Print on demand, as its name suggest, is a process wherein you work with a supplier to “print” your own designs on white-label products and sell them under your own brand.
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Your product could be anything from t-shirts, mugs, artwork on canvas, pillows, and so on, as long as they are sold on a per-order basis.
Print on demand was made popular within the publishing industry in the 1960s.
It was common practice for authors to complete a book, make a deal with a publishing house to print x number of books, and authors only receive a commission for books sold.
When print-on-demand became an option, publishing houses no longer have to pay authors at the beginning of a contract.
Instead, authors were paid after the book has been sold.
This resulted in authors no longer on the mercy of publishers, since they can sell books per-order basis and keep bulk of the profits.
What this meant for other industries is that sellers no longer have to buy in bulk, or stock a huge inventory of their products all the time.
It also meant new businesses can open up shop without big investments, since you don’t pay the supplier for any product until you’ve actually sold it.
What is a Print on Demand?
Print on demand is the process of adding your own designs to white labeled products as they are ordered. For example, instead of ordering hundreds t-shirts that may or may not sell, you take the order first, and then you have to the t-shirt printed.
If you’re a cartoonist, graphic designer, painter, or any kind of artist or business-minded entrepreneur, a print on demand store can be the platform you need if you don’t have much money for inventory, or lease money for a brick-and-mortar store.
Setting up a print on demand store has several benefits:
- Earn passive income – Create a design once, and wait for sales to pour in. You have total control about marketing your work, so you can either go big or take it easy.
- 100% manageable from anywhere – Because you won’t be doing any t-shirt screen-printing, or any other “production” process, you can manage your business from anywhere in the world.
- No after-sales – You own the designs from your store, but even if a customer orders from you, the supplier will handle everything from printing to shipping and even after-sales support. Meaning, you don’t even have to have a lot of time to manage your store.
If you join print on demand sites instead of building your own website, you don’t have to think about hosting and domain name fees, back-end maintenance, and other tasks involved in keeping a website live.
Can you make money with print on demand?
Print on demand sites encourage artists and entrepreneurs to join their websites for free.
Yes, you don’t need to pay upfront to join any PoD site. However, they do get a cut for every item sold from your store.
With this in mind, you may be wondering: “can you make money with print on demand?”
The answer is a huge YES.
Here are 3 solid reasons why I say there’s a huge potential for earning big money with print on demand products:
1. You don’t need to worry about equipment
As a merchandise store, the first thing you’d probably worry about is printing equipment.
And sometimes, you’ll need more than one piece of equipment. Equipment used for making phone cases can’t be used in printing clothes, while canvas printing cannot use the same equipment as laser printing.
When you open up shop with a print on demand site, all you have to invest in are you designs.
No thousands of dollars wasted buying equipment you’re not sure how much you’re going to use.
2. Talk to just a single third-party company
Regular online stores talk to multiple companies, from suppliers to shipping companies, outsourced support, marketing agencies, and so much more.
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Negotiating and communicating with these third-party companies just to ensure your store operations go on smoothly day in, day out can be quite exhausting. On top of this, you also have to make sure customer experience remains high, so you need to answer inquiries, follow-ups, complaints, returns, etc.
Print on demand sites take care of everything for you, so you can focus on what matters most: the designs.
If problems arise with your earnings, you only have to talk to the support team of your chosen PoD site.
3. Print on demand sites have fair fees
All Print on Demand sites do not have membership fees, but they do get a huge chunk of the item’s price.
This is absolutely understandable, since they’re the ones investing in equipment, handling daily operations, shipping products and marketing your designs. Plus, your designs are all hosted within their main site.
The advantage here is that you have control over the pricing of your products, which means you can place discounts during popular sale seasons (Thanksgiving, New Year’s, etc.), and then bring it up during peak seasons for your niche.
BUT WAIT…there’s a catch:
There is one major problem you might encounter as a designer at PoD sites.
You have to be willing to market your own “store” because there will be hundreds of artists to compete with.
If you’re lucky to be featured regularly on the Print on demand frontpage, then this might not be such an issue anymore.
But the reality is that even though you can earn big money in print on demand sites, it won’t come overnight. PoD sites do not guarantee that you will have a sale once you set-up your business and upload your designs.
