Have you always wanted to start a business but just don’t have the money for start-up costs and room for inventory?
Are you super creative and artsy and make beautiful paintings, drawings, graphic design or are just plain great with words?
Are you a stay at home mom or full-time worker who always dreamed of running your own business but just couldn’t find the time?
Do you currently run a clothing business that uses your art but are sick of storing all the shirts, making them and shipping them yourself?
What if I told you that there is a way to start a seemingly passive creative business that allowed you to focus on creating amazing imagery and engaging with your audience while someone else took care of the rest?
That’s right – no inventory, no huge start-up cost, no leaving the house to obtain supplies and ship items AND you just have to do what you love – make beautiful art and connect with people who love your art on social media.
My First Run with a Creative Business
You guys, I’m gonna tell ya, about a year after I became a stay at home mom I started my first business and was making t-shirts myself.
I loved designing the shirts! I figured out how to make my images come to life for a fairly hefty price.
I bought a Cricut, a t-shirt press, I bought vinyl transfer rolls, I bought inventory in t-shirts.
You can imagine the overhead cost!
This allowed me a few colors on a t-shirt that I had to work a decent amount of time to create.
Not to mention, I had to do this after the kids went to bed – nobody wants toddlers around a heat press.
And then I waited.
As I started making sales, this became more time consuming and costlier.
I had to buy bulk in t-shirts to get a discount so every time I’d run out I’d buy way too many.
I was making awesome t-shirts but I wasn’t making money and worse, I was missing out on weekends with my husband and kids.
I’m not saying this isn’t the way to go. Some folks really enjoy doing it this way and have the time and money to invest in this. Hey, more power to ya.
I’m just saying, I did my research but since I thought I had to make the art AND the t-shirts myself I was looking in all the wrong places.
When I changed up my business and moved it over to Shopify, I was done with t-shirts.
I wanted to stick to sewing.
After all, fabric is by the yard and I didn’t have to worry about having certain sizes in stock.
I didn’t have to sit there and peel and heat and press and so on.
But I missed designing t-shirts and using my own custom art and words.
That is, until I noticed Shopify had an app for a company called the Printful!
What’s the Printful?
The Printful is a drop shipping company.
When I say drop shipping company, most people think products made in a sweat shop in some other country that’s possibly unreliable and uses none of your own creative input.
The Printful is an American company which offers loads of American made products to print on.
The perks of the Printful are endless but here’s a few right off the bat:
- No minimum purchases:
- Only order as much as you need
- There are additional discounts for bulk orders if you still plan on keeping your own inventory
- Three discounted orders per month:
- You get three discounted sample orders per month with free shipping for up to five items in each order
- They must be sent to the same address so I usually use this for my personal use or as items for brand reps and friends
- No inventory needed:
- No expensive printing machines, no stocking up on t-shirt blanks or vinyl, no heat presses
- Keep your work room clean and dedicated to creating
- Custom branding:
- Customized packaging and packing slips are on the house so you can keep spreading the word about your brand!
- No monthly or hidden fees:
- Only pay when you submit an order
- In most cases this means you get an order, you get paid, you pay the Printful to do their thang and keep the profits
- Products ship straight from the Printful to your customer:
- The Printful brands your package and packing slip with that awesome logo you uploaded and then sends it off to its new owner within 2-7 days
- All orders ship from Los Angeles
- They've just opened an East Coast office too, so shipping times will be decreased for us East Coast peeps
- Reshipment for lost and damaged items:
- They guarantee the order arrives just the way it was intended and take care of you if it doesn’t
- Integrations for just about every eCommerce platform you can imagine. More on that in a bit.
Sounds awesome right?
How to get started
It's incredibly easy to get started. It seems a little daunting at first, but it’s really easy once you’re into it.
You’ll need Photoshop or a similar software like GIMP for the type of files the Printful requires.
They have detailed information about what the photo requirements are so I recommend reading those prior.
Any eCommerce platform that syncs free through Printful is going to be the easiest route for you.
With one of these platforms, your stores are saved on your Printful profile and you simply click the add button to generate a new product through their mockup generator.
The Printful has lots of items to work with in their mockup generator but there are also some products that aren’t readily available via the generator.
