How to Start a Print-On-Demand Business: Beginners Guide

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Whether you wish to start a new business or extend the existing one, print-on-demand has everything to offer for an endeavor. 

If you want to start a print business with a small budget beginning a print-on-demand (POD) store could provide you with a recipe for success.

Global statistics state that the print-on-demand industry grew by 12% from 2017 to 2020. While other businesses were stumbling in the pandemic, POD had already gained its footing. 

In fact, a survey from Printful shows that POD owners saw an increase of 45% in sales in 2020.

In a traditional printing business with a physical inventory, you require access to commercial printers, a significant stock of materials and you might be left with a massive pile of unwanted products that just won’t sell. Your hard-earned money and resources can go down the drain in this way. However, thanks to print-on-demand, traditional printers can easily open their shops to fulfill orders from smaller companies and these same small companies benefit from easy access to printing without tremendous capital expenditure.

But a print-on-demand business requires little investment and no physical inventory. It can take care of all your orders, processing, and shipment.

From t-shirts to coffee mugs, posters, billboards, and logos, you can create custom designs and sell them online. Moreover, you can start from $500 per month and go even more than $10k per month in the long term. 

But the question arises here how can you start your own print-on-demand business, and what do you need to increase your sales over time?

But worry not. This comprehensive guide will give you all the answers you need to start your own print-on-demand business.

What is a print-on-demand business?

A print-on-demand business works with a supplier to customize designs for products such as mugs, tote bags, t-shirts, and much more.

How to Start a Print-On-Demand Business Beginners Guide

You will be able to sell those designed products under your own brand name on a pre-order basis. So, you won’t have to pay for the inventory, nor would you have to hold physical products. 

You’ll only pay for the product when you sell it. Besides, your POD will handle all digital printing to order fulfillment and shipping services. So you need to only focus on marketing, designing, and monetizing your creativity.

Is print-on-demand business profitable in 2022?

You can quickly start your custom design business with many print-on-demand websites online. But there are many reasons why this kind of business is labeled as profitable.

According to research, by 2025, the global custom design t-shirt market will cross $10 billion

Nowadays, almost all types of apparel, jewelry, phone accessories, and pottery have a quote, name, symbol, or a picture drawn on them. This trend is rising and doesn’t seem to die anytime soon.

For instance, Gen Z’s famous OK Boomers t-shirts were a retort to older people who don’t understand the culture and politics of Gen Z.

After promoting those shirts on TikTok, Gen Z received a whopping $10,000 worth of orders. The reason behind such a huge profit is that Gen Z produces tailor-made products targeting young adults' ideology. 

This means you have more chances of starting a print-on-demand business and generating revenue for your unique designs. After all, there is supply where there is the demand for a product.

Why do you need a print-on-demand business?

According to Instapage, 74% of customers dislike when a website doesn’t provide personalized content.

This is why the print-on-demand industry shows no sign of slowing down, as it has considerable potential for personalized and unique products.

So, if you open a POD business, you can provide products at a fair price and earn much more than you’ll spend. 

Here are some of the benefits that a print-on-demand business can offer:

Ease of starting

You don’t need extensive business or marketing experience to create a print-on-demand store.

The guideline and instructions to start this business are also simple. Moreover, you can also select a print-on-demand supplier to use your design for products and sell them on a website instantly. 

Less cost

There is no cost for the maintenance of your business. You only need to pay for a domain name, hosting, and monthly subscription fees.

The coding is simple for websites like Shopify and WooCommerce, and you can create your website in less time. However, if you want to market your products, there will be additional costs for marketing.

No need for a physical inventory

Rather than holding several products in your inventory that may go to waste, you can only pay for them once they sell out. Once a customer places their order, your supplier will ship the products.

Since the designed product will sell at a higher rate, you will always be less than you’ll receive in profits. This will help in saving storage and shipping costs. You also won’t have to keep stock of your products.

Not much investment is required

You can start a print-on-demand business on a low budget or even from your home. It doesn’t require you to rent a place, hire a team or worry about shipping products

Global outreach

The best part about a print-on-demand business is that it increases your customer outreach worldwide. If your designs are creative and unique enough, they can attract local and global customers to sell products effortlessly. 

You will be in control

You will ultimately control your products and their design and graphics. This is an advantage when it comes to marking your niche in a competitive market, as your design will compel customers to buy from you .

Focus on creative elements

A print-on-demand store allows you to focus on creative design strategies.

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Instead of getting tangled in mundane tasks such as order, packaging, shipping, and the delivery process, you are able to focus more on increasing your customer base and profits. 

How to start a print-on-demand business?

Now that you’ve known what print-on-demand business is let’s learn more about how you can start selling designs online.

But first, ensure that you have set your online business properly. This will help you avoid mistakes that many beginner print-on-demand owners make. 

What products do you want to sell?

Clothing is not the only option you can design, but you can choose from a wide array of products such as blankets or phone cases. However, a point to note is picking products that comply with the marketplaces and E-commerce terms and conditions.

Also, check the advertising policies of each platform and social media to determine which type of product holds the advertising permission

The noteworthy point is that you’ll only pay for the products you sell. But your profit can only increase if your products will resonate with your target customers.

So go with your gut feeling and choose trends and figures over assumptions. This will help save time in marketing those products that nobody wants.

Determine your niche

A niche is a market segment for a specific product or service category. It can be anything related to print and design for your print-on-demand business.

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When you find customers interested in a particular niche, you can tailor your products around their needs. That is why determining your niche is an essential aspect of print-on-demand business. 

