How to start a print on demand ecommerce business.

How to start a print on demand ecommerce business

Print on demand (POD) business means custom designing, where you sell your own custom designs on various different types of products. These Products include but not limited to t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, bags, decor, stickers, and more.

By starting a POD store you can sell your custom designs on products printed by manufacturers (POD suppliers) directly to the customers. This is similar to a dropshipping store where you are selling products to customers without ever actually stocking the items yourselves.

The real advantage of print-on-demand business is that you don’t need to stock custom products and can easily tie up with a manufacturer or distributor to print products as per the orders.

As soon as customers buys any products and you receives the order, you simply pass on the details to manufacturer or distributor. After that, it becomes the responsibility of that manufacturer or distributor to take care of everything from printing, shipping, and handling product returns.

How does print on demand work

Print on Demand (POD) is a great eCommerce model for entrepreneur, small businesses. creatives, designers, and artists who are looking to start their own merchandise. Here is how print-on-demand work

  1. Add your custom designs to products of your choice.
  2. A customer orders the products from your POD store
  3. Your store automatically sends the order to your POD supplier.
  4. Your POD supplier packages the order and ships it directly to your customer

Advantages of print on demand

Just like a dropshipping business, print-on-demand business has its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of print-on-demand are as follows:

1. Sell Your Own Custom Products

Using print-on-demand service you can sell your own custom designs on various products like mobile covers, t-shirts, book covers, mugs, calendars etc. Now-a-days because of the readily available print-on-design suppliers like Printful, Printify, TeeSpring, and Zazzle, its very easy to sell your own design as compared to few years back.

2. Possibility of Custom Branding

When you start print-on-demand business, you can add your own logo to increase your brand awareness. The custom design products shipped from supplier can contain your own logo, making your brand within the reach of your customers. It can act as a first steps towards building your own brand.

3. Easy to Start as a Side Business

As print-on-demand business is easy to start, it can be started as a side hustle, and even many top dropshippers are still running it as a side business. Many creative designers runs the POD business in their spare time as it has lower barrier entry and offers a lot of room to experiment with various designs and products.

4. Easy to Scale

You can start print-on-demand with only few products to test the market and later on you can grow it to 100’s of products.  you will have ample ways to scale and grow in different categories like custom shirts, hats, phone cases and hoodies etc. You can experiment with different products and different designs.

Disadvantages of print on demand

There are several disadvantages of print-on-demand business. Lets look into that:

1. Lower Profit Margins

Unlike dropshipping, print-on-demand products are costly, because the designs are custom printed and not produced in bulk. For example, a customized mug costs $7.54 on Printful, Whereas, you can purchase a similar product on a wholesale site like Alibaba for as low as $.0.15 — with a minimum order of 1000 pieces.

2.  Limited product types

The types of products you can sell with print-on-demand business will be limited to the offerings of your POD provider. This won’t be an issue if you’re selling common items like T-shirts and mugs. POD doesn’t work well for sellers who want to customize extremely specific or niche items.

3. Less control over shipping

Shipping costs is usually high for print-on-demand products and varies from products to products. Your options may be limited if you want to create a standout unboxing experience for your customer and also shipping cost can be higher than the actual product cost.

Popular Print On Demand Providers

To start your Print-on-Demand business, you need to find a Print-on-Demand supplier to print and supply your custom design on products. Most of the Print-on-Demand suppliers have plugins that integrate directly with major eCommerce platforms that you can use to connect your store directly to your supplier which makes order-handling easier and a more seamless experience.

Here are some of the best print-on-demand supplier, you can choose from:

#1. Printful

Printful is the most popular print-on-demand supplier that offers a wide range of products to customize. Whether you want to sell clothing, hats, home decor, or accessories, you can find that in Printful’s catalog.

You can also add your own branding to your products and packaging, including inside labels and packaging inserts to help encourage repeat business or promote another product line, at an additional cost.

Product catalog overview:

  • T-shirts (American Apparel, Bella + Canvas, Gildan, etc.)
  • Sweatpants, leggings, and joggers
  • Tote bags and backpacks
  • Mugs
  • Phone cases
  • Bean bag chairs 
  • Framed posters
  • Prints
  • And over 220 more

2. Printify

Printify is an unique POD supplier that gives you access to a large network of printing partners distributed around the world. This not only means a larger variety of products to choose from, but you can select your printer based on the country you want to sell in for faster and more cost-effective shipping. 

Printify offers you the best margins and the largest selection of products available. The inherent trade-off is that the quality of the products and the printer’s service can vary based on who you work with. Also, if you choose to work with multiple vendors that will require further setup.

