Have you bought something from a print-on-demand service recently? It’s possible you did so without even realizing it. Thousands of T-shirts, home decor items, and unique products are sold through print on demand sites, or POD, every day.
In fact, the global print-on-demand market was valued at $4.91 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow as high as $39.87 billion by 2030.
If you’re a creative person, starting a POD business with your own custom products might seem like a no-brainer. But navigating through all the print-on-demand companies on the market can be confusing. Which one should you choose? What products should you sell?
Today, we’re going over how POD works and what you want to keep in mind when choosing a company. Plus, we’ll discuss some of the best print-on-demand companies out there today.
How do print on demand sites work?
Print on demand sites works by letting you only create products after you’ve made a sale. Instead of holding onto tons of inventory that might not sell, you create customizable mockups for customers to choose from.
In other words, you can create designs for phone cases, hoodies, or even stickers, and the item will only be made once it has been sold.
Here’s the overall process layout of print on demand — or what happens behind the scenes:
- Product designing: If you’re a digital artist or a photographer, you create your product design. Otherwise, you can hire a freelancer for the task.
- Uploading designs: You upload the design to the print-on-demand service’s website. You can then create mockups of what the finished products will look like.
- Listing products: You shortlist the best mockups and offer them for purchase via your website, social media page, or a marketplace.
- Creating items: Once a customer purchases a product from the list, the print-on-demand company creates that product.
- Shipping product: The POD service ships the product to the customer’s location.
In this way, you don’t pay for the inventory until an order is placed. This makes POD products a great fit for small businesses or entrepreneurs who need to keep costs low. While your profit margin per item may be lower, there is less risk involved with this inventory management strategy.
You can also consider POD a type of dropshipping, except you are more involved in creating the item you’re selling. Like dropshipping, you can’t control the shipping rates or the base price of your inventory, so you need to adjust your final product price to account for those costs.
How to start a print-on-demand website
A great way to create a print-on-demand business is by starting your own website. This is where you’ll run your own online store, post high-quality images, and connect with shoppers.
1. Register your domain name
If you already have a business name, you can register that as your domain name with a domain registrar. If you don’t have a business name, choose a business name that best describes you and your future brand.
2. Sign up with the right web host
You’ll have to show mockups of products to woo your customers. And those mockups should load quickly as a 2022 Portent study found that B2C eCommerce websites that load in one second have a 2.5x conversion rate of websites that load in five seconds.
To ensure speedy load times, you must sign up with a web host that offers eCommerce-optimized hosting. Bluehost also offers features like wish lists, product filtering, and gift cards, so you’ll be all set for satisfied customers.
3. Build your website
Once you’ve chosen your domain name and web host, you can start building your website. We recommend using WooCommerce to build your website since it powers 38.55% of all eCommerce platforms and supports most POD service providers.
Pick a WooCommerce-ready theme and add a few pages like your homepage, about, and a few product pages. Many themes now come with ready-made templates, so all you have to do is upload your own images and change the text.
Of course, if you do find yourself running into any issues, you can also outsource the design aspect of your website. We’re here to help!
But do I need a website? Can’t I just use a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon?
You can always do both, but keep in mind that marketplaces typically charge a few fees for each sale. For example, Etsy currently charges $0.20 for each item you list on your store with them. This is in addition to its 6.5% transaction fee and processing fee for each sale.
With a website, you have fewer fees for each sale, plus you can have more control over your product listings. You decide the type of photos or videos you want to add.
You also have direct control over your search engine optimization (SEO). You can easily link to other products you made rather than your competitors the way a marketplace might.
Best print-on-demand sites
Whether you opt for a website or a marketplace, your next step is to choose a print-on-demand company. To help you decide, we’ve gathered some of the best print-on-demand companies on the market right now.
Below you’ll find a short description of each service, what products it offers, and how easy it is to get it working with your website.
Printify has over 4 million sellers on its platform. It currently offers a wide range of products, over 800 to be exact! You can work with teddy bears and ornaments in addition to the more common T-shirts and tote bags.
Printify runs an easy-to-use platform where you can upload your designs or create a design directly on its website with its mockup generator. You can also connect directly with Printify’s WordPress plugin.
Printify is technically a printing platform connecting you to multiple printing companies, which is why it offers so many products. However, this also means the quality and delivery time can vary depending on the products you select, so keep that in mind when choosing a printer.
Each Printify printing provider lists where it ships from, and sellers can review their experience with it. So with a bit of research, you can offer a seamless experience for customers.
Customer reviews of Printify: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot
Shirtee.Cloud, as the name suggests, is focused on POD T-shirts — though it offers accessories and stationery products as well. Based in Europe, it shipped over 500,000 products in 2022, making it one of the smaller printing options on this list.
Shirtee.Cloud forgoes a storefront of its own and focuses on creating a service that integrates seamlessly with WooCommerce, Amazon, and many other popular sales platforms. You connect your Shirtee.Cloud account to your WooCommerce once, and orders are automatically forwarded to Shirtee.Cloud’s warehouses.
Shirtee.Cloud also offers return management at a price, but you may find its product catalog of roughly 50 items a bit limited. However, it’s a good option for users who want to have an easy-to-use integration.
Customer reviews of Shirtee.Cloud: 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot
Printful claims to have delivered over 61.4 million items since 2013. Currently, this POD company offers over 330 products that you can link right on your website with its WooCommerce plugin.
