A lot of people look at some of these skills and instantly think "oh well, I don't know how to do this, I don't have the proper education for it" and look for something that they can do today.
I'm going to tell you something that's great about humans - we can learn things. And these things are much easier than you think. Don't be intimidated by the looks of some of these machines or softwares, they are actually really simple and you don't really need to know everything about them to make money with them.
You'll learn that a lot of the things I have to teach about eCommerce go back to a popular saying:
Perfection is the enemy of progress - Winston Churchill
Just because what you created isn't perfect doesn't mean someone will be willing to pay for it. You'd be surprised the level of crap people make that actually sells. Even I made some crappy items in the past that sold quite well.
But why should you craft your own things instead of just reselling stuff or using "print on demand" services? simple - it's all about the profit margin.
It's hard to compete with so many people doing the same thing, and it's especially impossible to compete with websites like Amazon that will always have the best service and price. Imagine you create an online store and only have 10 sales per week. If you are reselling shirts, for example, using print on demand, you'll get what....$40 maybe? If you make your own shirts (and you play your cards right), the same amount of sales can mean you'll get $350 - $400. It's the difference between failing and creating a salary for yourself. And really, it's not rocket science. A child can do most of these things.
Let's get started with the list, shall we?
1- Digital Illustration
Illustration, specifically digital, is one of the best skills you should have in your skillset. You don't have to be a master at it ( although it would be cool ), you just need some basic skills in aesthetics, how to build an image, how to make it look pretty/professional and how to work the softwares (like adobe illustrator).
It doesn't necessarily mean you will be drawing people and objects, illustration can be anything. The idea here is to build a foundation in art before you go on to creating things to sell. In any of the following skills I'm about to list here, basic illustration skills are useful for those too.
But if Illustration is your jam, if you love drawing and you are good at it ( or not but you want to learn), there's a bunch of things you can do to make money with it.
You can sell prints of your art as posters, postcards or any format you want. You can sell your art directly as a digital file for other people to use however they see fit (for others to monetize your art). You can charge people for your illustration services as commission work (you can also do this on Etsy in custom orders, or places like Fiverr). I'm going to mention how you can combine illustration skills with other skills from the list, so let's move on to other skills so that you can get a clear view of everything.
2- Graphic Design
Graphic Design may sound a lot like Illustration and they are in fact similar, but in reality, both are two separate creative fields.
Generally speaking Graphic Design is viewed more as commercial art, while the illustration is more of a fine art. Doing both is the perfect world.
For example, a graphic designer is able to professionally create a brochure for a company. But a designer might subcontract an illustrator to create art to add to that brochure.
An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process, designed for integration in published media, such as posters, flyers, magazines, books, teaching materials, animations, video games and films. An illustration is typically created by an illustrator.
I thought it would be better to add this definition here instead of the first segment because it creates a better relationship between the two different skills. It will be more obvious how these skills can be combined as you go further down the list.
So what can you monetize with Graphic Design? I've seen the craziest things being sold for tons of money, especially on Etsy. For example, there is a bunch of people selling Resumé digital templates for around $15 each copy.
Think about it. A designer took a morning out of the day to create a pretty looking Resumé template. A one-page sheet with all the personal details well organized in a professional way, that people can download and just type in their info. Now that designer has a product online that may sell an infinite amount of times and doesn't really have to do anything.
If the person creates a good product listing, meaning that it has a very detailed description, a "how-to guide" and all the information the customer might need (maybe even a FAQ) it will severely decrease the number of customers who contact the shop owner with questions. The better job creating the products, the more of a "passive income" will be created. Who doesn't love to earn money passively while sleeping and playing videogames?
This logic can be applied to anything. Within the same genre, you can create business cards, presentations, pamphlets and brochures, todo lists, calendars, book cover designs, etc, etc.
If you don't have the creativity to think of your own ideas, you probably shouldn't be in this business. The only thing you don't need to know is if your new ideas are monetizable because that part I'm going to teach you. All you need to do is follow my course.
3- T-Shirt / Object Printing
This is one of the things I've done for years now. Still doing it today! (at least the day I wrote this article). It may look challenging or expensive to start your t-shirt/object printing business, but actually it's quite cheap.
First of all, the "object" part is because you can use the same basic tools to print more things than Tshirts. You can print all kinds of clothing or textiles like bags and backpacks and sheets and whatever you can think of that's made from fabric. You can also do mousepads and mugs and phone cases...it's all pretty much the same and requires very little investment to start. You can probably get a 100% return on your investment in the first month or two depending on the machines you decide to get, and how easy is to access to materials in your location.
I can maybe guess what you are thinking - "don't I need design/illustration skills to create designs to print on stuff?"
Well, yes and no. If you can create your own art and design things yourself, it's the best combination possible because you never need to outsource anything. But if you aren't really interested in learning any of that, no problem! I won't go into much detail of how you can do this, because I'm creating a guide that teaches my own system. I won't just give that part for free because it took me a lot of trial and error to actually develop this, and if I start creating competition for myself and get nothing in return it will be a big problem. Also, if there is a "paywall" behind the content it will also mean that not everyone will get it, so those who do won't have that much competition. Not that it matters that much honestly because the world has billions of people and the online market for this is way too big, there is space for everyone (kind of).
