Today, I’ll review how to start a print-on-demand business in 2023.
The print-on-demand business model has revolutionized eCommerce, providing entrepreneurs with opportunities to design and sell custom products online.
A POD business is easily one of the best ways to run a profitable online store without holding inventory…
But… how do you start an online business in the POD niche?
What are the best print-on-demand products to sell?
How do you find print-on-demand companies?
Let’s find out in this guide on how to start a print-on-demand business in 2023!
How to Start a Print on Demand Business in 7 Steps
Although launching a POD business may seem complicated at first, it can be pretty straightforward with proper guidance. Start selling print-on-demand products by following these seven easy steps:
1. Find a Profitable Niche for Your POD Business
The first step in this how to start a print on demand business guide is to find a niche.
A “niche” is something that a specific group of people loves. You can better tailor your offers to their needs by understanding their interests and behavior. Customers are more inclined to buy your products if you’ve narrowed your focus to a niche.
One way to niche is by narrowing your online store’s focus to a particular audience, e.g., those who love cats. You can then make designs that will appeal to that target audience.
You can also consider cross-niching, a combination of two or more distinct market segments. For example, a cross-niche exists between cats and people who enjoy gardening and modern art, as opposed to just cat lovers. In this example, your intended audience consists of cat owners who also like gardening and exquisite contemporary art.
You might reach an extremely enthusiastic target audience that other vendors are overlooking. There will be less competition for your print on demand business, opening the door for more profits.
2. Find POD Products to Sell
The next step in this how to start a print on demand business guide is to find products to sell.
It’s a common misconception that the only things you can sell with a print-on-demand company are t-shirts, mugs, and hoodies. While it’s true that these products are in high demand and easily customizable, your store can extend beyond them.
Looking at current market trends might help you settle on the best products to sell.
Ask yourself what everyone seems to be talking about. What are their interests and obsessions? You can also research the products offered by similar POD businesses.
A great way to find successful/trending print on demand products is by using product research tools or spy tools.
3. Find Print on Demand Companies
The next step in this how to start a print on demand business guide is to find print on demand companies.
After settling on your niche and product, it’s time to choose a print on demand company. Your print-on-demand company will handle production and shipping for you.
There are numerous print-on-demand companies, including Printful, Printify, Gelato, and Spring. Simple integration between your online store and these vendors means that orders customers place on your site will be communicated to the vendor for processing.
The reputation of your online business and the satisfaction of your potential customers are directly tied to the print quality of your custom products. Consider purchasing order samples from various print providers to compare the product quality.
For more help on choosing a print on demand supplier, you can read my comparison of the two best print on demand companies, Printify vs. Printful.
4. Create Your Designs
The next step in this how to start a print on demand business guide is to create designs.
Although the print-on-demand business model relies on distinctive design, you don’t need to be an experienced designer to create and maintain your online store. Being a designer, artist, or creative is a plus, but there’s no need to worry if you are none of those.
You can use some of the best print on demand tools like Canva to create designs or pay a designer to do it for you on a site like CrowdSpring.
While conceptualizing and sketching out designs, consider the following:
Remember to consider your target market and ideal customer. Ask yourself what they like and dislike.
Use websites like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon, as well as social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, as sources of creativity.
Stay away from copied work! Get ideas from them, but don’t plagiarize.
5. Decide on a Selling Channel
The next step in this how to start a print on demand business guide is to decide on a selling channel. Choosing where to sell is arguably the most crucial step in launching a print-on-demand business.
Your print-on-demand supplier prints, manufactures, and ships that product specifically for your customers… But you have to get orders in the first place!
You have two options regarding how to sell print-on-demand products:
Selling through an online marketplace
Selling through your own online store using an eCommerce platform
Selling via Marketplace
Online marketplaces like eBay and Walmart offer a centralized marketplace where vendors worldwide can display and sell their products.
These marketplaces often feature numerous potential buyers who don’t have to pay anything to participate and are very simple to launch.
There are also marketplaces specific to print on demand products, like TeePublic, Redbubble, Zazzle, and more.
You may have to give up some creative control in price, policy, and product branding. Also, they are very competitive and play by their own rules.
However, expanding your audience and increasing your sales will be a breeze if you already have an established brand.
You can keep more profits as your company expands by redirecting customers to your store.
Selling via Online Store
You can create a custom website for your goods with the help of an eCommerce platform if you have a clear idea of what you’d like to sell.
These systems let you tailor your shop’s experience for customers by incorporating their preferences through curated collections, exclusive offers, and more.
Many of the best print on demand companies integrate with all major e-commerce platforms like Shopify.
