For a long time, you could only get custom-printed shirts if you met the minimum order requirements (MOQ) of the product, like a hundred pieces or so.
Technology made it possible for printers to print one item at a time, much like printing text on a piece of paper. These printouts no longer need a silk screen—the artists put the image on a computer, and the printer does the job.
You can now order a custom-made items one at a time, and this is what we now call as print on demand or POD.
Today, I will share with you what you need to know about the POD dropshipping business model. We have seen a rise in print on demand dropshippers lately, and it has proven to be a successful business model.
We will talk about:
- What is print on demand for dropshipping?
- How does print on demand for dropshipping work?
- Pros and cons of print on demand for dropshipping
- Top print on demand apps and companies for dropshippers
- Tips before you get started in print on demand dropshipping business
Let us get started!
What is print on demand for dropshipping?
If you have no idea what dropshipping is, please read some of my posts about it:
Print on demand is an online business where you work with the printing company. Your job as an entrepreneur is to create designs and market these designs on your store. Once a customer places an order, you have to notify the printer.
In this notification process, you also have to pay the printer for the item cost and the shipping cost. Once the printer is done with the project, he will ship the item to the customer. As a dropshipper, you will not handle the product.
While many dropshippers are focused on selling printed shirts, you are not exactly limited to selling these. There are so many “blank” items that you can choose from, and you can practically sell anything where ink can printed to dry.
Here are some examples:
- Phone Cases
The list can go and on. Your only limitation is your imagination.
How does print on demand for dropshipping work?
There are three parties involved in a POD for dropshipping business—five if you include the customer and the shipping courier.
Dropshipper – this is you. Your duty is to design the items for sale and confirm with your chosen printer if your design can be printed or not. You see, some design elements are too small that the ink is going to blot and spread on the item if the printer attempts to make it.
Store Host – this is the host of your stores, such as Shopify and WooCommerce. This entity is equally important because the host will determine if you can use its platform for a print on demand service.
You see, there are so many platforms that you can use to build a store. The thing is, can this platform be used for a print on demand dropshipping business?
POD Company – the print on demand company is the one that prints the item and ships it to your customer. You need to choose a good partner that you can trust. Some POD companies get delayed in meeting their obligations. If this happens, your customer is likely to ask for a refund, especially if the order is a rushed gift for a loved one.
To make a POD business work, you need to integrate the POD app to your online store. This is why choosing the right POD company and the right store host is a critical step to the success of your dropshipping store.
Shopify is the premier choice for building a print on demand business. While WooCommerce an also do the job, most print on demand companies designed their apps to work seamlessly with Shopify.
Some POD companies support WooCommerce, like Printify and Printful, but their apps for WooCommerce do not work as great as their apps on Shopify.
If you are a beginner and you do not want a lot of headaches figuring out how to build your e-commerce store, use Shopify. It only costs $29 per month.
While WooCommerce is free and you will only spend roughly between $4 and $20 per month on a web hosting service, you will not enjoy the process of building the store.
But if you are up for it, I have to tell you that the other problem you are going to face is the integration of POD apps with WooCommerce, it just does not work as seamlessly as it does on Shopify.
Here are the steps to make it work:
- Choose a print on demand company that has a dropshipping app (on Shopify or WooCommerce)
- Build your store and install or integrate the POD app with your store
- Start designing clothes
- Submit the designs to your POD partner for approval or confirmation that the print is manageable; the other option is to choose pre-designed items
- Display the designs on your store and make a sale
- Order the sold item from the POD—you will do this through the POD app, not through an email or phone call
- POD company ships the item to your customer
Now, how do you earn money from all of this?
If the POD company charges $20 for the printed t-shirt plus $5 on shipping, you will display this shirt on your dropshipping store for maybe $30 or $40. The price difference is your profit. Pricing your items the right way is critical to the success of your print on demand dropshipping business.
Price it too low, and you will be on the negative. Price it too high, and your competitors will win the customers. To know more about e-commerce pricing, read my blog post about it: The Beginner’s Guide to e-Commerce Product Pricing.