Product catalog overview:

  • T-shirts
  • Hoodies
  • Backpacks
  • Canvas wraps and framed prints
  • Fridge Magnets
  • Stickers
  • Swimwear
  • Skirts
  • Blankets
  • Sneakers
  • High heels
  • And over 250 more

3. Gooten

Another good POD service is Gooten. Their main advantage is the cheapest product pricing in the industry while having acceptable print quality. They stand out through diversified product range that is non-present among the competition, for example interior design products. May be used as a 2nd or 3rd contracting  service to expand your stores assortment.

Gooten has the cheapest average production prices in the industry providing you the higher profit margins. Their application dashboard has built-in features allowing to track orders during deliveries.

Product catalog overview:

  • T-shirts
  • Hoodies
  • Backpacks
  • Canvas wraps and framed prints
  • Fridge Magnets
  • Stickers
  • Swimwear
  • Skirts
  • Blankets
  • Sneakers
  • High heels
  • And over 250 more

How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business in 2020

Starting a print-on-demand business is one of the most easy business models to start. It’s a particularly appealing to new entrepreneurs to start because of it’s low entry-cost and low-risk.

Step 1: Find Your Niche

The first thing you need to do is to find the product niche the you want to sell. This is basically identifying the audience you want to target and the products you will be customizing for optimum sales.

For instance, you might decide to sell movie-inspired pillowcases or t-shirts featuring humorous quotes. In this case, you will sell only pillowcases or only t-shirts, but many different designs.  

You need to ensure that your products have a broad reach. If your prints only resonate with your primary audience, there is a less chance of your business expanding in future.

Select and design the products which  fulfill the needs of your target audience but also have the potential to attract a secondary audience. You can stay active on social channels such as Facebook, or Reddit to keep up with the trends and recognize the need of your audience.

Step 2: Get your designs Ready

Once you have a product idea and a niche, it’s time for the real work to begin. If you’re a skilled designer, then you’ll likely have an advantage over those who aren’t, as Print-on-Demand relies heavily on creating designs to be printed onto products. To create your products, you’ll have to craft your own designs or modify copyright-free design assets like ones from Creative Market. Remember never copy and paste someone else’s work; it’s both unprofessional and illegal.

If you don’t have the time to make your own product designs or you don’t have the expertise, you can purchase nice designs at a reasonable price from places like UpworkFiverrDesign Pickle and many more.

Step 3: Find Print on Demand Suppliers

Finding a good print-on-demand supplier is important for the success of your online business. As you are only creating the designs for the product whereas the supplier is doing all the task like printing the custom design and shipping the products to the customer.

The supplier which provides best quality products and better shipping can help establishing your brand among the customers. Here are the few things to consider while selecting print-on-demand supplier:

  1. Carry out a thorough background check – Before selecting a print-on-demand dropship supplier, make sure you do a through through research about the supplier and the clients they served.
  2. Check Product Delivery And Warranty – The most important factor in selecting a print-on-demand supplier is shipping. Make sure the selected supplier ships the products on time and provide some kind of warranty for the products.
  3. Packaging – You must understand how they package their products and it will be better if they add your branding over the packaging. Also make sure they uses right packaging practices to save on the packaging cost to help you in lower your over all product cost.
  4. Cost – Cost is the most crucial aspect, you will need to consider. You will need to check the cost of the price, shipping price as well as packaging price and to profit margin how much you are making.

Step 4: Get Domain and Hosting For Your print on demand business

When starting your online store, you need to choose the name for you business and register the domain name for it. A domain name is the name of eCommerce business. A domain name is basically the address where your customers can access your online store to buy your products.

The name of your store should reflect the business you are doing as it makes your customers easy to find you. I recommend adding ‘store’ or ‘shop’ in your business name because you will need to find an available domain name, and it’s easier to find an available one when there are several words in the name.

A domain name are often any combination of letters and numbers, and it is often used in combination of the several domain name extensions, such as .com, .net and more. The domain name must be registered before you’ll use it. Every domain name is unique. No two websites can have identical domain name.

The steps to purchase a domain name are:

  1. Choose a reliable domain registrar (like NameCheap, GoDaddy).
  2. Search for the desired domain on  domain availability checker tool.
  3. Choose the best available option.
  4. Finalize your order and complete the domain registration.
  5. Verify the ownership of your new domain.

After you have purchased your perfect domain name, you need to purchase hosting if you are planning to use self-hosted online store. For hosting we recommends SiteGround  or Inmotion as they offer best services in the price they are taking.

Step 5: Create your Print On Demand store

Now it is time to setup your store where you can sell your custom designed print-on-demand products. You can either use Shopify or WooCommerce to setup your online store.

For this tutorial we will create print-on-demand business store in WooCommerce. To follow the guides outlined next you must have a WordPress website. If you don’t have you can install WordPress on your newly purchased domain.

