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What Are Printables?

Planner with sticker

Printables are documents that customers can download from the Internet and either print out or edit online. They are also known as digital downloads. Printables are created by graphic designers, content creators and entrepreneurs for a variety of different purposes from planning and organizing to art and décor. Printables offer an opportunity for online entrepreneurs to create a low-cost income stream for their business. What type of printables you create will depend on your business, interests and skills.

Printables do not need to cost anything to be an effective business tool. Many entrepreneurs use a printable or digital download as a “lead magnet” in order to bring more people into their business. When people request the printable, they provide their email address. This allows the entrepreneur to keep emailing them about other offers unless they unsubscribe.

Even if you don’t have a business, you can still get started with printables today. This is a business model with a low barrier to entry. As long as you have an idea, you can create a printable.

Printables can be printed and mailed or downloaded digitally, but most people are referring to instant digital downloads when they talk about printables.

How Do Customers Print Printables?

If you are going to create printables for your business, it is important to consider how your customer will use your product. It’s also a good idea to provide suggestions and instructions.

In some cases, such as a digital planner, it is fine to print the product at home. In this case, you might want to limit your use of colour, photography or illustrations to help your customer save on ink. In other cases, such as wall art or business cards, people might prefer to have the product professionally printed at a local print shop.

How Do Printables Work?

Before you get started with printables, you will need to consider a few things:

  • Format
  • Marketplace
  • Delivery

Format: There are many different file types that lend themselves to being shared online. Some file types are editable and some are static. Some are fillable, which means that the buyer cannot change the file itself, but they can add text in designated spots.

Static printables tend to be things like PDFs and JPEGS. Editable documents can be provided to be used in different types of commercially available software such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop. Fillable PDFs allow the user to add there own information where it makes sense. For example, a household budget might itemize different expenses and the user would add the dollar amount next to the expense category.

Many printable sellers will provide more than one file format when you purchase their work.

Marketplace: After you have designed your printable, you need to consider where you are going to sell it. Currently the top place for selling printables is Etsy, but there are other options such as Gumroad or Amazon.

Another popular option is create your own website or use an online shop that you own such as a Shopify store. In this case you need to pay for hosting and use addons or plugins to take care of various things like collecting payment and automatically delivering the payment. Do not expect your customer to wait for you to send the product manually. In this day and age, instant downloads are standard.

Delivery: There are a variety of ways you can deliver the product to the customer. You could host the product on your own website, on Dropbox or Google Drive or upload them to the marketplace. You can also email the link. The customer then downloads the file to their hard drive or saves it to the cloud and can then print it.

Are Printables Environmentally Friendly?

When people buy your printable, you can deliver it as digital download over the Internet. This saves the shipping and packaging that would go into a physically delivered or store-bought product. However, there is still the fact that many printables are best used in paper format, which means the customer needs to provide the paper and ink.

If your customer does not need to print the product to use it, for example a budgeting sheet can be filled in online, this is more often called a digital download. However, many people like to have a paper copy that they can reference without pulling up a computer file.

Whether or not printables are environmentally friendly really comes down to the format of delivery and the consumer’s habits.

What Kind of Printables Sell Best?

Planning and organizing: This is one of the best niches for printables because it solves a real need. By helping people plan you are showing them a path to reach their goals. Planners and organizers can be created in a variety of different niches including home, work and school. You can also help people plan things like vacations and events. Meal plans and fitness planners are great because they help people get started and stay on track.

Consider what you are good at and create a planner, tracker or organizer to help others get similar results.

Children’s activities: Some types of printables you can create for children include worksheets, mazes, crossword puzzles and colouring pages. These are popular with both parents and teachers.

Wedding invitations: If you have excellent design skills, you might want to try your hand at creating wedding invitations. Typically, sellers create an editable template, so that the buyer can edit and customize it. There are thousands of templates online so your design will need to be excellent to stand out.

Party Games: Party games are great for events like bachelorette parties, office parties, bridal showers and anywhere else people need activities to break the ice. Fun games include scavenger hunts, bingo cards and trivia. You can also create printable games for children and teen parties.

Graphics, fonts and templates: People with graphic design skills can create vector images, fonts and templates for those of us who don’t. Businesses need graphics for their marketing materials, signage, packaging and products. Teachers need graphics for posters, signs, worksheets, games, etc. As a printable seller, you might want to purchase graphics from sites like Creative Market. Selling a bundle of graphics or templates can help encourage people to buy. For example, a bundle of business flyer designs will allow a business to choose and find something that meets their exact needs.

