How to start a Print on Demand (POD) business

If you’re looking to start your own business from home, a print on demand business is a great choice. It could be even more interesting when you already are an artist or a graphic designer, but it’s not necessary.

With a print on demand business, you can sell custom-printed products without having to invest in inventory or manage shipping. You can run your own Print on Demand store, but you can also chose to upload your designs and earn a commission over them when they are used for a product.

In this post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with your own print on demand business. If you are doing it right, it’s low risk in terms of investing, and it’s a great way to create an additional or a passive income.

Let us take you through the steps on how to start a print-on-demand business.

What is print on demand (POD), and how does it work?

First things first, what is Print on Demand (also known as POD) exactly? Print on demand is an incredibly versatile and convenient business model that allows you to sell custom products without having to carry any inventory.

You simply create your design, upload it to your store or a POD platform, and set your price. When a customer orders one of your products, the POD company will print and ship it directly to them. This means you never have to worry about storage or fulfillment – the POD company takes care of everything. Plus, starting a POD business is relatively easy and low-cost, making it a great choice for entrepreneurs who are just getting started or feel comfortable using this model.

You probably have bought print on demand products yourself without knowing it. For example when you bought that cool t-shirt at Teepublic, Amazon, or Society6.

If you like to know more about the printing process, check out this short movie of the Spreadshirt factory floor:

Pros and Cons of Print-On-Demand Business

Pros of print on demand

Print on demand is a great way to get started in ecommerce with little to no investment. All you need is at least one good design, and you can start selling custom products without any upfront costs. You can focus on promoting your products and building your brand or publish your design on a marketplace like Teepublic or Spreadshirt and don’t worry about that either.

Another great advantage of print on demand is that you don’t have to carry any inventory. This means that you don’t have to worry about storage costs or the risk of your products going out of stock. Additionally, print on demand businesses are very flexible. You can quickly and easily add or remove products from your store as your inventory needs change.

This flexibility can be a big advantage over traditional businesses that have to order large quantities of products in advance and hope that they sell. Can you imagine printing 1000 shirts for a specific event in a specific year and only 500 are sold? You would make a huge loss on the 500 shirts that are left.

Cons of print on demand

There are several disadvantages to running a print on demand business. One of the biggest is that you are reliant on a third-party print and fulfilment provider to actually produce your products. This can lead to quality issues, as well as delays in getting products to customers. However, there are many great providers out there, so make sure to do your homework selecting the provider that matches your needs. Despite that, it’s always a good idea to order some test samples, so you get an impression of the product quality, print quality, fulfilment speed and possible customer service.

Additionally, print on demand businesses typically have higher prices than traditional businesses, as the per-unit costs are higher. This can make it difficult to compete on price.

Overall, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using a print on demand business model. You will need to weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding if this type of business is right for you.

Is Print on Demand still Profitable in 2022?

Definitely! The print on demand industry has seen incredible growth in recent years, thanks to advances in technology and changing consumer preferences. Today, the industry is worth billions of dollars and is expected to continue growing at a rapid pace. The global print on demand market size was estimated at USD 4.91 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 6.17 billion in 2022.

It’s hard to say exactly what will happen in the world of print on demand in the coming years, but it’s safe to say that it will still be a profitable industry. There are a few factors that contribute to this. First, people will always want custom products. Whether it’s a shirt with a special design or a mug with a personal message, there will always be a market for these items. Second, there are more and more print on demand sites popping up all the time. This means that there are more opportunities for people to start selling custom products. Finally, as the world becomes more and more digital, there is still a demand for physical items. People want to be able to hold and touch something that is special to them.

So how much can you earn with print on demand? Well, it depends on your approach. But imagine your first goal is to earn $500 a month, then you’ll only need to sell about 4 designs (or products) a day with a commission of $4 each. Seems like a reachable goal right? Use our print on demand calculator to calculate your potential earnings.

What are Print on Demand (POD) Products?

Print on demand (POD) products are those that can be printed on demand, typically using a digital printing process. POD products can include books, posters, calendars, shower curtains, magnets, t-shirts, and more. Tote bags make great gifts or promotional items for businesses. You can print your logo or design onto the bag for a professional look.

print on demand example
One design -> Multiple products (Teepublic – design by teecloud)

PopSockets are a fun way to promote your business or show off your personality. You can have your logo or design printed onto the PopSocket for people to see every time they use their phone.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to print on demand products. The sky is the limit! Keep in mind that your print on demand provider will need to be able to deliver those products.

Decide How You Want to Sell Your Products

There are two main ways to earn money with print on demand.

Creating your own shop

You can create your own store and fill it with print on demand products. For example, you setup a shop with t-shirts in a certain niche on a platform like Etsy, or maybe your own domain with a Woocommerce shop and connected to Printful for the order fulfilment. It’s a great concept if you like to build your own brand and have a great niche to focus on. You do need to keep in mind that your own shop comes with certain responsibilites. Customers could e-mail you with questions (provide customer support), you’ll need to maintain your webshop and do the marketing and promoting.

Selling your designs

If you like this concept and want to monetize your creativity, but don’t want the headache of maintaining your own store, then uploading your design to a Print on Demand Marketplace is the way to go.

There are many platforms where you can upload and sell your designs. The concept is simple: You upload your designs, provide them with a title, description and tags and make them available for products to sell them on. T

he platform itself does all the work. They promote, print and fulfil the orders. For each order they get with your design you get either a percentage of the sale price or a pre-set commission fee.

How should I set a price for my Print on Demand products?

