How to Start a Business Selling Calendars Online

A complete guide to starting your own profitable custom calendar business from home

How to Start a Business Selling Calendars Online

Image by Journada Produtora via Unsplash

Do calendars sell well?

According to a survey conducted by the NPD market research group and reported in The New York Times, sales of printed calendars in the USA are increasing annually and are now raking in over $65 million a year. There’s never been a better time to start a business selling calendars online. It seems that even in the age of the smartphone and the digital organizer, people still love to have a printed calendar on the office wall, in the kitchen, or on their desk. Printed calendars are beautiful, functional, easy to use, portable, and can be themed to your artistic sensibilities, corporate identity, interests, and personal taste.

Aside from companies who use them as effective marketing and promotional tools, they are still popular seasonal gifts — sales spike at the beginning of spring, summer, fall, and winter, and at Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, for example — and, of course, while they last a year, customers need a new one annually at least, so repeat-buying is common in the calendar market.

If you want to start a business selling calendars online, take a quick look on Amazon and search for calendars; you’ll see that the top sellers — and there are a lot of them! — have sales ranks of between 10 and 100. What that means is that they’re selling, on average, 1,000+ copies per day. I don’t need to give you long to do the math for you to realize that calendars not only sell well in the online store, but they sell very well! Even a fraction of those sales could give you a handy second income.

That said, you should remember that you’ve no guarantee of reaching the bestseller ranks and even if you do, it may take months or even years of effort, marketing and trying out new designs to see what sells and what doesn’t. But what else do you expect? If you’re in this game as a “get rich quick scheme”, you should think again. When you start a business selling calendars online, it’s a genuine enterprise, and it takes time to develop.

Of course, you could get lucky! But relying on luck doesn’t make good business sense, does it? More reliable and proven ways of starting a successful calendar business exist, and we’ll go through them in just a second. How much effort you put in, how much time, and the rewards you reap are intimately related. As with any freelance enterprise, the more you work, and the smarter you work, the more you make. That’s the simple equation.

But one of the lovely things about your own online calendar business is that it’s up to you to decide your level of ambition. You could handcraft each individual calendar to sell as unique pieces on Etsy and maybe bring home a couple hundred extra dollars a year for a special treat during the holidays. Or you could develop a range of custom printed calendar lines, repeat-test your market and sales funnels, and sell them in the tens of thousands through a dozen channels worldwide and maybe even become a millionaire. Most will be happy with something in-between.


How to start a business selling calendars online

You may be asking yourself, “Okay, I’m ready to start a business selling calendars online, but how do I start a calendar business?” The answer is, much as you start any other. But the details will depend on the scale of your operation.

If you want to make and sell handcrafted calendars at local fairs or online via stores like Etsy and you expect only to make “pocket money” profits, you don’t need to do anything other than get started. But if you’re planning to make a full or part time income, then you need to do a bit more preparation. Here are the basics of what you need to do, step-by-step, to start selling calendars online for profit.

  1. Start with market research

The first step in business preparations is to research the market. This has two aspects to it. One, you need to research consumer behavior. And two, you must research your core competitors.

To research consumer behavior, find out who buys calendars, how often, how much they spend, what kind of calendars sell best, where most people buy them, and so on. So, if nobody buys abstract art calendars, but wildlife photo calendars are very popular, you have an idea of where to focus your efforts. Likewise, if printed calendar sales on Etsy are moderate, but on Amazon they’re high, you know which marketplace would be best for you to concentrate on. And maybe you’ll discover that while most calendars sell at under $10, there’s a market for special interest calendars that retail for up to $60, and you may want to ask yourself if there’s a niche in that market you could fill.

Once you know who buys calendars, what kind, how much they pay, and where they buy them, you need to look at who’s producing and selling them. How much room is there in each niche within the market? What are other retailers doing well? What are they missing? How could you offer a better product, a more attractive price, or an improved service? The ideal when you start a business selling calendars online is to fit within existing market expectations, but add some unique offer or spin that makes your business stand out.

  1. Make a business plan

The next step to make sure your online calendar business gets off to a good start is to research and write a business plan. You’ll need this for yourself and also to show to the bank if you want to open a business account or borrow money to invest in your new enterprise. Your business plan should include:

  • The name and scope of your business proposition
  • Your enterprise goals and a mission statement
  • A clear description of what you will do, including how you’ll design, produce, and distribute your products, manage customer relations, keep accounts, and pay revenue taxes
  • A balance sheet and projected income and expenditure for your first year of trading
  • Any necessary legal documentation you must provide

Don’t rush to start a business selling calendars online. Take time over your business plan; research everything you need and explore various possibilities. You may be keen to start making money straightaway, but careful planning in advance will help make sure that your business runs smoothly once you get started.

