The print on demand model lets you create and sell products without the hassle of inventory, shipping, and fulfillment.
If you have been on the lookout for a means to turn your creativity into a profitable venture, a print-on-demand business might be the answer.
Whether you are a designer, artist, or writer, you can print your designs on everything from caps, T-shirts, posters, and hoodies to totes, phone cases, and notebooks – all without even stepping out of your home.
Compared to the traditional model of business where you buy, hold your own inventory, and then sell the product to the customer, the print on demand model uses third-party providers to handle almost everything but the creative process.
If you are a creative soul confined to your home due to the pandemic, this is the perfect time to get started on your entrepreneurial journey. Recent studies have shown that consumer shopping habits have evolved dramatically over the last couple of months amid the pandemic.
In a global study conducted by Salesforce Inc, 63% of consumers said the way they obtain goods and services has “transformed” in 2020, and 58% of the respondents said that they expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than they did before.
Furthermore, with an increasing demand for personalized or customized products, a large number of companies – from niche start-ups to expensive and well-established supply chains – are also gradually introducing products that can be fully or partially customized. According to Harvard Business Review, customers are more likely to buy products if they can handle the product first.
In just a few clicks, when the customer can get a product in their choice of color or design, the customer’s loyalty to the company also increases. HBR also found that when customers can personalize their products, they buy more and are also more likely to recommend the brand to their friends.
What Is Print On Demand?
Print on demand (POD) is an ecommerce model under which you partner with a supplier who will customize white-label products with your design and directly ship orders to customers on a per-order basis. You don’t have to buy the products in bulk; you only have to pay when you make a sale. The process hence negates the risk of spending on inventory and ending up with hundreds of unsold products.
While this is also an iteration of the dropshipping model, where you don’t have to take care of inventory management and shipping, the difference here is that you would be customizing products with your own designs.
Easy to start: You can easily set up your online store using available plugins, guides, and themes.
Low investment: This model requires little to no investment as opposed to a traditional business where you have to purchase inventory and set up your store.
No inventory or shipping: Your supplier will take care of inventory, shipping and fulfillment.
Saves time: As you only have to create the design and don’t have to manage the logistics, you can have a POD business up and running in minutes.
Reduces risk: This is a low-risk means to sell custom products, as you are not holding any inventory. You can also test and modify your designs without any financial risks.
Less control over shipping: As shipping costs vary from product to product as well as with domestic and international suppliers, there might be an additional financial burden which can vary widely and which you will need to bear the brunt of – ultimately affecting your profits.
Lower margins: Due to the involvement of a POD platform, you will be paying higher than the wholesale price for each item. Depending on your price and customer acquisition costs, you may need to sell a great number of items before you make any significant margin.
Limited options for customization: As customization depends on your vendor and the product, you will have to consider various factors such as base price and printing techniques before making any changes to the product.
Supplier Errors: Even though you are not involved in packaging or shipping, you will be responsible for any errors from the supplier such as missed orders or poor packaging.
Starting Your Own Print On Demand Business
As in the case with any business, before you kickstart your POD business, you have to do ample amount of research.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or simply looking for a home business with low startup costs for a side-hustle, here are five easy steps to start your own POD business:
1. Choose your niche
Before you launch your store, it is imperative to find your niche and determine your target audience. You have to figure out what products you want to sell, whom to sell them to and whether to sell within your city/country or go international. Even if you don’t have a clear idea, you can start off by listing all the ideas on your mind.
It is important to choose products which cater to your primary customers as well as have a wider reach; otherwise, you may find it difficult to expand your business in the future. However, being careful with targeting and understanding your audience is a great way to establish yourself and organically acquire customers.
Once you have your products ready, use tools like Google Trends to understand which products are in demand and what users have to say about your chosen niche. You can also use social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to see what’s trending.
2. Get your designs ready
Once you have figured out your products and niche, it’s time for the hard part: actually creating designs to customize white-label products. With a combination of your creativity and your market research, come up with designs that are trendy and can appeal to your target audience.
If you are not a skilled designer, don’t worry – you can make use of copyright-free designs or revamp design assets such as those from Creative Market.
Furthermore, you can also hire a professional designer to create products according to your specifications from places like Fiverr, Dribbble, and Upwork.
3. Set up your store
Now that you have figured out your designs, the next step is to get your store up and running. For this, choose a hassle-free ecommerce platform that enables you to set up your store quickly. The platform you choose should provide you with a domain, web hosting, a website builder, and ecommerce functionality.
Some of the most popular platforms are Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. These have store themes that are easy to customize, enabling you set up your store quickly. It may take a few days for you to get your store up and running, as you will have to set up business pages for shipping details, payment, and contact, among others.
Another way to go about it is to use a platform like RedBubble or Etsy. RedBubble is designed for creators to sell their art, and is in fact a print-on-demand marketplace. Etsy, meanwhile, can be integrated with various POD services such as Printful.
4. Choose your supplier and add products to your store
Once you have launched your store, depending on the service you’ve used, you may need to find a reliable POD supplier to print your designs and ship them tocustomers. While choosing a supplier, it is important to consider factors like shipping costs, customer service, and product variants.
Other than Printful, several other suppliers have plugins that integrate directly with some common ecommerce platforms. Printify, Gooten, and Inkthreadable, for instance, can integrate directly with Shopify.
Once you have selected a supplier, order some samples of your products to check for any faults. After finalizing your supplier, add your products to the store and you are all set for sales.
5. Promote your store through marketing campaigns
Now that you have your products online, it is time to drive traction to your website to make sales. How are customers going to buy your products if nobody knows about your store? Thus, it is crucial to have a strong marketing strategy to attain visibility.
One of the easiest means to reach out to your audience and engage with them is by setting up business accounts on the major social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
It is also important to adopt Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices to increase your site’s visibility through ranking higher in Google Search results. High-quality content creation is often a successful strategy for brands seeking to define themselves, but this may not always be possible for a solopreneur just starting out.
Finally, ecommerce platforms like Shopify also offer marketing and SEO tools like Facebook Ads and Google Smart Shopping that need little training or know-how to use. The important thing to remember is that it’s good to keep trying out different marketing strategies to find out what works best for your store.
While running a POD business has its disadvantages, it is a great method to test your business ideas, since you don’t have to make any huge investments or deal with inventory management, product packaging, or shipping. With limited risk and fewer complications, it is also a great option for anyone looking for their next side hustle. All you need is a laptop, an Internet connection, and a creative idea.
Header image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay.