Starting an online business is one of the most accessible ways to generate income in today’s digital world. With print-on-demand services, you can launch your own t-shirt line, mug shop, or customize just about any product imaginable without needing to manage inventory or fulfillment.

How to Start your Print on Demand (POD) Business from Scratch

In this detailed guide, I’ll walk you through exactly how I launched a successful print-on-demand business with zero startup costs. I’ll share the platforms and tools I used, how I designed products, set up my online store, marketed my merchandise, fulfilled orders, and ultimately turned this side hustle into a profitable business. Whether you want to earn extra cash or build a full-time income, you can replicate my strategy to get your own print-on-demand venture up and running.

Let’s get started!

What Exactly is Print on Demand?

The concept behind print-on-demand, often abbreviated as POD, is simple: you can design, market and sell customized products without ever needing to stock the inventory yourself.

When a customer places an order, the print-on-demand company will print and ship the product directly to them on your behalf. This saves you from having to pre-purchase merchandise that may or may not sell.

Some of the most popular print-on-demand product types are:

  • T-shirts and apparel
  • Mugs, water bottles, and other drinkware
  • Phone cases
  • Wall art and posters
  • Pillows, blankets, and home goods
  • Stickers and decals

Nearly anything that can be customized can be manufactured on-demand once you upload your unique designs.

Why I Love the Print on Demand Business Model

There are several reasons why I opted to start a print-on-demand business:

  1. No upfront investment: Since you don’t need to buy any inventory, you can launch a POD store with zero startup costs. At most, you may need to pay for a website domain and cover minimal platform fees.
  2. Easy scalability: Your business can scale up or down seamlessly as demand fluctuates. If one of your designs suddenly goes viral, the print provider will fulfill as many orders as you get without capacity issues on your end.
  3. High profit margins: Typical profit margins for print-on-demand products range from $10–15 per item sold. With the right marketing strategy, POD can become very lucrative.
  4. Less saturated niche: Print-on-demand is far less competitive than oversaturated models like dropshipping or affiliate marketing. Standing out is much easier.
  5. Endless creativity: The possibilities are endless when it comes to designing merchandise people will love and want to buy. Print-on-demand allows you to turn your ideas into reality.
  6. No hassle fulfillment: You don’t have to worry about printing, packaging, shipping and handling customer service. The print provider takes care of everything.

With such low barriers to entry and high earning potential, print-on-demand provides an excellent business model for aspiring entrepreneurs or side hustlers. If you’re ready to get started, let’s dive into the step-by-step process.

How to Design Products for Print on Demand

One of the most exciting parts about starting a print-on-demand business is bringing your product ideas to life.

To maximize your chance of success, you’ll want to design merchandise that taps into specific niches and trends. Some examples include:

  • Pop culture fandoms like Harry Potter or Star Wars
  • Trending memes and viral phrases
  • Pet breeds and animal themes
  • Holidays like Christmas, Halloween, birthdays
  • Hobbies and activities like yoga, knitting, sports

Really think about the interests and passions your ideal target audience cares about most. Then brainstorm creative ways to incorporate those themes into t-shirts, mugs, posters and other products.

The goal is to design merchandise people will be proud to wear and display.

Where to Create and Customize POD Products

When first getting started with print-on-demand, I recommend using Printful. Printful makes the product design process incredibly easy.

To start designing:

  1. Go to
  2. Create a free account
  3. Browse the huge selection of product types and add templates to your library
  4. Customize each template by uploading graphics, adding text, and arranging elements
  5. Preview how your design will look on each product
  6. Save the template in your Printful catalog to later add to your online store

Some key pointers when designing products on Printful:

  • Stick to templates sized correctly for each product
  • Keep designs simple and bold for maximum visibility
  • Try out different text colors and font styles
  • Use high-resolution, print-ready graphics
  • Proof carefully to avoid mistakes

Printful has an extremely user-friendly platform. Within minutes, you can mock up custom t-shirt designs, mugs, phone cases and just about anything else imaginable.

And whenever you’re ready to expand your product offerings later, simply return to Printful to design new templates.

How to Set Up Your Print on Demand Website

To sell your products online, you’ll need to create a website.

The good news is you can launch a professional print-on-demand store without paying a cent for web hosting. I chose to go with Ecwid’s free plan.

Here’s how to set up your POD site on Ecwid:

  1. Go to and create a free account
  2. Choose your storefront URL and customize the design
  3. Add in your logo, images, text and color palette
  4. Install the Printful app to sync your product catalog
  5. Upload the templates you designed on Printful
  6. Set pricing and configure shipping rates
  7. Enable Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal etc.
  8. Publish your online storefront

With Ecwid, you can build a polished, high-converting website tailored to your brand in under an hour. And you won’t pay a monthly fee since the free plan covers all the core features and unlimited products.

Make sure to customize your storefront to establish credibility and appeal to your target customers from the moment they land on your site.

