What is Print on Demand (POD), what are the best services to use, and how exactly you can start a print on demand business? This guide answers all your burning questions about this process and more! Let’s have a look!
You may be looking for a way to make money online from your creative skills. Or, you might be a YouTuber or a social media influencer who is looking for a method to find merchandise to sell to your audience. Also, you can even be an eCommerce seller who is searching for unique products to list on your site. Whatever your business purpose is, print on demand can be the ideal solution for your objectives.
That is being said, not all print on demand services would fit into your requirements. For example, you need to choose the ideal service that gives lower product costs, production times, and shipping times. Also, it can be a bit hard to find a service that offers proper plugins for your storefront. These things can affect your profits, ease of doing business, and the growth of your business. So, finding the right print on demand service can be tricky when you are just starting up. But, we are here to help you.
What is print on demand
Print on demand is, as the name suggests, an eCommerce business model that prints the product once an order is placed. So, anyone can use such services to sell customized products online, without having to worry about production, inventory management, and shipping.
In other words, it is a dropshipping service, where a third-party service will print and fulfill your products on behalf of you. Also, since they only print the product after getting an order, the seller doesn’t have to pay any upfront fees for an inventory. So, it is a low-cost and low-risk business model.
How print on demand works
Here is how it works in a nutshell. We will explain everything in detail later.
- First, you have to create an account on a print on demand platform.
- Then, you can start designing. All the popular print on demand services offer a user interface to upload your designs to create product mockups.
- You can usually choose a price to sell your product. For example, if a t-shirt costs all-inclusive $12 on the platform, and if you price it for $19.99, you can make $7.99 as profits for every tee you sell.
- Next, you can either connect your existing store to your print on demand service or create a new storefront on their platform. Once you set up your storefront, you can sync it with your POD backend.
- Then, you have to market those products to make sales. Some POD services even offer marketing integrations as well.
- Once you made a sale, the POD service will take care of the rest. They will print your design, do the packing, and handle the delivery.
- Based on the service that you have selected, either you or your service provider will have to handle the customer care and returns.
It is that simple. However, later we are going to explain how to start a print on demand business. There we will go through these steps again, in detail. You can also check the below video from Printful, which is a popular POD service.
Start your FREE Printful print on demand account today
Sell tees, mugs, hats, and many more without worrying about any upfront fees.
What are print on demand products
Popular print on demand products include t-shirts, hats, tote bags, hoodies, phone cases, and many other products. Here is a comprehensive list of popular print on demand products that you can fulfill from different services and platforms.
- Apparel – T-shirts, Hoodies, Leggings, Dresses, Tank tops, Shorts, Skirts
- Accessories – Tote bags, Socks, Phone cases, Caps, Visors, Jewelry
- Homeware – Pillowcases, Pillows, Mugs, Beach towels, Blankets, Bed covers
- Art and Crafts – Posters, Canvas Prints, Framed art, Decals
The above list is not exhaustive. You will find many other product types on your chosen print on demand service. However, the above products are the best selling print on demand products available for eCommerce sellers.
Advantages and disadvantages of using a print on demand service
Although print on demand services are popular among many eCommerce sellers there are certain advantages and disadvantages that you should aware of. Knowing these facts will help you to refine your business goals according to what these print on demand services could offer.
Why you should use print on demand
- Unique and customized product designs
- It is easy to set up a business with print on demand
- No stock holding costs
- Hassle-free printing, packing, and delivery
- No up-front fees
Print on demand really works, and needless to say, it is profitable. If you want to sell customized merch on your eCommerce stores, or to your already established audiences on social media, it is the easiest way to find products. Also, if you want to run a fund-raiser without having to go through the troubles of manufacturing, again, print on demand is the perfect option for you.
Since you don’t have to pay any upfront fees and stock holding fees, it poses literally no-risk to start a business. So, you can test products, niches, and marketing strategies using print on demand services.
Plus, if you use a print on demand marketplace, you can simply upload a design, and they will handle everything from marketing, running ads, and even creating product listings for you. So, it can save a ton of your time starting a business.
