Starting your print on demand store can be scary, but this article will help you by breaking it down into eight easy steps.
Many say starting is the hardest part of creating something unique, and we'll show how easy it is!
How do you start a print on demand business in 8 steps?
Here are the eight steps of starting a print on demand store in 2023:
- Finding your product niche
- Define your ideal target audience
- Find a supplier
- Pick your preferred ecommerce platform
- Create your designs
- Upload the designs to your website
- Set up your payment gateways
- Get traffic to your print on demand store
Let's look at the first step!
1. Finding your product niche
Finding your niche can be difficult because what you like may not be what everyone likes, or what you want is what everyone else is doing.
No need to fret about that. Saturated markets mean there's a demand for it. You can't do the bare minimum and expect any meaningful results!
Choosing your niche is a combination of passion and research, and they help each other. Let's look into why!
While being passionate about your chosen niche isn't mandatory, it does make the business journey more fun and tolerable when it gets complicated.
What makes passion about your helpful niche is that you're more knowledgeable about the topic because it comes naturally to you already. It also helps identify your target market, but we'll cover it later!
Not all niches have the same interest and demands. That's why research is essential to find the best place for you.
Ways you can start your research through Google Trends and search topics you enjoy and see how popular it is.
Another way to research is by asking where your ideal customers would be and what kind of designs they enjoy the most.
Deciding between a general and a niche store
They are trying to find which of these for your POD business is hard because they both have their pros and cons, and it is possible to be successful with either of them. Here are the differences, so find which one is best for you!
The general POD store has many designs across multiple niches or one broad one, such as memes or pop culture.
- Super flexible. Since you're not limited to only one niche, you're free to sell whatever design you feel is good enough to attract sales.
- A lot more room to test and research multiple niches. The early strategy for finding success is knowing which designs sell more than others and focusing on those that do. You can find out more quickly than a niche store by having various places.
- Able to attract multiple demographics. With a general style, you can have something for everyone. No visitor will be an absolute waste. So you can have a comprehensive marketing strategy to have a conversion.
- Difficult to scale. Since general POD stores are vast in design selection, it can be hard to continue to add more to build off what's working.
- More competition. People fear the most challenging aspect of general POD stores by offering many different designs. You'll be trying to attract people already familiar with many other brands with the same styles as you, thus making it hard to get a sale.
Who is this for?
The general route is best for people who always want to try new things, as not being tied down to one niche means you have a lot more freedom to sell what you want.
Even though you'll be facing more competition and a problematic scale, this is recommended for the more experienced store owner.
The niche style of POD stores is choosing a specific topic, such as basketball or dolphins, and creating designs specifically for people who like those things.
It's a state-forward strategy of knowing someone who likes something would be more likely to enjoy a design of it to wear.
- More targeted visitors. With niche style, you can have a type of person in mind who would be interested in purchasing, so you can have a more targeted approach with parameters on what you'll come up with.
- It has room to scale. With only one chosen niche, you can always move into another niche and repeat as you continue to grow, unlike general stores that usually stay the same despite their growth.
- Less competition. The great thing about niches is you can always niche down so you have fewer competitors and be super exact with the type of customers you'll be selling to.
- Growth is only as good as the chosen niche. Not all niches are equal, and some will be more popular than others. This means you'll have to be careful about your chosen place because changing it is like starting a new business from scratch.
- It can be challenging to test and research. You only have one kind of people to target without any certainty they will be attracted to your designs.
Who is this for?
Choosing a niche-style POD store is one of the most straightforward ways to understand your brand and customers. It's recommended for those most passionate about the niche designs they want.
2. Define your ideal target audience
This is one of the most critical steps that can mean the difference between success and failure because everything you're doing should be done with your ideal target audience in mind.
Why is that? Because without having them in mind, you're doing things that won't help you be successful.
While it's fantastic if you like your designs but does your ideal audience? That's a question you should always be asking yourself.
So, how do I find your ideal target audience? The easiest way is through these demographics:
These are important to figure out because you know who you are designing for and where to spend your time (and possibly money) marketing.
Do you want to sell premium-designed clothing at a high price? Choosing an audience that can afford it will be your best bet, or you will have too many people thinking you're too expensive for them.
Same with genders figuring out a design of a pink cat in a princess outfit may not be the fit for men.
Once you know your target audience, it'll be easier to focus on who you're marketing toward and get sales from people who will enjoy your designs.
3. Find a supplier
Suppliers are the backbone of your POD business, as they will cover the inventory, product printing, and shipping for you!
The good news is finding a supplier is super easy!
The thing is, though, is finding the right one.
