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How to Start Designing Your Own Products in 4 Easy Steps

With print-on-demand, the sky’s the limit with what you can create. And the best part is, for aspiring business owners, it’s extremely easy to get started.

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BY Arianna ODell - 27 Apr 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Towels. Mugs. Dog Beds. Yoga Mats. With print-on-demand, the sky's the limit with what you can create. And the best part is, for aspiring business owners, it's extremely easy to get started.

Over the last two years, I've gone from zero to over 600 products that I sell online using print-on-demand technology. The technology has not only allowed me to create a passive income, but also explore my creative side. The best part -- there are literally hundreds of products that I can create so I can focus my time and creative efforts on coming up with incredible designs.

Here's how you can take one design and make 100 different products with just a computer and a wifi connection.

1. Start with one idea.

For many, the hardest part of starting any kind of business venture is just getting started and taking a leap of faith. With print-on-demand, entering the market is very low cost --for as little as $50 you can get started designing a product.

This allows you to design and release a lot of creative ideas without worrying about whether your idea will be well-received by the marketplace. With print-on-demand you can easily move on to another idea if the first one isn't a grand slam. 99 percent of all of the ideas I have are terrible -- but it's the 1 percent of great ideas that sell and is now helps me generate passive income.

As the great Michael Jordan once said, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." The same is true in design.

Struggling with an idea? Pick your favorite animal and design a coffee mug with that animal on it. I love pandas--when I was getting started I made panda-themed products I wanted and it turned out I wasn't the only one who wanted to buy a panda towel, mug or blanket.

Another way to get started is to think of a friend with an upcoming birthday and design something you think they would like. Remember, the key is not to design for everyone. Have a clear idea on who you're designing for. Chances are someone else will like it too.

2. Find a designer.

Once you have an idea, the next step to starting your own print-on-demand store is finding a designer who can help you create visually-appealing products. There are many places to find quality design talent. From Behance to Dribbble to UpWork, I've found great designers using a range of freelance marketplaces.

Another tactic to finding a good designer is to ask your network for referrals. This can save you a costly vetting process if a colleague can vouch for a designer's talent and dependability.

Once you find a designer, it's recommended to have them make one design as a paid test project before you decide to move forward with a series of designs. Make sure the design fits your vision and don't get discouraged if the first few people you test aren't the right fit. It took me a few months to find designers that matched my aesthetic and working style.

3. Evaluate and test suppliers.

I've spent thousands of dollars testing print-on-demand sites and I'm going to save you some heartache here: don't choose a supplier solely based on cost. Find a supplier that has fast shipping times, great customer service, and quality products. There are many suppliers to choose from. For my store, I've used a combination of Printful, Teelaunch, ArtsAdd, Gooten, Pixels and Cimpress Open but there also are many more options available including Printify, Teespring, CafePress, Zazzle, and Custom Ink as well as new players coming to the space monthly. Test out a few and see which products match your vision before committing to just one.

4. Set up a storefront.

Once you have a design and a supplier in mind, set up a store front. From Shopify to Big Commerce to Magento there are many out of the box solutions that can help you get a store front up in a matter of minutes where you can upload your products and begin selling.

Print-on-demand has allowed me to create hundreds of products and given me endless hours of enjoyment making physical goods I can hold in my hand and say "Wow, I made this." Get started today and see what you can create!

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