how to start print on demand business

How To Start Print on Demand Business in 2022?

The pandemic has entirely changed how we live and work. With more people leaving the office to venture out and find opportunities outside the traditional course, there are now more doors to One of the tempting premises is developing a business on your own.

What is print on demand and how does it work?

Many people want to have their own business but not many can achieve this goal. One of the biggest challenges preventing them from moving ahead is the lack of initial investment.

With print on demand, this is no longer a big issue. Print on demand is a form of online business which allows you to sell products without actually owning stocks, keep inventory, and ship orders. All of these processes are managed by a third-party company.

Print on demand is slightly similar to dropshipping, but with more opportunities because this business model allows sellers to print their own designs, not taking whatever is offered by the suppliers.

Print on demand prosPrint on demand cons
  • Low entry barrier

Most print on demand companies do not require any initial cost to start fulfilling. Only when customers buy your products, will they charge you for the production cost.

  • Little quality control

It is hard to control the product quality, especially when most parts of your business are operated automatically online, by a third-party print on demand supplier. You have to rely on suppliers with the product quality.

  • No inventory, no unsold stocks

All products are made on orders. You won’t have to pay for a product until it is sold to a customer. It means that you don’t have to stress over stock management and stock clearance.

  • Longer shipping time

Product is only printed when an order comes, meaning that it can not be shipped immediately. The production time will extend the total shipping time as well as increase the shipping cost.

  • Selling globally

It is easy to extend your business to a global audience with print on demand. Some print on demand companies have printing facilities and printing partners in different locations across the world.

  • Lower profit margins

The production cost of print on demand is higher than traditional products, which lowers the profit margins for sellers.

Read our blog post to know full details about the print on demand business model and how it can help you build an online business.

How to start print on demand bussiness

The concept of print on demand sounds like an exciting idea to create a stream of income or even establish a successful business. But how can you start and navigate into the world of ecommerce and print on demand?

Let’s go through the guide on how to start a print on demand business step by step.

Research market and pick a niche

start print on demand business finding niches

Before taking any leap of faith in your entrepreneurial adventure, it is important to take a step back and observe how the market is operating and find a specific niche with enough potential and low competition.

Niche is particularly important with print on demand. This business model allows you to create an unlimited number of designs with a limited number of product options. This characteristic of print on demand business can be a blessing and a curse: You have room to express your creativity but face stiff competition for products of the same category.

Take a mug for example. You can create and try multiple designs to use on your mugs. There are a vast variety of mugs that are made in bulk out there, not to mention the custom print on demand mugs as yours.

The only way to stand out is to avoid selling mugs with general and common designs. Instead, focus on one niche with passionate buyers who look for specific designs that resonate with their interests or identity. It is practically what you do when designing with a niche in mind – create designs that speak to your target audience.

In order to make yourself noticed in a sea of products, it requires a lot of work into product research, finding out what resonates with your customers, and boosting sales volume. Here are a few crucial steps you can follow to find a profitable niche.

Do research on competitors

print on demand market research

The quickest way to find profitable niches is through investigating your competitors’ business. What is working for them might work for you as well. By following what is tried and proven to be successful, you can save time and effort into doing research.

But how can you spy on your competitors?

  • Use tools: There are a wide variety of tools that allow you to get reports on the best-selling products on online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, or eBay or extract information about ecommerce stores. These tools offer a quick and comprehensive overview of the target market, allowing you to notice what’s trending in the market and then make informed decisions on what niche to focus on.
  • Manually research the market and competitors: The other option is to browse through the popular marketplaces to see what’s trending and what is attracting buyers. Note if you’re logging into your account or using your browser, the products shown might be curated specifically for you and not reflect the whole market.

You can use incognito mode or log out of your account to get the most subjective and broad view of the market.

Doing research by yourself can take time, but you can gain and learn a lot from your competitors along the way.

