Enamel pin badges are having a comeback moment! We’re seeing them everywhere as creators and companies alike are wondering how to make enamel pins themselves and use them to promote their designs and generate new profit.
From illustrators to musicians to major retailers, makers are establishing successful online businesses by transforming their ideas into creative, must-have enamel pins. In this post, we present our “essential guide” to help you create beautifully designed pins and launch your own money-generating business. We cover every step, from finding a niche to manufacturing your badges to selling your wares.
How to Make Enamel Pins
If you’ve never made your own enamel pins before, you’re probably asking yourself some of these questions:
- How do I turn my designs into an enamel pin?
- Where do I get my enamel pins made?
- How do I sell my enamel pins?
In this post, we’ll cover all of these questions as we walk you through the end-to-end process of how to make enamel pins and how to sell them once they’re ready to go.
Identify your Audience
The first step in the process is a critical one: know your product and know your audience. Because there are so many successful makers out there today, one way to cut through the competition is to focus on a particular niche. Here’s a few tips to help you hone in on a target market.
Follow your Passion
Don’t make badges that bore you! What are you interested in? Draw inspiration from your passion, be it a musical skill you have to a favourite food to a hobby you enjoy, like sewing or photography.
You don’t have to be an artist per se to design stunning, one-of-a-kind badges. If you find a way to focus your badges around your talents, your work will feel energising, not draining. For example, illustrator Laura Crow lives in the English countryside and finds inspiration in her rural surroundings. She’s built a successful online business creating illustrations of her favourite woodland and farmyard animals, as well as iconic English authors.
Research the Market
Research what other badge makers are doing and get a sense of who they are targeting. Who knows, through your research, you might just uncover an untapped niche! One good place to start is Etsy. While a search for “pin badges” produces over 120,000 results, don’t let that number dissuade or scare you. Rather, narrow your search by your niche keyword or simply peruse the interesting options for inspiration (hint: another great place to start is Instagram). At the least, you’ll start to get a sense for the limitless potential.
Try this test. Name something you like. We’ll go with sloths, because who doesn’t love them? Add badges and Google the keyword “sloth badges” and then filter the results by the “Shopping” setting to get a high-level glimpse of some of the sloth badges available for sale. You’ll also see information on where they’re being sold and for how much. What you’ll find is that the narrower or more unique your search term is, the less options that are available. This might translate into greater opportunities for you to carve out a market for your own designs.
Plan for Scalability
Maybe you want to start small with a niche design and limited product offerings. But then, demand for your badges begins to grow. Once your online shop is successful and you are starting to make a name for yourself, you’ll likely want to expand. One way to scale your niche is to consider what other products you may be able to offer. Could you apply your designs to complementary items like keyrings, clothing, reusable bags or water bottles? The variety of customisable merchandise is near limitless; you just need to think through what your fans are likely to want or use.
Go back to that initial audience research you did. Where do your customers live, work and play? What motivates them? What activities do they likely enjoy? To build the best badge business possible, don’t limit your earning potential early in your endeavours by limiting yourself to a single type of product.
For example, we recently connected with Tom Rosenthal, a musician who brought his ideas to life through creative, custom band merchandise. The best-selling item in his shop is this watermelon enamel pin, which Tom thinks is because “it’s cool, but also affordable.” But Tom didn’t stop there! He also sells a wide range of merchandise, including vinyls, CD’s and t-shirts. The only limit with your merchandise is your own creativity!
How to Design your Enamel Pin
Step number two is determining how to design your enamel pin. Once you’ve identified your niche and your target audience, it’s time to put the research aside, get creative and start crafting your badges! No matter your level of skills in design, creating a beautiful badge is surprisingly easy. There’s a lot of different paths you can follow to turn your ideas into polished badges. We share a few options here.
Option 1: Create your Own Design
If you’re an artist or designer, you’re one step ahead! Your original artwork can be converted and manufactured as an enamel pin badge. The best tools to use, if possible, are Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when refining your design for badge production.
- Use only solid colours in your design. Avoid transparent colours or gradients.