How to Market and Sell Your Print on Demand Products

Creating awesome designs is only the first step. The real challenge is getting eyes on your products.

Here are my top marketing strategies for driving traffic and sales to a print-on-demand store:

Leverage Social Media

Social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are perfect for showcasing your merchandise to targeted audiences who may want to buy. Create attention-grabbing posts highlighting new arrivals and best-sellers. Share discount codes and promotions to incentivize purchases. And don’t be afraid to spend a small budget on ads — a little goes a long way.

Run Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is uniquely suited for print-on-demand brands thanks to shoppable posts and visual discovery. You can upload product images along with a direct link to buy. Target your pins related to your niche for the highest conversion rates.

Send Email Campaigns

Email marketing helps you build relationships with potential customers and keep your brand top of mind. Offer an opt-in discount or freebie in exchange for emails. Then send product announcements, special deals, and helpful content to subscribers. Minimize promotions and focus on value.

Influencer Marketing

Gifting your products to relevant influencers in exchange for posts, stories, and reviews provides huge exposure. Even nano or micro-influencers in your niche can drive impressive sales. Just ensure influencers genuinely like your brand.

SEO Optimized Blog

Blogging boosts your website authority and gets your products indexed on Google. Write reviews and guides focused on search queries related to your merchandise. Embed calls-to-action to browse your shop.

Amazon Handmade

Expanding to Amazon Handmade taps into their massive buyer base. You can sync Printful to instantly list items from your online store. Make sure to optimize titles, photos, and descriptions.

Create Video Content

Fun tutorial videos and product reviews help you connect with customers on a more personal level. Post videos natively on TikTok and Instagram. Embed them on your website and YouTube channel. Videos build trust and get people excited about buying.

The more exposure channels you leverage, the faster your print-on-demand business will take off. Don’t rely on a single platform — diversify your marketing for the best results.

Fulfilling Orders and Managing Your POD Business

As orders start rolling in, you’ll need to fulfill each one through your print-on-demand service.

The order fulfillment process using Printful looks like this:

  1. Receive new order notification
  2. Log into your Printful account
  3. Enter order details and upload buyer’s info
  4. Submit order and processing begins!
  5. Printful handles printing, packing, and shipping
  6. Your customer receives their order

Once the order is submitted to Printful, it’s completely hands-off for you. Printful will manufacture the product, package it up nicely, and ship it directly to the customer. All you have to do is sit back and wait for your profits to start rolling in.

Printful charges your connected payment method for the base cost of the order. Then the customer is charged the retail price you set when they purchased. The difference is your profit margin.

For example:

  • Your customer pays $25 for a t-shirt
  • Printful charges you $10 to print and ship the shirt
  • You pocket $15 profit on the order

As your print-on-demand business grows, here are some tips for managing everything smoothly:

  • Stay on top of order notifications to avoid processing delays
  • Offer fast shipping like 2-day delivery to impress customers
  • Set up an accounting system to separate business income and expenses
  • Create referral and loyalty programs to increase repeat purchases
  • Automate upsells and cross-sells to boost order values
  • Provide top-notch customer service via live chat or email
  • Evaluate profitability by product and discontinue underperformers
  • Track key metrics like conversion rate, AOV, and sales by traffic source
  • Continue optimizing your website and refreshing your product lineup

The most important responsibility as a print-on-demand business owner is sourcing high-quality products that customers love. Focus on expanding your best-selling offerings and designing products tailored to your niche.

Pro Tips for Print on Demand Success

If your goal is to build a sustainable, long-term print-on-demand business, keep these pro tips in mind:

  • Constantly test out new product ideas and expand your catalog
  • Stay on top of trends and seasons popular with your niche
  • Offer excellent customer service and respond quickly
  • Build out an attractive, professional-looking brand
  • Leverage user-generated content and customer photos
  • Invest back into your business by reinvesting profits
  • Form strategic partnerships with complementary brands
  • Keep refining your marketing strategy based on data
  • Automate repetitive tasks to save time as you scale
  • Maintain detailed records and ensure tax compliance
  • Provide subscribers early access to new arrivals

By continually improving your operational processes, the sky’s the limit with print-on-demand. The flexible, hands-off business model lends itself perfectly to testing and scaling.

Turn Your Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Business

Starting out, I viewed my print-on-demand store as just a part-time side hustle. But within a few short months, sales skyrocketed through targeted marketing efforts.

Before I knew it, this passion project had turned into a highly lucrative, full-time business.

You can absolutely replicate the same growth by following this guide. With consistent effort and patience, your home-based POD shop can replace your 9 to 5 income.

The minimal startup costs and fulfillment services provided by Printful make print-on-demand the ultimate easy business to begin on the side. As you hone your skills in product design, marketing, and branding, you’ll gain the knowledge necessary to turn your side hustle into a thriving career.

Why wait? Get started on launching your own print-on-demand business today!

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