Six easy steps for making your own mugs – and how they can make top profits on eBay

They’re top sellers all year round, especially at Christmas when mugs can cost pennies or low pounds each to stock and sell for seven or eight pounds and sometimes significantly more.

Today you’ll find numerous eBay sellers focusing exclusively on mugs bearing generic images and captions and others personalising text or images on mugs to suit each buyer.

Overwhelmingly, however, sellers are sharing their market with countless others selling pretty much the same basic designs.

That’s bad news for them and very good news for you because this the only hurdle you have to cross to enjoy extremely high profits selling mugs on eBay.

To illustrate, hundreds of people on and off the internet are selling mugs and other products captioned ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, giving buyers thousands of same old, same old designs to choose from and forcing sellers to constantly lower their prices to remain competitive.

Most sellers will struggle to break even and some will lose money on every sale.

So why don’t more sellers create their own designs? One reason is that products captioned ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and similar well known quotations are established best sellers and there’s little chance of buying stock that doesn’t eventually sell, even at a loss.

Fear of losing money is just one reason people stick with tried and tested and generally low or no profit products, being unsure of their own design capabilities is a close follow up.

Sadly so, because it takes just minutes to create a new and exclusive design and only a few pounds to source and test market each new design and make it a guaranteed high profit bestseller.

As an exclusive product line, many specialists sell antique and second-hand mugs obtained at auction, alongside new designs from wholesalers and ceramics designers direct.

Prices and profits can be high and competition very low for mugs sourced this way but supply is insufficient to warrant a full-time business for more than a handful of sellers on eBay.

And that’s why many sellers choose mugs made by outside printing firms who add customers’ images and captions to standard shape mugs.  Prices vary from just over one pound for single colour printing to five or six pounds for multiple colour top quality printing.

It’s mugs sourced from printers we will consider today, along with ways to make our products very different and much more attractive and profitable than most people selling mugs on eBay.

Even better, what you read about designing and making money from mugs can be applied to numerous other bestselling product types on eBay. 

This is the simple process involved:

Step #1. Identify mugs – or other appropriate product – selling in high numbers and apparently attracting good profit margins for other sellers.

Compare potential net profit against time, effort and capital invested by those other sellers. Typically, the highest profits come from products with low acquisition costs and taking very little time, effort and money to sell and deliver to buyers.

Conversely, low profits come from products with high acquisition costs and heavy investment of time, money and effort.

Here’s an example:

Take a look at those ‘Keep Calm’ mugs, a good many priced £3.99 postage free.  A quick look at printers creating mugs to order shows that most charge about £2 per unit. So pre-selling profit stands about £1.99 per mug.

When an order arrives eBay takes about 40p, PayPal about 30p, and delivery consumes about £2.  So you are losing about 70p on every sale. And that does not take listing fees into account.

Add an extra pound to your price and you’ll make close to 30p profit per sale. Add another pound and you are making £1.30 pure profit.

Remaining with £1.30 profit, let’s say it takes ten minutes to fulfil each order – pack it, address the package, take it with other items to the post office.

So if you fulfil six orders on average each hour, that nets you about £7.80 (six mugs x £1.30 per sale). Less than most people earn working for someone else!

Which brings me to:

Step #2. Reduce acquisition costs and other pre- and post-sale overheads, raise your prices and minimise time, effort and money spent fulfilling orders.

Even a tiny change can have dramatic consequences. Paying ten pence less for your mugs, for instance, and sticking with fulfilling six orders per hour adds 60p to your hourly profits.

Now your unit profit is £1.40 per sale and you are making something like £8.40 per hour. Not a lot but a good start.

Gaining additional orders from other marketplaces, such as Amazon, will increase your hourly profits, assuming you can handle fulfilment without paid help.

So if you fulfil ten products per hour at £1.40 profit per sale your hourly earnings rise to £14.00. Not bad, but still not enough for most of us.

And that brings us to:

Step #3. Differentiate your product, make it more attractive to potential buyers and steal business from rival sellers. You could, for example:

– Personalise it. ‘Keep Calm and Carry On Harry’ or other name sounds good. But having printers personalise your mugs makes it costly to buy specific names in bulk. So you must charge more for your personalised mugs than others selling similar blank designs.

– Target subjects no one else is serving. ‘Keep Calm I’m a Freemason’, might work, as might ‘Keep Calm and Carry On Bellringing’.

– Target niche markets, even small ones, as long as members are passionate about their shared interest. If they’re passionate enough, you can order mugs in lots of ten or more and still achieve discount prices and probably sell out fast.

– Add an independently popular item, such as a teddy bear, a pair of socks, a packet of biscuits and a couple of tea bags. Box your mug, include a personalised gift tag, offer to mail direct to the recipient. Each and every add-on differentiates your mugs and justifies raising your price at each stage.

– Extend your designs to print on demand companies like Zazzle andCafePress. It takes minutes to upload your images and captions and you’ll earn a commission on every sale without fulfilling orders or communicating with buyers. Commissions are generally low but they quickly mount up.

Still seeking every ounce of profit, brings us to:

Step #5. Look for back-end selling opportunities, from your own website, for example, where you direct your eBay customers to purchase from you direct in future.

Selling fees will be lower than on eBay and profit margins higher than from sites like Zazzle and CafePress.

Now expand your most popular mug designs to other seasons and different subjects.

For seasons and events try: Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter and big sporting events, such as the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon.

For subjects try: dogs and cats, popular artists like Van Gogh, Louis Wain, Arthur Thiele.

Hobbies and Professions – for example, begin your captions ‘Keep Calm, I’m a …….’ and end with stamp collector, veterinary surgeon, freemason, starving artist, and thousands more.

Step #6. Find firms to create your mugs or other products.

Google ‘printers + mugs + lowest + prices + UK’ and these are just two of many firms to help grow your mugs empire:

Total Merchandise

Cheap Promotional Mugs

Last, but not least, mugs are a popular and potentially very profitable product on eBay but they’re just one of thousands of products likely to benefit from this simple 6-step idea.

We’ll look at others very soon but for now go get your mugs empire up and running.

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