Like other passive income generating businesses, you have to work at it as well to succeed.
What is the best print on demand site?
If you’re ready to begin your adventure selling print on demand merchandise, remember these factors to consider when picking the best print on demand site for your niche:
- Where you can sell you design – Some Print on Demand sites allow you to sell within their marketplace exclusively, while others allow you to manage your own website and still benefit from their production services.
- Traffic – The main advantage of PoD sites is the traffic they already have. You’re joining an already-existing, successful website upon launch of your store, so there’s a bigger possibility that your target market is already there.
- Different products – If you’re just after t-shirt production and sale, you’d have plenty of options. However, if you want to sell various print on demand products at the same time, check what kinds of products are available before signing on to a POD site.
- Quality of products – Of course, the quantity shouldn’t just be your deciding factor. Even if a particular print on demand site offers over 100 types of products, if the quality of these products are below-standard, then repeat customers may be less likely.
- Payment and shipping methods – The more options you give customers when it comes to paying and shipping, the more customers you’ll be able to bag. Yes, many customers just go to the next store if you don’t offer their payment method of choice, or if the only shipping company you have charges high fees.
- Low base cost – This amount refers to the amount your supplier spent to produce your product. If the base cost is low, it means you get to take home higher profits.
Last time, I wrote about 5 of the most popular Print on Demand Sites (Read more about Zazzle, Design by Humans, DeviantArt, RedBubble, CafePress, and Threadless here).
Here are 5 more print on demand sites that are worthy of checking out:
Leaf Group (formerly Demand Media Inc.) acquired Society6.com in June 2013.
This POD offers gadget cases, t-shirts, art prints, wall clocks, shower curtains, mugs, blankets, throw pillows, and more.
What makes Society6 Stand Out: Target features hundreds of artists from Society6 and sells artists’ designs as part of its home decor department.
Imagine how much more people will be able to see those designs (both online and offline), simply just by joining Society6.
Earning Potential: The biggest problem with Society6 is that the POD site has pre-determined base price.
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You only receive 10% from the retail price.
You do have control over the price of art canvas, art prints and framed art.
Launched by computer programmer Josh Kent in 2013, Sunfrog quickly became a force in the print on demand space that it sold over $60 million t-shirts, hoodies, shirts, mugs, hats, leggings, etc. by 2015.
Products are printed in the USA and shipped internationally.
What makes Sunfrog Stand Out: Probably the most striking thing about Sunfrog is that they know how to market the site.
The traffic grows each year because Sunfrog works on its social media and search engine optimization.
Earning Potential: Sunfrog pay artists 45% commission for each item sold, which is considerably higher than all other print on demand sites.
It’s only been around since September 2015, but this POD site definitely caught up with the rest.
By March 2018, it has shipped over 2 million products across its 150,000+ sellers.
This is rare for POD sites, since they prefer to be in control with the sale and day-to-day operations.
Earning Potential: GearBubble is more than just a POD site – it’s a dropshipping/fulfillment provider as well.
As a vendor for GearBubble, you can sell t-shirts, hoodies, necklaces, pendants, hats, mugs, pants, etc. and receive payment via PayPal at the end of each month.
Choose another POD site if you’re looking to sell print on demand shirts alone.
Here you can also sell curtains, cushions, pillowcases and so much more.
What makes Fine Art America Stand Out: This print on demand site boasts hundreds of high-end designs from artists and turn them into house decor items.
Earning Potential: Fine Art America has both free and paid ($30/year) plans.
This print-on-demand service provider allows you to customize over 200 white label products, and then dropship the products directly to your customers.
What makes Printify Stand Out: Printify has unique white label products you can’t find on other POD sites, such as jewelry, water bottles, clocks, and so on.
It can also integrate with Shopify, Etsy and Woocommerce.
Earning Potential: Available as both a free or premium plan ($29/month).
The Bottom Line
Many people have been designing and selling t-shirts since the internet paved the way for people to earn money from the comforts of their own homes.
With print-on-demand products, you can build a small store or scale it up into a massive store, without having inventory on hand, without investing in expensive equipment, and without having to set up your own website.
This is definitely a legitimate way to start an online business, especially if you have limited resources.