Starting a print-on-demand business is a great way to get started in e-commerce without incurring the costs and risks that come with the territory.
You don’t have to spend money on inventory and then hope it works out. Suppliers are in charge of inventory, storage, and fulfillment, as well as printing and production. You are only charged for what you sell. It’s similar to dropshipping, but for custom products.
While it is simple and inexpensive to get started, there is more to starting a profitable print-on-demand business than you might think.
We explain in this guide what it takes to get up and running and ready for success—one step at a time.
Regardless of the business model, starting a print-on-demand business looks a lot like starting an online store. It all starts with a plan, just like traditional e-commerce, dropshipping, and even sites selling SaaS subscriptions.
You’ll need to validate your concept, register your company, and begin developing a website and brand.
If you’re new to ecommerce, I’d suggest reading this guide to starting an ecommerce business.
This will give you a primer on the fundamentals before we get into the “fine print” of what it takes to build a profitable PoD business.
Ideas for Print on Demand Businesses
You are not limited to selling t-shirts when using a print-on-demand business model to sell custom products. Many small business owners find success by concentrating their efforts on a specific product niche, such as pet products or home decor items.
And, because print on demand companies offer more than just t-shirts, your online business can, too. Other business ideas are as follows:
- Apparel consists of complete clothing lines that include hoodies, sweatshirts, tank tops, skirts, dresses, swimwear, leggings, shoes, hats, and so on.
- Phone cases, phone holders, and phone holder clips
- Backpacks, totes, and bags
- Home and Kitchen – canvas prints, magnets, pillowcases, throw pillows, blankets, cutting boards, cups, mugs, glassware, aprons, tablecloths, placemats, towels, shower curtains, and so on.
However, because each print provider has their own product line, you may need to work with multiple print-on-demand sites to get all of the custom products you want to offer.
Define Your Company’s Objectives
The first order of business is to figure out what you want to accomplish by starting a print-on-demand business.
Yes, a lot of it is about making money, but if you want to build a sustainable business using the print-on-demand business model, you’ll need to be more specific.
Think about whether you want to specialize in a specific product category. Consider home decor, custom artwork, personalized dog outfits, and so on.
Do you intend to base your store on a particular theme or interest? If you’re a yoga influencer, your store may specialize in yoga products such as custom-printed yoga pants, mats, and accessories. If you’re a chef, you could sell cutting boards, dishes, and physical recipe books.
Alternatively, your podcast or YouTube channel could serve as the overarching theme. In that case, you’ll most likely be selling fandom-related merchandise.
You could start a print-on-demand business for a variety of reasons.
Following are some examples:
- Monetize a hobby or skill set Artists, writers, musicians, gamers, and even those with a passion for tennis or baking may start a PoD business to make money from their talents/interests. This method enables aspiring creators to test the waters with little risk.
- Sell merchandise to your existing fan base. Starting a print-on-demand business allows you to diversify your revenue streams and deepen your connection with fans if you already have a loyal following. To find products, your best bet is to let the fans drive the strategy.
- Make passive income. Some sellers venture into print on demand in order to generate passive income, similar to dropshipping entrepreneurs. Money is the name of the game here. The goal is to identify niche audiences, capitalize on emerging trends, and maximize profit margins.
- Validate a product or business concept. Another reason for launching a print-on-demand store is that it provides a low-cost way to test new products/ideas without incurring the risks associated with purchasing inventory or building a product from the ground up. You can experiment with little risk because you are not handling production, storage, or fulfillment in-house.
- Items for giveaways/rewards/loyalty programs should be printed. To reward your customers/fans, you could also incorporate elements of a print-on-demand business. Custom shirts, stickers, wall art, and tote bags, for example, make excellent gifts for VIP customers and employees. You could also include them in a swag bag or sign-up offer to attract new customers. This could be a branch of a print-on-demand company or a marketing strategy that supports a different business model.