Pros and cons of print on demand for dropshipping
Now, a print on demand dropshipping business is not always rosy. For one, you cannot sell any trademarked designs even if they are the trend. You just do not have the right to do that since you do not own these trademarks.
Let us take a look at the pros and cons of a print on demand dropshipping online store.
- Easy to set-up – building a print on demand dropshipping store does not require technical know-how. The Shopify platform, and even WooCommerce on WordPress, is a drag-and-drop platform. No coding is needed. Installing the print on demand app can be completed with a few clicks.
- No shipping hassles – the print on demand company will take care of the shipping; you do not have to buy your boxes or print your shipping labels.
- Low capital – if you build your print on demand dropshipping company on Shopify, the only money you need to shell out for the platform is $29 per month; Shopify will only charge you per month, not per year.
Set aside money for your POD partner, as not all print on demand companies are free. You have to pay a subscription to be able to access all their products.
- Easy to design – you do not need to know how to use Photoshop to design the clothes or cups. The best print on demand apps come with a design software.
In this software, you can upload a photo or type texts for your design. With a few clicks of a button, you can position the design on the item, and your mock-up is ready.
- Tough competition – because getting started with this business is cheap, a lot of people are doing it. Despite this, you have better chances for success if you are a great designer. If you can come up with unique designs, you will have a customer base.
- Low-profit margin – as you know, customers expect low prices for shirts and mugs. You cannot expect to make huge profits for each sale. Nevertheless, a high volume of sales can easily compensate for the low profit margins. After all, what you are selling is affordable, so you can expect a lot of customers to buy your items if your designs are great.
- Limited customization – your designs can only go as far as the capabilities of your print on demand partner. Not all POD companies have the capability to use different printing techniques; much less produce various kinds of prints.
Despite the cons, a print on demand business is still one of the best ways to start dropshipping. You can get around these disadvantages as you go along and learn more about the industry, such as looking for new partners who can execute your vision for your products.
Top print on demand apps and companies for dropshippers
There are several print on demand companies that have an app with Shopify. There are free apps, paid apps, and subscription apps.
Here is a list:
- Custom Cat
- Tee Launch
- WC Fulfillment
- Jet Print
- Print Melon
If you want to know more about these companies, read the free eBook I wrote about them. You can download the eBook from my FREEBIES page.
Tips before you get started in the print on demand dropshipping business
Here are some of my recommendations before you get started with a print on demand dropshipping business.
Choose the right platform
This is crucial; you cannot just go back and say “Oh, I made a mistake; I will build a new store.” Choose whether you want to use Shopify, Ecwid, or WooCommerce. Watch as many videos as you can in YouTube to see how these websites work in action. Decide which one is the best for you.
If you want to know more about Shopify, read my blog post about its basic plan: Shopify Basic Plan: What Is It and Who Should Use It?
Get samples from the supplier
You cannot ignore this. If you plan to sell mugs. Then, by all means, order a custom-made mug from the supplier. You need to know first-hand how the company does business, how long it takes for them to print the item, how long the shipping takes, and how good the product is as advertised on their website.
You will buy the item at full price, but some companies like Printful offer a discount of 20% for sample items.
Do business one country at a time
Even if the print on demand company ships to other countries. It is best to ship to one country only. Particularly, you have to ship to the country where the print on demand company is located.
This way, you are in control of your business, and you are saving yourself from a lot of hassle. There is so much to learn about international shipping and customs duties, and you do not want that for now if you are a beginner.
You should also be strategic in shipping. Study the shipping rates of your print in demand partner, and use that to your advantage. If they charge one shipping rate for a bulk order, use that to your advantage. Offer free shipping if you can.
Be a niche-based seller
Do not attempt to be an all-in-one seller. If you want to cater to cat lovers, then focus on cat mugs and shirts. If you want to sell political items, then focus on that. Doing all at once can overwhelm you, and you will spend an unbelievable amount of time designing your POD products.
Print on demand dropshipping is the way to go. With this business model, you can build a store with low capital, plus you can create uniquely designed products.
Like all businesses, this model comes with its challenges. You need to stay focused and passionate about your store, or you will quit. To help get you started on the right track, I think you need to read one of my blog posts called The Top 5 Reasons You Will Fail at Dropshipping.