someone who makes $1200+ per month selling printables on Etsy)..
Is to research what printables are popular at any given time.
For example, I just made “golf” and “fishing” versions of a plain printable I was selling because I saw those were popular and it helped supercharge my income.
I teach how to do that in my free ebook Seasonal Product Secret that I’ve giving away for free to readers of this blog.
Download the free Seasonal Product Secret ebook here.
Learn How to Make Printables
Software to Create Printables
There are plenty of programs out there that will help you create printables, the goal is to choose the right one for you.
PDF Escape is a free program that is fairly easy to use. You can make editable PDFs using this program like an online form.
I’ve seen people have lots of success using this program and it’s a free alternative to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC which also makes editable forms.
You can make an editable PDF which allows someone to customize the printable later.
Adobe Illustrator is the often the choice for printable making by graphic designers and it does come with a little bit of a cost (although the free trial is great!). This printable created by Millennial Boss was made in Illustrator for example. You don’t have to pay to start a printables shop but if you already have the Adobe Creative Cloud, you may want to use Illustrator. There are other free options below.
Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel
You probably already have the Microsoft suite on your computer as well. For basic printables, you have plenty of font choices and shapes and you likely already know how to use these programs. These are a good choice if you want something that’s already on your computer and you don’t want to create a new account.
Clothed in Scarlet has a complete walkthrough of how to create a printable in Microsoft Word if you plan to go that route. I have friends who have created bestselling printables in PowerPoint! Sometimes you can just start with programs you know like PowerPoint or Word and see what you can make from those!
Of all the options, this one is my favorite. For one thing, it’s free, unlike Adobe Illustrator. It is more advanced than Microsoft Paint and it’s easier to manipulate than Microsoft Word. I actually upgraded to Canva Pro which has a monthly fee because I like the feature of one-click resizing and the ability to upload my own fonts. I used the free version for years though!
Canva comes with free fonts and graphics that are OK for commercial use in printables. Note: just the free ones are OK for commercial use not any of the icons or fonts you must pay for. Also, you can’t use the Canva “templates” for printables that are already made and sell them on Etsy as your own which totally makes sense. You have to create your design from scratch.
There’s something in Canva for everyone and even the most basic of users (i.e. the ones using it for free) have the opportunity to use the free stock photos for their graphics.
As you get more experienced, you might consider buying the pro version of Canva that gives you access to better functionality such as resizing and more stock photos. The free is fine starting out.
These printables were made in Canva.
If you’re still lost on how to make printables check out the course created by Millennial Boss which teaches you both how to sell on Etsy and how to make printables such as gift tags, calendars, banners, and more! You can find the course here: Gold City Ventures Etsy Printables Course.
The course walks you through coming up with ideas for your printables and then creating them and has helped over 800 students start their Etsy shops!
- Student Reviews of the Etsy Printables Course
- 14 Awesome Etsy Printable Shops from our Etsy Mastermind
How to make your Printables Editable
You can use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC which is a paid feature, PDF Escape which is free, or the software Corjl or Templett to create printables that can be edited.
Selling Printables on Etsy
Once you’ve created your printables, it’s time to find customers! Etsy is the best marketplace that I’ve found for selling printables. It’s fairly easy to set up a shop. Etsy has millions of customers so you’ll receive plenty of traffic for your products. Other options include selling printables on your blog or on Shopify.
Picking a Price Point
One of the other things that you need to think about when posting your printables in your Etsy shop is what you want to charge.
Etsy has an article called How to Price Like a Pro, you can read it by clicking here. Most of it won’t apply to printables, but you should take into account the amount of time that you spend creating the printables when you choose your price.
You also want to consider what comparable shops are charging. If you charge too much more, people will start going elsewhere. If you are stuck and want to pick a price, pick in the middle of your competitor’s pricing.
Increase traffic to your Etsy Listings
You need to drive traffic to your Etsy shop listings. I recommend these 3 strategies.
- Create a Pinterest profile for your Etsy shop.
- Use appropriate keywords for your listings by adding all 13 tags to each listing and using keywords in the listing title.
- Run an Etsy ad for three weeks for less than $5 per day. Some people start with just a couple of dollars per day in ads!
If you need some tips on how to sell on Etsy, I have a whole article on it, just click here: How to Sell on Etsy. The article also includes details on Etsy’s fee structure, what Etsy looks for when ranking items in searches and how you can rank higher in Etsy searches. I also wrote an article on how to improve your Etsy Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Great SEO in your Etsy posts will help you pop up in more searches and bring more traffic to your Etsy shop. To read that article, click here: Etsy SEO Tips.
