How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business in 2024: Full Guide

Want to learn how to start a print-on-demand business and the best practices to do it right? Read on to learn everything you need to start a successful business.

A print-on-demand business model is one where a seller markets the business and takes orders for custom products and a supplier fulfills the order.

Customers can choose from a variety of products and designs to create customized and unique products. Print-on-demand businesses offer customers a chance to create their own unique product designs and have suppliers who manufacture products only after an order is placed.

What does this offer?

It offers customers a chance to get unique products and it reduces business costs and risks for first-time entrepreneurs who want to start an ecommerce business.

But how can you start a POD business and how does it work?

Read on to find out.

What is a Print-on-Demand Business?

Simply stated, a print-on-demand business is one where the products are produced after an order has been placed. It also involves customers choosing customized designs to tailor a product to their preferences.

Customers can choose a design, add it to a product, and place an order. The seller will take the order and the supplier will produce and ship it to the customer.

The product can be anything from apparel to mugs. Here’s an example of a print-on-demand shop selling custom t-shirts.

Image via Gelato

How Does a Print-on-Demand Business Work?

Want to learn how to start a pOD business and how it works?

Read on to find a comprehensive step-by-step guide.

1. Conduct Market Research

Before you start a POD business, you must first understand the market, its key players, and the market dynamics.

Find out the various niches that exist within the print-on-demand industry and the key players. Collect data on:

  • Market size
  • Market demand
  • Target audience
  • Industry trends
  • Level of competition

You’ll need to collect this data for various industry segments or niches. Once you have all the data, move to the next step.

2. Choose a Niche

Based on the research data you collected at the prior step, choose a niche that:

  • Has low barriers to entry
  • Can be profitable
  • Is not dominated by 1-2 major players
  • You are interested in
  • Has a significant demand and growth potential

By studying industry trends, you will be able to gain insights into which niches are more in demand and have high margins.

Use Google Trends or SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to find trending topics and identify the POD niches and products that people are searching for.

3. Decide Which Products to Sell

Even within a niche, there will be multiple product offerings that you can choose from. For example, let’s say you want to start an apparel POD business. You can offer anything from customized t-shirts and hoodies to one-of-a-kind scarves or hats.

You need to choose a good product mix for your business to be profitable. Strike a balance between unique and popular products. Don’t choose too many products, but don’t limit yourself to just one either. 

Keep your target audience in mind when selecting products for your POD business. You should not try to target too many different audience segments. Instead, curate a product selection that caters to a specific audience.

Podbase, for example, offers a whole range of tech accessories, which customers can customize to their taste. It caters to a specific audience—tech enthusiasts who like custom covers and tech accessories.

Image via Podbase

For each product, there are numerous variants to meet each customer’s specific needs. Instead of offering a broad range of products, it adds more depth to the products that it does offer.

Lastly, consider how easy or difficult it is to print custom designs on a product, before you decide to offer it to your customers. Consider which type of printing method will be required—such as direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, sublimation printing, and screen printing—and how much it will cost.

4. Create Your Designs

Keeping your products and target audience in mind, create unique designs that align well with them.

This is where you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors. Even if there are many competitors offering the same products, your designs can help you stand out.

You can look for design inspiration on Pinterest, but make sure you don’t copy any designs.

Hire graphic designers to create designs for your products, if you don’t have the capability in-house. Sites like Upwork and 99designs can help you find freelancers willing to work at competitive prices.

5. Decide on Which Platform to Sell

At this step, you must choose a platform to host your online store. Do you want to sell via your website or host an online store via your print-on-demand service provider?

Creating your own website and online store is a costly and tedious process, but gives you more flexibility and control over your store. 

Selling on a third-party platform is quick and convenient, but will have recurring costs. However, many POD platforms offer additional marketing and SEO services to make it worth your while.

Consider the pros and cons of both and choose a platform to sell your products.

6. Choose Print-on-Demand Service

Choosing the right print-on-demand service provider is one of the most crucial decisions you will have to make. 

Most POD platforms offer a range of products that customers can choose from. Go for a POD service that operates within your chosen niche and provides the products you want to sell.

Compare various available options on the following parameters:

  • Product Catalog: Pick a POD service that offers a good mix of products within your chosen niche. Also, check the level of customization offered by each company.
  • Quality: Order a few products to check the quality of products that a company offers. Choose one that offers high-quality products.
  • Shipping Options: Go for a company that offers multiple easy shipping options. Companies that offer fast and reliable shipping, preferably worldwide, are preferable.
  • Pricing: Lastly, compare the pricing models of various POD services and choose the one that offers you the highest profit margins.

Podbase, for instance, is a great print-on-demand ecommerce service that you can consider. It offers tech accessories, drinkware, and wall art products, with prices starting from Euro 4.95 per unit.

It easily integrates with your e-shop, so you can start using it and launch your print-on-demand business quickly.

Try Podbase Today!

7. Choose a Supplier

Having a reliable supplier is crucial to the success of your new dropshipping print-on-demand business.

A supplier takes care of everything from manufacturing to order fulfillment, so they’re responsible for keeping your customers happy more than you are. A slow or unreliable supplier can hurt your business even if you do everything else right.

That’s why you must choose a good supplier, after careful consideration and comparison of various available options.

