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Your mental health when doing print on demand has not been spoken about. At least not at length or with any real guidance on how to pull through the tough times. On the other side of the coin, succeeding brings with it its own set of mental health challenges.
From never feeling good enough, thinking your products are awesome and your ads suck, or worse, your products suck and your ads are woeful.
Feeling like you don't know how to choose the right product, or what to design on that product.
Like you've found a winner and the sales just don't come… where. the. fuck. are. the. sales?!
And that's just the product side of things. The constant self-berating can get to you if you do not protect yourself and understand that losing in POD happens far more often than winning, then you're setting yourself up and heading head on towards depression and a space none of us need to be in.
In this article, I want to share with you the mental struggles that the majority will face at some point in their POD career. Not to scare you from trying, but to insulate you, help you understand, and ultimately realize that you're not alone, or different and that it is just part of the journey.
So what are we about to look at;
- How is Print on Demand is different to other ecommerce verticals
- Print on Demand
- Brand Building
- The Cycle: The Year In Review
- Tools & Resources to Create a Steely Resolve
How to Protect Your Mental Health When Doing Print on Demand
Everyone knows that the best time of year for Print on Demand is the gift-giving period in Q4. There is lots of chatter about what holidays to focus on with POD, however, there is 1 main one that will significantly move the needle for you and me, and a 2nd that's a little pick me up, but can almost serve as a distraction.
Your focus needs to be on launching products for Christmas. That doesn't mean they need to be a Christmas-themed product, it just means focusing on a “gift” type of product… i.e. a Shirt, Jewelry, or blankets to a significant other, Metal art…
How is Print on Demand Different From Other eCommerce Verticals
There are some significant differences between our industries in eCommerce. Let's take a look.
Print on Demand – Step 1 of POD
With POD we are asking for a sale from someone before we've built a relationship. This is more so true when we are finding what niches we connect with. That's the first step towards building a brand.
JUST keep in mind we're hunting for sales first and foremost with killer products!
Another significant difference is that we know the product sells, we just need to focus on the design. Not the offer, not the branding, just the design/phrase.
We start by ensuring our site is trustworthy, or the platform you're using.
Trustworthy…just as you'd expect from the big players in our industry.
This is in order to set your customer's minds at ease when they get to your store…they either can trust (almost immediately) or they don't…and they leave no matter how good your design is.
Then, we create a product for a particular person/niche we have in mind, advertise the product, hope to get sales, and repeat this process until we find…those sales.
From those sales we build our assets, our Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts grow from the advertising efforts with people who expect to see a product from you, for them, at some point.
Our email lists start to swell as do all your assets. This will allow you to have an audience to sell into in the future. I.e. Lookalike audiences.
Dropshipping is similar in the testing phase, true. As with POD a lot of products must be tested before a winner is found.
Once those winners are uncovered it then allows you to start building a brand around said product. You start focusing on what your offer is, how can you increase AOV, conversion rates, and hit every holiday imaginable with an offer for your product.
Dropshipping quickly graduates to brand building once that product has been found. Unlike POD where once you have found your winner you continue your search for the next and our focus remains on the searching. That is until we know we connect with that niche at which point you look to start creating a store specifically for it.
Brand Building | A Fixed Product – Step 2 POD & Dropshipping
Brand building is Step 2 of both Dropshipping and Print on Demand. We start our low-cost businesses, find a winner (with POD that's based on several successes in a niche before committing to a brand build) and then graduate into the building of consistency.
Once you have your store set up, dropshipping primarily focuses on creating an offer around that same product. Emails, SMS, Messenger marketing is all set up and fires these offers out when it's time for a promo. This is the way to consistency with dropshipping.
With POD, however, we continue to be focused on front-end sales. Yes, we have all those back-end systems up and should hit those holidays as well. BUT, our biggest wins come from finding those new winners.
Because a POD product is quite specific the quickest way to test is by running ads on all the designs you do. Once you're big enough, around the 1,000+ sales, you can start emailing your list those products as well.
The Print on Demand Yearly Cycle: The Year In Review
I want to start by saying that I am so incredibly grateful for my state of mind. For whatever reason, I have always been super optimistic. I always believed I would be successful, and I always believed that I could push through absolutely anything.
Heck, after all, if there's air in my lungs, I am ready for another fight.
I've been through some pretty low times…Like when I failed my first ecommerce business and got myself into $120,000 debt, or the pressure that came with paying all the suppliers, credit card companies & debt collectors…or rather… not paying.
One thing was certain if I was to pay them back in any reasonable amount of time I had to find a business that could make a serious profit. Those calls were relentless for 2 years! All times of day and night.
And that was just the first instance. My marriage broke down because of my resilience to staying the path…to that point I'd never stuck to anything for too long (despite having a trade behind me). My wife had no trust in me, and rightly so.
Thankfully we are as committed as we both are strong and after a brief separation and lots of counseling together and independently we came back together more aware of each other's needs and grow stronger together each year. I am incredibly grateful for my wife's resilience as well.
There was always pressure to quit and head back to the dreaded J.O.B. but continued to venture forward in the pursuit of financial independence.
The POD Yearly Struggle or Fun time
I will break the year down into quarters. I will aim to keep it short for your enjoyment! ha.
January – March
Depending on the product you're selling this period can be the second biggest period of the year. After Christmas, the next big holiday in POD is Valentine's Day on the 14th of February.
Each year we have focused on Print on Demand Jewelry and do quite well with Valentine's Day.
Straight after the Christmas cutoff sales start to decline and with it, so can your confidence in the business you're running. Even though you know it was the Christmas period you hold out hope that those sales will stay super high for the next 12 months.
If you're lucky enough to be in the same position as Dan Nikas with GearBubble when he found, scaled, and created his monster brand, then you can absolutely go on to dominate the years that follow!
After that cut off, make sure you keep an eye on your business but allow yourself to take a step back and enjoy the ride you've just been on, you deserve it.
January – March Key Print on Demand Dates;
- Valentine's Day | 14th of February
- National Pi Day | 14th of March
- St Patrick's Day | 17th of March
April – June
Not much doing in April, however, there have been 2-3 years where I've been able to snag some decent sales, started some new stores, and done quite well. Keep testing angles, new products as there are buyers still around and willing to spend money.
With a bit of a spell between Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, you can still feel somewhat flat, particularly if you can't get anything to hit. Stay the course and keep consistent in your launches.
Rolling into May I have seen folks do quite well with Cinco de Mayo on, you guessed it May 5th. It's the 1862 celebration of the Mexican Army's victory over the French. This is obviously targeted at Mexicans and Mexican/Americans.
Mother's Day on May 9 is another massive sales period and one that should have somewhat of a focus for you. With most holidays you start testing 4-5 weeks before the shipping cut-off which is generally a week before that holiday. It's best to keep an eye on your supplier's cut-offs when selling their products.
Father's Day on June 20 is the next on the list and isn't one I've personally had a lot of success with, however, there are plenty of others that have.
April – June Key Print on Demand Dates;
- Graduation | All of May (Another period that does well)
- Cinco de Mayo | 5th of May
- Mother's Day | 9th of May
- Father's Day | 20th of June
July – September
There is 1 quite obvious print-on-demand holiday that sticks out… and that is July 4th. American Independence Day! As you can imagine, everything red, white, and blue, and patriotic is what moves for the most patriotic day in the USA.
This period I have renamed the dog days of POD. It's the time of year where I have found it the hardest to navigate over the years. With all the kids back at school there is a lot fewer time parents are spending online…and spending cash online…
You hear it across the board. A lot of people start questioning their ad setups, relaxing on consistency and blaming themselves…instead of the POD/Ecommerce sales cycle.
This is the best time of year for you to take a break. If you break in August you can rest, rest and come back stronger to set yourself up for Q4.
Don't doubt yourself, you can do this. Just take a break and be ok that if you walk away for a minute the POD world isn't going to forget you.
July – September Key Print on Demand Dates;
- Independence Day | July 4th
- YOUR HOLIDAY BREAK | August
October – December
It's go time! October to December is referred to as Q4. Anybody that's anybody in e-commerce looks forward to this time of year. It's when you can make more in a few days than you've made all year.
Last year, we were completely banned from Facebook advertising with the elections taking place in the USA. 3 days after Biden won we had our accounts back.
That was early November! For the first month of Q4, we had no way of advertising! BUT, it turned out perfectly fine. Parkinson's Law works very well in ecom. That is when we didn't have much time to get stuff done…we made the most of the time we had remaining.
We had tested close to 80 pieces/designs before hitting our first juggernaut of the year, a week later the second. This all started happening in the last week of November which meant we only really had 18 days to make any real money…and we did.
In 18 days we did $732,701 and I wrote a full case study outlining exactly how we were able to do it. We focused on 1 main holiday…and that was Christmas. Halloween is another great date to hit but we wanted the big money.
October – December Key Print on Demand Dates;
- Halloween | October 31st
- Christmas Day | December 24th
Obviously, there are other BIG holidays and if you have a Shopify brand then you must absolutely take advantage of the BFCM sales. Mind you, even with a branded store we get most of our sales from top-of-funnel winners.
Whilst this article is about mental health I've obviously covered off on the year as a whole and given a bit of a calendar for POD holidays.
The reason I've done this is because each year is cyclical, which means, it follows the same pattern every year. What happens is that the doubt seems to set in at the same time each year.
Keep the faith, hold your belief, and know that if you've sold before, you'll sell again. If you're just starting out, perhaps start on Etsy first. Build a catalog of products and then come closer to the holiday periods you can start testing on Facebook.
Have I missed any holidays? What should I add? Let me know in the comments below!