As someone who has been through the ups and downs of the Print On Demand (POD) world, I’m happy to share my knowledge and experience with you. Whether you’re just starting out or want to improve your POD project, I bring you some tips and tricks on how to start a Print On Demand business. I hope they will help you navigate the competitive landscape of the Print On Demand industry.
In this essential guide, I will try to explain some of the mistakes I have made and how they can be fixed. In this sense, I will try to get you into the ins and outs of niche selection, design quality, and marketing and pricing strategies for Print On Demand. Let’s take a look at some tips that no one usually discusses and that I think can help you in these first steps. Stay with me until the end of the article to learn these tips that I wish I had known 🙂
Why Start a Print On Demand business?
Creating a print-on-demand (POD) project is a task that takes time, effort and market vision. First of all, it is useful to summarize its pros and cons so that you have a much more concrete idea of this e-commerce model.
Pros of Starting a Print On Demand Business
- Provides real added value: This e-commerce method, which is different from conventional dropshipping, allows you to add a unique value to the market through your creations, something you can be proud of. Your products will be unique and can be perceived very positively by users.
- No need for inventory: You can get started in e-commerce without the hassles of owning a warehouse, buying printing machines or acquiring stock in advance. In addition, you will have liquidity since you first receive the money from each sale made and then you order the products.
- Flexible and scalable: The POD model allows you to easily expand your product offering and adapt to market trends without incurring significant additional costs. You can also decide whether to make your own designs or delegate the creation to third parties to scale faster.
- Easy to set up and manage: With many POD companies available, setting up and managing your online store is relatively simple, even for those with limited technical knowledge.
Cons of Starting a Print On Demand Business
- Loss of control: When you rely on a third-party provider, you are essentially putting your brand’s reputation in their hands. Although many POD services have a good reputation, it is crucial to research and choose a reliable supplier to minimize the risk of customer complaints and damage to your brand image.
- Limited profit margins: By using an outside vendor to handle printing and shipping, the cost of printing each product is higher than if you were to mass produce the products. This leaves less room for profit.
- Limited branding: In general, the level of product customization in terms of branding is usually quite limited. This means that you will rarely be able to implement your own packaging, display your logo, add labels or include flyers and coupons on packages.
- Shipping and fulfillment issues: Although most POD providers handle the shipping and fulfillment process, this can present challenges as you have less control over the supply chain. Avoid international shipments (they are often slow) and low-quality suppliers (especially those from China) as they can lead to negative reviews or returns.
Steps and tips for starting a Print On Demand Business
Starting a print-on-demand business can be both rewarding and challenging. In this list, I bring you key tips that will help you better navigate this industry and prepare your project for the long term.
1. Adopt a long-term mindset
When you are starting out in print-on-demand, it is essential to adopt a long-term mindset. In my case, when I started out, one of my mistakes was to think more in the short term, and because of this, I later had to rethink my POD projects. Although the short-term results may be tempting, this may damage the sustainability of the project. This long-term approach ensures a solid foundation for your project, improving the path to success.
Another essential aspect you should keep in mind in print-on-demand, is to target a market segment of a certain size, which will allow you to scale your project effectively. That was another mistake I made in my first POD project, where I chose a very small niche market.
Adopting a long-term mindset when creating and managing your POD project can bring you numerous benefits, such as brand recognition, customer loyalty and sustainable growth. If you focus on the big picture and put time and effort into building a solid foundation for your business, you’re likely to go a long way.
2. Think about Print On Demand business ideas
Choosing a good Print On Demand business idea requires careful research and good planning. Take some time for this process.
What you should always keep in mind is that in Print On Demand, everything should be driven around people’s emotions and passions. In other words, your designs and creations will only be successful if they connect emotionally with people. This concept contrasts with Dropshipping, an e-commerce model focused on selling pre-made products focused on solving specific problems.
Therefore, choosing the right niche is a crucial step that you must study in depth. A niche represents a specific segment of the market that shares common interests and preferences, therefore, you must have a clear idea of the market segment you are going to target. I recommend that you choose a stable niche and avoid niches based on temporary trends, as they can disappear quickly. The ideal is to think of stable niches over time that provide stability to your project.
To identify the ideal niche, I recommend investing time in market research and analysis. This process involves studying existing trends, assessing the competition and determining possible gaps in the market that you can take advantage of.
