What Is Print On Demand?

Are you looking to start a print on demand business and would like more information on this business model? Well, you have come to the right place, in this article I will explain what print on demand is and the best companies to partner with to start a print on demand business.

Starting an eCommerce business has never been easier or more lucrative, eCommerce is a multi-billion dollar industry and will continue to grow exponentially over the next few years. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to start an eCommerce business is through print on demand or POD for short.

What Is Print On Demand?

Well, in simple terms, print on demand is when you sell products that have your unique design printed on them.

Unlike running a traditional eCommerce business where you would need to invest a lot of money for inventory, with print on demand you only buy once an order has been placed. In this regard, it’s very similar to dropshipping.

Popular print of demand products includes the following;

    • T-shirts
    • Baseball caps
    • Bags
    • Mobile phone cases
    • Hoodies
    • Mugs
    • Canvas Prints
    • Towels

One of the reasons print on demand is a popular method to start an eCommerce is business is that you do not have to worry about the production, storage and delivery of the product. These tasks are outsourced to a third party, usually your supplier.

There are a host of companies that provide everything you need to start a print on demand business.

From providing the actual products to printing your designs and delivering the items to your customers, your print on demand supplier will do all the heavy lifting for you.

Your only tasks will be to come up with a winning design for your product and find an audience that will buy them.

The logistics of running a print on demand business is the same as running a dropshipping business. After you make a sale and provide the order details to your supplier, they take care of everything else.

How Does Print On Demand Work?

Print on demand works like dropshipping after you have provided your supplier with a unique design to be printed on the products you will be selling, you just have to list your products and provide all order details to your supplier. It works as follows;

    • Customer purchases a POD product
    • You send the details to your supplier
    • Supplier prints your design on the product and delivers to your customer
    • You keep the difference between what your customers paid and what you paid to your supplier

As you can see it’s a very simple business model and easy to get started, however,  you will have to come up with your own unique designs for the products you want to sell.

This will probably be the most time-consuming aspect of starting a print on demand business especially if you are not a skilled artist or graphic designer.

If you are not very confident in your design skills it will be best to outsource this part of your business.

There are several affordable options available, the most popular is probably Fiverr, there are also the following sites you can check out;

    • 99designs
    • Upwork
    • Freelancer

Benefits Of A Print On Demand Business

Low Investment – This is one of the most cost-effective ways to start an eCommerce business, as you will not need to invest in inventory, storage space or delivery, you can start a print on demand business on a shoestring budget.

Low Risk – Since you will not be required to invest a huge sum of money, it is a low-risk business model. After web hosting costs, your only expense will be after someone purchases a product.

Start selling quickly – If you have a design or can create one quickly, you can start selling straight away.

Automated order fulfilment – Once you have made a sale and passed on the details to your supplier, they will take care of the rest.

Your own brand – These products will have your unique design and you alone will be selling them, this is the best way to build your own brand and stand out from the crowd. Plus building something unique means zero competition and so will not require as much effort to acquire customers.

Work from anywhere – The beauty of a business model like print on demand is that as long as you have a laptop and internet connection, you can work from anywhere.

Drawbacks Of Print On Demand

Need a winning design – The printed design will be the unique selling point of your product, you have no data that suggests that the item will be a huge success. This is unlike normal dropshipping where you have a good idea of how popular a product is by analysing how well it is selling on other platforms and through various methods of market research. With print on demand, you are betting on your target audience to find your designs compelling enough to purchase.

Scalability – Because you have a limited selection of products that can be sold with a printed design, there is a limit on how much you will be able to scale your business. If you are a skilled designer you will be in a better position to scale your business, however, for most people, it will be difficult.

Small profit margins – As you will not be purchasing inventory in bulk, your cost per item will be higher and so you will be operating on lower profit margins. Of course, this all depends on the product your selling, your pricing strategy and how you brand yourself.

