How To Start A print-on-demand business

Do you want to create your own brand with no upfront costs and no inventory hassle of a traditional business? Print-on-demand could be your ticket into just that.

Before I started my first online business, I came across dropshipping (as everyone does) and I didn’t like the idea of selling the same products as everyone. That sounded like a race to the bottom dollar.

So, I kept digging until I came across this business model called print-on-demand. It takes everything great from dropshipping and makes it customizable.

Imagine selling unique designs that customers adore, all without the stress of a traditional business.

Getting started with Print-on-demand is simple, You create custom designs, put them on all kinds of products, and list them in your store. All with no payment upfront.

“There’s no way it’s that easy”

You’re right, it’s not quite that simple, but that’s the basics. Creating the designs and marketing the products are the hardest parts, but don’t worry we’ve got you covered there too.

Now, let’s dive into the nitty gritty steps.

How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business: Step By Step

Like I said before it’s quite simple, and I’ve broke it down into 6 easy steps for you to hit the ground running.

We’ll cover everything from finding what to sell to expanding your business. Remember, every successful business starts somewhere, and with this guide, you’re already one step ahead.

Quick Overview Of The Steps:

  1. Find Your Niche: To start you’ll need to identify a specific market you want to target. This should be based on your personal interests, trending topics, and or a gap in the market.
  2. Create Your Designs: Once you’ve identified your niche, start creating unique designs that will appeal to your target audience. You can create these designs yourself, hire a designer, or use design tools.
  3. Choose a Print-on-Demand Company: There are many print-on-demand companies to choose from. Consider factors such as product range, print quality, pricing, and shipping options when making your decision.
  4. Set Up Your Own Online Store: You can set up your own store on platforms like Shopify, Etsy, or Amazon. These platforms integrate with most POD companies, making it easy to list your products and manage orders.
  5. Promote Your Products: Use social media, content marketing, and paid advertising to promote your products and attract customers to your store.
  6. Growing Your Business: Once your store is up and running, you’ll want to expand. This includes exploring new markets, collaborations, and advanced marketing techniques.

Choosing Your Niche

Niche selection vinn diagram

First up, it’s time to choose your niche. A niche is a specific segment of the market that you plan to target with your products. Your niches will encompass all of the print-on-demand products you will be selling and what will be on them.

When selecting a niche, consider the following:

– Your Interests and Passions: Choose a niche that you’re genuinely interested in. This will make it easier for you to create designs and market your products. Plus, customers can often tell when a business owner is passionate about what they’re selling, and it can make your brand more appealing.

– Market Demand: Use your market research to choose a niche with sufficient demand. Look for a niche that’s popular but not overly saturated with competitors. We have additional market research tips towards the end of this article.

– Profit Potential: Some niches may be more profitable than others. Consider what prices people will pay for your products and the potential size of your customer base.

Remember, finding the right niche is a balance between choosing something you’re passionate about and something that has market demand. It might take some time and research, but it’s a crucial step in setting up a successful POD Business.

If you’re still not sure about your niche, read about some of the top print-on-demand niche ideas.

With your niche selected, you’re ready to move on to the next step: creating your designs.

Design Creation

editing T shirt in canva

The heart of your print-on-demand business lies in your designs. These are what set you apart from your competitors and attract customers to your store.

If you’re artistically inclined and good with computer software, you can create your own designs on graphic design tools such as Adobe Illustrator. However, if you’re not a wiz for design and Adobe (I’m not), it’s easy to use a tool like Canva online for free to create some pretty cool designs.

I recommend creating your own designs in the beginning as it’s a great way to be involved in creating your brand image and it keeps costs low.

Another option is to use pre-made design templates available on various platforms (such as Canva). Just be sure to customize them to fit your own brand and avoid copyright issues. This is another great way to start.

If you’re not comfortable creating your own designs, don’t worry. You can hire freelance graphic designers from platforms like Upwork or Fiverr (which can be costly). Just be sure to clearly communicate your vision and expectations.

Regardless of how you get the designs, be sure they resonate with your audience, reflect your niche, and are HIGH QUALITY. Bad designs and low-resolution images can result in poor print quality, which can lead to unsatisfied customers and negative reviews.

Print quality is up next so let’s jump into how to choose the right print-on-demand service.

