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How to Start a Successful Print on Demand Business

How to Start a Successful Print on Demand Business
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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2022)

Print on demand just as the name implies, is a method of printing only when there is a demand for it.

In essence, for a product that is produced in this way, it is usually not available in-stock, meaning that there is no finished product waiting for customer to pick up.

Rather it will be produced or in this case printed on demand according to what the customer wants and as at when needed.

However, even though the print on demand strategy can be applied to different products and services, it is most widely known to be used for clothing.

By this it means the term is usually applied to printing of designs on clothes like; T-shirts, Hoodies, Joggers, Hats, Socks and now also on other accessories like Mugs, Books Shoes, Key chains and a lot more.

Why print on demand?

Print on demand as a business strategy is a very cost-effective system of selling clothes without having to carry the burden of unwanted inventory.

It is cost effective because unlike the normal way of doing business where every item displayed on your website or social media page has to be in stock, this includes from having the exact color to the exact size at every time.

However, knowing that in business sometimes what you think that people (customers) will like and buy will most times not be what they tend to like.

Sometimes it can be frustrating if you have stocked a particular color and size of clothing and then you later  find out that the customers don’t seem to like the color that you have or the design that you have stocked.

However, they are demanding for a different color or design, now the colors and designs that you have already stocked will be sitting in your store and tying down your money.

In this case, you can’t sell them to get back your money and you will also not want to give it away for free because that will not return your initial capital.

To avoid situations like this the best way to go is the print on demand route, where by nothing is printed on the shirts until a customer wants it.

How does print on demand work?

The print on demand strategy of selling is done when someone without having the exact design of clothing on ground goes ahead a to post a mock-up of the design on their website or social media page.

For this method you can have as many graphic designs as you can possibly get and then you use an image editing software like photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or any other software to create a mock-up with these designs pasted on the t-shirts (for this article lets stick to t-shirts).

It is important to note that you should already have a place where you can quickly buy a blank t-shirt whenever you need it or if you have some money you can even get a little quantity already (it is not a must) or but the only thing is that they have to be blank t-shirts with no designs.

Also, you will need to make arrangement with a printing shop or have your own printing equipment with which you will make the print when the time comes.

And so, when ever someone who likes any of your designs purchases the cloth on your website or through your social media page and makes payment, then you can go ahead to print the specific design that the person wants and ship it to them.

Who can use print on demand?

This system of printing is actually very effective and can be used by anyone that is into t-shirt printing, however it is most recommended for beginners and small business owners who do not having a very large capital to get inventories beforehand.

It is also very important to note that this system is known to work better when you are operating an online store like having a shopify store or building your own store on WooCommerce, Wix or other ecommerce platform.

This is important because the customer doesn’t need to know that you don’t have the product sitting on the shelve (some people will not pay if they know that you are waiting to buy the inventory with their money and ship to them).

Also, having an online store makes it easy to quickly change any design you think you can improve on or that the customers are not buying, all you have to do is delete the picture and upload a new one that you have created.

What do you need to start a print on demand business?

Blank t-shirts

These are the plain tees that you will be printing your graphic designs on when you make a sale.

Print on Demand Blank T-shirts
Print on Demand Blank T-shirts

You can get this from different places that sell either in whole sales or single (but mostly you will have to buy plenty to get it at a cheap price rather than buying single and paying a huge price that will later affect your profit)

Depending on where you live, all you have to do is to search online for blank t-shirt wholesalers in your location.

Popular brand includes: Gildan and Bella Canvas

Printer (inkjet, laser or sublimation)

Printer is a vital equipment in this business, because all the graphic designs that you have created will at some point need to be printed.

Depending on the type of clothing material you want to place the designs on, you have to use the printer that will give you the best output.

  • For cotton shirts: use inkjet printer or laser printer
  • For polyester shirts: use sublimation printer
  • You can also make use of DTG printer (this will work on any of the above clothing material)
Sublimation Printer
Sublimation Printer

Heat press

Heat press is the machine that you need to press the printed design into the t-shirt.

Its more like a giant pressing iron, but it has the capacity to operate at a higher temperature and it is also wide enough to accommodate different sizes of t-shirt.

Popular ones are: UK press, China heat press and many more. They also come in different sizes like: 15″ x 15″ and 12″ x 15″

Cutting plotter (Cricut, Silhouette etc )

There are many designs that can be done on a t-shirt using a material known as Heat Transfer Vinyl or HTV. This is a vinyl material that can be pressed onto the shirt.

However, to cut a design on the HTV you will be needing a cutting plotter, it is the best machine for cutting designs onto the vinyl which you can then transfer on the shirts.

Some popular ones includes; Cricut, Silhouette, T720

Label printer

Label printer as the name implies is a small machine with which you can print your packaging label for the t-shirts.

It is a handy equipment to have, especially when you are dealing with a lot of packaging, it helps to reduce cases of mislabeling and packing the wrong clothes for the customers.

Because it will print beforehand the customer’s order description and other required info to help you pack easily.

Courier bags

This is the packaging bag that you need to put the cloths in, it is usually water proof and seals properly to avoid stains and falling off of the cloths.

It is on this bag that you will stick your shipping label with the name and address of the customer.

Online store (shopify, Wix etc)

Having an online store is a key part to making this business work smoothly, in the sense that the online store is like your physical store where all your merchandise is displayed for visitors to see.

Just like we have noted earlier on, that this system of business depends on the customer not just showing interest in your product but actually paying for it, and it is only at this point that you will go ahead and print the t-shirts and ship it to them.

This takes away the hassle of having to deal with customers in person and getting them to trust the process and wait for their order.

If you are starting up, the best platform that is very easy to setup is Shopify. However, the simplicity comes with a cost. The same also applies to Wix but it is not as robust as Shopify.

More so, if you don’t want to or if you can’t cover the cost, then you can try other free platforms like WooCommerce.

Goodluck