How to start an online sticker business

There are many ways for you to start your sticker venture, and with it several ways to make your stickers. Today we will be talking about the different platforms you can use, how to make or get your stickers and a couple of tips to get your first sales. Let’s dive right in.

Print on Demand, Bulk Ordering, DIY

There are three main ways to start a sticker business, each one with it’s own advantages and disadvantages. The three main ways are:

1- Print on Demand

2- Bulk Ordering

3- D.I.Y.

With a fourth one being a subscription service like a monthly package or a box service.

Let’s discuss them one by one.

P.O.D. Print on Demand

If you’ve been an internet artist for a long time, then you’ve probably heard of websites like Redbubble.com, and Society6.com. Theses websites are platforms that allow you to sell your own art without having to pay for producing your products. This of course sounds like “FREE” but in reality it is not, you are pretty much trading off a huge chunk of your revenue for the services of production, fulfillment, and shipping. With this sort of platform a $3.00 sticker could net you at best .30 cents (10%) at worse .010 (3%) of what you could be making. This is honestly horrible if you’re ever planning on making a business out of this. However, when you are starting out, the ability for a novice pro artist to make some quick chump change without having to do any extra work is very alluring.

Personally I have tried this method and while I maybe never saw more than $10 in total revenue, depending on your art, your market and your current audience this could be the way to go for you. However if you’re a novice with some extra money to spend, I have a better alternative for you.

Among this type of Print on Demand platforms, there exists a group of websites that you can use to production, fulfill and ship your orders, but in these cases you pay them to produce the sticker and they will then charge the client and you will get your investment plus whatever you added on top of it.

Printful.com being the main contender in this sort of platforms. (I use printful, but not for sticker making, we’ll talk about why and how soon enough.)

For this types of platforms, on a $3.00 sticker you could be spending up to $1.50 per sticker but in return you will see almost 5 times the amount you would on a platform like Society6. This is because you are essentially investing on the product at market price, and then doubling what you invested (plus a little extra in the best of cases), this means that whatever you put on top of your original investment is clean profit. You are still only doing the work of an artist at this point, but with the added benefit of having more money per product sold.

Important to note, this sort of platforms do require a website or at least a hosting platform like storenvy.com

Bulk Ordering

This is pretty self explanatory, there are several websites out there that print big batches of stickers for you. ( I myself founded one with my family early this year.) The main idea is, you design your sticker in high resolution, 300 dip or more, and then send it off to get printed. In a week or two you then receive a package in the mail or you pick them up the same day (if you go the local print shop route) and then you spend an evening listing them on your personal website or etsy page.

Here we can also add the huge community events that happen around specific collections of stickers or pins on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is good if you have a big audience already, if not it’s a bit hard to get traction there. Instead, my suggestion for smaller artists wanting to do a big series or collection would be to take those 10-12 designs and create an instagram for this sticker project, post your designs 3 times a week or twice a week however you feel most comfortable and tell people you’re selling them through dm’s then you can accept paypal directly or send them to your online store.

While similar to the print on demand variant model, this sort of business models does require more work to maintain.

For example, here you are paying for production of a big batch of stickers. Whether you are printing one design or several designs you are going to have to store does stickers somewhere, and whilst storing 20-100 stickers isn’t too difficult the more you do this and the more you print stickers that number could easily past the 1,000’s. Storage will be something to consider for this sort of model. I suggest photo organizers or plastic jewelry/trinket boxes these work great and are relatively inexpensive.

However this is not even the largest concern when it comes to Bulk Ordering, in this model you also have to do fulfillment and shipping.

Fulfillment is not particularly fun, it can be, and I’ve seen some great tiktok videos showing me that it can be fun, but it is not exactly my cup of tea. It is in the broadest sense of the word, the act of sitting down with your product, picking out and envelope, filling the information in and putting the product and whatever branding you are adding into said envelope. This is easy enough at first when you are only getting 2 sales a month, but once you start getting popular this can run up to several hours, so that’s something to consider if you’d like to go this type of route.

Then there’s shipping, and baby that’s a whole different and very uncertain beast. When we talk shipping we talk about the magical world of the postal service. This is an asynchronous system that can work and will work for the most part, but can also fail in the most weirdest of ways, and can end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. Things like a misspelled street address, or a wrong house number can turn into days and even weeks of delays for your customer to receive their package and extra charges on your end. So the process of taking the exact information from the customer and making sure that the information is correct before shipping, is essential for you to save your money.

