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How to start a print on demand business

How Does a Print on Demand Business Work?

The print on demand business model makes it possible for any entrepreneur to sell products without investing in items for sale upfront.

To start, an entrepreneur chooses which products to sell, creates or purchases unique designs for the products, and then provides the designs/images to a print on demand supplier who keeps a range of blank items such as clothing, dishware, and accessories in stock.

After a customer places the order, the supplier prints the items in accordance with the customer's wishes and ships the final product to the buyer. The entrepreneur then pays the supplier a previously agreed fee for each product sold and shipped.

Print on demand is becoming increasingly popular as consumers turn from ready-made, mass-produced items to customized products.

The fact that the industry is inherently sustainable and eco-friendly is yet another point in its favor, as a growing number of consumers are putting a premium on purchasing items from an eco-friendly production model that does not generate waste.

The industry grew by 12% from 2017 to 2020 and further growth is expected in the coming years. However, that does not mean an entrepreneur can simply start up a business and expect immediate success.

Proper planning is a must to build a company that will be successful long-term. Following is a comprehensive guide on how to start a print on demand business.

Choosing One or More Print on Demand Designs

Passion and talent will likely play a big role in the creation of designs for the print on demand business. Artists who specialize in a particular style or type of art (be it birds, dogs, flowers, nature scenes, etc.) will likely want to create art in their preferred styles.

(My dog Rosie Bear) - She would do great on a T-Shirt or Coffee mug!

An entrepreneur who wants to convey a particular message to the public (be it in support of a political cause or religion) will likely choose words or catchy phrases in line with his or her beliefs. Print on demand is also used by many business owners to promote their goods/services; in such instances, the product would likely feature the company logo and/or business name.

At the same time, a person does not need to be an artist, have a particular cause, or own his or her own business in order to start a print on demand business.

Public domain art that can be adapted or even used as-is can be found on sites such as Pixabay; alternatively, one can hire an artist or graphics designer on sites such as Upwork or Fivver.

All one needs to do is come up with an art idea or concept.

The first step in choosing a design is to select a target demographic. It could be based on:

  • Location

  • Ethnicity

  • Age

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Interest (i.e. dog lovers, bookworms, sports fans)

Once you know who you want to target, do some research to see which designs are already available for those in your target audience. Ideally, you'll want to come up with design ideas that are likely to appeal to potential consumers and that have not been used multiple times by potential competitors.

Choosing a Print on Demand Product

Recent statistics indicate that the three most popular print-for-sale items are T-shirts, mugs, and hoodies.

Other trending products include:

  • Sports clothing

  • Hoodies

  • Hats

  • Stationary

  • Phone cases

  • Wall art

  • Tote bags

These products sell well, which means they can be a "safe bet"; however, it also means that an entrepreneur will be competing against literally thousands of other businesses to get client attention and make sales.

A business can do well by offering some of the above-mentioned products, but it's also a good idea to look for niche items that aren't readily available from multiple sellers.

Good options include shower curtains, custom pendants, and foot mats.

Once again, careful research is in order to find products that will appeal to the right audience. It's also important to make sure the item in question has a good profit potential and can easily be restocked by the print on demand supplier.

Entrepreneurs may also want to consider items that can be bundled together to jumpstart sales. Good examples include shower curtains with bath mats, hoodies with leggings, and pet bowls and pet clothing.

How to Choose an Artist for Print on Demand Products

Unless the entrepreneur is an accomplished artist, it's best to hire a freelancer who has expertise in this field.

The same point applies even if the product will feature a message rather than a design, as a good calligrapher will be able to create a unique font and add flair to the text to ensure it's unique and appealing.

There are several things to keep in mind when looking for an artist or calligrapher to do work for a print on demand business. First, the artist should have experience providing the type of art needed, for the medium on which the art will be printed.

The artist should also be able to draw or design in the desired style.

Finally, the artist should be able to finish the design by the agreed-on date. Check online reviews to see what other designers have to say about the individual or company in question to ensure it has a track record of doing good work at a good price.

How to Choose a Print on Demand Supplier

When looking for a supplier, it's often best to pick a large, well-known company that has the experience and an established track record. Other factors to consider include:

  • Look for print on demand services that have the printable materials needed for current or future use. This makes it possible to expand custom products in the future without finding another supplier.

  • If print on demand custom products are meant to be shipped internationally, make sure the supplier can handle international shipping

  • See what print on demand companies and consumers have to say about the local print provider. It's wise to avoid ones that have received repeated complaints about low-quality products, shipping delays, and shipping mistakes.

Is Cost an Important Factor When Choosing a Print on Demand Supplier?

Cost is yet another factor to consider when choosing an artist or supplier. After all, an entrepreneur will naturally want to ensure he or she can turn a profit on the print on demand business.

However, bear in mind that cost is secondary to quality and service. Never choose a supplier or artist based on cost alone. High-quality materials and workmanship are a must if a business is to be successful long-term.

Set up the Print on Demand Business

A print on demand business is a fairly simple operation, but it should still have a business structure that offers optimal tax benefits and protects an entrepreneur's assets in the event of legal action.

A limited liability company (LLC) can be a good option for many entrepreneurs. If the print on demand company is run by two or more individuals, a partnership is likely in order.

If you choose to set up an LLC, Tailorbrands makes the paperwork a breeze. One of the things I dread most in stating a new business is the paperwork. Not anymore.

The business will also need a physical address, but that does not mean that one has to use his or her home address for this purpose. A business center can provide a new business owner with a professional address without the need to lease office space.

