Print-on-demand businesses have grown in popularity over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. There aren’t many business models that allow you to start with almost no upfront costs and still allow you to build a thriving business with unlimited income potential.
One of the most appealing aspects of running a print-on-demand (POD) business is selling physical products without investing in inventory. The print-on-demand supplier handles details like order fulfillment and shipping, so your responsibilities are limited.
As a result, this is a type of business that works well as a part-time side hustle, or it can be grown into a highly-profitable business that makes tens of thousands of dollars per month or more.
In this article, we’ll look at the print-on-demand business model in more detail. We’ll cover the pros and cons, the types of products you can sell, and the steps you’ll need to follow if you’re wondering how to start a print-on-demand business.
Why Start a Print-on-Demand Business?
Before we get into the details of the steps involved with starting and growing a print-on-demand company, let’s first talk about the pros and cons of this type of online business. Of course, you’ll need to think about your own personal situation and determine if this is the right type of business for you.
Pros of a Print-on-Demand Business
There are several reasons why a print-on-demand business might be a good fit for you. Here are some of the biggest advantages:
- Low startup costs – You can start a print-on-demand company with little money. You could sell on an existing marketplace without spending any money at all to get started, or you can set up your own website (which is what we recommend) for less than $100. There are not a lot of legit business opportunities you can start with such a small amount of money.
- No inventory – Selling physical products typically requires buying inventory of the products you sell. This leads to thousands of dollars in start-up costs. Paying for inventory also creates cash flow challenges as you want to grow and add more products. These challenges are eliminated with the print-on-demand business model.
- Scalability – It’s easy to scale a print-on-demand business. As your sales increase, you can add more designs and offer more products. There’s no need to invest in a larger inventory or production facilities.
- Work from anywhere – Since you can run your POD business from anywhere in the world, it’s a great option if you want to be location-independent. You can run your business while traveling or living in another country.
- Part-time or full-time – Print-on-demand businesses can be run part-time or full-time, depending on your goals. If you’re looking for a side hustle to supplement your income, this is a great option. Or, if you want to replace your full-time income, you can grow your business until it’s generating the revenue you need.
- Flexible schedule – Since you’re in control of your business, you can work on it whenever you want. Regardless of your existing schedule, you can make your business fit around it. This flexibility is a great perk if you have other commitments or want to take some time off.
- The work can be outsourced – Print-on-demand businesses typically involve some design or creativity to create the products you’ll be selling. However, you don’t have to do the graphic design work yourself. If you want to sell t-shirts or other print-on-demand products, you could hire a designer to do the work for you.
- Passive income potential – A successful print-on-demand business generates passive income. The products you design today will (hopefully) continue to generate sales for months and even years to come. Of course, you’ll need to put in some work upfront, but once your POD store is up and running, much of the work will be handled by the supplier.
Cons of a Print-on-Demand Business
Of course, there are also some downsides to starting a print-on-demand business. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- High competition – The print-on-demand industry is growing rapidly, and as a result, there’s a lot of competition. You’ll need to find a way to stand out from the rest to be successful.
- Lower profit margins – Print-on-demand businesses typically have lower profit margins than other types of businesses that involve buying inventory in bulk. You’ll avoid the inventory costs, but you’ll need to make more sales to earn the profit you want.
- Slower fulfillment – Print-on-demand products are made to order, which means they can take a few days to fulfill. This means customers may not receive the product as fast as they’re used to with other types of e-commerce.
- Can be challenging to find quality suppliers – Since the print-on-demand industry is growing, new suppliers are popping up all the time. While this is good news for businesses, it can make it challenging to find a quality supplier that you can trust. There are many options out there, and it’s important to do your research before choosing one.
The Types of Print-on-Demand Products You Can Sell
Now that you know the pros and cons of starting a POD business, let’s look at some of the types of products you can sell. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Baby clothing
- Fanny packs
- Drawstring bags
- Tote bags
- Water bottles
- Phone cases
- Posters and wall art
- Canvas prints
Of course, that’s just the beginning. There are hundreds of different products you could sell with a print-on-demand company.
The print-on-demand model can also be used to sell books. For example, you could use the Amazon print-on-demand service (Kindle Direct Publishing) to sell books on the world’s largest e-commerce site. Although there are many similarities, there are also some differences involved in creating and selling books. For the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on other types of products.
How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business
Now that you know the pros and cons of starting a print-on-demand business and you have an idea of the types of products you can sell, let’s take a look at how to start your own print-on-demand company. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
Step 1. Find a Niche
Due to the competition you’ll face, you’ll need to target a specific niche or sub-market with your products. Instead of trying to sell your products to everyone, a niche approach helps you to focus on a group of people that are more likely to buy from you. Not only will this help you to stand out, but it will also make it easier to market your products.
For example, your niche could be designers, web developers, moms, animal lovers, travelers, video game fanatics, hunters, runners, etc. The possibilities are endless.
