How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business (Full Guide)

If you are a designer, content creator or entrepreneur who is looking to start making money from your own unique designs or to launch your own brand, then print-on-demand can be a great way to get started.

This is because you can sell a variety of different types of products from apparel to homeware without having to invest a large amount of cash upfront into stock that you may or may not sell!

Another advantage of print-on-demand is that your supply partners also take care of the storage, printing and fulfillment, which leaves you to focus on marketing and running your business.

But how do you actually get started? Well, that is what we are going to cover in our step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Decide What You Are Going To Sell

A selection of products that can be used for Print-on-demand

The very first step is to decide what type of products are you going to sell as print-on-demand companies now offer a wide variety of products, including:

  • Apparel – t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants/joggers, shorts etc
  • Fashion Accessories – hats, bags, socks, jewelry etc
  • Tech Accessories – phone cases, mouse pads, laptop cases etc
  • Drinkware – water bottles, mugs & tumblers
  • Stationary
  • Wall Art
  • Homeware

Some designs will be more suited to some products than others and in some cases, your target audience may also help you decide which type of product you are going to sell.

It can also be worth thinking about future expansion of products that you might sell.

Step 2: Choose a Print-on-Demand Partner

Once you know what you are going to sell, you need to find a company to partner with and there a plenty of companies in the space and narrowing down your ideal partner can be challenging but there are some ways you can:

1. Where Are There Manufacturing/Fulfillment Centers?

This one is an important one as you ideally want the company to have a fulfillment center in the country where you are going to be selling your products as this should result in:

  • Faster order fulfillment & shipping
  • No issues with customs

Many print-on-demand suppliers will list somewhere on their website where they have fulfillment centers and whether they are owned by the company or outsourced to a third-party print partner.

2. What Products Do They Offer?

This is where knowing what you want to sell and also what you might sell in the future can be very helpful as you narrow down the number of potential suppliers based on the products that they offer.

You may also want to check if they offer personalization for your products as this is a great way to generate more sales.

3. Existing Customer Reviews

Even though people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one, it can still be worth looking for reviews from existing customers before committing to a supply partner by using sites like TrustPilot, G2, Capterra or social media.

When checking out the reviews, it can be helpful to look at the negative (1 or 2 star reviews) and see if there is a number of reviews highlighting a common issue that people are having, especially if they are recent reviews as this could be an indication that it might be worth looking for another partner.

4. Integrations

This one will influence step 3 in this guide as you want to not only check not only which ecommerce platforms they have integrations for either in the form of an app or plugin but also what the integration offers.

As ideally, you want the process to be as automated as possible, so that when the customer places an order on your store, it is automatically placed with the PoD partner as this will:

  1. Cut down on the amount of work you have to do
  2. Reduce potential human errors (you putting the wrong order information in)
  3. Speed up the order process

Test the Quality

If possible, it is worth placing a test order with your chosen PoD partners to see how good not only the quality of the product is but also the quality of the service such as shipping speed, packaging etc.

Step 3: Figure Out Your Pricing

One area where many people come unstuck and in some cases end up losing money with their Print-on-Demand business is that they don’t create a pricing strategy for their business.

Most PoD suppliers are pretty upfront with their pricing and all the information is usually somewhere on their site but what you want to find out is:

  • How much does the product cost?
  • Do they charge tax or VAT on their products?
  • How much do they charge for shipping?

Once you have this information, you can then begin to figure out how much you should charge your customers for the product and also the shipping costs, unless you want to offer free shipping.

By doing this, you will have a much better idea as to how much profit you will be making per product.

Step 4: Create Your Designs

Now that you know what you are going to sell, who you are going to partner with and that your products are going to be profitable, it is time to start making your designs and if you are a designer, I’m sure you are already going to know how to do this but if you are a content creator or entrepreneur, you might not, so how can you do this?

  • Outsource – arguably the easiest way to get some designs created is to outsource it to a freelancer or small business
  • Create it Yourself – you can use online tools such as Canva or Adobe Express or programs such as Adobe Photoshop to create your designs

Whether you are creating the designs yourself or outsourcing them, you want to check to see if your supply partner has any information regarding the:

  • Image Size
  • DPi
  • Image Format – usually JPEG or PNG

That they require for their images as this helps to ensure you are producing designs that will actually be usable and print well.

Once you have got your designs, you then want to start creating your products, which is usually done directly in your account with your Print-on-Demand partner and the process goes a little something like:

  1. Selecting the product you want to sell
  2. Uploading your design
  3. Configuring it with your chosen product such as size, location etc
  4. Finalizing your design

Once you have finished designing your product, most suppliers have some kind of mock-up generator that will allow you to create some product images, which you can use on your site’s product pages.

