If you’ve been dreaming of launching an e-commerce business that requires a minimal up-front investment, zero on-hand inventory, and little to no overhead costs, print-on-demand may be the way to go!
Whether you’re a designer looking to sell your art, a musician looking to sell custom merch, or an artist looking for new mediums on which you can share your masterpieces, print-on-demand (POD) offers a low-risk business model. And it’s relatively simple to launch!
Here are seven tips for starting a print-on-demand business. From sourcing the right products to listing them for sale, this step-by-step guide is designed to help you get started.
Step 1: Identify Your Niche
Print-on-demand businesses may take many forms. With a virtually endless number of available products and designs, it’s imperative to identify your niche! Consider whether your target audience will be based on a certain profession (such as teachers, nurses, parents, professional businesses, services providers, etc.), a shared passion (such as sports fans, foodies, wine or whiskey lovers, pet lovers, runners, yogis, gamers, etc.), or people who participate in shared activities (such as athletics, cyclists, pet owners, readers, etc.).
Aim to be as specific as possible about your niche and as broad as possible with your audience. This will not only help you select your products and styles but also help you design sales and marketing campaigns that engage potential buyers.
Before identifying your niche, it’s helpful to conduct some preliminary research. This may include:
Step 2: Select Your Products
Print-on-demand (POD) platforms offer a broad range of products including clothing, hats, baseball caps, water bottles, stickers, posters, gift wrap, reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, cooking utensils, smartphone cases, and more. As such, it’s imperative you select the right products for your POD business and your niche. (These are some of the top print-on-demand products to consider selling.)
You may also differentiate yourself from your competitors by offering sustainable, eco-friendly, and/or ethically-sourced items. These options are especially appealing to Gen Z consumers and several print-on-demand suppliers offer a range of eco-friendly printed products, from apparel and water bottles to lunch totes, stickers, posters, gift wrap, and table runners.
Step 3: Create Your Designs
Depending on your design skills, this step is either be the most exhilarating or intimidating part of launching a POD e-commerce business. From the artwork to the color(s) to the messages and fonts, and everything in between, the design options are virtually limitless! As are the opportunities to create fully custom, semi-custom, or commissioned designs.
If you find you need some artistic inspiration, consider browsing the best-selling designs on other platforms and putting your own, unique spin on them. Be careful not to copy existing designs and be sure to steer clear of any trademark infringement (to learn more about this, we recommend studying intellectual property for print on demand).
Step 4: Select your Print-on-Demand Partner
Finding the right POD partner can make or break your business! Here are some things to consider when exploring potential partnership opportunities:
Step 5: Launch your E-Commerce Store
Whether you’re looking to sell direct, via a branded e-commerce website and online store, or via a marketplace such as Amazon, Etsy, or eBay, or via a multichannel mix, launching a branded website can help you to build the right foundation for your print-on-demand business. In addition to giving you total control over the user experience, a website allows you to test various prices and offers without limitation. It also gives you direct visibility into user behaviors and buying patterns so you can better track what is impacting your sales.
Shopify, Wix, and WordPress offer a variety of e-commerce website templates and integrations (both POD and shopping cart) you can customize to complement your brand.
Step 6: Establish Your Pricing
Creating your pricing strategy is often challenging, as you need to find the sweet spot that not only appeals to customers but also maximizes your profitability. Here are some things to consider when establishing your pricing:
For more tips on how to set the right price, check out these nine product pricing strategies.
Step 7: Create Your Marketing Plan
To build a successful print-on-demand business, you not only need to launch your e-commerce website and go live via a multi-channel sales pipeline but also proactively create buzz and drive attention to your products. A marketing plan is the best way to ensure you stay the course.
Here are five ways to begin building your brand, engaging potential customers, and creating positive buzz around your business:
Here are 14 additional eCommerce marketing ideas to help spark your creativity.