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Beginner's handbook

5 Most Common Mistakes Printful Customers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

By on September 8th, 2020 Reading Time: 7 minutes

It’s exciting to be an entrepreneur: you get to bring your idea to life, and be your own boss. But ecommerce can also be a bit challenging, especially for first-timers. 

We at Printful want to help you run your business and avoid any potential pitfalls. And who better to ask when it comes to our customers and their struggles than Printful’s Customer Support? For this article, I reached out to our CS team, and together we’ve compiled a list of the five most common mistakes Printful customers make.

These five mistakes can have the most serious impact on your business. You risk damaging your store’s reputation, losing potential sales, or just wasting time and energy. No store owner would want that. The good news is that it’s completely avoidable—so let’s get started!

1. Not syncing Printful products

Syncing Printful products is a crucial step. You need to sync everything you want to sell so that your products are visible on your storefront. Remember that mixed orders (where some products are synced and others aren’t) won’t be fulfilled, even if there’s just one unsynced item. That will lead to delayed orders and time spent trying to figure out the cause of the problem.

How to avoid this? There are two solutions. First, always make sure to sync everything you add to the store that’s fulfilled by Printful. You can do that in your Dashboard under Stores—just click Refresh data to re-sync products from your store. 

Secondly, be careful when you make changes to your products. Any updates to the product, like changing the color of a t-shirt, won’t be visible on the storefront. With some ecommerce platforms it’s possible to update synced mockups (also known as Repush mockups), but not with all of them. If your ecommerce platform doesn’t have this option and you want to make some changes to the design, it’s better to just delete the product and push a new one to your storefront.

2. Using incorrect print files 

The key to a great product design is a great print file. We have a blog article with an in-depth explanation of all the steps that go into creating the perfect print file. But in this article, I’ll focus on two aspects in particular because they are absolutely essential when creating a print file. 

  1. The background color and transparency of your designs. This is particularly important for products printed using the direct-to-garment (DTG) technique. The printer will print all the colors it sees in the design, so avoid adding a background color unless it’s a part of your design. Customers also tend to forget that prints on all non-white garments have a white underbase to help the colors stand out. If you use a transparent design on a dark garment, the white underbase will show through, so do that only if it’s part of your design idea.
  2. The fabric your product is made of. There are three most common types of fabrics used in retail—cotton, polyester, and fabric blends. Because each one has different properties, it’s important to find out the durability, care, and printing suitability, as well as feel and wear of the fabric.  For example, with direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, the more cotton a garment has, the better. DTG printing uses water-based inks that stick to cotton better than compared to other materials. Make sure to also pay attention to the thickness of the fabric—if the garment is made from thick cotton (e.g., sweatshirts or hoodies), the fabric can absorb the ink and result in a more faded look.

When creating a print file, always follow the guidelines created by our in-house experts. You can find the Printful guidelines and print file templates in the File guidelines tab under each product. To find out more, you can also watch this Printful Lessons video with tips for creating the perfect print file.

3. Not adding a billing method

With each successful business comes the more technical side, like setting up a billing method to make sure your customer can buy from you, and you, in return, can make a sale. Here’s how billing works for Printful customers, and why it’s so important to add a billing method.

When you connect a store to Printful, the orders from your store are imported to Printful automatically. When a customer buys from your store and the order comes into Printful, two payments take place:

  1. The customer purchases a product from your store, and they pay you using your store’s payment platform.
  2. Printful gets the order and charges you for fulfillment and shipping using Printful’s internal payment system—the Printful Wallet.

For your orders to go through smoothly, you need to set up payments on your storefront following the platform’s support resources. You also need to set up everything on Printful’s side so that the second payment can take place.

Payments for all Printful orders happen in the Printful Wallet, so make sure your Printful always has funds. There are three ways you can set it up:

  1. You can set up a billing method where you provide a bank card, Paypal account, or other means of payment that Printful will bill automatically for the fulfillment and shipping costs of each order. The amount billed is automatically deposited into your Printful Wallet with each incoming order. The Printful system then collects the money from your Wallet and the order is sent to fulfillment. You can set up a billing method by going to your Printful Dashboard > Billing > Billing Methods > Add billing method.
  2. Add funds to your Printful Wallet manually. To do that, go to your Printful Wallet and click Add money and transfer funds from your bank card, PayPal, or other means of payment. Plus, there’s an advantage to this option—orders will be processed faster and there’s a smaller risk of any transaction errors! 
  3. You can also do a combination of both—add a billing method as well as add money  to your Printful Wallet manually.

4. Forgetting about additional expenses

When creating an ecommerce business, it’s important to have at least an approximate idea of potential costs. Skip this step, and you risk miscalculating your potential earnings, as well as experiencing difficulty when scaling your business.