Besides a simple-to-use integration, Printful offers some unique products, like trending swimwear and embroidered aprons. You can also customize your mockups and work without any minimum order sizes. Not to mention, Printful makes it easy to sell directly on social media.
One thing to note is that Printful shipping times tend to be a bit higher, with many items listing 6-9 business days for goods to reach your customers in the U.S.
Customer reviews of Printful: 4.3 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot
Zazzle has shipped to over 30 million customers in over 194 countries since launching. It works with over 900,000 creatives, from large companies to independent creators with their own brands.
Zazzle offers hundreds of different quality products to work with, including wedding invitations, party supplies, and even skateboards.
While Zazzle has some unique offerings, connecting it to your WordPress website takes a bit of work. It doesn’t have a WooCommerce integration or an official plugin, though you can use one of the unofficial WordPress plugins.
Customer reviews of Zazzle: 4.6 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot
Gelato is a popular European print-on-demand company that focuses on a more ethical approach to POD. It claims that 87% of its orders are made locally by printing designs at the location closest to the customers, which also reduces its shipping times.
Gelato creates its products in over 32 countries, offering hundreds of garment printing options with transparent and easy-to-understand pricing.
After uploading your designs, you can start selling them on your website with Gelato’s WooCommerce integration. You can also sell custom products directly from its platform for additional exposure.
While many reviewers love Gelato’s emphasis on eco-friendly and organic options, some products are only available in certain countries. In short, Gelato’s catalog can be limited due to its production standards.
Customer reviews of Gelato: 4.7 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot
Sellfy has a community of around 60,000 creators, making it one of the smaller print-on-demand companies on our list. It offers digital products in addition to POD and has a slightly different pricing model.
Besides charging an upfront cost for each item, Sellfy charges a monthly fee in exchange for hosting your designs on its platform. Everything is cloud-based, so you can access your designs and store from anywhere.
You can also connect Sellfy to WordPress, but it currently does not have a WooCommerce integration. It’s a little trickier to use, but selling both digital and physical products on one platform could be a pro for some users.
Customer reviews of Sellfy: 2.7 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, though reviews are still limited at this time
Gooten’s product catalog has over 150 items that ship all over the world, from wall art to mugs. It offers a lot of details about each item it can print on and shows which colors, fabric types, and printing processes it uses for each item.
Gooten is aimed more toward B2B and asks you to contact its sales team rather than just creating an account. So it might not be the best choice for individuals with very small order sizes.
Customer reviews of Gooten: 3.8 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot
What to consider when choosing your POD company
A number of factors come to mind when deciding between print-on-demand companies.
The price of each item, along with shipping costs, will be your main cost for each good sold. And it’ll vary depending on which item(s) you want to sell
So pick a few and compare the cost from different platforms. Make sure you’re looking at the exact same style on each platform.
You’ll generally have a trade-off between quality and price, and you may need to experiment to find the best combination for you.
Make sure to read reviews about print quality for specific products as well as the printers.
Location of customers
Consider where your customers are located. Shipping time can vary a lot by country and platform, so if you have a big audience in Australia, you want to prioritize a service that will ship there for a reasonable price.
A big pro of using your own website is being able to see where your visitors are coming from. Consider setting up a customized google analytics dashboard for your store to know where your potential customers are coming from.
You should also consider a printing partner that can ship from a nearby location to keep shipping fees and time low. For example, if you have a lot of customers in Europe, Gelato might be a good choice.
But if you want to serve a global audience, make sure to prioritize the U.S. since it holds a market share of 30.5%.
Can I make any money with POD?
Yes, you can. It is up to you, though. You should be careful to consider all of your costs when setting a price for your products. You may set prices partially based on the current market, but be sure you aren’t selling yourself short.
For example, if a mid-range T-shirt costs you $8.50 and you have $3.50 in shipping costs, you need to price your T-shirt at $12 or higher just to break even.
Don’t forget to place a value on your own design as well. If you’re primarily a graphic artist and are creating T-shirts with your artwork, you should value the time and effort each piece took to create.
Final thoughts: 7 best print-on-demand companies for your WordPress site
Print on demand is a growing industry that still has plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs. You can expand into new types of merch without having to work in tons of overhead costs or take on tons of inventory. In fact, many artists and entrepreneurs have built successful POD businesses all by themselves.
While there may be a lot of print-on-demand companies to choose from and different products to compare, creating an ecommerce website where you’ll sell your items doesn’t have to be difficult.
With Bluehost’s WooCommerce hosting, you can have your store up in no time. By running your own online store, you’ll have more control over your costs, designs, and marketing.
Print on demand is a business model where products, such as t-shirts, mugs, and posters, are only produced after a customer places an order. This allows for a more cost-effective and efficient way to sell custom or niche products without the need for large upfront inventory.
In a print on demand setup, when a customer places an order on an online store, the product is then printed and fulfilled by a third-party printing company. The seller or store owner doesn’t keep any physical inventory and only pays for the product printing and shipping costs once a sale is made.
Print on demand services offer a wide range of products, including apparel (t-shirts, hoodies, hats), accessories (phone cases, tote bags), home decor (posters, canvas prints), and more. The availability of products may vary between different POD providers.
Yes, print on demand is a cost-effective solution for small businesses and individual sellers. Since there is no need to invest in inventory upfront, you don’t have the risk of unsold products. You only pay for production and shipping costs when a sale is made, making it a more accessible option for those starting with a limited budget.