This book is going to tackle everything you need to know about coming up with an idea and then taking this all the way to market and manufacturing/selling it.
But before we get into the technical and ambitious stuff, let’s start out by looking at the easy stuff. If you want to create a physical product to sell from an existing website – just to gain some additional profits and perhaps strengthen your brand (it always looks very ‘professional’ when you have your physical products), there are ways you can do that right now without having to learn a ton of new skills or invest any cash.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can dip one toe tentatively into the world of physical products.
One of the easiest ways to start selling products is to sell physical books. If you’re already selling a digital product such as an ebook, then it’s only a small transition to start selling a hard copy of that book. And actually, this is incredibly easy to do.
If you already have the file, then all you need to do is to take that file and upload it to either Lulu or Amazon’s publishing service. This is called ‘Print On Demand’ (POD) and it essentially means that you’re printing out your physical books every time someone orders one.
Normally, if you were going to self-publish a book, then you would have to order thousands of copies of the book to keep in a warehouse. This would involve a significant up-front investment, and you’d then have to sell all those copies at a profit to make any money. That would mean going to retailers, and it’s a lot of work that led to a lot of people crashing and burning over the years. Alternatively, you could try and find a publisher, which would mean going via an agent – and this would usually lead to years of rejections before you got a deal. Even Harry Potter was rejected by several publishers before it found one!
With POD, though, you just upload the files to a machine that’s capable of printing out the books. When someone orders your book (or you do), the printer makes a new copy ready to sell. There’s no up-front investment and no risk of losing profit. And the only overheads are the printing costs (which are small) and whatever you paid for designing a cover etc.
There are plenty of sites on the web that allow you to create items with your brand printing on them. These include sites like Vista Print (www.vistaprint.com) and like Spreadshirt.
Using these sites, you can start selling printed t-shirts or printed mugs, caps, mousemats and more – and all of them will look highly professional without any work on your part.
Like POD, these print each time items are ordered, which means you’ll never end up with a ton of stock on your hands! You can’t create anything particularly inventive, but if you just want to get a physical product on your website, it’s another easy way to do it. What’s more, is that this route is ideal for strengthening your brand. By giving or selling items with your logo printed on them, you increase the sense of loyalty your customers have as they feel proud to brandish your brand. What’s more, every time someone uses your custom mug or cap in public, more people will see your logo!
And some people manage to make quite a lot of money by selling t-shirts with funny slogans on them etc.
And guess what… there is one more way you can quickly start selling. It’s pretty retro, but it works!
That method? Start making things by hand and selling them online. If you watch The Big Bang Theory, then you might remember the ‘Penny Blossom’ episode where Penny creates lots of small paper flowers and sells them online. She ends up creating a human assembly line and minimizing her overheads, and the result is that she’s able to generate a good profit for a day’s work.
You can do the same thing, with a website to sell your product and something you can relatively quickly mass produce, you have all the basics you need for an easy online business. This is made even easier by the fact that you can also promote your products on sites like Etsy or eBay.
There’s also no reason that your items have to be mass-produced at all. If you are a creative type, and you have a particular skill or craft that you can sell, then you can just as easily make money selling portraits on eBay, caricatures, home-made jewelry or even artwork. My sister left art college with no job lined up and became a salesperson. That wasn’t exactly what she wanted, but it doesn’t matter to her because her real passion comes from making stunning artwork and selling it on eBay. What’s more is that this makes her a very nice little profit on the side!
Finally, why not have someone else design and manufacture the products – even handle the fulfillment – and you just put your logo on it? As it happens, that’s a thing! And it’s called ‘drop shipping.' This is a white label service, meaning no one will ever know the other company is involved. The only difficulty is finding businesses that offer this. Try WorldWideBrands or Alibaba to find companies that do.