Packing and Shipping – As you will be dropshipping, you will have limited control over packaging and how quickly it is delivered. Most print on demand companies provide a decent delivery time and give you some options on ways you can package your product, however, it is still out of your control.

Best Print On Demand Companies

One of the main attractions of starting a print on demand business is that there is a wide range of choices when it comes to which print on demand service you want to partner up with.

There are some factors you will need to consider before choosing which service you decide to use.

For instance, some print on demand services may not be compatible with your choice of eCommerce platform so make sure you check that the service supports the platform you are comfortable with. There will also be different base prices for each product, and this will determine your pricing strategy and profit margins.

Other things to consider are the products that are available, the kind of designs you can print and their average delivery time.

So, having researched lots of print on demand companies, the following 5 are the ones I have determined to be the best POD companies to start your business with.

Printful

Printful is probably the most well-known print on demand company and it comes with a fantastic reputation.

It is the best-rated print on demand app on the Shopify app store and it integrates with 12 other eCommerce platforms including WooCommerce, Prestashop, BigCommerce, Etsy, eBay and Amazon.

The founders of Printful were themselves running a very successful print on demand business from the comfort of their home. However, when they tried to scale the business and wanted to outsource the printing, they couldn’t find one that met their standards and thus Printful was born.

It is now a multi-million dollar company that has bases around the world and they provide everything you need to start a print on demand business.

They probably provide the widest range of products out of all the print on demand services. This includes all types of both men and women’s clothes, kids apparel, caps, and homes accessories which includes stuff like mugs, towels and pillowcases.

Currently, they have over 160 products in their catalogue and have plans to add more in the future.

They provide different types of printing methods for clothes which includes DTG, embroidery, cut & sew and sublimation.

There is a simple mock-up generator which you can use to brainstorm design ideas for your product.

They also provide a huge range of free resources on how to start a print on demand business, this includes webinars, eBooks and a regularly updated blog.

There is no subscription plan to use this service and there are no minimum order requirements. You only pay on a per order basis, although there may be some extra costs if you require added customisation.

Printify

This is a relatively new print on demand company that has grown rapidly in the past couple of years.

Printify offers a wide selection of products that includes all types of men, women and kids clothing, pillowcases, blankets, shower curtains, towels, jewellery and pet accessories.

Unlike Printful, Printify does not provide or print the products, instead, they connect you with companies that do. However, they do take care of everything from manufacturing requests to billing and shipping. Your only task will be to choose your product, upload your design and choose a printing company.

One drawback of Printify is that it is only compatible with Shopify, WooCommerce and Etsy, if you use any other platform, you would either need to switch or connect your store through their API.

Printify has a free plan that allows you to connect up to 5 stores and you have access to most of the features. With the paid plans you are eligible for a 20% discount on all products and are allowed to import your own custom products that are not in the Printify catalogue.

GearBubble

GearBubble is a marketplace where you can sell and purchase a print on demand products.

They currently provide printing services for mugs, t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases and sweatshirts, there are plans to add more products in the future.

To sell on their marketplace, all you need to do is upload a design and choose a product to sell. Gear Bubble will take care of production, shipping and customer support.

They have an in-house design team, so if you have trouble coming up with a cool design, you can hire them.

Its completely free to sell on their marketplace and you get to keep all the profits.

Gear Bubble also integrates with Amazon, Etsy and eBay so that you can sell your products on these high traffic market places. However, there is a monthly charge to use this service.

Gear Bubble does not have a great range of product selection so that may be an issue if you decide to use them to start a print on demand business. However, with $75+ million in sales since 2014, they clearly know how to operate in this space.

RedBubble

RedBubble is one of the largest marketplaces for print on demand products, the website attracts over 15 million visitors a month and is a great place to start your print on demand business.

The site was created in 2006 to allow artists to market and sell their products to a wider audience.

They offer a massive range of products that includes things wall tapestries, canvas, all types of apparel, stickers, calendars, ceramic items and a host of other high-quality products you put your designs on and sell.