If there is a link somewhere around here, the special paid guide is already made, if not, it will come in the near future.
The guide will include not only how you can get designs to print, but also which specific machines you should get. I have used the same entry-level machines for years now, never needed to upgrade. If you select the proper tools and use them right, you won't spend any more money ever! (unless something explodes).
4- Vinyl Cutting
You'll actually need this for printing shirts too, but this is one of my favorite business tools that can be used standalone without anything else.
Selling vinyl decals/stickers is one of the most profitable and scalable businesses I know. Part of the work is done by a machine, another part is done by hand. It's pretty easy to do and if you organize your work, you can do multiple stickers at a time to maximize your productivity.
Vinyl is cheap, cutting it is easy, and yet people will easily pay $5 for something that cost you less than 10 cents.
This sounds like the perfect business, right? It probably is one of the best ones to start with. Not only because it's low risk and easy, but because for example with the t-shirt business since you need the vinyl cutter (and cutting skills) anyway to cut heat press flex vinyl, you can start with selling stickers and later upgrade to shirts and stuff.
Of course, there are caveats - vinyl decals is an incredibly saturated business. Does this mean you can't do it? hell no! You can, you just need to know how to stand out from the others.
There are a gazillion things you can do with vinyl, you just need to try a huge array of them and see what works best for you. Be creative, it's actually kind of fun thinking of ideas. After that, if you follow this course and the specific paid guides I'll be offering, you'll be sure to get sales within the first month, or even week that you start.
5- 3D printing / 3D Modeling
This is another one that is kind of similar to vinyl cutting because a machine does part of the work for you. 3D printing is actually the thing that started off my eCommerce business. I bought my first 3D printer to make accessories for my camera gear and drones, and for fun, I decided to try and sell some of those accessories online. Turns out it really worked and shortly after that, I was making more money selling those things than on my video production business.
3D printing is also kind of easy. If you go randomly buy a 3D printer and think you will be able to just start printing things, you are wrong - that's why I said "kind of easy" and not "easy". For example, vinyl cutting is much easier than 3D printing, but if you like finicking with machines and tools, you'll love the process of printing and maintaining the machines.
To make your life easier, it's all about choosing the right machine that will give you the least amount of problems. I'll dive into more detail in a future post.
The cool thing about 3D printing is that you can sell physical objects for anything. It can be display pieces or useful stuff for anything. Any object that you can ever use, there is a chance it can be 3d printed. There is a huge amount of 3D models that are free, even for commercial use, that you can grab and start selling straight away. Again, exactly like vinyl cutting, this is a saturated market, but not nearly as much. Since 3D printing is harder than vinyl cutting, not everyone can do it and a huge amount of people who try it get frustrated and give up easily.
The harder the skill is, the less competition you have. That's the difference between a "high-income skill" and a "low-income skill".
If you want to further diminish the competition, make your own 3D models.
It's easier than it looks. I use a software called Fusion 360 made my Autodesk - the cool thing about it is that firstly it has free licenses for educational purposes and startups, and also because it has a TON of built-in tutorials on how to use it. Not only you'll be selling models that nobody else has access to, but also you can sell the models as digital files too. You can also sell these on Etsy (there are entire stores devoted to selling 3D models that do really well), but also on websites like CGtrader. I make around $50 to $100 per month on CG trader with less than 10 models uploaded. I made absolutely no effort to create an income with this and managed to create that passive income for myself, imagine if I was doing this full time. Also, this website is a great place to buy models that not everyone is selling. You just need to be aware of the different licenses attached to each model. Some give you commercial access, others only for personal use.
6 - Laser Cutting / Engraving
These machines work on the same principles and motors as 3D printers, the only difference is the way you create things. There are two ways to make anything in this universe:
You either grab something big and you make it smaller and shape it however you like, or you grab a bunch of tiny things and assemble them into shape to make whatever you want.
3D printer is a kind of additive manufacturing because it melts plastic and creates things in layers, while laser cutting cuts big materials to make smaller things.
You can also engrave things with lasers. There are machines built specifically for this purpose, and I've seen people get machines that cost less than $50 and create an entire business around it. It's kind of crazy and to be honest I don't even know how such a cheap machine can do it, but I'm not surprised. The amount of power required for a laser to mark an object is very low, therefore cheaper components for the machine are required.
I can't teach you how to cut or engrave things with lasers because I haven't done it myself, but I know it's not hard to start with. You'll have to do your own research on how to use laser cutters or engravers, but just to give you an idea on how easy this can be, there is a store on Etsy doing thousands in monthly income just engraving bread cutting wooden boards. Imagine that, just buying wooden boards for like $1 or $2, throw it on a laser engraver and sell it for $25 or more.
Of course, this is more of an overall of my personal favorite skills you can use to create things to sell online. Hopefully, it will give you some hype to go googling some of these.
But PLEASE do not go too fast and just randomly start buying machines and materials. If you want to make sure you do it right and make the soundest investment possible, read all my guides first. I will dive into most of these skills and some others in free content, so you won't actually need to pay anything to get the basic knowledge. But I'll also create paid documents that definitely give you a head start.