Monitor Your Shop Regularly
It is also important to make sure that you monitor how the items in your shop are performing. If you keep track of sales, then you can tell which items are doing well and which items need to be tweaked to make more sales.
It’s possible that the item you posted needs to be rewritten or revised to help with sales.
Here are all my sales so far with about 2-3 weeks of maintenance work every 6 months. This is not a side hustle that I spent a lot of time on but it’s profitable.
How to Create Digital Downloads to Sell
Printables are just one type of digital download that you can sell online. You can also create graphic files, patterns, and ebooks for people to download.
If you’re an Excel wizard, you can create Excel files for people to download so they don’t have to create the formulas to make the Excel file to work. If you’re a graphic artist, create graphics or cool images that people can download for their own art projects or put on t-shirts or bags.
The possibilities are endless.
Think about the skills that you possess that other people may not and then create something that other people can use. Once you create those files, save them and then get ready to sell.
Sell Digital Downloads Online Free
Etsy is probably the best place to sell printables and digital downloads because it has such great traffic, however, there are fees that go along with selling on Etsy. Although, you don’t have the overhead of shipping or materials when selling printables on Etsy like a handmade seller would. The fees are small. Etsy fees are minimal in the long run and the benefit is that you get access to millions of their customers.
Shopify on the other hand has a monthly fee and Etsy does not.
Selling Graphic Files and Patterns
While Etsy is one great place to sell your work, there are other marketplaces out there.
Creative Market is a top site to sell your work. You can open a shop and post your work online including icons, images, templates, web themes, and fonts.
Big Cartel and Zazzle are sites that will take your graphics and patterns and make them available for customers to put on t-shirts, tote bags, and other items.
When it comes to selling eBooks, Amazon is the top site to sell on. Using Kindle Direct Publishing is one of the best ways to distribute an eBook.
Your other option is to create a website for your eBook and then sell it that way. Some people will create a sales funnel just for their eBook to drive sales to their website and their book.
Sales funnels are a difficult thing to manage, so for most people, Amazon is probably the best bet.
Selling Excel Files
Fiverr is a great place to sell things like Excel files for download. Fiverr is a better choice than Upwork because you can post your item on Fiverr and then just wait for someone to buy it, much like Etsy. I have a whole write up on how to sell things on Fiverr: How to Make Money on Fiverr.
Downside of Selling On Your Own Website
If you want to cut out the middle man, you can sell through your own website or a blog but there are downsides.
While you don’t have to pay other people when you make a sale, you do have to worry about other costs and extra work. You have to on the overhead that comes with running your own shop including advertising, payment processing, and website upkeep. There are also the costs that go along with running your own website and cost to your time.
If you’re selling a large number of digital downloads or something like an eBook, then it’s probably worth it to have your own website and to create your own sales funnel. If you’re only doing a few per week or month, it’s probably worth it to go through an online retail shop. In that case, you’ll want to start a blog.
If you want to sell on your own site consider installing Shopify or using a plugin like Easy Digital Downloads. You can do both – sell on Etsy and on Shopify through your own site. That is what the Millennial Boss website does.
- How to Start a Blog FREE 7-day course
- April Side Income Report – $2184 from Blogging & Etsy Digital Downloads
- Best Valentine’s Day Gifts for Kids on Etsy - January 4, 2022
- Review of the Best Printables Courses Going Into 2023 - January 2, 2022
- Free Christmas Clip Art, Holiday Clipart, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah - December 16, 2021
Kamran @ Looks Good to Us says
Been a listener to Fire Drill for awhile now and so I sort of knew of printables in a nebulous way but by talking about it and posts like this, it cemented how to do it.
My wife and I will be making our first printable and what’s interesting is that it’s for a sewing pattern my wife designed. She wants to release this for free so this very first printable will probably end up being freely available but I’m using it as a way to get familiar with the process and starting the Etsy shop.
What are your thoughts on free printables to help drive more premium ones in the future? My other thought was since we will have a corresponding blog post, the printable is just there as a convenient way to print out the design that’s measured. In that way, the pattern is freely available from our blog but the actual printable with a more friendly design for cutting out is offered at a price.
Millennial Boss says
I think free printables are great lead magnets to get a customer base interested in the type of printables you plan to make. Later you can sell your offerings through your email list to a list of interested buyers. Great plan! And thanks for listening to the podcast!