Step 5: Create Your Online Store

The next step is to create your online store but before you do start looking at ecommerce platforms, there are a couple of things you want to do first:

  1. Get a domain name for your store
  2. Get your social media accounts set up

These form part of your store’s branding, so best to get them as soon as you can and once these are done, you can then begin the process of choosing an ecommerce platform for your Print-on-Demand store, with some important things to consider being:

  • Does your PoD partner offer an integration
  • Number of available payment gateways
  • Marketing tools that they offer
  • Monthly cost inc transaction fees, turnover limits etc
  • How easy it is to set up and run your online store

Once you have chosen the platform, it is then time to actually start building your online store and this will include steps such as:

  1. Setting your domain name up with the platform
  2. Getting your site’s information configured
  3. Setting up your payment gateways
  4. Adding shipping methods
  5. Customizing your store including theme, logo, colors etc
  6. Installing and connecting the app/plugin with your supply partner

Each platform is different when it comes to getting them set up and it can be worth finding a tutorial that will take you through the process step-by-step as this will cut down the time it takes to get your store set up and you will probably learn a lot along the way.

Step 6: Test Your Store

This is a very important step as you want to ensure that everything on your store is working properly so that when you go live, customers can actually place orders, so you want to place a test order to make sure that the following are working:

  1. Checkout
  2. Payment gateway
  3. Order related emails
  4. The order is placed with your supply partner

It is much better to find out that you have an issue with a test order than having customers complaining to you that something isn’t working or finding out that they have placed an order with you but it hasn’t been placed with your supply partner.

Step 7: Start Marketing

Once your store is all set up and has been tested to make sure it is all working properly, it is time to start marketing your business, you might actually want to do this before your store launches to create some interest.

For content creators, this is relatively simple as you just need to let your audience know that your store is up and running and include links to it in your descriptions and profile.

If you don’t have an existing audience, then this will require you to create a marketing strategy for your Print-on-Demand store and there are a few options you could consider, including:

Which method is best will depend on the niche you are aiming at, the type of product you are selling and also your budget as most marketing isn’t free, unfortunately.

You could also consider adding additional sales channels such as an Etsy store or another marketplace as there may be a portion of their visitors that are looking for products like yours and it can generate additional sales for your business.

What is Print-on-Demand and How Does it Work?

Print-on-Demand is a type of ecommerce business where you create your own designs for products such as Clothing, Accessories and Homeware and the production and order fulfillment are taken care of by a printing company that you partner with.

In many ways, Print-on-Demand is similar to dropshipping but the big difference is that you aren’t selling a generic product, instead, you are creating your own designs and putting them on products that people can wear and/or use, with some companies there is also the option to personalized products and this is why it is popular with:

  • Content Creators who want to sell their own merch
  • Designers and Entrepreneurs who want to launch their own brands or clothing lines

It also has a very low entry cost as you aren’t having to invest a lot of money into stock or buying your own printing equipment but how does Print-on-Demand work?

Well, the process is very simple:

  1. You create a design for your products
  2. Find a print partner and create an account
  3. Choose the product you would like to create and upload your design
  4. Create a mock-up of the product using your designs
  5. List the product on your own website or a marketplace
  6. When you get a sale, the order is sent to your printing partner
  7. They print, package and ship the order to the customer
  8. You pocket the profit between the sale and cost price

This outsourcing of the product and fulfillment allows you as the business owner to focus on running the business and marketing your products to generate sales.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-Demand can sound like a near-perfect business model but there are some drawbacks to it, which is why we have listed the pros and cons below:

Print-on-Demand Pros

  • Low cost to start
  • No stock storage
  • Orders are fulfilled
  • Only pay when you make a sale
  • Large number of products to choose from
  • A great way to monetize your designs

Print-on-Demand Cons

  • Profit margins can be low due to high product & shipping costs
  • Lots of competition
  • No control over production or shipping times
  • You have no way to do quality control

This is why you need to do your research before starting a Print-on-Demand business to ensure that there is going to be a demand for your products and that it is going to be profitable for you to sell your products.

Conclusion

Starting a Print-on-Demand business can be a great way to get started in the world of ecommerce or add an additional revenue stream to an existing business without having to invest a lot of money or take too much risk.

But as with any business, having a plan in place before you start can help improve your chances of success and fortunately, there is plenty of information online (such as this guide) that can help you learn about the many different aspects required to make a successful Print-on-Demand business, including:

  • Creating designs that will sell
  • Creating a marketing strategy
  • How to build and optimize a store for success

You may also learn something extremely valuable and possibly learn from other peoples mistakes!

Hi, I'm Paul, the Owner and Founder of EcommerceGold.
I ran my own Ecommerce Business for over 7 years and now help others start their own online retail empires!

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