- Consider applying different finish types. Enamel pin badges can be produced in fun finishes including glitter and black enamel. These finishes will add dimension to your design and help them stand apart from other badge products.
- Adding a backing card to your enamel pin badge improves the look of your product and offers additional real estate to promote your artwork or brand. Consider designing your own packaging at the same time you craft your pin badge design. Here’s a great example from Dropdead, proving that even a relatively simple, clean design can have a stunning result.
Option 2: Find a Designer to Design Your Enamel Pin
Have a great idea but need some help to design it? Turn to an illustrator. There’s plenty of places to connect with talent that will meet your expectations and budget. Here’s a few ideas.
- Creative Market. Creative Market is an online market for community-generated design assets from makers and creators around the word. In addition, it designs and sells website themes, which is something to consider if you scale and grow your badge business down the road.
- Fiverr. Fiverr’s online marketplace offers a full range of services from a diverse pool of freelancers. You use convenient search filters to find a freelancer by their style, cost or speed.
- Upwork. Upwork is another global freelancing platform to find help with “short-term tasks” or with a “go-to team” for recurring projects. If you envision creating a line of products, it might be helpful to develop a relationship with a designer that can get to know the look and feel of your badge business.
- Behance. Once you have a design you love, show it off! Behance is online portfolio for self-promotion, owned by Adobe. You can add your enamel pin badges to the curated gallery to raise your visibility and showcase your stunning badges.
Option 3: Ask your Manufacturer to Design your Badge
Some manufacturers will help design your badge, for free. Many of our customers come to us with a general idea, and we talk through their ideas to help them execute their vision. With Rocket Badge, you’ll work with our expert designers who will help turn your ideas into the perfect badge.
Here’s a great example from the School of Chocolate, who came to us with an idea that resulted in this brilliant badge.
How to Manufacture your Enamel Badge
Once your designs are done, step three is to find the right badge manufacturer. Here’s a few things to consider as you pick the right partner.
- Materials. Does the manufacturer offer the materials you want? For example, you’ll need to decide on hard or soft enamel. For more, see this post on some of the differences and benefits of each material.
- Custom shapes and sizes. What options does the manufacturer offer in terms of Pantone colour matching, finishing options, shapes and sizes? You’ve put a lot of work into crafting the perfect design; don’t let a manufacturer reduce the value of it through inferior replication.
- Design. Not all manufactures offer design service. Some will also charge for it. We recommend looking for a manufacturer that offers always-free design service throughout the entire badge manufacturing process.
- Packaging options. Can the manufacturer help you with packaging as well? Before you commit to a badge maker, make sure they can also produce the packaging you need, otherwise you’ll spend more time and money if you have to work with multiple manufacturers.
How to Sell your Badges
And now, we’ve arrived at the final and most exciting stage: how to sell your badges. Once you receive your finished badges, it’s time to start selling them! As we mentioned above, presentation is key. Adding custom packaging, like backing cards, polybags, swing tags or presentation boxes will give your badges a polished, professional look and feel and entice more customers.
Promotion is also key. People can’t purchase your badges if they don’t know about them! Set up an online store on a site like Etsy or partner with local outlets to sell your new badges. Try starting with a local or independent retailer that you shop at – it might be easier to get your foot in the door if you start small and then move on to larger retailers with bigger footprints. Look for opportunities to set up an in-person stand at cultural events or festivals so your customers can meet you face to face and hear your story.
A Business News Daily article suggests a few alternatives to Etsy, such as ArtFire, Amazon Handmade, Big Cartel and Shopify. For maximum exposure, consider selling your wares on multiple sites. Another great option that many of our customers have found success with is Not on the High Street. And don’t forget the power of your own personal and professional networks. Promote your items on your social media channels, send an email to your friends and colleagues and consider pitching your story to local media outlets.
We hope this guide helps you feel confident and excited about your own burgeoning enamel pin badge business. Custom badges have never been as popular as they are right now. Seize the opportunity to find your niche and launch a successful side business today. We’re here to help every step of the way, so please reach out to talk about your vision. Good luck!