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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Make Money with Print-on-Demand

Beginner's handbook

Step-by-Step Guide for How to Make Money with Print-on-Demand

Step-by-Step Guide for How to Make Money with Print-on-Demand
Karlina Rozkalne

By Karlina Rozkalne

12 min read

Print-on-demand allows entrepreneurs, artists, and creatives to monetize their imagination and create a passive income stream without the risk of losing money. The beauty of the print-on-demand business model lies in the fact that a trusted print provider takes care of the entire production process for you.

You’re responsible for developing design ideas, marketing them to your target audience, and managing your online presence. Depending on how much time you’re willing to put into this pursuit, you can either make some extra money or create a full-time career and be your own boss.

In this guide, we’ll delve into how to make money with print-on-demand so you, too, can start making money online.

Valuable read: 10 Successful Print-on-Demand Stores and What You Can Learn From Them

What is print-on-demand?

Print-on-demand (POD) is a digital business model where products are created and printed only after an order is placed. It’s an attractive business model because it allows products to be made with minimal risk and investment.

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Valuable read: What is Print-on-Demand? All Your Questions Answered

Now, on to the real question—how can you make money with it?

Earn money online with print-on-demand in 6 steps

While print-on-demand doesn’t guarantee you’ll get rich quickly, as some may claim, it does offer a low-risk entry into ecommerce. 

There are plenty of print-on-demand success stories to get you inspired and committed to this journey. But it may take some time to start seeing the fruits of your labor, so creating a solid plan and sticking to it is paramount. So, what are the steps to creating a solid plan?

Valuable read: 20 Critical Print-on-Demand Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Selecting who you’ll work with is arguably the most important precursor to success. After all, this choice will determine the quality of your products, your brand’s reputation, and overall customer satisfaction.

Valuable read: 10 Things to Look for in Every Print-on-Demand Service

We’ve created a comprehensive resource for you to compare different print-on-demand providers

Disclaimer: Please check the comparison page to get the latest, most up-to-date information.

Print-on-demand dropshipping company comparison chartSource: Printful

Let’s briefly touch on the most important aspects of choosing a print-on-demand service for your business. 

Product range and quality

Product quality and versatility should be on top of your checklist when comparing print-on-demand companies. To ensure the longevity of your business, you want to sell products your customers like and want to keep buying more. A diverse product range allows you to cater to various customer preferences and keeps your store interesting. 

In addition to product quality, print quality is equally important. Not only print quality but fulfillment quality overall. So make sure to place order samples and see what quality your customers will get when buying from you.

Fulfillment and delivery times

Efficient fulfillment and prompt delivery are crucial for customer satisfaction. Long wait times can deter customers from making repeat purchases. Examine the average fulfillment and shipping times of the potential print partners. 

Also, consider their location and distribution networks, which can significantly impact delivery times.

Printful has a global network of fulfillment centers, and 97.66% of orders are shipped within 5 business days. More than 50% of our orders are shipped within 3 business days or fewer.

Printful fulfillment centers on the world map

Source: Printful

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Ecommerce platform and marketplace integrations

The compatibility between your print-on-demand service and your chosen ecommerce platform or marketplace is vital for streamlining syncing orders and processing payments so you don’t have to do it manually.

When evaluating print-on-demand services, consider:

  • Features like automatic order forwarding to speed up the order fulfillment process and minimize the chances of errors

  • Integrations’ customization possibilities so you can customize product listings, set your pricing, and manage product variations

  • Analytics and reporting tools to access in-depth insights into sales trends and customer behavior

 

Valuable read: Start an Online Store with Printful

Defining a target audience ensures your efforts are directed toward people most likely to buy your product. It also helps in tailoring product designs, ads, and promotional strategies.

Here are five steps to guide you:

  1. Do your market research. Look for trends, popular items, and customer feedback. This helps in understanding what attracts buyers.

  2. Define demographics. Determine your potential buyer’s age, gender, income level, interests, and geographic location. This shapes your product designs and marketing strategies.

  1. Analyze competitors. Examine competitors’ customers to get insights into potential gaps in the market.

  2. Research customer interests and preferences. Identify interests, hobbies, or pain points that resonate with your potential audience. This could include pop culture, social causes, or specific hobbies.

