Pixeptional Printful Review

An Honest Review of Printful Print-on-demand

Business, Design, Hustle

If you are in the print-on-demand (POD) industry, you’ve probably heard of Printful. The model is simple, a customer orders from you, you order from Printful and keep the profit, then Printful prints and ships the item to the customer for you. While Printful is not the only company in this space, they are arguably leading the pack.

How Printful Works

How Printful Works – © Printful

I’ve been using Printful for a bit more than a year now, and I think that it’s the perfect time to write an honest review. I based this review on a thousand orders, with ninety percent of them being t-shirts.

Returns and Customer Service

Returns are perhaps one of the top worries of those who want to start a POD business. To my surprise, in a year, I have had less than twenty returns and some of which are the customers’ fault – wrong address, no one received the package, etc. If you set the return address to Printful’s HQ, they will give you options on what to do with the returned items. You can either send it to a different address or do nothing which is effectively saying that you want to donate it to charity.

The Highs

  • Twenty returns out of one thousand orders is an acceptable, excellent, ratio in my opinion.
  • Customer support is very responsive and helpful. I appreciate that you talk to people and not to bots. I use Messenger to reach out to them.
  • The returns policy of Printful is very reasonable. They replaced most of my returns with no extra cost on my end which gives me a lot of confidence in handling after-sale customer service.
  • In case of a return, Printful gives an instant refund option or a priority shipping replacement.
  • I had a customer who wanted to a gift for a hospitalized friend, Printful expedited the printing and upgraded the shipping so it would ship overnight. While this is an exception, it shows that they are willing to help. Cliché but your success is their success too.

The Lows

  • Since Printful caters to a lot of businesses, mixup could happen. One of my customers received a t-shirt that I did not design. While a seemingly small mistake, this could damage a brand. Imagine if the t-shirt had a design that is against a customer’s moral standards. Imagine if the t-shirt was a gift and was opened only on the date of the occasion in front of a crowd, imagine the horrors, imagine the embarrassment of my customer and how that customer experience would reflect in my brand.
  • I had a pencil design that is aligned vertically and horizontally in the t-shirt. A customer wanted to return the item because it was off-center. Printful said that they couldn’t replace it because it was horizontally off-center by less than 2 inches. I cannot find this rule anywhere on the Printful site.
The Shirt of No Return

The Shirt of No Return © Pixeptional.com

Tip: Have a clear returns policy. Add more terms to Printful’s returns policy, no returns for a customized item for example. If you’re pricing low, not accepting returns is an option.

Quality

If you’ve read other reviews, you’ve probably seen a lot of praise for Printful. I tend to agree to most of them. I use Gildan for t-shirts and hoodies, Bella + Canvas on tank tops. Most of the apparel brands in Printful are also available elsewhere, so I excluded reviews related to the fabric.

The Highs

  • Based on the reviews that I get from my customers, the print quality is solid and holds after a lot of washes. I get a lot of repeat buyers who order other designs because of this.
  • Printful flat mockups are relatively accurate. I know this because customers often say that the item is “exactly as described.”

The Lows

  • Misprints occasionally happen. They are not always returned but reflects in customers’ reviews.
  • Print placement can be off. Accurate printing is critical for designs that utilize positioning as part of the concept – think of designs that emulate pockets. Printful said that it’s because of the manual component in Printing, while the printing is supposedly automatic someone has to align the t-shirt with the printer.
  • There are visible underlining white ink under the design. Printful said that the white layer is necessary so that the color will pop out. The problem is that sometimes the bottom and the top layer are not aligned.
EZPZ

EZPZ © Pixeptional.com

Tip: If you are starting, stick with white prints on black t-shirts and vice versa. This removes the complexity of colors both on your design and on your canvas. Statistically, 80% of my sales are black shirts, white and navy share the rest. Most of my designs are white over black and navy, and some are black over white and grey.

