How To Start a Print On Demand Business | 10 Essential Steps for Beginners

March 26, 2024

How to start a print on demand business:

  1. Select a niche
  2. Decide what products to sell
  3. Choose a print on demand service
  4. Create custom designs
  5. Formulate a business plan
  6. Set up an online store
  7. Verify product quality
  8. Implement a digital marketing strategy
  9. Monitor performance
  10. Test new products

Starting a print on demand business enables you to generate online income by creating and printing unique designs on generic products like t-shirts, coffee mugs, and phone cases. Print on demand works by using a print on demand supplier like Printful or Printify to create custom products each time a customer orders a product. When a customer orders and pays for a product, you create the order with your print on demand supplier and pay them to create and ship the product directly to your customer. POD sellers typically sell on Ecommerce marketplaces that promote personalized and custom products, such as Etsy and Redbubble. 

Due to favorable factors like low risk and simplified Ecommerce operations, print on demand has grown in popularity in recent years, with a global market value of $6.18 billion as of 2022, according to Grand View Research. The industry is expected to experience a strong compound annual growth rate of 25.8% through 2030. 

In this article, we will walk you through the 10 steps for starting a print on demand business and discuss 7 expert tips for those just starting out with the business model. We’ll also break down exactly how much it costs to start a print on demand business and discuss whether it’s still a good opportunity in 2024

1. Select a niche

Before considering which products to sell and where you will sell them, you should select a niche to target. A niche market is a specific segment of the general market. For example, pets and travel are two popular niches for online business. Focusing on a specific niche increases your print on demand business’s likelihood of success by reducing competition. This is essential for a print on demand business because the print on demand business model is relatively saturated already. 

For reference, there are already over 9 million t-shirts listed on Etsy, a popular platform for selling print on demand products, as of 2024 data. If you don’t take the time to analyze the market and find a suitable niche before launching your print on demand products, your products are likely to get lost among the millions of other similar products. 

If you want to create your own website rather than selling on an Ecommerce marketplace, choosing a niche is especially important. This is because you can design your website around the niche and use more targeted marketing to lead customers to your website and products. 

Some strategies you can use to find print on demand products include:

  • Analyze Google Trend data - Research topics on Google Trends and see what kind of topics people are searching for now. 
  • Leverage SEO tools - SEO tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs can show you approximately how many people are searching for a given keyword and tell you how competitive that keyword is online. 
  • Use AI tools for inspiration - AI tools like ChatGPT and Google Gemini can help you come up with niche ideas you may never have thought of. 
  • Look at trending searches or best seller page on POD platforms - You can see what is hot right now on popular print on demand marketplaces and try to jump on a current trend.

2. Decide what products to sell

Once you choose a niche to target, you need to decide what products to customize and sell to that niche. Printify recommends taking the time to analyze your target audience, understanding their interests, professions, values, desires, and spending habits. For example, data from Statista shows that 40.9% of Gen Z females shop for clothes at least 1-2 times per month, while just 16.8% of Gen Z males shop at that frequency. This data helps to affirm that those planning to target Gen Z females could benefit from focusing on apparel because of the relatively high rate Gen Z females seek these products.

The best print on demand products are:

  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Hoodies
  • Mugs
  • Stickers
  • Canvas
  • Blankets
  • Posters
  • Tumblers
  • Phone cases

This is based on sales data from Printify, one of the leading POD services with over 850 custom product options.

Hannah Ebeling is a successful print on demand seller who decided what products to sell through trial and error. Her top selling products include crewneck T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, throw pillows, tote bags, and V-neck T-shirts. Sales performance and profitability showed her these products had potential, while customer demand and feedback have solidified these products place in her Etsy store.

3. Choose a print on demand service

Choose a print on demand service to create your custom products and fulfill customer orders. Choosing the right print on demand service provider can have a major impact on your business because they will handle a major portion of your Ecommerce operations in product creation and order fulfillment. A bad print on demand supplier can set you up for failure before you even get started. 