  1. Register your business and file your tax forms

The details of what’s involved in this will vary from region to region and state to state, but your accountant or local government offices can advise you. This can seem like a scary step, but as you will probably start small and build up, registering as a “sole proprietor” or “sole trader” working from home, you can keep this step simple to start with. You may not earn enough in your first year of trading to pay income taxes, but it’s as well to set everything up legally at the outset, so things are straightforward down the line.

  1. Set up your workspace and equipment

What you need in terms of workspace and equipment to start a business selling calendars online will depend on the details. You may need nothing more than a computer and an Internet connection. For example, if you use a pre-made calendar template for design and source copyright free images licensed for commercial use from websites such as Pexels, Pixabay, or Unsplash. Or you made need much more. Say, if you’re a boutique fashion designer, painter, or photographer for whom selling calendars online is also a way of promoting your unique work.

  1. Choose a reputable printer

If you’re asking yourself what the best way to produce calendars to sell is , there are several options for printing your calendars. Which you choose will depend on your aims, your market, and your skills. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of each option.

  • Home printing. If you have a very high-grade printer at home, you don’t need to produce more than a few calendars, and you can afford the relatively expensive ink and paper, then you may want to try home printing. But it can get very expensive very quickly if you find yourself with a lot of orders to fulfill. You also need to think about what you’d do if your printer broke down, how you’ll bind your calendars and, how much time and expense that will take, where you’ll store them, and more besides.
  • Print-on-demand (POD) services. POD means that you send your digital calendar files to a company, which then prints and delivers each calendar, one-by-one, as customers order them. It’s quite popular for those calendar retailers who don’t know how many calendars they’ll sell — and perhaps expect to sell less than 100 a year — and have nothing special or unique in their designs and products. It means you don’t need to worry about printing and fulfillment, so it can seem an attractive option. But if you want to start a business selling calendars online to give you a full-time income, it’s not the best choice. For one thing, the print quality is never as good as traditional custom offset printing. Also, the price-per-unit is high, so coupled with the percentage of the sale price that the POD service deducts, your profits on each calendar are low.
  • Custom printing services. While you could use POD as an experimental phase, once you know that you’re in business for real, then working with a custom printing service is the best option all round. Why? Well, because the range of designs, paper quality, bindings, and finishes are superior to the other options; the quality of color and reproduction is outstanding; and it’s cheaper to produce each calendar — in fact, the more you print, the less it costs per item! — so you can make a much higher profit on each sale. If you think about it, it’s much better business to invest less capital for a better product to sell than to cut corners on capital outlay only to find you’re not making the return on investment for which you’d hoped.
  1. Set up your website and/or third-party distributors

So now you may be wondering where can you sell calendars online? The options fall into three main categories. You can choose just one route or mix them up and even use all three together.

  • Sell calendars direct through your own web store — if you have the skills or the money to pay a web developer, you can retail through your own fully owned website. Other options include signing up with e-commerce services like Shopify, BigCommerce, or Wix.
  • Sell calendars through third-party platforms — like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay
  • Sell calendars through social media marketing — any of the social media can work as marketing platforms, but for calendars, the more visual ones like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat may be better than more text-based media like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Reddit, for example.
  1. Market and promote your calendars

Now you’re set up. You have a registered business, an office, a range of products, an account with a custom printer, and distribution channels. You’re finally ready to start a business selling calendars online. What next?

Let people who want calendars know that you have the calendars they want! Right now you’re probably asking yourself, but how do I market my calendar business?

  • The e-commerce platforms have their own built-in suite of tools for marketing and so if you’ve gone that route, you should spend time exploring those and learning how to use them.
  • If you’ve developed your own website, then you’ll need a useful, regularly updated blog as the foundation of your digital marketing efforts. You can either write the content yourself if you have the knowledge, time, and skills, or outsource the writing to a professional freelance writer.
  • And then, of course, there’re social media. Set up business accounts on the socials and post regularly, build relationships, and make sure to include a link to your sales portal.
  • You can also market offline with classified ads, business cards, car stickers, and anything else you can think of. Giving away branded calendars specifically designed to publicize your business to people who are likely to display them prominently — storekeepers, office co-workers, libraries, hotel receptions, and anywhere else they might be seen — can also help.


A date for your calendar

As with any business, there’s always a steep learning curve when you’re just setting out. But now you’ve got all the basic information you need to get started exploring the possibilities, making decisions, and getting ready to start a business selling calendars online. There’s a lot to do and it can seem overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to break it down into manageable chunks and set yourself regular deadlines to achieve each step on your enterprise journey. You know what you need, don’t you? A calendar!


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