Journals: Journaling is a habit that is proven to have many benefits for focus and mental health. Having beautifully designed journal pages can inspire people to return to the practice every day. You can also add writing prompts and inspirational quotes to help spark creative thought. Journals can be created around a variety of themes such as business, travel or creative writing. You can also package them in a bundle with planners and trackers.

Gift Tags and Greeting Cards: Another great option for those with good design skills are gift cards and greeting cards which can be sold all year or seasonally.

  • Year-round ideas: Birthday, get well soon, congratulations, new baby, etc.
  • Seasonal ideas: Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s and Father’s Day, etc.

Business Documents: A successful business needs to plan and track everything from the budget to their social media posts. Businesses come in all forms. You might be producing performance evaluations for a human resources department or a planner for someone whose business is running a successful blog. Think of what you have been successful in implementing and create something that could help others do the same.

Stickers: Buyers use stickers to organize their planners and bullet journals, and to decorate their things. Vinyl stickers are more durable for things like commercial signage, wall art and cars. Children also love stickers, of course. You can create and ship stickers or just provide the digital file and let buyers take it from there. One affordable option for sellers is print on demand in which the product is only printed once the customer orders.

Where Can You Sell Printables?

There are many places you can sell printables.

Etsy: Etsy is by far the biggest marketplace for printables. People like that they can benefit from a high degree of traffic from people who are already searching for printables.

Amazon: Although Amazon is a big marketplace, it will be harder to find an audience for your printables on Amazon. However, people do sell things like workbooks and print on demand documents. Take a look at products similar to yours before deciding whether to sell on Amazon. You may need to tweak your item to fit in with the market.

Gumroad: Gumroad is a popular marketplace for selling digital products. It’s great for people who want to get started fast without worrying about tech and other challenges.

Shopify: Shopify is a more expensive option, and it will be harder to get traffic to your store because you will need to generate your own audience. However, many people like the freedom and flexibility of having their own store online.

Your own website: Most major content management systems that people use to build websites have options for building an online store. However, this is still the most tech and labour heavy option for selling your printables as you will have to design your shopping pages, add payment tools and delivery options. Luckily there are tools available at every stage to help you. For example, if you have a WordPress website, you can use WooCommerce.

The great thing about selling on your own website is that you will have everything in one place so people can learn about you, read your blog posts, subscribe to your newsletter and follow you on social media. If you dream of being an online entrepreneur, your website will open up numerous options for income streams.

Is It Worth It to Sell Printables on Etsy?

When considering your options, selling printables on Etsy is one of the best ways to get started for several reasons:

Low overhead: Printables are easy to make and production costs very little. If you subscribe to Adobe software, this would be your biggest expense (not including your time). However, there are alternatives to Adobe.

The amount to list your product on Etsy is only 20 cents. When you sell your product, Etsy takes a 6.5% fee. Compared to what you would pay for a Shopify store or web hosting, this is a very minimal amount. It’s also less than Gumroad, which doesn’t charge you for listing, but takes a 10% fee when you sell something.

Minimal tech skills required: If you are technically challenged, you can always create with Microsoft Office or even Google’s suite of online tools. There are many free and easy to use graphic editors such as PicMonkey.

Listing on Etsy requires less technical effort than setting up a Shopify store or selling from your own website. All you need to do is fill out the form fields and upload your file.

High traffic volume: Even if your shop starts off as a little fish in a big pond, you will eventually be able to benefit from the large number of people on Etsy looking for solutions like yours. On the other hand, with your own website or a Shopify store, you constantly need to be driving traffic on your own through strategies like SEO, social media marketing and advertising.

Once you have success on Etsy you can always branch out to promoting your products on your own websites or offering other complementary products like digital courses.

How Much Money Can You Make Selling Printables?

In the early stages of your business, you will need to spend some effort on getting consistent traffic to your products. Some of the challenges you might need to overcome include:

  • Refining your process so that you can create your products efficiently
  • Creating products that people want to buy
  • Finding the right niche
  • Making sure your products and mockups are attractive (a mockup is a photo or graphic illustration of your product in a real-life situation, such as a hanging in a frame on a wall)
  • Using the right keywords to help people find your product (printable SEO)
  • Overcoming the lack of reviews and other social proof
  • Driving traffic to your store
  • Building an audience that will buy your products
  • Continually creating new products to keep your store fresh

It will take time and consistency to gain traction, but once you do the amount you can earn is unlimited. Even if you only earn $1000-$2000 per month from your shop, you can use your new audience to branch off into other profitable online opportunities such as coaching and digital courses.