Selling on RedBubble is straight forward, just create a free account, upload your designs, choose a product to sell and place it on the marketplace. RedBubble will take care of everything from coordinating with print providers, handling your transactions, shipping and customer service.

This a great place to sell your products if you are a skilled artist and have some knowledge of how to market and sell on social media.

Zazzle

Zazzle is another online marketplace that allows people to buy and sell print on demand products.

The platform is free to use and they offer a huge range of products that you can use to print your designs. Zazzle attracts nearly 10 million visitors a month, so you already have a huge audience to market your products.

Selling on the platform is very easy, just create a free account, upload your design and choose a product. Everything after the sale is taken care of by Zazzle, even customer support and your payment is handled by them.

This is another great platform for skilled artists to sell their art and make money online.

How To Start A Print On Demand Business

Starting a print on demand business is not that hard, the toughest part will probably be coming up with a good design idea for your product.

There are some free courses that will show you how to start a POD business with little upfront investment.

First I highly recommend you check out the Shopify Academy, this is Shopify’s own education hub and is full of eCommerce training guides.

They have a whole course on starting a print on demand business delivered by eCommerce expert Adrian Morrison.

It’s free to join and it’ll give you the complete rundown on how to start your very own POD business.

I also recommend you take advantage of the free training that is provided by Printful. They have a complete guide to starting a POD business and regularly hold free webinars where they teach you the many aspects of running a successful eCommerce business.

Final Thoughts

There has never been a better time to start an eCommerce business and with a business model like print on demand, it does not require a huge investment and is easy to start.

If you are a skilled artist and would like to start your own business, I think this business model is perfectly suited for you.

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6 thoughts on “What Is Print On Demand?”

  1. Hey Minhaj,

    A fantastic article on how print on demand works, I myself run a POD business and agree with most of what you say in this article. However, I really do not think you need to be a skilled artist or designer to run a successful POD business. There are many websites that have pre-made designs that you can purchase and use for yourself or, as you pointed out in the article, you can just hire someone to do it for you.

    In any case, I really liked your article, especially about the free training that is available for those wanting to start a print on demand business.

    Reply
  2. This is a great wrap-up of what print on demand is and how to get started in this business model. As you say, it is a growing niche and there have been quite a few companies that provide services for orders that you offer online for printing on all kinds of things from t-shirts to coffee cups, mugs, pillows, etc.

    The profit margins are small, so it is important to plan carefully if you decide to enter the business. I have used it in the past and we still do print on demand, but now use local printers and ship ourselves. The local companies are glad to have the business and they can be cheaper and just as fast.

    At times, shipping time comes into play. Customers are accustomed to getting their order fast so in our case, we have to be sure to be open that our product shipping time is 15-21 days from the time payment is confirmed. Often we get it to them in 10 days (they are happy then).

    We manage to raise our profit margins by a good bit by using this system versus the big printers that charge more and ship for you, but it is more work on our part. We are set up to support this anyway for other business, so it is not a big issue for us. 

    I totally agree with you that this is a good business to enter, there is still a lot of growth and the big printer companies are improving their services that you can tap into all the time. It also keeps your investment to a minimum starting out, so I would use the companies you mention, and later look at alternatives if that is a direction you want to go in.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave

      Thanks for your insightful comment, I was wondering since you still run a POD business, do you design your own products or do you outsource it? and if you do outsource, what services do you use?

      Thanks and all the best

      Reply
  3. Hi

    Thanks for this very informative article, I have been looking at different methods of starting an eCommerce business and print on demand is one that I am particularly interested in. This article does a great job of explaining what print on demand is and how I can get started. I will definitely check out the Shopify Academy, I never knew they provided their own training courses and all for free.

    Reply
    • Hi 

      Thanks for your comment, I am glad you found my article helpful, yes I was surprised about the free training by Shopify as well, everyone just wants to sell you their $1000 courses when some of the best stuff is either free or way cheaper.

      All the best

      Reply

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