What are the disadvantages of print on demand
- Lower profit margins
- Limited product types
- Design restrictions
- Limited control over the overall process
While print on demand is the most viable option for many eCommerce sellers, one should never forget about the disadvantages of using a print on demand services as well. For example, the higher product prices can lower your profitability with print on demand. Usually, it costs nearly two times higher when using print on demand instead of other dropshipping marketplaces. However, many other factors are affecting this comparison. For example, fulfillment locations, product quality, and shipping times can be the other reasons for this price difference.
And, one other disadvantage of using print on demand is the limited control over the overall process. Well, this is part of using dropshipping. For example, when dropshipping, you have to rely on a third party service regarding the product quality. However, at the same time, you have to take 100% responsibility of what you sell. So, you must select a reliable print on demand partner to build your business.
How to start a print on demand eCommerce business
Starting a print on demand dropshipping business is quite easy. Below you can find a step-by-step guide to learn the process.
Decide a niche and a target market
If you are a YouTuber, a social media influencer, or a community manager, who is looking for a way to monetize your audience by selling merchandise, you already know your niche and the target market. It would basically the interests of your audience. Otherwise, if you are an eCommerce seller, who is planning to start an online business by selling print on demand products, you need to pick a niche and a target market.
A niche product is a product category that serves a specific customer base. When you target a specific customer base, it is much easier to create advertisements that resonate with their needs and expectations. Also, needless to say, when you have a specific customer demographics, you can run a highly targeted ad campaign for a small budget. There are many other marketing advantages of having a niche product as well. Read more about the benefits of selecting a good niche for eCommerce.
Choose the right print on demand service
There are different print on demand services and platforms to choose from. However, you should be careful when selecting one to match your business goals. Here you can find a list of things that you need to consider when selecting a POD service.
- Facilities to sync with your selling method. You might be planning to sell merch on your own eCommerce site, Facebook shop, etc. If this is the case, carefully pick a POD service that offers the right plugins to sync your storefront and POD back-ends. Then, you can automate the order fulfillment process without any hassles. This will speed up your process and save a lot of your time doing business.
- Costs. Apart from comparing the per-item cost, you need to evaluate the printing costs, shipping charges, and other subscription costs along the way. Some platforms might be offering a very low product cost, but their product quality might be lower than another. Also, they might be charging a higher shipping price than the other. Therefore, check customer reviews, find a shop that is already using such a POD service and compare.
- Delivery time. Delayed shipments and longer delivery times are one of the major setbacks of running an eCommerce business. So, before selecting a print on demand service, check the locations of their warehouses and fulfillment centers to evaluate the shipping times. For example, if your target market is on the west coast of the USA, picking a service that has a fulfillment center at the Westcoast might speed up your delivery time.
- Product range. Depending on the type of merch that you are planning to sell, you might need to choose a different POD service.
- Production time. Some print on demand services has longer printing cycles than the others. For example, once they made a print, they might take another 24 hours to make the second batch. So, if you planning for a higher order-quantity, you might need to pick service with a shorter printing cycle or a service that offers faster printing for a small subscription fee.
Come up with great designs
Needless to say, the design plays a major role in a successful print on demand business. So, always research and find the best design inspirations for your merch. In this startup guide on how to sell t-shirts online, we have discussed where to find such inspirations. Take a look, and follow the same process.
In the best-case scenario, you might be a pro designer, who knows how to create stunning designs for your print on demand products. However, if you are not such a designer, don’t worry, you can easily hire a freelance designer to work with. And, it won’t cost you a fortune to work with a professional designer.
Find Pro Designers to Get Your Design Work Done
Get stunning merch designs for less than $40 from professional designers.
Before creating product listings, it is better to order a sample of your merch design from the print on demand. Then you can see what exactly your customers would get from your store. You can order a sample to evaluate the product, print, and packaging quality. Also, you can use these samples for your pre-release marketing campaigns. For example, you can use them as product teasers and with your influencer marketing strategies.
Plus, you can use those sample products to take photos and add them to your product listings as well. Usually, the real photographs work way better than the mockups on product listings.
Most of the print on demand services offer discounted pricing for sample orders. For example, Printful offers 20% off with free shipping on selected destinations for the sample order.
