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How to Start a Print on Demand Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Print-on-demand printing is an excellent way to get into the world of e-commerce without the expense and risk that go with the business.

It is not necessary to purchase inventory in the beginning and hope that it’s successful. Suppliers manage storage, inventory, and fulfillment, as well as production and printing. You only pay for the items you offer. Similar to dropshipping however, for custom items.

While it’s simple and cost-effective to begin however, there’s more involved in launching the business of printing on demand that you’d believe.

In this article we will explain what is needed to get and running and set to succeed one step at one time.

How to Start a Print on Demand Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Define Your Business Goals
  • Choose Products Your Audience Actually Wants
  • Pick Your Channels
  • Figure Out How You’ll Create & Source Designs
  • Choose Your Print on Demand Supplier

Starting a business that prints on demand looks much like opening an online store whatever the model of business. As with traditional e-commerce and dropshipping and even sites that sell SaaS subscriptions. The process all starts with a strategy.

It is necessary to confirm your concept to register your business and begin building your brand and website.

If you’re new to the world of e-commerce I’d suggest reading the following guide on how to start an online company.

This article will give you an introduction to the basics before we dive into what is the “fine printing” of what an effective PoD business really entails.

Define Your Business Goals

The first step is to determine the goals you’re hoping to achieve when you launch a print-on-demand company.

Yes, much of it’s about earning profits, however you’ll have focus on specifics if are looking to establish an enterprise that is sustainable.

Think about whether you’d like to concentrate on a specific area of business. Consider home decor, custom art or personalized dog clothing You get the idea.

Are you planning to design your shop around a particular subject or passion? If you’re a popular yoga teacher or a yoga instructor, your store could concentrate on yoga-related products such as custom-printed yoga mats, yoga pants and other accessories. If you’re a cook, you might sell things like cutting boards, food items and even cookbooks with recipes that are physical.

The overarching theme could be your YouTube or podcast channel. In that scenario, you’ll probably be selling merchandise that is associated with your fandom.

It is possible to start a print-on demand company for any number of reasons.

Here are a few examples:

  • Make money from a particular skill or hobby. Artists, writers gamers, musicians or even someone who is passionate about baking or tennis might consider launching the PoD company to make their passions or talents into $$$. This method allows budding creators to try their hand at the business without risk.
  • Sell merchandise to a fan base that already exists. If you already have a loyal audience beginning a print-on demand business will allow you to diversify your income streams and strengthen your relationship to fans. When it comes to sourcing products, your best bet is to let fans steer the process.
  • Generate passive earnings. Some sellers get printed on demand in order to earn passive income similar to dropshipping entrepreneurs. Money is the focus in the game. The focus is on finding niche markets in the market, identifying trends that are emerging and seeking the highest margins.
  • Test an idea for a product or business. Another reason to launch the print-on-demand business is that it is an inexpensive way to test ideas or products without the risk of purchasing inventory or building an entire new product. Since you don’t handle the production storage, fulfillment, or production within your company, you’re able play around with a low risk.
  • Print items for giveaways/rewards/loyalty programs. You might also incorporate elements of a print-on-demand business to reward your customers/fans. For example, customized apparel or stickers, wall art and tote bags can be excellent gifts for your VIP customers and employees. They can also be used these items as part of an swag bag or sign-up incentive to draw new customers. It could be an extension of a print-on demand business or a promotion method that is compatible with an alternative business model.

Choose Your Products

You might think print-on-demand is all T-shirts and totes, but there’s an endless array of customizable options that offer something that feels more unique/out-of-the-box. Numerous retailers offer customized sheets, sneakers, backpacks as well as watches, and BlueTooth speakers.

For example, here are a few custom-made boots that are available through JetPrint:


The most important thing is to choose items that are appealing to your intended audience.

You only pay for the items that you sell. However, the odds of establishing a successful business will increase significantly using data, not just your guts or intuitions to decide what’s available in your store.

This can also help you save from the time and effort in the process of creating and promoting products that anyone wants.

How do you choose the best products? Well, there are many tools to help you get insights, including some well-known sources.

Social networks

One of the simplest methods to gather information about your product is to simply participate in discussions that are relevant to your target audience on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and Quora. You can find your target market wherever it is hanging out online.

Engaging with your followers or even checking out feeds and forums and feeds, you’ll gain a better understanding of what your readers are most currently excited about and the words they are using to discuss it.

At this point, stop active promotion of your business, instead, focus on taking notes and asking questions.

While engaging in social media can be a great method of getting to know your target audience and the topics they are interested in however, it’s not particularly effective. If you’ve got the funds for it in the budget of your company, you should consider investing into a social listening system.