There are three types of expenses that, according to our Customer Support team, most people need to have on the top of their list along with fulfillment costs and store platform subscriptions. 

Shipping, customs, and taxes

Calculating shipping prices isn’t as fun as designing your own products, but it’s unavoidable for all store owners. You can do that in two steps:

  1. Get to know Printful’s shipping rates. We have international shipping, as well as standard shipping rates that are fixed and calculated based on the average shipping cost for each product category. All products in their shipping category have similar dimensions, weight, and packaging.
  1. Then, calculate shipping costs for your products. Your shipping rates will depend on the ecommerce platform you use and the products you offer. For more detailed information, read our blog article on setting up shipping rates. You can read the FAQ section on our shipping page for trickier shipping calculations. 

Depending on the order destination and fulfillment location, your customers might need to pay customs fees. While your end customer is responsible for these fees, we’d recommend communicating this directly so that they know what to expect. 

Regarding taxes, it’s a good idea to have at least an approximate estimate of the percentage of your earnings that will go towards paying taxes. The exact tax rates and the types of taxes that you’ll need to pay vary based on the location where you live. Most common are sales taxes, VAT (value added tax) on some orders going to the EU, and GST (goods and services tax) to all orders going to Australia.

It’s important to keep these tax obligations in mind when assessing all the potential expenses to have a more realistic estimate of your future earnings. For more information on tax-related questions, consult with a legal professional.

Digitization fee

All embroidered garments and hats require a special embroidery file that’s in a digitized format that our embroidery machines can read. When you submit your embroidery design to Printful, our design team will digitize it for a one-time fee—the digitization fee. The fee depends on the type and placement of the design, so the exact costs will vary. 

A standard digitization fee for most designs is $6.50 per file. If you want to use hat embroidery files for apparel or vice versa, they need to be adjusted, and this costs $2.95 per file. Or, if you have a digitized 3D puff hat file and want to use it on an apparel, the file will have to be digitized from scratch because the 3D puff technique isn’t available on apparel. It’s important to keep these extra costs in mind when creating embroidery designs so you don’t run into any unpleasant surprises.

Marketing expenses

Word-of-mouth-marketing is a very common way to start marketing your business. It’s low-cost and highly effective to get that first sale.

But this tactic alone won’t provide a sustainable stream of business to generate consistent revenue. That’s why you should consider paid marketing as well and take these potential future costs into account. There are many different types of paid marketing activities, so it’s entirely up to you, which one you choose. These are the three most common ones:

  • Placing ads on search platforms (like Google or Bing)
  • Targeting social media users with ads based on their interests and interactions
  • Collaborating with influencers to advertise your products

Whatever activity you pick, make sure that you have a way to measure whether your marketing campaign actually worked and how much money it generated. This is what’s known as ROI or return of investment. Once you start thinking about the ROI of your marketing efforts, you’ll know how to efficiently spend your money for future campaigns.

5. Skipping important information

According to our Customer Support team’s observations, there are three important pieces of information that customers often miss:

  1. They forget to go through our Covid-19 page on fulfillment estimates. Even though most of our fulfillment is back to normal now, it’s different to predict what may happen in the course of the year. Keep checking our Covid-19 page and take the time to study the updates. When any news hits, let your customers know as soon as possible to manage their expectations.
  1. They forget that they can’t sell copyrighted designs without payment and/or permission.  You need to have the licence to use, display, and resell copyrighted design. Giving credit to the author of the design isn’t enough, you need the author’s permission and a signed licensing agreement to get the license before you can sell a product that features it.
  1. They forget to set up policies on their store. Store policies are important to an online business—they create a sense of security for customers when they’re buying something from you. With policies in place, they’ll know what to expect if something goes wrong with their order, or if the product doesn’t fit properly.

Make sure you’re familiar with Printful policies. This will help you figure out what to communicate with your customers. It’s likely that some things you’ll take on from our policies, but others you’ll skip or adjust. For example, Printful doesn’t offer refunds for buyer’s remorse. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t do that! Just remember that this is now your store policy, not Printful’s, and you’ll be responsible for the fulfillment and shipping costs. 

Read our blog article with step-by-step instructions on which Printful policies you should copy and how to do that. There are also free templates that you can use for your store!

A few final words

Mistakes aren’t fun. Like everyone else, we’d also love to avoid them. But being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks, exploring new opportunities, and learning from past shortcomings. Whether you’re an experienced store owner, or only beginning your ecommerce journey, we hope this blog post will serve you as a handy reminder of what not to do when growing your store.

A content marketing specialist and social anthropologist all in one, Marta has a never-ending curiosity in people and all their little quirks.

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