How To Start a Print On-Demand Business and Make Money Online

start a print on demand business

Starting a Print On-Demand business has many advantages, and huge opportunities for making great money online. But, like many of the ideas for making money online, a lot of people are trying to set up a Print On-Demand Business to make quick money.

Because so many people are doing it, there are a few considerations you need to think through before getting too excited about this business.

First, there’s a lot of competition and a low barrier to entry, so this makes making money with Print On-Demand products extremely hard.

So with that said, let’s get into how you can make money with a Print On Demand Business of your own.

What Exactly Is Print On-Demand

Print On-Demand (or POD) is a way of creating products on a per-order basis that you can white label your brand too. Depending on the Print On-Demand company you work with, they will even drop ship an individual order straight to your customer. This means that you won’t have to stock inventory or do any fulfillment of orders and ship anything out.

A huge advantage to the Print On-Demand business model is you won’t have to make a huge upfront investment to manufacture a big order of products. You can do much smaller orders or even single orders.

Some common Print On-Demand products include things like T-Shirts, Hoodies, Laptop Bags, Phone Cases, Bags, Coffee Mugs, Tote Bags, Wall Art and Canvas Art Prints, Shower Curtains, KeyChains, and Jackets.

Overall, this is the basic idea of a Print On-Demand business model. They’ve removed the barrier to entry for getting merchandise manufactured for your business to resell.

Is Print On-Demand Worth It? The Problems With This Business Model

The tough problem for most businesses who want to make money with the print on-demand business model is generating sales. With so many businesses reselling the same types of products you need to uniquely distinguish your merchandise with either a copyrighted design, a slogan, or a brand name.

In other words, the Print On-Demand market is flooded with products and is supersaturated with everyone selling low-quality everyday stuff. People are doing products just for the sake of doing products without testing or seeing if anyone will buy them. This is a total waste of effort and time that ultimately causes many people to fail.

There Are Exceptions Of Course

I mean don’t get me wrong, there are a few people out there that were lucky and made money just selling random stuff on Etsy, Amazon, eBay, or a print on-demand marketplace like Zazzle.

Mostly because they started listing certain print-on-demand products that were new to that marketplace. Because very few listings existed for the product, the demand exceeded the supply.

But over time this is not sustainable because the market will get flooded with whatever product type you were profiting from and your sales will go down too! This is less likely to happen to a product with a unique brand or design concept.

In the next few sections, you’ll learn more about the proper order of steps you should execute your Print On-Demand business with, so you have the highest chance of long-term success.

A Perfect Brand Example Which Is Successful Selling Shoes

A perfect example of a successful brand would be Nike selling Shoes. With all the millions of shoes out there in the market, people immediately think about Nike when it comes to sports like running and basketball.

With endorsements and celebrities like Michal Jordan featuring the Nike brand for basketball shoes, everybody thinks about the Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes. Check out the following news article from Yahoo to find out more about the spectacular Nike sales for the Jordan brand.

Yahoo: Jordan Brand Leads Nike Resurgence in Sales and Shares

Now for the small business owner, hiring Michael Jordan to brand your Print On-Demand products is totally out of the question. But, the principle is the same if you can position your brand and build a following of loyal customers.

Essentially, it’s you that is the Michael Jordan of your brand and Print On-Demand products.

Whether you are a talented artist who sells Wall Prints of your paintings, or a YouTuber who entertains people and sells T-shirts with your YouTube Channel’s name on them.

The formula for success with selling Print On-Demand Products is simple, build up a following for your brand first, then sell your products second.

The Keys For Success, Proper Order Of Execution For Your Print On-Demand Business

The key to success with making money with Print On-Demand products is building up a brand that has loyal followers who will actually buy the merchandise you plan on selling.

Most new people getting into the print on-demand business model try to sell merchandise without having a brand or loyal followers.

The only way you can sell a product without a loyal brand following is if you have a one of a kind product that solves a problem for people, that no one else can sell. This is not the case for Print On-Demand products which are massed produced commodities that anyone can resell and competition is fierce.

Consider These Steps For Success:

  1. First Step, build up your brand and following via Social Media, Blogging, or YouTube. This is ultimately the hardest step in the process and where all of the hard work comes into play.
  1. Second Step, as you build up your following, provide value, information, or entertainment, and most importantly, be authentic. The rate of growth you have will be different for everybody.
  1. Third Step, once you’ve got a substantial following and brand awareness, ask your following what types of products they’d want and buy from you to help support your brand. You can run a survey via Twitter, YouTube, or even Email.
  1. Fourth Step, once you have the info from your survey or feedback on what people want to buy from you, get your print on-demand product created and resell it on your website or a Print On-Demand marketplace like Zazzle, RedBubble, or FineArt America. You could even list them on Etsy, eBay, or Amazon.
  1. Fifth Step, after you have something listed for sale, promote it to your followers, if you get a lot of sales, then it was a success. If you don’t get any sales, then get more feedback and try another print on-demand product to sell.

As you execute through these various steps, you’ll get better and better at figuring out which products your followers will buy and will not buy. You’ll have to just test the market and see what works and does not work.