Creating an online store is more costly and time-consuming, and you’ll have to advertise to get customers.
However, this building an online store is required for those looking to make it big and build a successful brand.
6. Build an Online Store
The next step in this how to start a print on demand business guide is to build an online store. You can make your store in a few ways, but using Shopify is arguably the best.
Shopify has various tools and extensions to help you design a customized website for your company. The eCommerce platform allows you to customize the appearance and feel of your online store by selecting from several pre-made themes.
If you prefer, you may also purchase premium Shopify themes, although doing so is optional, especially in the beginning.
Shopify facilitates the creation of a gorgeous website on a shoestring budget and plays well with the best print-on-demand service providers on the market.
Since it is the most widely used e-commerce platform, finding a vendor to provide smooth integration is a breeze.
The next thing to do is get the word out about your custom products…
7. Market Your Online Store
As we near the end of our “how to start a print-on-demand business” guide, we need to talk about marketing. It is a must-do if you want people to start noticing your print-on-demand company.
Here are some ways to reach your target customers and generate sales:
Social media platforms
Establishing a social media presence is essential in today’s world. Customers today expect to discover and engage with companies on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
However, you don’t need to be on every social network when starting a print-on-demand store. The ideal strategy is to focus on one or two key channels and establish a presence first.
As time progresses and you make more sales, you may expand your business by establishing a presence on other platforms.
If you have the capital, you can also experiment with paid advertising to accelerate your business’s growth.
Influencer marketing is a tried and true technique for reaching your target audience. Promoting your pod store by collaborating with influential people in your niche will help you pique the interest of potential customers and boost your business’s success. One of the best ways to do influencer marketing is using TikTok or Instagram shoutouts.
Using content marketing to boost search engine rankings is a standard marketing strategy many well-known brands employ. You can update your website with relevant material and promote it on social media.
Blogs and articles are practical tools for maintaining target audience interest and engagement. Your credibility and authority will increase as people learn from and interact with the information.
Note that blogging is a long-term strategy because it takes time for content to gain readers and increase profit margins.
Best Practices for a Print on Demand Business
While the print on demand model is great, it’s only profitable if you follow the best practices. Here are some tips to help you maximize your chances of success with your online store.
When using print-on-demand services to sell products online, quality assurance is crucial.
You should act as your consumer to confirm that the final product looks and feels the way you envisioned it. Take advantage of any available sample discounts (up to 20% off or free delivery) offered by sites like Printful.
In addition to checking the quality of the final product, having a sample on hand allows you to take professional-looking images of the item for use on your website and social media pages.
Be Honest About Production & Shipping Times
Even though print-on-demand allows you to outsource product shipment, you still need to consider shipping schedules, prices, and how to manage your customers’ expectations. If you aren’t honest about shipment schedules, you’ll have many queries regarding shipping flooding your inbox.
The most reliable print-on-demand services will be forthright about shipping times and inform customers of any delays. You should include the production time when sharing delivery time estimates for customer orders.
Whether you want to include information on shipping on your Frequently Asked Questions website or a dedicated Shipping page, be sure to clarify everything your clients may expect.
Focus on Your Best-Sellers
After you’ve learned how to start a print-on-demand business and launched your brand, you can now monitor which products sell the best.
Instead of spending time and money on products that lead to lower profit margins, invest in those that your target market love.
You can double down on your winners by ordering them in bulk ahead of time to avoid long production times. Some print on demand companies like Printful offer a warehousing and fulfillment service where you can get same-day fulfillment!
Best Companies for a Print on Demand Business
There are many print-on-demand companies, so you must do your homework before settling on one. If you’re looking for a fantastic place to start, these are a few of your options:
Printful is a print on demand supplier that makes it easy for businesses to create and print their own products. It takes care of everything from printing and shipping products so you can focus on getting customers for your online store.
With Printful, you don’t have to worry about production costs or stock – print only what you need when you need it.
Plus, their products are high quality and custom designed so that your brand stands out in the competition. Printful is also one of the best dropshipping suppliers in Canada for print on demand products.
Printful also offers a warehousing and fulfillment service where you order in bulk ahead of time rather than using the dropshipping model (ordering one by one).
This will help your print on demand business stand out from the competition because you can provide much faster delivery times.
Whether you’re a small print on demand business owner or a big enterprise, Printful is a great print on demand service.
Printify is an excellent solution for print on demand services. It enables entrepreneurs and businesses to sell 750+ custom products with their designs.
The user-friendly platform equips the POD business owner with the tools to customize merchandise that fits precisely into their vision and generate mockups for each product design.
