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6 Startup Tips for Print on Demand (POD) Businesses

Hugh Grant



print on demand

Print on Demand (POD) has become an incredibly popular business model and is only going to keep growing. It’s the perfect business opportunity for people who want to work from home and be their own boss. It takes hard work, but office rules and time clocks do not restrict you. For instance, you can take a lunch break to cook a gourmet pizza in your backyard if you want! Nobody’s going to be docking your pay for taking a long lunch.

The POD business model has always been prevalent, but until recently, it wasn’t easy for anyone to create a POD business. Today, there are a number of companies that connect business owners directly to printers with integrations for Shopify, WordPress (WooCommerce), Etsy, eBay, and other e-commerce platforms. Setting up a POD store is now easier than ever, but it’s not as simple as some people think.

If you start a POD business, here are some tips to ensure you provide quality products and generate happy, satisfied customers.

  1. Know how payments work with printers

The POD business model can be especially confusing where payments are concerned. If you use a site like Printful, Printify, or any similar service, you’ll need funds to cover your costs upfront. With these services, customers do not pay the printer directly.

First, your customer will pay you, which triggers the order to be started, which initiates a charge to your card on file with the printer. You’ll need funds to sell on marketplaces like Etsy and eBay, along with Shopify, and even on your own website using WooCommerce.

If you don’t have the funds to cover your printing costs, you have two options: open a “pop-up store” through Printify and market your store on your own, or look at marketplaces that take customer payments directly. These include sites like Zazzle, Redbubble, CafePress, and Spreadshirt.

  1. Judge print quality based on wash results

If you’re printing t-shirts, hoodies, or other fabric items, it’s a mistake to judge the printer based on how well the design looks when you first open the package. What really matters is how well it holds up in the wash. Some printers don’t cure their prints properly and designs start to fade significantly after a few washes.

While the proper way to wash a garment is to turn it inside out and use warm or cold water, not everyone will do this. It’s important to order samples and wash them at least 5 times inside out and right side out to see how the print lasts under real conditions. If people don’t wash their items inside out, they’ll still blame you for a faded print so make sure the print holds up when washed incorrectly.

  1. All over print (AOP) is almost always polyester

Because of the printing method used for cut-and-sew garments, all over print items are almost always polyester and will feel like polyester. This includes shirts, hoodies, pillowcases, and even curtains.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with polyester, but many customers will be expecting to receive a cotton item simply because polyester isn’t the norm. Make sure to include the material in your description.

  1. Read all license terms carefully

It’s critical to read the license terms when you buy any asset, whether it’s a font, clipart, a vector, or a template. Some general licenses specifically exclude POD and require you to buy the next level license, but you won’t know unless you read the fine print. Other licenses are trickier.

For example, there are websites that offer unlimited graphic design assets for a monthly subscription fee and state you may use the items you download for POD. This seems great, but some of these sites require you to maintain a current subscription to create new designs with items you’ve already downloaded. If you cancel, you can continue selling designs you made while your subscription was active, but you can’t create any additional designs. To avoid this, you can usually buy your design assets individually and use them for POD forever.

  1. Always search for trademarks

Before putting any phrase or even a single word on your products, search the United States trademark database to make sure it’s in the clear. Even though many people sell designs with trademarks, it’s just a matter of time before they get caught and possibly sued. It’s not worth the risk.

Learn through experience

If you’re waiting to learn everything before launching your business, you’ll be waiting forever. There will always be something new to learn, so start wherever you are and learn as you go.

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