August 7, 2020

How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business in 5 Steps

Website monetization is a core activity looked upon by business owners due to its direct impact on the company’s bottom line. There is a cornucopia of conventional ways you can adapt to make your site productive but since the methods are often overused and too common, you may not find the level of success you’re really looking forward to. One of the not-so-obvious methods to tap into is print-on-demand (POD).

Print-on-demand is a practice of offering your audience various custom-made items like t-shirts, mugs, rugs, and household items in order to get customers and sales. This is a subtle yet powerful way to turn the attention of visitors within your niche to your business.

However, this method of product sourcing must use effective marketing strategies and be created on a high-performing ecommerce platform that supports it in order to yield good results.

How to Launch a Print-on-Demand Business

In the section above we gave an idea of what print-on-demand is and the types of products you can make with it. Nevertheless, getting down to the practical aspects of starting this type of business is not as easy as it sounds; substantial work is required. The sections below will help you to kickstart a print-on-demand business the right way.

Step 1: Choose Your Niche & Products

Print-on-Demand Business Product Trends

Before you do anything, you need to first pick a niche where you’re most likely to succeed. Only go with what you like, and if you don’t have an idea, then create a list of all the things you like. Some of the possible ideas include equestrian sports, comics, ecotourism, football, healthy living, etc. Your niche must be specific enough to hone in on core customers but also capable of attracting a wide audience.

Once you have selected a niche (or narrowed your options down to a few), it’s time to visit search engines and social media platforms to validate your ideas. Google Trends can help you know what people are saying regarding your niche and so can Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Reddit.

If there is very little conversation in a certain niche-based community, then it likely has no potential for a print-on-demand business to be built around it; you need one that is active with many discussion threads. Where possible, follow or keep tabs on these threads as the people that interact with them are likely to turn into your customers in the future.

Once you’ve selected a niche, it’s time to find print-on-demand product ideas within that niche. Some popular print-on-demand product ideas include mugs, t-shirts, posters, phone cases, hoodies, stickers, hats, and pillows. Even though there is a wide variety of choices, stick to your market needs and make sure that your designs will be printed products that make sense for your niche. For more product ideas, check out our article on the Top 10 Best Dropshipping Products You Can Sell with Printful.

Lastly, take a tour on Amazon, eBay, or any other common marketplaces to find out if your print-on-demand product idea is already being sold on the market. Don’t fret if someone is already selling it; it could be a sign that it’s a lucrative product to sell!

Step 2: Get Your Designs & Website Ready

Print-on-Demand Designs

Once you have a product idea and a niche, it’s time for the real work to begin. If you’re a skilled designer, then you’ll likely have an advantage over those who aren’t, as print-on-demand relies heavily on creating designs to be printed onto products. To create your products, you’ll have to craft your own designs or modify copyright-free design assets like ones from Creative Market. Remember to never copy and paste someone else’s work; it’s both unprofessional and illegal.

If you don’t have the time to make your own product designs or you don’t have the expertise, you can purchase nice designs at a reasonable price from places like Upwork, Fiverr, Design Pickle, and many more.

Once you have your product designs decided on, it’s time to get your website up and running. This can take a couple of days to do it right, but it’s essential to the future success of your print-on-demand business.

First, you need to select a platform to host your website. The most preferred ecommerce platforms are Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce/WordPress. These platforms provide you with easily customizable store themes so you can get your print-on-demand business up and running as quickly as possible. You will need to set up all the essential business pages like a homepage, shipping details page, contact page, and payment details page before accepting the first order, so don’t underestimate the time it will take to launch your website.

Step 3: Choose Your Print Provider & Add Products to Your Store

Print-on-Demand Product Suppliers

To create your print-on-demand products, you need to work with a print-on-demand supplier to actually bring your visions to life. Many print-on-demand suppliers have plugins that integrate directly with most major ecommerce platforms so you can connect your store directly to your supplier which makes order-handling easier and a more seamless experience.

The major print-on-demand suppliers that integrate directly with most major ecommerce platforms, like Shopify specifically, include Printful, Gooten, Printify, Print Aura, and Inkthreadable.

