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There has never been a better time to start your own business. The Internet has opened up a whole world of opportunities that were previously beyond the reach of an average entrepreneur who is just getting started. One such opportunity is print on demand.
Where you would once have to arrange for an extensive run of items, buy them in bulk, and find somewhere to store them, it is now possible to have the items printed as and when they are needed. Print on demand not only eliminates the need for storage and hefty up-front expenses, but it also gives you the ability to make immediate changes. You won’t have a warehouse full of T-shirts bearing your old your designs to worry about selling.
But how do you get into this business?
Have a Plan
Print on demand businesses may be more accessible than more traditional business models, but you still need to put a lot of thought into it if you want to succeed.
The first step on the road to successfully selling your products is to have a crystal clear notion of what market your products are going to serve. Even if you have a specific design you want to sell, you should do plenty of research into things like the styles, materials, and colors you use.
The goal here, where possible, is to find a “niche”. If you can supply something that has a decent amount of demand but not much supply, you will have a much easier time growing your business. If you are starting from scratch with no existing branding, put plenty of research into your designs. You’ve essentially got a blank canvas-tailor your result to meet an under served market.
Remember, numbers aren’t everything. Serving a small but invested market can often result in more profit than serving an enormous-but-crowded market.
It’s worth remembering that the planning stage of your business venture needn’t end when you launch. Never be afraid to retool, go in new directions, and try new things. Markets can change, and your business should be able to change with them. Fortunately, with print on demand, you can shift your product strategy quickly and easily.
Test. Test. Test.
With the convenience of print on demand, it can be tempting to get your designs ready, set up your commerce website, and let things run. Try to resist that temptation, however. No matter how good things look on screen, you should always get a sample of any product you intend to sell before you sell it.
There is an element of quality control, of course, but, more importantly, things don’t always translate from digital to real-world how you expect. You may find the position of a design element is not quite where you thought it would be, or a particular color looks different in print than it did on your screen.
By getting a sample before going to market, you can ensure the product is just the way you want it. It is attention to detail like this that will separate you from other print on demand sellers.
Choose Your Platform Wisely
Being able to take advantage of one of the many available eCommerce platforms is a massive part of what makes this kind of business appealing. Most of the work is done for you, leaving you to concentrate on your products.
The leading players in this area are Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. Each platform has its advantages-which is a subject that would warrant a full post of its own-but needless to say, you shouldn’t just pick one at random. If you want total control over your storefront, WooCommerce tends to be a better option than Shopify. WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin/theme, whereas Shopify is a complete service. Both have their advantages, and you will have to decide which style of commerce platform suits you best.
Set Up Your Storefront
If you have opted for the WooCommerce style of commerce platform, having a good website is crucial to your success. There are several aspects of a website that can lead to decreased sales, such as poor design, lousy accessibility, and unintuitive navigation.
Fortunately, there is a multitude of services available to help you get the best possible site you can. Depending on the platform you choose, you can buy ready-made templates, or you can try a service like Upwork or Fiverr to hire a graphic designer to create custom designs. For those looking to get started on a budget, there are plenty of free WordPress themes to choose from. The key things to look out for-in addition to being pleasing to the eye-are accessibility and responsiveness.
Accessibility determines how well your site translates across different devices and software. A website should always “degrade gracefully”. This means that even if your site is viewed on an old device that doesn’t support many fancy design elements, the content will still be there.
Responsiveness, on the other hand, is how well your site responds to different screen sizes. Simply shrinking a desktop-sized website to fit on the phone will result in awkward or unusable navigation elements, but a responsive design will change to suit the smaller screen.
It’s often the least favorite part of any online commerce business, but you can’t sell products if no one knows you are there. The first step along the path to a robust online presence is good search engine optimization (SEO). Ensuring your content is optimized to get the most organic traffic from search engines is the best way-in the long term-to get traffic, because it is virtually free. Consider running a blog and with content related to your products. Ensure your descriptions rank highly on all the relevant keywords. There are many services where you can purchase SEO content if writing is not your thing.
Advertising is always an option, of course, but it should be considered a temporary measure. Paying to get people to look at your site is a losing game, as you will almost always make less than you spend. The long term goal should be organic traffic, but advertising can help to get your name out there, which in turn can lead to organic traffic.