Print-on-demand can be a great source of passive income. This eCommerce business model especially interests influencers, notably those on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as podcasters and established business owners.
Print-on-demand is a form of drop shipping that allows you to make and sell merchandise without having it in stock. When a customer places an order in your print-on-demand store, it is automatically sent to a fulfillment center that will print and ship the sold products for you.
If you are interested in getting started check out our print-on-demand passive income guide for more information.
In this article, we will cover 10 ways to make money from print-on-demand.
1. Close a Niche You are Interested in
Entrepreneurs see an opportunity, but in some cases they have no real interest in the niche, target market, or product itself. Choosing a niche you think can be a great opportunity, but that you are not actually interested in (or part of) could make things harder.
When you are an entrepreneur working for yourself you have to stay motivated. In most cases, nobody else will be there pushing you to get things done. So you need to have intrinsic motivation to carry out your project, and if it’s something that you aren’t passionate about, it will probably be harder to make it successful.
So try to prioritize choosing a niche you are a part of, are knowledgable about, and are actually interested in.
2. Combine Your Audience’s Niche Interests
In the print-on-demand world, one way to stand out is to combine two of your audience’s interests to make something unique and fun. For example, Beards and Cats ™ has an Instagram account and print-on-demand store that caters to men, with beards, who love cats! Their Etsy store contains shirts, mugs, hats, sweaters, masks and more.
A lot has also been done in the coffee space, often mixing people’s passion for coffee and some other passion they have (for example the environment, dogs, LGBTQ+ Pride, etc.). One of the key takeaways from this section should be to look for a cross-roads of passions that may interest your specific niche of choice in order to provide a unique offering.
3. Carry out In-depth Market Research
After reading the above paragraphs, you may be confident you have a great niche idea that you are part of, are passionate about, and a crossroads of interests you could create an awesome product for. But how can you be sure?
Carrying out in-depth market research is key to validate your ideas. There is an extensive number of ways to do this, but one way to validate your niche and ideas is to use Google Trends. This search engine by Google allows you to see how popular topics are by looking at their search trends over time. Type in your ideas and compare how they fair out.
You can also lookup competitors in your space, see what they are doing and how they are successful. Try to spot their strong points and limitations and see how you can do better. Validate your ideas before diving deep into this business model to save yourself time and money.
4. Answer an Actual Customer Need
One of the most important things in any business is to answer an actual customer need. If you are just like every other business or print-on-demand store, it will probably be harder to stand out and succeed.
Some of the best ways to validate your niche and product ideas are to talk to people in your niche, more specifically those who you believe are your target market. A great low-cost way to do this is by joining relevant Facebook groups and polling (not trolling) them. Another way to reach people in your niche is to read forums on Quora and Reddit for example. You can get a wealth of information about your target market from there. You can also interact in the discussions and validate if your product ideas would actually answer a need.
You also want to make sure your niche choice is monetizable. If you are targeting a group with very low expendable income, or a group that would not spend money in their niche, you may want to rethink your choice. Validate that they could actually be interested in purchasing the products you will have to offer.
5. Build a Strong Following
It is hard to succeed in the print-on-demand world without a strong following. It’s possible, but it is much harder if you don’t have a popular YoutTube channel, podcast, Facebook page, or established business. This is one of the reasons why print-on-demand is so appealing to influencers as a way to monetize their audience. We have lots of information about building an audience on our site, you can learn about each of these ideas in the guides below:
Although it takes time and effort, one of the great things about having a YouTube or Twitch channel, blog, podcast or other audience, is that you can also monetize them for passive income. For example, you can diversify your passive income streams by having a monetized YouTube channel (ads, affiliate, donations, etc) and by providing print-on-demand merch. This can help provide a bit more security in case one of the streams fails for some reason.
6. Pay Attention to Expenses
This is often overlooked but print-on-demand can actually get pretty expensive very quickly. Some of the expenses to consider include platform fees, merch fees, eCommerce fees, and currency conversion fees for some. Other fees may include taxes, shipping and specific or special printing methods (sleeve print, inside or outside label, embroidery etc).
