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Blog / Beginner's handbook / Is Print-on-Demand Good for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide

Beginner's handbook

Is Print-on-Demand Good for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide

Is Print-on-Demand Good for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide
Karlina Rozkalne

By Karlina Rozkalne

12 min read

Back in 2022, 40% of Americans had a side hustle, and the number is steadily growing. That’s largely thanks to increasingly accessible tools and business models that make starting and managing businesses easier.

One such business model is print-on-demand dropshipping. Print-on-demand’s popularity surged during the pandemic when many looked for ways to make money from home. And it continues to be a popular business model today.

Is print-on-demand good for beginners? Absolutely! In this ultimate beginner’s guide, we’ll look at why print-on-demand is ideal for ecommerce novices and what the first steps are to launch your dropshipping business.

Is print-on-demand good for beginners?

Yes, the print-on-demand business model is good for beginners because it requires minimal initial investment, has virtually no limit on scalability, and ensures a global reach. Plus, the risk of running an on-demand store is low because the print provider takes care of the materials, equipment, and workforce.

9 reasons print-on-demand is good for beginners

Print-on-demand (POD) has never been more popular than today.

a graph on a screenSource: Google Trends

And for a good reason. It’s suited for businesses of any size, offering a flexible, low-risk model that caters to everyone from individual entrepreneurs to larger companies.

But it’s perhaps most useful for artists, small businesses, and startups. Here’s why.

It’s very easy to start selling custom products online with print-on-demand because it doesn’t require big investments or experience.

Print-on-demand eliminates the need for inventory, blank products, warehousing, or staff. This model simplifies logistics, as print-on-demand companies handle shipping and manage returns. 

If you’re using a POD service, you focus on product design, marketing, and building an audience. You don’t even need existing knowledge to sell custom-designed products online—there are plenty of beginner-friendly guides for every aspect of running an on-demand store.

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If you’re running a print-on-demand dropshipping business, you only pay for a product once your customer buys it, so there’s zero risk for you.

Your initial costs to get your own online store up and running include the fees for setting up a store or website on your chosen ecommerce platform. Many platforms offer inexpensive or even free plans suitable for beginners. 

The process of starting a print-on-demand venture is straightforward. To launch your print-on-demand store, you must:

  • Decide which of the available print-on-demand services you’ll use

  • Create an account with the POD provider

  • Set up a store on an ecommerce platform or marketplace

  • Connect your store with your chosen on-demand service

  • Design products

Printful is one of the most popular and trusted print-on-demand service providers, and you can create a Printful account for free.

Read also:

a screenshot of a screenshot of a websiteSource: Printful

Because your chosen on-demand provider handles the entire production process, you don’t have to worry about inventory management You don’t have to deal with unsold stock, storage costs, or physical products.

several women working in a factoryThe production process in Printful’s Texas facility. Source: Printful

This arrangement allows POD businesses to focus on creating and selling without the burden of managing inventory or machinery. That simplifies operations and reduces the financial barriers typically involved in stocking and maintaining good-quality products.

Automatic order fulfillment is a standout feature of print-on-demand. When a customer places an order, it’s directly forwarded to your print-on-demand provider, who handles fulfillment, packaging, and shipping. That means your print-on-demand products don’t require any manual labor from your side.

This automation streamlines the process, reduces your workload, and ensures a swift, efficient delivery system, enhancing customer satisfaction without requiring your constant oversight.

The print-on-demand model allows you to sell diverse products to customers without any financial risks. You can design and sell products like apparel, accessories, home & living goodies, tech gadgets, and more.

Printful offers 345 products you can personalize with high-quality designs.

a screenshot of a websitePrintful’s product catalog. Source: Printful

This versatility enables you to experiment with different product lines, find what resonates best with your audience, and continuously refresh your offerings, keeping your store dynamic and appealing.

As your print-on-demand store grows, you can effortlessly expand your product range and scale operations without additional investment in inventory or storage space. This flexibility allows you to adapt to increasing customer demand and market trends, promoting sustainable growth and the potential to easily reach a broader audience.