After a while, you’ll see the truth come out in your sales numbers and look at what is actually selling, then you can have better predictions for future products you can make and successfully profit on.

Where To Sell Your Print On-Demand Products

There are many options for selling Print On-Demand products. The most popular reselling marketplace platforms such as Etsy, eBay, and Amazon are the first thing that comes to mind for most people. (Print On-Demand Marketplaces like Zazzle and RedBubble are also popular options.)

And while I’m a big supporter of these platforms, there is a problem with selling Print On-Demand Products on them.

The problem is the fees that are involved. In most cases, eBay, Esty, and Amazon will collect anywhere between 5 to 20% of your total purchase price in fees. This may not sound like a lot, but it is a lot for selling a print on-demand product where you might have a low-margin product to begin with.

In some cases, your profit margin on a product might only be 10%, if the fees are 15 or 20% how do you make any money?

So before you start deciding on where to sell your products, make sure you understand the economics of how you will make money. And remember, you are better off sticking with products that bring a 30% or more profit margin.

If you are an established brand, you have the luxury of getting higher margins and can actually just sell directly off your own website/blog using a Shopify Store, WordPress, Wix, or some other type of e-commerce solution.

If you have an established Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube Channel, you can sell directly from there too with ads and other e-commerce solutions.

So with your own platform and brand, you can save on fees and really maximize your profit margin for making the most money from a sale on a product that usually has a very low-profit margin like a Mug or something.

Most Popular Types Of Print On-Demand Products To Make Money With (Ideas and Examples)

There are a lot of different types of products to resell for a Print On-Demand business model. 

Below, I list out the most popular examples of print on-demand products people are searching for on the Internet. Each item you see listed below is searched for at least 100 times or more per month using a query similar to this “print on demand + product name”.

These searches are from people who are looking to make money by selling these products, not buying them.

Reselling a popular product could work against you because the market is saturated with others selling the same type of product. On the other hand, they are popular because people are buying them.

To combat the issue of selling a product in a crowded market, that’s where branding comes into play and why I discussed it earlier in this article, so keep that in mind as you review the below list.

Clothing and Apparel Items

  • Shirts
  • Books
  • T-shirts
  • Shoes
  • Hats
  • Dresses
  • Jeans
  • Hoodies
  • Fabric
  • Underwear
  • Jackets
  • Hawaiian Shirts
  • Fitness Apparel

Home Decor and Household Items

  • Mugs
  • Candles
  • Posters
  • Doormats
  • Wall Paper
  • Art Prints
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Rugs
  • Yard Signs
  • Blankets
  • Metal Signs
  • Kitchen Towels
  • Magnets
  • Wood Signs
  • Glassware
  • Ornaments

Items for Pets

  • Pet Products
  • Dog Clothing

Personal Items

  • Jewelry
  • Keychains
  • Yoga Matts
  • Tote Bags
  • Phone Cases
  • Luggage
  • Leather Bags
  • Enamel Pins
  • Water Bottles
  • Necklace
  • Tumblers

Stationary and Books

  • Notebooks/Notepads
  • Magazines
  • Journals
  • Cards
  • Bookmarks

Games and Puzzles

  • Jigsaw Puzzles
  • Other brain teasers and puzzle games
  • Playing Cards

Art Supplies and Items

  • Canvas
  • Coloring Books
  • Wall Art

As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities with Print On-Demand, in fact, this list is not even 25% of what is available, according to Printify, they have over 800 Print On-Demand products in their inventory, wow!

How Much To Start a Print On-Demand Business

The start-up cost is very low to get started.

A lot of times you’ll have to pay a graphic designer to create some artwork for your brand such as a logo, etc. This can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 dollars.

The average cost for logo design and other simple graphic designs for your business’s print on-demand merchandise can start in the range of 100 to 1,000 dollars.

If you have more complex designs for your merchandise, expect to pay more.

If you are lucky and have the natural talent to be a graphic designer or an artist, you can make your own graphics and art for free.

Additional costs associated with starting a Print on Demand business model will be related to the cost of building up your following and brand. So if you have a YouTube channel, expect to invest time and money learning about filming videos, buying a camera (or quality smartphone), and buying editing software.

If you plan on starting a blog, you’ll need to invest in web hosting and getting a website set up.

If you are planning on being a Tik Tok, YouTube Shorts, or Instagram Influencer, you’ll want to invest in a good smartphone that can take quality videos and run all the apps you need. Such as the latest iPhone or Droid phone.

All in all, good equipment for filming a video, whether it’s a camera or an actual smartphone will cost you at least 200 dollars or more. If you decide to buy an iPhone, you’ll pay closer to $1000 dollars. (This range covers both used and new smartphones.)

There’s no exact number I can tell you for how much it will cost to get started, but it’s safe to say the following.

