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How print on demand works

Whether you’re an artist, writer, designer, or entrepreneur, physical products can be the perfect canvas for monetizing your creativity.

From t-shirts to posters, backpacks to books, you can put your own original spin on everyday products and sell them online. However, if you go the traditional route of buying and holding your own inventory, you may be left with a pile of products that aren’t selling.

Print-on-demand services offer an alternative way to bypass the time, investment, and risk associated with managing inventory, letting you go from creating to selling custom products at a fraction of the cost.

The specific steps for running a print on demand business will vary from one platform to the next, but here’s a general rundown of how the on-demand printing process works.


1. Set up your store

The first step to getting your on-demand printing business up and running is to set up your store. Depending on your POD platform, you can go about this in one of two ways:

  1. Integrate an existing store to the service. Connect to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Etsy. If you have an existing online store, you can integrate it with your POD platform of choice and start selling from there. 
  2. Use the POD site’s platform or marketplace. Don’t have an ecommerce site? Choose a POD service that has an existing marketplace. Sites like Zazzle and Redbubble allow you to create a profile on their platform, and they will sell and fulfill products on your behalf.


2. Upload your designs and select the type of products to sell 

Once you’ve selected a POD service and have your store or profile up and running, the next step is to add different designs and products to your shop. If you’re using a POD fulfillment service, the choices of which items types to sell are completely up to you. 

For example, if you’re a painter who wants to stick to selling wall art, then you can choose to only add framed canvas items to your shop. On the other hand, if you prefer to sell merchandise like T-shirts and mugs, you can opt for that as well. 


3. Sell your products

At this stage, your shop is open to the world and you have products that are ready for printing. If you’re using a fulfillment service, you can start marketing your products and driving traffic to your site. If you’re using a marketplace, your provider will do most of the sales and marketing for you, though you can still promote your work by sharing your profile or product links to your customers. 

In any case, the end goal is to get people to find your items and purchase them. 


4. The POD platform fulfills the order

When someone places an order, your POD platform will print, package, and ship the item to the customer. Once the purchase has cleared, you’ll get paid.