If you plan to email your Etsy buyers for marketing purposes make sure you include this in your policies and include an unsubscribe button in your email.

How Do I Make My Own Printables?

Before you get started making printables to sell, it’s a good idea to do a little pre-work.

Research what’s already selling: Go to sites like Etsy and Creative Market and see what is already doing well on these platforms. You shouldn’t copy others, but, instead, use this information as inspiration.

What’s missing? Maybe you have seen many planners for sale, but they all seem to be missing something. For example, maybe your project planning process separates projects from daily tasks and no one else is offering a planner that does this. This is an opportunity for you to introduce something new that will be especially useful for people who manage a lot of projects such as web designers or students.

Choose a niche: A general calendar will have a lot of competition, but if you narrow down your audience to a niche such as bloggers or Kindergarten teachers, you will get a better idea of how to design your printable and write the marketing and sales copy.

Research the needs of your target audience: There are many ways to find out what your target audience wishes they have that you can provide. For example, bloggers often struggle with knowing what to write and when. You could provide them with a content calendar. People getting married often struggle with budgeting. You could create a planner that helps them see what’s realistic for different budget sizes.

Some ways to learn about the needs of your target audience include:

  • Asking your social media or blog audience (if you already have one)
  • Reading comments on other blogs and social media channels that your audience subscribes to
  • Visiting forums like Quora and Reddit
  • Sending out survey links to sites like Survey Monkey or Google Forms
  • Joining groups on Facebook or LinkedIn where your audience already is

This is not only a great way to learn about your target market, but you can also start networking with people who may be willing to purchase from you in the future.

Determine your offering: What will your printable include? How many graphics will the buyer receive or how many pages will they get? Many printables come in a bundle that includes things that can be used together. For example, a meal planning kit might include a grocery shopping list template and a calorie tracker. How many things can you bundle together? Graphic illustrations often come bundled with images of the same style. For example, you could offer a bundle of space-themed images or a bundle of graphic elements for the craft beer market.

Drawing a mind-map might help you to get your ideas down on paper. Start with your main theme and then branch out into all of the ideas you can think of that relate to that idea. A mind-map is similar to brainstorming, but allows you to create sub-topics and sub-sub-topics. Your main topic might be the overreaching idea (Vegan meal plan). Your sub-topics could include the different sheets in your bundle (grocery shopping list, pantry inventory) and your sub-sub-topics can include the features of your different planning sheets (grocery name and price columns).

Draw or plan out your design: Once you have your idea mapped out, try drawing or wireframing it before you commit to your design. This will save you some frustration and make the designing process easier. For example, it’s harder to switch to landscape mode after you’ve already started creating. You might find that you need to abandon some of your ideas because they don’t fit or you may need to add sheets.

Choose your tools: When you are just getting started with printables, it’s a good idea to choose a program that you already know. You don’t need advanced software like Adobe Creative Suite. Even a Microsoft Word or PowerPoint file can become a printable. However, if you have experience with programs like Illustrator, this will allow you to make high quality products that sell.

In the beginning, it’s important to put products out and see how they do. You can learn new software and refine your skills as you get more experience as a creator. Here are a few tools you can use to create printables:

Microsoft Office: Word, Excel and PowerPoint can all be used to create and design printables. When finished, save it as a PDF or keep the file format so that your buyer can customize it.

Google Suite: Google offers free online apps for documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  

Adobe Creative Suite: Adobe is the most recognized brand in graphic design. Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator are all popular programs for creating printables, graphics and templates that you can sell.

Free Alternatives: Inkscape, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) and Picmonkey are some popular free online software programs.

Paid Alternatives: Photoshop has its own “light” version called Elements. Affinity is also a popular creative suite which only requires one payment rather than a subscription.

Canva: Canva is a versatile design tool that creates everything from social media posts to documents. You can start with a template or use your own creativity to create a completely unique design. It has both a paid and free version. Make sure you read the licensing information before using any template or element in a commercial design.

I hope this post has given you some idea of what is possible with printables. Stay connected to learn more about selling printables, digital downloads, information products and more.