This scalable print service ensures that designing and creating unique products is easy and convenient. Printify also makes it easy to find the best print supplier with low shipping costs and excellent print quality, making it one of the best dropshipping suppliers in the UK, the best print on demand Australian companies, and one of the best print on demand UK companies.
With Printify, businesses of any size can provide customers with exciting, quality products allowing them to promote their brand or business while generating a profit successfully.
Gelato is a modern print on demand solution for businesses and consumers alike. Connecting local print providers with print buyers in 33 countries allows fast service at competitive prices.
With Gelato, print buyers can easily order high-quality prints from anywhere worldwide without worrying about lengthy shipping times or ridiculous shipping costs. This makes Gelato one of the best dropshipping suppliers in Europe.
Moreover, its easy-to-use ordering interface and automated print processing ensure that print jobs are completed with minimal effort and maximum efficiency.
Regardless of printing needs or budget restrictions, Gelato is one of the best print demand sites. For more info, you can read my full Gelato review.
Sellfy is an online print-on-demand platform designed to help individuals and businesses create and sell physical products directly to customers. You can think of it like Shopify for a print on demand business.
With Sellfy, you can easily set up a store and start selling physical products such as apparel, mugs, collage printouts, or phone cases without stocking up on merchandise or worrying about delivery. This makes it one of the best print on demand sites for artists.
The platform also provides access to various creative tools – from sales analytics to print settings – so that you can customize your store exactly how you want it.
Whether starting a side business or looking for the perfect product to showcase your artwork, look no further than Sellfy!
Amazon Merch on Demand
Compared to the other services on this list, Amazon Merch on Demand is a relatively recent service launched in 2015 and is very similar to the print on demand model.
T-shirts are the site’s central focus, so sellers of mugs, beach towels, and the like may find their options limited.
Amazon Merch on Demand pays royalties on every item sold through their platform. They calculate your royalty as a percentage of the price you set minus Amazon’s costs for materials, printing, fulfillment, customer support, and shipping. You can find more information on royalties here.
Products sold through Amazon Merch on Demand are sent using the same shipping methods as any other products.
They offer free shipping to customers who buy over $25 worth of products. Any other shopper can choose between standard shipping (ground) and expedited shipment (air) at an additional cost.
Because of Amazon’s massive organic traffic volume, Merch on Demand is one of the best Redbubble alternatives.
How to Start a Print on Demand Business: FAQ
What are the best print-on-demand products to sell?
The best-selling print-on-demand items are everyday items you can alter to suit individual tastes.
Some of the best print-on-demand products to sell include sneakers, t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, stickers, phone cases, posters, mugs, etc.
What are the best print on demand companies to use?
For a Canadian POD business, you should use the best print on demand companies in Canada.
Does Etsy provide print-on-demand services?
Though you can sell print-on-demand items on Etsy, the marketplace does not handle printing or shipping orders.
If you’re selling on Etsy and interested in the print-on-demand concept, you’ll need to find a printer and fulfillment partner.
Can I make a living with a print-on-demand business?
A print-on-demand business model can be lucrative. But it will take time and work to establish your company’s reputation and clientele and generate substantial revenue.
More people start a print-on-demand store as a side hustle or hobby, but it has the potential to turn into a full-time gig.
Offering more products means more potential revenue. Making a living wage means creating high-quality customized products with numerous print options (like print on demand jewelry).
Is it okay to use copyright-protected images?
You cannot use images protected by intellectual property laws on your print-on-demand products. The authorities can prosecute you for copyright infringement if you use other people’s intellectual property without their approval.
The platform or supplier you are utilizing may delete your product or impose limits on your account even if you don’t face legal action.
What’s the difference between print-on-demand and dropshipping?
In dropshipping, suppliers ship generic unbranded products like jewelry and clothing. In contrast, print-on-demand suppliers help you customize products and deliver them directly to customers.
Because print-on-demand suppliers sell customized products, a single print provider cannot manufacture and print every conceivable item. Printing companies often have a catalog of 100–400 items available. On the other hand, dropshipping allows providers to stock various products.
Conclusion: Should You Start a POD Business in 2023?
After being in the e-commerce trenches for 6+ years, it’s clear that a ton of money can be made…
A print-on-demand business is a fantastic method to start selling custom products without holding any inventory.
However, like most online businesses, a print-on-demand online store is only profitable if done correctly.
Following the steps in this guide can significantly increase your chances of being a successful pod store.
I recommend starting with the dropshipping business model (no inventory), as it’s much easier and lower risk.
Then, once you’ve identified your best-selling products, order in bulk to reduce costs and delivery times for your customers (Printful is the best for this).