  1. $200 – $1,000 dollars for graphics design, either for your brand’s graphics, or the cost to design your print on-demand product.
  1. $200 – $1,000 to get a basic website created and hosted for your brand if you decide to be a blogger. The cost can easily exceed this if you are going to hire a web design firm to help you.
  2. $100 – $2,000 for hardware and software. Like a camera, smartphone, laptop computer, editing software, and other miscellaneous technology costs.
  1. Lastly, the number of hours you invest in your own time with regard to launching the brand, creating content, and evaluating samples of your print-on-demand merchandise.

How Much Money Can You Make With Print On-Demand Products?

It’s hard to know the exact number for how much profit you’ll make selling Print On-Demand products. I wish there was a straight number I could tell you, but there is not.

Online, you’ll often read about profit margins of 30% to 100%. And while that might be true for some people’s print on-demand businesses, it’s not the norm for everyone.

The competition is fierce and a lot of times people start dropping their prices when inventory does not sell fast enough. So keep that in mind.

The way to maximize profit is to have a brand, loyal followers, and products that your followers want to pay up for in order to support you.

For example: People are paying up to buy your brand name or some cool design that is stamped on a mug, not just a mug to drink out of. The same is true for all the other items we listed previously.

Remember! Businesses that manufacture their own patented products that solve problems for people in the real world have the highest profit margins, even if they don’t build a following of loyal buyers online. They just need to advertise it or get it on Shark Tank, and people will be drawn to it because it solves a problem for them. A lot of the Print on Demand products are just commodities, so it’s hard to get a high-profit margin out of them the same way.

Choosing The Right Print On-Demand Marketplace, Business, and Company To Work With

When it comes to companies that offer Print On-Demand services for creators and business resellers, there’s no shortage of them.

Some of the most popular Print On-Demand Businesses even offer a marketplace in addition to helping you create your product.

When working with a Print On-Demand Company of any kind, it’s very important that you review the terms of services very carefully before signing up. Also, pay special close attention to their costs of doing business and fees. If the Print On-Demand business offers a marketplace, pay special close attention to the reselling fees.

Every little cost and fee that is charged to you affects your bottom line and makes your overall net profit shrink. For some products with low-profit margins, it’s almost not even worth listing an item for sale.

For other products with higher profit margins of 30% or more, it is worth it provided you don’t get caught up paying a lot in fees.

Some companies to consider doing further research on for print on-demand services are:

  • Zazzle
  • RedBubble
  • Sellify
  • Printify
  • Printful
  • FineArt America
  • Tpop

For a complete round-up of Print On-Demand Companies to work with, check out this article here:

Print On-Demand Businesses and Websites To Source From

Frequently Asked Questions About Selling Print On-Demand Products

Before we conclude, let’s review some commonly asked questions relating to the Print On Demand Business model.

Is Print On Demand Good For Beginners?

Yes! It is perfect for beginners. But as a beginner, you need to be an expert at building your brand ahead of time. So market yourself, show off your talents, then build up a following on social media or your own website.

Then, ask your followers what kind of merchandise they might want to buy from you. An example could be a photographer which posts their photos on Instagram, then builds up a following, then sells their photographs as a wall print.

Is Print on Demand a Good Side Hustle?

If you decide to work on your Print on Demand business part-time as a side hustle it will take you a bit longer to monetize it vs. doing something like DoorDash or something.

However, you’ll have the potential to really scale out your own business into something full-time down the road. Before you go full-time, it will still make money part-time as well.

Is Paid Advertising a Good Way To Generate Traffic For Selling a Print On-Demand Product?

Paid Advertising might work but do your calculations carefully. Otherwise, you might burn a lot of money for nothing.

The safest way to sell your print on-demand products is to build up a brand with loyal followers by creating content online first. Then, survey your followers and find out what type of merchandise they’d be interested in buying from you. This way you avoid the risk of wasting money on paid ads.

Is The Print On-Demand Business Model Truly Passive Income?

The print on-demand business model will be passive income for you if you decide to step away from the business for a vacation or an extended period of time.

However, it’s not as passive as one would think. Mostly because you’ll still have to keep your brand going by creating content and building followers.

You’ll also have to keep creating new designs and product concepts to sell to your followers and customers, so you can keep getting new purchases coming in.

Can You Dropship With Print On-Demand?

Yes, absolutely! The product is shipped directly to your customer from the company which is printing your products. It’s all processed as soon as an order comes in.

Before you list a product for sale, you want to make sure that you sample the product first to ensure quality, otherwise, you’ll find a lot of returns.

What Are Some Alternatives To Print On Demand?

Selling a service or digital product you create yourself is the best alternative.

Services and Digital Products have higher profit margins and are easy to sell online because there is no shipping involved.

An example of a service might be one-to-one teaching for a subject matter in which you are an expert.

An example for a digital product is an eBook or Online Video Course where you teach as a subject matter expert. 

Final Thoughts

The Print On-Demand business model is alive and well today. Many people are doing it some have success, and others fail.

We even discussed why advertising your products could be very risky and most likely will not work because of stiff competition.

The safest way to profit from a print on-demand business is to build your brand online, get loyal followers, provide valuable content, then find out what kind of merchandise they’ll buy from you to support your brand.

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