If you’re going for a POD service, then chances are that they will act as your supplier and you won’t need to select a supplier yourself. However, if you want to sell products through your own store and not work with a print-on-demand service, then you’ll need to choose a supplier.

8. Start Promoting and Building Your Online Presence

By now, you have everything set up and ready to go. All you need now is customers and to get them, you’ll need to promote and market your new business.

Here are some strategies to promote your POD business:

  • Leverage social media to announce your new business and share regular updates. Post regularly and consistently to build a social following and use links to direct traffic to your store. Podbase, for example, shares updates on new products on social media platforms like Instagram.

Image via Instagram

  • Invest in search engine optimization (SEO) to drive organic traffic to your website. Use the right keywords to optimize your site content, especially product pages, to direct relevant traffic to your website.
  • Use paid search ads and social media ads to get quick results and bring in your first few customers. However, remember that paid advertising is a short-term strategy that is not sustainable in the long run, so use it sparingly.
  • Use lead magnets and online forms to capture lead information and then nurture those leads using email marketing. Build an email list, segment it, and send relevant emails consistently to build a loyal audience.
  • Invest in content marketing, as it is a sustainable and organic way of driving traffic to your website. Create useful content that attracts your target audience to your website and then use internal links to drive them to your product pages.

These are just a few of the ways to promote your new business. You can use myriad other tactics, such as influencer marketing and referrals to make your new business a success.

9. Start Selling

By this stage, you’re ready to start selling products through your store. Irrespective of which platform or service provider you choose, this is the time of reckoning—which will show how well things are working.

If there are any kinks in the process, you will find them and correct them. 

At this point, you should continually monitor your site’s performance to find and correct any issues that may arise.

10. Explore New Markets and Products

Once you have your business up and running successfully, you can consider expanding into new markets or simply expanding your product range.

Don’t be complacent if your business is running successfully. Experiment and find more income streams or cater to a broader customer base.

If your business idea is a massive success, you may even consider moving from a POD model to a regular ecommerce business model. However, give it enough time and consideration before you make that decision.

Tips for Print-on-Demand Businesses

We’ve established that running a print-on-demand business is a great idea and discussed the process for doing it.

Now, let’s discuss some best practices and tips that can ensure you are successful in your efforts. Follow these tips to run a successful POD business.

Choose a Good Print-on-Demand Service

The success or failure of your print-on-demand business will depend on the POD service provider you choose. 

After all, the product quality, shipping times, and a lot of things are not in your control, as you will rely on your POD service provider or supplier for that.

Make sure you choose a reliable print-on-demand service like Podbase.

Give Podbase a Try!

Check the Product Quality

Always order a few products from the supplier or print-on-demand service you are considering. Testing the product quality first-hand will save you a lot of trouble later.

You can’t afford to get in business with a supplier that offers low-quality products. As such, you should test every type of product that you want to sell through your store.

Calculate Shipping Costs

The pricing models for print-on-demand services can be complex. So, calculate the actual shipping cost for each type of product and then calculate your profit margins.

Companies that offer minimal or, at least, transparent shipping charges are preferable. Avoid any companies that have hidden costs and non-transparent shipping costs.

Podbase, for instance, offers flat and transparent shipping prices for all products, so you can easily calculate your margins.

Image via Podbase

Create an Online Store Instead of Selling on a Marketplace

A marketplace is one where multiple brands list and sell their products. There may be competing brands selling similar products on a marketplace.

This increases the level of competition and reduces the chances of your brand being discovered.

That’s why, it’s recommended that you start and sell via an online store, even if it requires some initial investment.

Promote on Various Channels

Don’t rely solely on SEO to bring traffic to your website. Instead, use multiple promotional channels to market your new business and spread the word.

Join a few social media platforms, where your target audience is most active. Use email marketing to nurture the leads you capture through other channels. Cross-promote on multiple channels to cast a wide net and bring in more leads and customers.

Pros and Cons of Print-on-Demand Business Model

Looking for reasons to convince you that a print-on-demand business is perfect for you to realize your entrepreneurial dreams?

Check out the pros of the POD business model and decide for yourself.

Pros of Print-on-Demand Business Model

  • It requires minimal upfront investment as you don’t need to manage inventory or keep stock
  • The risks are low as products are produced after an order is placed, so you don’t need to worry about unsold inventory
  • Allows you to offer a wide range of products, carefully chosen after ordering and testing them yourself
  • There is no limit to the number of designs you can offer and the level of customization, so each customer can have a unique product
  • The model is highly scalable as you don’t need to worry about manufacturing capacity or storage space for inventory

Cons of Print-on-Demand Business Model

While the print-on-demand business model has various advantages, it also has some limitations. Let’s discuss some of the important ones below.

  • Since each product is produced on demand, the prices per unit are higher than what you’d have for bulk manufacturing, which reduces profit margins
  • As you deal with third-party suppliers, the product quality is not under your control and could vary
  • Given how easy it is to start a POD business, many people are opting for it, increasing the level of competition and market saturation
  • You will be dependent on third-party providers for order fulfillment and have no control over shipping times and methods


There you have it—a detailed guide on how to start a print-on-demand business.

Use this as a reference to learn all you need to know before starting your POD business. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of this model before you choose to use it. 

So, what are you waiting for?

Get started on making your entrepreneurial dreams come true by starting a print-on-demand business. Use a good POD service like Podabse to make things easier for yourself. 

Start a POD Business with Podbase!

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