What is Print On Demand

Jul 4, 2024

Asal Azimi

Asal Azimi

Whether you're an artist, writer, designer, or entrepreneur, using the Print-on-demand method to sell physical products can be a great way to monetize your creative work.


The Print on Demand (POD) business model has emerged as an innovative game-changer, transforming the traditional way of product creation and distribution. POD has opened up new opportunities to streamline operations and enhance customer experiences. 


This technique has gained significant traction for its unique product creation and more sustainable distribution approach.  


In this blog article, we will dive into the fundamentals of print-on-demand, exploring its definition, advantages, disadvantages, and operational mechanisms.

What is Print on demand?

Print-on-demand (POD) is an order fulfilment method and business model where products, such as clothing, accessories, books, mugs etc. are produced on an order-by-order basis. Items are only created upon receiving an order from a customer. This method eliminates complex inventory management like buying large amounts of stock and reduces upfront costs.


Thanks to POD, customization and flexibility through on-demand digital printing of designs is easy and fast. Furthermore, the supplier manages all post-sale tasks with print-on-demand services, including digital printing, order fulfilment, and shipping. Once everything is set up, placing an order after a sale only takes a few clicks.

the printful.com website

A popular print on demand service called Printful.


Print-on-demand services can be used for:

  • Test and Learn Techniques: Thanks to POD you can do a test run for small business ideas or innovative products without taking any risks, like purchasing inventory. The big plus: You can even use it as a side hustle for extra income.

  • Monetizing your audience: Print-on-demand is an ideal opportunity if you are a YouTuber who wants to use his time for creating content instead of fulfilling orders.

  • Niche customers: By using the POD method, you can design unique and original products that are tailored to a particular type of customer (for example: t-shirts for customers who are passionate about a certain activity, sports or lifestyle) By avoiding standard designs, your brand can stand out and attract the right audience.

  • Test ads: Be creative! Since you don’t have any upfront costs for products, print-on-demand offers you the possibility to run test ads. In this way, you can check which designs and items your audience is most interested in. If you get enough orders to be profitable, you can increase your budget for advertising.

How does print-on-demand work?

Image showing 4 distinct steps for print on demand
  1. You create your design

  2. A client visits your website

  3. Order placement and printing

  4. Shipping Process

If you want to launch your print-on-demand business successfully, all you need is time and a touch of creativity. Once you crafted your printable design, the next step involves bringing it to life on your online store, where you can display its potential on various products like t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and more.


When an order is placed and payment is processed, your print-on-demand supplier will begin printing the design on the chosen material and ship it directly to your customer. 


If you're short on time for design creation, there's no need to worry! You can hire freelancers or interns to handle the heavy lifting for you. Another option is purchasing pre-made designs online. By joining forces with one or two skilled designers, you can curate a collection of creative print-on-demand products to feature on your website.

several custom made items are placed carefully on a wooden desk

Source: Unsplash

Dropshipping vs. print-on-demand: What’s the difference?

Starting a business typically requires an initial investment or capital. However, with drop shipping and print-on-demand (POD), the barrier to entry is significantly lower in terms of financial commitment. Drop shipping and print-on-demand are both popular e-commerce business models, but they differ in how they deal with inventory and production.


In drop shipping, the retailer does not keep the products in stock. Instead, when a customer places an order, the retailer purchases the item from a third party (usually a wholesaler or manufacturer) and has it shipped directly to the customer. The retailer never handles the product physically, as it goes directly from the supplier to the customer.


On the other hand, in a print-on-demand model, products are only created once an order is placed. The retailer partners with a print-on-demand supplier who prints the design on the chosen product (such as t-shirts, mugs, etc.) after the order is received. This allows for more customization and flexibility in offering unique designs without the need for holding inventory or investing in production upfront.


In a nutshell: Drop shipping involves selling existing products from a third party without holding inventory, while print-on-demand involves creating custom products only when orders are placed, allowing for more personalized items.


While there may be some minimal costs associated with setting up your online store or website, by using the POD business model you are spared the expenses of inventory, stocking, and shipping. If you opt for dropshipping, investing time in researching, reviewing, and testing products for your online store is crucial. 


By conducting thorough market research and trend analysis, you can develop designs that appeal to a wide range of potential customers. In today's market, consumers are drawn to trendy and thoughtfully crafted apparel, making print-on-demand a lucrative venture when tailored to the right audience.

Pros and Cons of print-on-demand

Though print-on-demand is one of the most accessible ways to source products or launch an online business, you should probably know the advantages and disadvantages before you jump in.


Pros

  • Launch products efficiently. Once your design is ready, you can quickly and easily manufacture and list the product for sale within minutes. 

  • Shipping orders are seamlessly handled on your behalf. The responsibility of shipping and fulfilment is transferred to your supplier. 

  • Post-sale, your focus is all about customer service. This method requires minimal investment and mitigates risk. By eliminating the need to physically manage inventory, you gain the flexibility to introduce or remove products, explore new ideas, and adapt your approach with ease.


Cons

  • Lower margins. Your per-item expenses will be greater than if you purchased in bulk.

  • Less control over shipment. Shipping prices might be problematic since they vary between print-on-demand items. If you want to create a memorable unpacking experience, you have few alternatives.

  • Products are limited. The ability to personalize things depends on the seller and product. When determining which print-on-demand organizations to deal with, you should consider base pricing, customisation possibilities, and available sizes.


In conclusion, the print-on-demand business model presents a dynamic and innovative solution for product creation and sales. It is a promising model where businesses can efficiently produce customizable products and stand out in the market. While POD offers flexibility and creativity, it's important to consider potential challenges such as longer shipping times and limited control over product quality.