We cover fees in more detail in the passive income guide to print-on-demand on our site but it’s important to consider them in your margins before deciding how much you will sell your products for. If you do not have design skills yourself, you will also have to consider the fees involved in outsourcing the design process.
And if you are serious about your business, you will also have to consider startup fees, such as those involved when working with a qualified CPA or attorney. Therefore, it’s important to keep a close eye on your ROI (Return on Investment or: Revenue – Costs).
7. Create Unique Designs Yourself
If you want to save some money and have the skills, you can create the designs yourself. Of course, the most popular tools to do so consist of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These two pieces of software are extremely powerful for graphic designers to bring their bright ideas to life.
But you may not have the skills or money to use such powerful tools. In which case, you may be interested in Canva. It’s a great place to get started with creating your own designs that you can upload to merch and sell online. The tutorial video above demonstrates what Canva is and how it works.
8. Outsource Content Creation Wisely
You may not have the skills to create your designs yourself, in which case you may want to outsource your content creation. Definitely do so wisely as there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind.
It takes time to find someone who can meet your requirements, although Fiverr can be a good place to start. Once you have found someone, be sure to explain your idea very clearly to them. You can use hand sketches or other images for inspiration, but of course, you probably do not want to be caught using an image that you cannot use for legal reasons (see point #9 below).
So carry out your own due diligence before selling any images or graphic designs you did not make.
9. Print-on-Demand Legally!
Beginners can make a lot of mistakes when getting started with print-on-demand and a common one is thinking that every photo on the internet belongs to them. Some people still take other creator’s photos, designs or images and try to monetize them for their own benefit by uploading them to merch in their online store, without considering basic copyright laws.
We do live in an internet-world of rampant memes so it could seem like anything is allowed, but this is not the case. So you probably want to avoid using other people’s content. Also be careful if there is copyrighted material in your own images, such as brands or logos you do not own. And if there are recognizable people in your photos you should have the necessary releases to use their photos.
Of course, we are not lawyers and this isn’t legal advice, so talk to a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction before selling any images online.
10. Execution is Everything
Ideas are nothing when faced with execution. Everyone can have thousands of awesome ideas. The only ones that succeed are the ones that are carried out to fruition. I remember people who were afraid of sharing their ideas when I started out in entrepreneurship, and it makes sense to some degree. But in the end, it is the entrepreneur themselves that has to execute the idea to their definition of success.
Being part of the niche, knowing what the customer wants and needs, being able to create appealing, fun designs people will want to buy and building an engaged audience requires motivation, skills and the ability to be ready for and to seize opportunities (“luck”). So prepare yourself, build your skills, stay motivated and have fun!
Is Print on Demand profitable in 2021?
Print-on-demand can be a profitable eCommerce business model. For example, if you sell 20 sweaters at $50 each you can make $1,000 in sales (without considering fees). It can be a great way for influencers and entrepreneurs to diversify their revenue streams.
How successful is print on demand?
Print-on-demand can be successful. However, success depends on a number of factors from niche selection, market research, customer-product fit, customer engagement, and the motivation, skills, audience-size and execution of the entrepreneur.
What’s the best print on demand company?
Printful is a great option to get started with print-on-demand providing a connection to a vast number of eCommerce platforms and marketplaces. They also provide an easy-to-use interface, a wide range of merchandise to choose from, and they ship internationally.
What can you print on demand?
You can print-on-demand t-shirts, hoodies, bags, hats, beanies, sweatpants, joggers, underwear, shorts, bathing suits, sweaters, socks, baby clothes and bibs, phone cases, bean bags, towels, pillowcases, aprons, blankets, mugs, posters, stickers, postcards, jewelry, keychains, and face masks.
How do I make my print on demand successful?
Some things that are important for a successful print-on-demand project are market research, niche selection, customer-product fit, customer engagement, and the motivation, skills, audience and execution of the entrepreneur. It’s also important to have original designs that stand out from the crowd that the audience will want to buy.
How much does it cost to print on demand?
Print-on-demand can be expensive and as a ballpark idea, average total fees can range anywhere from 30% to 80% of sales. Depending on your choice of a POD solution, payment processors, eCommerce and marketplace integrations, taxes, shipping and special printing methods. So it is important to pay attention to margins while considering all expenses.