Step 4: Promote Your Store

Every business will remain unknown unless it’s promoted. As much as print-on-demand is the real deal, your store will simply be just another website in a huge online ecosystem unless you create a pathway for your customers to know it exists. You must get the word out about your print-on-demand business in order to make sales. Here are some of the marketing techniques you can rely on:

Set Up Several Major Social Media Accounts:
Social media platforms have become the best spots to hunt for leads and, most importantly, you can use them for free. Set up a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube account and use them to spread the word about your business. You don’t have to spread your efforts thin trying to manage too many accounts, however, just use the platform that is most relevant to your business model or one that you’re most familiar with.

Here are some tips to help you use social media effectively:

  • Join groups and post frequently to remain at the top of the feeds
  • Create a relevant hashtag for your store and request that your clients to use it when posting images of your products online
  • Use the 80/20 rule: In this case, 80% of your content should be entertaining and informative while the remaining 20% can be sales-driven
  • Reach out to influencers to help spread the word about your brand. Note that most of them can only endorse a product that aligns with their niche and values. We discussed how to work with influencers in more depth in our How to Work With Influencers to Promote Your Products article
  • Leverage paid social to balloon your sales numbers: With everyone using social media you need to climb a step up and create compelling ads and campaigns

Optimize Your Site Through SEO:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is and will always remain to be a powerful tool to take your brand to the first pages of search engines. SEO is mostly about quality content and optimizing pages for high-ranking keywords. You must find the appropriate keywords that many people are searching for and then craft top-notch content using those.

There are many different SEO techniques that you can adapt to your business. Take advantage of the countless guides online to learn how to optimize your website for traffic and sales.

Use Customer Reviews & Comments as Testimonials:
Sometimes, no one wants to listen to you if it seems like the sole intention is to promote your business. However, reviews from independent customers provide a powerful and credible way to market your brand and increase sales. Make sure they’re easily visible to website visitors on your homepage and make it clear that the reviews and testimonials come from real customers who’ve purchased your products.

Write Top-Quality Blog Posts:

Most ecommerce platforms rely heavily on content marketing as a way to spread the word about their products and services. Create roundup posts, reviews, and other content to post regularly on your print-on-demand website’s blog. Don’t forget to share the published content on your social platforms to interest your audience and direct more traffic to your site. By being helpful to your audience, you will establish a positive rapport with them and you’ll build their trust as they learn from and engage with your content which will make them more likely to purchase from you in the future.

Step 5: Check Performance, Experiment & Make Improvements

It’s only once your business is up and running when you can tell what’s working and what’s not. During this time, you may be forced to redesign your store, adjust prices, change collection pages, or even add new products. Take bold steps to find a unique working product that will make your business a key player in your niche.

Advantages of Print-on-Demand Over Conventional Ecommerce

Now that you know what print-on-demand is and how to launch a print-on-demand business, let’s have a quick look at why this business model is better than conventional ecommerce business models.

  • Easy Set-Up: You don’t need to hire the best web designers to get your print-on-demand business up and running. There are countless plugins, templates, themes, and guides you can use to launch your online store.
  • Low Startup Cost: With traditional businesses, you must have a good stock of cash to purchase inventory and get your store up and running. With the print-on-demand business model, even $100 is enough to get you going.
  • No Inventory Management: Your supplier handles pretty much everything from order printing, packaging, and shipping which means you don’t need to handle any amount of inventory. Much of your remaining time can be used to focus on making more sales.
  • Ability to Customize: One of the biggest advantages of print-on-demand is that it gives you a chance to create and sell unique designs.
  • Scale & Test with No Risks: With print-on-demand, you aren’t directly involved in printing or production so there’s no major monetary investment from your side. Plus, you can easily scale, test, and modify your designs as and when you need to without any major financial risk.


Conventional ecommerce business models generally require a large monetary investment and a whole lot of time to get up and running. You also often have to deal with inventory handling, product packaging, shipping, and many more complicated tasks. For less responsibility and lower risk, print-on-demand is an ideal option that still has the potential for success.

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