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How to Earn Money by Selling Printables Online

Diane is a self-published author who has also spent time freelancing. She's created and sold her own printables on Etsy.

This was designed on a drawing program on my iPad. I was playing around with it but would not expect to earn any money from it. I have a long way to go.

This was designed on a drawing program on my iPad. I was playing around with it but would not expect to earn any money from it. I have a long way to go.

What Is a Printable?

First of all, let me explain just what a printable is. It is, in essence, any document, design, pattern or artwork that can be designed or scanned onto a computer. The design is then converted into a PDF or JPEG and uploaded onto a selling platform. You could deliver the item yourself via email. If you can convert it into a digital file, then it has the potential to be sold worldwide.

This colouring page is the result of a class I took on making my own colouring pages.

This colouring page is the result of a class I took on making my own colouring pages.

What Are Some Examples of Printables?

As I peruse Etsy shops, I see the work of some very talented people. I will touch on just a few examples of what I have seen so far.

  • Planners: These can range from daily pages to a week at a glance. Some are perpetual, while others are dated. Personally, I would choose to make perpetual planners, as they could easily be sold year after year without requiring editing.
  • Colouring pages: These have been all the rage lately, especially adult colouring pages. I have taken an online class on how to create my own, but I know I have to practice a lot more before I will be confident enough in my abilities to sell what I create.
  • Scrapbook/card-making paper: This type of printable is very popular on Etsy. I have seen some interesting designs which cater to occasions of all sorts. Some of the most common are birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, weddings and holidays.
  • Artwork: Painters and illustrators alike have huge potential to sell their designs. With the high-resolution scanners and digital cameras available, artwork can be scanned and turned into wall art, cards, calendars and so much more.
  • Tip Sheets/Lists: These can be designed and personalized as much as you wish. The topics are vast, as are the contents within. A good rule of thumb for tip sheets is to use an easily readable font. Customers can laminate their tip sheets if they so desire.

The above are just a few examples. In the next section, I will elaborate on each to give you more ideas.

This is an example of a planner printable I listed on Etsy. I designed it so customers could use their choice of coloured paper. By using black ink, I have made it easier for customers who have data limits.

This is an example of a planner printable I listed on Etsy. I designed it so customers could use their choice of coloured paper. By using black ink, I have made it easier for customers who have data limits.

A More Detailed Look at Types of Printables

In this section, we'll take a more in-depth look at each of the varieties of printables listed above.


Planners may be dated or perpetual. They can be designed as a simple page or contain a watermark artwork in the background. For example, a planner for a gardener could highlight tips and a different flower for each month.

Colouring Pages

Colouring is a relaxing way to spend the evening, and they also make for a great stress reliever partway through your day. The photo in the first capsule is an example of what can be done using a drawing app or program. As my iPad is quite new to me, I was playing around with some free-form drawing. I found it to be easier to control detail with the stylus on my tablet than with the mouse on my computer.

For those of you who like to doodle, creating colouring pages could be a great way to earn some extra income. If you do your drawings with pencil and paper, it is a good idea to go over your lines with a black marker. Once you have drawn over your lines with a marker, you can scan your work and create either a JPEG file or a PDF. I have seen some beautiful drawings on Etsy, and many of them sell frequently.

Scrapbook/Card-Making Paper

The designing of this type of paper is generally done using digital techniques, but do not rule out the same type of creation as the colouring pages. Stripes, designs, geometric shapes and so much more can be combined to create some unique paper. Plus, the variety of shading available will give you several more options. A simple click of the mouse can change your colourways. Just don't forget to save each one.


Do you dabble with watercolours or acrylics? If you take a high-resolution photo of your creation, you can sell it as a printable that can become a part of someone's decor. Don't forget to sign and date your creation. Plus, if you want it to be a limited edition, only allow a certain number of downloads. For example, if listing on Etsy, set your number available to five or ten (or whatever number you feel comfortable with). Let customers know the availability is limited, so they know to buy their copy soon before the design runs out.

Tip Sheets/Lists

The possibilities for tip sheets and lists are endless. If you can think of it, then you can make a list for it. And in the case of tip sheets, who doesn't want help to be more efficient? A few examples are:

  • Laundry care
  • Car care
  • Greenhouse tips
  • Organization tips
  • Herbs for the kitchen
  • Writing tips
  • Character sketch (for the novelist)
  • Anything else you can think of
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Read More From Toughnickel

How to Price Your Work

Pricing is always the hardest part of any creation, whether it be digital or otherwise. No matter which format or medium it's in, it has taken time to create.

I prefer to price my printables on the lower end so more people can purchase them. With that being said, I don't give them away. The garden planner pictured above is listed in my Etsy Shop for $7.00. Several of the pages may be printed multiple times, which gives my customers extra value. Plus, it is designed to be inserted into a three-ring binder for years of use.

Your income goals will dictate your pricing strategy. With that in mind, know that pricing a tip sheet at $20 will not get you many sales (if any at all). Yes, you put forth the effort, but pricing it at $2 and selling 20 copies will give you more of a return than selling one at $20.

A reprint of your original artwork is definitely going to command a higher price than a tip sheet. Anyone who appreciates beauty, art and the time you put into it will be willing to pay for it. As I do not have the knowledge of or know the value of paintings, I suggest you do a search on Etsy. This will give you a good idea of where your pricing should fall, as it is the handmade go-to.

Some things to consider when pricing your work, no matter what it is, include . . .

  • the time you spent creating it,
  • the cost of materials,
  • the time you spent planning and
  • any overhead costs, such as promotion, advertising and studio/office space. As utility costs and mortgage/rent payments are part of your overhead, don't forget to factor them in as well. Also, childcare should be included if you have had to hire someone to look after your children while you worked on your project.

As I stated before, the best way to price competitively is by doing a search. Those who are creating similar items will be able to provide you with a good number. Don't forget to see how many sales they are making, and don't undercut just to make the sale. That harms both you and your fellow artists.

As an author, I know how to price books and eBooks, but when it comes to paintings, I wouldn't have any idea. It doesn't hurt to ask questions about how others price their work.

Could This Be Your Next Side Gig?

Selling printables can quickly become a great source of income. Set your prices, decide on the number you want to sell and find a reputable platform. I use Etsy for the most part and have sold dozens of my patterns and other items on the platform.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Best of luck to you in subsidizing or replacing your income.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Diane Ziomek


Diane Ziomek (author) from Alberta, Canada on February 01, 2017:

Thank you for your comment. I use a multi-function printer, and it works great. I've had it for almost ten years now and get my ink on eBay; much cheaper than buying it at the office supply store (which is almost an hour away).

Karen A Szklany from New England on January 25, 2017:

Hello Diane. This hub is beautiful and informative! Love the layout. I have been avoiding the purchase of a new printer, but since I'd need a scanner and love to create coloring pages, etc., I may just buy myself one and start working with this platform.

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