The best tip I can offer is to have a CRM system in place, this is a database of your customers information. Things like their name, their current dress, their email, and any other details that can be used in identifying your client and how to best service them. This information could then be turned into more sales but how to do that is a whole ‘nother blog post all in itself. For now just open up your favorite lined notebook, excel document or join one of the thousands of CRM platforms like Hubspot and start keeping a record of all that information. Ideally you want to update all your contacts on a 6months to a yearly basis, as well as add in new customers as they come along.

I won’t talk too much about the actual shipping costs of mailing stickers, but if you really want to save money on postage, just buy a couple of envelopes at Walgreens, a box of 100 can be anywhere for $2.00 to $4.00 and keep you packaging to a minimum, no bubble wrapper, no polymailers, just a small bag that fits your stickers, a couple of business cards and thank notes, and nothing too bulky or too heavy. If you do this, you can expect to pay at most .75 cents to $1.00 for postage and you should be good to go. Always add this number to your client’s total or you will end up paying that and it will eat into your profits. Considering that we’re selling $3.00 stickers, $1.00 of postage can sound like a lot, but in reality hardly anyone ever just buys one sticker, so the more stickers people buy the general impact of your postage will decrease.

D.I.Y. Do it Yourself

This in my opinion is the best possible way to sell stickers online, but like anything if you’re a total novice, I definitely do not recommend going this route. Since it’s the hardest and the most expensive one.

Doing it yourself will require:

1- A good laser or inkjet printer $500+

2- A die cutting or vinyl cutting machine $200+

3- Quality sticker paper that works with your printer $200+

Add on top of this the costs of fulfillment and shipping and you’re basically starting a business and with a business you also have to factor in stuff like taxes and business permits and such but we won’t get too into that, instead we will talk about the 3 main points listed above, and why you should or shouldn’t consider it.

Right off the bat, let me tell you, it can be expensive, a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to get into this game, but starting from the bottom allowed me to grow my income to eventually be able to produce all my stickers and most of my merchandise in-house (minus my shirts which I still print using Printful, and whilst I’m experimenting with screen printing and other ways of making shirts, Printful is still the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way for me to make my shirts.) So be warned, this model is not for beginners, you best be a hardcore sticker seller or at the very least a very experienced intermediate seller.

With that out of the way, let’s talk printers.

Yes, you can use your home printer to make your stickers, yes that could work. It could even seem very cheap if you have one of those $80 printers, but let me tell you, printing stickers in big batches can easily dry up your ink cartridges so be prepared to spend some good amount of money on new cartridges and with the standard price of a cartridge being $20-$40 that adds up quickly. Then our next option is to go the laser printer or the inkjet office printer route, these babies are not cheap, we’re talking $500 plus for anew printer, and the ink cartridges can run up to $100 or more for a pack of 4 cmyk inks. With that being said these printers will pay for themselves in the long run, because they waste less ink, much less, and they can print thousands of pages, so in a couple of months if you end up selling every sticker out of every page you print, you are basically sitting on a golden goose.

Next you need a cutter/plotter. The big equipment you see at print shops is meant to cut big vinyl rolls, and can run in the thousands, nothing a beginner or even intermediate artist can truthfully buy for themselves, so instead we have the smaller cutters. The silhouette, the cameo and the cricut.

Each one has it’s own advantages but I’ve only used the cricut and whilst it works wonders for me, and I’ve been able to calibrate it, and it’s environment in a manner that is most efficient for cutting what I need to cut. However a lot of people do have trouble getting it to cut properly. It is best if you do your own research on this matter and whatever you choose at the end, it’s important to also do research on it’s common problems and how to best solve those problems, the last thing you want is to spend precious material on failed print/cut runs that you could have avoided have you watched that extra YouTube video.

Lastly we have the actual paper. The best papers are honestly vinyl papers, they are durable, waterproof and if printed properly very hard to damage. With that being said, almost no printer (unless it’s the actual vinyl printer/plotter) can print on vinyl perfectly, and most times that it prints it is a very superficial print that whilst waterproof, it is not scratch proof. this then means you’ll have to laminate your stickers in order to have a sticker that will not be easily damaged, and will also be waterproof.

