Is Print On Demand Worth It For NEWBIES?

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Are you looking for an online side hustle and questioning yourself – is print on demand worth it still? Here are 5 reasons why it would be, for some people!

I’m sure everyone feels the same when exploring something new – especially if they know nothing about it. In building a sustainable business, you either leverage on what you already know or try your absolute best to master another trade.

In this article, I’ll be explaining why print on demand is not worth it and why that might not be the case for you – yes, YOU. To make it easier for you, I’ve also included my general tips on how you can make it a profitable venture, even if you’re starting with ZERO.

*This post may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission (at no cost to you) if you sign up for a program or make a purchase using my link!

3 Reasons Why Print On Demand Is Not Worth It

It’s always easier to decide when you know you what you don’t want. Most of us know what we dislike and incapable of – and oftentimes, it’s harder to admit to ourselves on what we like and capable of.

For that reason, here are my three reasons why I think print on demand is not worth it – for some individuals. Are you any of these?

1. You have no time to learn something new

It’s a fact, not everyone has the time to learn something new. While most of us don’t have the privilege of time, many of us simply make an excuse for not having enough of it.

In my journey to become an online entrepreneur, I’ve sacrificed almost every other activity I wanted to do. This includes watching the television, exploring other not-money-making activities and going out with friends i.e. meeting new people offline.

If you’re not ready to sacrifice an hour or two of your daily schedule, print on demand is not something you should do. It’s not something you learn out of a degree or you’re naturally gifted with, so you’ll need some time, focus and initiative to learn.

Is Print On Demand Worth It?

2. You have little to no computer skills

This is hard to say but one a lot of us have to be aware of. If you don’t have the skills to use the computer beyond just basic tasks and can’t use the internet to source relevant information, print on demand will be tough for you.

I’ll be honest, even university graduates don’t have the right skills to survive the online world. They don’t know how to use Excel, let alone do the right research on Google.

But if you have the time like I’ve mentioned in point number #1, spend it by working on your computer/internet skills first. Otherwise, it’s not worth it trying make a living (or side hustle) out of something you can’t grasp.

3. You’re scared of failing

A lot of people talk about how easy it is to set up a business online and how it doesn’t require much (compared to an offline physical biz). But no one talks about how many of us have tried and failed.

What matters most is picking yourself back up and just pushing things forward even when times are tough. If you’re scared of failing with your first online venture and not excited about the many projects you’ll have ahead, print on demand is not for you.

It takes effort to sell online and time to learn what works – just enough to make it a sustainable business.

Is Print On Demand Worth It: 5 Ways To Decide If It’s For You

1. You’re busy with a full-time job

This might sound counter-intuitive from what I wrote before but if you don’t have enough active time to run a side hustle or a full-fledged business, print on demand is a great alternative to explore.

Have only two hours in a day to spare and can’t be selling lemonades at 8pm after work? When you set up a print on demand store, it works for you 24/7 without needing you to “man the booth”. You can be at your tiring day job and still make 3 sales in the same hour.

You’ll just have to put in the work to set it up before expecting all the sales to come through.

Read: Why print on demand is the side hustle for single moms

2. You don’t want to handle inventory

There’s all the glitz and glam of having your own branded merchandise business – and handling all the physical inventory that comes with it. You’ll need cash to purchase stock upfront and space to store the goods. Of course, it can make good money but do you have the resources to start?

Print on demand is much like dropshipping where you don’t have to hold any inventory and have all your orders handled by suppliers. Once a customer makes a purchase, suppliers will print the merchandise and ship it out directly to the customer’s address.

In essence, there was no inventory to begin with! Plus signing up to a seller account on sites like Printify or Printful is FREE – so it takes almost nothing to start a POD business.

3. You have some experience selling online

Experience is not necessary and like I’ve mentioned before, things can be learned. But if you have some experience of selling things online be it on Shopify, Amazon or your own Instagram thrift store, print on demand can work out for you.

is print on demand worth it: Clothes with printed designs
Clothes with printed designs

Print on demand may work a little differently but you already know the basics of online shopping and can visualize the process flow of an ecommerce store.

4. You have basic designing skills

Much of success in print on demand is built on having good designs. This does not mean you have to make designer-worthy merchandise, it only means you have to be able to design what the market wants.

When starting out, it may be more practical for you to make your own designs instead of hiring others (unless you have the funds to). I always believe in mastering the art yourself before you can instruct others. It’s also cheaper to design yourself if you know how to use Canva or Photoshop.

You can hire designers on sites like Fiverr and 99designs, or purchase ready made designs on Envato Elements and Creative Market. Just remember to read the T&Cs of using the graphics for resale.

5. You’re dreaming for passive income

Passive income is the word of the season. Everyone’s dreaming for it but few would put in the work. Earning passively takes a lot of work upfront, for you to enjoy the fruit of labor later on – it does not come immediate.

So if you’re like number #1 and can’t afford to have two jobs but want to earn more, creating passive income streams is the way to go. With print on demand, you’ll have to create a lot of designs, upload them to products and have them live in your store – before you can expect any traffic or sales.

Is print on demand worth it?: My online business continued to make money everyday even when I was travelling Europe for a month! This was in Portugal
My online business continued to make money everyday even when I was travelling Europe for a month! This was in Portugal

Anyone who’s eager to earn passively will find print on demand worth it. I made my very first sale on Redbubble a month after setting up my store. I was a complete amateur and never thought anyone would purchase my designs.

