Have you ever encountered t-shirts, shoes, hoodies, caps, or anything else looking so familiar to each other except the “brand” name printed on them? That’s because they were basic white-labeled products with a seller’s unique design/logo on them.
This is the meaning of Print On Demand: a process that allows you to customize white-label products with your designs and sell them through a supplier under your brand name on a per-order basis.
Today we commonly associate this process with the clothing industry but in the past, it was more related to printed books.
Some Quick Historical Notes
There is evidence that textile printing already existed in China before the year 220. In Europe, its first apparition was in the 12th century, although it remained quite unknown until recent years.
By the 1980s, printers started to spread and their bulk production made print-on-demand services broader and broader. The first DTG (direct-to-garment) printer was launched in the ‘90s and just 10 years later, many competitors were fighting to get a piece of the DTG printing pie.
Today, custom products have become the biggest trend in the textile market and so many brands are riding this industry pushed by the strong demand.
From a technical point of view, among the dozens currently available, there are two main printing options: digital printing and screen printing.
It’s important to realize the differences between screen printing and digital printing, as it’s one of the main topics you have to deal with before creating your product.
- Screen printing. It concerns the creation of a stencil (called “screen”) that is used to apply layers of ink on the printing surface. Each color requires a different stencil that combined with another makes the final look.
- Digital printing. It concerns the creation of artwork using computer software that will process it directly to the surface area of the product for printing. The ink adheres straight to the fabric, so there’s no application or heat transfer.
Which Is The Best Technique?
Digital printing is the best option for designs with a higher level of details and intricate patterns, and are printed in smaller quantities. To achieve such accuracy of details, the ink applied is thinner and fits better with lighter colored shirts, due to the shining contrast with the design.
Screen printing is the best choice if your style requires more vibrant colors, especially for those printed on dark shirts. In this case, the ink applied is thicker than before and creates a brighter effect even on darker backgrounds. Considering that it’s a handmade job, that requires extra effort in materials and labor time, a minimum order quantity is needed before ordering.
Printing books has never been easier today.
Professionals and freelancers can create and sell your books for you, while you’re just waiting at home.
Amazon is a great option for buying different things but it’s not the same if you’re looking for something unique and personalized like, for instance, books and gifts.
This is only possible on Print-on-demand marketplaces, which we would highly recommend if you’re willing to create a unique product (books, CDs, etc.), without necessarily pass through multiple intermediates.
Therefore, print-on-demand services usually manage the payment process for you, as well as the shipping and the customer service (that’s a great plus for your customer experience).
Once the check-out is completed, the same provider will deliver the product to the customer, within a few working days (usually, 3-5).
Which Are The Pros And Cons Of Print On Demand?
Despite the surprising recent growth, print-on-demand, like every other business model, has its own set of pros and cons.
- Low costs. Unlike traditional retailers, you don’t need to invest high capital upfront and, in some cases, money is not required at all. POD marketplaces like Teespring, RedBubble, or Merch by Amazon do not require any initial investments, as they will provide you all the necessary features to launch your store. You just need to upload the designs and create your products. But, if you want a real store on your own, we would better recommend to subscribe to Shopify or create a WordPress website. In both cases, around $200 is enough to start.
- Easy to set up. Nowadays, with all the themes, guides, plugins, and templates available online, it’s quite easy to set up a POD store. There’s no need to hire professionals and web designers anymore, which are expensive and not for beginner stages. Only when your store is starting to have consistent results, you could think to scale up further, hiring freelancers that handle all the tasks.
- No inventory required. Suppliers will take care of order fulfillment; you just have to focus on creating and promoting products.
- Worldwide access to markets. Today all the major suppliers can ship and deliver products internationally, which means that your potential customers could be illimited.
- Brand identity. By selling unique products, you’re just creating your own brand identity. This is why at certain levels, graphics and photographers become crucial for the brainstorming process, as they could provide you new ideas for your catalog. Of course, if you’re already a professional, it’s much easier for you to monetize your artwork through the POD marketplaces.
- Low-profit margins. Definitely, it’s the main cons as we’re talking about 20-30% of profits on average per sale, so you need big orders for satisfactory results.
- Low-quality materials. It’s common for those providers who care exclusively about their margins and not customer satisfaction, as they prefer to reduce expenses as much as possible. That could be so harmful to the shopping experience of your store, no matter how beautiful your design might be. Be aware of this, before choosing cheap services.
- High competition level. POD industry has grown up incredibly during the years, thousands of artists are creating new designs and uploading them every day in every marketplace possible. Socials are full of sponsorships and ads with the new trend of the moment. So, it’s important not to give up during the first months of no sales and to be as much as active as possible through your social platforms. If you’re constantly uploading and promoting, sooner or later results will arrive!
- Learning curve. It could take time to research the right niche, create good designs, set up a store, and advertise it. If you’re not willing to spend much time on it (at least in the beginning) and learn new procedures and techniques, maybe POD it’s just not good for you. So be aware of your goals and the time you are willing to spend because maybe it’s not so worthing for you.
Many challenges need to be faced before running a POD store successfully. If you’re conscious of the challenges, you might have the right mindset to compete in this field. With talent, passion, and hard work, there’s just no limit you can encounter in a business like this, with no barriers and no borders.
It’s all upon you, your grind, and your dedication!
Let the journey begins!
BONUS – What Is Self-Publishing?
Self-publishing is a process in which authors are at the same time editors of themselves.
They take care of all the publishing process, which covers printing, editing, text formatting, and cover design, as well as promotional activities.
There is no third-party intermediation, and the author is directly involved in each issue in the first person.
Pros of Self-Publishing
Whatever will be your book type, self-publishing provides, all in all, absolute freedom and higher-earning returns.
We want to summarise the main benefits:
With self-publishing, you can control your destiny, as you’re the author, the editor, and the main promoter of your book.
Nobody else can influence your decisions like usually happens in the traditional publishing industry,
Independence is a value and it’s a price you want to pay if you feel competent in what you do and what you wrote.
With self-publishing, the period that separates the ending of the book and its publication is less than a week. There’s no third-party editor who reviews the contents and delays the process.
When you’re ready to print, go and print your book.
Typically, traditional publishing gives you from 7 to 25% of royalty fees. Self-publishing, instead, around 70%.
Imagine the incredible boost in profits you could make if you decide to become an independent author.
If you’re the editor and the promoter of yourself, it will be much easier to create a fan base and collect an email list. It’s way more personal than passing through traditional systems that you don’t control and don’t know basically how they work.
Many authors became successful with self-publishing because they were capable to establish a durable connection with their audience through social media marketing.