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Does Print On Demand Really Work? - Noel Matthews

Does Print On Demand Really Work?

In the ever-changing world of start-ups, it is important to keep up with trends and stay ahead of the game. One such trend that has been gaining a lot of traction lately is Print on Demand (POD). This blog post will cover what POD is, what considerations you should make before launching your business and how to get started.

What exactly IS print on demand?

Print On Demand (POD) refers to any printed material which can be created after an order has been placed. There are many different printing companies out there today that offer “print on demand” services at reasonable prices so company owners need not worry about inventory or storage space – they only pay for what they use when they need it!

How Do I Get Started?

I got started by opening an account with Printify Printify enables you to create an enormous range of products from a generic blank object or item of apparel. In simple terms you create a design and then upload it to a blank. The range of items is extensive as you can see from this screenshot:

My first product was simple – a coffee mug. And here it is. So the first thing you notice is that the design is simple. I designed the text with Word Swag – an app on my phone. Most of the experts on this will tell you that it’s quantity over quality in the POD game. I would say that is broadly true but I’ve tested more complex designs and had success with them and I think the rule is that personal taste is unique and subjective

The second thing you can see here is that I have a finished mug and I have taken a cool photo of it. Nope! This is a mockup. Mockup technology allows you to upload your design to a blank template so that potential customers can get a feel for the finished article. Printify provides a basic mockup with every design you save but design websites such as PlaceIt and Designious can give you a huge catalog of mockup graphics and even videos you can use to sell your stuff.

This is a more complex design for which I used a number of graphic design tools and then created a mockup on a plus-size model. I am not a trained graphic designer but a creative mind can pick these things up and I look forward to diving into my imagination once a week to create these things for my side-hustle

How Do I Sell My Stuff?

Print on demand is generally based on a drop-shipping model. In other words, the buyer orders and you just transmit the order to a third party for fulfilment. Print On Demand is no different but you have to get eyes on your products. With Printify I can integrate my products with a range of shop-fronts, including Etsy (where my main shop, The Positive You Shop is located) Ebay, Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce, Prestashop and Bigcommerce. There are also some third party integrators like Gearbubble who can get you connected to Amazon FBA but costs do rise in that scenario.

Getting your items listed on a fancy-looking store is not the end either. In order to get people looking at your shop you will need to budget for some marketing and I recommend the following if you integrate with Etsy, as I did. Etsy PPC (you can spend as little as a dollar a day) and also Facebook and Instagram ads. Influencer collaboration is a good way to go too.

For example I collaborated with an instagram model. This guy had 90k followers and was getting 1 to 2k likes per post. His fee was $200. The way it worked was this. I sent him 4 items of apparel from my collection. You can do this by ordering samples, at cost, from within printify and addressing them to your collab partner. In return he did a photo and video shoot and provided me with that media quite quickly. I then entered a queue to see my items posted to his feed and I timed this with a campaign I created on Instagram. Using his footage and my design tools I created cool-looking ads like this to drive traffic to my listings

How Much Does It Cost To Get Started?

It’s mostly free but there are some modest start-up costs. First of all with Printify you are going to either choose the free, 5-Store package or their Premium package. Premium gives you “up to 20%” price reduction on production costs for paying $24.99 a month. You wouldn’t see the benefit of that until you are at scale so it’s not necessary to get started.

I am integrated with Etsy and Ebay. My Ebay costs are no different – it’s just all of the usual fees for ebay – nothing extra. On Etsy it costs $0.20 per listing and then a further $0.20 each time you renew a listing, Renewals are required every 4 months and you can set that up to be either manual or automatic.

Design tools can be free, or nearly free. Word Swag Pro, for example costs about $3 and it’s better than the basic version. Place-It charges a monthly fee around $12, while Designious is an annual fee including a ton of design templates. As I recall I paid $75 for that. I still do my basic image manipulations using a free tool, JASC Paintshop Pro 4. It’s not feature-rich but it still does the basics for me after a decade or more of using it.

The Upside and the Downside

In my opinion you need at least 250 listings active to gain any kind of penetration and you need to be adding and removing constantly. Algorithms are generally always interested in activity and so active you need to be.

You don’t hold inventory and these items are made to order by some factory hundreds or thousands of miles away with whom you do not have a direct relationship. You are not set up for customers who order the wrong thing or change their minds. The only way of dealing with buyer remorse is to have the objects returned to you and you issue a refund or to tell them “tough”. You need this stated clearly in your T&C. I just copied and re-worded Printify’s own statements on it. Bottom line is that you are set up for negative reviews by default unless you take a few on the chin. Use your own judgement.

Etsy badger you constantly to offer free delivery on your items and recoup the cost by increasing the buy price. This is not viable with print-on-demand because the manufacturer will always charge shipping as an extra cost regardless of the item cost. The way around it is to make sure you have a unique item on page one or a niche item you are driving traffic to from outside of your store. I use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for this.

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