In the world of print-on-demand, some things are constant — the importance of originality, due diligence, thoughtful research, etc.
But some elements are always evolving. I’m referring, of course, to elements outside the realm of basic designing and uploading — the elements of running an actual print-on-demand business, which is something we all technically do but only a few truly seem to understand.
Regardless of how profitable or pitiful 2022 was, 2023 can be your most rewarding year to date. To get you closer to that outcome, here are eight resolutions that I believe all creators in this space should be making today when we enter this opportunity-packed new year.
Break The Tshirt-First Mentality
You run a print-on-demand business, not a tshirt business. Some of the most successful sellers in POD today have built entire brands around niche totes, niche mobile accessories (PopSockets and Phone Cases), and home decor items (like throw pillows). If you aren’t yet designing for specific niches on specific products, you’re missing one of the biggest overlooked opportunities in POD.
Aesthetics Are The New Niches
Rather than wondering if you should make more designs this year about pandas or axolotls, evaluate which trending aesthetics are underrepresented in POD and across niche designs appropriate for these aesthetics. From TikTok to fashion blogs, aesthetics are trending everywhere. If they’re inadequately represented in your catalog, you may have a rough year.
Compete, Don’t Cower
You’re not going to procure POD wealth and build a lasting brand by spending most of your time scouring micro-niches and subniches. The big money remains where it has always been found — the big niches. Don’t cower from them due to the competition. Figure out how to compete better and more aggressively.
Don’t Count on Amazon or Etsy to Do Everything
Amazon and Etsy allow us to sell designs and products on some of the most fertile, lucrative digital real estate in the ecommerce world. But we will have to do more heavy lifting this year on marketing, promoting, and, yes, advertising. Consider everything from your skill sets to your budget and then hash out a plan to drive traffic to your listings. It’s one of the best investments of time, energy, and money you will make in your POD business in 2023.
Reconsider Your Resource Allocation
In the old days, throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks was the ultimate strategy of POD creators. Today, hiring VAs or remote help to assist in uploading design variations or writing listing copy may not be your wisest use of funds. Shrewd sellers are now hiring hourly help to scout copycats, perform competition research, and perform other critical business operations that aren’t rooted solely in filling more slots to see what can sell. Consider where you’re currently spending money on help and see if it can be better spent on operating a savvy business.
Go Back to School, Not Just Work
How many merch makers vowed to hit the ground running in 2023 and upload a flurry of new designs? A lot. On the other hand, how many vowed to kick off 2023 by sharpening their knowledge of art, aesthetics, typography, international design trends, and other areas of knowledge that make merchers sharper and better prepared to cultivate a durable business? Few. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re no longer a student. You are. And we should all be acting the part today for the good of our long term business growth.
Prep Your Portfolios for ‘Intentional Shopping’
If rough waters — namely, inflation, recession, and household budget crunches — persist, POD creators will feel it. This is why we have to target intentional shoppers with our designs, not digital window shoppers who may want but not need our designs. We must place greater focus on niche designs and niche audiences with regard to inelastic needs. In other words, regardless of tough economic times, people will still need designs for work, school, gifts, celebrations, holidays, etc. From weddings to retirements and everything in between, we can’t fail to build robust portfolios that acknowledge niches and needs that will never lose much demand.
Time is Your Friend, Not Foe
Mindset is and always will be vital to success. And for reasons that escape my understanding, most merch makers check their watches frantically after uploading designs to see how quickly they sell — or don’t sell. You cannot cultivate a POD business from hobby to livelihood if you’re impatient. From this day forward, think of and plan for your business over the next 3-5 years. Years! Not months, weeks or days. See the big picture and work toward your goals with poise, not panic.
What are some of your 2023 resolutions and plans for growing your print-on-demand business?