What is print on demand?

I started with the POD method.

Well what is it?

Print On Demand is a modern digital printing technology as well as a merchandising model whereby a product is printed and shipped to customer only when an order has been placed. It is an order-to-build as opposed to the traditional build-to-order trade. It is this inexpensive nature of this venture that has made it so popular. Back in the days, it all started with books but as of today, almost any product can be printed on demand. T-shirts have become the most popular POD items after books.

Here’s a basic illustration of how POD works:

It’s a good side hustle, it can definitely supplement your full-time job in one way or another. However this entirely depends on how deep you want to dive into the POD industry. If you have plans to turn it into something big in the future then you need to invest considerable amount of time and money. It’s a source of passive income, especially for artists and marketplaces. A single artwork can sell several times over many years.

The downside

The business model is not always good…it comes with negatives. Here’s a few reasons why it may not be the best.

Competition, some products such as t-shirts have already saturated the trade. You will be competing with a lot of creatives, already established and even  upcoming brands. Even if you were to narrow to common niches, hobbies, trends or professions, chances that you will make sales are extremely low. This means that you need to invest a fair amount of time to research niche ideas and products that can sell.

Low Margins, if you’re using marketplaces, the profit margins will likely be low. Some marketplaces won’t even allow you to adjust the margins.

Copycats, POD is steadily growing and there are no signs it will stop. It’s hot cake and of course everyone wants a share of that cake. This has resulted to individuals who want to make a huge sum of money overnight which has lead to investing in shortcuts: copying and selling what is already selling…

If a certain design or artwork is selling, copycats will copy it, make few modifications, upload it and lower the price tag. This simply means that the original creator of the artwork will sell fewer. Some marketplaces have mechanisms to curb these unacceptable tendencies but the effectiveness of these mechanisms have not been very successful.

It may be economical but that does not imply it is always cheap in the long run. Why? Because it will depend on how you want to run it. In terms of machinery and labor, it’s obvious that it will cost you if you are intending to be a POD marketplace or a fulfillment/dropshipper.

At the same time, choosing to come up with your own POD store isn’t cheap since you will have to pay for an all-in-one eCommerce solution like Shopify or alternatively hire someone to help you create a decent one using  WooCommerce. Additionally, you may opt to hire a designer or artist to handle the task of converting your selling ideas to unique designs.

POD platforms will require that you pay some fees to get an account or access some premium features. It can only be thought of as cheap if you are equipped with substantial design and technical skills and you’ve opted to sell on the existing free marketplaces. Some marketplaces will ban you without a warning if you go against their terms even if it was not at will. Some wont even explain why they have closed or deactivated your account…it doesn’t matter how many sales you were making or how many designs you uploaded. This is one of the reasons marketplaces are not the best. Having your own platform is better.

Low Quality Prints, some fulfillment companies use materials(fabric), machinery or technologies that produce printouts that are of poor quality. Order samples to confirm the product description matches the actual item. It is a numbers game, the more products you have the more sales you are likely to make. You may end up spending too much time just to make a single sale. This is especially true if you are targeting general or broad niches which have already been exploited but still have high demand. Copyright infringement, this is actually a good thing but it gets worse when you, as a creative, do not intend to infringe someone’s work but make your designs stand out.

I’m venturing away from all that, which is why the shop function has been disabled for the time being. Not having control over inventory/discontinued products, or someone “forgetting” to pick my order was really fucking annoying lol. The prints I’ve been sharing will be handled by a company that’s well known for high quality transfers, my sample kit should be here in 2 weeks and well, after that…we get the ball rolling 🙂