How To Start A Print On Demand Business With No Money

Are you ready to start your print on demand business? Be patient… Here are the 3 main steps to do before starting your business!

Step 1: What type of products do you want to sell in print on demand (t-shirts, caps, etc.)

This is the big question you have to ask yourself and it will be crucial in your print on demand business development.

Before knowing which products to sell on your e-commerce store, you will have to define a target audience to reach. Ideally, it is better to choose a specific niche of customers as your target audience, you will generally have less competition. Then you will have to identify which products work best and develop a brand identity according to your commercial targets and your objectives.

Keep in mind that your niche will be the guideline for the development of your print on demand business since it will help you choose the products to sell on your online store. A niche, in other words, is a specialized market with a specific target. For example, for the mug market a product niche could be “mugs with animal illustrations” or if you focus on a particular subject “all products with animal illustrations”.

Let’s be honest, you won’t be able to appeal to everyone right off the bat and will need to focus on a specific offering based on your target audience. This is one of the most important parts of print on demand that requires the most strategic analysis.

Secondly, identify your competitors and their strategies. Are you lacking inspiration to find your customer and product niches? Look at your competitors to see what they offer, what their strengths and weaknesses are and what their customer niches are. Ideally, you should choose a niche where the competition is not too great. On the other hand, pay attention to the niches where no competitor is present, it can generally mean that the niche is not very profitable.

The most popular print on demand products in 2023 :

On top of the products you will sell in print on demand, you will be able to stand out from your competitors and reach your target with your unique designs.

Step 2: Find the supplier best suited to your needs

Second step, find your print on demand supplier!

Finding the right supplier is also going to be very important in the development of your business, especially for the quality of your products and the satisfaction of your customers. You will be closely linked to your suppliers for all the after-sales service of your activity. So choose your supplier as a trusted partner with whom you share common interests.

So how do you find the right one?

You have 2 solutions to choose your supplier and it will depend on your sales channel. Either you create your dropshipping online store yourself with tools like Shopify (with no money, a free trial) and specialized print on demand apps, or you go through a print on demand marketplace like Merch by Amazon or Spreadshirt. You can also combine the two! We will come back to this point in the next step.

Some specific requirements are essential to choose your suppliers and to meet your customers’ needs.

You should know that a supplier with warehouses located in US will allow you to have delivery times generally less important than with a supplier storing its goods in Asia for example.

A supplier specialized in one type of product will generally offer better quality products than generalists.

To help you choose, it is best to make an analysis of all the suppliers that could correspond to your needs and choose the best one.

To give you some examples of print on demand suppliers with warehouses located in US:

Some of these suppliers, such as Amazon, are also well established internationally, which can be a real advantage if you want to do print on demand internationally.

Step 3: Pick the right marketplace

You’ve figured out which products to sell and which suppliers to choose? Congratulations! You will soon be able to start selling your products, but for that you need a store.

You have 2 possibilities to sell your products in print on demand. You can create your own online store with tools like Shopify or Woocommerce or go through a marketplace offering print on demand services. It’s also possible to combine the two to multiply your sales channels and reach different audiences.

Solutions to create your print on demand e-commerce store (Shopify, Woocommerce, etc.)

The first possibility is to create your own print on demand store using dropshipping. This solution will generally cost you less than a marketplace that will take a commission on your sales or charge you service fees. But you will have higher costs related to digital marketing (SEO, social networks, website management, etc.) and usually to promote your products.

To create your own print on demand store, many tools exist to simplify the task. They are called CMS, or content management system.

One of the best known for POD is Shopify, it allows you to create your e-commerce store with very little computer knowledge. In addition, it can easily interconnect with other applications, including applications for print on demand such as the APIs of Printful or Printify. In fact, with such integrations you can link your customers’ orders directly to your suppliers’ orders.

There are also alternatives to Shopify to manage your print on demand store. For example, you can use:

Creating your store will obviously have a price depending on the CMS you choose.

Use a marketplace to sell print on demand products (Merch by Amazon, Redbubble, etc.)

The next best way to sell your products in print on demand is through a marketplace. You will have two methods to sell through a marketplace.

The first one is to use directly the print on demand service of marketplaces like Merch by Amazon, Redbubble or Spreadshort. The transaction is managed from start to end by the marketplace, from sourcing the products, printing your designs, paying and shipping your products to the end buyer. 

Please note that the registration to Merch by Amazon is not accessible to everyone, the platform will study your registration before accepting it or not. You will then be integrated into a sales system with different levels depending on your performance as a seller. In other words, depending on your performance you will be limited to a certain number of designs that you can present on the platform on a daily basis. There are also other conditions to sell with Merch by Amazon, to learn more see our article on Amazon print on demand.

The big advantage if you sell via marketplaces is that you will benefit from their traffic and therefore reduce your digital marketing costs. For a giant like Amazon, the enormous traffic it generates can be a real springboard for your sales, as long as you have well prepared your targeting and selected your key products.

There are other marketplaces with less traffic but sometimes better qualified according to your target audience. You will have marketplaces specialized in different fields such as Spreadshirt which is more focused on the sale of clothing. These types of marketplaces can help you reach some of your customer niches more easily.

You can also choose both methods and sell on both a marketplace and your own print on demand store! This way you diversify your sales channels and can reach different audiences depending on your products.

Now that you know all the steps to get started, all you have to do is make a choice. Are you ready to start your print on demand business?

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