For example, print on demand seller Shimmy Morris had a bad experience with the POD supplier ThisNew. A major issue reported was the product quality. Shimmy mentioned finding products from ThisNew displaying issues like inconsistent coloring, poor fabric quality, and incorrect sizing. Although he was attracted to ThisNew’s claim of cheap prices 70% lower than other POD providers, he quickly learned it wasn’t worth it because their products weren’t satisfactory for his customers.

The best print on demand service providers are:

  • Printful
  • Printify
  • Gelato
  • Redbubble
  • Amazon Merch on Demand
  • Society6
  • Shopify Print

A common frustration among print on demand sellers is that most of these POD service providers focus on selling too similar generic items. Reddit user maggyver recommends Yoycol for those looking for more unique clothing products. 

When choosing a print on demand service, you should consider:

  1. Location - For optimal order fulfillment times and shipping costs, choose a print on demand service with facilities close to your customers. 
  2. Product quality - Bad product quality can result in poor reviews and product returns, both of which are not good for your business. 
  3. User reviews - If user reviews are overwhelmingly positive for a POD supplier, it’s likely you can also have a good experience. 
  4. Customer service - Make sure there are sufficient channels to reach the support team of your print on demand provider, as you may need to contact them in an emergency. 

4. Create custom designs

The next step is to create the custom designs that you will print on your products. You can use graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Canva, or Procreate to create graphic art for your print on demand products. If you aren’t a skilled designer yourself, you can hire a freelance graphic designer from platforms like Fiverr or Upwork to support your print on demand business with high-quality designs. 

Make sure to check the specific upload requirements of your chosen print on demand service provider for the exact graphical requirements. For example, Printful requires DPI between 150 - 300, sRGB color profile, and file saved as JPG or PNG. Furthermore, Printful’s Acceptable Content Guidelines dictate what kind of designs you can have, such as outlawing designs that are hateful in nature. 

If you don’t know what to design for your target audience, you can find inspiration from platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, or Dribbble. See what kind of designs other businesses in your niche are promoting and take note of any trends among members of your target audience.

Rachel Rofé of the Low Hanging Systems print on demand course recommends keeping designs simple for best results. 

Rachel Rofé


Simple designs tend to work best for most print-on-demand products, and this includes pillow cases.

10:38 AM · Feb 4, 2024

5. Formulate a business plan

Formulate a print on demand business plan by writing out your business strategy and goals. Although not everybody does this, business owners that start with a business plan are 152% more likely to launch their business than those that don’t create one, according to LLC Buddy. Furthermore, businesses with a business plan can expect to grow approximately 30% more quickly than those that don’t. Therefore, starting your print on demand business venture with a concrete business plan can help you succeed and do so more quickly than many competitors. 

6. Set up an online store

To showcase your POD products to potential customers, you first need to set up an online store where you can list your product offerings. There are two options when setting up a print on demand store. You can either sell your custom products on an Ecommerce marketplace with an established customer base like Etsy or Amazon, or you can create your own store on your own website, such as setting up a Shopify store. 

Using an Ecommerce marketplace is relatively easy because you just need to add your product details to a product listing, but these marketplaces are often very competitive and saturated with many sellers. On the other hand, setting up an online store costs money and requires more effort to create a captivating online storefront relevant to your niche. You’ll also need to put more resources into marketing your products because you won’t have an established customer base. However, with your own website and online store, you have substantially more flexibility in marketing your products. 

7. Verify product quality

Before launching your POD business, it’s best to place a test order and verify that the product quality from your supplier is sufficient and your designs look good in real life on your products instead of relying on digital product mockups. This is also a good opportunity to confirm that your POD supplier fulfills your order within their defined delivery timeline. 

Besides checking product quality and fulfillment, you can also order your samples directly through your POD storefront to confirm user experience aspects are ready for launch, such as making sure your print on demand supplier is connected to your store and payment gateways are set up for transactions.

