What is Drop Shipping and Print On Demand?
It’s exactly as the name suggests. Once there is a demand (or an order) for a product, then the product is printed.
The product is not printed beforehand and held as inventory, therefore associated costs of doing so are eliminated.
There’s now a plethora of Print On Demand (POD) product choices for that you can have your unique design printed on, ranging from t-shirts to mugs, caps, blankets, dresses, iPhone cases and much more.
The Drop Shipping part of Print On Demand is related to the fact that if for example you have a t-shirt POD business, you are not the manufacturer and/or the supplier. You are simply the middle man (or woman) linking the customer to the t-shirt manufacturer.
When someone buys something from you, you simply place the order on your customer’s behalf with the POD company, and your product is printed and shipped directly to your customer.
The difference between what you pay your POD supplier for the t-shirt itself and to print and deliver the t-shirt, and what you sell the t-shirt for is your profit.
For example, a custom printed t-shirt from a POD supplier may cost $7.99. If you sell it on your store for $17.99, you keep $10 profit per t-shirt.
Print On Demand and Shopify
POD is proving very popular as a business model, especially with artists and creative people because any creation of theirs can be printed onto a wide range of products and sold globally.
Because you can now seamlessly integrate an ecommerce platform like Shopify, with a POD company app like Printful, it has never been easier for anyone with a creative mind and unique designs to reach the masses without having to invest a lot of money upfront and along the way.
Shopify has a 14-day free trial (with no credit card required), so you can see for yourself for free how easy it is to open that online store you’ve been dreaming about.
There are many kinds of people that can benefit from setting up a POD Shopify store.
It doesn’t even have to be the most common products like t-shirts and mugs. If you’re a writer, you could even sell hardcopies of your book using the POD business model and web sites like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
The advantages of Print On Demand
POD also allows you to test a range of different suppliers, without having to make any commitments such as signing a business agreement or contract.
You simply install the POD company’s app from the Drop Shipping or Print On Demand category in the Shopify app store.
Then you put your design on the product(s) you’re interested in selling and make a test order for one of the products.
If you’re happy with the quality of the product, the print quality and also the delivery time, then you can list the product on your Shopify store with confidence knowing that the customer will be happy with their purchase.
A test order is a small expense to ensure you are not going to be faced with numerous charge backs and negative reviews.
Let’s have a look at some of the other advantages of POD compared to a traditional business:
- Lower upfront investment – you don’t have to purchase an entire inventory to get started
- No storage space – your supplier stores and manages all of your potential products;
- Low risk – as you will never be stuck with unsold merchandise and you can quickly and easily cycle out products that are underperforming on your shop;
- No shipping or packaging – You don’t have to worry about shipping or packaging, as the print on demand company handles this;
- Easy market testing – Testing a new idea is easier, costs less, and represents less risk;
The most popular POD companies
In the last 5 years or so, many POD companies have either arrived on the scene or have greatly expanded their product range.
Some of the biggest companies in the POD market are:
- Tee Launch
- Red Bubble
- Merch By Amazon
- Society 6
- Tee Public
- Sun Frog
- Print Aura
What type of POD products can I choose from?
There is a very wide range of products on offer such as:
- Clothing: Men’s, Women’s and kids clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies, shoes, yoga pants, leggings, neckties, baby bibs, swimwear;
- Homewares and linens: towels, throw pillows, tablecloths, blankets, shower curtains, bean bags;
- Phone and tablet covers;
- Accessories and jewelry;
- Books; and more!
Print On Demand set up: step by step from start to finish
You might be wondering what the exact Print On Demand process is to set up your own store and get started selling quality products that feature your design.
These are the Print On Demand Drop Shipping steps:
Step 1: Create your own eCommerce store
Having used Shopify for more than 3 years, it’s my ecommerce platform of choice.
Create a free 14-day trial Shopify account, and then follow this Shopify 13-step Store Set up Guide.
Step 2: Create unique designs for your products
Buyers are always thrilled when they find a design relating to one or more of their interests.
Better still, if they simply can’t find it anywhere else, then this will improve the appeal of your design.
The key is to think outside the box and create unique designs that fill a particular niche and have instant appeal to particular people with one or more interests, or even combined interests.
This might be something as obscure as lawyers who love hang gliding. The most obvious product would be a t-shirt or a coffee mug, but it could even be a shower curtain, the product options are many.
Canva is an excellent place to create your designs if you’re not confident using programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
There are hundreds of professionally designed templates and thousands of images on Canva to give you a head start. There’s even a free Canva plan available.
Once you have created your design, save it in a compatible format according to your POD supplier’s artwork specifications. This may be .png or .jpeg for example.
Here’s a very handy article from Printful’s informative blog regarding Everything You Need to Know to Prepare the Perfect Print File
Step 3: Integrate your shop with a Print On Demand drop shipping app
Access the Shopify app store and check out all the Drop Shipping and POD apps created by various companies.
Depending on what you want to sell, some of these company’s products might be better suited to your designs than others.
Do some product research on their web site to decide which company is the best match for your ideas and designs.
From experience, I have used Printful as my POD supplier, and the integration with Shopify is seamless and a breeze to use.
Step 4: Add your design to one or more products from your POD supplier
The next step is very straight forward. All you need to do is choose the product and the product variants you want to add your design to.
Step 5: Test products before selling them
Ideally, if your start up budget allows, you should place a test order with as many products as possible to check:
- how long the product takes to arrive;
- the packaging it comes in;
- and most importantly, the quality of the product itself and the printing.