There is no easy answer when it comes to setting a price for your print on demand products. You’ll need to consider a few different factors, such as the cost of materials, the time it takes to produce the product, shipping costs, and what commission rate you’re comfortable with. Ultimately, you’ll need to find a balance that meets your needs and allows you to profit from your product.

You can use a print on demand earnings calculator to calculate the earnings, but it’s really a matter of what goals you would like to achieve. If you want to reach a large audience and still make a profit, it’s safer to price your products the same as your competitors. This way, you’ll be able to attract the same customer base and stay competitive.

Where to get designs for Print on Demand?

To get started with print on demand, you need to have a collection of designs to start with. There are three main options (or a combination of them):

  1. Create your own designs for Print on Demand
  2. Buy Designs on a Marketplace
  3. Hire a Designer to create POD Designs

Create your own designs

If you are a graphic designer yourself, you can skip this part, but if you would like to design (or edit) your own designs for POD, keep on reading. If you’re not a designer, but you are interested in creating or editing designs for print on demand, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First, consider what kind of design would be most suitable for the product you’re creating. If you’re creating a t-shirt, for example, you’ll want to use a design that is eye-catching and easy to print.

Second, think about what kind of message you want to convey with your design. Are you trying to promote a brand or product? Or are you simply trying to create a work of art? Whatever your goal is, make sure your design is clear and easy to understand and that it fits your target audience.

Create t-shirt designs with Canva
Learn how to create t-shirt designs with Canva

Finally, keep in mind that the message of the shirt is not just about the words, but also about the overall composition and placement of the design. Taking the time to mock up your design before committing to it is a crucial step in the process. By following these tips, you can create a great t-shirt design that will be sure to please whoever sees it.

When it’s about creating or editing designs, you can use something as simple as Canva. It you want more editing options then you can consider using Adobe Cloud and get access to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, but those might be overkill and add monthly costs. Affinity Designer is a great alternative and needs a one time investment.

Buying designs for print on demand

If you don’t have time to create your own design, or to edit them or just want to scale up quickly, then you can also buy designs on marketplaces that sell designs for Print on Demand. There are many online platforms available where you can buy designs for POD. This can be a great way to get started with your own printing business, especially if you can buy a bundle of the niche you want to start in. We cover the most popular marketplaces for POD designs in this article.

A few of those marketplaces are:

  • Threadbasket – specialized marketplace for print on demand
  • PixelCozy – specialized marketplace for print on demand
  • BuyTshirtDesigns.com – specialized marketplace for print on demand
  • Plicks.com – specialized marketplace for print on demand
  • Designious.com – specialized marketplace for print on demand
  • Creativefabrica – has a special section for print on demand designs (including licence)
  • Designbundles – mix of designs which also can be used for print on demand
  • Graphicloot – specialized marketplace for print on demand
  • Shutterstock – mix of designs which also can be used for print on demand

Hire someone to design them

Hiring a designer can be a great time saving and creative solution. A few advantages over buying designs is that every design is unique and specifically made for you. However, there are a few things to consider when hiring someone to create designs for print on demand.

First, you’ll want to consider the quality of their work. Make sure to look at samples of their previous work to get an idea of their style and skill level. Second, you’ll want to consider their turnaround time. How quickly do they work, and can they meet your deadlines? Finally, you’ll want to consider their price. Get quotes from a few different designers to find the best value for your budget.

If you like to know more about hiring a designer, make sure to read our guide about hiring a graphic designer.

A few great places to start:

  • Fiverr – A marketplace for almost any kind of service with great freelancers on it
  • Upwork – Freelance marketplace
  • 99Designs – Specialized on designs

Where to find design ideas

A little-known fact within the industry is that high-quality niche research can mean the difference between success and failure as a print on demand seller.

To succeed you will need to invest time in niche research. A niche is a specialized market or segment within the print on demand industry that will appeal to a specific group of people with shared interests. For example, if you decide to create t-shirt designs targeting people who love to play the guitar then that is your niche. 

A selection of the best tools that will help you find good performing niches and get fresh inspiration:

  • The Heidorn Report. The Heidorn Report is a great tool for determining which niches are most profitable for your Merch by Amazon or print on demand business. With concrete data to guide your decisions, you’ll be able to choose the most profitable niches and keywords for your business. Additionally, the report comes with a pack of professionally designed templates to help you get started quickly and easily. Click here to read our review.
  • The Heidorn Niche Report. Also from Christian Heidorn is the Heidorn Niche Report. It’s an extensive rated list with niches and sub-niches. Read our review here.
  • Merch Titans – If you sell on Merch by Amazon, you’ll love Merch Titan’s free niche research tool. It’s an amazing way to find profitable product ideas. It provides data on search volume, so you can see how popular a term is. It also comes with a tool to optimize your listings for SEO.
  • Merch Ninja – It has one of the best keyword tools in the market. It gives access to search volume, relevance and how each keyword performs among competitors within each niche. The information is updated daily, which helps making the right decicion. Over 400 niches are covered by the tool, so you will find the information you need for every niche.
  • Merch Informer also is a keyword tool that sources information within Merch by Amazon and sites like Pinterest and Etsy.

How to learn the tricks of the trade

In this article we have covered a lot of ground and it should help you to make your first steps into the world of print on demand. If you have already started and want to learn more, then it might be a good idea to learn from the best. We have talked to some of the best in the POD world, like Gearge Manousakis (owner of Pixelcozy) and Ryan Hogue. George also gave us some great tips about print on demand.

Some interested resources for more information:

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