8. Implement a digital marketing strategy

To start getting your POD products in front of potential customers and generating sales, you need to implement a digital marketing strategy. Fortunately, there are a range of options for marketing print on demand products. 

Ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay have their own on-platform advertising networks where you can advertise your products directly to users of the platform. For example, Etsy Ads are displayed all over the platform, including Etsy search results pages, category pages, and market pages on both the Etsy desktop and mobile app. Etsy Ads are charged as 12% or 15% of the transaction amount. 

If you have your POD store on your own website, you can run paid advertisements like Facebook Ads or Google Ads to get customers to your store. You can also use content marketing to build an audience for your products organically, such as niche-relevant blog content on the website domain you have your POD store or creating short-form video content for social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. 

For example, a TikToker known as Moad was able to create a $100K+ print on demand business by primarily relying on organic advertising TikTok. He was able to accomplish this by creating an exclusive community around his brand and using the concept of scarcity to create limited-time product drops to drive many sales in a short period. 

9. Monitor performance

You should monitor the performance of your print on demand store to analyze where improvements can be made to achieve greater revenue and profitability. Ecommerce platforms typically have these analysis tools built in, such as the Etsy search analytics feature that shows you how customers arrive in your Etsy shop. Google Analytics is a useful tool for website owners that can provide insights on how customers interact with your online store, which can reveal issues like a difficult checkout process if many potential customers abandon the shopping cart before purchase. 

Besides monitoring your overall print on demand store, you should also keep track of how well individual products are selling. Individual product sales data can help you understand what type of products your audience prefers and where you could potentially make product updates for your store by adding new or replacement products to your product line. 

10. Test new products

One of the best aspects of the print on demand business model is that you can test new products in your online store with little to no risk. You never know what will sell well, so you should regularly update your product lineup to test new products and designs for your audience. Fresh products can also help to keep your audience excited and engaged about your print on demand brand. 

7 Expert tips for starting a print on demand business for beginners

  1. 1
    Understand copyright laws and check for trademarks - Copyright law says that you can't completely copy another product, but you can create your own distinct version. Avoid potential trademark infringement by always checking for trademarks at
  2. 2
    Ensure sales tax compliance - Ecommerce sellers in the United States need to collect sales tax and remit it to the appropriate state governments where the customer is located. Confirm your responsibility for collecting this sales tax to avoid potential penalties. 
  3. 3
    Run promotional campaigns - Running promotions like discount codes and coupons can help attract customers and sales. 39% of shoppers admit they bought a new product because of a discount code, according to Giosg. 
  4. 4
    Start with money set aside or a credit card - You need access to money to start print on demand because you need to pay for your print on demand products before you will receive customer payment. Customer payments go through payment gateways like Stripe or Paypal, which can take weeks before the cash hits your bank account.
  5. 5
    Use lifestyle product images - Lifestyle product photography images provide a clearer perception of how a product will look or feel when used by a potential customer, which can help customers feel more confident when purchasing products online and help you avoid product returns. 
  6. 6
    Leverage scarcity - Leverage scarcity tactics like flash sales and limited product notifications to stimulate more customer buying decisions. 
  7. 7
    Check design color options - Check color options and only offer colors that fit with your design. For example, if your digital artwork is a black design, you typically wouldn’t want to offer to print it on a black product because the color scheme would make it difficult to see your design. 

What is the difference between dropshipping vs print on demand?

The difference between dropshipping vs print on demand is that a print on demand product is a customized product while a dropshipping product is not. Both dropshipping and print on demand rely on the supplier to fulfill product orders, but print on demand suppliers create custom products for a seller, while dropshipping suppliers just provide a static product. Print on demand is a type of dropshipping because the product goes directly from the supplier to the customer, allowing the seller to avoid any inventory management themself. 

What is a print on demand business?

A print on demand business is a type of Ecommerce business that leverages a third-party to print custom graphic designs onto products and ship those products directly to customers. For example, Sunshine is a print on demand business that sells merchandise related to spirituality and self improvement, such as shirts, hoodies, totes, stickers, and books. They have a team of creative designers to make the designs and use Printful to print and fulfill customer orders.