Price

If you look at other companies in the space, Printful is more on the expensive side of the spectrum. I started using Printful a year ago without looking for alternatives. In retrospect, I could have earned more if the base price of the products is a lot lower. However, I did not feel that I’m missing out on other POD platforms partly because I’m pricing my items relatively high, more on the premium side and at least 2x of Printful’s base price. While people in my groups are switching, I also noticed a lot of complaints. I thought to myself that part of the price I’m paying in Printful is its maturity as a company, more defined processes, tested infrastructure, and better customer service.

I have other stores that use other platforms, but I would reserve my comparison and review when I have more experience and sales on those stores. What’s clear to me now is that the Printful base price is higher than most, but the extra cost is worth it.

Feeling Rich Club Pixeptional

Feeling Rich Club © Pixeptional.com

Tip: Printful is only expensive if you don’t get the value that you’re hoping to get. The good thing about most e-commerce platforms is that you can have multiple integrations. You can fulfill shirts in Printful, mugs in another platform, notebooks elsewhere. Do some testing and do more of what works.

Other things worth mentioning

  • It’s easy to integrate Printful with most platforms, check out this list of supported e-commerce platforms. When everything is correctly set up, the only manual task that you would do is uploading designs and answering customer inquiries; fulfillment is automatic.
  • Printful continually adds new products, which is good because customers often ask if you can print a design on a different garment. They also discontinue other products though so have a healthy mix of what’s popular and what’s new in your store.
  • Printful allows you to have a customized packing slip which is essential for a non-generic looking package. You can add a logo and a short message, which I used to collect emails.
  • If you don’t have much capital, you can run your Printful integration solely through Paypal, but this might mean doing things manually at first. You can load your Printful Wallet through Paypal which means if you receive a payment from the customer via Paypal, you can use your Paypal balance to process the order in Printful.
  • If you sell around 5K in a month, all your orders next month have 5% discount. The discount percentage goes higher the more you sell. The discount might not be much, but it’s much appreciated especially in Q4.
  • Printful and the community are very active in the Printful Insiders group. Some people opt to post their issues in the groups rather than contacting Printful directly which is, in a way, good because we can all see what others experience in their businesses.
  • Printful allows you to order samples at a significant discount. I suggest you use this to request a sample with as many colors as possible which would be a big help in deciding your color palette.

In Summary

I would recommend Printful, especially for first time POD store owners. While the price is a bit higher, I find it warranted with the support and, for the past year, the low number of returns. I braced for potential issues, but my first Q4 in Printful was seamless. I will continue using Printful while I test other POD platforms.

If you want to start selling through Printful, register now! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

To Be a Beginner Again

Mindset, Personal Growth

The past year has been both challenging and rewarding. There were times when I couldn’t sleep because of excitement. Other times, it was because I couldn’t shake off the anxiety. Funny. Sometimes I couldn’t tell which one I was feeling!

Last year, I launched an e-commerce store. I’ve been meaning to start earlier but felt I needed to learn more. Work would need to be done for setting up, sourcing, marketing, SEO, payment processing, fulfilment, and taxation. It would be too cumbersome, I thought, but I started anyway.

I opened an Etsy shop. At first, I felt out of place. Did I have anything unique? Perhaps. Hand-made? Not sure. Vintage? Definitely not. It was going to be another platform, another thing to learn. It could be tiresome, I thought, but I opened a shop anyway.

I also learned about affiliate marketing. I’ve been hearing about it but thought it would be too much work. There’s research, writing content, and building credibility. I wasn’t sure if it would be worthwhile, but I studied it anyway and started writing.

At my day job, I became a Product Manager. I have lead projects before but as a designer, dealt with clients but only about design, and presented countless times but just to demonstrate my concepts. I have also managed deadlines, expectations, and resources, but only of my own. With more meetings, more responsibilities, and a lot of unknowns, I accepted the role anyway.

I ventured into Amazon, App Store, and other sites where I could sell online. “Why not? How hard could it be?”, I thought to myself.

I wish I could tell you how easy it was to start a new venture and be able to give you tips to make it easier. But no. Not yet, at least. Starting was hard and it took a lot of energy.

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Looking back, I see now that the challenge was not that I was lazy (although I can be at times) or that I didn’t know what to do. My problem was that I was afraid to be a beginner again.

I’ve been a designer and employee for almost 10 years now. I’ve developed certain skills that make people see me as an expert, a master of some sort, or a relatively seasoned veteran. Weird flex, but ok? I can say that because people pay me to do what I do… and they pay well! The truth is I’m comfortable. Maybe too comfortable. I’m used to being relatively good at my craft and I’m afraid to do something that I know will be totally new to me. Imagine asking people to pay you to do something you know you are a beginner at? It’s terrifying!

Maybe you don’t feel the same way, but if you are like most experts or professionals, you too are afraid to be a beginner again.

It might be the reason why you’re stuck and can’t seem to move forward.

  • you want to build a blog, but can’t start writing
  • you want to start a youtube channel, but spend most of your time only researching about equipment or daydreaming about how cool it would be to be a vlogger
  • you want to learn a new skill but end up comparing yourself to experts
  • you want to create a business and get excited for a while, but that’s it — a cycle of desire, excitement, and eventually losing interest

It can be scary to start something totally new. Most experts tend to settle on what they’re good at and that’s not wrong, but it can be limiting.

Somehow as we progress in our craft or career, we forget what it feels like to be a beginner — to feel the anxiety of not knowing something and to be overwhelmed with excitement of learning something new. We think, ‘why grind learning something new again when you can stay comfortable with what’s already familiar?’

rawpixel-303965-unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

With many things being instant nowadays, it becomes all too easy to forget that the road to mastery takes time and being a beginner is part of the journey. Starting is hard. Yes. But the goal is not to make starting easy, but to take the first step. So:

  • write and publish that first blog post – you’ll have a lot of time to edit and polish it later
  • record, edit, and post that first youtube video – you can grow as your audience grows
  • take a class, look for a mentor, connect with other professionals – many experts in their field are generous and would love to help
  • in the beginning, focus on the action rather than results – actions, you can control; results, you can only influence

There are rewards to being an expert at something. But the things you gain, more importantly, who you become while on your way there will be even more rewarding!

To myself and to you: Do not be afraid to be a beginner.

What projects are you going to start this year?

toa-heftiba-1203517-unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

 

Why Your Business Should Have an iMessage Sticker Pack

Branding, Business, Design, Hustle, Uncategorized

I’ve sold thousands of iMessage sticker packs with little to no advertising. The only form of advertisement that I’ve done is to share free codes on Reddit. Somehow users just find their way to my stickers or the stickers find their way to my users. It’s amazing! The thought of people around the world using my sticker packs is awesome!

I started creating stickers on the side to practice design and potentially make some money. After almost a year of pumping out stickers, I learned a lot and made decent profit. Every now and then I would share those learnings and experiences with some friends and other entrepreneurs. One piece of advice that I would usually get is to scale my side hustle by reaching out to businesses – and so I did (but that’s for another story). In the emails that I sent out, I had to explain the benefits of having a sticker pack which I will share below.

The Value of iMessage Sticker Packs for Your Business

  • Your brand can be a part of day to day conversation. Six billion emojis and stickers were sent per day in 2016. That’s already a staggering number and it is still growing everyday!
  • Content sharing through messaging is like word of mouth advertising. According to Nielsen, “92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.” By using your sticker pack, a user becomes an “agent” of your brand – becoming a way for people to discover your brand, products, services, and much more!
  • iMessage stickers dominate the US market in branded stickers sharing. Bare Tree Media analyzed 8 million branded stickers shared over the last six months. Based on their findings: over 50% or 4 million were shared on iMessage, the next closest was Facebook Messenger with 20% of the shared branded sticker market.

What Should Be the Content of Your Sticker Pack

There’s almost no limit as to what you could put in your pack – logos, products, branded emojis, subtle announcements, seasonal messages, pictures, etc. Below are some examples.

sumo-imessage-emoji

Sumo Emoji I made for Noah Kagan of sumo.com

coca-cola-emoji-imessage

Coke Stickers based on their logo. © Snaps Media

dunkin-donut-stickers-imessage

Dunkin Donut stickers show their products. © Snaps Media

Start Creating Your Sticker Pack

Do it yourself. There are tons of tutorials on how to create iMessage sticker packs. If you are bootstrapping and have extra time, I recommend you do it yourself as the learning curve is not that steep. If you already have designers and developers in your team, there’s really no need to hire a firm for it. Once you have an Apple Developer account (99USD), you’re almost good to go!