Choosing a Print-on-Demand Service

The service you choose will be responsible for printing your designs on products and shipping them to your customers, so you want to ensure they’re reliable and offer high-quality products.

There are several print-on-demand services to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Here Is What To Look For:

  • Product Range: Does the service offer the types of products you want to sell? This could include t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, posters, and more.
  • Print Quality: Look for reviews or order samples to assess the print quality. Your designs should look vibrant and sharp on the products.
  • Pricing: Compare the pricing of different services. Remember, the cost of printing and shipping will be deducted from your selling price, so it’s important to find a service that offers competitive pricing.
  • Shipping: Consider the shipping options the service offers. How long does it take for products to be delivered? Do they offer tracking? Can they ship internationally? How much does it cost?
  • Integration: If you’re planning to sell custom products on a platform like Shopify or Etsy, make sure the print-on-demand service can integrate with it.

Take your time to research and choose the right service for your needs.

If you want somewhere to start we recommend Printful or Printify. They offer the best consistent quality and service while also having a wide range of products. On top of that they are super beginner-friendly.

Printful is known for its extremely high-quality products, as well as its exceptional customer service. Printify is sometimes a hit or miss with quality, but you can get cheaper prices and they have more products to choose from.

Alternatively, you can also choose to print the products yourself. Although I won’t be going through this process in this article, there are several ways to print custom products at home.

Once you’ve chosen a print-on-demand service, the next step is setting up your online store.

Setting Up Your Online Store

This is your digital storefront, where customers will browse your products, learn about your brand, and make purchases. Let’s dive into how to set up your store.

Choosing a Platform

Shopify Home Page

When choosing a platform, consider its ease of use, cost, customization options, and integration with your chosen print-on-demand service.

Shopify is a popular choice due to its ease of use, customization options, and seamless integration with many print-on-demand services.

Other options include WooCommerce for WordPress sites, Etsy for a marketplace environment, or BigCommerce.

Store Setup

You’ve chosen a platform, now it’s time to set up the store. You’ll be choosing a name for your store that aligns with your niche and brand, and setting up your store’s layout, theme, and navigation. Your goal is to create a user-friendly and visually appealing storefront to welcome your customers.

Don’t get too carried away in the beginning though, you want to prioritize getting up and running before making everything perfect.

Product Listing

Next, you’ll need to upload your designs and create product listings. Each product listing should include high-quality product images, a detailed description, and pricing.

When creating product images, consider using mockup generators that allow you to create realistic images of your products with your designs. For product descriptions, highlight the unique aspects of your designs and provide information about the product’s material, sizing, and care instructions.

Print-on-demand services like Printful allow you to create your product listings on their site and help you along with images and descriptions.

Payment and Shipping costs

Set up payment gateways so customers can make purchases. Popular options include PayPal and Stripe. Also, configure your shipping settings based on the options provided by your print-on-demand service.


Your brand should be reflected in every aspect of your store. This includes your logo, color scheme, and the overall tone of your content. A strong brand can help attract and retain customers.

Remember, your online store is the digital face of your business. Make it as professional and inviting as possible. With your ecommerce store set up, it’s time to attract customers, which brings us to the final step: marketing and promotion.


Lastly, it’s important to clearly state your store’s shipping, return, and refund policies. This helps manage customer expectations and will reduce potential issues down the line.

Marketing and Promotion

Marketing and promotion are vital for success. No matter how unique and high-quality your designs are, if people don’t know about your store, they can’t buy from you.

Social Media Marketing

Instagram Ads

Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are excellent for promoting a print-on-demand company.

You can showcase your products, engage with your audience, and even run targeted ads. This is also a great way to learn what your customers want.

Running contests or giveaways is another great way to increase engagement and reach via social media.

Consider creating a content calendar to plan your posts and ensure you’re posting regularly. Use high-quality images, engaging captions, and relevant hashtags to increase your visibility.

Email Marketing

Building an email list is a powerful marketing strategy. You can offer a discount or freebie in exchange for visitors’ email addresses. Once you have a list, you can send regular newsletters and promotional emails.

Email marketing allows you to build a relationship with your audience, keep your brand on their mind, and encourage repeat purchases.