So, where do you begin?
Let's look at some of the biggest and favorite suppliers you can check out for free.
We'll review their pros and cons, additional tiers, and who they're for!
They offer a way of embroidery, direct-to-garment printing, sublimation, and more. They even allow custom branding with stickers and personal notes in every order.
Their mockup generator and integrations for the most used ecommerce platforms make it a welcoming supplier that can work with most POD stores.
- No outsourcing. Everything you experience with Printful is in a whole house. Communication and product sourcing is efficient when all under the same management.
- Quality. Since everything is made in-house at Printful, the quality of the items is reliable and well-made. One of the best product quality per dollar spent compared to the competition.
- Expensive. Printful is one of the more costly suppliers with a consistently high quality of products. It's a price you pay, but it's often worth it.
- Has a cluttered user interface. With such a robust overhead on their website, it's often too much info to work with, and it can be challenging to navigate.
How do you connect Printful to your store?
Super easy! Printful is one of the most integrated POD suppliers and can be on a Shopify website within a few clicks.
Printful doesn't have any monthly subscription fees, but there are some paid customization options:
- Digitization. When it comes to embroidery, all files need to be digitized to a format the embroidery machines support. This is a one-time fee of between $2.95 and $6.50 for each new design, which depends on the design's type and placement.
- Extra customization. Printful offers some extra customization options for your items, such as additional large prints ($5.95 per extra print), sleeve prints ($2.49 per short sleeve and $5.95 per long sleeve), and inside and outside apparel labels ($2.49 per label).
- Premium Images. Printful offers you the option to customize your products with premium photos. Premium Images for your designs cost $1 plus tax per image and placement.
Printify also has Premium and enterprise plans with massive discounts for business.
Related article: Wondering what the difference is between Printify and Printful? Check out our in-depth comparison guide here!
- Connections to various suppliers to source from a massive catalog of products. This means you'll have access to the most products available than any other POD supplier.
- Lower than average product costs. Printify has gotten itself into a favorable war on price with the competition. There's a lot to see and gain through many suppliers, and some are only found with Printify.
- Spotty quality. Since there are so many suppliers to choose from with Printify, it's hard for them to test and verify that all suppliers' products are of good quality to sell. So your experience may be inconsistent.
- Customer service is unreliable. Due to the number of suppliers to choose from and how Printify is a liaison, all that means customer service will struggle to communicate with their customers.
How do you connect Printify to your store?
Printify allows the most prominent ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. They also offer connections with Etsy and eBay.
Printify has a generous free tier that allows unlimited products in five active stores.
The premium tier expands the active stores to ten and offers a 20% discount on all products.
The most expensive tier, enterprise, allows everything previous and unlimited stores. They recommend this tier for owners generating over 10,000 orders a day.
3. Cafe Press Review
Cafe Press is not a traditional US POD platform that integrates with your existing website.
Instead, Cafe Press hosts a store for you, so you don't have to worry about maintenance and upkeep to run your business.
- A scaled royalty structure. While more covered in the pricing section further down, Cafe Press has a robust royalty system, unlike other POD suppliers. The more sales you get, the more you're rewarded.
- Easy to use. The setup to upload designs on the platform is simple and easy to use. Since the entire storefront is from them, you don't have to do anything besides uploading and marketing the products.
- Complaints about quality. The quality of the products seems to be inconsistent based on the reviews of current and past users.
- Long lead times. The production time on the average product is slower than the average POD supplier (4-7 days).
How do you connect Cafe Press to your store?
Cafe Press does not have any ecommerce integrations. It's a standalone storefront platform.
If you want a POD supplier that integrates into your ecommerce store, you'll need to find a different supplier.
Cafe Press offers two pricing structures:
- Option A has no upfront charges. With this choice, you'll get a royalty on anything you sell. CafePress will deduct 10%, up to $10 max.
- Option B is a pre-pay and save. You can pay $6.95 for one month, $18.45 for a month, $34.95 for a month, or $59.95 for a year (carrying the all-out cost to $5/month).
In return for these installments, you don't pay the 10%. This is the better choice for stores with high volumes.
4. Pick your preferred ecommerce platform
After you have your supplier, it's time for your ecommerce platform to be chosen.
This will be your website provider and how the supplier knows the customer's order information to send your designed products.
Ready to check out the first one?
Shopify is the largest and most popular go-to platform for an ecommerce store. They operate as a traditional website builder to make it as simple as possible.
Your design on template-based themes is all built with ecommerce in mind. This is super useful, so anyone, regardless of web design experience, can have a beautiful website up and running.
The problem with template themes is they can be cookie-cutter designs as they can look generic with the same style and layouts.