  3. Ask for feedback and adjust. Use surveys or social media engagement to gather feedback from existing and potential shoppers. Continuously adjust your approach based on this feedback to better target your audience.

3. Design products

With Printful, you can put your custom design on {productsCount|all} premium products. We’ve got products for various print-on-demand niches—anything from apparel and accessories to home & living products and stationery items.

Valuable read: 23 Bestselling Print-on-Demand Products

If you’re looking for apparel products to sell, custom t-shirts and custom hoodies are two of the best-selling items year-round. If you plan on selling clothes, we’ve created a handy step-by-step guide for starting a clothing line—check it out!

For design inspiration:

Another highly profitable category is home & living products. You can design home essentials like towels, drinkware, and aprons or statement pieces like wall art, throw pillows, and blankets.

If you’re working with Printful, you don’t have to invest in expensive design software or photo shoots: 

  • Design products in our free Design Maker

  • Save the designs as templates

  • Create mockups for your catalog 

Valuable read: 8 Things You Didn’t Know Printful’s Design Maker Could Do

4. Build an ecommerce store

You have two options to create your store: create a website or build your store on an existing ecommerce site (platform or marketplace). The choice depends on your business goals, resources, and how much control you want over your online presence.

The advantage of building your own site is that you’re the only one there, so you’re not competing with anyone else for the shopper’s attention. Downside? It requires technical know-how and significant time and money investments. Plus, you’re responsible for driving the traffic to your site. This means investing in marketing and promotional strategies to build brand awareness and attract customers.

Established platforms, on the other hand, come with built-in analytics and payment processing tools, making it easier to manage your store. Plus, these platforms provide an easier setup process and a built-in audience. 

A study done last year found that 35% of online shoppers globally say marketplaces are the primary source of inspiration for online shopping.

graph of primary sources of inspiration for online shoppingSource: Statista

This convenience comes with its own challenges. For example, platforms have higher competition, fees, and rules. 

For the purpose of this article, let’s compare platforms vs. marketplaces.

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Here are the key differences:

comparison table betweem ecommerce platforms & marketplacesSource: Printful

Printful integrates multiple platforms and marketplaces. The setup process and brand customization available depend on the type of integration you choose.

Printful integrates multiple platforms and marketplaces. The setup process and brand customization available depend on the type of integration you choose.

Ecommerce platforms

An ecommerce platform is a software solution that enables businesses to create their own store. Platforms provide the tools and technology for a business to build a standalone website from scratch or customize an existing template. It allows complete control over the online store’s look, feel, and functionality, enabling a distinctive brand presence.

ecommerce platforms from Printful's pageSource: Printful

Marketplaces

An ecommerce marketplace is an online platform that hosts multiple third-party sellers in one central location. You can imagine it as a digital shopping mall where numerous vendors set up their shops under one roof. 

In a marketplace, customers can browse and buy products from different sellers, but the transaction is processed through the marketplace. A marketplace con is that sellers face stiffer competition from other vendors and have less control over their branding and customer experience.

Ecommerce marketplaces on Printful's pageSource: Printful

5. Promote your store

Effective product and store promotion is paramount for you to make money. Since people generally don’t like being sold to, we recommend establishing a relationship with your customer base, ensuring ongoing growth and success.

Here are some ways to promote your business while building customer relationships.

Social media followers are interested in knowing the brand, not just seeing the products, so posting behind-the-scenes content and customer testimonials will help you build a community. Genuine engagement with your followers fosters loyalty and encourages word-of-mouth referrals.

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Paid ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can be highly effective for reaching specific audiences, driving engagement, and boosting brand visibility with measurable, real-time results. When done correctly, social media advertising can deliver excellent return on investment.

Pro tip: Use advanced targeting options to reach potential customers by interests and behaviors.

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Influencer collaborations can expand your reach and add credibility to your brand if you partner with trusted voices in your niche.

Valuable read: 5 Steps for Running the Perfect Microinfluencer Campaign

Email marketing offers targeted messaging, cost-effectiveness, measurable results, a high return on investment, and the ability to build and maintain customer relationships. Keep your audience informed about new products, offers, and promotions.

