11 Tips to Start a Print On Demand Business – The Right Way
Establishing a lucrative side hustle or passive income stream is non uncommon these days. In fact, as of 2023, nearly 39% of Americans have a side hustle, in addition to their primary source of income. Print on demand (POD) businesses are a great example of how Americans are topping up their annual income.
“Anyone looking for a relatively easy option to build a lucrative side hustle should consider a print-on-demand based business. It’s a great way to explore being an entrepreneur without sinking large amounts of money into a business.”
Rick Nelson, CEO, The Fulfillment Lab
Venturing into the world of POD offers a flexible path to entrepreneurship with minimal upfront costs. You can unleash your creative side and create and sell custom designs on a variety of products, from t-shirts to mugs, without the need to manage inventory or handle shipping. It's a creative and scalable way to tap into e-commerce, which continues to flourish year after year.
As you consider joining the ranks of successful POD entrepreneurs, it's crucial to start on the right foot. This guide will walk you through the essential steps, from honing in on your niche to mastering fulfillment strategies, ensuring you build a business that's not only profitable but also rewarding.
Let's dive into the world of print on demand.
What is Print on Demand (POD)?
Print on Demand (POD) is a modern business model that lets you bring your creative ideas to life without the traditional risks of retail. Imagine crafting your unique designs and offering them to the world on a variety of products, only producing them when a customer places an order. This means you can sell your art or slogans on physical items without ever stocking a single shelf.
The beauty of POD lies in its simplicity and flexibility. You're not tied down by excess inventory or significant upfront investments. Instead, you partner with suppliers who print and ship your designs directly to your customers. Whether you're an artist, a writer, or an entrepreneur, POD adapts to your vision and your audience's desires.
Here are some common ventures that thrive in the POD space:
- Custom T-shirts and Apparel: A canvas for expression, wearable art has never been more popular.
- Personalized Accessories: From phone cases to custom jewelry, accessories add a personal touch.
- Custom Printed Books and Notebooks: For those who love to write or sketch, personalized pages await.
- Home Decor Items: Pillows, wall art, and more to make any space truly one's own.
- Unique Gift Items: Mugs, tote bags, and an array of gifts that speak directly to the recipient's heart.
How Does Print on Demand Work?
POD streamlines the traditional retail model by connecting your unique designs with consumers eager for custom products. As a POD business owner, you'll launch an online storefront on platforms like Shopify or Woocommerce, where customers can browse your designs.
When a sale is made, your POD partner prints your design on the product and ships it directly to the customer, eliminating the need for inventory management.
A Day In the POD Business
As a POD entrepreneur, your day likely begins designing new products or refining existing ones based on customer feedback. You'll spend time marketing your brand, engaging with customers, and managing your online presence within your e-commerce platform and the social media channels you promote your business in.
When a product is sold, a well-defined fulfillment strategy ensures that as soon as orders are placed, your POD partner handles the printing and shipping of every product. For those that run their POD on a part-time basis, you can rest easy knowing your customers' orders are automatically taken care of – without needing your input.
This leaves you free to focus on your full-time position, caring for your family, or to promote and grow your POD business further.
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Why Start a Print on Demand Business?
Embarking on a Print on Demand (POD) business journey opens up a world of entrepreneurial freedom with minimal risk. It's an avenue where creativity meets commerce, allowing you to design a business that reflects your passions and interests and have total control over a business endeavor.
Here are 7 benefits of starting a POD business:
- Low Startup Costs: No need for inventory means less financial strain.
- Flexibility: Operate from anywhere, anytime.
- Customization: Offer personalized products that stand out.
- Scalability: Easily expand your product line and market reach.
- No Overhead: Save on storage and upfront product costs.
- Creative Control: You design and curate your brand’s offerings.
- Direct to Consumer: Build a direct relationship with your customer base.
11 Tips to Begin Your Print on Demand Endeavor on the Right Foot
Starting your own company to sell POD products is a relatively easy way to become an entrepreneur. However, it’s not without its challenges and does require careful planning and consideration to be a successful business. Here are 11 tips to help you get started on the right foot.
1. Do Market Research
Before diving in, make sure you do extensive market research. This will help you identify what types of products to offer, what designs people are interested in, and where to market your products online.
For instance, are pet lovers your target audience, or is it fitness or yoga enthusiasts? Pinpointing your market segment and developing designs and products your audience wants will help ensure your products will sell.
2. Create a Strong Brand Identity
Your brand is your story and sets you apart from the competition. It not only helps people understand who YOU are, but also attracts customers and creates lasting relationships with them.
