Do you like to draw, make graphics, or are just really good at coming up with witty things to say that would look great on a t-shirt? If so, you might have the fundamentals to start your own print on demand business and make some money off of your creativity. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What Is Print On Demand?
Print on Demand (or POD for short) is a type of business where you sell custom-designed merchandise online. As your customers place orders, a fulfillment company does all of the physical work or printing the design on the product, packing it, and shipping it directly to the customer.
POD businesses are ideal for people who are looking for work from home or side hustle style arrangments. Because you never handle any of the physical inventory or do any of the actual work, it’s a low cost and low-risk business to get involved in. You can put all your time and effort into thinking up more great products and perfecting your marketing strategy.
What Kind Of Products Are Sold Via POD?
Virtually any sort of wearable or decorative item you can think of could be sold through a print on demand business. Here are some of the most common categories and types of products sold:
- Clothing – T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, boxers, shoes, athletic wear, drawstring bags, etc.
- Art – Prints, canvas art, wall decals, etc.
- Tech accessories – Phone cases, tablet cases, pop-socket grips, etc.
- Household goods – Beach towels, hand towels, aprons, rugs, cushion covers, pillowcases, etc.
- Office – Custom stationery, notebooks, mousepads, awards, etc.
- Gifts – Mugs, frames, novelty socks, ties, etc.
… and that’s just scraping the top of the surface. Here are over 100 unique examples from Ecommerce CEO.
How Much Money Can You Earn From Print On Demand?
One of the most inspiring print on demand success stories comes from a video on YouTube by Wholesale TED. In it, the host Sarah interviews entrepreneur Michael Shih who makes over $1 million per year with his print on demand business. In fact, one of his first products – a colorful skull t-shirt – started earning five figures per month almost right away!
Of course, much of Michael’s success could also be attributed to his strong marketing efforts. Still, that just goes to show you the potential of tapping into this powerful outlet.
The amount of income you can expect to earn will depend upon your profit margins for the products you’re selling and how many of them you can sell per month. As a simple example, if you’ve got an item that generates $10 in profits and you sell 50 of them per month, then you should expect to take in $500 per month.
What Are The Startup Costs Of A POD Business?
Perhaps one of the best parts of the print on demand business is that it costs almost nothing to start. Since the fulfillment service handles all of the heavy lifting for you, there will be no need to set up a physical store, purchase or store inventory, or even manage shipping and handling.
You will, of course, need to have a computer and Internet connection. Depending on which type of commerce platform you partner with, you might also be required to register for a domain name and possibly hosting service (if you don’t have a website already). Altogether, both will cost you less than $100.
Do I Need To Be A Graphic Artist?
While a print on demand business can certainly be an awesome way for artists to express themselves creatively, it is certainly not required that you be an artist yourself. Lots of text-based products sell just fine (think of snarky sayings you might find on Internet memes).
Even if you have just a minimal amount of artistic creativity, there are lots of free programs you can use to make all kinds of graphics. Software like Canva lets you create unlimited designs with thousands of options for fonts and other images that look like they were created by a professional.
If you’d like to take things up a notch, you could always outsource any artistic tasks to a freelancer on a site like Fiverr or Upwork for relatively cheap.
How To Get Started With Print On Demand
Getting started making your own print on demand shop is a relatively straight-forward process. Here’s what you need to do to begin:
- Decide which products you’d like to offer. You can choose to have a wide selection of items or go very niche specializing in only a select few. As we mentioned, the profit margins on certain products will be better than others, so do some investigating upfront to see which one will potentially have the best return on investment.
- Put together a portfolio of graphics. Now is the time to start collecting all the phrases, graphics, and photos you’d like to offer to your customers. Again, these can either be creations of your own or purchased from freelance graphic artists. Do your homework ahead of time and see which niches or groups of people you’d like your products to appeal to.
- Select your selling platform. To sell your products, you’ll need a place for customers to visit and place orders. Partnering with a big-name platform like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Shopify or BigCommerce is an easy choice because they already have boat-loads of established traffic and can easily handle the financial transactions. You could also choose to work with eCommerce sellers like Ecwid that allow you to sell at multiple places at once (including your own website).
- Select your print on demand fulfillment service. In addition to a selling platform, you’ll also need to integrate with a print on demand site or supplier who can take care of producing the products. Numerous services integrate with the big-name platforms mentioned above. Look into names like Printful, SPOD, Printify, Print Aura, CustomCat, Lulu Xpress, Inkthreadable, etc.
How To Promote Your Print On Demand Business
Once your print on demand shop is set up and running, its time to start marketing your products as much as possible.
If you’ve got your own blog or website, you could use it to promote your items. Take lots of colorful photos and show the items in use. You could even have your readers send in their own photos. Alternatively, you could also guest post on other blogs within your niche.
Promoting your products through social media another simple option. To make your campaign as effective as possible, you may wish to take this process a step further by promoting your print on demand products with social media advertising. All of the major players (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) have pay per click (PPC) advertising options where you select various keywords and have your posts appear in the top of people’s feeds for the best visibility. Though it will cost you some money, lots of entrepreneurs (including the one from Wholesale TED we mentioned above) swear by it.