The print on demand business will also need a catchy name. Pick one that is short, easy to spell, and easy to remember. It should not be similar to a competitor's name and there should be a .com domain available for the business to purchase.

A good name should accurately convey what the print on demand service offers while allowing space for an entrepreneur to add or remove products or designs in the future. It should also appeal to the online business' target market.

A logo is also a must as it boosts confidence in the business, enables clients to remember the business easily, conveys an accurate representation of what the company offers, and generates brand loyalty.

The logo should look good not only on products but also on offline and online platforms such as an online store, social media platforms, and emails.

Putting up Products for Sale

Once the products are ready and the print on demand model is good to go, it's time to start selling. An entrepreneur can sell print on demand products not just on his or her own online store but also Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Shopify, Wix and other, similar platforms.

Large platforms enable one to generate brand awareness quicker than would otherwise be possible while also generating trust in consumers who are used to shopping on these large e-commerce sites.

Taking Good Photos for a Print on Demand Store

To set up items for sale, an entrepreneur will need high-quality images. For the best shots, it's a good idea to order one of each product being posted for sale and then hire a photographer to take good pictures of items from multiple angles.

A recent survey found that nearly one-third of consumers want to see multiple photos of a product for sale before making a purchase while 60% of buyers prefer images that offer a 360º view to those that only show limited viewpoints.

In addition to images, each product will need a winning description. It doesn't need to be wordy; in fact, the goal is to keep it short, to the point, and easy to remember. Each description should highlight the product's best features and amenities and explain what sizes and customization options are available.

If items are machine washable, waterproof, etc., this information should be listed in the product description as well.

An entrepreneur should also note if the product ships at the customer's expense or the business' expense. The latter option is best, especially for orders over $20 to $30. Statistics clearly show that while shipping costs increase overhead expenses, they also boost profits.

A whopping 90% of consumers say that free shipping is the reason they shop online and 80% will abandon a shopping cart if the seller does not provide free shipping or list a free shipping threshold.

Advertising Print on Demand Products

Advertising plays an integral role in creating awareness of a business and standing out from the competition. A business owner can start promoting the business even before the first products are put up for sale by setting up social media accounts on platforms that target consumers are most likely to use.

Social Media Advertising of Print on Demand Custom Products

TikTok and SnapChat are ideal for an entrepreneur targeting young people. Pinterest is the platform of choice for an entrepreneur creating products for women. Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook are ideal options for companies that want to reach middle-aged clients, while LinkedIn can be a good platform for companies targeting business owners.

Each social media platform should have uniform branding so that consumers will associate platforms with the print on demand business. The platforms should be updated regularly, so consumers know what to expect; however, it is important to avoid the urge to continually push new products.

Social media, after all, is designed to be social, so entrepreneurs will want to be sure to use the platforms to engage with customers. Ask questions, host competitions and giveaways, and get to know consumers in order to better meet their needs.

Can Paid Advertising Bring in More Sales?

Paid advertising can take a bite out of an entrepreneur's profits; however, it can also give a business a needed initial boost by bringing in clients and generating sales.

Google Ads is a good option as it can reach tens of millions of potential clients; however, a business owner will want to continually monitor the campaign to ensure it is bringing in a return on the investment.

Social media advertising is also effective, especially if one has chosen the right target demographic and is able to create advertisements that appeal to those most likely to be interested in the products in question.

Influencer marketing is yet another great way to generate sales. While some of the best-known influencers charge huge sums for their services, a new business owner does not have to work with celebrities in order to succeed.

Micro influencers who have small groups of followers can be very effective and working with several of these individuals can help an entrepreneur reach various target demographics.

Growing a Print on Demand Business

Getting a print on demand business off to a successful start is a great first step. Create high quality products and eventually, word of mouth will help news of the business to spread. New consumers will come in, refer others to the business, and make repeat purchases themselves.

At the same time, product quality alone won't guarantee business success. Keeping the business successful long-term requires continued product research, good customer service, and attention to detail.

An entrepreneur will want to keep an eye on expenses to ensure a good profit margin, making needed adjustments to the business to ensure a steady supply of goods at a reasonable cost.

Analyzing sales data is important, as it enables an entrepreneur to see which items are selling well and which should be discontinued. It can also help an entrepreneur identify new products and designs that could appeal to his or her target audience.

Ongoing marketing also plays a role in a business' long-term success. An entrepreneur will want to stay in touch with customers via email to keep clients abreast of new products, offer discounts, and provide interesting insight into the business' inner workings.

It's also wise to encourage customers to leave positive reviews, as these generate trust in the business and bring in new sales. Social media platforms should be updated on a regular basis to feature tips, tricks, insightful information, new product advertisements, and more.

A print on demand business can provide an artist or activist a way to share his or her passions with others. It's an ideal way for an entrepreneur to start a business without having to purchase products upfront.

It's versatile, as a print on demand business owner can add new products for sale and discontinue old ones without having to sell off inventory at a loss. It will take a fair bit of planning, research, and hard work to get the venture off the ground but the results can be more than worth the effort.

Those who are interested in starting a print on demand business should consider the tips outlined above and customize them to meet their specific needs. It is important to start the business model on the right foot by choosing the right designs, products, business partners, selling platforms, social media platforms, and marketing strategies.

It is also important to continue to monitor the company's progress and look for the best ways to grow the business and meet consumer expectations. Doing so increases the odds of long-term success, making it possible for the new business owner to meet his or her goals faster than would have otherwise been possible.

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