When it comes to your brand store, be sure to tell it well, and if you do, customers will flock to you. When creating a brand identity, consider the following elements:
- Logo and Design Aesthetics: Your visual handshake with the world.
- Brand Voice and Messaging: How you speak to your audience matters.
- Core Values and Mission Statement: What you stand for can set you apart.
Pro-Tip: Be consistent with your brand story. Use the same color palette, font, logo design and overall aesthetic at every opportunity. The more consistent your branding is, the more your customers will be able to identify your products and trust in your brand.
3. Select an E-commerce Platform
Choose an e-commerce platform that's not just a storefront but a partner in your growth. Platforms like Shopify offer robust tools and seamless POD integration, making them a go-to for many successful POD businesses. Be sure to choose one that can easily integrate with your chosen print on demand partner
E-commerce platforms to consider for a POD business include:
- Wix ecommerce
4. Choose a POD Partner
Align with a POD partner who mirrors your commitment to quality and you’re comfortable working with. They should tick all the boxes – from top-notch printing quality, to speedy production times, and punctual shipping.
Your printing partner's reliability will represent how reliable your brand is, especially in the eyes of your customers.
This is a crucial partnership as it will be the backbone of your operation, ensuring your designs are turned into high-quality products and promptly shipped to your customers. To find the right POD partner, explore industry forums, read customer reviews, and compare service offerings to ensure they align with your business needs and standards.
Most importantly, be sure they can print your designs on the products you’re interested in selling!
5. Craft a Fulfillment Strategy
A solid fulfillment strategy is a way to build strong, memorable relationships with customers that you otherwise have minimal or zero interaction with. It's the final, crucial step where your products reach their new homes and should be viewed as an opportunity to connect and exceed your customers expectations, not just deliver a product.
The true benefit of fulfillment strategies is how it combines timely product delivery with personal touches – and can turn first-time buyers into loyal, repeat customers.
6. Online Store Optimization
Craft your online store to be a magnet for sales. High-quality images, compelling descriptions, and an effortless checkout process are not just features; they're your silent salesforce. Regularly update your store with fresh designs and product options to keep customers coming back for more.
7. Pricing Strategy
Price smartly. Your products are worth more than just the cost of printing and shipping. Factor in your design effort, the platform's fees, and the value your brand brings to the table. Don't undervalue your work; research competitor pricing and position your products as premium offerings if your designs warrant it.
Be sure to offer pricing incentives that will help convert potential customers into buyers. In the online marketplace, customers spend more at businesses that can offer them more than just the product they seek. This could include:
- Free shipping
- Easy return processes
- Member-only discounts
- Overnight shipping
8. Adopt an Omnichannel Approach
Once you’ve established your business and start seeing results, you’ll likely want to expand your operation to reach more potential customers and strengthen your brand. For e-commerce businesses, this translates into embracing an omnichannel business model, and fortunately, it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Omnichannel simply means selling your products in different online channels, such as Amazon or Etsy. When you are ready to expand, be sure your brand appears consistent across all channels.
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9. Customer Feedback
Listen to the heartbeat of your business – your customers– and you’ll never go down the wrong path. Tips to engage your customers, elicit feedback, and demonstrate amazing customer care include:
- Reviews and Testimonials. Encourage customers to share reviews. They’ll let you know how your product measures up and you can use them to showcase your brand.
- Always Respond. Never ignore a customer inquiry, positive feedback, or complaint. This shows you’re invested in your customers and that you care.
10. Financial Monitoring
Keep a close eye on your finances. Use tools to track your sales, costs, and profits. Understanding your financial health is key to making informed decisions. Don't shy away from investing in advertising and new product lines, but do so with a clear understanding of your return on investment.
11. Scalability Planning
Don’t be afraid to dream big, but be sure to plan accordingly. As your business grows, you'll need to scale your operations. Anticipate this growth and prepare for it, so when the time comes, you're ready to rise.
Consider automation tools for order processing and customer service to maintain efficiency as order volumes increase.
Now, Turn Your Creative Passion into Profit
Starting a Print on Demand business is a journey of creativity and strategic planning. With low startup costs, flexibility, and direct customer engagement, POD stands out as an attractive entrepreneurial venture.
By following the 11 foundational tips outlined—from conducting thorough market research to planning for scalability—you can set the stage for a successful, fulfilling business that grows with your ambition.
For more information on how to develop a fulfillment marketing strategy that will boost your POD’s operational success, reach out to our team at The Fulfillment Lab.