It’s an exciting time to be an artist. Whether, you’re a designer, social media influencer, writer, vlogger or YouTuber, you can monetize your creativity by selling everyday products online under your name and build your personal brand. Even if you’re not an artist but you’ve got the entrepreneurial kick, you can build a sustainable online business. Either way, you can achieve the same with the help of a Print-on-Demand service which will save you time and risk, plus, it’s a low investment business model.
What is Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-Demand is a service where you work with a supplier/manufacturer who customizes products with your designs and sells them on a pre-order basis under your brand name. You don’t pay to the supplier until the product is sold to your customers. You only pay the supplier once the order is fulfilled. This bypasses inventory, money, and time.
Establishing the framework
Print-on-Demand service is a bit of a hustle initially. Since you’re largely dependent on external sources to fulfill your orders, it may take some time to put pieces into the framework before the model is completely settled. Start off by finding a reliable supplier.
1. Find a supplier
The real hustle in establishing the framework of this business is finding a reliable supplier; a supplier who agrees with your terms and condition on order fulfillment and payment. That’s the opening. Look for suppliers on Google, and ask around. Make a list of all the suppliers and then begin screening:
Many suppliers have resources but don’t work on a Print-on-Demand basis. They only cater to bulk orders. Look for the ones who are willing to work per your conditions. Offer them higher margins if that what it takes to seal the deal.
Another thing to look out for is the quality of prints and products. During the whole order fulfillment process, you don’t get to see the products, therefore, you have to place your bets on trusting your supplier. Keep them as happy as possible as they also represent your brand image. Once the quality and customer experience are controlled, your profits will grow over time.
2. Choose the right product portfolio
Choosing the right product portfolio depends on the supplier’s printing resources. Here’s the list of top selling Print-on-Demand Products:
- Laptop Skins
- Mobile covers
- Tote bags
Start small. Don’t go for all the products at once. The reason being, you need to focus on designs too. Initially choose 3-4 products lines and test. Later, you can always drop or add new products to your store.
3. Design your products well
The Unique Selling Point (USP) of your products is your designs. Producing unique designs that sell requires you to have a basic understanding of designing tools like Adobe Photoshop or Inkscape. You need not be a full-time professional designer to create designs. However, if you’re having a hard time manoeuvering these tools, you can look for designers on Behance and 99 Designs. Hire a designer for the whole project.
Designing is a time-consuming process, especially if you don’t have hands-on experience of these tools. Therefore, either way, it’s recommended to hire a professional designer and so that you can focus on other aspects of your business like setting up your eCommerce website.
4. Accept customized prints from customers
The added advantage of a Print-on-Demand service is that you can accept custom-designed orders from your customers. Usually, customers personalize products for their beloved ones on occasions like their wedding, anniversary, birthday, and Valentine’s Day.
Premium plugins are available that can integrate with your Shopshastra WooCommerce store. For example: WooCommerce Product Designer, WooCommerce Custom Product Designer, and Fancy product designer. Free plugins are available but aren’t as efficient. Setting up any of these plugins is a onetime cost. Once done, create a separate page on your website. Your customers can then create designs in your online store and place an order. Also, make sure that you have gifting wrapping option on the product page for that extra touch.
The upside and the downside
All business models have their built-in advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, it’s how you can make the most out of the advantages and keep the disadvantages out the door.
The upside: You know whom to target
Besides Print-on-Demand being a low-risk model business and a quick start, you can save a lot of your marketing budget. You know precisely who your target audience is and where you want to spend your marketing efforts. This excludes the problem which is faced by most businesses- identifying and understanding their target audience.
As an artist or influencer, you can begin targeting your followers on Instagram and Facebook. Create engaging content. To expand your reach, collaborate with similar, more successful people. Gradually, you will build your audience and start receiving orders.
Downside: Not everything’s under your control
It’s natural and not just limited to your business, that low-risk models are vulnerable. There are more chances of things not going your way. The vulnerability of this model is due to the lack of control over quality, packing, and shipping of your products. And, there’s nothing more that you can do about it than replying to your customers’ e-mails and refunding the amount. Therefore, your success as a business owner largely depends on the supplier.
Pointers to keep in mind
Though there’s very little under your control on the quality of your products, print, and packing, the following pointers will help you supervise the downsides of this business model.
Once your store is out and about, you can conduct mystery audits to keep a check on the quality of products. You can place a dummy order to check the quality of the product. Also, check the packing. You can repeat the same on a timely basis- every month or once in two months to keep a tap on the quality and packing of your products.
Check the prints yourself
Printing might not be your forte, but once you receive the dummy product, check the quality of the print. To be confident about the prints, you can wash the product or put it through extreme conditions like scrubbing and stretching.
Be strategic about shipping
The printing of your products begins after you receive an order. One-day delivery options get out of the question. It’s always better to be upfront about shipping. Your supplier may have other clients’ orders too. So, even if the production time of your product is two days, and the shipping time is two days, keep two days extra as a buffer for those rainy days. In this case, offer one week’s shipping time.
You can offer free shipping on all products or conditional free shipping based on the cart amount to make up for the long shipping time window. Many customers will be willing to wait longer than having to pay shipping charges.
Grow your audience or set up your own printing system
There’s a lot of hustling to do. The punch line is to start. Nothing’s at stake, but there’s a world full of opportunities on the other side.
When your store is up and running and you start receiving orders, and you feel the order fulfillment process is settled, then introduce new product lines- for example, wine glasses, beer mugs and diaries. You may want to drop product lines that aren’t crushing it. The idea to figure out what’s selling the most and expand your portfolio on similar lines. Once you get an idea, you can graduate from Print-on-Demand to setting up your printing system and holding inventory, or continuing to sell the same services to a large audience.