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Valuable read: How to Increase Your Email Open Rate

So you’ve got your designs, your market research done, your store set up, and various options to promote your business. The biggest tasks are behind you. Let’s briefly touch on another crucial step—improving your offering.

To create designs that resonate with shoppers, research trends in the niche you’re targeting. You can also outsource designing to a skilled graphic designer who can turn your ideas into professional, polished custom designs.

Valuable read: 7 Ways to Find a Designer to Create Your Designs

Once you’ve created profitable designs, you can use them on different products and create matching collections. Diversifying your product range can open new revenue streams and attract a broader customer base. 

To do this, regularly analyze the performance of your existing products on various on-demand sites and platforms you’re using. Identify bestsellers and seek feedback from customers to understand what works. Use this data to refine your current offerings, ensuring they remain relevant and appealing.

Valuable read: 10 Effective Ways How to Market a Product

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Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
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Print-on-demand: Pros and cons

The on-demand model has a blend of opportunities and challenges, each playing a crucial role in determining the success of your venture. Knowing what you’re signing up for is the best way to ensure success. So, let’s examine the key advantages and disadvantages of print-on-demand so you can decide if it’s your path to financial independence.

Pros

Minimal upfront costs. Starting your business with print-on-demand means essentially eliminating the initial financial barrier.

Valuable read: Guide to Launch Your Online Store With No Money

No inventory. Since your printing partner takes care of the fulfillment and shipment of your products, you cut down on overhead costs and the risk associated with unsold stock.

Creative freedom. Print-on-demand offers the flexibility to design and sell products that align with personal interests, artistic vision, and audience preferences.

Uncapped scalability. As demand increases, production can be ramped up without additional investment in physical space or inventory.

Global reach. With the right print-on-demand partner, products can be shipped worldwide, allowing for a global customer base without the complexity of international shipping logistics.

Cons

Limited quality control. Relying on third-party providers means less control over product quality and fulfillment times, potentially impacting customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

Valuable read: Printful’s Service and Product Quality

High competition. The ease of entry into the print-on-demand market leads to high competition, requiring custom designs and effective marketing strategies to stand out.

Valuable read: How to Develop an Effective Marketing Strategy

Lower profit margins. The per-unit cost in print-on-demand is typically higher than bulk manufacturing, leading to slimmer profit margins and potentially slower income growth.

How long does it take to turn a profit?

The time it takes to profit with a print-on-demand business can vary significantly based on several factors. As with any online store, success doesn’t happen overnight. Here are some key factors that influence the timeline for profitability:

  1. Initial setup and learning curve. Setting up your own online store, selecting products on your chosen print-on-demand platform, and creating designs can take time. The initial phase also involves learning and testing print-on-demand services, researching your target market, and building out your own website or online store.

  2. Marketing and customer acquisition. Building your brand and attracting customers are two of the most time-consuming aspects of online business. The effectiveness of your marketing strategies, such as social media marketing across multiple platforms, email campaigns, and paid advertising, will heavily influence your sales volume.

  3. Product quality. Regardless of your marketing efforts and even pricing, your product quality will determine your brand’s long-term success and sustainability. High-quality products lead to satisfied customers, positive reviews, and repeat business.

  4. Pricing strategy. Your pricing must cover costs and be competitive while providing a reasonable profit margin. Here’s a video for correctly pricing your on-demand products.

  5. Competition and trends. The print-on-demand model allows you to be flexible and agile in marketing tactics. Staying ahead of trends and competition can dictate how quickly you attract and retain customers.

It might take several months to a year to start seeing a consistent profit. But if you’re lucky, it might happen overnight. This timeframe can vary greatly depending on the factors above and the effort and resources you can invest. 

Set realistic goals and be prepared for a period of investment before expecting significant returns. Continuous learning, adapting, and optimizing your strategies across multiple platforms are key to profitability.

You’re ready! Best of luck

You’ve made it to the very end of the article. That means you have the necessary tools and resources to grow your print-on-demand business. Well done!

Set clear, realistic goals, experiment, and be consistent. The results will follow.

Valuable read: The Ultimate 2024 Ecommerce Holiday Calendar

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By Karlina Rozkalne on Dec 19, 2023

Karlina Rozkalne

SEO Content Writer

Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.

Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.