Here’s the truth: Starting a business, working from home, and generating passive income has never been more accessible than it is right now. There has never been a better time to work for yourself, thanks to the internet and its ability to connect us with billions of other people. All you have to do is figure out the most efficient way to sell people a product or service that they’re willing to pay for.
As someone who’s been in the “but I have no idea what people are willing to pay me for” trenches of self-pity, I know how it feels to think that self-employment is out of the question for you, even if you want it more than anything.
It’s definitely true that self-employment isn’t for everyone, but I don’t want you, dear reader of A Girl’s Gotta Eat, to come to that conclusion about yourself until you’ve actually given it a shot. Which, if you’re still at step zero, I want you to do as soon as possible.
So how are you going to do that if you have nothing in mind? What are you going to sell people if you have “nothing” to sell? You’re going to make something to sell using a process called print-on-demand.
What is Print-On-Demand?
Print-on-demand (POD) is a process where you create designs to place on products like t-shirts, mugs, posters, bags, and pins, and then you put these products up for sale in your own online boutique. When a customer buys a product, the POD company you’re working with (I’m partial to Printful) will print your product, pack it up for shipment using your brand logo, and send it directly to your customer. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever done that could be considered a “business in a box,” except you don’t have to buy a literal box full of holey leggings or tarantula mascara to do it.
You can read more about the POD process and how I use it in my business here. Now that you have an understanding of the “how,” let’s get into WHY this is such a wonderful starter business.
You’ll Learn Skills That Will Make You Marketable for Life
The internet isn’t going anywhere, so you might as well learn how to use it to your advantage. Your POD business will teach you marketable skills that can be used in virtually any online business:
How to come up with product ideas
How to create graphic designs, even if they’re only text-based
How to manage an e-commerce shop
How to write compelling product descriptions that sell
How to master search engine optimization
How to provide excellent customer service
How to source new production partners
How to scale a business
Even if you wake up one day and think “OMG I hate everything about my shop” and burn it to the ground, you’ll still know how to do all the things you learned in the process. Maybe you’ll discover you’re exceptionally good at writing product descriptions, and you can sell that service through Upwork. Maybe you’ll come up with a new shop idea and start another one from scratch. Whatever happens, get ready to become a Professional Internet Person because it’s the only place you’ll ever want to make money online again, all because you listened to me.
You’ll Experience the Indescribable Joy of Passive and Diversified Income
Have you ever made money while sitting on the toilet? I have, and let me tell you there is no better place to make money. Except maybe, like, in bed. Or in the middle of the woods on a camping trip. The location doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it’s passive money you’re no longer trading for time, which is the best-smelling money of all, trust me.
With print-on-demand, you can create a design once and sell it on dozens of different products. You can then sell those products an unlimited number of times, and the only work you’ll have to do once you make a sale is hit “approve order” so your POD company knows to start working on it.
Before I started my POD shops, I was working as a freelance copywriter and only made money when I was actively working on client projects. I’m sure that sounds great, but it’s not fun to have all of your money at the mercy of other people’s whims. With POD, my business suddenly had the most important thing every business needs to stay alive: cash flow. Consistent cash flow that comes from multiple sources. Now, if a client decides to sit on a payment for longer than I expected, it’s a lot less stressful for my bank account when I have money coming from elsewhere (but I’m still going to hex them for it anyway).
Low-Risk & Low Investment
You don’t have to spend a dime on products until you make a sale, which is another huge benefit for beginner business owners. Once a product sells, you pay the POD company the base price of the product and the cost of shipping.
I recommend selling on Etsy to start because the only price you’re paying upfront is the 20 cent listing fee. There are no monthly fees to manage an Etsy shop unless you upgrade to Etsy Plus, which costs $10 per month, but it’s not a requirement. Etsy is also perfect for beginners because they have a built-in audience of 30 million shoppers a year (and growing). It’s easier to get your product in front of potential customers to see what sells before advancing to a self-hosted shop through a platform like Shopify.
Make Products That Reflect Your Passions & Interests
This is my favorite one. POD is an incredible creative outlet because you can bring any idea you’ve ever had to reality. If you’ve ever said something funny and then thought “I should put that on a t-shirt,” you now have no excuse not to do it.
I started my shop after the election (you know the one). My designs catered to snarky feminists (AKA me). I was making money by venting onto t-shirts that were promoting movements I believed in, and this extra income allowed me to start donating money to causes that are important to me. Maybe you have something like this in your life – you can feel good knowing you’re selling products that reflect your values while making extra money that helps you donate to causes you believe in.
You’re welcome to get as wild, as weird, as opinionated as you want as long as you’re not selling trademarked phrases or images. No Disney, no Harry Potter, just you, your creative brain, and ideally, a niche that attracts a specific group of people who are as passionate about your niche as you are.
Work From Home & Set Your Own Hours
All you need is a computer and an internet connection to run a print on demand shop, plus some time carved out to get it up and running. You can do it from anywhere, at your own pace, during the hours you’re most productive. If you’re a bad employee like I used to be, you can even start it while sitting at work doing nothing, which is where I started my freelance business. You don’t need the perfect conditions or circumstances to get started, you just need to start. It only gets easier from there.
These are just some of the reasons why print-on-demand has changed the way I do business. Ready to start a POD shop of your own, but not sure where to start? I can help you fast-track your way to your first sale with my course, Passive Print Accelerator. This self-paced mini course costs less than $50 and will walk you through the exact process I used to start a shop that started as a casual side hustle and was making me a full-time income in less than a year. It’s basically a step-by-step tutorial you can knock out in a weekend – some students have their first products listed the same day they buy the course – a level of ambition that amazes me as much as it makes me jealous. Check it out and let’s start making you some sales!