How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business in 2024 (A Beginner’s Guide)

November 16, 2023 • Zachary Amos

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Starting a print-on-demand (POD) business is an exciting but also daunting process. As with most business models or ideas, it takes a holistic outlook combined with a growth mindset. Here is a beginner’s guide for starting a POD business in 2024.

What Is Print-on-Demand and How Does it Work?

Print-on-demand is a business model that has been around for years. It is often compared to dropshipping and although they are similar, they are not the same. As the name would suggest, POD refers to a company — supplier — printing artwork on an item as soon as someone places an order.

The way POD works is that the designer creates several designs and uploads them to different products. The items are then hosted on an e-commerce marketplace or a stand-alone platform. When a client orders an item, the supplier prints and delivers the product to the customer — in some cases, they use third-party companies to help with this.

In general, the owner pays the supplier after a customer has paid and placed an order. With other business models, there are many responsibilities the entrepreneur needs to take care of. For example, they usually need to order stock beforehand and pay for a warehouse to store them.

With POD, there is none of that. Instead, the main focus is on creating designs and marketing your store. Typically, print-on-demand is regarded as a low-risk business model since there is no need for a significant upfront investment — bulk ordering for stock and warehousing for storing the goods.

How To Start a Print-on-Demand Business

Starting a POD business is easier than most people would think. The start-up costs are generally low and require a time investment to get everything set up.

POD allows you to personalize your products as you see fit. While the steps will differ from business to business, here is a quick guide people can use to get their company up and running.

Step 1: Find Your Niche

Many people starting with POD plan to sell to everyone. Generally, this is not the best idea. A more recommended approach is to specialize and select a target audience you want to sell to.

This is called a niche and provides many advantages to entrepreneurs. It is easier to sell to a select market you know really well than it is to sell to everybody. Your chosen niche can be anything you want.

Many prefer to look at their interests and base their store on that. Choosing a profitable niche will require a lot of research to determine which ones make the most sense. Here are a few things that can help you:

  • Perform keyword research: Keyword research can share insight into what people are searching for. Many tools can help with this, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz and Ahrefs. Another helpful tool is Google Trends, which can show the popularity of topics.
  • Examine best-selling products: Look at best-selling products and what other print-on-demand stores sell. This could help you identify a profitable niche to go into.

Step 2: Select the Platform For Your POD Business

After you have chosen your niche, it is time to select the platform you will use. There are two choices to choose from:

  • Marketplace: A marketplace is where many different merchants list their products to sell. This is a popular option for people first entering the POD space. Examples are eBay, RedBubble and Etsy.
  • Platform/Own website: The option is where the entrepreneur uses an e-commerce platform to build their own stand-alone store. This option is more professional and provides you with the chance to design your store the way you want it. Popular choices include WooCommerce, Wix and Shopify.

When selecting your POD platform, it is essential to conduct adequate research. Here are a few different marketplaces and platforms to consider:

  • Etsy
  • Printful
  • Redbubble
  • Printify
  • Shopify
  • Ebay
  • Bigcommerce
  • Wix
  • WooCommerce

Step 3: Start Designing or Outsource

The next step is to create the designs you will add to the products. Remember to think about the goods you intend to add the artwork to. A common pitfall new sellers make is that they only focus on shirts.

With print-on-demand, there are multiple items you can choose from, such as cups, tote bags, hoodies, leggings and many others. You can create your designs on any designing platform such as Photoshop, Canva, Inkscape or GIMP. If you struggle to create the design yourself, you can outsource it to a freelance designer.

Here are a few popular platforms where you can find someone with the necessary skills to aid you:

  • Behance
  • 99designs
  • Upwork
  • Fiverr

Step 4: Design Your Store

After you have a few designs, you can start creating your store. Depending on the platform you have chosen, the setup phase can differ. Carefully consider how you want your store to look and how you want customers to interact with it.

In many cases, if you choose a platform such as Shopify, you can use a template where the entire layout is already taken care of. Finish the setup of your store and ensure that everything is working properly.

Step 5: Select a Price Point For Your Products

Pricing your products is extremely vital. In an ideal world, you want to sell unique items people can’t find at a local store. This will allow you to increase the percentage of your markups. Remember to keep shipping fees in mind when pricing your items.

Perform research to identify an average price that people sell similar products for. Keep your pricing competitive and ensure that your markup is large enough to cover other additional fees you have.

Step 6: Start Advertising Your POD Business

After successfully setting up your store, it is time to advertise it. The main idea is to intrigue prospects, drive them to your store and hopefully get a sale. There are many different marketing channels you can choose from.

It is best to perform research to determine which will work the best with your niche. When advertising a POD store, there are two popular methods. Creating content through blogs, videos or articles — content marketing or using social media.

Step 7: Manage and Adapt

The last step is to manage and adapt. You will need to know how your store is doing and how customers interact with it. Consider adding analytic tools to help you accurately track your site’s performance, such as Google Analytics.

This will allow you to make business decisions that drive your company forward. Often, things do not go as planned or new technology releases that can threaten your organization in some way. To stay competitive, you will need to face challenges head-on and adapt to new innovations in your industry.

Making Your Print-on-Demand Business a Success

As with any business, it is essential to do proper research before starting. This will reduce the chances of you running into common and easy-to-avoid headaches.

Remember, once your print-on-demand business is set up and making sales, you need to manage it effectively. It is all about fine-tuning what works and eliminating what does not. With hard work and a holistic outlook, you can drive your business to success.

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