Price them right
Selecting the optimum price for your products helps you to maximize the profits. For example, while over-pricing can turn away your potential sales, under-pricing will take away a lot of your profits. There is no right or wrong way to price your print on demand products. However, make sure to keep a healthy profit margin by following these dropshipping pricing strategies.
Follow a strong marketing strategy
Marketing is undoubtedly the most important part of running a business. Although most of the print on demand services offer marketing integrations, it is always better to follow your own marketing strategy to sell faster.
Modern digital marketing trends depend on having a good audience for your brand message. So, if you are a YouTuber, social media influencer, or a community leader, you are super lucky. Otherwise, you must have to start working on audience building strategies. And, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are the best places to build such marketing campaigns. So, do not forget to build a strong Facebook marketing strategy as well.
Apart from running your own marketing campaigns, opt-in for the marketing integrations of the print on demand platform as well. Most of the POD services offer marketing integration opportunities like automatically listing your products on eBay, Amazon, and Etsy to increase your chances of getting a sale. Also, they will include your products for the ad campaigns they are running for the platform. So, after all, you can piggyback such opportunities by signing in with their marketing integrations.
What are the best print on demand services?
Below you can find a list of the top print on demand services and platforms available online. Check them out, and try to find the best service for your business expectations.
Printful is one of the most famous print on demand services available. They have a wide variety of products for you select. Also, they have 5 fulfillment centers in North America & Europe. So, they offer worldwide delivery faster and cheaper.
One thing we love about Printful is that they offer fantastic opportunities for customized branding for the products you print on demand. For example, you can add custom labels, packing, thank you notes with your brand, taking all the credit to your business.
Plus, they have integration tools for almost all the commonly used eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace, etc. So, it is a hassle-free fulfillment.
Start your FREE printful print on demand account today
Sell tees, mugs, hats, and many more without worrying about any upfront fees.
Printify is pretty much similar to Printful. However, Printify uses third party printing facilities from the USA, Europe, and China to fulfill the products you sell. So, obviously, you can expect much lower product prices and lower shipping rates from Printify.
Printify offers integration facilities for WooCommerce, Shopify, eBay, etc. So, you can easily sync the fulfillment part of your eCommerce store with Printify for a seamless order processing and fulfillment. So, it would be ideal for you and your customers.
Printify free tier is almost enough for a startup seller to get started. However, if needed you can also pay an additional fee for more perks and benefits.
Start your FREE Printify print on demand account today
Sell unlimited number of tees, mugs, hats, and many more without worrying about any upfront fees.
Teespring is rather a print on demand platform which offers both back-end and front-end for your business. You can use Teespring to build an eCommerce storefront, and fulfill your products right from that platform. So, if you don’t have time and money to invest in creating an online store, this could be the ideal solution for you.
Bonfire is a lot similar to Teespring. They both offer end-to-end solutions to start a print on demand business including a platform to build a storefront. Bonfire is more popular among communities, fundraisers, and non-profit organizations to create and fulfill their merch.
Also, a lot of creators like artists and YouTubers have built their merchandise shops on Bonfire. Plus, they offer some amazing design templates for you to customize and create a product listing in a couple of minutes. So, if you are not a graphic designer, you can easily use their free templates and tweak them to find unique designs for your store.
It is the right time to start a print on demand business
Let us wrap up everything that we have discussed so far. As you have seen, print on demand is an easy, low-risk, and low-cost way to start an eCommerce business to sell custom products. When you use print on demand, you don’t have to worry about production, packing, delivering, and maintaining a stock of the products you sell. You can use print on demand to sell apparel like tees, tank tops. leggings, etc. Also, you can use POD to sell custom printed mugs, tote bags, and phonecases.
Whatever you sell, it is essential to have stunning merch designs. So, if you are not a designer, you can hire freelance designers to get designs done. Then, you can focus more on marketing your products. Even though you can piggyback the marketing integrations offered by the platforms, you must have to start working on your own marketing strategies to find customers fast.
Different print on demand services offers different product ranges, integration facilities, and prices. So, you have to research and find the best print on demand service to match your business goals.
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