Progress report on my POD business

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This past few weeks since I posted about my POD revamp has been full of lots of miscellaneous tasks, some related to my business, many not, so I have not yet fully dived in (dove? Diven? I’m making up words here) to my system.

One thing that’s taken some time is setting up a couple of new blogs that will hopefully produce another income stream down the road.

But even so, I have made serious progress in refining my POD system, at least on paper, so as I get back to POD this week, I feel very positive about what I’m doing.

Starting my email lists

One of the most important things I’ve been working on is getting an autoresponder series going for my niches. I was using MailChimp for my graphic design course and my Shopify store since you can have 2000 subscribers on the free plan. But when I went in to make lists for the separate niches, I found out that you can only have 5 different lists. So that’s a no-go.

Which is fine, because I wanted to use a more robust autoresponder anyway, like AWeber (this is an affiliate link, which means I make a small commission if you sign up through it), which I have used before and liked very much. AWeber is $19 a month for only 500 subscribers, but their price when you get in the 5,000-subscriber range is comparable to other autoresponders’ 2.5K to 3K range. And they have a free trial (I stopped using it so long ago, and used an email address with it that I no longer have, that I was able to sign up as if I were totally new).

I got the niche lists set up but over the next few weeks I’ll need to come up with content for said lists. It’s going to be a lot of work but I know that building email lists is probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing I can do for the long-term health of my business. An email list is something that can’t be taken away from me like a YouTube account could, or a Merch by Amazon account.

Building on my own “land”

And if you’ll allow me to digress on that topic for a moment: I watched a Merch Money episode a few weeks ago with Philip VanDusen, who used to be the VP of Design for Old Navy and has worked with other large brands. He said, “Don’t build a brand on borrowed land.”

What that means is you need to build on your own “real estate” as much as possible. It’s fine to have a Merch account and a Redbubble account and a Facebook profile and an Instagram profile, etc., but those are all things that could conceivably be shut down if the powers that be change something or decide you have violated their terms of service or whatever.

Your own “land” is like having your own storefront on the web, such as with Shopify (although if you violate their terms of service they could boot you as well, but it’s more yours than an Amazon Seller Central account for sure).

And the aforementioned email list is a big step toward having your own land. People may unsubscribe, but it’s still your list and no one can take it from you.

So I will be “renting” lots of little storefronts, but I’m not going to depend heavily on any one of them. My goal is to build MY business on MY land.

Focusing on Pinterest for promotion

Okay, back to what I’ve done since my last post. I separated my Pinterest account into the 9 niches. Well, I didn’t separate it so much as I simply created new accounts for each niche. I didn’t have a ton on them, so it’s no biggie to start from scratch with a new account. I left the original account and that will house all my miscellaneous stuff.

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I made them all business accounts and uploaded profile pictures and wrote brief bios, which I will need to tweak but it’s a start.

I’ve been watching videos I’d saved and web sites I’d bookmarked with info on best practices for Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest so that I have SOME idea of what I’m doing as I start posting to them all regularly.

I MIGHT be adding a 10th niche, one with an EXTREMELY passionate audience. It’s something very important to me as well so it will be a joy to work on, IF I find the time to do it.

Giving the “Low Hanging System” another try

I am also going to go back to one of the training programs I started out with when I started getting serious about print on demand. It was the Low Hanging System by Rachel Rofe.

The basic idea in LHS is making text-only, very plain, almost ugly, designs and putting them on mostly mugs, but also shirts and other normal POD stuff.

When I took the course, I just couldn’t make myself create plain designs without any embellishments. But I didn’t find great success with my approach, so I’m feeling like I need to give her idea a real chance. And since it’s super easy and quick to do since you’re not really doing any designing, I’m going to give it a shot. 

These “designs” will be put on my Shopify store and in my general Etsy store as well as my Amazon Seller Central account. I’m thinking I might use the weekends for this endeavor, or even evenings when I’m done with my other daily goals.

Designing for upcoming events

Another thing I did a couple weeks ago was to revamp a couple of designs for an upcoming event because I felt like I was running out of time to get them out there. So I uploaded them to Merch, Shopify, and Etsy.

I also had some back-to-school designs that I wanted to get on composition books on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) so I took some time to do that as well. Most BTS action takes place in July and August, but for some the sales are already starting, so I didn’t want to be completely behind the 8-ball and lose out on possible sales.

I had an idea for the notebooks that don’t seem to have any competition. That’s either a great sign or a terrible one! My idea didn’t seem to be trademarked, but it remains to be seen whether moms who are buying school supplies will think they’re cool enough to shell out money for.

Oh, and that reminds me of one more thing: One of my niches has to do with school-age children, so I’m thinking of selling some printable designs on Teachers Pay Teachers. This is a departure from normal POD platforms since it’s not POD – it has to be downloadable. But I think teachers will like my designs so that’s something I’m going to experiment with.

So…

What do you think? Am I totally crazy? Don’t answer that, I know the answer is yes. I know that I said one of my goals was FOCUS, and here I am working on 9-10 niches plus a couple of extra side projects. But believe it or not, that IS focused compared to what I was doing because now I have a system and all the things I’m doing are closely related.

Stay tuned for the next update!

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