Want to start a Print on Demand business? Here are 10 steps that you need to take before you start selling.
The idea of starting a Print on Demand (POD) business can sound pretty enticing.
There is no need to carry inventory and there are low start-up costs and fast shipping times. What’s not to like?
But as ‘sexy’ as it may sound, it’s important to remember that POD is a real business.
If you do not treat it like one, the chances of you succeeding at POD are slim because it’s likely that you will make a lot of mistakes along the way.
That is why, before you start attracting customers to your store, there are certain steps that you need to take to ensure that your POD business is properly set up and ready to sell.
This article explains 10 important steps you need to take before you start a POD store.
If you follow these 10 steps, not only will you be prepared to start selling, but you’ll also avoid the common mistakes that beginners make when starting a POD business.
Step #1: Only Add a Maximum of 5 Colour Variants to Your Product
Offering customers variations of your product, such as different colours or sizes, is always a powerful method that encourages customers to spend more money and that increases your profit margin on each order.
But there comes a point where you cross a line and give customers too many options to choose from.
This is never a good idea. With too many options to choose from, customers easily start to experience something called analysis paralysis.
Analysis paralysis is that feeling you get when struggling to make a decision, or take action, because there are too many options or too much information in front of you.
We’ve all experienced this before, whether when trying to decide what to order from a restaurant menu or what movie to watch at the cinema.
Similarly, too many colours or designs to choose from can leave customers feeling overwhelmed. This overwhelmed feeling could even lead to them leaving your site and not buying anything at all.
So, never go overboard with your colour variants. We recommend that you pick five variants for each product you sell.
Also keep in mind that not every design looks good on every colour, especially when it comes to t-shirts. Through extensive research and testing, Merch by Amazon found that darker shades, like grey or black, typically perform better in sales than lighter shades.
Step #2: Check Your Print Provider Options Before Selling Internationally
This is not true. The way it usually works is that these POD fulfilment services work with several third-party suppliers. These third-party suppliers are the ones that fulfil your orders.
All suppliers are based in different countries and have different pricing, available colours, and production times. Print on Demand fulfilment services usually assign your orders to the supplier closest to your customer’s physical location.
But some Print on Demand fulfilment services, such as Printify, don’t automatically choose a supplier to fulfil your customers’ orders — you have to do it manually.
In cases like this, it is crucial that you pick a third-party supplier that is best suited to fulfil your orders.
You don’t want to pick a supplier based in the US when your customer lives in Germany. Likewise, you don’t want to pick a supplier with the longest production time, since you want to get your order to your customers in the shortest time possible.
Step #3: Make Sure That You Have a Credit Card or Money Set Aside
When starting a POD business, it’s easy to get confused about how to handle the money received from a customer when they order a product from your store.
Who orders the product? How do you receive money from your orders?
When you break it down, the process is pretty straightforward. Here is an example of how it works when using Printify as your primary Print on Demand fulfilment service.
- When a customer places an order for a pillow in your store, you receive money via Stripe or PayPal (two of Shopify’s payment gateways).
- Then, Printify will, by default, scan your store once a day for any customer orders that need to be fulfilled.
- When Printify finds the customer’s order, they will automatically start the fulfilment process for the pillow.
- At the same time, Printify will charge the credit or debit card you have on file in your Printify account.
This is the basic fulfilment process for every order placed in your store. But, when you’re starting out, the money you receive from a customer could take several days to arrive in your bank account. With PayPal, it can even take up to 21 days to receive your money when you are first starting out. This time period also varies depending on what country you live in.
So, it’s important to make sure that you either have a credit card or money set aside so that you can purchase items in the meantime.
Credit cards are usually the best option for this, because you normally have 4-5 weeks to pay off the balance before any interest is added. You will receive your payment way before that happens!
Step #4: Avoid Copyrights and Check if Your Written Phrase is Trademarked
You may have spotted a design that you want to sell or test in your own store, but you aren’t sure whether to take the risk because you don’t know if the design is copyrighted.
Well, according to the law, any piece of artwork is subject to copyright the moment it is created. This means that you can’t duplicate the same design and sell it in your store.
BUT… what you can do is use a design for inspiration and create your own version of it. This is 100% legal, because, while the content may feature the same words, it visually looks different — and it is the VISUAL appearance of the artwork that is copyrighted (not the content).
For example, here is a design of a ‘World’s Best Rabbit Dad’ t-shirt being sold on Amazon. Next to it, we show a similar, but different, design we created using a tool called Canva.
