Print On Demand
What is Print On Demand?
It is exactly what it sounds like. Designs are printed onto objects and shipped to customers when the customer places the order. This is a great business model for a startup since it requires no stock and you don’t need your own website if you use a marketplace to sell your designs.
But ‘I’m not a designer’ I hear you cry. Well even simple text based designs can sell quite well and if you have the funds you can hire people on fiverr.com to create designs for you from as little as £5. If you are going to design them yourself then free tools such as canva.com should be sufficient to get you started or you could try something more professional like Adobe Illustrator which will let you create more complicated designs.
If you already have an audience then it is a great way to monetise your brand. If you don’t currently have an audience then you could even approach companies to offer them a print on demand service for merchandise to advertise their brand.
Companies offering Print on Demand
There is a growing list of companies that you can use to create your print on demand products:
Printify currently have around 200 items that you can create designs for. Clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies and tank tops. Accessories such as phone cases and bags. Homeware such as blankets and placemats. For a step by step walk through on creating an account and then designing a t-shirt take a look at YouTube.
Sign up here for a an account with Printify and start creating now. (Note tepagemi enterprises will make a commission if you sign up via the link and go on to use the service).
Printful also offer a catalogue of over 200 items for you to print onto. From the usual suspects like t-shirts and hoodies through to leggings and face coverings. Sign up here for a an account with Printful. (Note tepagemi enterprises will make a commission if you sign up via the link and go on to use the service).
Where can I host my designs?
A number of companies offer a shop window for your print on demand products:
Originally Etsy started out as a marketplace for handmade/crafted items. It has since evolved into a marketplace for sellers of more mass produced items although still with an ethical slant. A big advantage of using Etsy is that you can probably charge slightly more for your products as the buyers are used to paying slightly more for crafted products. A number of different providers also integrate with Etsy making the process easier. (Printful and Printify for example)
RedBubble.com is in some ways similar to Etsy in that it is meant to be somewhere for artists to showcase their designs rather than just an out and out commercial enterprise.
Here is an example of a product I currently have on RedBubble
Merch By Amazon
Sign up for an account with Amazon and then you can upload designs that will feature in their print on demand store. Currently you have to apply to Amazon to be accepted onto their program so that might prove a bit of a stumbling block.
The advantage of using the likes of RedBubble, Amazon and Etsy is there are already plenty of customers using the platform and so marketing is less of an issue. The big disadvantage is you have no control over the customer experience so for example you can’t offer complementary upsells to different items you have designed.
If you want go the whole hog and have control of the customer experience then you need to have your own online store. You could use Shopify or you could create a wordpress store using something like woocommerce.
The big downside is of course you have to do all your own marketing.
Do you want your own store?
Arguably the most well known ecommerce option. Over 600,000 stores operate in the Shopify. However, there are two big problems as I see it, you are tied to the Shopify ecosystem and it can get expensive! It is the simpler solution however as everything you are likely to need is built in. If you did need to customise your store you would need to learn Shopifys own language – Liquid.
This is a free plugin for WordPress. So you could in theory get started for free – assuming of course you already had a WordPress website that you wanted to add an ecommerce store onto. However even some of the basic functionality provided in Shopifys cheapest plan will require you to purchase additional plugins. Woocommerce is arguably more customisable than Shopify but again would require you to be more tech savvy. You would also need to keep your store infrastructure up to date yourself – something that you wouldn’t need to do with a Shopify store.
So here is a step by step guide to creating a print on demand business.
- Are you going to create your own store or are you going to use one (or more) of the marketplaces to host your designs? Ideally if you are creating your own store then you need to come up with a niche. Try to make it something you are interested in if at all possible.
- Create you designs or have them created.
- Pick your Print on Demand providers. Ideally you need to select ones that are able to produce the products in the regions you want to sell because you don’t want long shipping times or expensive delivery charges. If you are printing onto clothing then you also need to consider whether the clothing you have selected sizes accurately since some don’t! There’s nothing worse than getting a load of returns because people have ordered something that didn’t fit. If you are thinking of targeting specific types of products then you will obviously have to go with a provider that offers those products.
- Upload your designs to your marketplace of choice or your own store. Try to create interesting descriptions as this helps boost conversions.
- Promote your designs. If you are using a marketplace such as RedBubble then you don’t really need to do marketing as RedBubble will be. However even then you could use Social Media to advertise your designs. If you have decided to create your own store then you might need to think about paid advertising as well to drive customers there.
Related: Etsy Affiliate Review
Updated on 15th Sept 2020:
I have uploaded a number of designs to RedBubble – see below. The mock-ups were created using Placeit.