Some options worth a look:

Data for shopping and searching

  • Google Analytics & Google Keyword Tool. Google’s SEO free as well as PPC tools are a great way to discover what people are looking for and how they got to your website, and which content and campaigns were the most efficient in driving traffic to your site and generating sales.
  • Amazon. If you don’t have a functioning store (and have access to all the statistics that are associated with the area) look up Movers and Shakers or the top-selling products in categories to see what’s popular on.
  • Etsy. Similar concept. The difference is that Etsy provides the latest gifts, lists of suggestions and gift ideas that are popular for various recipients, including pets, kids and so on.
  • Keywords Everywhere. An extension that is free (with the option of paying for more specific analysis) that suggests keywords based on queries that you input into the box for searching. For instance, here’s what results when I type in “product discovery websites:”
  • Exploding Topics–a free application that seeks to highlight emerging subjects before they reach the headlines. There is the option to sort results by category, including the e-commerce industry. However, this tool is designed to start the process of research by serving up some keywords or brands you’d like to investigate.
  • Google Trends. If you’re uncertain of where to begin your research, take a look at Google Shopping trends for top searches as well as emerging trends. In contrast to topics that are trending in the general search and YouTube categories, results for shopping are focused on searches that have “high commercial value.”

As of the time as of this writing this article, Nike sneakers, Nike, and Pokemon were all trending. In that instance you can type “sneakers” in the Google search bar and conduct some further research.


Third-party marketplaces such as Etsy, Amazon, eBay and Walmart permit you to connect with a large market. However these marketplaces will make a portion of your profits and demand sellers to follow the strict requirements for the product’s photos description, shipping options and more.

They’re also extremely competitive, which is why it’s crucial to know your target audience and create products that are tailored to their individual interests. And If you’re a creator or creator, improve the enjoyment of being a an active participant in the community.

Marketplaces are not without their lengthy list of issues and an even more extensive list of rules to follow, staying on the right track is about leveraging the name and reach of technology giants to help grow your business.

Yes, you’ll lose some control regarding pricing, policy, and the way you present your offerings. However, it’s easier to attract new customers and boost sales when you’ren’t starting with a blank slate.

This tutorial on making sales through Amazon describes the requirements to succeed on the largest marketplace for digital goods on earth.

When your company grows and expands, you can begin shifting traffic to your site in order to keep more of your earnings. You can also automatize your marketing with tools such as the Systeme.

Consider marketplaces and shoppable social networks as a part of your marketing/demand generation strategy. You “pay to participate” however it’s an investment to aid in the growth of your business.

Develop an Idea for Sourcing and Making Designs

Once you’ve decided on what you’ll sell and who to determine where your designs are derived from.

Think about whether you require an experienced designer

You’ll need to have an idea of what elements that are part of designing are able to handle on your own and which are best off outsource. Write down everything that requires a visual asset. From there, search for experts to fill the holes.

This could include:

  • Branding elements–logos, typography, colors, style guide, banners, etc.
  • Design alternatives for PoD products
  • Photography for campaign pages, product pages and more.
  • Downloads–posters, stickers, overlays, emotes, etc.

It’s possible that you are great with a paintbrush , but you don’t have the skills to let your analog art shine in a digital space. Perhaps branding isn’t your thing as well. Or maybe your branding abilities aren’t up to scratch.

A second hand on the deck is worth the cost. It will make you appear more professional and assist you to offer products that customers will appreciate.

How you choose to hire an artist and the tasks you assign to them depends on A: what gap you’re looking to fill and A your budget.

For instance, a person who has a large following may employ a designer on a permanent basis or employ a freelancer frequently. The advantage is that you’ll have the opportunity to work on the design with the artist, utilize feedback from the audience to influence designs, and build an identity that’s consistent across all products and platforms.

However in the event that a long-term job isn’t in your budget it’s not a problem, you only need to be prudent.

You could try commissioning designs from websites like Upwork, Fiverr, or Behance, which provide more affordable access to professional-quality designs.

Take a look at online tools for design to fill in the gap

Design tools online cover an extensive array of capabilities, features and levels of experience. Here are a few examples of tools that you can utilize, though your selection will depend on the product you’re selling, your current design abilities, and the tools you already have in your arsenal:

  • Adobe Tools are perfect for creating attractive designs. Photoshop and Illustrator come with a large array of tools, however they have an arduous learning curve. However, their drag-and-drop interface, Spark allows non-designers to create easy designs for T-shirts logos, as well as social posts. Additionally, their photo editing platform, Lightroom allows users to improve the quality of photos for products and make custom filters.
  • Drag-and-drop platforms such as Canva are geared towards beginners, with templates that serve as digital design security guardrails There are many that are between the two. Placeit offers similar features, but offers a mockup maker and templates for podcasting, gaming as well as apparel design and much more.
  • The CAD Crowd and TurboSquid can create 3D-printable images by starting from scratch or by using templates already in place.
  • Font Bundles offers commercial-use font collections that you can integrate to your layouts. Here’s a taste of what you can find on the site’s “Sans Serif” category.


  • Stock photo sites such as UnsplashShutterstock as well as PixaBay can also be useful. It isn’t advisable to rely too heavily on stock images however they can be a great way to complete any gaps you have in your asset catalogue, particularly when you do a little some editing and include original images and designs. Also, I’d avoid using images that have models with names.
  • It’s not an end-of-the-world scenario but it could signal your readers that you lack the money to invest in new designs or digital assets. In some cases it could be detrimental to your image.