As long as you redesign something using your own style, then it is absolutely legal to sell it in your store.
But what about trademarks? How can you avoid selling words and phrases that are trademarked?
Surprisingly, finding a trademark can be done in a simple search. Each country has its own trademark search engine, so all you need to do is type in the phrase you have in mind.
Something to keep in mind though, is that, unlike copyrights that most countries have agreed to protect by default, a trademark must be filed in every country.
So, just because a trademark is filed in the US, doesn’t mean that the trademark applies in the UK.
Step #5: Have Lifestyle Images for Your Products, Not Just General Mock-ups
Using lifestyle photos, rather than general mock-ups on a white background, is a powerful way to attract more customers, increase engagement, and boost your sales.
But, you might be thinking, “Does this mean that I have to take photos of myself in t-shirts and upload them before I can sell the t-shirts in my store?”
Well, thanks to an amazing service called Placeit, you don’t need to go through the stress of doing it on your own!
This incredible service allows you to take artwork designs and place them onto lifestyle images that feature real-life models. They have lifestyle photos for a variety of products such as t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, tote bags, and even pillows.
Using it is really simple. All you have to do is upload your design onto any model of your choice!
Bonus tip: If possible, always choose lifestyle photos that feature something related to your design. For example, if you are advertising a t-shirt for dog lovers, include a dog in your main image. These types of images perform extremely well on ads and are highly effective and engaging.
Step #6: Don’t Just Opt for Selling T-Shirts
While designs on t-shirts can be incredibly profitable, it’s always worth expanding your product line by selling other types of products.
Other accessories like leggings sell just as well as t-shirts. And can be sold for a lot more than you bought them from your supplier for because their value is ambiguous.
You see, it would be easy to determine the price for a normal pair of leggings, because you’ve probably seen them several times at a clothing store. Right?
But these unique leggings? Chances are that you’ve never seen these before, so won’t be able to come up with a reasonable price point for them.
So if you were to sell these unique leggings in your store, you would have a lot more flexibility when setting your price, because customers would be unlikely to ‘price check’ your design against similar ones. And the end result is a bigger profit margin per sale!
So don’t just limit your store to only selling t-shirts. Other products can be just as profitable, and with more variety you can also appeal to a larger audience who would maybe want leggings or a mug.
Step #7: Check to See if Your Design Can Be Printed onto Another Product
Another way to maximise your profits is by printing your designs onto other types of products.
Chances are, a profitable t-shirt design could also work just as well on a mug or a tote bag. If your design is already making money, why not try it out on different products?
But keep in mind that not all types of designs work on all types of products. For example, this simple image design works great on a t-shirt but less so if you put it on a pair of leggings.
As a general rule of thumb, use small design patterns on accessories like pillows, blankets, leggings and tote bags. Use single-image designs for products like t-shirts, hoodies and mugs.
Step #8: Add Scarcity — But Not to Every Product
Scarcity is one of the most powerful psychological ‘triggers’ that can be used to get people to act on a sale that you are offering or a product that you are selling with more urgency.
But, if you overdo it and claim that every product in your store has ‘limited stock’ available, customers will sense that something ‘fishy’ is going on.
Understand that scarcity is already a powerful sales tactic as it is, so there’s no need to apply too much of it in your store.
Instead, find the right balance so that the scarcity seems realistic.
Limit the number of products that have countdown timers or ‘limited’ stock to four or less. For example, if your store has a total of twenty products, have three of them on sale with a countdown timer.
Step #9: Check to See if Your Niche is Banned on Facebook
When promoting a product on Facebook, you’ll want to make sure that what you are selling is acceptable under Facebook’s advertising policy.
You don’t want to go through the hassle of building a POD store, only to find out that your products do not meet Facebook’s standards.
Go through Facebook’s advertising policies and be sure to take a look at what type of niches and products are either prohibited or restricted.
Step #10: Get Honest Feedback from Your Friend or Family Member
It’s very difficult to step back and be objective about things that we create.
This is because of something called illusory superiority: the normal tendency for people to overestimate their abilities.
This is also why it is never wise to rely on your own opinion, as you are naturally likely to see things from a biased point of view.
Seek other people’s opinions to get different perspectives on how your store or product designs look.
Do you know a friend or family member who doesn’t like to beat around the bush? Get them to offer their honest opinion on how your store or the product you are selling looks.
Whether you have a POD store, or are looking to start one, it’s critical that you follow the 10 steps outlined in this article.