When doing market research, always put on the shoes of the customers to understand what catches their attention and what they need

Detect market trends

explore market trend

An important aspect of niche research is to detect trending products and ideas in the market. By following the market trends, you can benefit from these growing interests in certain products and designs and gain more sales for your store.

How to find market trends

  • Read market reports from trusted sources: Big corporations working within the ecommerce industry usually release their market reports and findings to the public. These can give you valuable insight into buyers’ behaviors and interests.
  • Expose yourself to different sources of information: In order to get ahead of your competitors, it is important to jump on trends before the trend has dominated the target market and become saturated.

Go to places where your customers are hanging out to find out what has caught their interest and what trend has the potential to blow up.

Platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tiktok, or even Reddit or Quora are places where you can notice a trend from a distance.

  • Confirm the demand for the niche: After doing a thorough research and noting down some potential niches, there is a final step to confirm the demand for the niche. If the niche does not have enough customer base who are willing to buy your products, there is no point in investing time and money into delivering such designs and products.

A high search volume can justify the popularity and the potential of a trend in the market. You can use popular keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahref, Moz, or Google Trend to see where the niche is heading to.

Above are all the essential steps that you can make in order to define potential niches for your print on demand business.

If you want to know more details about niche research, read our blog post on How to find a niche to sell print on demand.

Find print on demand products to sell

After identifying what niche to focus on, it’s high time to plan what products to put designs on. There are a few ways to help you strategically choose the right products that can generate good sales.

  • Choose popular products: Items like mugs, T-shirts, hoodies, posters are very common among print on demand businesses. These products are very popular and have a huge demand. When selling these custom products, you will face harsh competition because literally, everyone is trying to get a piece of the market. Read our list of the best print on demand products to sell thiss year. 
  • Find unique or less common print on demand products: One way to go around the high competition is to find products that fewer people are selling. Of course, such products are harder to find and have lower demand. However, with these products, your designs have a higher chance to get noticed. Besides avoiding competition, it is also a great way to increase the profit margin. 

Print on demand companies are continuously updating their catalogs with more unique and attractive products for sellers to fulfill. That’s why you should always keep an eye on the newly added products on the print on demand market. 

Create Your Own Print on Demand Business with Merchize

Merchize is offering a huge catalog of over 200 products and counting. Check our full product lists to find unique and attractively priced products to fill your store with.

Open your print on demand online store

Now that you have a clear plan on what products to sell and what niche market to aim at, you are all set to execute print on demand ideas and bring it into reality. The next big step is to establish your online print on demand store. Depending on your goals and capability, you can choose one of the following approaches to open your online store:

Create a store on print on demand sites

Print on demand sites are practically an ecommerce marketplace that sells solely print on demand products with designs submitted by users. Examples of these are Zazzle, Redbubble, Society6, etc.

These print on demand websites offer the most convenient way to start selling print on demand. What you need to do is submitting designs to these platforms where they print, ship your orders and even promote your listings.

start print on demand online store

Open stores on popular online retailing platforms

Another popular option for print on demand sellers is to choose big ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. All of these platforms are open for you to partner with print on demand suppliers to sell custom products. You can integrate 

The perks of these online retailing platforms are the huge existing buyers base. If you can take this advantage in your favor, it is possible to multiply your income. 

Build your own ecommerce websites

The last option is to create a print on demand store on your own registered domain. This option allows you to be in full control of your print on demand business. In addition, it is easier for you to develop your own brand as you have the power to customize and adjust the appearance and functionality of your store.

Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommerce are some best places where you can create your own fully functional store.

Create print on demand designs

Once you establish a place to display your products, you can create print on demand designs and start selling. 

Designs are highly important for print on demand business – they can either make or break your POD business. 

create print on demand design

How can you create a design that sells well? Here are a few tips to create designs that can capture buyers’ interest and encourage customers to buy your products. 