Influencer Marketing

Collaborating with influencers in your niche can greatly increase your reach.

Influencers have a loyal following that trusts their recommendations, so if they endorse your product, the masses will follow.

When choosing influencers to work with, look for those who align with your brand and have an engaged audience. You can offer payment or free products in return for their endorsement.


Optimizing your store and product listings for search engines can help attract organic traffic from people searching for products like yours.

This involves using relevant keywords in your product titles, descriptions, and meta tags.

Content Marketing

Starting a blog or YouTube channel related to your niche can help attract organic traffic from search engines and position you as an authority in your niche.

You can create content around design trends, tips for using products, behind-the-scenes, or other topics your audience might be interested in. This doesn’t have to be exclusive to your products.

Remember, marketing is an ongoing process. It might take some time to see results, but with consistent effort, you’ll start to see increased traffic and sales.

Now, let’s move on to some key considerations for successfully running your print-on-demand business.

Growing Your Business

Once your print-on-demand business is up and running and you’re seeing consistent sales, it’s time to think about scaling. Scaling your print-on-demand business will likely take a lot of effort as well as exploring new tools for your print-on-demand business.

Expand Your Product Range

T-shirt designs

If you started with a limited range of products, consider expanding. This could mean adding new types of products or offering more designs for your existing product range.

For example, if you started with t-shirts, you could consider adding hoodies, mugs, or posters.

Before adding a new product, do some market research to ensure there’s demand. You could also ask your existing customers for feedback on your existing business and what products they’d like to see in your store.

Explore New Markets

If you’ve been focusing on one really specific niche market, consider expanding to a broader audience. Be sure you are very well established in your own niche before exploring others.

Expanding to a broader niche will give you access to a broader audience, which means the potential for more sales. However, if you aren’t strategic with this it could lead you to lose existing customers. So be sure not to forget about what’s already working when you expand.

Invest in Advanced Marketing Strategies

As your business grows, you might want to invest in more advanced marketing strategies. This could include paid advertising, hiring a professional SEO service, or launching a full-fledged social media campaign.

Paid advertising, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads, can help you reach a larger audience and drive more traffic to your store.

SEO services can help improve your website’s ranking in search engine results, leading to more organic traffic.

A social media campaign could involve collaborating with multiple influencers, running contests, or creating viral content.



Consider collaborating with other businesses or influencers in your niche. This can help you reach a larger audience, increase your brand visibility, and potentially lead to increased sales.

For example, you could collaborate with a popular YouTuber in your niche to create custom products or a limited-edition product line. Or you could partner with another POD business to offer bundle deals.

Remember, scaling a business involves taking calculated risks. Always base your decisions on solid market research and customer feedback.

Now let’s jump into some key considerations you should take into account when starting your print-on-demand business.

Key Considerations For Successfully Starting a Print-on-Demand Business

Starting your print-on-demand business is just the beginning. To ensure its success, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Quality Control: The quality of your print-on-demand products can make or break your business. Always ensure that your designs are high-resolution to avoid poor print quality. Regularly order your own products to check the quality and ensure standards are maintained.
  • Customer Service: Excellent customer service can set you apart from your competitors. Be responsive to customer inquiries, resolve issues promptly, and always strive to provide a positive shopping experience.
  • Continuous Product Development: Trends change, and so do customer preferences. Regularly update your designs and product offerings to keep your store fresh and appealing.
  • Analyzing Performance: Use analytics to understand which products are selling well and which aren’t. This can help you make informed decisions about what to continue selling and what to potentially remove or replace.
  • Legal Considerations: Ensure that your designs do not infringe on any copyrights or trademarks. Also, be aware of the legal requirements of running a business online, such as taxes and business registration.

Running a successful print-on-demand company requires continuous effort and learning. But with passion and dedication, it can be a rewarding venture.

Now, before we wrap it up, you know how to run a print-on-demand business, but what’s actually happening?

What is a Print-on-Demand?

It’s an e-commerce business model that lets you sell your own custom-designed products without needing to keep any inventory or have upfront costs.

It’s one of the best ways to make money online, especially for new entrepreneurs.

Instead of the traditional retail grind where you buy a bunch of products upfront and hope they sell, print-on-demand is way cooler. You create a design, upload it to a platform offering print-on-demand services, and list it for sale on your store.

