Selling physical products can sometimes be a very great way for designers and artists to monetize their work.

From t-shirts, mugs, books to business cards, you can build a business by adding a touch of your own brand to these everyday use products and sell them online. However, there is a little problem. For most people, running a retail business could mean, buying and holding your own inventory. You could be left with products waiting to be sold.
The emotional stress that accompanies looking at your product inventory and waiting for the next customer to popup from where you have no idea yet is enormous.

Print-on-demand services offer an alternative way to bypass both the risk and investment associated with managing inventory, allowing you to go from no money to selling your products.

Ok, how does this really work?

It’s really simple. Doung print-on-demand simply means you work with a supplier to customize white-label products like t-shirts, coffee mugs or hats with your own designs to sell order by order.

This means you actually sell your product before it is produced giving you a lot of room as the amount needed for production would have already been provided by your customer. This might not be true in every case, however.

To achieve this kind of feat, you need to build trust to get people to pay before the items are actually delivered. If that is not the case for you, you might consider discussing with your supply to make arrangements for situations where you need to collect payments from your customers on delivery.

If your products can be ordered in bulk, you may also consider enforcing customer commitment by collecting a fraction of the payment required in order to reduce any risk of customers losing interest after placing orders.

In some cases, you could get your supplier to handle shipping on your behalf. If this happens, you will be in a very good spot. It will only take a few clicks on your website to get your business from order to fulfillment with little to no efforts.

Look out for the downsides of running this type of business model.

The print-on-demand business model can be useful if you want to get started really quickly with little to no money. But you should also stay in the know for the downsides to expect.

  • Your margins will be lower compared to holding your own stock. This is because buying in bulk is naturally cheaper compared to paying for items per unit. Depending on the price you present to your customers, your profits may be lower.
  • Communicating with your supplier can become a problem: It could get really difficult to communicate orders with your supplier. This is because they may be handling other clients’ orders which could sometimes cause delays in the process. I recommend talking with your supplier about this beforehand.
  • Less control over your product handling and shipment when your supplier is in charge of handling your shipping.

The smart ways to do things in this kind of business

Print-on-demand might be easier to do than keeping your own inventory but there are still some basic tips you need to pay attention to if you want to succeed in this industry.

1. Always request samples

Since you are going to be dealing with digital versions of your designs, it is easy to miss something’s when the application is done on real-life items. Since quality assurance is important to success, you would want to have physical samples of your products before you start making sales. This way, you know what will be shipped to your customers.

2. Plan and manage your shipping times

Shipping comes with its own challenges. In this line of business, customers are more expectant when it come to when their purchases will be delivered to them. You will want to make sure in your communications with them, you give accurate shipping times. This would mean, accounting for the time it takes to produce your items.

3. Create compelling mockups of your products

People need to see the items they are about to purchase from your site before they buy but it could get expensive if you want to make use of models. However, there are plenty of free mockup templates that can also bring your products to life in the digital world. Sites like MockupWorld offer free mockups you can make use of with a few Photoshop skills you can learn online.

4. Focus on a niche

Marketing can make or break your business. But if you’re targeting everyone, it could get difficult to get anyone’s attention. This is why you need to clearly define your target audience.
This will not only make it easier for you but will also save you more money and maximize your profits because the decisions you make while targeting will be much more precise.

People also become loyal to things they can relate to.
For example, If you are selling T-shirts for dog owners, you will find more dog owners showing their loyalty to what they do by potentially getting dog owner t-shirts to show what they do.

Finally…

Print-on-demand is a great way to start a business with little to no money for new entrepreneurs and is also a good way for anyone to test people’s responses to their products before going full scale with managing their own inventory.

For more on managing a business, check out our previous post onWhat can I sell online that I can make by myself?