Print on demand can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get your creations to market. Of course, like anything in business, there are advantages and disadvantages to using print-on-demand.
However, the many possibilities that print-on-demand services offer are almost limitless. If you use your creativity, print on demand can be a great way to complement, experiment, or support your business goals.
What is print on demand?
So you have a great new idea. Maybe it's a new design or a new book.
What if you could get it to market without the expensive hassle of a bulk order?
This is where print-on-demand comes into play. As the name suggests, an item is printed when demand requires it. When you or one of your customers order a product, it is only then printed and shipped.
With a kind of dropshipping, print-on-demand, you can get in touch with a third-party provider who will adapt an empty item from their stock of options with your design or personalization. Your customers can place their order through this seller or you can buy your products in smaller quantities.
Print on Demand is available for a wide variety of articles from various providers. Some specific providers are discussed below. However, here are some categories of items you can print:
- Books: Fiction and non-fiction books, e-books, work books, notebooks and diaries, photo books, coffee table books
- Clothing: T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, socks, bibs, children's clothing
- Household items: Kitchen towels, pillow cases, tote bags, pet products, mugs
- Office supplies: Pens and pencils, notepads, mouse pads, USB sticks
- Paper items: Posters, stickers and labels, folders, bumper stickers
Create something new. Get it out quick. This is what print on demand is all about.
The advantages of print on demand
Print on demand is a popular source of income or marketing strategy for many companies for good reason. Here are some of the benefits.
Printing on demand means less overhead
Instead of buying inventory, which often requires large, bulk orders, you can sell items individually. This means that you only have to pay when an item has actually been purchased. Whether you're starting out slim or not sure how popular a product is going to be, you can keep your overhead down and match costs precisely with the number of products sold.
It is possible that print-on-demand is used less
If you're looking to sell a new line of products, you may not want to spend time looking for a new supplier, or being responsible for research or shipping. The third party will take care of the printing and shipping for you, so you can focus on other product lines or ideas. This is a great way to get the product to market with little effort.
Printing on demand often takes less time
We've all been through this. You have a great idea in the middle of the night that needs to become a reality the next day. However, you don't have time to print and collect inventory. Print on Demand enables this kind of spontaneity and flexibility.
There may be less risk with print on demand
Let's be honest: not every idea is a winner. Instead of spending a lot of money on inventory and letting you sell these products, Print on Demand lets you test an idea without putting all your eggs in that basket.
Your customers might be responsive to your design, but only to certain products and not to others. Or they love the design for a while and then they're done. And when they're done, so can you.
With lower risk and lower overheads, this is an option that makes sense in many circumstances.
The disadvantages of print on demand
There are many reasons to turn to on-demand print for your next idea, but there are downsides too. Consider some of these drawbacks before deciding whether this option is right for you.
Print on demand can have lower profit margins
In general, print-on-demand costs more per item than inventory that you purchase in bulk. This means you either have to pass those costs on to your customers by asking more, or you have to pay the costs and earn less per item. This may not be a problem if it is a supplement or side project, but it is worth calculating.
There are often limited product options with print-on-demand
When you work with a print on demand provider, you are limited to their inventory. Perhaps you prefer the plum sweatshirt or a more modern hat? Well, the company doesn't necessarily have that flexibility. Usually, all you have to do is stick to what the providers have available.
Typically, you have less control over printing when you need it
With print-on-demand, you don't have much control over the products, including the quality of the design, where the product is made, and so on.
For some, this isn't a big deal. You're just trying to get the design out. For others, however, this could be a sticking point. You may not want your brand or design to be associated with a product that you don't have ultimate control over.
Printing on demand means shipping from somewhere else
This can be an issue when it comes to customer service and general follow-up. When a customer orders a product from a print-on-demand provider, it does not come from you, but from the provider.
This means that their logo and address are linked to the shipment and they have control over when the shipment is made and how it is tracked. However, you may be the person who customers come to when they have problems, not the provider.
Overall, print on demand could be a great option if you can take a more straightforward approach. However, if you're the type of business owner who needs that handy touch throughout the process, then consider how well print-on-demand might be for you.