After WooCommerce in installed, you need to connect to your print-on-demand supplier. For our example store we are taking Printful as our supplier. The first step is to create an account on Printful website.

Sign up to printful

After you have signed up with the Printful, In your WordPress backend, install the plugin Printful Integration for WooCommerce , by navigating to Plugins -> Add New and search for printful in the search bar

WordPress install printful

Make sure you have installed WooCommerce prior to the installation of Printful Intrgration for WooCommerce.

After you have installed and activated the plugin, navigate to the plugin dashboard and you will be presented with following screen.

Connect to printful

click on the button Connect, it will redirect you to the Printful login page. Sign in with the created login id and password. It will ask you for the permission to connect your Printful account with your WooCommerce store.

After you have connected your store with Printful, you can start adding products to your store by navigating to Stores in Printful dashboard and clicking on Add Product button.

Add Products Printful

You can choose the category of the products you want to customize and add to your store. For example, select T-shirts from the left menu and select first item Unisex Premium T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 3001. You will be presented with Configure Design page, got to Design tab, where you can select the customized design:

Here you can upload either your own design or select one from the Printful library. After you have done with design click on Product tab to customize the product. Here you can select the product colors and sizes available in your store.

Printful Select Colors

After you are done selecting colors and sizes, click on Proceed to mockups to select the mockups image for your store. Select your desired image as product mockup and click on the button Proceed to details.

The details page shows some pre-filled description of the products, if you want, you can make any changes and also select the desired categories for the products. After done, click on Proceed to pricing.

Printful Product Description

You will be presented with product pricing page, here you can set the product price for your store

Printful set prices

After you are done click on the button Submit to store. This will add this product to your Woo-commerce store. Using the same process you can add different products to your store. I suggest you to start your store with at least 10 products of different categories.

Step 6: Promote your eCommerce Store

Now that you have setup your store, you need to market and promote it to get customers to your store and buy your products. Otherwise there will be no use of a store if no-one buys your products from it.

There are many ways to promote your store like content marketing and SEO, Social Media Marketing, Paid ads, Email marketing, etc.

Social Media Marketing

In order to get some traffic to your online from the very beginning of your business, you’ll need to build brand awareness and excitement for your product. In today’s society, due to the increased use of mobile devices and smartphones, the fastest way to get the traffic is via social media.

Popular social media platforms are – Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter – to name a few. In the starting focus your marketing efforts on the platform where your target audience is most active.

Social media marketing is a great method to driving online traffic because it allows you to directly engage with your customers. So while you not only drive traffic to your website but you can also build a community for your customers.

Email Marketing

Another way to drive traffic to your store is by building your email list and using email marketing to communicate to your customers.

As per research, 86% of business persons like to use email while communicating for business purposes. So you must use email as a tool to attract customers from the start of your online store

Here are some resources you can use for email marketing:

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Content Marketing and SEO

Nowadays, content marketing and SEO are the most effective methods to promote your eCommerce stores.

High-quality content helps you rank well and drives traffic to your store. It also builds trust with your visitors which increases sales.

You can learn more about content marketing at Ecommerce content marketing.

Summary

I hope by now you have understood how to start your own print-on-demand business. If you have any reviews or suggestion I’d love to hear from you. Do share them in the comments below.

21 thoughts on “How to start a print on demand ecommerce business”

  1. Thanks for covering all the aspects of PoD business, it’s so hard to put all of it together when you are just starting out!

    Reply
  2. Totally amazing idea, it’s very unique especially that we will make our print on design. Thanks for sharing this to us.

    Reply
  3. my comment will be out of topic but you just reminded me of my previous work. haha! I’ll let you guess if its a good thing or a bad thing. lol

    Reply
  4. Good insights! This blog would be really helpful for those planning to start a Print on Design business. You have such detailed info!

    Reply
  5. Seriously great advice and I am totally into wanting to try and create a business like this myself because people keep asking me if I sell merch!

    Reply
  6. This is on my list to do. I already have approval from a couple of sources but haven’t had time to create yet. Thanks for a really comprehensive post for me to work through as I navigate this!

    Reply
  7. I’ve been looking for another source of income and this sounds interesting. I’m definitely going to look into this more.

    Reply
  8. Great step by step process for print-on-demand! Now I need to think of a great product this this option would work with.

    Reply
  9. This is such an excellent advice and resources on POd Business. Gonna put this on my references. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. This is perfect timing because I’ve been wondering about how to do this and am saving this. It’s a start but i have to read more about it.

    Reply
  11. This an awesome article, I find it very helpful, an awesome source of income. Thank you for this.

    Reply
  12. I was just trying to explain this to my brother some days ago. Glad to see it here. Now I can send him here.

    Reply

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