To find a niche for your print-on-demand business, start by brainstorming a list of potential markets or groups of people you could target. Once you have a list of options, do some research to see which ones seem to have enough interest or demand for products.
Also consider your own background and interests. It’s helpful if you know something about your niche so you can create products that appeal to the audience you’re targeting.
Step 2. Choose the Products You Want to Sell
Now that you’ve chosen a niche, it’s time to decide on the products you want to sell. As we mentioned before, there are a lot of different options available to you. The key is to choose products that will be popular with your target audience.
To help you choose the right products, look at trends in your niche. What are people talking about? What do they seem to be interested in? You can also look at what other businesses in your niche are selling. This can give you some ideas for the types of products you might want to sell.
Google Trends is a very helpful resource to see what people are searching for and how trends are developing or fading. You can also check Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and other major marketplaces to see what types of products are being sold in your niche. Of course, it’s also worthwhile to check smaller sites and online shops that are popular with your target audience.
Step 3. Decide Where You Want to Sell Your Products
Now that you’ve decided on the products you want to sell, it’s time to choose where you’ll sell them. There are two basic options available to you:
Sell on an existing marketplace – The easiest and fastest way to get started is to sell your designs on sites like Redbubble and CafePress. These sites allow you to upload your designs and sell them on various products.
The downside of selling on an existing print-on-demand marketplace is that you’ll have to compete with other designers, and you’ll only be able to sell the products offered on the site. For example, you won’t be able to sell custom products or offer a wide range of product options.
Additionally, the marketplace will take a cut of each sale, which will significantly reduce your profit margin.
Your income potential is also limited by selling on these marketplaces. Since you’ll be one of thousands of sellers, it’s difficult to make a significant amount of money. This may be ok if you’re looking to make a little extra money on the side, but it’s extremely difficult to build a full-time income with this approach.
Start your own online store – If you want more control over your business, you can start your own online store (this is what we recommend). This option gives you the ability to sell any type of product you want, and it also allows you to build your own brand. And just as important, you won’t have to share the revenue with a marketplace.
You can create an online store using a platform like Shopify. This will give you full control over your store and allow you to customize it however you choose. Plus, it’s relatively easy to set up and start selling.
The downside of this option is that you’ll be responsible for driving traffic to your store yourself. You’ll need to invest time and money into marketing and advertising if you want people to find your store and buy your products.
We believe this is the best option for starting a POD business. It gives you the most control and allows you to build a real business that can generate a full-time income.
Step 4. Choose Your Supplier
Once you’ve decided where to sell your products, it’s time to choose a supplier. This is the company that will print and ship your products for you.
There are a growing number of options available when choosing a supplier. Some of the most popular services include Printful, Printify, and Gooten. You can easily integrate your website with these suppliers, so whenever a customer places an order through your site, the details will be passed on to the supplier, and they will fulfill the order.
Most suppliers have a wide range of products available, making it very easy to get started. All you need to do is upload your design and choose the products you want to sell.
Although it’s easy to start, this is an important decision that shouldn’t be rushed. The supplier you choose will have a huge impact on the quality of products your customers receive and the overall perception of your business. It’s best to order samples from a few suppliers to check the quality for yourself. Also read online reviews at sites like Trustpilot, as well as independent blogs and websites.
Step 5. Create Your Designs
Now it’s time to create your designs! Of course, you’ll want to keep your target audience in mind when creating designs. Your products should appeal to the people you’re trying to reach. It’s helpful to look at other websites to see the types of products that are popular in your niche and find some inspiration that will help you to create something unique that will appeal to your audience.
Many print-on-demand products also include words, like sayings or quotes. The words you use are just as important as the design, and you’ll want to ensure that the words will also connect with your target audience.
Ensure you’re not stealing or violating copyrights with the words or designs used for your products.
If you’re not a designer, don’t worry. You don’t need to be an expert to create designs that sell. There are a few different ways you can create your designs:
Hire a graphic designer – If you want to create high-quality, professional designs, it’s best to hire a graphic designer. Hiring a professional designer can be expensive, but you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can get, even on a limited budget.
Thanks to sites like Upwork and Fiverr, you can hire talented designers without breaking the bank. You can even find designers that specialize in creating print-on-demand products, t-shirts, or any other type of product you want to sell.
If you plan to sell several different products, you may want to hire a few designers on a trial basis and then choose one or two that you like the best for future designs.
Use design templates – Another option is to use design templates. This is a great way to get started if you’re on a budget, but you’ll need to be very careful about licensing details. Many stock licenses involve restrictions that you must be aware of. For example, you may need to significantly modify a stock resource or template before it can be used for a print-on-demand product.
Creative Fabrica and Vexels are two excellent marketplaces for finding resources and templates you can use in print-on-demand products. Even if you’re not a designer, you may be able to use these resources to create products on your own.
Using templates can be a good way to get started quickly. However, it’s important to remember that other print-on-demand sellers may use the same resources. Creating an original design on your own or hiring a designer to create something for you will allow you to create products that are truly unique to your business.