When someone buys it, the order goes to the print-on-demand provider. They print your design, package it, and ship it straight to the customer. You only pay after a sale has been made, slashing the risk and upfront cash.

It’s a hit for selling custom stuff like apparel, home decor, and accessories.

You get to be creative, try out different designs, and build a brand without needing a pile of money or dealing with inventory and shipping headaches.

Why You Should Start A Print On Demand Business

  • Low Upfront Investment: Unlike traditional retail businesses that require you to buy and hold inventory, print-on-demand only requires you to pay for the product after a customer has made a purchase. This significantly reduces the financial risk and makes it a viable option for entrepreneurs on a budget.
  • Flexibility and Creativity: With print on demand, you have the freedom to create and sell a wide variety of custom products featuring your unique designs. This allows you to express your creativity and build a brand that truly represents your vision.
  • Scalability: As your business grows, your POD service provider can easily handle increased order volumes. This means you can focus on expanding your business without worrying about operational logistics.
  • No Inventory Management: Since print-on-demand products are only created after a sale is made, you don’t have to worry about managing inventory or finding storage space.
  • Global Reach: With an online store, you can reach customers from all over the world. Many print-on-demand service providers also offer worldwide shipping, making it easy for you to sell your products internationally.

Alternatives to a Print-on-Demand Business

While starting a print-on-demand company has its advantages, it’s not the only way to start an online business. There are loads of ways you can make money online so don’t tie yourself down to just one.


Similar to print-on-demand, dropshipping allows you to sell products without holding inventory. However, instead of selling custom-designed products, you’re selling existing products from suppliers.

Affiliate Marketing

With affiliate marketing, you promote other company’s products and earn a commission for each sale made through your referral link. This can be a good option if you have a strong online presence or a large audience.

Digital Products

Selling digital products like ebooks, online courses, or digital art can be a profitable business. The advantage is that there’s no cost to produce or ship the product, and it can be sold unlimited times.

Subscription Boxes

Subscription boxes are a popular business model where customers receive a box of products every month. This could be anything from gourmet foods to beauty products to books.

Each of these business models has its own pros and cons, and what works best for you will depend on your interests, skills, and resources.

Now, let’s wrap things up and talk about my personal experience with print-on-demand.

My Experience With Print-on-Demand

Diving into the Print on Demand (POD) scene isn’t just a hobby; it’s a legit business model. With a background in e-commerce and extensive research, I can tell you that understanding your target audience is crucial.

You need to understand what they want so you can create designs that they’ll actually buy. And market research? That’s not a one-off; it’s an ongoing process to keep you ahead of the game.

Customer service is another big deal. Even if you’re not interacting in person, your online responsiveness can make a real difference. It’s about solving problems quickly and efficiently, which can give you an edge over competitors.

POD isn’t a shortcut to easy money. It demands a mix of creativity, strategy, and persistence. But if you approach it right, it’s a viable business model that can offer both creative satisfaction and financial gains.

So, if you’re considering POD, you’re already on the right track. It’s a solid option for those willing to put in the work.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Conduct Market Research for POD?

Check best-sellers on Amazon, Etsy, and eBay for popular designs. Use social media to spot trends and see what’s getting likes. Google Trends can show you what search terms are hot. It’s all about knowing what people want.

Do I Need to Hold Inventory?

No, one of the biggest perks of POD is that you don’t need to hold any inventory. The POD service takes care of manufacturing and shipping each product as orders come in.

What is Print on Demand (POD)?

Print on Demand is a business model where you create custom designs for products like apparel, mugs, or phone cases. These products are only produced and shipped when a customer places an order, reducing the need for inventory.

What Are the Risks?

The main risks in POD are copyright infringement and market saturation. Always make sure your designs are original to avoid legal issues. Also, research your niche thoroughly to ensure there’s enough demand but not too much competition.

How Do I Find Customers?

Finding customers usually involves a mix of social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and sometimes paid advertising. Understanding your target audience and what they’re looking for is crucial for effective marketing.

How Much Does It Cost to Start?

The initial costs can vary. You’ll likely need some budget for designing software and marketing campaigns. Many POD platforms don’t require upfront fees but will take a percentage of each sale, so factor that into your pricing.

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