Trust me, once you make that first sale, no matter how small it is, you’ll never look back!

Read: 9 types of passive income for introverts

7 Tips How To Build A Profitable Print On Demand Business

1. Focus on a single sales channel

It’s easy to get distracted when your options are just a few clicks away. Choose a single sales channel from the very beginning e.g. Shopify OR Etsy, learn everything about it and stick to it. Sales don’t just come in because you’re lucky, it comes because you mastered it and did it often.

2. Choose just one fulfillment

Most beginners start with print on demand marketplaces and that’s okay – it’s safe and straightforward to start one. You can sell the same designs across different marketplaces, set up stores within a day and get sales in less than a month (I did!) without doing much.

Others would prefer selling white label print on demand with sites like Printify or Printful. These two are my favorite sites for beginners as their products are wide-ranging and there’s a lot of online resources to learn from i.e. YouTube tutorials.

If you’re unsure on how to decide between the two, find my comparison here and ways to compare Printify’s and Printful’s pricing here.

3. Determine your niche

When I was brainstorming with my brother on him setting up a print on demand store, he was always asking me if he could have different design niches in one store. I reiterated how he should stick to just one niche in the beginning e.g. just pets or just food. Upload as many designs as he can and see what works.

Creating a multiniche store can be confusing for your customers and it shows that you’re not an authority/professional in a field (even if its just pets). It is also a lot of work for you to make designs in every niche and you would not have enough relevant data to see what designs are best.

So let’s not make things hard for everyone!

Read: 8 best selling niches for Etsy print on demand

4. Price appropriately

I know what you’re thinking. Just because you don’t have to hold any inventory, does not mean you should price products lower than what’s ideal.

Unless you’re selling on a marketplace, customers won’t know that you don’t make these products yourself. Hence, you should price your designed merchandise according to the market – and sometimes even higher.

An online biz might free you from the expense of rent and equipment, but you still have a few overheads to pay. Price products at least double of its cost to cover any fees and ads expense. Adjust accordingly later!

5. Double down on what works

After having about 100 designs (this is just a start) and finally getting some traction i.e. data, you’ll be able to see what the market wants. Make more of those, repeat the process and do not deviate! You can always try introducing something new, but don’t stop doing what works.

Is print on demand worth it?: Branding is key to long term success in print on demand!
Branding is key to long term success in print on demand!

6. Explore branding

Selling on a marketplace like Redbubble would not require any branding work on your side. However, one of the benefits of white label is being able to put your own brand labels on products. This could mean having your logo printed on the back of a shirt and including branded stickers or thank you cards in your shipments.

Some fulfillments like Printify, Printful and Apliiq provide these services for a fee but it’s something you should consider once your sales is growing. Invest in your brand!

7. Work for growth

Growing a business whether on Shopify or Etsy requires an upgrade on your side. Once you know that a design can sell for XXX units in a month, it’s time to pay for ads or increase your adspend. That’s the only way to get it seen by more people and not rely on organic traffic. If sales increase that’s great, continue to increase it, if it doesn’t you can stop the ads.

Paying for ads does not always translate to immediate sales. Once someone visits your site or store but leaves, they will be retargeted and reminded of a design they clicked on – for future purchase!

Best Print On Demand Sites For Beginners

  1. Redbubble
  2. Zazzle
  3. Society6
  4. CafePress
  5. Teespring

I’ve recommended eight more beginner-friendly sites in my detailed list here.

Read: 12 things you should know Redbubble vs Zazzle

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does print on demand really work?

Print on demand really work with the right designs and audience. Conduct prior research on what kind of designs are in demand then make them in bulk. Uploading a lot of designs at once increases your chances of making a sale and knowing what works so you can repeat them.

How much does print on demand cost?

Print on demand does not cost anything to start. Most fulfillment companies are free to join and does not charge anything for you to design products. You will only need to pay the product cost once a customer makes a purchase and for the company to fulfill the order.

Is print on demand still profitable?

Print on demand is still profitable if you price products appropriately. Maintain at least 50% margin above product cost for you to be able to cover any selling fees involved. This may include advertising expenditure, payment fees and store listing fees.

Bottom Line

There’s always a way for newcomers to make money even in saturated businesses. To be honest, print on demand is still not as crowded as you think it is. People will try to discourage you from their own experience, but you can only tell for certain that something is not for you – after you’ve tried doing it yourself.

So, give yourself a chance and take that leap of faith to see if print on demand is worth it. I’ve tried multiple online business ventures and came across a lot more. While I couldn’t try everything, I never stopped giving myself the opportunity to explore.

Here are five reasons why I think print on demand is worth it for you:

  1. You’re busy with a full-time job
  2. You don’t want to handle inventory
  3. You have some experience selling online
  4. You have basic designing skills
  5. You’re dreaming for passive income

If print on demand is something you think you’ll like, check out my print on demand product guides! I’m sure it’ll open your eyes to new possibilities.

Photo by Elīna Arāja

Abby B.

Hey there! Abby here - the founder of Passive Marketeer and also the main writer on the site. My love for ecommerce and online marketing was something I found through my 9-5 sales job. It was mind boggling at first that we're able to make an income online passively in today's world! If you're still feeling that way, know that you're not alone.

That's why, I decided to help others by sharing findings through my own research on today's ecommerce world. When I'm not writing, I'm either running my online biz, traveling, cooking or gardening.

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