My high school days – like some of you – were spent in a band. Being broke, the only venue we could afford – at a whopping $10 per night – was the aptly named Grantville Train Depot. Merchandise (like t-shirts) was something we had to save for months to afford. And even with recommendations from the “experts” we always got the size ratio wrong. I probably still have a SM or XS hanging out somewhere.
If you’ve ever created an item to sell, you know the problems. For starters, many companies require a minimum order. Some items – like shirts – carry multiple sizes and require a larger initial investment. All of that money is paid up front and is only recouped if the items sell. As the creator you carry all the risk and responsibility, and that includes the responsibility of fulfillment. Packaging, shipping, returns… this thing that initially felt exciting now feels too much like work.
Enter the new way of doing business.
I was excited a few months ago when I came across Printful. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve taken everything wrong with ordering merch and fixed it. Thanks to Printful, you can create merch for your business (or your band) and offer it with no initial orders, up-front expenses or recurring charges. Let me say that another way: it’s free. Genuinely. Once you sell a piece of merch, the flat cost of the item is deducted from your account by Printful while the full price of the item is deposited into your account by whichever e-commerce solution you’re using. Within 7 business days, Printful handles fulfillment. And if there are problems with the order or the customer needs to exchange an item they handle that, too.
Given you already have a design to work with, in ~30min you can have a store setup that handles transactions and fulfillment. After that, just sit back and let Printful do the work. And if your design doesn’t sell? You aren’t out any money. Just try again with a new design or item and go from there.
So what’s the catch?
I have come across a couple limitations. For instance, you can’t brand the packaging. While for many people that isn’t an issue, it is something to be aware of. Also, it will generally cost more to use Printful than producing items through a more specialized vendor and handling fulfillment yourself. In my experience, this translates to each product being a few dollars more… which will either be taken from the bottom line or passed on to the customer. However, the difference in price is more than made up for given the amount of risk they offload from the creator. Additionally, all products have a flat price (check it out here) so you can very easily know what you’ll take home with each sell. Since Printful allows you to create items with no upfront investment, I recommend at minimum using the service until you find a product is selling well, and then decide if you want to change the product pipeline.
Treat Printful as your testing ground and try out that new design. If it goes gangbusters, then go from there… and if it doesn’t? Printful created the opportunity for your to find out. And this would’ve saved me a lot of dollars back in high school. It might’ve even made me a few.
Master of One
Master of One is a producer-centric outlet focused on the latest in creative pop culture. Every week they interview a creative giant and drop their hard fought-for dollars on cool stuff just so they can share it with you. You're gonna learn something new and want to spend money... and you're gonna love every minute of it.