What is Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-demand (POD) is a business model where products are not designed, packed, and shipped by a manufacturer until it's purchased by a customer.
Clothing Line Example
Imagine that you want to start a clothing line. The only challenge is, you don't have the funds to purchase large quantities of clothes to launch. Instead, you decide to use the POD business model. It's a cost-effective solution that requires no inventory or employees to pack and ship your products.
To do this, you create your e-commerce site and you connect your e-commerce site to a POD manufacturer's website. Once your site is connected, you can choose the stock inventory from a POD manufacturer's catalogue and design the products of your choosing either with your own design software or you can use the manufacturer's built-in design features. Some POD companies even have designers that can help you with the design process.
After designing is complete, you can import those items onto your site simply with a few clicks of a button. Once those items show up on your site, they are ready to be purchased by customers. When a customer purchases an item on your site, this order will be sent to the POD manufacturer, and they will begin to print, pack, and ship your branded products directly to your customer. Your customer will not know that it came from the manufacturer. The packaging and packing slip will look like it's coming directly from your business and you can opt to have branded packaging as well.
There are many products to choose from to build a brand around. Every manufacturer has different products so you have to be selective on which one you choose. The challenge with POD is the integration of different manufacturer's products onto your website. If you want a streamless process, it's hard to select products from different manufacturers. Ideally, you'll be able to find all the products you want from one.
There are typically two types of manufacturers, all in-house or a network of smaller manufacturers. In-house manufacturers do all the sourcing and printing from their own warehouse. This allows them to have more control over product quality consistency and customer experience. If you choose a POD manufacturer that aggregates a network of manufacturers, you get a higher product selection but you also lose the consistency of product quality amongst many manufacturers.
Below are some common items that POD manufacturers offer (it's not an exhaustive list):
- Sweat Pants
- Long Sleeve Shirts
- Sports Bras
- Phone Cases
- Drinking Bottles
- Luggage Tags
- Greeting Cards
- Business Cards
- Mouse Pads
- Place Mats
- Wall Art
- Bath Mats
- Cutting Boards
How Does it Work?
How Do You Make Money?
Making money with print on demand is similar to dropshipping. You are not charged by a manufacturer until after you receive your customer's payment.
When a customer purchases your product from your e-commerce site, the purchase order will automatically be sent to the manufacturer. Once they receive it, they'll pack and ship the product, and charge you for the prearranged price you have with them.
For example, if you are selling a sweater for $39.99 + tax + shipping (i.e. $39.99 + 3.99 + 3.50 = $47.48), your customer will send you the total amount for everything. If your prearranged price with your manufacturer is $21 dollars + shipping ($21 + $3.50 = $24.40), then you'll receive the difference of $23.08. There is no money out of your own pocket, you just keep the difference between what you set your prices at compared to the manufacturer's cost.
Selection, Multiple Brands, and Product Testing
One of the most eye-catching features of POD is the ability to easily list a large selection of products with no added cost. You can easily fill a catalogue of products as quickly as you can design them. There is no cost to you and it gives your customers an array of products to choose from that fits your brand.
Also, because setting up a website and connecting it to a POD manufacturer is so cheap and quick, you're also able to test out multiple brands and products very quickly. It doesn't require added manufacturing costs, and it's a great way to try out several of your ideas quickly.
This means you can go-to-market quicker and with less risk. If your business gains traction, you can always shift your business strategy to a more margin friendly business model, like private label and order your products in bulk.
What Are The Pros & Cons?
- Able to start a branded business with little startup cost
- No need for a warehouse
- No need for packing and shipping
- You can create business anywhere in the world with a computer and internet
- You're not location dependent
- Able to have a large selection of products
- Capable of starting multiple brands quickly
- Low margins
- Product selection is limited to what the manufacturers carry
- Logistics issue if you want to carry multiple manufacturer's print on demand products
- Hard to create a premium, unique branded line with generic products.
Estimated Startup Cost
To start a print-on-demand business, you really just need a website or simply an e-commerce site. Shopify is the simplest of e-commerce sites and it easily integrates with many of the POD manufacturers site. If you're a designer, then you're set to start your business. If you don't have design skills or prefer to outsource it, you can hire freelancers to design for you.
Key Activities for Print on Demand
In the beginning, your main work will be setting up your site and finding the right manufacturer. That means you'll need to sample products to see which one fits your expectations. Once that is set up, most of your time will be spent on designing products and marketing your brand.
Below are our recommended programs from trusted providers.
By Adrian Morrison
Print-on-Demand is one of the fastest-growing business models for eCommerce entrepreneurs.
With Print-on-Demand, you have the opportunity to have white-label printing on products like t-shirts, phone cases, pillows, hats, and even shower curtains with your logo or branding. You don’t have to hold any inventory, you simply need to focus on marketing and design, and choose a fulfillment company that will send your customer their product when you receive an order.
In this course, you learn from serial eCommerce entrepreneur Adrian Morrison, who will teach you the step-by-step process to create your print on demand store from start to scale (the level of success is up to you).