I was missing in action on this blog for some time because I was exploring a new way of making money. While affiliate marketing is one of my favorite way of making money, I always keep on exploring the other ways to make money. I had been doing e-commerce in the form of dropshipping as one of my side income stream. This time I was exploring the print on demand. Today, I will share how to earn money with you all.
What Is Print On Demand (POD)?
Before we get into the money part, let’s understand what is POD. It is a customizable version of dropshipping. In dropshipping, people sell the items that are ready to ship and usually available in bulk quantities. Whereas, in POD the item is printed with the customized design after the customer orders it.
The rest of the process is very much similar to the image below.
In other words, your order is printed after the demand arises. You can print your own designs (or pictures or quotes or vectors or…) on t-shirts (or hoodies or mugs or Jewelry or…). There are no minimum quantity restrictions as long as your minimum quantity is one 🙂
Once someone places the orders, your fulfillment partner will print the item and ship directly to your customer.
Advantages Of POD
The advantages of dropshipping apply to print on demand too.
1. No Stocking Necessary: Unlike the old way of retail printing, you don’t need to stock up the inventory. With POD, simply create mockups of your design. When someone buys the product, your fulfillment partner will print and ship.
2. No Shipping Worries: As mentioned above, your fulfillment partner will ship the product and share the tracking number. You can focus on marketing and creating more and more product designs.
3. Zero Risk In Testing New Designs: In the old days, you needed to print and keep the inventory of your designs. If the product doesn’t sell, the inventor used to get wasted. With POD, there is absolutely zero risks in testing new designs. If a design doesn’t get sold, you don’t lose anything.
4. Faster Turnaround: For most of the POD products, the printing is done in less than 5 days and the shipping times are 5-7 days. In the best cases, the customer gets the products within 7 days.
5. Very Easy Setup: The entire setup starting from setting up your online store, collaborating with vendors can be done in just a few hours. If you run paid ads then you can have your first sale within 24 hrs from setting up the store.
How To Earn Money With POD?
There are two main ways to earn money with print on demand. Either you create your own e-commerce store and sell OR list yourself as a seller on the established sites and sell.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each way.
#1 Create Your Own E-Commerce Platform
As the headline suggests, you need to get a domain and create an online store. List the products with your designs on your stores. Then you can run paid ads to drive the traffic to drive sales.
With providers like Shopify & woocommerce, you can easily set up your stores in a few mins (or a few hrs if you are not experienced).
With lots of apps (just like plugins in WordPress), you can pretty much do anything that an established store needs to do for selling locally or internationally. E.g. integrating payment gateways, currency conversions, shipping & returns, upsells, email management & many other things.
You can create your own brand. Who knows, you can become another Nike tomorrow 🙂
You get to control the profit margins
Even though it is easy, you need to create your e-commerce store from scratch.
Marketing your designs and generating traffic can be tricky.
If you use third-party tools and apps like Shopify, there will be monthly recurring charges. These charges will pay for themselves on a successful store but initially, these charges can be substantial.
#2 Sell On Established Sites
The second way is to list yourself as a seller on established sites. There are many sites where you can list your products and integrate your fulfillment vendors to fulfill your orders. Sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Teespring, Redbubble, and many more where you can list yourself as a seller.
You get to enjoy the traffic and trust of these established platforms
Most of these platforms offer to promote your products for a little additional cost. This may end your worry of running paid ads.
You don’t need to worry about setting up your store and integrations.
Most of the fulfillment vendors easily integrate with all these sites, thus fulfillment becomes 100% automated. You just need to keep listing products.
You can never become a trusted brand like Nike this way. If you are selling on Amazon, people will remember Amazon and not your brand.
Most of these platforms charge you any fees. E.g. The fees on the Etsy platform can run up to 23%. This may hamper the profit margin considerably.
The competition on these platforms is cutthroat. There are over 2.5 million sellers alone on Etsy. Whenever people search for a product they see thousands of results. It becomes difficult to sell if your product does not appear in the initial few pages. Here is a sample screenshot of one of the searches on Etsy.
Some of the platforms have strict policies. Your established account could get banned for policy violations and you cannot do much about it.
What Are The Challenges With POD?
We have seen a few challenges in the cons section of the two approaches above. Here are a few common challenges for both the approaches.
1. Low-Profit Margins: There are very few items with high-profit margins in POD, however, they don’t get sold easily. The items that get sold a lot have a very low-profit margin. E.g. A t-shirt profit margin is about $2-$4 if everything goes well.
2. Quality Issues: You don’t see each product yourself, so you have to trust the printer to do their job properly. You can try to counter this problem by ordering a few samples before, however since these are printed on-demand, usually printers don’t give much attention to minor quality issues and your future items may still have the quality issues.
3. Refunds & Customer Service: You are responsible to handle the customer service. Everything is fine until you come across a few tricky clients.
4. Competition: This is one of the highly saturated areas. There is a lot of competition, especially with the t-shirt POD.
5. Stolen Designs: Since your designs are up to see everyone, the chances of designs getting stolen are huge. There are copyright protections but in reality, it is useless.
Here is another perspective on print on demand by someone else 🙂
I did mention that there is a lot of competition in POD, however, there is a lot of demand too. The population of the USA is over 325 million alone. Each one of these people needs personal items which can be POD items. e.g. t-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, bed sheets, shoes, phone cases, laptop skins, and many more. The possibilities are endless. And the best part is, they need multiple counts of each of these items. These are not one time purchases. People keep purchasing them over and over again.
Imagine the earning potential if you can ship your POD items worldwide. If we believe the e-comm growth studies then soon everything will be available online and the internet is going to explode.
So, in spite of the saturation challenge, there is still a lot of scope. If you were thinking of getting into POD, start ASAP 🙂