5 High-Paying 3D Printing Side Hustles (No Printer Required)

3D Printing Side Hustles
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Hold on to your entrepreneur hats! 🎩

There’s a lot of hype around 3D printing right now, and it’s not just talk – the feats this technology is pulling off are turning heads.

As each day brings new possibilities, the nimble-minded side hustler is sitting on a goldmine of opportunities.

But before you pour your life savings into a 3D printer, let’s talk numbers.

An entry-level unit will have you parting with anywhere between £250-£800. And if you’re eyeing the big leagues, you’re looking at a price tag that could soar above £5,000. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – think materials, maintenance, software licenses, and oh, how can we forget, marketing to get your genius out into the world.

3D Printer costs

Fear not! We’ve rolled up our sleeves and dug deep to bring you 5 unique ways to make bank in this electric sector, all without laying a finger on a printer.

These gigs were hand-picked for their speed, and they’re designed to play nice with your current skillset while nudging you to unleash your creative genius.

For each idea, we’re spilling the beans on the upsides and downsides, the roadmap to get started, and the costs that might sneak up on you. So, let’s rev up those entrepreneurial engines and jump in.

1. The Best 3D Printing Side Hustle: Use Someone Else’s Printer

Just because you don’t have a printer, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell 3D prints. There are companies that will do the manufacturing for you. Then it’s up to you to make the sales.

💡 Ready, Set, Print! 💡

This is a surprisingly affordable option if you already have a 3D file. A company like Surface Scan can swiftly turn your designs into physical prints and deliver them to your doorstep.

Outsource your 3D printing

Build a digital empire with an e-commerce store showcasing branded, functional products, or get personal by selling custom delights on marketplaces such as Etsy.

Research. Research. Research. There’s no point trying to sell ice to Eskimos. Identify problems and create solutions.

Don’t have a printable file? Talented freelancers on Fiverr are ready to bring your concepts to life for a pocket-friendly price. Alternatively, there are multiple websites offering a plethora of ready-to-use, royalty-free models to purchase.

You could also have an object 3D scanned and converted into a printable file. This is a bit more expensive, but once you have the file, you can use it over and over again. Plus, with a parametric CAD model, you can effortlessly refine your designs based on customer insights.

🌟 The Game Plan 🌟

  1. Explore the Market: Immerse yourself in research. Unearth potential products that tickle your fancy. A niche you’re passionate about is ideal, but ensure there’s demand and that it’s 3D-printable.
  2. Set Up Shop: Decide your sales platform and conjure up a marketing plan. Get your printable file and collaborate with a 3D printing business to create a prototype.
  3. Test the Waters: Consider running a presale or waitlist to gauge interest. This way you’ll be crystal clear on how many units you need from your first proper order.
  4. Listen and Evolve: Keep your ears to the ground for feedback. Encourage happy buyers to leave reviews and spread the word. This could be your golden ticket to skyrocketing sales.

💰 The Breakdown 💰

Starting Investment: £50-£180

Pros:

  • Low barrier to entry
  • Opportunity to build a brand around your product
  • Relatively low effort as you’re not doing the printing
  • Print on-demand, zero inventory woes
  • Juicy profit margins
  • Easily scale to produce thousands of parts if the demand is there

Cons:

  • Finding a winning product can take time
  • Reliant on a third party for production

Got a printer and looking for ideas? Here’s our list of the 35 best things to 3D print!

2. Make Money Selling Digital 3D Models

Designing and selling digital 3D models can be a great way to generate passive income. You may even end up turning it into a full-time job.

Got an aptitude for 3D design software like Blender? That’s your secret sauce! If you’re new, don’t sweat it. The internet is brimming with resources that you can learn from – both paid and free.

Parametric 3D Model

Once you’ve mastered the craft, it’s time to start selling.

Pop your generic models on a specialist marketplace, for example, Cults3D. The price you get for each individual sale may not be crazy, but it all adds up in the long run.

Another strategy is to offer bespoke designs as a freelancer on Fiverr or Upwork. As clients bring you their visions, you wave your magic wand to transform them into digital reality.

5-star ratings and positive comments are your ticket to the top of the search results on these platforms.