Who uses print-on-demand services?
With so many different products available through print-on-demand and endless customization options, in theory almost anyone could use this service to help their business.
Here are just a few common groups that use print on demand to achieve their business goals:
- Content creators, artists and designers show their skills
- E-commerce entrepreneurs are expanding their offerings
- Social media influencers sell merch to their followers
- Start-ups provide information about their brand
- Growing companies share their logo or slogans with loyal customers
- Charitable donations for their purposes
As discussed above, the best people for print on demand services are creative, fast-paced business owners who want to get a product to market but don't want to spend a lot of time, money, or energy producing and shipping items in-house.
5 Reasons why print on demand can benefit your company
If you're a business owner ready to dig into print-on-demand services, your wheels may already be spinning with ideas. What can you do next
Before diving in, think about what your goals are for this project. Let's take a look at the many ways you can use print on demand to benefit your business.
Grow your audience with print on demand
With Print on Demand you can create new products during a specific season or for a niche customer base. You can get the products to them practically overnight and reach an audience that you might otherwise have missed.
Use print on demand to Promote your brand
Promoting your brand through goods can be a small source of income and support all of your marketing efforts by promoting your brand. This is especially useful if your brand is associated with a local market or specific audience that gathers at special events.
Print on demand can expand your customer base
Often times, on-demand printing can diversify your product offering and reach more buyers. For example, if you offer one-off or bespoke products, potential customers who are unwilling to make a major investment can use print-on-demand to get in touch with your brand at a cheaper price.
Print on demand can improve your image
Many print-on-demand services, like some discussed below, have been around for some time and have built some street-side reputation with buyers. Instead of taking the risk of printing items yourself and customers marveling at the quality, Print on Demand lets you partner with popular third-party companies to do the work for you – and make you look good through associations.
Get instant feedback with Print on Demand
Not sure if your next big idea will get it out of the park? With Print on Demand you can test the idea with your customer base. In fact, you can create some products using print-on-demand and send the idea or sample products to your most loyal fans for their feedback before you spend too much time on it.
Business print-on-demand options
The options for print on demand are almost as limitless as the ideas you can create for them. However, here is a short list to get you started.
(These are not in any particular order and the list is certainly not complete. If you have a favorite print-on-demand service that we didn't share, please comment on it with your recommendations.)
If you already have an ecommerce store, e.g. For example, a Shopify website, you may want to look for a print-on-demand app or integration with your ecommerce platform. This could make creating and listing them a seamless experience.
As one of the first to enter this space, Zazzle has been around for a long time and has built a solid reputation. When you create on Zazzle you can take advantage of the expansive market and potentially build your audience there.
In addition to hundreds of product options, Printify has cutting-edge features to make creating and selling easier.
With the Mockup Generator you can “see” your design on a product before you order a sample. They also have a wide range of integrations with ecommerce platforms.
Lulu is a self-publishing platform that gives authors and similar artists a print-on-demand option for their creations.
For example, instead of looking for a traditional publisher to take a risk on your book, Lulu's publishing options allow you to get it out right away. You can also create an authoring platform on the Lulu website.
Society6 is aimed at artists and designers and offers a range of products from apparel to home decor. They focus on prints and canvases and appeal to artists who want to sell reproductions of their work.
In addition, Society6 actively promotes its artists and highlights top sellers with a strong aesthetic style.
TeeSpring promotes the success of its creators through incentives. TeeSpring works a little differently than other print-on-demand services, giving you more products to design and sell as your monthly sales increase.
They also have a tiered system that charges less per product when your sales increase and gives you a higher profit margin when your creations are successful. In addition, TeeSpring has Merch Shelf, a YouTube integration that will allow you to further promote your products if you qualify for this option.
Print on Demand can open multiple doors to your business and you can explore new ideas in a low risk environment while reaching a larger niche customer base.
Whether you're looking for a way to explore a new design, develop a new source of income, build your side business, or jump on a current trend, print on demand could be the answer.
What product can you print if needed?