With print-on-demand, you gain global reach effortlessly. Most print-on-demand services have international shipping capabilities, allowing you to sell and ship your products worldwide. 

a map of the world with different countries/regionsPrintful’s global network of fulfillment centers. Source: Printful

This global accessibility opens up a vast market, enabling you to attract customers from different countries and cultures, significantly expanding your business’s potential audience with no limitations.

Print-on-demand can lead to lower shipping costs and faster shipping times, benefiting your business and customers. POD services typically negotiate better shipping rates due to the large volume of products they ship, which can mean better delivery costs for your customers.

And since products are manufactured and shipped from the print-on-demand companies’ fulfillment centers closest to the customer, it can decrease shipping times. That makes your products more cost-effective and improves customer satisfaction.

Valuable read: Debunking Myths: Is Print-on-Demand Risky?

8 steps for beginners to build a successful print-on-demand business

We’ve established the print-on-demand model is exceptionally well-suited for beginners. Now, let’s cover the steps you must take to succeed in ecommerce.

Picking a reputable print-on-demand provider is pivotal because it determines the product quality and your brand’s reputation. A trustworthy POD provider ensures high-quality printing, timely shipping, and reliable customer service so your customers want to return to your store.

To identify the best provider, begin with thorough research: 

  1. Read online reviews and testimonials to understand the experiences of other users, gaining insight into your potential print-on-demand partner. 

  2. Order samples to personally evaluate the material, print quality, and delivery efficiency.

  3. Consider the variety of products, customization options, and integrations with ecommerce platforms and marketplaces. 

Wisely choosing your POD provider can set a solid foundation for your business.

Read also: How to Make Money with Print-on-Demand

Before designing products, you must know who you want to sell to. Who’s your target audience? You must conduct audience research to direct your efforts toward a specific niche, ensuring greater relevance and appeal.

Valuable read: How to Find Profitable Dropshipping Niches in 2024

Tips for conducting audience research:

  1. Social media insights. Use analytics from platforms like Instagram and Facebook to gain insights into your audience’s demographics and interests, tailoring your approach accordingly.

  2. Competitor analysis. Observe successful competitors. Identify their target audiences and most popular products to gain insights into market trends.

  3. Online communities. Join forums or groups within your niche. Observing discussions can offer valuable insights into the passions and interests of potential customers.

  4. Keyword research. Use SEO tools to discover trending searches for your niche, helping you identify popular and emerging trends.

A defined audience will make it easier to create designs that meet the needs of your shoppers and persuade them to buy your products. With the target market clear and researched, it’s time for the next step.

Building an online store is a critical step in establishing a print-on-demand business. The first key decision is choosing the right ecommerce platform or marketplace. You can check out all your options with Printful and learn more about each on our integrations page.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Printful

The main difference between both options is that marketplaces are essentially big online shopping malls, while platforms serve as toolkits for building your standalone online store.

Valuable read: 

To choose the best place for your online business, one of the things to consider is the differences in the store’s layout and feel. Marketplaces like Amazon or eBay typically offer less customization, allowing for basic branding but not a unique storefront. In contrast, platforms like Shopify and Wix give business owners extensive tools to create a distinctive online presence, offering creative freedom in design and layout.

However, one significant advantage of marketplaces is their built-in traffic. Businesses on these platforms benefit from the constant flow of customers without needing to drive traffic from search engines or social media. That can be particularly advantageous for new businesses still building their online presence.

Regardless of the selling medium, as an on-demand store owner, you must:

  • Define your brand. Establish a clear and consistent brand identity that resonates with your target audience.

  • Choose products that appeal to your audience. Select items that meet the needs and preferences of your market, considering both trends and timeless demands.

  • Craft good product descriptions and photos. Have compelling product descriptions and high-quality images to turn potential buyers into happy customers.

Lastly, ensure your store is optimized for mobile devices, as the majority of ecommerce sales in 2023 came from mobile devices.

a graph of sales and a shopping cartSource: Statista

Once your store is up and running, it’s time to add your products.

Your product choices are limited to the catalog of your printing company, so it’s important to pick a print-on-demand partner with many product options. 