Step 6: Promote your products
Depending on the product you’re selling and the niche you’ve chosen it may be very competitive. A good example of this is the t-shirt niche.
One way to increase the traffic to your store and get more sales is to choose a less competitive niche and promote your products everywhere you can.
Here are some ways you can promote and market your products and boost sales:
- Social Media – Facebook and Instagram are the two most obvious social media channels to leverage your designs. If for example you’ve designed a bed spread with poodles on it, direct message the owner of a Poodle Instagram account and ask if they would do a paid promotion (shout-out) for you. These can cost anywhere from $10 to thousands of dollars. On Facebook, create a group that focuses on t-shirts with motivational sayings that strike a chord with buyers and can’t be found anywhere else;
- PPC marketing – Take advantage of pay-per-click advertising. You only pay when a user actually clicks on your ad, hence Pay Per Click. The most popular PPC tool on the market is Google Adwords;
- Collaborate – Partner up with other companies in your industry, contact bloggers to review your products, or find influencers on Instagram to promote your products;
- Sales Channels – Integrate your store with other sales channels, such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy;
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – improve your ranking in search engines such as Google and Bing by carefully choosing your keywords, writing good titles and descriptions and entered relevant metadata;
- Email Marketing – Build an e-mail subscription list and start sending promotions directly to your customers’ mailboxes. If someone has opted-in to your mail list, you can retarget customers who trust your store having made a previous purchase;
- Incentives – Incentivize customers to leave reviews, as this will improve the image and credibility of your products and store;
- Buyer Rewards – show your appreciation and reward buyers with discount coupons;
Can I POD and Drop Ship my own book?
Yes. If you’re a writer, self publishing your written work is possible with web sites such as Amazon KDP, Lulu Xpress and Ingram Spark.
Gone are the days when you would have to submit a draft script to several book publishers and hope that they will publish and distribute your book in hardcopy format.
Now you can not only be a writer, but a self-publisher as well and even control how much the book sells for.
Again, promote and sell your book in your own online store, or on Amazon and once an order has been placed, only then is the book printed and shipped directly to your customer.
Obviously, there is a fee to print and distribute your book which varies from company to company. Here’s some information on Amazon KDP’s fees.
Some of the most popular non-fiction categories are self-help, cookbooks, politics and social sciences, business and money, among others. Children’s books are also extremely popular on Amazon for example.
So whether you need just one copy of your book or several thousand, POD books are now a reality available to everyone.
I can write a book, but I can’t design it!
If you don’t know where to start with the editing, proof reading, illustrating and design of your book, don’t panic.
There are a number of web sites such as are Fiverr, Upwork, 99 Designs and Freelancer that have experienced freelancers that will provide you with whatever service you need for a fee.
It’s as easy as choosing the right freelancer in terms of quality of work, price, reviews and experience and providing them with a detailed brief to improve the chances of getting exactly what you asked for first go.
Avoid these mistakes when POD Drop Shipping
False shipping times
Clearly establish with your supplier(s) how long it will take for particular products to reach particular destinations around the world.
Don’t promise super fast delivery times, just to compete with Amazon Prime for example, when you know that in some cases in may take 10-14 days or longer to arrive. Be transparent and honest with your customers about shipping.
Don’t make the mistake of offering free shipping, and not factoring it into your profit margin, if in fact it isn’t free to you.
After all, the objective is to maximize profit whilst remaining competitive and delivering the best quality products and services, so keep an eye on this from the very beginning.
Time is money, so don’t assume that a design will sell just because you think it’s cool and it’s available to millions of people on the internet.
Do some market research using Google Trends and other tools to reduce the chances of trying to sell a product that no one is interested in.
Get your image resolution and format right
Make sure the resolution of your image and the format meets the specifications of your POD supplier. It may look OK on your computer screen, but in reality the image may be pixelated when printed at a large size on a blanket for example.
The power of retargeting customers
Everyone loves a discount, so use this fact to your advantage. Discounts are especially relevant for customers who have already bought one of your products.
Retarget them with a similar product at a discount. Create a unique coupon code to get that extra sale. It’s a known fact that retargeting to “warm” customers has a much better conversion rate than targeting “cold” customers.
Don’t breach anyone’s copyright or trademark
It is illegal to use images, artwork etc. that has been created by anyone else, copyrighted or has a registered trademark.
The last thing you want to receive is a copyright breach. Draw inspiration from other people’s ideas and designs, but never reuse or directly copy their work.
To be on the safe side, check if a particular name or phrase has been trademarked. If you are in The United States, the best place to check online is United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Free Print On Demand Shopify course
Brian Brewer has a great course called Start A T-Shirt Dropshipping Business With Shopify to help you get up to speed with POD in the quickest possible time. He is a Professional Internet Marketer with more than 50,000 students, so he is well-respected and knows what he’s talking about.
The final word…
After reading my article, hopefully you agree that there is now no excuse not to realise your dream to open your own ecommerce store and start drop shipping Print On Demand products.
Bring your ideas and designs to life and share them with the world whilst making some money on the side, or turn it into a successful fully-fledged business, and give up your nine to five job.
All the tools you need are available at an affordable cost. Ecommerce platforms such as Shopify are very easy to set up and use, there are many Print On Demand apps, and help is not far away as far as designs are concerns. Also there’s minimal risk because you hold no inventory.
Shopify (try their 14-day trial – IT’S FREE!) and Printful is an example of the perfect place to start in terms of product integration.