  • Stick to the niches you choose: When you have your niches identified, it is easier to create a customer profile in mind. Based on the picture of your customers, you can now understand what keeps them interested and what gets them excited. If you can tap into their emotion and passion, you are getting close to unlocking their buying desire. 
  • Find inspirations on Etsy: Etsy is a large online marketplace for print on demand. You can find literally any niche and print on demand products. On Etsy, it is easy to see what is selling in good numbers. With the aids from spy tools, you can easily grasp best-selling design ideas to get inspiration.
  • Be careful with copyrighted and trademarked designs: A common mistake that many sellers make is creating designs using copyrighted and trademarked content. It’s tempting to leverage content that has already succeeded and is popular among a large target audience. But if you want to keep your business going for a long time, you should avoid it at all costs. Using trademarked and copyrighted content can get you banned from the marketplace that you’re selling on, or worse, you will find yourself caught in a costly lawsuit. 
  • Add personalization factor to your designs: Customization is a big deal in the print on demand business model. With print on demand, you are allowed to create customizable designs. Custom products are selling like hotcakes on platforms like Etsy or Amazon. It is recommended that you apply this attraction to your designs.
  • Be creative but don’t venture too far from the conventional approach: Creativity is a valuable asset to sell print on demand products. However, being creative doesn’t guarantee stable income to your bank account. Sometimes, your creative ideas don’t resonate with a majority of your niche and can’t generate good sales. 

The best advice is to stick with what has been proved to succeed and add your own twists to create a unique design that can attract buyers and highlight your brand.

Promote your products

You have studied your niche market, set up your store, and created appealing designs – it seems like everything is moving in the right direction and you can slow down and wait for the orders to flood into your store. But that scenario is far from reality.

In fact, you need to give your best to promote your products and store to the right audience in order to push your print on demand business forward. Or else, you might never see your bottom line go up.

Similar to other regular online businesses, in order to promote your POD store, you can implement different approaches like email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, or paid advertising. 

Let’s go through what you need to do with each promotion method. 

Email marketing

email marketing print on demand

For $1 spent on email marketing, you get $42 in return on average. (1)

Email marketing offers a free ticket to generate sales for your print on demand business. If done correctly, you can totally convert your email list into a valuable source of income. Here are some essential tips to create a successful email marketing campaign. 

  • Start with a catchy headline
  • Write quality and high-converting content
  • Offer attractive exclusive deals for your email marketing campaign
  • Personalize your email campaigns

If you are selling print on demand on your own website, you can add a call-in pop-up to your website in order to grow your contact list. It is also possible to generate email lists via your social media profiles. 

Social media marketing

social media market for print on demand business

In recent years, social media platforms have become the main medium for marketing for many brands. It offers a cost-effective way to drive traffic to your store, convert interested buyers into customers, introduce your brand to new customers, and facilitate the relationship between brands and customers. If you know how to harness the power of social media, you can leverage the brand images to a new level without spending a huge budget.

44.8% of internet users reach out to social media to find brand-related information.

Here are a few ways to build up and utilize your social media presence

  • Create giveaway events for your fans on social media platforms encouraging them to send pictures and stories around your brand and products
  • Repost content created by your customers
  • Keep a conversation about your brand going – response timely and show up whenever necessary to remind your customers of your brand
  • Start influencer marketing to promote your brand to a group of the potential audience 
  • Use video content to approach a wider audience 
  • Remember that frequency is a key to social media 

SEO

SEO marketing stragety print on demand

Each day, there are billions of people who are going to the Google search bar to find information about products and services. If you can grasp the opportunity of showing up on the first search result pages, you can boost the traffic to your store and website significantly. Besides the Google search engine, you should also pay attention to optimizing for the search engine on the ecommerce site that you are selling on. 

Of course, you can always pay your way to the first page, but why have to when you can still push your ranking organically?

