How to Start an Online Store with Printful
Starting your own online business can seem like a scary task. People often make excuses, arguing that it’s too difficult. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
These days, there are tons of services out there, for example, Printful, that have made the process really easy, meaning that now is the perfect time to launch! To help you get started, we’ve made an easy to follow, step by step process to guide you through exactly how to get started with Printful, and sell anything from shirts to mugs, bags, and posters. By the end of this blog post, you will have your very own ecommerce store up and running, and be well on your way to making your first sale!
Disclaimer: Just so you know, some of the links featured in this blog post are affiliate links.
Step 1: Create your Printful account
The very first step to getting started with Printful is to make your account. All you have to do is sign up with your name and email. It’s easy to do, and it’s completely free!
Step 2: Choose your market
Before you think about setting up a store straight away, you need to think about who you want to sell to. Choosing a market can be broken down into 2 major sections: picking a niche, and validating it.
Pick a niche
When you’re asked “who would be interested in/would buy your product,” if the answer is “everyone,” no one will really love your product. By trying to target so many people, you end up being meaningful to no one.
If you really want to create a successful ecommerce store, you need to pick a niche, a very specific sub-section of the market which you plan to sell to. In fact, when you get more and more specific, you will get better and better results. For example, rather than targeting “Programmers,” you can target “Freelance Programmers” or “Python Programmers,” or even “Freelance Python Programmers.”
If you’re still struggling to pick a niche, we have an article that includes a list of 100+ niches to help you get started. We recommend that you pick a niche that you’re personally interested in. Here’s why:
Validate your niche
Once you find a niche you want to target, you now have to actually design something that your target market would be interested in. This is why picking a niche that you are a part of is so important. You need to make something that people want to buy. If you make something that you would be interested in buying, then there are thousands of other people who would be interested in buying it as well.
For example, Startup Vitamins is an ecommerce store that sells inspiring business quotes on mugs, posters, t-shirts, and more. The founders wanted posters like these for their own office, but couldn’t find anything that they were interested in. So they decided to go make some for themselves.
Their posters can now be found in many major tech offices, such as LinkedIn, Google, Zappos, and Nike. If you need it, then chances are, so do others.
At this point, it is important to remember that Printful is a print-on-demand (POD) service, so we only print a product once one of your customers order it. That means, even if your product doesn’t sell as well as you thought it would, you’re not losing any investment. You can just remove the product from your store and try again. So feel free to experiment with your designs!
Step 3: Make a design
Now it’s time to get creative and decide what designs you want to sell. You can print almost anything, but always remember to be original. Read this article to learn more about content that’s legal to print.
Think about a product for your design
When choosing a design, you have to think about which products you plan on selling with it. Some designs look much better on one type of product compared to another. For example, patterns look very nice as all-all over prints and photographs work well as posters.
Also, all our products have guidelines you should follow for your design to look the best possible. For example, our Direct to Garment (DTG) prints should have a transparent background with an opaque design. But if you want to sell an embroidered product, such as a cap or beanie, you need a simplified design that follows our embroidery guidelines to ensure it suitable for embroidery.
If you need more help figuring out how to change your design to fit your product, we have a good post detailing how to prepare the perfect print file.
Making sure that your product and design are suited to each other is key. If you’re still unsure, you can always use our Mockup Generator to see how your designs looks on a product.
Try different tools
There are many tools you can use to make your life easier when creating a design. Photoshop is a fantastic tool, but if you are on a tighter budget, there are a bunch of cheaper options.
The first thing to check out is our own Mockup Generator. If you have a simple text-based design, you can quickly see how it looks on a shirt. We also have many emojis, sample graphics, shapes, and line drawings that you can use for free as well.
One of the most recommended tools on the market for designers is Canva. It can be used for free and has a really intuitive and easy-to-use layout. Furthermore, it comes with many different tutorials to guide you.
Another fantastic tool for creating designs is Gimp. It is a free, open-source image editor, which is very similar to Photoshop.
Of course, you shouldn’t restrict yourself to only tools we recommend, there are so many more tool out there, so go explore and have fun!
Check out this video to see our top 10 design apps:
Or find a designer
If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of trying to get a design out of your head and down onto paper and are willing to spend a few extra dollars, you can always hire someone to make a design for you. For example, you can talk to the Printful Design Services team, or find a freelancer on 99designs, Upwork, or Fiverr.
Once again, there are many options out there for you to choose from. If you want some more in-depth help in looking for a designer, here’s a post we made detailing 7 ways to find a designer.
Make a sample order
While this is not a necessary step, we definitely recommend that you create a sample order for your product. Our mockup generators are just that, mockups. What you see on-screen doesn’t exactly show what the design looks printed. To properly see how your products look and feel, you need to have them in person, before selling them to others. This can also help you write your product descriptions, and you can take your own product photos for your store. Once you’re happy with your sample order, you’re ready to create your store.
Step 4: Choose an ecommerce platform
Once you’ve made your account and got a product you want to sell, it’s time to choose which platform you want to start your online business on. But with so many different ecommerce options out there, which one is the best for you?