Work with me. Having been in the sticker business for a year with thousands of sales, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about stickers. Let’s start promoting your brand! Let’s talk about your ideas!

How to Create Designs that Sell

Business, Design, Hustle, Passive Income

This is arguably the best time to be a graphic designer.

  • Tutorials are freely available.
  • Freelancing platforms are becoming huge.
  • Salary of corporate/agency designers is relatively competitive.
  • Many marketplaces are available to sell design and potentially make passive income.
sad_csgo_emoji

Sad and tired Counter-Terrorist from CSGO Emoji.

I know a lot of designers have side gigs – often providing a range of design services. I’ve had a fair share of freelancing years. It was like an extension of my full time job. It was like having 2 jobs really. I learned a lot, earned a decent amount, and made a lot of connections… but I was almost always tired.

This is one reason why I’m so grateful for the abundance of marketplaces. The idea of creating once and selling it over and over again to me meant that I could save more time and still earn. Marketplaces allow designers to have their own products or assets that earn money over time. There are different types of creative marketplaces: merch designs (shirts, mugs, etc.), application extensions (iMessage stickers, line stickers, etc.), creative assets (vector stocks, photos, etc.), and application resources (3d models, brushes, game assets, etc.).

happy_csgo_emoji

Happy Counter-Terrorist from CSGO Emoji.

The initial return obviously is not as big as a freelance project. Profit might be small, but it will compound and become almost perpetual. For example, a logo might give a young designer a one-off earning of 500 USD. A shirt design in the marketplace might make him 5 dollars per week. If he wanted to earn 500 USD from the shirt design, it would take him several weeks. But imagine if that same designer had a hundred shirt designs online earning a steady 5 dollars per shirt per week. It would be a compounding passive stream of income of 500 USD per week. Easy… ideally.

design-that-sells_sticker-pac-sale

Proceeds from an iMessage Sticker pack that I made in January of 2017. It sells for 99 cents a pack.

The truth is that selling something can be quite challenging. I know a lot of designers who have tried selling in marketplaces and stopped after 3 or 4 designs simply because they weren’t getting anything in return. No one was buying their designs and it seemed like they were just wasting their time. Why is that?

Well, the amount of competition could be one reason. Market saturation is real – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Another reason could also be a lack in marketing skills. While there may be several reasons why designers struggle to sell, I believe the main issue is mindset.

Creating designs as an employee or as a freelance designer is in a way easier. There are goals that are set, requirements are defined, and even if you do X number of revisions, eventually someone is going to say “this looks good” and you are done.

Selling in marketplaces is different. There are no restricting requirements, no defined goals, and it is the market that decides which designs make it.

By default, an artist creates art as a form of self expression.  While people may see the art as beautiful, they won’t necessarily pay for it. Maybe it’s not for them. Why? Because the art resonates with the artist but not with the audience. No emotional connection is triggered. The art simply does not relate to something they love or like. They just don’t see the value that the art brings.

Look at it this way. Would you be excited about wearing a statement shirt that says something that you don’t believe in? Or would you pay 30 USD for a shirt that has a cartoon character that you don’t even know? Probably not.

The key to making designs that sell in marketplaces is by bringing value through emotional triggers.

succulent_plants_and_cacti_emoji

Succulent Plant and Cacti Emoji – I created this pack after finding a community of succulent lovers.

Look at Designs that Sell

plant_daddy

Plant Daddy by Adam Elis

On the left is Adam Ellis’ design on Teepublic. It’s very simple yet it is one of the site’s bestsellers.

I believe the audience is clear: male plant lovers. “Plant Daddy” is definitely something that the audience can relate to. It might even be something one buyer suggested he make.

Create something that you yourself would buy and wear. If you are passionate about something, you can be sure that there are others that are passionate about it too.

