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Beginner's handbook

How to Start an Online Store with Printful

By Reading Time: 9 minutes

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.

Source: StartUp Vitamins

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 Design Maker. There you’ll find sample graphics, shapes, line drawings, and many emojis that you can use to create unique designs. If you have a simple text-based design, you can quickly see how it looks on a shirt 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 Generator creates just that, a digital image. 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.

Printful-ecommerce-integrations

Decide on your chosen platform and make your account there.

To integrate Printful with Shopify, simply install the Printful app. Just click add app, enter your store’s URL, then login to your Printful account. Your accounts will link automatically.

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.

There are also many different ways you can use shipping to your advantage. Check out this blog post that shows how to use free shipping to increase your sales.

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.

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.

With a keen interest in the business world, Mitch enjoys learning about marketing and entrepreneurship.

Comments

  1. AL

    what if the customer maker order to my shopify store with stripe payment and the money make 7 days to come to my bank account and i have not enough money on credit card for billling,are printful will delivery the order before the money goes to my account?

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi there,

      If you don’t have sufficient funds for billing, you can wait for the money to be transferred from your customer, and only then confirm the order at Printful. We do not start to fulfill the orders before they have been paid for.
      If you have further questions, please reach out to our Customer Service, I’m sure they’ll be able to help!

  2. Darwin

    Hi, if for whatever reason. I “copied” someone else’s art. How will I know if I did? Will there be a cease and desist letter? And how will I get that? I will always try to make sure my designs are original. But Ive always had a fear of someone, suing me over something I didn’t intend to do.

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi Darwin,
      You need to either own the content you submit to Printful, or have the rights to use, display, and resell it.
      Consulting a copyright attorney is always the best route if you have specific questions about your products.

  3. Tag

    Hello,
    I would like to start my own T-shirt line, but if for some reason my client did not like the Tshirt or size or change he’s or she is mind who will deal with return shipping and money-back ?? …Thank you

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi there Tag,
      It’s best to advise your end customers to contact you before returning any products.
      Printful does not refund orders for buyer’s remorse, and size exchanges are to be offered at your expense and discretion.
      Please take a look at Printful’s return policy.
      Hope this helps!

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi there,
      If you’re looking to place manual orders for your clients without creating a store, there are two ways how you can do this:
      – Create a manual ordering platform on your Printful account by going to Stores > Manual ordering platform/API > Create.
      This platform will work similar to an actual store in the sense that you’ll be able to design and save products there, however, only you will have access to it. Whenever you’ll need to create an order for your client, you’ll be able to simply select one or more of the saved products and add them directly into the order. Note that products that are saved in the manual ordering platform can’t be moved to an actual store later on and would have to be recreated.
      – Alternatively, you can also use the Product Templates on your Printful Dashboard. This way you can design a product and save it as a template on your Printful Dashboard. Whenever you’ll need to create an order for your client, you’ll be able to select the product directly from the template and add it to the order. Additionally, the templates give you the option to add these products to an actual store if you decide to connect one later on.
      Hope this helps! 🙂 If you have further questions, please reach out to [email protected].

  4. Janak Sharma

    I am recently developing an android app and I want to integrate this api for mockup generator for my app. Can I do so?

  5. Steven

    hello
    i have a question i want to use printful and ebay, so far so good but the problem is that i do not appear on the german marketplace. Where do I find the setting to change that?

    Many thanks for the help

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi Steven,
      When using our integration with eBay, products are pushed to all international marketplaces. If your product listings don’t appear on specific marketplaces, we recommend checking in with eBay support directly, since they should be able to look into this in more detail.

  6. Rickard

    Hi, I have several different domains and hosting, can I connect each and everyone to the same printful account? or do I need a printful account for each domain using woocommerce?

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi Rickard,
      You can connect several WooCommerce stores to a single Printful account since each one of them would have its own API key.
      Make sure you log out of the other WooCommerce accounts when attempting to connect both platforms.

  7. jonathan

    I am trying to connect my Etsy store and following the step guide you have. I get the allow access message and then I get the following: This account has no associated etsy.com stores

    Can you please let me know why this is happening.

    1. Alise Zindiga

      Have you created your shop on Etsy? It sounds like that could solve the issue. Good luck and please feel free to reach out to our Customer Support if that didn’t help. 😉

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