You’ve set up shop, and you have big clients in your pipeline.
Now you’re ready to generate passive income with printables, but you don’t know where to begin.
Great news, this guide will show you how to make printables to sell like gangbusters.
What are printables?
Printables are documents that help with organization, planning, and learning. Popular examples include planners, templates, calendars, and checklists.
Check out this planner below. It manages your to-dos and priorities on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
There’s even a gratitude section to jot down what you’re grateful for.
How to make printables?
1. Build a community first
Before you start thinking, “This writer must be losing her marbles. Shouldn’t this be in the later steps?”
Well, I’m here to shatter your mind. You must build a community and promote your printable before launching.
When you have a community of loyal fans, selling becomes easier.
Don’t just take my word for it.
This is the exact approach Jimmy Daly and Elise Dopson followed when building Superpath and Peak Freelance, respectively.
Vladislav Podolyako, the creator behind the Inbound Email Marketing Folderly ebook, shared that if he could turn back time, he, too, would market it to his audience before launching.
He adds, “If I did that, I’d have better results and exposure.”
Here are five community growth guides for further reading:
- How to Grow Your Email List to 1,000 Subscribers
- The 4 Types of Facebook Group Posts to Increase Engagement
- 5 Tricks to Grow Your Audience [Using Email Marketing and Instagram]
- Instagram Marketing: How We Got 100k Followers In 8 Months
- YouTube SEO: Get Your Videos Ranked and Recommended
2. Research what’s bugging customers right now
Never depend on The God of Inspiration when brainstorming what to sell. Most of the time, you’d see that your ideas are drastically different from what your customers actually want.
Now that you’ve built a sizable community, start asking them questions. Here are two great suggestions from Copyhackers:
- “What was going on in your life that led you to my [website/email list etc.]?”
- “What does success look like to you?”
You could email them, invite them for a video interview, or poll them on Twitter.
Kaleigh polled this to promote a video workshop. Even though it’s not a printable, the strategy applies.
Gather these new insights and try to see if you can spot a common theme. Found it? Great, that’s your printable!
3. Design your printable
Now that you’ve settled on a printable, it’s time to design it. Here are a few handy resources if you don’t want to hire designers on Fiverr or Upwork.
Fonts and colors
- WhatTheFont!: Identify fonts from images
- Design Seeds: Pick a set of colors to represent your brand best
- The HUGE Font Bundle: Access over 200 fonts and unlimited customer support
- 43 Fonts Bundle: Choose from 43 high-quality fonts created by a team of designers
- Yay Images Startups: Access over two million royalty-free stock images, vectors, and videos
- Be Your Own Graphic Designer: Upload over 3,000 color-coordinated PNG images into graphic design software
- Yay Images [premium]: Access 12+ million royalty-free stock photos and 1.2M vectors
- Generated Photos: Create model photos using AI and use them anywhere
- Pixabay alternatives: 10 more websites to find stock photos
Are you looking for affordable alternatives to graphic design powerhouses like Adobe Photoshop and Canva? These posts got you covered:
- 13 of the Best Canva Alternatives for Easy Graphic Design
- 17 Best Alternatives to Photoshop for Graphic Design
Where to sell printables?
Best for: Entrepreneurs who sell business- and work-related printables.
AppSumo is a leading digital marketplace for entrepreneurs.
Fun fact: Intercom and Zapier got their start here!
There are no upfront fees or limits when you list your printable on AppSumo. As a partner, you have the freedom to choose your listing price (original or discount, it’s your call!), add as many paid products, and list however long as you want.
AppSumo takes a small cut of commissions. When you bring new buyers to our marketplace, you earn 95% of the revenue. For returning customers we bring to you, you take home 70% of the revenue.
Here’s an example to show you how it works.
AppSumo works best for business- and work-related printables.
It’s ideal if you’re looking for early feedback to improve your product, build a community, and promote your printable in front of over one million entrepreneurs, founders, affiliate marketers, and online business owners.
2. Websites (e.g., WordPress, Shopify)
Best for: Entrepreneurs who want complete control over their printables (e.g., from listing design to revenue).
If you want 100% control over your printables (e.g., you have a specific listing design in mind), self-hosted websites are your best option. WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace—take your pick from these dozens of website builders.
With self-hosted websites, there are absolutely no listing fees. However, note that you still need to pay for web hosting, transaction fees, and plugins.
For example, if you’re using an ecommerce plugin like Easy Digital Downloads, you’d need to pay at least $99.50 a year to use its customer management tool.
