How Does Print On Demand Work?

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Print On Demand has always been popular in the publishing industry. 

We can define the Print On Demand model as a printing process that starts when a customer makes an order and ends up with the immediate processing of it by the fulfillment service.

For instance, booksellers and publishers, once written their text, use to send the cover and the book layout to the printer/distributor. 

The book is thus sold through different channels and printed over and over again after every single time.

The same procedure has been adopted today by the fashion industry. t-shirts, hoodies, bags, tank tops, or leggings, are not printed in bulk anymore.  

This method has soared in recent years due to the development of digitalism and e-commerce platforms. The industry felt the urgency to reshape its supply chain with a fast and lean infrastructure.

And, step by step, Print On Demand took the place of the traditional printing process, which is rarely used today.

Differences With Dropshipping

With dropshipping, you move the order to a partner vendor which will produce and ship the product directly to the final customer. 

You don’t need a physical inventory with all related expenses (like, for instance, Amazon FBA), as you won’t ever have physical possession of the product.

However, the product itself may be already produced in bulk and stored by the partner vendor in its inventory, before an order has occurred.

And that’s the big difference between print-on-demand and dropshipping. 

In Print On Demand, the product is made one by one; in dropshipping, you need to know first if the vendor has some samples left on its inventory, which can be a problem in case of massive orders.

However, a great disadvantage of every system that works with no inventory is the fulfillment time. From the moment you receive the order until it’s processed and shipped, it can take several days up to two-three weeks (3-5 days for manufacture, plus 3-7 days for delivery). 

And it’s not comparable to a dropshipping vendor who already has the product in its inventory, ready to be shipped. 

Be aware of these inconveniences before choosing one of the two methods.

Niche Selection

Before running your business you have to choose the right niche for your products. 

A niche in which you are expert and passionate. It has to be quite narrow and trendy at the same time. 

Not too specific because nobody will notice it and not so popular because it’s already saturated.

Search on Google Trends, Pinterest, Reddit, and through social platforms (Facebook Instagram, and Twitter).

In this way, you will realize the growth potential of your niche, and if it has a solid and passionate customer base, willing to buy your products. 

Then, start to create a list of related items. For this purpose, you should visit Amazon, eBay, or Alibaba Express, and take note of the trendiest items related to your niche. 

If you have a concept on your own, like a specific design you created, it’s a great way to validate it. 

Maybe it has been already used by somebody else on Amazon. In that case, it’s not necessarily a bad news as you can make some adjustments and propose it again.

Product Selection

Selling it’s not immediate. You need to create eye-catching designs and advertise your products properly.

With a highly saturated t-shirt industry, today it’s important to discover new ways to emerge among the others. You could start to find viral designs of your niche and use them as inspiration to create yours. 

In this way, you will get higher chances to be noticed, especially if you develop the proper marketing strategy.

You can even space from the fashion industry to the self-publishing field, and start to print your book once you have established a loyal customer base. 

Or, you can do exactly the contrary: start with your printed book and then create your line of clothes, if it was successful.

Both alternatives are valid and adopted currently by many sellers worldwide.

Fulfillment Process

A Print On Demand fulfillment has to figure out how to manage inventory in order to reduce risks and related expenses, which are the two main problems related.

If you are willing to lunch your Print On Demand store you should know that generally, you will have lower margins on a single product if it’s not sold in bulk. 

Achieving this result should be your main goal, as you can cut drastically the expenses, and increase a lot your profits. 

However, inventory management is pretty simple and transparent in Print On Demand companies. They just need to have a stock of the same products in different sizes.

Few of those have adopted the Just-in-Time (JIT) model, which ensures that custom goods are always available for production while their storage costs are way reduced.

This system typically works with the self-publishing industry. Books aren’t printed by the provider unless it won’t receive any order. 

Policy Returns

Usually, Print On Demand platforms don’t provide a return policy, as the product shipped can’t be used anymore.

In that case, you have to refund personally the customer. 

The only exception is Amazon Merch, which will use your profits as a refund of its return expenses.

Moreover, if you are a publisher, the refunded book will return back to the provider, which could recycle it or send it to the publishing company.

Main Advantages & Disadvantages

The main advantages of using Print On Demand are:

  • No Inventory (only a “digital” one)
  • Automated printing and delivering process 
  • Simple creation of designs and logos
  • Lower startup costs

In Print On Demand, you don’t have to take care of anything else but creating designs and do marketing advertising. It literally frees your time up.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of using Print On Demand are:

  • Lower margins, as the volumes sold are not high 
  • Limited customization options, related to the type of platform used

Design Creation – Quick Tips

We have already talked about how to find creative designs that you can use as inspiration. 

You can just make researchers on Google or in the most popular social platforms, and get inspired by them.

Alternatively, we truly recommend you hire a freelancer who will create a professional design for your brand. 

You can find one through popular websites like Upwork, Fiverr, or 99designs. Filter the results for feedbacks and overall scores, and choose among the best ones (watch even their artwork portfolio!).

Etsy it’s another great alternative as there are published tons of fancy designs that you can readapt for your own purposes.

Be creative and use your imagination, accordingly to the tastes of your niche audience.


Print On Demand today is definitely the best solution to run a business in the fashion or in the self-publishing industry. 

The low start-up costs, the fast setup process, and the fully automated process have radically changed the whole supply chain. 

Many more companies and professionals are using Print On Demand technology to produce and ship their goods worldwide.

Many niches aren’t saturated yet and they’re just waiting for enthusiastic vendors with a clear brand identity in mind.

Let your Print On Demand journey begins!

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BONUS – Two Great Alternatives To Printful


Redbubble is a worldwide famous Print On Demand marketplace where creators can upload their artworks and reach millions of customers everywhere.

The customization options are unlimited. They provide an incredible variety of products, way more than the average offered by other providers.

We truly suggest using it, if your goal is to create different product categories for each design, clothing, accessories, home decors, and so on.

Like many other Print On Demand services, Redbubble does everything else but creating your designs and promote them.

However, the creation process is way quicker due to the “Copy an existing work” function, which makes you duplicate an existing product settings to a new one, and then you just have to switch design and publish it.

Margins start at 20%, but you can modify them manually through the setting page.

Redbubble sets a basic fee for its services (up to 17% of your sales) and leaves you complete control of the rest.

If you want to get more than a 20% margin, you could set higher prices. But we recommend doing that once you have established a consistent flow of sales at normal prices.


Spreadshirt provides a user-friendly interface to facilitate the design creation, without incurring third-party tools.

In their marketplace are shown a ton of designs posted by the creators’ community, which you can use as your own simply by paying a fee to the artist.

Another feature provided is Personalization, which lets you optimize existing products with extra clip arts and custom quotes, and get your own version.

Alternatively, you could even create your design from scratch, through their user-friendly interface.

Spreadshirt does everything left for you, from fulfillment to the shipping and the customer service, and it’s incorporated with a bunch of different marketplaces, like Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, and much more.

Print On Demand World Staff

Hey Everyone! We hope you enjoyed reading the article and the information provided on it. If so, share it through your socials and keep visiting our blog, discovering the wonderful World of Print On Demand! Arrivederci! :)

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