How to Have a Canvas Printing Business Without the Equipment
Interested in Printing Your Own Canvas? Looking for Canvas Printing Business Opportunities?
A few years ago, I had bought a number of canvas prints from eBay to hang in the hallway of my newly refurbished home. At £30 each I thought I was getting a bit of a bargain compared to some of the other prices being touted online. When I found myself in the position of buying another two a few months later, curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to find out how difficult it would be to do them myself. I was amazed at the sheer volume of canvas sales taking place on a daily basis on eBay alone and I was hoping there was a slice of this lucrative pie to be had.
More research yielded positive results for me. I learned that it was possible for you to easily print your own canvas and start your own canvas printing business, without even needing to purchase the printer (although, I initially did purchase a printer). Read on to learn more.
Setting Up a Canvas Printing Online Shop
First things first, don't get discouraged! You'll inevitably run into some snags along the way. Here's how my shop set-up process started out.
Buying the Printer
After around six weeks of researching online, I eventually took the plunge and bought a refurbished canvas printer (a nice 42" HP plotter to be precise) for just under £1000. From my research, I was able to determine that an average A1 size colour canvas, mounted and ready to hang, would cost me around £5 in material costs, leaving me around £20 profit per sale after eBay, PayPal, and shipping costs.
What a result, count me in. What's next? Setting up shop.
Starting My eBay Shop
I set up my new venture in my spare room and started up an eBay shop. I offered a variety of different canvas sizes and images, some of my own, some from the public domain, and many images that customers sent to me of their kids, wedding day, favourite places, etc.
My First Complaint
All was going well until I got my first complaint! They (my customer) were not happy with the quality of the canvas print and wanted their money back, which put me out of pocket on the wholesale. I soon realised that I didn't have the proper Photoshop knowledge or skills needed to manipulate images to ensure they would give the best possible printed result. To be honest, I had no Photoshop or graphic-manipulation skills at all and was just printing the images in the resolution I had them in.
Problems With the Printer
Next, my printer developed a problem which I wasn't able to fix without calling out an engineer. He arrived next day which was great; however, the two parts needed to fix my printer wouldn't be available for another four days! I was backed into a corner and had to agree to this. I was almost £350 lighter with nothing to show for it.
Outsourcing Canvas Prints
With sales building up and no printer to meet demand, I was running out of options. I didn't want to refund all that lovely money sitting in my PayPal account.
So, I started to look at my competitors again and took the plunge of contacting a few to see if they would offer me a discount if I ordered a block of prints at the same time. I was sitting on over 20 sales I needed to process so hoped I could negotiate a decent discount that would mean I could keep my customers happy, whilst at the same time ensuring I wasn't going to be out of pocket. I got a number of positive responses, and I eventually went with someone who agreed to do the canvas prints for £17 each, inclusive of packaging and UK mainland delivery, if I ordered at least 10 (separate) prints.
Not only was I able to fulfil my customers' orders, I was still able to make a profit by outsourcing the printing. Now, this was getting interesting.
Developing the Business
I soon decided to sell off all my printing equipment and outsource the work 100% percent. This has to be the best decision I've ever made. I am able to make between £12-£15 profit per sale using the same principal. I have been doing this for around two years now and am averaging about 80 sales per week!
I don't just sell on eBay, I also do local flyer drops in and around the city where I live. 10,000 fliers cost me about £150 to print, then I can source a couple of people from Gumtree to deliver these for me in the geographic areas I choose. I usually get around 6-8% of those potential customers buying from me after these flier drops (based on some quick analysis based on where the orders are being shipped to against the geographic location that the fliers were distributed in).
Benefits of Outsourcing Canvas Prints
- The person I outsource to is responsible for the full transaction, therefore if my customer isn't happy with the quality I just go back to my outsourcer and they resolve the issue.
- I don't have to do any printing, shipping or packing, which is great as it can be a real nuisance to do.
- I have a number of different outsourcers I use, which helps when one is either on holiday or unable to cope with an increased workload.
- Any orders that come into my inbox get forwarded straight onto my outsourcer, with image attached, and that's pretty much the end of the work for me. £12-£15 profit per email sent. Good times!
- My outsourcers are happy to provide the goods to my customers as a 'white label' item, i.e. they don't include any of their own contact details with the shipped item so my customers are unaware that the printing has been outsourced.
- As well as customers sending me their own images, I use a variety of online resources that supply images and photos free of charge for any use. There are literally hundreds of websites that provide images that are in the public domain and completely royalty free. You can also go to some of the more commercial suppliers of images where you can pay per photo, although some of them require you to buy a different license if you want to use their images in a print run.
This is a great opportunity for anyone that wants to make an extra income without too much hassle.
Top Tips for Being Successful at Your Canvas Printing Business
- Contact as many potential outsourcers as possible to give you the best opportunity and value possible.
- Negotiate a sliding discount scale with them based on sales per month.
- Ensure that you agree on a sound returns policy with your outsourcer, as well as setting out some terms and conditions for dealing with unhappy customers.
- Have at least two or three different outsourcers at your disposal.
- Agree that they will provide the items "white label" to your customers, or even supply your fliers to promote your business further (include a discount code for repeat customers).
- Stockpile as many decent images and photos as you can.
- Look at what your competitors are selling on eBay to get an idea of pricing, type of images to sell, etc.
- Try to come up with some unique items too so you can try to develop a niche market for yourself.
- Local flier drops can help boost business and awareness.
- Review your pricing on a regular basis to remain competitive.
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.