3. Create a Print On Demand business plan
Once you have identified and chosen your ideal niche, the next step is to develop an action plan. While it may seem old-fashioned and outdated, it’s really not. In my early days in the POD world, I remember that I didn’t plan anything. There were no goals or specific plans. This could be a mistake when considering starting a Print On Demand business.
Having a well-structured and detailed business plan is crucial for any business, and Print On Demand is not an exception. That’s why I recommend that you ask yourself some key questions when getting started in print on demand.
Basic questions before starting with Print On Demand:
- What are the differentiating aspects of your project?
- Do you have a clear idea of the market segment you are going to target?
- Are you planning to target a national, regional or global market?
- Will you create your own designs or outsource these tasks?
- Have you calculated the start-up costs?
- What are your goals and what is your timeline for the project?
4. Focus on creating unique and high quality designs
In this step, my recommendation is that before you create an online store, you can have a good number of stunning designs. This is elementary if you want to succeed in the POD world. High-quality designs are crucial as they help you differentiate yourself and create a strong brand identity. Focus on creating exceptional designs that trigger people’s emotions. In this scenario you can either create the designs on your own or delegate it to freelance designers.
If you prefer to create designs on your own since you have the skills, I recommend several tools and resources that will streamline the creation of designs, such as Canva, Envato Elements and Placeit. These platforms offer a wide range of templates, graphics and design elements that can be easily customized to suit your niche and brand. By using these tools, you can take control of the design process and ensure that your designs are a perfect fit for your niche.
On the other hand, you can outsource the design process to third parties, with platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork offering access to a large pool of talented freelance designers at affordable prices. This approach can save you time and help you scale the volume of designs so you can sell much faster. From my own experience, this is the best option. When working with freelancers, be sure to clearly communicate your ideas and expectations, and provide them with relevant examples to help them understand your needs. Establishing a solid working relationship with a freelance designer will ensure consistent design quality and streamline the product creation process.
Important: It is essential that your designs comply with intellectual property laws and respect the rights of other creators. Avoid using copyrighted materials, trademarks or anything that may infringe on the intellectual property rights of others. If you have any doubts, contact a professional to avoid possible legal problems.
5. Create a user-friendly and visually appealing online store
Now you need to create a user-friendly and visually appealing e-commerce store. My advice is not to spend too much time on these tasks at the beginning, because as the project grows you can improve it. Your online store should be easy to navigate, have a clear design and display products with good mockups and an eye-catching description.
To build your eCommerce store, consider using platforms such as Shopify (probably the best tool on the market) or Wix eCommerce, which offer a wide range of tools and pre-designed templates. These platforms provide an easy-to-use interface that allows even beginners to create a professional-looking online store without any technical knowledge. Likewise, you can easily connect to your print-on-demand service provider from the control panel.
On the other hand, I have to tell you about POD marketplaces. Although these marketplaces are visited by a large volume of users and are easy to get started on, they are often saturated with competition, which is going to make it difficult for you to stand out. Instead, I recommend that you create your own online store to establish a recognizable brand for the long term. By developing a unique brand identity you can build a loyal customer base and differentiate yourself from the competition. Having your own store allows you greater control over marketing, pricing and the overall customer experience, ultimately giving you a competitive advantage in the print-on-demand industry.
6. Work with a reliable partner
Once you have identified and chosen your ideal niche, the next step is to select a good print on demand company to partner with. The company you choose is key, and will significantly influence the overall experience of your customers. My recommendation after setting up several POD stores, is to choose a quality provider such as Printful, Printify and Gelato (by far the best we have worked with). These companies are very reliable and are the market leaders for many reasons.
While there are many other print-on-demand companies to choose from, we do not recommend working with companies that produce in China, as we have suffered the consequences. Despite their potentially lower costs, these companies have inconveniences, such as slow shipping, customs problems and poor product quality. These issues can negatively affect your customers’ experience and, ultimately, damage your project. Therefore, I recommend that you prioritize quality and reliability when selecting a print-on-demand partner.
Recommended article: 11 Best Print On Demand Companies and Sites
7. Consider choosing products with high perceived value
Developing a pricing strategy for your print-on-demand store is essential for you to achieve good profit margins. To do this you must take into account factors such as production costs, shipping costs, payment gateway fees or advertising costs.
