A Pet Project Takes Off
Susan’s journey began when she started drawing custom pet portraits for friends during quarantine. She enjoyed this creative outlet and was amazed at the positive response she received.
With encouragement from others, Susan decided to open up her own Etsy shop selling prints of her pet portrait designs. At first, it was just a side hobby. But soon her shop started taking off around the holidays as people bought the pet portraits as gifts.
Overwhelmed by Orders
Susan was thrilled her shop was gaining traction. But soon, she became overwhelmed by the amount of orders flooding in. As a one-woman show, she was hand-drawing each pet portrait then manually shipping out each print.
Susan was working insane hours, yet still struggled to complete each order on time. She knew she couldn’t sustain this workload if she wanted to keep her shop running. She had to find a better solution.
The Print-On-Demand Solution
After researching ways to streamline her business, Susan discovered print-on-demand. This is a service that allows her to upload her designs to a company that handles printing and shipping products out to customers.
Susan decided to test this out with her Etsy shop. She partnered with a print-on-demand company called Printify that integrated directly with her Etsy store.
Now when an order came in, Printify would print and ship the product for her. Susan no longer had to hand make each order. This drastically reduced her workload while still bringing in sales.
Eliminating the Custom Work
While print-on-demand helped, Susan was still getting overwhelmed by the amount of custom pet portrait orders coming in daily. So she decided to make a pivot:
Rather than only selling customizable pet portraits, Susan created generic print designs outside of pet portraits that she knew her audience would enjoy.
These premade designs enabled Susan to upload them in bulk to Printify. Then when orders came in, Printify would simply print and ship the ready-to-go designs.
This removed the remaining hands-on custom work Susan had to do per order. And it allowed her shop to be almost entirely hands-off. She was amazed she could earn income with so little effort on her end.
$200 to $16,000 a Month
By utilizing print-on-demand and no longer taking custom orders, Susan watched her revenue skyrocket. She went from earning a consistent $200 a month to an impressive $16,000 a month within her first year.
The increased income allowed Susan to turn her side hobby into a full-time business. She was able to quit her day job and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being her own boss.
How She Mastered Etsy Success
Susan shared the strategies that took her Etsy shop to the next level:
Find Your Niche
Susan tested various niches to determine where she would find the most success with the least competition. She discovered her custom pet portraits and animal print designs filled an underserved niche with passionate buyers. Focusing her shop on this specific niche helped sales surge.
Pick the Right Print Provider
Choosing the right print-on-demand partner is crucial. Susan chose Printify for its Etsy integration and great customer service. Whenever issues arise, Printify quickly handles reprints or refunds so Susan doesn’t have to take a financial hit.
Analyze Other Best Sellers
To get product ideas and design inspiration, Susan spends time analyzing other best selling listings on Etsy. She determines what makes a listing convert and applies those strategies to her own shop.
Susan pays close attention to creating listings optimized for sales. This includes using enticing photos, descriptive titles focused on keywords, and selling points in the description. These optimizations help her listings rank high in Etsy searches.
Leverage Etsy Stats
By utilizing Etsy’s analytics, Susan can see which listings perform best. She uses these insights to fine-tune her keywords, pricing, designs, and photos. This helps her maximize conversions and sales.
Enjoying Financial Freedom
Thanks to print-on-demand, Susan’s shop went from a time-consuming hobby to a passive income stream. She now only spends about 1 hour a day on her business creating new designs and managing operations.
In 2022 alone, her shop made close to $150k in profit. The income from her Etsy store provided Susan the freedom to start traveling more and pursue other goals outside of a traditional 9 to 5 job.
Susan hopes her story can inspire others to start their own successful Etsy shops through implementing print-on-demand. She loves helping guide people on their journey to financial freedom.
Key Takeaways from Susan’s Etsy Success Story:
- Susan turned her pet portrait hobby into a full-time print-on-demand business making $16k a month
- Implementing print-on-demand allowed her to outsource order fulfillment, reducing workload
- She pivoted from custom to generic designs, making the shop completely passive
- Finding a specific niche and optimizing listings led to surging Etsy sales
- In one year, Susan’s earnings grew from $200 to $16k a month
- Her Etsy shop now requires just 1 hour a day to manage thanks to print-on-demand
- The income allows Susan to enjoy financial freedom and more flexibility
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get started with print-on-demand?