Here are a few tips if you want to use SEO to empower your brand visibility:

  • Find potential keywords with high search volume and low competition and use them wisely
  • Optimize your title, product description for search engines

If you are selling through your own website, remember to do the following:

  • Make sure that your website is responsive, fast-loading and user-friendly 
  • Create related blog contents for your own website to drive traffic as well as establish your brand image
  • Optimize your product category and navigation for users to easily find products and for Google to read your site’s content 
  • Check and analyze your website’s traffic to know what you are doing right and wrong with your website and have insights about your customer’s behavior on your site.

paid advertising for POD

Among these approaches, paid advertising is the most crucial to creating a profitable POD business. Another marketing strategy can also work to attract buyers to your store at a very small cost. However, it takes a long time to see the results, and the effectiveness is nowhere near paid advertising. 

While paid advertising promises a high ticket to generate sales and revenue, if done wrong, it can cause a hole in your budget.

You can run ads on a few platforms for example

  • Google Ads
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Ads on online marketplace like Amazon, Etsy, eBay

Here are a few tips to keep in mind in order to run a successful advertising campaign for your store

  • Target the right audience, always specify users that share interests in your niches and users of your target demographic
  • Try remarketing – targeting users who have visited your sites but not yet converted. 
  • Keep twisting testing your ads and keep what is working and avoid what’s not 
  • Look at what your competitors are doing with the advertising campaign and learn from them

Expand your business

If you have completed the above steps, hopefully, you have created enough momentum for your business to propel against the growing competition. 

expand POD business

Even when you have gained some initial success with print on demand business, there is nothing set in stone that your online store will continue to grow and remain successful. In order to keep your print on demand business growing, you need the right strategy to expand your business. If you can grow your own store or even repeat the success with other stores, it is a confirmation that you have mastered the art of eCommerce business. 

Here are a few tips to sustain your business growth in the long run 

  • Pay attention to your store performance metrics, analyze data, and find insights to better operate your store
  • Try and experience new potential products that not many competitors are providing
  • Try to develop and establish strong branding for your business 
  • Do your best to provide good customer services 
  • Expand your business to multiple channels, even try with the physical store if possible. 

Tips for print on demand 

Define clear goals for your print on demand store

Goals play the role of a compass for you to navigate into the world of entrepreneurship. Your goals can be as simple as creating an eCommerce store and running it as a side hustle. Or if you are an artist, you might want to set a goal of monetizing your artwork and creating a source of passive income.

Depending on your goals, you can choose the suitable approach to build your print on demand business, like where to create your store, how much money should you spend on running your business, what market and audience is aligned with your business goal. 

Always order samples before start selling custom products

You can order samples from print on demand companies. At Merchize, we are offering a special discount of 20% for sample orders. With this benefit, you can easily get your hand on our print on demand products to assess the quality and have a real experience of the products.

Create Your Own Print on Demand Business with Merchize

Merchize helps you to bring your designs into reality and, of course profitable products. Get 20% off for your sample order now.

Include real-life mockups for your products

Attractive product images are very helpful to draw customers and build trust for your print on demand online store. But it is also a weakness for print on demand products because sellers don’t have access to the real products. Instead, print on demand stores relies mostly on product mockups. Mockups can be easily generated however, they can be repetitive and lifeless sometimes. In order to fully leverage the power of product images, try to create more real-life mock-ups of the products to keep the customers interested and trust your brand.

Offer free shipping to attract customers 

High shipping cost is one of the main reasons for car abandonment. To eliminate this barrier, you can try to offer free shipping. 

Free shipping does not necessarily mean that you will cover the shipping costs entirely. Instead, you can add the shipping cost into the retail price and offer free shipping. You can also put a minimum spending requirement for buyers to get free shipping, which encourages customers to buy more products from your store. 

References:

1, DMA, Marketer email tracker 2019 retrieved from https://dma.org.uk/uploads/misc/marketers-email-tracker-2019.pdf
2. Karolina Mikolajczyk, How to Use Social Media for Ecommerce (Tips and Examples) retrieved from https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-ecommerce/