Currently, Printful can connect 22 different ecommerce platforms. Having all these integrations means that you have a wide range of different options to create your store with so you can find a storefront which best suits your needs. To help you choose, we designed a handy comparison chart and video, listing all the different pros and cons of each. You should evaluate what your priorities are and pick the best platform for you. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re using Shopify.
Decide on your chosen platform and make your account there.
Step 5: Link your Printful account and ecommerce platform
The process is a little different for every platform, so we have many tutorials to help you out. You can find them all on our YouTube channel. Or, you can go to your Printful dashboard, click Stores, choose your platform, and follow the tutorial laid out for you there.
Step 6: Create a product
With your platform, product, and design ready, it’s time to get selling.
Push your products to your store
To make it as easy as possible for you to start, we’ve made a product generator. It works with most integrations and pushes new products straight to your store from Printful. This way, you can log in to your Printful account and create products that are automatically added to your store, super easily.
Unfortunately, not all integrations have this push generator, so if you are using Gumroad, Big Cartel or Squarespace, you’ll have to add products manually. It takes a little bit more time, but it’s still pretty easy. First, you create a new product on your ecommerce platform. After that, go to your Printful dashboard, and under your store’s sync page click “Refresh data” to re-sync products from your store. You should find your newly added product there. Click “Edit” and you can configure the product for each variant (category, model, color, size) and upload the print file/s and mockup.
Now, just posting your products won’t be enough, you still have to sell them to your customers. Your customers don’t get to actually see your designs in person, so you have to show them through your amazing photos and descriptions. We do have pre-written descriptions and mockups if you just want to get your product out there, but we recommend that you just use them as a starting guide and to create your own.
If you want your product descriptions to stand out we have a great guide about how to add products and make them look awesome, which covers everything from the importance of high-quality photos to how to write fantastic copy for your product descriptions to seal the deal.
Set the price for your products
Once you have a product with an awesome description and photos ready to go, it is time to look at how pricing works. There are two different prices to think about. The Printful price, which is what we charge you, and the retail price, which is what you sell it for. So, if a Printful t-shirt is $15 and your retail price is set at $25, the profit you make is $10. You also have to keep in mind extra costs when choosing your prices, such as taxes.
How much you charge for your product can make or break a sale. If you set your retail price too high, then you will lose sales from people not willing to pay that much for your product. On the other hand, if you charge too little, you won’t be able to make a profit from your products at all.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t sell expensive products, it just means you have to show customers why they are worth paying more for. You need to create a value proposition, and show what makes your product different and stand out from the rest of the crowded market. Shopify has a great article about value propositions and how to create them (affiliate link, read more here).
Generally, a 30% profit margin is a good place to start, but it’s entirely up to you. Ideally, you should aim to cover your business expenses and still offer room for growth. We also offer a simple profit calculator to see how different prices affect your profit margin.
Calculate the shipping costs
Finally, you will also need to charge your customer shipping. Printful offers two different types of shipping: flat rates and live rates.
The first option is our live rates. This is when our algorithm calculates shipping rates in real-time during check-out, meaning your customer is automatically given the best rate available for shipping, without you having to configure anything. It’s only available for customers using Shopify, Woocommerce or Ecwid. If your integration supports live shipping rates, we highly recommend you use them.
If your integration doesn’t support live shipping rates, your other option is to use our flat rates. These are fixed prices we charge for shipping that you should charge on your store. Then, when the order comes to us, our algorithm will choose the most efficient shipping method. If it turns out that shipping costs less than the flat rate, then we will charge you the reduced cost, but we will never charge you more than the stated flat rate. You can keep track of our current flat shipping rates by looking at our shipping rates table.
Implementing shipping rates is slightly different depending on which platform you’re using and whether you want to implement flat rates or live rates. You can have a look at our Integration FAQs to find how to add shipping rates to your platform.
Step 7: Create your online payment processor
With a product and a store, you now need to find a way for customers to pay you. There are a bunch of different payment processors out there you can use, such as Paypal, Stripe, and Braintree. Whichever one you choose, you have to add it to your store so that your customers can pay you for your products!
We can only fulfill your orders once they have been paid for on Printful. So make sure you add your PayPal account or Credit Card to your Printful Wallet so that when customers start ordering your products, we can get paid and send them as quickly as possible.
Congratulations! You have a fully functioning store set up, and are ready to take orders!
Start to market your products to reach your first customers
Now that you have a store up and running, it’s time to make your first sale. This is a whole different battle, so we won’t go into depth about it here. But if the hunger for sales is too great, here are some resources to help you get started.
- Printful Resolution Series: The Basics of Social Media Marketing
- How to Create Effective Facebook Ads on a $50 budget
- How to Drive More Sales with Instagram
That’s it from me (for now). I really hope you enjoyed our guide, and have an awesome store to show for it. Now you can go have fun making your first sale! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to subscribe to the Printful blog for more helpful content about how to grow your ecommerce store.