Luckily all themes are customizable through their source code but understanding their coding language on liquid.css can be difficult. It may require a professional to create a unique look for your website.
Since Shopify has everything you need to run a successful ecommerce store, their quality and assurance come at a premium price. This is noticeably more than the competition, but none of them focus on ecommerce at the level Shopify does.
- The ecommerce website builder for all your POD store needs. From the product setup, taxes, and app integrations, to building web pages, it has everything you need for an ecommerce store.
- High quality. Shopify costs at a premium, and it makes up for having the reliability of ensuring everything works without any issues.
- Easy to use. Shopify is built with the user in mind, so it's super easy to set up without any previous web design knowledge needed.
- It was pretty expensive. Shopify can be about three times more expensive than other website providers, which is out of their budget for some people.
- Some themes can be limiting. To be specific, the free themes can be plain with limited customizations.
Who is this for
If you have the capital and want to be serious in your POD business journey, then Shopify is the ecommerce platform. It's going to have everything you need.
Related article: How to Start a Shopify Store: The Definitive Guide (2023)
Unlike a traditional website you create and manage, Redbubble is a marketplace-based website where you don't have much control of your digital storefront, but much of the work is done for you.
They also act as a supplier within your storefront, so you don't need to look at or manage one with Redbubble. They're like an all-one solution for your POD business.
Their style is super helpful if you want to be as least hands-off as possible as a side hustle or don't know how to design a website, but it can be limiting if you want this to be a full-time job due to the lack of the ‘ownership' of the digital storefront.
- All-in-one solution for website and supplier. Redbubble covers a lot for you, so you just have to set up your designs and the marketing to your store.
- Super easy to set up with little maintenance. Due to the set-it-and-forget nature of having it operated for you. Redbubble is the closest thing to a ‘passive income' in getting sales.
- Free to use. There are no fees when setting up!
- Minimal control. If you want to expand and have complete control over the presentation and brand of your store, you will be disappointed.
- The saturated competition will require you to do your marketing. While Redbubble receives millions of views, there are tons of stores like yours, and it can be challenging to set apart from them.
Who is this for
If you can't commit to a full-time job or have no desire to become one, then Redbubble is an excellent choice for those who want their store to be a profitable hobby.
Related article: How to Sell On Redbubble: The Definitive Guide (2023)
Similar to Redbubble, Merch by Amazon is also a marketplace-based website. Just like how the rest of Amazon looks and operates.
The difference is Amazon only allows designs to be on shirts. So this can be limiting for some people, but if you're ok with that, then Merch by Amazon is worth consideration.
Since Amazon is one of the most visited websites in the world, you have a high chance of your products getting seen and purchased without much marketing on your end.
- On the biggest marketplace on the web. Statically speaking, the amount of visitors Amazon gets means you'll have a higher chance of purchasing.
- It's free! No fees; just create a free account, and you're ready to go.
- It's for t-shirts only. If you want to offer more products than t-shirts, you're out of luck.
- It's challenging to build a brand. Due to how the searching works on amazon, you're relying on one of the sales rather than making a brand to which people will return.
Who is it for
Merch by Amazon is great for those who want to explore their designs' effectiveness, either as a hobbyist or to learn ecommerce.
5. Create your designs
A super important aspect of your business will be your designs!
It makes sense, considering it's why people are purchasing it from you, right?
Here are the most prominent software tools designers use for their POD stores.
Canva is the biggest ‘do-it-yourself graphic design web app!
There's a lot to love about it because it's probably the most accessible to create something incredible with little visual design experience.
They have a generous free version that allows many graphics, photos, and tools to make designs.
The paid-for version allows more template graphics and images of a higher quality. They also enable copyright usage without worrying about legal issues with other designers.
Canva is great for those who want simple graphic design software that does it well.
Tip: Did you know that you can connect a Shopify or WooCommerce store to Canva? With DataPocket, you can access your store's information, including product images, descriptions, and pricing, directly from Canva!
Plus, whenever the data changes (like replacing product images), it will automatically sync to your designs on Canva. Learn more about DataPocket here!
A direct competitor to canvas as they do a similar way of allowing you to use tools, graphics, and photos to create your designs on the website for free.
The difference is that PlaceIt allows you to use mockups of your designs that would look like a final product!
Place it all has a library of videos to use if you want to explore that kind of medium. It's similar to how you create designs without any video editing experience necessary.
Placeit is excellent for those who want an all-in-one creative design tool in one place.
Adobe suite software for POD design in Photoshop and Illustrator. They are the industry standard of graphic design software and can pretty much do anything you set your mind to.