This of course is an extra cost per sticker you have to consider, and an extra step in your process, all of this will consume time and should be considered a whole different job in it of itself. My suggestion here is to go with a less vinyl option and instead choose a good factory label that can be printed on, is waterproof and is also scratch proof. Full page labels, not sticker paper, it can seem like the same thing, but when you say sticker paper, you are telling the manufacturer that you are making stickers and that will drive prices up, so think about that. Before we go on to the last way on how to start your sticker business, make sure that the paper you get is compatible with your printer, the best way to do this is to purchase small amounts of paper at first and once you get the one you like best and works best with your printer, buy a larger order. And it should be unsaid but I know this happens; make sure that if you have an inkjet printer, you buy paper that is labeled “for inkjet” if you end up buying laser printer paper, it will not work as intended and you will lose money, time and patience.

Subscription Services

While technically this is not a way to sell stickers, since it is more about having a monthly or yearly subscription for certain products you do send out. We can see this type of models done on Patreon, or directly as an extra service a seller might provide their most loyal customers in exchange for their monthly investment.

I use Patreon but haven’t had much luck. I have far better luck selling stickers directly in Instagram and Twitter instead. Printing small batches and setting up an online store through storenvy. However this does not mean that it is a worthless model, no quite the contrary, I think that it’s the next logical step after having a established a paying customer base that wants your products every time they come up. If that is your case, then the subscription model is the best way to get your stickers out there to your craving fans. Here packaging and product quality is key! You want to be able to deliver a product that is consistently of high quality, varied enough that people aren’t bored on their first month, and is contained in packaging that is so cool that when they do receive their monthly boxes they are excited to see what you’ve sent them this month.

The best example of this is of course lootcrate, really cool boxes with really cool very different monthly themes and provide much more value than what you pay for it monthly. This combined with a D.I.Y. approach can be the Magnum Opus, because you get to create, create, create, and monthly you already know who’s getting what, and you don’t have to do too much extra work trying to sell your new designs, you still put them up on your store for new fans, but essentially your approach will not be to sell the individual stickers but for the new customers to join the subscription service, and that well that’s a topic I’m still learning myself. All I know is that you must keep those emails you get every time a new customer makes a purchase. That list will be your building block for your eventual empire, so update it constantly, and keep it always with the newest and most correct information of everyone that buys.

Tips on getting your first sticker sales

To finish up the blog, let’s talk about 3 ways to get your first sale.

1- There are a lot of sticker communities out there so a good way to start building your follower base is to download a followers tracking app and following some people from those communities then after a couple of days or maybe a week, tracking the followers and unfollowing the people that aren’t following you back, and then rinse and repeat for a while, these exercise coupled with regular content will turn those people from lookyloos into potential customers, and finally into active customers. At first it will be a slow progress then it kinda picks up more and more until people share your stuff themselves and followers flow in naturally.

2- Artists Alley’s and free community markets. Get a table pretty much at any event you can, I have the blessing of being able to produce my own events, so you know that right out the gate, I’m going to put a table somewhere, usually close to the entrance, and display my stickers. But if you cannot produce your own events, then you need to link p with community projects, artisans shows, and artists alleys. Many places will charge you for a spot at their event, yet there are also many places that will not, and you will be welcome to sell your merch without much problem, there are also permits you might need for this sort of stuff, but your best honest bet is to start slow, get a couple of your friends together and set up at a local gallery or bar hangout. Most places just let you bring your table and sit in front of their bars on a specific date in the month, so talk with the owners, go hang-out round your neighborhoods and see where people are already gathering to sell their wares, their is probably a spot for you there.

In Regards to the charge some places can have, you need to make sure that your products are good enough to sell consistently among several audiences, otherwise the charge to set up a table might be good on some days and yet on other days it could surpass your profit from that night, in which case it won’t be at all worth it to take the time and money one has to take to set everything up, only to not sell anything. So pick your spot carefully and mindfully.

3- Collaborate, collaborate. Are you a n individual with many artist friends? Invite them to make a sticker with you, have them pay for half the investment to produce, and you pay for the other half. They keep half of the merch and your half too. You both sell them at the same price and you make sure to tag each other in each posts when you both promote those stickers. This will mix both of your clients, exposing each other to new costumers for your other designs, as well as add a new product to your inventory. Great way to grow your audience, quite affordable and pretty fun too.

That’s it for today’s post, I hope you enjoyed it. If so leave a comment below and share it to your friends so they too can start and grow their sticker business.

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