Printing products ‘on demand’ is a brilliant way to make a semi-passive income online. You create the design, upload the products to your preferred selling platform, and a printing service will do all of the printing and shipping for you! You can print anything on demand- from t-shirts and mugs, to tote bags and cards. Print on Demand in the UK is becoming an extremely popular way to produce and sell designs without having to commit to stock, or having the hassle of packing and posting your products.
What Is Print On Demand?
Print on Demand works when you create a design, select a printer of your choice (more on that later!), and integrate your printing service with a platform like Etsy, Amazon or your own website.
When a customer buys one of your products, an order automatically gets sent to your designated printers, and they print and dispatch the item for you. It’s that simple! You pay a fee to your printing service for the materials, labour and postage, and then the rest of the money is profit for you.
Choosing Your Printer
Your choice of printer will be an important part of your entire Print On Demand business. Different printers will be harder to use than others, some will be more expensive than others, and some will be more helpful than others.
My printer of choice for Print On Demand UK is Printify, which has a selection of UK, EU and US based printing houses which you can choose from. I use a UK based printing house to print tshirts on demand.
Printify is super easy to use, easy to integrate with sites such as Etsy (or your own website!) and comes with affordable printing options. You can print just about anything with Printify- even things like leggings, socks, and phone cases!
The UK printing option I use is affordable, and is cheaper than other printers out there. If you’re going to start a Print On Demand business in the UK, my personal choice would be Printify due to their versatility and the fact they are so easy to use.
Print On Demand Profit Margins
Before you get started with listing your products for sale online, you’ll want to spend some time getting your pricing strategy right. This is super important when you are doing Print On Demand because the last thing you want to do is make a loss!
Take a look at your competitors online on sites like Etsy, Amazon (and even do a quick Google search!) and see what they are pricing their designs at. You want to make sure that you are pricing your products within these price ranges. And if you want to price your designs at a higher price point? Make sure that your site, your imagery, and your designs are unique and interesting enough for people to want to buy your product over anyone else’s.
Make sure you take into account the fee that you need to pay the printing house, any fee that you may incur from selling your item (for example, on Etsy you are charged a selling fee), and of course remember that you’ll probably need to pay tax on your profits.
Creating Your Designs
The great news is- you don’t have to be a graphic designer to create best-selling graphics. You don’t even need to know how to use Photoshop! You just need to make sure that your designs are something that you think there is a market for, that is shareable, and saleable.
Using a service like Canva means that you can create graphics easily, without needing to have any prior knowledge of design. You can also use Canva to create the logos and any other associated graphics and communications for your brand.
You’ll need to sign up to the advanced version of Canva (Canva Pro) to get all the tools you need (but fear not, there is a 30 day free trial of the service that you can use to get started!)
In my experience, Canva is the best way to create graphics and text designs without needing advanced design skills. You’ll need the Pro version so that you can remove the background of any designs that you create, and Canva Pro also has a huge selection of fonts and graphics which are not available with the free version.
If you try out the free Pro trial for 30 days, you could even make a ton of designs during this time and then cancel your subscription if you are trying to keep start-up costs low.
Selling Your Designs on Etsy
Etsy is the easiest way to get started with selling your print on demand designs. It’s super easy to set up an Etsy store, and integrate this with your printers. Once your store is integrated with your printers (it only takes a couple of minutes!) you are ready to go. Once someone makes a purchase, that order will automatically go to your printers to be processed.
Check out my post on how to get started on Etsy.
Another reason that Etsy is so great for Print On Demand, is that there is already a huge volume of customers who search the site each day for specific items. For example, if someone has searched ‘coffee lover t-shirt’ and your coffee lover t-shirt listing comes up, you’ve already got someone who is pretty motivated to buy your item.
There are also a few things you can buy from Etsy too, to make your listings stand out from your competition. If you’re selling print on demand t-shirts, bags or mugs, you’ll want to buy some mock ups.
Mock ups are blank photos which you can use to present your design on. You can purchase mock ups from around £4, and they will make your designs stand out clearly among your competitors. Think about it- are you likely to click on an item that is on a plain white background, or a product that is being worn by someone, or being used in a lifestyle shot? Search ‘mock ups’ on Etsy and you’ll see a ton of downloadable photos that you can purchase.
Selling Your Designs on Your Own Website
Perhaps the main downside of using Etsy for your Print on Demand business, is that you are limited by the customers who are searching the Etsy marketplace. When a potential customer searches for something, they get hundreds of results which means that you have big competition.
It’s also much harder to ‘upsell’ your customers on Etsy. They are likely to be shown related items from other sellers rather than related items in your Etsy store.
This is where having your own website to sell your designs can be extremely beneficial in the long term.
Creating your own website means that you can reach thousands more people through Facebook advertising, and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is why, if you want to scale up your Print On Demand business to the next level and perhaps even make a full time income from it, you’ll need to create your own website.
You’ll also avoid paying any fees, and can ‘upsell’ to your customers easily by showing them related products. For example, if your main product category is t-shirts, you might also want to show your customer mugs, bags or stickers which are related to the t-shirt that they are buying.
How To Set Up Your Own Website For Print On Demand
Setting up your own website may actually be easier than you think. When it comes to Print On Demand and setting up your own site, it’s even easier because you can again link your website to your printing house and all of the order processing, packing and shipping is taken care of.
First of all, you’ll want to buy a domain name for your website, and most people prefer to choose a website name which includes .com or .co.uk on the end. Anything else can seem less trustworthy in the eyes of your customer. Head to a site like Namecheap to purchase your domain name, and you’ll likely to be able to find your website name for less than £10!
Next, you need to host your website. Your website hosting will cost around a minimum of £40 a year. There are lots of different website hosts, and after trying out several, my most recommended host is Siteground who are endlessly helpful- especially if you are a beginner.
You can check out my post about how to start a blog and make money which takes you through those first steps of starting up your own website as a beginner.
Once your website is set up, you can add the ‘WooCommerce’ plugin, and integrate your printer- and you’re good to go!
How To Get More Print On Demand Sales
One of the best things that you can do to increase your Print On Demand sales, is to start your own website and use Facebook ads to drive traffic to your product listings. However, Facebook ads cost money, and you may prefer to keep costs low when you are first starting out.
The next best thing you can do, is to create social media pages for your new brand. Instagram can be particularly helpful because it is such a visual platform. Every time that you create a new design, you can upload a new photo and your audience is immediately notified of the new product that you have for sale.
Similarly, if you are running a sale, or a promotion, you will be able to communicate this to your audience via social media for free.
Check out my post on how to promote your Etsy store using Instagram for some more top tips on how to increase your sales. (These tips work both for Etsy stores and for your own website!).
Print On Demand will require a fair bit of upfront work to decide on your brand, your product niche, and your target market. Not to mention creating the designs themselves! However once you have all the groundwork in place, you will have a semi-passive income stream where you do not need to do anything between your customer clicking ‘purchase’ and the item being delivered to their home.
This is a great side hustle idea if you know that you are short on time to actually create products, but know that you would love to have a product-based business where you can control the design and aesthetics of your brand.
If you’d like more information on side hustles and making money online, follow me @thriftylondoner on Instagram!