Eventually, you could take the operation to the next level and build your own 3D design services website.

Keep an eye out for 3D design contests too. Some of them have cash prizes, and even if you don’t win it may help get your name out there.

🌟 How To Start Selling Digital Models 🌟

  1. Get Learning: Decide which software you’ll use and begin mastering it. YouTube is your new best friend.
  2. Start Selling: Don’t wait for perfection. Start putting your designs out there ASAP, it’s all good practice. Focus on one platform to begin with and expand once you get the hang of it.
  3. Build a Brand: Utilize social media to present yourself as a 3D design expert and generate leads. Share valuable content and engage with relevant accounts.
  4. Go Independent: Relying on one or two private platforms for your income can be risky. What if they close down or change the algorithm? Now you have an audience, create your own site and funnel them there. 

💰 What To Know 💰

Starting Investment: £0-£60

Pros:

  • Easy on the wallet
  • Learn a high-income skill
  • Work on your own schedule
  • Digital products can sell an unlimited number of times

Cons:

  • Mastering 3D design requires time and effort
  • Can be hard to gain traction on online marketplaces
  • Quite a lot of competition (Stand out with high-quality work, unique designs, and exceptional customer service)

3. Become a Prototyping Consultant

Open your own prototyping consultancy and guide small businesses through the prototyping process. This may sound overwhelming, but there’s good money to be made once you have some momentum.

So, how would this work?

Prototyping is the beating heart of any new product venture. It helps refine the design, visualise the concept as a tangible object, and can be used in marketing to showcase to potential customers.

Prototyping consultantcy

Your job would be to discuss a project and explain why 3D modelling and printing is a perfect solution. Then once you know exactly what they need, you can outsource the actual design and printing to professionals.

This makes you a one-stop shop for the entire prototyping journey – which is why you can charge a handsome fee.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of your role:

  • Initial Consultation: Gather as much information as possible and describe how the process would work.
  • Quote: Reach out to your design and 3d printing partners to estimate costs. Then provide the client a price for the entire package (highlight that this includes design and manufacturing, and that further iterations may involve extra expenses).
  • Follow-up meetings: Confirm the exact requirements for the prototype. You need to know all the details inside out.
  • Design Stage: Have a 3D model created and submit it to the client for approval. They will generally ask for revisions so be sure to speak to the designer about this beforehand.
  • Printing: This is where the physical prototype will be produced. Again, they may ask for further modifications at this point.

To begin with, reach out to local businesses, advertise your offer on relevant local Facebook groups and other socials, and create a website optimised for “prototyping services in your area”. This is the best way to start getting clients.

🌟 Getting Started 🌟

  1. Strategise: Check what prototyping services are currently available in your area and think about how you can differentiate. Competition will be low in most places, but if not, consider niching down to a specific industry.  
  2. Create a Presence: Build your website, start actively looking for opportunities, and form relationships with designers and 3D printing providers.
  3. First Few Clients: It’s going to be intimidating early on. Don’t give up, this is a learning game. You’ll soon work out what to say and how to look the part. It’s all about getting those reps in.
  4. Fine-Tune: As you gain experience, you’ll identify patterns in your workflow. Put systems in place to make your job easier and help you deliver a better-quality service to your clients. You’re a pro now!

💰 Is This the 3D Printing Side Hustle for Me?💰

Starting Investment: £25-75

Pros:

  • High earning potential
  • Low competition
  • Form long-term relationships with your customers
  • Could grow into a full-time business

Cons:

  • Definitely the most involved idea on this list
  • Steep learning curve
  • Must be able to handle pressure

4. Dropship 3D Printing Supplies: A Twist on the Classic Side Hustle

Build an online store selling 3D printing supplies and use dropshipping to fulfil orders.

From ambitious hobbyists to established industry leaders, there’s a vast audience hungry for supplies. We’re talking materials (PLA, TPU, PETG etc), cleaning gear… even the printers themselves.

