What Is Print On Demand - A Step By Step Guide

Tags: Print On Demand, Ecommerce, Side Hustle
14 December 2023

Let's dive into the world of Print On Demand (POD) and explore its potential as an online business opportunity.

We will cover the basics of print on demand, how it works, and whether it is a good fit for aspiring entrepreneurs - especially if you are also working a 9-5 job.

What is Print on Demand POD?

Print on Demand is a business model that allows entrepreneurs to sell apparel and custom-printed items without the need for upfront inventory, printing equipment, or shipping logistics.

This reduces printing, warehousing, and shipping costs while eliminating risk from unsold inventory.

With print on demand, entrepreneurs can focus on creating and marketing their designs, while a POD company like Printful and Printify handles the printing, packaging, and shipping of the orders.

Why Print on Demand?

The beauty of print-on-demand lies in its versatility. You can sell a wide range of products, including t-shirts, mugs, skateboards, curtains, blankets, phone cases, and more. The possibilities are virtually endless.

You work with a white-label manufacturer who prints and fulfills orders as orders come in so you don't have to manage inventory yourself or handle the logistics yourself.

So, now, you can solely focus on your audiences' needs and your creativity.

If your target demographic loves hoodies, offer different styles and colors to appeal to them; you could also sell posters, hats, or backpacks.

Artists and creators can utilize this business model as a great way to monetize their creativity while simultaneously strengthening their relationship with their audiences through customized products.

Step-by-Step Guide to Launching a Print-on-Demand Business

The process of print on demand can be broken down into a few simple steps:

1. Determine your niche

Print on demand requires less startup capital than other business models and gives designers more freedom in exploring various design niches; however, finding your niche is crucial for its success.

Finding your niche allows you to focus your marketing efforts and build brand recognition. Furthermore, it demonstrates your expertise and builds trust with your audience.

To identify your niche, start by researching current trends.

Make note of keywords, competitors, and the amount of traffic coming through to their websites - for instance, if selling merchandise for book lovers is of interest, try designing designs that would appeal to this audience.

2. Design your products

Making an online store successful requires distinctive designs. But, don't let that scare you.

You don't need to be an artist! With research tools like Reddit, Pinterest, or a simple Google search - you should find your inspiration and figure out what is selling currently.

Just make sure that each product you create fits within your niche market.

3. Setting up an Online Store

To sell your print-on-demand merchandise, you will need an e-commerce platform.

Popular platforms to launch an online store are Etsy and Shopify.

Starting an Etsy shop is completely free. While there's a monthly fee associated with your Shopify account.

Once your store is established, the next step should be uploading designs.

Make sure your product designer tool is compatible with your e-commerce platform. It makes it easier to publish directly from your designer tool to your shop. For example, Printify makes it super easy to design and publish your products directly on Etsy.

4. Choosing a Print-On-Demand Provider

When choosing the right POD partner - make sure you calculate the product cost, fees, and shipping costs.

While you are just getting started it is okay to go with the cheapest providers. But, make sure you are selecting products that are high quality.

Order samples of various suppliers' products before making a final selection decision, to gain an accurate sense of their quality and build trust for your brand.

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5. Making Sales and Profits

This is the most exciting part!

When a customer buys a product, they pay you directly through your website through Shopify or a marketplace like Etsy.

The payment is then processed by your chosen payment processor, such as Shopify, Etsy, Stripe, or PayPal - depending on the platform you chose.

Simultaneously, your e-commerce platform sends the order details to your print-on-demand provider. They receive the order, print the design on the chosen product, package it, and ship it directly to your customer.

Don't worry! If you don't want to automate everything at first, you can also manually review and place orders for your customers to get yourself familiarized with the entire process.

After a couple of days, your payment processor, such as Shopify or Etsy, transfers the funds from the customer's purchase to your bank account.

This payment reimburses you for the cost of the item charged by the print-on-demand provider, leaving you with the profit.

5. Market your products

Print-on-demand businesses tend to have lower overhead costs than traditional e-commerce stores because you do not need to store and ship the products yourself.

It is still essential, however, to closely track sales and profit margins to ensure your business remains profitable.

Many print-on-demand ventures begin by using marketplaces like Etsy as it's faster and simpler than setting up their own storefront online.

Before you even launch your store - you should have a marketing plan ready.

Building an online audience and leveraging social media to build your brand goes a long way to making your store profitable.

You could also reach out to digital creators and influencers with whom your brand can collaborate - doing so can increase exposure while leading to more sales.

Pros and Cons Print on Demand Business Model:


1. Low Initial Investment

One of the principal advantages of the POD enterprise model is the low barrier of entry - effort and costs. You don't have to invest in massive quantities of inventory because products are produced on call.

2. Risk Mitigation

Traditional fashion businesses contain the risk of overstocking or understocking stock. With POD, you simply place an order with your POD provider when someone buys it from you, lowering the threat of extra stock.

3. Product Customization

To make your shop stand out - go for personalization. POD offers the ability to add customizations to products as per your customer's needs.

4. Global Reach

POD businesses often leverage online platforms and might attract customers internationally.

For example - I run my Etsy store from the USA - but I get 60% of my orders from UK and Germany.

5. Time Efficiency

Since products are manufactured as orders are received, the turnaround time from order placement to delivery is quite brief compared to traditional production techniques.


1. Lower Profit Margins

While the preliminary funding is low, the earnings margins consistent with units may be lower than with traditional manufacturing due to the better manufacturing charges associated with small-scale, on-call production.

2. Quality Variances

There's a wide range of product qualities when it comes to POD. A lot of beginners opt for the cheapest provider - but that is often not good in the long run.

When running an e-commerce business, customer satisfaction is of utmost importance.

3. Shipping Costs

Shipping costs can vary a lot - especially for worldwide orders. But, thankfully, popular POD providers like Printify and Printful offer worldwide shipping at reasonable fees.

Final Thoughts

Print on demand presents a golden opportunity for anyone looking to kickstart their online business journey.

With its low barrier to entry, flexibility, and seamless integration with e-commerce platforms like Etsy and Shopify, print on demand allows entrepreneurs to focus on their creativity and marketing efforts while leaving the printing, packaging, and shipping to the experts.

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