Adam has a lot of followers and that probably also boosted his sales, but you get the idea: create something that people are passionate about. Engage with a community of people passionate about something particular and learn their language – what they always like to say, what they laugh about, the inside jokes, the catchphrases, the symbols that they use, the images that each of them are familiar with, the scene that they always go back to – anything that you need to know to be a part of the community.

Finding and understanding your audience (a niche if you’d like to call it that) might need a bit of extra work, but once that is set, you can continually design for that target audience in mind.

Learn for Yourself What Sells

Taking a look at bestsellers is a good starting point. Find out more by gathering data.  The great thing about most marketplaces is that they have their own analytics built in.

A simple strategy could be doing more of what works – “follow the green light” as they say. That could mean designing more for a particular niche. It could also mean using the same design template but with different colors or text.

Learn to analyse trends. As you keep selling, you end up getting a “feel” of what people like to buy.

Start Selling

If you are new to marketplaces, you can get started right now!

  • Sell merch! I recommend Teepublic (sign up).The UI is very simple. It will only take you a minute to upload a design. Bulk uploading is available too! You can earn around 4 – 21 USD per item sold, lower if it’s sale period.
  • Create iMessage Stickers! The only obstacles here are that you have to own a Mac and that you have to pay an upfront cost of 99 USD per year. You’ll get it back almost certainly if you keep pumping out sticker packs. Here’s my post of how I earned 1K USD selling iMessage sticker packs.

I mentioned that there are different types of marketplaces, but I have only tried two so far. I will definitely update this post as I explore new ones.

Happy selling! Feel free to ask me anything!

How to Come Up with a Business Name

Branding, Business

There are a lot of ways to come up with a business name. There are no standards and definitely no limits. In this post, I will share with you my process in coming up with a business name that is in line with branding strategies.

Your Name as a Business Name

You can always use your name for your business name. Think of Hewlett-Packard, a company founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Michael Dell founded Dell. McAffee was founded by John McAffee.

Today, there doesn’t seem to be many tech startups that follow the same step. It is usually non-tech companies, like law firms, that still do this – Saul Goodman & Associates for example.

If you like the sound of your name and have some sort of authority or credentials tied to it, then feel free to use it to name your company. While I don’t see anything wrong with my name, I just don’t like the sound of Cayabyab Design Agency.

Coming Up with a Business Name

If you are like me, you want your business name to be like that of Google, Facebook, Spotify, and other ‘hip’ big brands. While I am not sure how each of those companies came up with their ‘awesome’ business name, I know that the name itself is only awesome because the companies themselves are awesome. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you have a weird business name but the company behind it has tremendous value, then your business name would definitely be perceived as ‘awesome.’ Having said that, let me share how we came up with brand names such as Pixeptional, QuotySalad, and GattlingPun using the following method.

pixeptional_quotysalad_gattlingpun

Brand names that were conceptualized using this method.

1. Write down all the words that relate to or would want to be related to your brand.

They could be characteristics, objects, feelings, colors, animals, absolutely anything at all. Write as many as you can.

For example, as a designer I want to have a brand that triggers delight. A brand that delivers something exceptional. I want it to be inspirational, both to consumers/clients and other designers.

My list of words would be something like: design, graphic design, graphics, drawings, icons, logo, illustration, pen tool, pencil, colors, sketch, colorful, modern, canvas, digital, paper, whiteboard, pixels, art, artistic, problem solver, photoshop, creative, visionary, motivational, fantastic, inspirational, exceptional, trustworthy, delivers, delightful, joy, industry-leading, hip, fun, and can-do.

2. Write a tagline, a catchphrase or a short pitch.

Write something that can be used to describe you. Clear, concise, and memorable is what you are going for. For example:

  • “providing valuable design insights”
  • “social awareness through design”
  • “making awesome a reality”
  • “your daily pixel-perfect fix”
  • “changing the world through typography”

Take this time to really think about your vision, the purpose of your business, the ‘why’ in creating the brand, or the value that you want to give. Note that this is something that you can change in the future as you learn more, as your business grows, or as you pivot.