Step 6. Create Product Mockups
Once you have your designs, it’s time to create product mockups. This is where you’ll showcase your products and give potential customers a good idea of what they’re buying.
The presentation will have a significant impact on your sales. The more effectively you present your products, the more sales you’ll make. And mockups are a big part of the presentation.
The easiest way to create high-quality mockups is to use Placeit. They offer free mockups and very reasonable pricing for access to the largest mockup library online.
With the help of Placeit, you can quickly create beautiful mockups that showcase your custom designs on models or the types of products you’ll be selling. All you need to do is upload your design, and you’ll have a professional-looking mockup.
Step 7. Set Up Your Shop
Now it’s time to set up your shop. There are a few different ways you can do this, but we recommend Shopify. Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform available. It offers many features and plugins to help you create the perfect online store for your business.
When you’re setting up your site on Shopify, you’ll be able to choose from various free themes or templates that control the look and feel of your site. There are also some premium Shopify themes you can buy if you prefer, but that’s not necessary, especially when you’re just getting started.
Not only does Shopify make it easy for you to create a beautiful website on a small budget, but all of the best print-on-demand service providers integrate nicely with Shopify. Since it’s the most popular e-commerce platform, you’ll have no trouble finding a supplier that offers easy integration.
Your Shopify website will showcase your products and allow customers to purchase. Your visitors won’t notice anything different about your website, and they probably won’t even realize that the product won’t be printed until they place the order. But once that order is placed, the supplier will create and ship the product on your behalf.
Step 8. Promote Your Products
The next step is to start promoting your products. The good news is that there are several ways you can promote your print-on-demand products for free. This includes social media, blogging, and even search engine optimization (SEO).
The best way to get started is by creating social media accounts for your business on major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then, start sharing your product mockups and links to your shop with your followers. As you gain traction, you can explore paid advertising on platforms like Facebook, Google, and Pinterest.
Another great way to promote your products is through blogging. You can create a blog on your Shopify store and create content that will appeal to your target audience. Blogging is a long-term approach as it will take some time for your content to attract visitors and lead to sales.
Several Shopify add-ons can help with various aspects of marketing. For example, you can use an add-on to create a loyalty program that rewards customers for making repeat purchases. You can also use add-ons to sell gift certificates, run giveaways, and grow an email list.
Step 9. Keep Adding More Designs
The final step is to keep adding more designs to your store. As you add more products, you’ll be able to appeal to a wider range of customers and make more sales.
The great thing about print-on-demand is that it’s very easy to add new products to your store. You don’t need to worry about minimum order quantities or inventory management. Once you have a design, you can start selling it immediately.
If you’re creating the designs, set aside time regularly to work on new product designs. If hiring a designer, invest a portion of your revenue into creating new products.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it is possible to make a living with a print-on-demand store. However, it will take some time and effort to build up your business and start making significant sales. For many people, print-on-demand is a side hustle that has the potential to grow into a full-time business in the future. The amount of money you can make will also depend on the number of products you offer. You’ll need a lot of different products and designs to earn a full-time income.
Yes, you can make money selling t-shirts. T-shirts are one of the most popular items sold by print-on-demand businesses. To be successful, you’ll need to create designs that appeal to specific niche audiences. You’ll also need to promote your products effectively.
No, you cannot use copyright-protected images on your print-on-demand products. If you use a copyrighted image, you could be sued for copyright infringement. Even if you’re not sued, the platform or supplier you’re using could remove your product or place restrictions on your account.
Print-on-demand is competitive but not oversaturated. This is a growing industry with plenty of opportunities for new businesses. That said, it’s important to choose a niche and target audience you can serve well. There’s no point in starting a POD business if you’re selling the same products as everyone else.
Profit margins will vary based on many details, including the product type. However, as a general guide, 10% is considered an average profit, and 20% – 30% is above average.
Etsy does allow the sale of print-on-demand products, but Etsy does not provide printing or fulfillment services. Sellers who wish to use the print-on-demand model will need to choose a supplier to print and fulfill orders placed on Etsy.
Shopify is an e-commerce platform that allows businesses to create online stores. Printify is a print-on-demand fulfillment service that integrates with Shopify. Printify does not have its own e-commerce platform; it relies on integrations with existing e-commerce solutions.
The time it takes for a print-on-demand product to be printed and shipped will depend on the supplier you’re using. Some suppliers can print and ship products within 24 hours, while others may take a few days. But as a general rule, anywhere from 2-7 days is normal.
Final Thoughts on How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business
Starting a print-on-demand business is a great way to get started in e-commerce with very little upfront investment. You can create your own designs or hire a designer, and there are several ways to promote your products for free.
If you’re looking for a relatively easy and low-cost way to start an online store, print-on-demand is worth considering. Just be sure to research, choose the right supplier, and invest time in promoting your store.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to starting a successful print-on-demand business. Good luck!