Choose Your Print-on-Demand Supplier

Once you’ve determined what you want to sell and how you’ll procure your designs you’ll need to find an on-demand printer.

Here are some options worth considering:

  • Printify connects sellers with a global network of PoD suppliers across the world. This lets you find materials according to the location of the customer, which ensures affordable shipping costs and speedy turnaround times.
  • Printful provides a range of printing options–cut-and-sew, sublimation, embroidery, the option to add custom tags and inserts to orders, and includes a mockup generator you can use to preview products before publishing to your site.
  • Teelaunch is a platform that offers an array of products that can be customized such as cutting boards, rugs and pet items. The site offers options for printing, such as laser etching, cut-and sew and all-over prints.
  • JetPrint provides distinctive custom items like printed hoodies that can be all-over as well as custom-designed sneakers, quilts and watches.
  • CustomCat has two-day turnaround times and custom-designed services that surpass printing, offering dye sublimation and embroidery.
  • Lulu xPress caters to self-publishers and offers printed products such as hardcover and paperback books, calendars, magazines and comics that come in a variety of sizes.
  • SPOD is an Shopify integration that lets you to upload your own files, create designs by hand, or alter one of the 50+ free templates.

Product Selection

The first thing to consider is the the selection of products.

A large catalog is certainly beneficial however, it’s much more important to consider whether a company offers appropriate items. Examine the offerings of their vendors, read reviews, and attempt to determine an accurate representation of whether the products meet high-quality expectations and are in line with the audience’s needs and desires.

Remember, you’re not bound to one provider. You are able to mix, swap, and change providers however you want.


It’s all business-related stuff If you’re looking to make money it is essential to price your product correctly.

Rates are based on many elements, such as the audience, industry, and the uniqueness or quality of the items you offer.

When you look at suppliers, you’ll need to consider the bigger overall picture. In addition to paying for inventory, but you’re additionally paying for

  • Costs for the product
  • Estimated profit margins
  • Subscription fees and membership fees
  • Shipping costs

The most efficient method to determine your price is by using an automated tool that draws information from multiple sources to figure out the amount customers will be willing to pay. This type of thing comes standard in any e-commerce research/drop-shipping/market research tool, like the ones we’ve mentioned above.

Some print-on demand providers provide profit margin calculators free on their site and as part of their subscription to a month. For instance, Placeit has one that shows the price of each item as well as how much you’ll earn dependent on how much you’re able to sell the item for.


But, it’s important to note that these tools only provide insights for consumer products that aren’t customized/unique–value is determined based on factors like materials, brand, scarcity, etc.

The issue is, you’ll have to take into account the value of your designs worth. Consider how much time you put into the design, analyzing your market, and hiring experts to assist in the design process or market, taking photos of your merchandise, etc.

Turnaround Times

Websites such as Custom Cat and SPOD offer two-day turnarounds on orders which is a major selling point considering that consumers now expect online orders to be delivered within a couple of days.

If you’re looking for “simple” items like totes and T-shirts, speedy suppliers could be your best choice. However, you must be sure that they’re not sacrificed in quality to speed.

If you want higher-end, more “specialized” products It is best to concentrate on the quality and workmanship.

For instance, Teelaunch orders spend 3-6 days to be produced, however the majority of their products come with more complicated customizations, such as alterations and etchings.

In this case, the main objective is to make sure that the items you sell arrive within the stated timeframe. As long as you’re honest about products that have a longer duration, your customers should not be a problem waiting. TLDR: don’t promise Amazon speeds if you can’t deliver.

Integrations with other Platforms & Stores

There are two types of suppliers for print-on demand. Print-on-demand services (like the ones mentioned above) permit users to design directly on the platform. Also, you can upload designs from other sources.

Print-on-demand marketplaces are comparable, in that you can create items on the platform and the seller manages fulfillment and shipping. However, market models require customers to sell their designs through the same platform along with other sellers.

The issue in PoD marketplaces is that they don’t let you establish your brand beyond the platform, thus limiting your capacity to build your business sustainably across different platforms.

Beyond ensuring that you are using a PoD provider permits the transfer of designs to a different location directly through platforms such as Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, eBay, etc. will save you lots of time. Some solutions integrate with Shopify and others accommodate your entire omnichannel network.


Final Thoughts

Print-on demand is a versatile business model with low risk when done correctly can allow budding entrepreneurs, creators and artists to create additional revenue streams, expand their fan base, and establish an image that they can expand.

It’s however not as easy as adding products to your online store and sharing links there and then. Like all businesses, the success of PoD depends on its strategy at the core access to accurate data, as well as the expertise and tools to support intelligent decision-making.

You’ll have to do lots of study to make sure you select the appropriate products for your target audience. PoD providers that offer high-quality products at an affordable price, and can reliably send orders delivered in a timely manner and with integrity.

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