3. Combine Words in Your List

Take two or three words from your list and combine them. Write all the good combinations. From my list above, we could come up with

  • Can-Do Design
  • Art Fantastic
  • Creative Hip
  • Fun Pencil
  • Motivational Pen Tool
  • Canvas Visionary

Remember that you don’t need to use the words as a whole. You can take part of the words and combine them with other words or part of those other words.

  • fantastic + pixels = Pixtastic, Fantaxel, Fixel
  • pencil + delightful = Pendelight, Pendeli, Delipen
  • hip + fun + colorful = Hifuco, Colorhip, Funcol, Funip, Colorfun, Funcohip
  • canvas + modern + art = Canmo, Artvas, Modart, Moart, Artcan, Artmod

You can play with the words and create new words out of your list. They don’t need to make sense. After all, you will be the one giving meaning to your business name.

  • creative = Creativ, Createev, Createevo
  • problem solver = ProSolvee, Blemosolv
  • whiteboard = Whibora, Witbor
  • pixel = Picksell, Pixool, Peexool, Xeli, Pxle

You can even extend this activity by using words from other languages. Other businesses also use words that are totally unrelated to their products or industry they are in – like Apple, Mint, and Shell.

Get inspiration from your day to day experiences. Take advantage of your life’s narrative. Who knows? Maybe in the future, your brand will be one of the popular case studies when it comes to good business names.

4. Connect the Business Names to the Taglines

By connecting all the business names with each and every tagline, you will have a higher level view of how you want your brand to be perceived.

  • Fantaxel – “Making awesome a reality.”
  • Pendelight – “Changing the world through typography.”
  • Hifuco – “Your daily pixel-perfect fix.”
  • Pixool – “Providing valuable design insights.”

Sometimes you will construct a tagline that you’ll absolutely love but not necessarily like any of the business names that you made or vice-versa. If that happens, repeat the activity with your chosen tagline or business name as a starting point in coming up with related words.

Note: All the business names listed above are fictitious and are for the sole purpose of giving examples. I did not do any research to check whether the names mentioned are actually being used today. Mention of existing business names are purely a coincidence. Feel free to use any of the examples in Step 3 if no one owns them.

Beyond Business Names

Do a quick google search of your new business name before proceeding with other branding activities. If your name is taken, run the steps again with this constraint in mind. You can add words relating to your differentiating factor, terms that you would want people to use when searching for you online, and keywords that similar brands or competitors use.

While you can always change your business name, it is better to have a good one right from the start. The sooner people get acquainted with your brand, the better. Rebranding in the future, while sometimes is necessary, can become costly economically and affect your goodwill.

You do not need to already have a business to do this exercise. You can come up with a brand name for your blog or website, or use it as a username for any of your social media accounts.

Share with us the business name you created using this method!

The Perks of Being Featured in the App Store

Business, Design, Hustle, Passive Income

A couple of weeks ago, my Avocado Emoji sticker pack got featured in the App Store for a week. This post is a documentation of its effect on my sales and steps that I would personally take to increase my chances of getting featured again.

avocado-emoji-in-the-appstore

Avocado Emoji!

Honestly, I’m not sure whether this is the first time I have been featured. I never really looked through the App Store or iMessage Store before, simply because I didn’t own an iPhone or iPad then. For nine months, I had been creating stickers that I personally have never used nor tested on a physical device. I knew that testing on an actual device was best, but not having an iPhone didn’t hinder me from starting — the device is not cheap after all.

Getting featured alongside other well-known brands and global creatives sure felt amazing, but is it replicable?

The Numbers

avocado-emoji-appstore-feature

I got a total of 257 USD in sales during that week. 104 USD of which came from my featured sticker pack, Avocado Emoji. This was something big and new for me. No other sticker pack I made previously was ever able to beat my best seller Schwifty Catchphrases on a weekly basis. This was intriguing considering that I only made the Avocado Emoji two weeks earlier and had almost no sale prior to getting featured.