With Printful, you can customize and sell 345 products. Design fashionable garments, beautiful house decor, tech accessories, and more.

a screenshot of a websiteSource: Printful catalog

There are 2 ways to pick on-demand products:

Valuable read: 12 Emerging Print-on-Demand Business Ideas

Now, on to the designing part. Many POD companies offer free and intuitive tools, so you don’t need any experience in designing to create beautiful products. For example, Printful users can access Design Maker, a free design tool for making custom designs and creating mockups.

To keep your business cost-effective, choose print-on-demand companies with free tools so you don’t have to pay extra to create designs.

Here’s where you can get design ideas:

  1. Social media. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok are great for spotting current trends and understanding what’s popular with different demographics. One of the main advantages of the print-on-demand model is that you can react to trends within minutes.

  2. Design websites. Websites like Behance showcase the work of professional designers and artists. Browsing these sites can provide a wealth of creative ideas and expose you to various design styles and concepts.

  3. Seasonal events. There are many ecommerce holidays for which you can design high-quality products. Some are niche, and some appeal to the masses. Decide which dates align with your audience and include them in your marketing strategy

You have your store and your products. How do you get your products in front of people who want them? With a marketing strategy.

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A marketing strategy is your overall plan that involves all your marketing goals and plans to reach them. It’s your roadmap, keeping your actions aligned with what you want to achieve.

Valuable read: ​​How to Develop an Effective Marketing Strategy

Within your marketing strategy, you need to:

  • Define your target market

  • Set up your long-term marketing goals

  • Determine the main value your business offers

As an ecommerce novice, you must decide where to focus your efforts first. Social media marketing would be a good starting point. Social commerce sales were estimated at almost $64.9B in 2023 and are on the course to double in the next 5 years.

a graph of blue barsSource: Statista

Some of the most effective social media tactics include:

  • Organizing contests and giveaways with clear objectives

  • Repurposing user-generated content as social proof

  • Using interactive features like stories and polls

  • Creating educational and how-to content

Valuable read: 10 Social Media Strategies for Your Print-on-Demand Business

Optimizing your store is another important aspect of making your business stand out and entering new markets.

The Printful blog has a whole section dedicated to SEO for different platforms. That’s because each platform’s search engine is different. If you’re entirely new to SEO, start by reading our SEO guide for beginners

a screenshot of a computerSource: Printful blog

General SEO rules for print-on-demand businesses include:

  • Using keywords for product titles and descriptions

  • Optimizing your image sizes

  • Having a simple, clear URL structure 

To learn more about SEO best practices for your chosen marketplace or platform, visit our blog and do your own research online.

Email marketing offers new business owners a cost-effective, direct, and personalized way to reach and retain customers, with measurable results that help in strategic decision-making.

Key reasons you should do email marketing:

  • Return on investment (ROI). Email marketing is known for its impressive ROI. On average, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $36. This high ROI makes it an attractive strategy for new businesses looking to maximize their marketing budget.

  • Customer engagement. Email allows direct communication with your audience. Unlike social media, where algorithms can affect visibility, emails land directly in your shoppers’ inboxes. 

  • Personalization opportunities. Email marketing platforms offer advanced personalization options. You can tailor content to individual preferences, behavior, and purchase history.

  • Customer retention. It’s a fantastic tool for customer retention. Regularly sending updates, offers, and valuable content lets you keep your brand in shoppers’ minds.

  • Measurable results. Email marketing provides measurable metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. These insights help in fine-tuning your strategies for better results.

There are several types of marketing emails you can send.

a white background with black textSource: Printful Glossary

Build your email list by offering incentives like discounts or exclusive content for sign-ups, using engaging pop-ups on your website, and promoting your newsletter on social media.

Valuable read: Email Copywriting Tips to Keep Customers Happy

Time to get started

Launching a print-on-demand store may seem daunting at first, but starting is the hardest part, as with many things in life. 

Equipped with this knowledge, you can confidently take the first steps, knowing that the initial hurdles are often the highest.

As always—best of luck, and we’ll be happy to hear from you in the comments below.


By Karlina Rozkalne on Feb 13, 2024

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.