You should design your business around a specific niche regardless of what you wish to sell. For instance, if you want to sell your products for cats, you should target only the consumers that are cat lovers. 

Dig deeper to find your niche. Think about what’s trending and what people are talking about on social media.

Also, observe how people act, their demographics, personalities, and emotions. Once you find your target customers, you’ll find your niche and can easily make designs about it.

You can look for profitable ideas by trying these steps:

  • Scrutinize best-selling products of 2022
    Search on Google for the best-selling designs in 2022. Give some to your research, and you'll find details about the trends people like the most.
  • Use Google Trends
    To search for trends, Google Trends can be a helpful tool. It can quickly examine prominent trends by searching in different languages and regions.
  • Analyze search engine results
    Use keyword tools such as SemRush, Ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner to analyze search engine results and what people are looking for the most.

Make creative designs

A traditional printer possesses products that are already manufactured, designed, and ready to sell. But a print-on-demand store creates designs on products on the demand of its customers. So, designs can make or break your POD business

If you don’t have creative designs and can’t brainstorm ideas, you will likely be unable to attract an audience. 

Some great places to get inspirational design ideas are Etsy and Pinterest. They are great places for custom products. More such websites are Quora and Subreddits, where you can browse for creative and unique design ideas. 

But be aware that if your design doesn’t match your target market, your product won’t sell.

Once you get the inspiration, use a graphic designer tool to create custom designs. Don’t forget to validate your designs from a credible source, or you can hire a designer for your store.

Social media is another channel where you can validate your designs by eliciting user feedback or response through polls and questions.

Also, you can integrate online graphic designer software with your E-commerce website to offer your customers a chance to personalize their own designs.

Watch how online graphic design software works: https://youtu.be/mxxDGat__0A 

Create your print-on-demand store

When it comes to selling products, you would need a platform so your customers can find you online. You have two choices on that front.

Either join a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon or create your own website on top of an E-commerce platform such as Shopify

We suggest starting by creating an account on a marketplace and then gradually building your own website. Each market has its rules, and you must comply with them. 

If you start your print-on-demand business, joining a marketplace will save you time. You won’t have to worry about marketing or maintenance.

However, you won’t be able to control the shopping experience or get the opportunity to use the incredible design features of an E-commerce platform.

With an E-commerce platform, you’ll be able to control your customers' shopping experience, interaction, and how they discover your store

By integrating with a top POD service such as Design’N’Buy, you can also change the look and feel of your store from a single dashboard. 

If you are not new to this area, you can directly build your website on an E-commerce platform as it will give you absolute control over your business and customers. You will also save on monthly subscriptions and transaction fees.

Essential tips to remember when starting a print-on-demand business

Now, as we’ve discussed the intricacies of creating a print-on-demand business and its advantages, let us share some valuable tips for you to remember.

Choose the right POD service provider

If you create your own store on an E-commerce platform, you’ll have to partner with a print-on-demand company. Why? Because you would need them to handle the print orders, shipment, and delivery.

That’s why it is crucial to choose a POD service provider that can meet the goals of your business. To select the best print-on-demand company, you should consider these factors:

  • Integration
    Can the POD integrate with your existing system well?
  • Product range
    Does the POD company have a good range of products to offer? What are their existing products, and do they provide the products you want to sell?
  • Printing policies
    Some POD service providers only offer text printing services, while others may also provide all-over printing. Ensure that the policies of the POD service you choose match your requirements. Also, check what kind of equipment they are using.
  • Order fulfillment
    Probe into how the POD services will provide order fulfillment, such as the creation of designs, packaging, shipment, and delivery.
  • Pricing model
    Typically, a POD service provider charges a monthly subscription fee and a fraction of your final sales. If you are starting a print-on-demand business, that can impact your profits.

    So, choose a service provider that will charge a flat amount on the actual cost of a product yet won’t compromise on its quality.

Order for samples 

Considering you have already chosen a POD service provider, asking them for some sample orders won't hurt. Knowing how a POD company works is crucial because you are trusting them with a part of your business.

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So, samples will help you to get a better understanding of their business model. Some POD service providers would even provide you with free samples. 

Create mock-ups

Once you get the initial hang of your print-on-demand business, it would be beneficial if you create high-quality models/mock-ups of your products.

By observing the model, you and your clients can envision how a product would look after it is appropriately designed

You’ll also know if there are any changes to be made. You can easily create design mock-ups with the help of online product designer software.

Decide the profit margin

Like any business, your main aim is to earn profits with your print-on-demand store. According to the market standards, a 40% margin is considered a good profit on products.

But it’s up to you to decide the profit margin as you also need to keep the investment amount in mind. So, use a calculator to determine what should be the price of your products.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve read our print-on-demand beginner’s guide and now understand its concept and advantages. It’s the era of personalized products, and customers are usually willing to pay more for the products they design by themselves. 

Hence, print-on-demand can be a profitable business when done right. You also don’t need much investment for this kind of endeavor. Due to its many benefits, it’s liked by many E-commerce printers worldwide. 

It is also easy to set up, doesn’t require much effort, and you can produce custom products in less time. Furthermore, you won’t have to take care of order fulfillment, shipment, and delivery. 

You won’t even have to pay or keep a physical inventory. Your products won’t go to waste, and you’ll be able to save on time and resources both. You’ll only have to pay after your products will sell.

Many print-on-demand services in the market can help you with these processes. However, choosing one that can match your requirements can be pretty challenging.

So always check the samples and procedures of a company before hiring one. 

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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