In my case, I have always tried to choose products that have a high perceived value that are cheap to produce. This is an effective method to justify prices as the customer is willing to pay more for some types of products. Make sure that the products are of high quality and that the designs are unique. A well-planned pricing strategy, combined with high perceived value, is essential to achieve good profit margins. Let’s take an example.
Here is an example:
- Approximate product cost: starting at $5.50 (at Printify)
- Selling price range: between $20 and $30
- Customer-perceived value: low
- Margin per product sold: Between $14.50 and $24.50
- Approximate product cost: starting at $13.22 (at Printify)
- Selling price range: between $40 and $70
- Customer-perceived value: medium-high
- Margin per product sold: Between $26.78 and $56.78
With this example you can see the approximate margin for each type of product. The problem with selling products with low margin and low perceived value is that you will need to sell a large volume to make a good profit.
Note: In order to calculate the net profit per product sold, other costs such as advertising, transaction fees and design costs, among others, must be taken into account.
8. Drive traffic to your online store
Developing good strategies to attract traffic to your online store is key to achieve higher sales and revenue. Here it is interesting to value both the paid traffic (through advertising or collaborations with influencers) and the free organic traffic.
In my beginnings, when I started selling Print On Demand products, I made the mistake of not giving enough importance to getting organic traffic through SEO. If I can give you a piece of advice, it is to optimize your product pages as much as possible and create a blog around your theme that gets thousands of organic visits every month. It is a medium to long term strategy, but believe me, it is worth it.
Regarding paid traffic, both Google Ads (especially Google Shopping ads) and Facebook or Instagram ads are good tools. Among the three options, what has worked best for me is advertising on search engines, since the user already has a higher purchase intentionality than people who are on social networks.
9. Increase sales with Cross-Selling and Email Marketing
Two of the strategies that work best to increase sales and customer lifecycle is through cross-selling and email marketing. It’s all about increasing sales and brand loyalty by improving your customers’ overall experience.
Cross-selling is an effective technique to increase sales by offering customers complementary products related to their preferences. There are many apps and tools you can easily install in your store to implement it. By displaying relevant items that enhance the user experience or provide greater value, you can encourage customers to make additional purchases.
Email marketing is another powerful marketing technique to attract customers and boost sales. I recommend you start from the beginning to attract users to your mailing list by offering some kind of discount or incentive to those who subscribe. If you are able to send emails with valuable content and promotions on a regular basis, you will have another good sales channel.
10. Take care of customers and be persistent
Building a successful print-on-demand brand takes time and effort, so be prepared to face challenges and learn from them. I recommend that you refine strategies over time and, above all, stay focused on your goals, as it’s easy to lose focus.
Finally, I would like to mention the importance of always thinking about the customer. Therefore, you must provide excellent customer service. A positive experience for any customer can make them repeat and recommend your brand to others.
Summary and Conclusion
In this article, I’ve tried to walk you through the ins and outs of setting up a Print On Demand business, including its pros and cons based on my own experience. I hope you find these tips helpful as you get started in this creative e-commerce model.
Building a print-on-demand business can be rewarding and profitable for those who approach it with dedication, persistence and an effective strategy. It is essential that you manage your online store efficiently and try to take advantage of the different sales channels. Think about creating a coherent and long-term brand identity to gain loyal customers.
Want to Learn More?
- Printful vs Printify: Which is Better For You?
- Top 10 Best-Selling Print on Demand Products
- Dropshipping vs Print On Demand: Which is Better for You?
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on many factors, but it can be perfectly profitable. Some key influencing factors are the chosen niche, the marketing strategy applied, the price of the products or the ability to manage and scale an online store.
Yes, it is an excellent e-commerce model especially for creative people, artists and entrepreneurs who want to transform their ideas and designs into tangible products. This model allows them to leverage their creativity without the need for large upfront investments and inventory management.
To scale the creation of POD designs, consider outsourcing design tasks to freelance artists or graphic designers on platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork. These platforms offer a diverse pool of talented professionals who can help bring your vision to life while maintaining your brand’s style and quality.
Yes, print-on-demand products can be sold on multiple sites at the same time, allowing you to have a wider reach. By using different platforms, such as your own online store and marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon you can maximize your sales potential.