Print on Demand (POD) is a system where you sell products that don’t exist yet. A mock-up exists and once someone pays you a company you have partnered with manufactures the products, ships it to the customer and depending upon where the product was displayed send the shipping tracking code. The company also handles returns and customer issues.
Print on Demand Advantages
Print on Demand (POD) involves a very small amount of start-up capital when compared with most other direct sales systems. You do not need to make big expenditures on inventory and hope that you sell your inventory and make a profit. With POD the product isn’t created until a unit a sold. You can work from home and it is possible to make a profit even when you have limited time to spend on your POD business. Every design you create increases your inventory. You basically have an infinite supply of each design you create and upload to a POD company. The number of items you have in your inventory grows and grows every time you upload a new design.
Simple Version of the Steps Involved in POD
Here is the short version of the POD process.
Here is a quick explanation of a Print on Demand Business.
- Mindset – There are two aspects of mindset that you really need to get right. 1) Your own mindset and 2) pick a niche of people to sell to so you can understand their mindset. (Here is a blog post that goes into more detail on this topic.)
- DESIGN – You create PNG image files. These are designs that will be placed on physical product AFTER someone buys the product. You can create designs yourself (on a PC or on your phone) or you can outsource them.(There is a blog post on this topic as well. (If you want to create Print on Demand images on your phone, check out this article on the WordSwag app.)
- PARTNER – You upload the PNG file to a partner company. (Here is a How To eBook on Creating a Product on Gearbubble.)
The partner company creates a mock-up of the product you are selling and usually create a sales page for you.
- TRAFFIC – You generate traffic to your sale pages.. This is usually paid advertising traffic. Without traffic, you product is like a bottle in the Pacific Ocean. It doesn’t matter how good the product is, if no-one sees it, no-one can buy it. The partner company automatically recognizes the sale and creates and ships the product. The partner company also collects the money and gives you your portion. There are versions where you create your own Shopify Store or sell on sites like Amazon. The money collection works differently when you use these methods, but the partner still handles the manufacturing and shipping of the products.
- SCALING – When you find a product that sells well you scale the sales. This is done by increasing the advertising budget, advertising to different targets, creating similar products and selling in new markets.
I will quickly note that this short version is similar to the old saw about how you kill an ant. The answer to that one is “Place the ant on a brick and hit it with another brick.” Obviously that answer raises more questions than it actually answers. Little things like “how do you catch the ant?” and “how do you keep the ant still on the brick until you can hit it?” are left unanswered.
I will also note that there are other versions of the Print on Demand System – for example there is a whole industry that centers on printing books an
A Longer List of Steps Involved in a POD Business – Flowchart
- MINDSET – Adjust your mindset. Print on Demand is a long haul business. You need to BELIEVE that you will succeed and you need to be prepared for ups and downs.
- MINDSET – Pick a few niches that you will focus on. I’ve written in other places about niches and why it is important. It really does help you learn the vocabulary, likes and dislikes, the passions and what sells when you focus on a few groups of people (niches).
- (Optional) FACEBOOK AND AUTORESPONDER SETUP – If you are going to use Facebook advertising (and most serious Print on Demand sellers do), you will need to set up a Facebook Page for your niche, an Ad Manager Account and Facebook Pixels. You may also want to set up an Autoresponder account and collect customer emails so that you can market to your customers again and again. (Here is a step by step eBook on Integrating AWeber and Gearbubble.com.)
- DESIGNS – Find out what is already selling to people in your niche. What do they like. One of the worst things you can do (until you have a lot of experience) is rely on what YOU think will sell. There are a number of ways to research what people in a niche really like and are already buying. You do NOT want to exactly duplicate someone else’s design, buy you certainly make something similar.
- DESIGNS – Create the design yourself OR outsource the design. (At some point you will need to learn an image editor so that you can make changes and resize and reshape images.)
- PARTNER – Upload the image to a Print on Demand company website. This means you have top pick a company, create an account (almost always free) and learn their products. Designs that work on a shirt usually don’t work as well on a necklace. You need to develop an understanding of what works best with each type of product.
- PARTNER – Take advantage of any extras the company may offer. For example Gearbubble.com will add the email of each buyer to an autoresponder list. To take advantage of that, you need to have an autoresponder account and set up up a list and a welcome email for the list. Then you need to edit the settings of each of your products and tell Gearbubble which autoreponder company and which list they should send the buyer’s email address to. Another example is TeeSprings and their option to put your product onto Amazon.com.
- TRAFFIC/ SALES – You need to drive traffic to the sales page of your products. There are a number of ways to do this.
- The biggest traffic source is Facebook. To use Facebook, you need to learn about Pixels and set a pixel for each of you products when you upload them to your POD company. You need to create a Facebook page, generates Likes for the page, create Facebook ads associated with your page and learn how to run test ads for your product and scale the budget for products that are selling well.
- Take advantage of integrations between the POD company and major selling sites like Amazon, Etsy and eBay.
- Create niche website store of you own. There is a lot to learn here.
- Google Shopping ads is another source of traffic to your sales pages.
- YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest (here is an eBook on a quick way to create Product Pins for Pinterest) are other sources of traffic to your pages and you must have the traffic to make sales.
- PARTNER – When you make a sale, the POD company will create the product, send it to the buyer, and handle details like tracking numbers, returns and customer issues.
- TRAFFIC/SALES – You need to learn to run TEST ads for your product. Most products will NOT sell well. You can determine if you have a winner by running low budget test ads.
- (Optional) PUSH TO A SELLING SITE – In many cases you will want to work with Partner companies that help you sell your products on sites like Amazon and Etsy. You “Push” your products to these sites and the Partner company automatically deals with sales when they happen.
- SCALING – Scaling is one of the last major steps. When you find a product that sells well, you need to increase the traffic to the sales page in order to increase your sales.
- PARTNER – Request your portion of the sales money from the POD company.
Before I stop, I’ll mention that there are variations to this model. For example Merch Be Amazon is a company that has partnered with Amazon. You upload your designs to them and the mock-ups appear as products on Amazon. Most of the sales are made from people searching Amazon for a product. There are other POD companies like Gearbubble.com, PrintFul.com and PrintTech.io that offer integration with Amazon for a fee. Your product is listed on Amazon, Etsy and eBay and the POD company watches for sales and fulfills them them they happen.
There is a technical side and an artistic side to running a Print On Demand business. You need to learn about your customers (which is why you need to deal with niche audiences), research what they are currently buying, create product design that they will buy (this is where the artistic side of you comes into play) and get a design uploaded to a POD company. Then you need traffic to your sales page. When you have product that is selling well, you need to scale the traffic in order to increase you sales. Learning Facebook ads is one of the quickest ways to drive traffic to your sales pages.
Learning the Print on Demand business is not an get rich quick program. You will need to accept that you will fail more than you succeed, BUT when you do succeed it can and will be huge. It is also a route to passive income since all of the work you put in today remains in play forever.