How to start a print on demand business
Print-on-demand is known for being a low risk and high reward approach to e-commerce. It’s a business model that attracts entrepreneurs, people wanting to jump-start their business, influencers, and everyone in-between.
We’ll walk you through the basics of how to start your print-on-demand business, but first there are a few terms you should know…
- Print-on-demand: Often referred to as “POD” is a sustainable business model where an item is only produced and shipped after it’s been purchased.
- Dropshipping: An invisible service and fulfillment model where the merchant (you) pays the supplier (us) to produce and ship orders to your customer.
- White label products: A product that’s printed by a supplier (us) but sold by another company (you). White label products allow you to sell items under the guise of your company with your own labels.
How can SPOD help you?
As the print-on-demand experts SPOD manages warehousing, production, and shipping. Because the basics are taken care of on your behalf, you’ll retain time and energy to focus on creating products, offering customer service, and marketing your business.
Because you don’t have to deal with a warehouse or stock, dropshipping gives you the flexibility to run your business and ship products from anywhere in the world. In the post-covid era, where people will be reassessing their day jobs and seeking out more travel – dropshipping and POD is on its way to becoming an even bigger business.
Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get you started
1. Find your niche
What do gamers, dog owners, and vegans have in common? They’re all examples of niche markets! A niche should not be too broad (think: people who like sports) or too narrow (think: people from New Jersey who like Serena Williams). Let’s say you have a local sports team; fans of that team could be excited to see historic versions of their jerseys for sale. This is a perfect example of something that enough people can relate to, they’ll feel like they’re in a club! A word to the wise, always be careful to check trademarks.
When you target a niche, you appeal more strongly to your audience and establish a clear brand identity.
Ultimately, you want to become the go-to business for a specific market. But before you take it any further, you should get to know your niche with research. When you’re just starting out, keep research simple and find out competition, potential and general interest. Ask yourself this series of questions: How and what do people already sell in that niche? Can I bring something different or new? Is this something people could be interested by? Once you have these answers, you will be in a much stronger position to get started.
See what customers are buying in the best-sellers section on Spreadshirt’s homepage or explore the autosuggest function in Amazon or other platforms search bar. To do this, you should type a keyword related to your niche in the Amazon search bar. There you’ll be able to see the different product types that people are looking for related to that subject matter. The goal of this should be to establish who you’re selling to and what they want to buy.
To analyze the popularity of different keywords and search trends, try out Google Trends. This allows you to compare the popularity of different keywords easily, find niches via the 12-month overview, see the trajectory of keywords over time; and explore sub-niches in the “Related topics” section.
Your niche may be influenced by characteristics of your target audience such as geography, age, gender identity, beliefs, and personal interests. Some of these factors, like beliefs, can change or evolve. One of the biggest benefits of print-on-demand and dropshipping is that they’re easily scalable to a growing niche or new trend.
2. Choose a POD partner
Ask yourself the following questions when selecting a POD partner… Where do you want to sell? What do you want to sell? How do you want to sell it?
Let’s start with the first point, location. The location of your POD partner affects shipping, regional sizing differences, and taxes. For instance, SPOD has in-house production facilities in both the USA and Europe. So, if you choose to sell in Europe, shipping and delivery to your European customers is faster because it’s local.
If you’re reading this, you likely have an idea of what you want to sell. Beyond your chosen products, think about the print techniques POD partners can offer you. Print techniques like Direct to Garment and Flex are the industry standard. By choosing a POD partner with high quality equipment, you’ll have happier customers who are likely to shop with you again.
Finally, how do you want to sell? Different POD partners have different integrations. An integration allows you to connect your store or products to several platforms. Currently, SPOD offers integrations with Shopify and will have many more available soon.
Trust in your print-on-demand partner is important. After all, they will be warehousing, producing, and shipping products to your customers; all of which have a direct impact on your brand. As a SPOD merchant if there’s anything that affects your business, we’ll make sure you’re the first to know. We believe transparency and trust are essential.
3. Create products
Whether you’re a creative or not, there are many ways to create products and designs your customers will love. The best print-on-demand partners will offer many canvases to choose from. That could be anything from T-Shirts to tote bags and everything in-between.
When you’re creating designs for products there are two important points to remember: design quality and design placement. To achieve your desired design quality, you can either work with a graphic designer or create products yourself.
Graphic designers may favor Photoshop, but those less familiar should try tools like Canva, GIMP, Tayasui Sketches, and Vectr. Canva is best suited to easily crafting logos. While GIMP, Tayasui Sketches and Vectr are ideal for more complex or intricate designs. A few PODs have free design libraries; SPOD for instance has 50K designs available for you to use. Remember, when placing a design on a product, you’ll want to make sure it’s centered and a balanced size.
The products you sell are a reflection of your overall business. Because production is handled by your print-on-demand partner, it’s important to experience and see products for yourself before selling them to customers. At SPOD, you’ll receive a discount of up to 20% when ordering product samples.
4. Set up your store
Now that you’ve decided on a niche, picked a POD partner and designed your products, here’s one of the more time-consuming stages. Your store appearance is a good opportunity to strengthen your brand, and it’s one of the first things customers will notice. Stay consistent with your brand’s colors and font, you can also ask friends for feedback regularly. Set up your store exactly as you want customers to see it. From a theme to logos, special fonts or colors—do your thing.
Consider where you want to sell your products. Ecommerce platforms such as Shopify are relatively quick and easy to set up, while Magento and WooCommerce allow for great levels of individualization. Print on demand also opens doors to a wide variety of points of sale such as eBay, Amazon and Etsy; all possible through OrderDesk. If you already have an established store, perhaps it's worth exploring an API to connect to your POD parntner.
A very popular feature we offer is the Customizer. This is a tool that allows customers to tailor their products themselves. For example, you sell a T-shirt in your store that has a horse design on it. Your customers can add another design element to that product, like text.
5. Market your business
Now that you’re connected with a print-on-demand supplier and your products are online, you can focus on your marketing! Marketing is the best way to get the word out about your new business and to start selling. Whether that’s through paid advertising, social media, SEO, or a mix of everything is up to you.
For your first sales, word of mouth is a good place to start. Keep in mind you’ll need to kick it up a notch before too long though. Building your SEO strength with high quality product descriptions will make you more visible on Google, while utilizing social media brings both long and short-term gains. For instance, platforms like Instagram and Facebook have extremely easy methods to push posts to audiences outside of your community through paid advertising.
If you’re a marketing pro, or an absolute novice, promotions are a great way to build hype.
Offer free shipping or a welcome discount to new customers; and make your promos known with social media and marketing graphics from Placeit. It’s a super easy tool to use and will make your marketing materials look truly professional.
As you’re starting to experiment with POD, check out the SPOD Community Group on Facebook. You don’t have to be a SPOD merchant to join the group. It’s a really fantastic place to see what SPOD is about, ask POD-related questions, and to learn from others. If your business is connected with a supplier like SPOD, who better to answer your questions than current SPOD merchants themselves. Additionally, social media is a really helpful tool when testing the waters.
What should you take away from all of this?
Ultimately, remember that there’s a certain degree of hustle involved when starting any new business. If you have an idea you’re excited about and want to share with the world, we’re here to help you do it. Whether you’re new or experienced, you’ll have SPODs nearly 20 years of industry expertise behind you.
Go on, play around and take your first steps!