The Avocado Emoji gained 3,983,137 Impressions. Even my other sticker packs increased in their weekly sales. The figures may not look big but they add up in the long run. Like currency, drawing attention is something that I extremely value in business – especially if it is organic or requires no payment.

How to Get Featured in the App Store

I wish I knew the answer to getting featured. I’ve googled a bit and read several articles, most of which were app-centric, non-sticker related, and were more like general guidelines instead of definitive answers. I also tried going directly to the source: App Store on Discoverability and it said,

There is no paid placement or checklist of requirements for apps we write about or feature.

Go ahead and read the article if you haven’t yet.

The following guidelines have been made for apps and games but I believe are also helpful when applied to making iMessage sticker packs.

Localizations: high-quality and relevant

App Store product page: compelling screenshots, app previews, and descriptions

Uniqueness

The Case of Avocado Emoji

Relevance

When I created Avocado Emoji, I didn’t come up with idea randomly. I first checked whether there were a lot of people on social media sharing avocado related things. You would actually be amazed at how many people like to wear avocado pun tees and how often they like to take pictures of their avocado meals. Because there seemed to be so much interest in the avocado, I thought people would find it usable.

Stickers are not necessarily a need. They do not solve a problem. They can enhance a conversation, but people will not buy it because they need it. They buy it because it is related to something they are passionate about. If you love cute items, you would probably buy kawaii stickers. If you are vegan, you might want a set of vegetable emojis. If you are a gym rat, you might fancy a fitness or motivational sticker pack.

In short, we should create stickers that align with what people are passionate about. Funny, my wife randomly suggested “Placemat Emoji.” I love my wife so much but couldn’t use that suggestion. We both just ended up laughing about it!

App Store Product Page

In my last post, I talked about my personal strategy in creating effective app previews and screenshots. It is disappointing when a sticker pack or app is designed beautifully but presented poorly.

One thing I should personally be doing with my next sticker pack would be to have a well thought out and clearly written description. I neglected this thinking that most people would simply stick to checking the screenshots. That isn’t wrong, but I failed to consider the fact that others (like the editors) enjoy reading the story behind the app. People would appreciate your product more if they knew the process of how you made it.

In the case of Avocado Emoji, the description during the time of release was:

Holy guacamole! Avocado Emoji!

New emojis will be added by batch! Want to add more? Email us at pixeptional@gmail.com!

Definitely not the best example of a good description. If the editors ended up liking my sticker pack, I’m sure it wasn’t because of this.

Uniqueness

There are literally thousands of sticker packs in the store and more are being added by the hour. You would think that uniqueness is becoming hard to achieve and that is true. In a sense though, anything you come up with is unique – built according to your taste, crafted with your own style, and designed with your own creative voice.

The idea of using avocado as an emoji was not unique. Many others have already used the same concept. But my version looked a little different from the avocado stickers already available in the App Store. They stood out for some reason. And somehow, editors felt like featuring the pack. Maybe it was relevant to them? Maybe an editor was an avocado lover and the sticker pack somehow embodied his interest? I don’t really know for sure.

Focus on the quality and keep doing designs in your own unique way. Don’t let the saturation of the App Store scare you and stop you from executing your ideas. Remember that users, like you, have different tastes and preferences. They might actually prefer your wonky emoji over some mainstream sticker pack offered by a bigger brand.

My Process of Creating a Sticker Pack

Design, Hustle, Passive Income

A lot of people read my recent post of how I made 1K USD selling iMessage sticker packs. I enjoyed answering questions on Reddit and had fun interacting through direct messages. One recurring topic that I have been asked to share more of is my process in creating these sticker packs. That is what I will be sharing in this article.

Note that the process might vary slightly per sticker pack but the general framework is the same.

Generating Ideas

Since I started, I developed a habit of writing down all my ideas regardless of the size or effort I think it would take to create it. I now have a bank of ideas and it would take quite a while for me to consume all of it.

