Accidentally Made Money on Etsy: 24 Hours of Setting Up My Print On Demand Online Business

Being in quarantine and doing the same thing over and over again has gotten to my head. I was listening to Chamath Palihapitiya on a podcast and one thing he said was to use this time to learn a new skill. I have just trying to learn new things.

First setting up ADvengers and trying to create a community and make it a go-to chat community, getting back and systemizing my Amazon/eBay business, optimizing campaigns and my doing more content for my blog…. trying…

Doing all these can become boring to me as it becomes repetitive. While trying to learn a new skill, I decided to check out print on demand Youtube videos. I just randomly typed it in and watched a continuous flow of videos for about 3 hours, I then started signing up. It was 9 pm on a Saturday night.

I was not even thinking at that time and just started setting stuff up. Within an hour or so I got my store setup and systems linked, I made an image with at that time what I thought was a solid idea. I wanted the least amount of entry when setting my first print on demand store, so I use my eBay account that I already have and set up an Etsy store that I previously had for reselling.

The only thing I had to do was set up a print-on-demand service. Everyone was recommending Printful, I didn’t get a chance to do my own research but they integrate with what I currently have so why not. Again everything was synced up and then I went to bed.

Woke up to 7 orders… not a lot but 3 hours of work and just experimenting. Not bad.

I was like “Oh shit” this is legit. I started with no inventory and just an idea graphic in my head. Sunday I started getting more orders. So I started to check out Etsy and see if there was any competition on this trend I picked up on. Not that much actually and I think I caught a wave.

What is Printful?

Printful is a service for your Print on Demand ideas. Want a meme on a t-shirt to sell to the masses? Want a coffee mug with your logo on it? Printful allows you to put your ideas to reality without holding any inventory. You create an idea, make a store, and sync your orders with Printful and they handle the supply chain from the t-shirt inventory to the printing to even shipping it out to your customers.

All you need is an idea and a computer to start signing up.

Now, as the excitement grew, I came up with more ideas to see what else I can print on. Where else can I add POD to a store similar to Etsy? I was wired with excitement. I started reading where Printful can be integrated. Then I notice …

There are going to be delayed when printing, I didn’t think of it and didn’t bother reading it. Later in the day as I got my second image drafted up I decided to read it. What… 22 days to 30 days delayed!!

As of this writing, they have closed certain products to the public such as t-shirts and all-over prints. You can not add any new products within Printful until they catch up on their current orders. Good call for them, but now I have orders to fulfill!

With the pandemic going on and people stuck at home, they just buy things. Even Amazon and Walmart recognized sales that are similar to Black Friday but now every day while during the COVID pandemic.

So 2 things came to mind, cancel all the orders, and refund them or find a local shop to get this t-shirt printed. I decided to open up Google maps and find local print shops that are open. I called every one of them to see if they can do a turn around time by Monday/Tuesday.

One came back and took the order to be done by Monday. I paid double, the loss on the total set of orders was just $40. Now the best part is I have a new set of relationships that I can use just in case this happens again. I also now have their tier pricing for t-shirts and how long they need to print the shirts. So did I lose money?

Luckily for me, my t-shirt was just one color and decided to go with screen printing with the local shops. It is far cheaper than DTG and more efficient. If it was a complicated design then I would have reconsidered, but I wanted these shirts to be printed in a short amount of time while still trying to be cost-effective.

Print on Demand Dead?

Now here is my opinion on Print on Demand industry. It is currently slowly dying. Why the supply chain is broken. Printful can only buy so many more printers and they are the biggest ones out there (from what I have read so far). The problem of printing t-shirts is still a manual process.

Yes, I went down the rabbit hole and understood how t-shirts and screen printing vs DTG (direct to garment) works. It allowed me to understand the hiccups DTG printing has – the prep itself is manual from treating the shirt to heating to finally printing! A lot goes into it and a lot of these Print on Demand business owners do not understand the process.

Watch this video here on how one shirt is being printed and the prep it takes…

Hit up Reyes and maybe he will print and ship your POD t-shirts. He is a hardcore hustler.

Print on Demand for t-shirts will not die but right now or later, but right now they have to keep up with current orders. If you are going to start out a Print on Demand online business, then this isn’t the year to start. When the supply chain lessens then it will be much easier for your products to get to the consumer.

Remember people got used to 2-day shipping and now are used to 5-day shipping because they understand the delays – no one is waiting 4 weeks! Would YOU ever wait 4 weeks for a product? Probably not. Our brains probably do not even remember what we ordered 2 days ago let alone, 4 weeks.

So I believe it is a viable online business model ‘Print on Demand’. When the supply chain eases then it will be a great way to get back on it. I personally now bought a bunch of shirts with the meme on it and now is going to put these orders back on Etsy, eBay, Mercari, etc – where I can sell these items.

What you need to look for is what products are not being delayed. Looking at Printful list – phone cases, jewelry, and framed posters currently have no delays in creating and fulfilling the orders. T-shirts for sure is backed up, so I personally would stick away from that unless you can work with local print shops as I have.

If you want to know what shop I have contacted send me a message and I will put you in contact with them.


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