3D Printing Filament

So, how do you tap into this goldmine? 🤔

Let’s talk about dropshipping, the modern entrepreneur’s secret weapon. Imagine having an online store packed with 3D printing supplies without the need to store a single item. Here’s how it works:

  • You showcase products on your website.
  • A customer places an order.
  • The order details are sent to your supplier.
  • Your supplier ships the product directly to the customer.

Simple, efficient, and ingenious!

For sourcing products, AliExpress and Alibaba are your go-to platforms. These sites offer competitive prices, allowing you to add a reasonable markup – usually around 30%. Remember to test product quality by requesting samples.

Want to give your store a personal touch? Have your supplier ship products in branded packaging or add your logo to the products themselves. Take into account that this comes with additional costs.

Building a successful dropshipping business requires two main components: strong relationships with suppliers and savvy marketing. You need to differentiate your store from others through quality, SEO, customer reviews, pricing, branding, or a combination of these elements.

🌟 The Recipe For Success 🌟

  1. Make a Plan: Your mission is to find products in high demand. Try reading competitor reviews and identify any problems you may be able to solve – asking your supplier to make a small tweak to a design could lead to a winning product.
  2. Choose Suppliers: Don’t rush this, selecting the right supplier is crucial. While pricing is important, you should assess communication and delivery times too.
  3. Set Up Your Storefront: Shopify or a similar e-commerce site builder will do the trick. Good product imagery and compelling descriptions are vital to maximising your conversion rate.
  4. Marketing: Devise a social media strategy, optimize your site for search engines (SEO), and collect reviews (family and friends can help here). If your budget allows, look into paid advertising.  

💰 Key Information 💰

Starting Investment: £95-£350

Pros:

  • Existing demand for 3D printing supplies
  • Don’t pay for products until you’ve sold them
  • Sell internationally
  • Custom branding options

Cons:

  • Slightly higher upfront investment
  • High-effort side hustle
  • May take a while to gain traction

5. Earn as a 3D Printing Content Creator

Growing an audience as a content creator will turn your passion for 3D printing into an exciting new revenue stream.

The digital world is your canvas, and the choices are aplenty: whether it’s penning down your insights in a blog, captivating audiences on YouTube, hosting an enthralling podcast, or taking social media by storm through TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter.

This won’t be the speediest 3D printing side hustle when it comes to results. You’ll need to amass a sizeable following before you can start monetizing.

Once you do have an army of loyal fans however, there are many ways to start cashing in:

  • Sponsorships
  • Affiliate Links
  • Ad Revenue
  • Selling Your Own Products
  • Gated Content/Subscriptions

Sure, it would be nice to have a printer to make content, but it’s not a necessity. Dive into trending topics, share the latest news, dish out tips and tricks, or bring industry experts into the spotlight through interviews. Your goal is to entertain, educate, and inspire. Do this and the supporters will come.

🌟 The 3D Influencer Blueprint 🌟

  1. Pick Your Poison: YouTube sensation or blogging guru? Evaluate your existing skillset and see what other creators are already doing.  
  2. Craft a Content Calendar: Consistency is king. Research the sweet spots for posting on your chosen platform and sketch out content ideas in advance so you never miss a post.  
  3. Start Sharing: You don’t need to be a professional video editor to start posting clips on TikTok. Learn as you go, your first few posts are unlikely to get many views anyway. Stick to it, if you create valuable content, people will hunt it down.  
  4. Monetize: Don’t wait for offers to come to you. Be your own agent and actively search for opportunities to turn eyeballs into money.
  5. Diversify: Focus on one platform to begin with. Once you start to build an audience, try to get them to follow you to other platforms.

💰 Things To Be Aware Of 💰

Starting Investment: £40-£195

Pros:

  • Options for all budgets
  • Rewarding
  • Easy to fit around your existing commitments
  • Get paid to talk about your passion

Cons:

  • Getting your first 1,000 followers is a grind
  • Creative roadblocks are inevitable
  • You have to do something unique to get attention

Take Action and Make Money With 3D Printing

Wherever your talents lie, there’s a way to forge them into a profitable 3D printing side hustle.

You can kick off with minimal capital and cultivate a business that tops up your bank account every single month. As a bonus, you’ll become a sales and marketing wiz along the way.

The key is to pick a lane and get started.

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