One way I generate ideas is by “generalizing or specializing”. I’m not sure exactly what I should call the technique but basically it is just about expounding on or narrowing down a subject. For example, I thought of creating a food sticker pack. I’d imagine it would have all kinds of food – fruits, vegetables, fast foods, etc. I’d narrow it down to fruits which can already be a sticker pack. If I narrowed it down even further, I would end up with specific fruits, like avocado, which can also become another sticker pack. So from this thought process, I would have come up with at least three ideas – food, fruits, and avocado.

Holy Guacamole! Avocado Emoji!

Holy Guacamole! Avocado Emoji!

If you can’t come up with an idea, create something that you would use personally. Create something that relates to your hobby, passion, the shows you’ve watched, or anything you wished existed as a sticker pack.

For Cacti and Succulents Lovers!

Cactusmoji! For Cacti and Succulents Lovers!

Designing the Sticker Pack

Once I have the idea locked down, I start by sketching. It doesn’t have to look good. It just gives me a feel of what I want as an output.

Rough sketches.

Rough sketches.

As I have noted in my previous post, I try to reuse as much as possible and I keep that in mind while sketching or conceptualizing.

reuse-your-art

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Meowji, Tedmoji, Narwhal Emoji and other “mojis” coming soon!

I take a picture of my sketch using my phone and trace them manually through Illustrator. Once digitized, I can color, resize, reuse, and combine them to my liking – no limits aside from time.

By the way, If you’d like to use Illustrator but don’t know where to start, Adobe has an introductory tutorial available for free. There are other good alternatives such as Sketch, Inkscape (free), Gimp, and Affinity. I’ve heard that other people outsource the graphic design which I believe is a good idea. I would probably do it too if I had insufficient time and extra financial resources.

Going back to designing, I suggest you focus on text-heavy stickers if you are not a designer or you are a beginner. This will force you to focus on the content rather than the graphics. You will be able to get away with not having a fancy sticker pack. Remember, you can release different stickers with the same text content but having different designs. Create “Hello!” in five styles and put each in their own sticker pack – no problem!

Most of my better selling stickers were text-based and were easy to create.

Breaking Bad Catchphrases Sticker Pack. I made this even before I watched the series.

Breaking Bad Catchphrases Sticker Pack. I made this pack even before I watched the series.

There are also animated sticker packs which I have not tried producing yet. When I make one in the future, I will update this post. In the meantime, I figured it would take a considerable time to create and so, decided to focus on quantity instead.

In summary, the “sticker types” (my personal categories) you can create are:

  • Static Emojis – Allows rapid creation because of its reusability
  • Text-based – Only requires minimal design skills and can also be reused
  • Animated Stickers – More possibilities of expression but takes significant time to create

Designing Promos

Apple requires each sticker pack to have promotional app preview and screenshots. A lot of iMessage Sticker pack designers basically ignore this and upload a generic screenshot of their stickers. This is a mistake. Promotional app previews are what the users see when they search for a sticker pack. If the presentation is attractive, it is more likely, but not guaranteed, that users will purchase that particular sticker pack.

I design the app preview by highlighting the best stickers in the pack. I mix and lay them out in such a way that it shows that they are part of a single set and that they look good together. Sometimes, I even design them like they are physical stickers laid on top of one another.

Some of my sticker packs' App Preview. Iterate to see what works.

Some of my sticker packs’ App Preview. Iterate to see what works.

You don’t need to put all your stickers in the app preview. You also don’t need to include all your stickers in the screenshot. If the users see that you only have 8 stickers in the pack, they might think that it’s too little for their dollar. You can be creative in presenting the 8 stickers in such a way that it doesn’t look like there’s only 8.

Putting “more stickers will be added” and similar statements can also have a positive effect. It shows that you are committed in maintaining the sticker pack. Make sure you actually carry out what you say you will do and your users might just reward you with positive reviews.

pixeptional-customer-review

Warms the heart!

In my case, simply updating the app preview produced an increase in sales.

Conclusion

Generating sticker pack ideas is not that complicated and there are multiple ways to create them. In fact, you can eliminate the design part altogether by outsourcing it. It is always a good idea to reuse your design elements to get more value out of your design and save plenty of time. Don’t neglect creating an effective app preview and be mindful of your screenshots. It can definitely impact your sales.


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