How much does it cost to start a print on demand business?

It costs $0 to $500+ to start a print on demand business. If you start a business without ordering any product samples and create a free store on an Ecommerce platform like Etsy that doesn’t charge upfront for advertising fees, you can get started for closer to $0. If you want to create your own custom store on your own website and run PPC advertisements like Google Ads to get traffic to your store, your price for starting a print on demand store will be closer to $500 or more. 

Is print on demand profitable?

Yes, print on demand is profitable. The typical profit margin for a print on demand business ranges between 25% to 50%, according to data from POD provider Teeinblue. Considering that the typical print on demand business earns approximately $4,639/month, according to POD service Gelato, the average print on demand business earns $1,160 to $2,320/month in profit. 

Can you make a living with print on demand?

Yes, you can make a living with print on demand. Seller data from Gelato shows that print on demand businesses can make up to $9,833/month, which means top sellers take home $2,458 to $4,917 in profit per month. The average monthly cost for a single person in the United States is approximately $3,556, according to data from Expatistan. Therefore, high performing print on demand businesses can make a living with print on demand, but the average print on demand business would probably not provide enough income alone to live an average life in the United States. 

Is print on demand passive income?

No, print on demand is not passive income. Although your print on demand service provider handles a major portion of your Ecommerce work, you’re still responsible for tasks like design creation, store management, and digital marketing. 

What is the print on demand success rate? 

The print on demand success rate is 24%, according to That means nearly a quarter of print on demand businesses are able to achieve success with the business model. 

Are there courses that teach how to start a print on demand business?

There are courses that teach how to start a print on demand business. Some courses that teach the print on demand business model include:

  • Insider Scaling System
  • Millionaire Vet
  • Top Seller Secret
  • Low Hanging System

Insider Scaling System: Start a POD business on Etsy, Amazon, and ViralStyle

Insider Scaling System is a print on demand course by Tom Bell that teaches students how to sell on Etsy, Amazon, and ViralStyle. The program includes 3 months of training, with Tom taking you through the 4 specific stages for starting and running a profitable print-on-demand business. 

Top Seller Secret: Start POD with the strategies of a 6 figure POD seller 

Top Seller Secret is a print on demand course by six figure POD seller Brittany Lewis where she details the exact strategies she used to start and scale her business. The primary sections of the course include product research, listing optimization, and digital marketing. 

Low Hanging System: Start POD by leveraging automation software

Low Hanging System is a print-on-demand course by Rachel Rofe that teaches students how to find and scale print on demand product opportunities. Besides step-by-step video training and weekly coaching calls, the course comes with access to the Low Hanging System: Automation Software, which streamlines many POD efforts. 

Conclusion: Is print on demand good for beginners?

Yes, print on demand is good for beginners. It’s one of the easiest and most affordable online business models for a new entrepreneur to get started with. However, beginners should be aware of the drawbacks of print on demand. Most notably, the relatively limited profit potential of the business model due to factors like high competition and low profit margins. Most print on demand business owners, especially those living in the US, won’t be able to support themselves from their print on demand business alone. 

Local lead generation is an alternative online business model that many beginners experience success with. Competition is relatively low and you can earn profit margins of up to 90%. Local lead generation entails building websites that attract customers for local service businesses, like plumbers, electricians, and roofers. There are 32.5 million small businesses in the United States alone that you can offer these services to. Unlike print on demand, where you compete against all the Ecommerce businesses on the internet, with local lead generation you only compete against a handful of local business owners because you use local SEO to target your marketing efforts at a specific location. 

Local lead generation websites only cost a few hundred dollars to set up and can generate between $500 to $3,000/month, allowing local lead gen website owners to generate higher profit margins than most other online business models. You can learn the exact process I use to earn $52K/month in recurring income with this local lead gen training

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Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2024, is to build your own lead generation business.

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