I definitely recommend starting out with what’s in the generator and watching some of their extremely helpful YouTube videos when you’re ready to branch out to other products.
With their mockup generator you can easily create:
- T-shirts, sweatshirts, crop tops for all ages with some really great quality brands (American Apparel, to name my go-to)
Leggings take some Photoshop skill as does any products that aren’t in the mockup generator.
If you’re already a Photoshop wiz you can whip up some great mockups right in there.
They will need to be manually added then manually synced with the Printful.
So again, if it's quick and easy you’re going for, use the mockup generator.
Doing your own mockups are relatively easy, just not as simple as using the mockup generator to push the products into the store.
Plus, they’re really great about constantly adding new items to it, so if you’re patient, eventually you’ll get a happy email that the product you’ve been waiting for is added to the generator.
How Much Does It Cost?
Design software, paid fonts, stock photos – What will you need?
If you’re a creative, chances are you already have Photoshop but if you don’t, it’s $10 per month paid in a year in advance.
You can also use free programs like Gimp.
Depending on if you’re using your own art and your computer's pre-programmed fonts or not, your costs for creating on the Printful are already figured out.
You can always add in a subscription for business use of new fonts through sites like Revolge.com and get access to paid images through Photoshop if you can swing the extra cost.
eCommerce platforms – Where will you sell?
Now you'll have to consider your eCommerce platform costs.
If you’re already using an eCommerce platform it’s also easy to sync the Printful.
Just pick your platform out of a list and it does its syncing magic.
Some platforms require using ShipStation to sync which would run you a minimum of $10/month.
If you can spare that or are already using ShipStation – awesome – if not, you don’t have to sync; just create your items in the mockup generator, upload your items and order your shirts manually when you get an order. That’s what I do for my Etsy store.
I have personally used Shopify, Storenvy and Etsy. The easiest and lowest fee from those is most definitely Storenvy.
If you don’t already have a store to sell from you’re going to need one.
Below is a chart of all the eCommerce platforms, their ability to sync and costs:
|Platform||Sync Method||Platform||Transaction Fees||Listing Fees|
|Shopify||Free Printful||Plans vary from $29/month to $299/month||Starting at 2.9% + 30 cents and decreasing with the more expensive plans||None|
|WooCommerce||Free Printful||Requires outside webhosting which can usually be found for $5/month||None||None|
|Storenvy||Free Printful||Free for a marketplace store and online store. Plans for your own domain range from $5-$10||10% if purchases occur through the marketplace – Free through your custom store||None|
|Opencart||Free Printful||Requires outside webhosting which can usually be found for $5/month||None||None|
|Magento||Free Printful||Free for a basic small business plan – separate hosting is required||None||None|
|Gumroad||Free Printful||$10/month||3.5% + 30 cents||None|
|Big Cartel||Free Printful||Free – $30 depending on how many products and what features||None||None|
|Ecwid||Free Printful||Requires outside webhosting which can usually be found for $5/month||None||None|
|ShipStation||Free Printful||Starts at $10 month but is not an online store. Will sync all your products and get you shipping lables for other stores||None||None|
|Etsy||Requires ShipStation to sync
Customizable store available for $10/month
|Squarespace||Requires ShipStation to sync $10/month||$26 – $46 per month||None||None|
|Amazon||Requires ShipStation to sync $10/month||To sell clothing on Amazon the Professional Plan is required $40/month||It ranges from 6% to 50%, but it’s usually 15%.
Minimum Referral Fee of either $0 or $1.
*Transaction fees marked none may be subject to Paypal, Stripe or other payment types you select to accept.
So what are you waiting for?
Start up a new creative business or add new products to your current one effortlessly with the Printful.
Keep your workspace clutter free, sans inventory with virtually now or little costs and do what you do best – imagine, create, design, enjoy your customers, repeat.
That’s how easy the Printful makes it.
About the Author:
Angie is a stay at home/work at home mom of two awesome littles. She enjoys copious amounts of coffee, making things and snuggling with said littles. She’s such a fabric junkie, her ever so sweet husband opened a fabric store with her on etsy. She is a maker of leggings at Leggings Society and just opened a second store to utilize the fabric waste from Leggings Society by reanimating cute little zombies at Cute Zombie Me.