Another downside to selling printables on a new website? SEO. New sites with little to zero online presence typically take four months to a year to generate quality traffic.
Best for: Entrepreneurs who sell lifestyle printables like new year resolution worksheets and wedding planners.
Etsy is home to over 4.3 million independent sellers.
The global online marketplace is known for one-of-a-kind handmade crafts, but did you know that there are also hundreds of thousands of lifestyle printables?
Like all marketplaces, Etsy takes a cut of your sales. What’s interesting is that listings (excluding pattern-only listings) expire after four months. Here’s the main gist of the fees and payments involved:
- $0.20 for each listing whether or not your printable sells (including renewals)
- 5% transaction fee
There’s a lot more to the fee structure as you’ll see on Etsy’s fees and payment page. For example, Etsy offers an optional $10 monthly subscription package.
Best for: Content creators who sell tutorial- and info-products.
Since 2011, over 90,000 content creators have sold their fruits of labor on Gumroad.
Gumroad works on a pay-less-as-you-grow model. Meaning, the fees you pay are determined by your lifetime revenue.
It starts at 9%, which lasts until you make your thousandth $1, then drops to 7%, and so on. Note that you still need to pay $0.30 for each transaction, and this fees policy doesn’t apply to PayPal.
If customers purchase your printable via Gumroad Discover—a portal that recommends your products to prospective customers—you need to pay an additional 10% fee.
Gumroad’s fee structure is more complicated than meets the eye. Check out the Gumroad fee page for more information.
How to market printables?
1. Promote it to your community without sounding like a humblebrag
Erin Balsa, the creator of The Research Report Playbook: Here We Grow, Yo, has garnered over 18,000 followers on LinkedIn. In this LinkedIn post, she shares a recent blog post by a fellow marketer and segues to her printable:
It’s sleek and engaging. Plus, note how it’s not the typical self-serving promo we often see on LinkedIn.
Here’s one post where Erin shares a fun fact about herself and pre-promotes her printable. And here’s another post where she talks about how freelance writers can earn six figures by selling research reports.
Each of her posts either provides value or engages with followers.
Pro tip: Before promoting your printables, ensure that you’ve created a smooth customer onboarding process. If your printable involves multiple steps (e.g., customers need to access additional resources like joining Facebook groups), create a README file or even a welcome page on Notion with clear instructions.
Granted, this doesn’t have anything to do with marketing, but if you want to spend less time on support and avoid frustrating customers, this is a critical tip.
Steph Smith, creator of Doing Content Right, advises, “Ensuring that customers know exactly how to access every piece of the product is essential in them diving into it, which is a precursor to them becoming an advocate for it.”
2. Target ready-to-buy searchers
This second marketing tip is for you if you want to sell your printables on your website.
Prioritize keywords at the bottom of the funnel to generate quality traffic and leads.
Imagine you’re selling a business startup checklist.
Instead of targeting keywords at the top of the funnel like “business startup” and “what is a business startup,” opt for keywords with commercial intent such as “business startup checklist” and “printable checklist for starting a business.”
You’ll have better odds of converting these searchers to customers, as these keywords indicate they need a solution to their problems right now.
3. Retarget with ads to validate buying decisions
When a household goods online store retargeted its lookalike audiences with ads on Facebook, it attracted 46,000 new customers in just six months.
Sam Lepak can attest to the power of retargeted marketing. When he launched his printable, Get Approval to Work From Home, on AppSumo, he worked with an ad creative agency to promote it on Facebook and Instagram Ads.
Don’t worry! You can do this on your own without outsourcing.
Pro tip: Include social proof in the ad copy and visual to boost credibility and validate customers’ decisions.
Here’s a powerful example from AdEspresso. Notice how the exact social proof number (17,348 downloads in two months) pushes you to click the call-to-action button?
Pro tip: Retarget your most profitable customers.
In our example earlier, the household goods store built its lookalike audiences based on its top 10% best customers. Do the same for your printable!
Creating printables involves long hours of work
Even for small printables, you still need to spend considerable effort to bring them to life:
- Build a community from scratch
- Conduct customer research and compile everything you’ve learned to spot patterns
- Find the right fonts and brand colors
That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
If you prefer to skip some of these time-consuming tasks and tap into a built-in audience, you’re not alone.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs have partnered with AppSumo to get the exposure they’re searching for. Ready to get started and get your name in front of one million customers? Hop on over to AppSumo Partners. We’ll help you to reach millions with your printables.