The first step is to find a print-on-demand supplier like Printify that integrates with the online marketplace you want to sell on. Create an account and sync your marketplace store. Then upload your designs and set your pricing. The supplier handles printing and shipping when orders come in.
What kind of profit margins can you expect?
Profit margins vary, but expect 15–35%. To increase margins, focus on products like art prints, t-shirts, and phone cases vs mugs and other low-margin items. Also, use the supplier’s recommended pricing as a guideline.
Should you sell on Etsy or your own website?
Etsy brings targeted traffic of buyers which lowers marketing costs. But you pay listing and selling fees. An independent shop using Shopify removes fees but requires good marketing skills to attract buyers. New sellers often find the most success starting on Etsy.
How much time does managing a print-on-demand business take?
For passive income, aim for 1–5 hours per week once the designs are created and uploaded. Time is spent periodically creating new designs along with customer communication and order management. Automation tools can also lower time spent.
What tips do experts have for Etsy SEO?
- Include keywords in titles and descriptions
- Use all 13 tags with relevant keywords
- Add lots of high-quality photos and videos
- Get reviews to improve visibility
- Refresh old listings regularly
- Promote your shop on social media
Scaling Up Shop Operations
As her shop continued to grow, Susan implemented systems to streamline operations so she could keep up with increasing sales.
She brought on virtual assistants to help respond to customer messages and manage administrative tasks. This freed up more of her time to focus on high-level business strategy.
Susan also began using ecommerce automation tools like Zapier and EtsyKit. These connected her Printify account to automate order processing and shipping notifications. Automation removed tedious manual order management, saving Susan hours per week.
To scale up production, Susan hired freelance graphic designers that she could outsource the creation of new designs to. This provided her shop with a steady pipeline of fresh designs which kept her listings competitive.
Finally, Susan created operational guides and checklists using Notion to systemize fulfillment processes. By documenting her systems, it ensured her VA’s could efficiently operate the business in her occasional absence.
Doubling Down on Audience Research
Susan utilized audience research to gain an even clearer picture of who her ideal customers were and what motivated them.
She distributed surveys to her email list and engaged customers through social media polls. Susan asked about their likes, pains, and motivations for purchasing.
The feedback helped Susan tweak her products and messaging to hyper-target her niche. For example, she discovered her audience loves inspirational quotes, so she incorporated those into more designs.
Susan also uses Google Trends, Audience Insights, and Etsy search data to guide new product releases. If she sees rising interest around a design theme, she adds more listings targeting that trend.
This meticulous audience research ensures Susan’s designs stay relevant to what shoppers are actively looking for, fueling consistent sales.
Expanding Her Sales Channels
While Etsy served as the starting point, Susan knew she didn’t want to rely solely on one platform long-term.
She has begun expanding her print-on-demand products onto other sales channels like Amazon Handmade, Creative Market and her own Shopify store.
Amazon Handmade especially has proven to be a lucrative expansion, thanks to the millions of buyers already active on Amazon. And her Shopify store allows her to avoid Etsy fees and control her branding.
Susan also sees potential in collaborating with other makers and brands relevant to her audience. She believes strategic partnerships could open the door to new audiences and tap into existing fan bases.
By diversifying her sales channels, Susan mitigates her risk and positions her shop for sustainable long-term growth.
Looking to the Future
Today, Susan’s once-small Etsy shop has blossomed into thriving print-on-demand business that exceeds $100k per year in profit.
While she could comfortably retire early, Susan plans to continue growing her business for the foreseeable future. She loves the creativity and freedom it provides.
Her next goal is releasing her own line of high-quality art prints outside of print-on-demand. She also plans to hire a full-time social media manager to free up even more of her schedule.
Susan hopes her story can show others with creative skills that it’s possible to turn a passion project into a profitable full-time business. Her success proves that with consistency, strategic pivots, and commitment, massive growth is achievable.
While it took dedication to reach this point, Susan knows her business will continue thriving for years to come thanks to the strong print-on-demand foundation she has built.