5 steps to launching a successful print-on-demand business

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

No matter what you do or how you make money online, a print-on-demand (POD) ecommerce store is an amazing feature to add to your repertoire.

POD means printing on one product at a time when it’s ordered as opposed to ordering several items in bulk. POD services utilize drop shipping, which means the POD service prints orders from your ecommerce store as they come in and ships the items directly to your customer.

POD is a great way for artists and designers to monetize their creativity, and thanks to the low start-up cost and user-friendly services, anyone can create a print-on-demand ecommerce shop quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Let me talk you through how to get started.

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1.Pick a print-on-demand service

There are lots of POD options out there. Here are a few things to consider when you’re checking them out:

  • Product range and quality: Choose a service with a broad range of products. T-shirts and mugs are popular print-on-demand items, but maybe you have another item in mind, or you might want to expand and offer more niche products in the future.
  • Pricing model: Besides the cost of the product you’re printing on, you’ll have to be aware of other costs including printing and fulfillment. Ideally, you want to choose a POD service that charges you a fixed amount for the cost of each product, rather than a percentage of each sale.
  • Customer service: To support you and your customers, you’ll need your POD service to have around-the-clock, helpful customer support.
  • Shipping: Every POD service charges you for shipping. Typically, services offer either flat or live rates for shipping. Flat rate shipping will be set by your POD service and won’t change. Live rate shipping is the “real” shipping price. It’s set by the carrier and depends on product dimensions and delivery distance. Some POD services allow you to choose either flat or live shipping, but others may not. How you as a storeowner charge your customers for shipping is up to you. Offering free shipping is usually the best strategy. You can make up for this cost by pricing your products a little higher.
  • Personalization options: White label products offer space for your designs to shine. Some popular add-ons can be sleeve prints on t-shirts, embroidery, or even printed inside labels. Some POD companies offer extras, like stickers on your packages to promote your store. This makes it look like the products are coming directly from your store, and not from your print partner.

2.Pick an ecommerce platform or online marketplace

The next step is deciding where you want to sell your products. The setup process, brand customization, and other features available depend on which platform or marketplace you choose.

What’s the difference? Ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Big Cartel, Ecwid, Gumroad, ShipStation, Shopify, Webflow, Weebly, Wix, and WooCommerce allow you to create a store as a standalone website. Traffic to your site comes through your marketing activities and search engines. These platforms usually give you greater freedom to personalize your store.

You’re probably familiar with online marketplaces like Amazon, Bonanza, Etsy, Storenvy, and Wish. You can sell there too, but when you sell on a marketplace, your store is an account on the marketplace’s website, and competes with every other store using the marketplace. Each marketplace comes with its own search engine that offers an additional source of traffic. There are usually more limited options for product personalization, and they’re determined by the marketplace.

Check out these options, do some research, and decide what will work best for you and the needs of your store.

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3.Find your niche, pick your products

Before you create your designs, you need to find your niche. A niche is a specialized market that attracts a specific audience. A niche-oriented business addresses the needs that aren’t being addressed by mainstream providers. Maybe you already have a developed brand and a loyal audience that you plan to sell to. If not, you’ll need to decide who you’re going to sell to and what they’re interested in.

You can draw inspiration for your product designs from your own experience, passions, or interests. Once you have a few ideas, you can research your competition and learn a bit about search engine optimization (SEO), the process of making your website rank higher in search engines in order to bring in visitors.

Your store should propose a solution to your niche audience’s problem. A problem for the LGBTQ+ community, for example, is underrepresentation. A solution could involve raising awareness and spreading the word about what makes this community beautiful and important. Explore sites like Quora and Reddit to find out what questions people are asking and what problems they have. Then you can figure out how to help solve the problem.

4.Create unique designs and add them to your store

There are a lot of ways to create beautiful designs for your store, even if you’re not a graphic designer or artist. If you are, all you need to do is make sure your files match your POD service’s guidelines. If you’re not a designer yourself, there are many free resources out there, and some POD services like Printful even have internal tools.

Printful offers the Mockup Generator, which allows you to create print files and mockup photos for your store, all in one go. You can create print designs with preloaded fonts, experiment with an amazing selection of clipart and the Getty Images library. There are sample designs available from Printful’s team of graphic designers. You can also adjust your design placement and create fun patterns for all-over prints.

5.Market your store to your audience

You probably already know that you can’t just build a website and expect people to flock to it these days. Utilize your existing audience to make your store a success and continue to read about marketing tips on blogs like EuroDNS, as well as Printful for ecommerce- and POD-specific advice.

Do you think you’re ready to jump into the world of POD? I’m confident that you can do it, and before you know it, your POD store will be turning a profit. Who knows, it might just become your new favorite way to make money online.