Photoshop is mainly used for image editing, and illustrator is for creating graphics. While photoshop can also create graphics, it's not a vector-based program, meaning the pictures you make with it won't scale in size as clearly.
The adobe suite software can be expensive for what you need and is subscription-based. If you want the best tool available, adobe suite software is for you.
Ever noticed how many online stores have the same product photos?
Yep, it’s a common problem.
Using those old, duplicated images from your supplier can actually hurt your store's visibility on search engines like Google.
That's where OnModel steps in. This Shopify app uses AI to transform your existing photos into unique images!
- Swap out the models in your clothing images (For example, according to your target market.)
- Put your t-shirt design on an AI-made model (No more costly photoshoots!)
- Change photo backgrounds
- Add faces to cropped images.
In short, OnModel makes your store photos unique and fun. So, if you're in dropshipping or POD, you can try it here!
Design and brand your online store
Now you're ready to design your website! Even if you're using a marketplace-type webpage, a lot of the work is done for you, but they still give you the option to add some personality to your website.
When using imagery, fonts, and colors, ask yourself does this fit the type of customer I want to attract? Always keep that in mind when you're designing your site!
When you're done designing your website, it's time to add your designs and connect them to your supplier's websites.
6. Upload the designs to your website
Most supplier websites follow the same settings to connect your plans to your website.
For reference, the integration pages that the most significant suppliers use to connect your chosen website platform.
7. Set up your payment gateways
We're almost at the finishing line!
Setting up the payment gateways is one of the last steps to making your store ready for sales.
A payment gateway is how people will purchase your products. It handles the transactions for you.
There are a few payment gateways to choose from, and here's what you need to consider in choosing one.
- Do they allow your business model? Some don't accept POD fulfillment stores.
- Do they allow the country and currency of your target audience?
- How much are the transaction fees?
- How is the customer service quality?
The best payment gateways for your store
Here's a list of the best payment gateways and our review.
|Payment gateway||Price rating||Read Review|
|Shopify Payments||Cheap||Shopify Payments Review|
|Amazon Pay||Expensive||Amazon Pay Review|
|Google Pay||Cheap||Google Pay Review|
|Apple Pay||Cheap||Apple Pay Review|
Helpful tips for figuring out which one is for you are:
- Find out the countries you want to sell to, and then find the payment processor that's most common there.
- PayPal, Shopify Payments, and Stripe are the most common worldwide.
- Be sure to test; you can always change if you're unhappy with the results.
8. Get traffic to your print on demand store
Congrats on finishing your website! Now it's time to get people to your print on demand store and check out your incredible designs.
Some say this is the most challenging part because there's no guaranteed strategy in marketing your POD store, but there are many helpful tips and marketing platforms we'll be looking at now.
Free marketing strategies are helpful to try out because they allow you to know if your designs can sell without breaking the bank early on.
The best free strategies are on social media
Instagram is one of the best social media platforms because it focuses on images. Showing off your designs will get more attention because the platform is more visually based.
Considering it's free and ties into Facebook, it always goes to the platform.
TikTok has grown a lot since it started a few years ago. With everyone having short attention spans, making short videos with your designs makes a way to gain a following.
TikTok is also the fastest-growing platform, so you can reap more benefits with the same effort as other platforms.
YouTube is the king of video platforms; videos are the way to go if you want the most impact.
Unlike typical social media posts, videos are more challenging to make, so there's more to gain from more work.
You can think of it as a longer form of video content like TikTok, but they also introduced youtube shorts like TikTok!
While you'll need other marketing strategies to build an email list, once you do, you'll find it one of the most potent ways to market your designs for free.
People who subscribe to your mailing list want to see your ads and are likelier to purchase from you than on any other social media platform.
Paid strategies, as you can guess, require money, but you'll get results much faster and broader reach than free strategies.
They are statically the best way to grow and get sales but don't forget to do your research to make the most of your money.
Facebook Ads are still the most effective form of paid marketing this year! The amount of demographic information means you can be super selective in showing your ads.
It's highly recommended Facebook Ads be in your marketing strategies if you want the most meaningful results!
Google Ads are similar to Facebook Ads, except for people who actively search keywords associated with your products.
When someone is searching for cat apparel, your ad link to your store will appear to entice people to click on it.
With the number of people who search on Google, it's a worthy marketing strategy to look into.
After these eight steps, you now have a POD store people can purchase from!
Remember to follow the highlighted steps! I hope the process was easy for you, and best of luck on your journey.
Have a great day!
Want to learn more about POD?
Ready to move your print on demand store to the next level? Check out the articles below: