How to Start a Print On Demand Business with Shopify

Are you a budding graphic designer eager to get started in e-commerce? Is the only thing holding you back from starting the capital that you need to maintain inventory? Then you should forego that route in favor of starting a print-on-demand business. What’s that? 

It’s a business model similar to dropshipping but exclusively for white-label products. That means merch such as hats, shirts, and blankets with your original designs. The trick is that you don’t need to house your inventory. Instead, a print-on-demand supplier will handle that for you. 

That’s where the name print-on-demand comes from. Your supplier will only print your merchandise if you receive an order. Otherwise, they will hold blank inventory for you.

They’ll hold on to blank shirts, hats, and blankets, and will print your designs on them as you receive orders. You only have to worry about marketing your merchandise and creating original designs. The print-on-demand supplier will have state-of-the-art printers to use. That will allow them to print on any type of surface and material. As you can imagine, outsourcing the printing will save you thousands of dollars. That’s why print-on-demand is such a successful business model for budding graphic designers. 

In this article, we’ll teach you how to start a print-on-demand business with Shopify. If you didn’t know, Shopify is an e-commerce platform that lets its users design online stores.

It’s intuitive and affordable, which is why we’ll use it as our platform of choice. Read on to learn how to get your print-on-demand business off the ground. 

Getting Started with Your Print-On-Demand Business 

There are a few things you need to decide upon before starting your Shopify store. You’ll need to know what type of designs to create, which products to focus on, and more. Let’s start with identifying which products you should sell. 

Selecting a Niche for Your Products 

What’s your passion in life? What inspires you to create awe-inspiring graphic designs more than anything? Whatever it is, that should be where you focus your efforts. 

Picking a niche that you’re passionate about is a must for a print-on-demand business. Remember, you’ll handle the creative side of the designs. That means you’ll need to come up with catchy, memorable, and attractive designs. You should also consider which target demographic to focus on. Doing a little bit of research on Google Trends is a fantastic idea. That way, you can get a feel for the type of products customers order the most. 

Let’s say that you love coffee and drawing dogs. That’s when you decide to focus on dog designs on coffee mugs for your print-on-demand business. 

It’s critical to identify what sets you apart from the other graphic designers out there. What makes your designs truly unique and memorable? If you aren’t sure, then it’s time to head back to the drawing board to experiment. 

Product-Based and Subject-Based Niches 

The example we mentioned about the coffee mugs would be a product-based niche. It’s all about becoming the #1 seller of dog-themed coffee mugs. As a result, coffee mugs are your product of choice. If you instead want to focus on a subject, that works too. Let’s say your subject is pizza. Since the subject is the focus, you can use multiple different products. You can create pizza-themed mugs, hats, shirts, blankets, and more. 

Social media platforms are great places to conduct user research as well. You can do a few searches to find out which graphic design products sell the most. 

The ideal niche is one that combines your passion and hot-selling products. 

Once you have your niche and products in mind, then it’s time to start designing. Creating your designs will be the most essential part of the process for you. 

Creating The Designs 

Now it’s time for the magic to happen, creating your designs! If you don’t already have software to help you, then it’s time to get some designing tools. There are tons of fantastic programs out there, but we recommend:

  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Adobe Illustrator

These two tools will give you everything that you need to create dazzling designs. The Adobe Creative Suite contains Photoshop, Illustrator, and other helpful programs. Adobe Illustrator will guide you in creating awesome designs that your customers will love. 

To make it easy for your print-on-demand supplier, export all your designs in PNG format. That way, you can create the highest-quality mockups for your supplier to go off of when printing.  To get Adobe’s design software, Adobe Illustrator, check out this link here.

Outsourcing the Design 

Let’s say that you aren’t too savvy with graphic design, but still want to start a print-on-demand company. You should know that’s entirely plausible as well. Platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr allow you to hire graphic designers with ease. You can be as specific as possible with your instructions as well. If the first designs that you get don’t please you, shop around until you find the best. 

As long as you factor the price into your business, you won’t have any problem outsourcing your designs. In fact, you may find that some designers out there provide superior work to your own. Even if you’re a seasoned designer, it never hurts to browse Upwork to see if there’s a designer out there that you like.

Instead of making them your full-time designer, you can hire them to assist you. After all, two heads work better than one, and you may find that collaborating leads to some amazing designs. It’s crucial to explore all avenues when starting your own business so that you can find the most success. 

Creating Mockups 

To get the best results, you should always create your own mockups. Sure, you could use the mockups your supplier provides, but those are always low-quality. These designs are your livelihood, so you need to create high-resolution mockups. Tools such as Placeit will help you create beautiful mockups. A high-quality mockup will do a lot to add to the professionalism of your products. 

A low-resolution mockup will give the impression that your products are substandard. That’s why you need to place great importance on finding the highest quality mockups that you can. 

Set Up a Shopify Account and Store 

Okay, so now it’s time to learn how to start a print-on-demand business with Shopify. Of course, you’ll need an account and store set up before you can get started. Luckily, Shopify makes it effortless to set up an online store. Here’s what you need to do.

  • Step #1: Sign up for the 14-day free trial. Shopify has a fantastic free trial that you can use to get your store off the ground. When you select the free trial, you won’t need to enter any payment information until the trial is over. That makes it the perfect way to try out Shopify to see if it’s a good fit for you. 
  • Step #2: Start building your store. Once you choose the trial, you’ll gain access to the admin page. This is the hub where you will control all aspects of your online store. Make sure that you design a Homepage, About Us, Shop, Blog, FAQ, and Contact page. That will ensure that you address all your customers’ wants and needs. You can also use a template or theme from the Shopify Marketplace to speed things up. Make sure that you add all the products that you intend to sell during this stage. 
  • Step #3: Purchase a domain name. Shopify will provide you with totally free hosting, but you’ll need to pick a domain. Granted, Shopify does have some free domains, but it’s not good for brand-building. Instead, you want a custom domain name showing off the name of your business. You want a catchy domain that will stick in your users’ minds. 

That’s all it takes to get your online store set up with Shopify. It’s an incredible platform that makes selling products online easier than ever. Once you have a functioning online store, you can move on to the next step. 

Selecting a Print-On-Demand Supplier 

Now it’s time to find a supplier to house your inventory and print your products. Another reason why we chose Shopify as our platform of choice is for its App Store. There are thousands of apps that integrate directly with Shopify stores. They allow you to add more capabilities to your stores, such as dropshipping, SEO, or print-on-demand. 

When it comes to print-on-demand services, you’ll have several options. They are:

  • Printful
  • Printify
  • Gooten

To us, there’s no better app to use than Printful for print-on-demand services. 

Printful Print-On-Demand Supplier 

Printful is home to thousands of premium products that you can customize and sell. Products include:

  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Dresses
  • Skirts
  • Hats
  • Swimwear
  • Drinkware
  • Posters
  • Much more!

Printful will print and ship all your products as your orders come in. They have lightning-fast shipping times, which is a huge plus. Not only that, but the overall quality of the services goes unrivaled. Their rates are very reasonable, and their customer support is top-notch. You won’t have any issues when you use Printful, so we highly recommend choosing them for your supplier. 

Printful also has a lot of helpful services that will help you build your brand. Their custom packaging and branded pack-ins will leave a lasting impression. The app makes it easier than ever to show off your logo on as many items as possible. To start your print-on-demand business check out Printful at this link.

You can also create a fun unboxing experience by adding in fun extras. That’s something that you won’t find from any other print-on-demand company. 

Create Listings and Upload Your Designs 

Okay, so now you have an online store and a supplier. The missing link now is to upload your designs and create listings for them. Printful, as well as other suppliers, have their own portals for this. There, you can upload your designs so that they have them whenever it comes time to print. 

You’ll need to create:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Set pricing

Make sure that you do so for each product that you intend to sell. Also, include this information both on your Shopify store and the supplier portal. That way, you’re both in alignment on product cost, titles, and descriptions.

You should optimize your listings for search engines. Do a little research to find some keywords that people search for related to your products. 

For example, let’s stick with the dog coffee mug business. You go on Google and find that ‘puppy mugs’ is a hot keyword. That’s when you change your listings to reflect that. Inserting ‘puppy mugs’ at key points in your copy will shoot you up in the rankings. That way, more customers will find your page and the mugs that you sell. 

Marketing Your Print-On-Demand Business 

All right, so now we’ve come to the final step in learning how to start a print-on-demand business with Shopify. You’ve got a store, supplier, listings, and prices all set. All you need to do now is start marketing your products online. After all, if nobody knows about your store, you can’t expect to sell many products! Here are the avenues that we recommend taking to start getting the word out about what you do. 

Social Media Marketing 

Social media is a goldmine when it comes to marketing products. Customers are always looking for new brands on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and more. We have a few pro tips to consider when marketing on social media platforms. 

First, nail your @ handle on all platforms that you intend to use. Consistency is very important here, as it will help your customers find you. 

Next, find some groups related to your niche. For the puppy mugs, you could find pet lover pages or coffee lover groups. That’s where you can focus on advertising your brand. 

SEO Marketing

Like we mentioned with listings, optimizing your copy for search engines is a great marketing strategy. Put out quality content, target important keywords, and get as many backlinks as possible. That will ensure that you start rising up the ranks. 

How to Start a Print On Demand Business with Shopify ( quick video )

Putting It All Together 

So that’s how to start a print-on-demand business with Shopify. We’ve gone over how to design your products, start an online store, find a supplier, and market what you do. That’s all you need to do to start your own print-on-demand business, so don’t wait to follow this guide and make it happen! To see a guide on starting a t-shirt business folllow this link.

If you want to see a list of our top recommended Shopify apps visit this link here.

Davon Wilson

I'm a certified Shopify expert, you can usually find me on my computer coding, or thinking about business ideas. I'm an avid Ravens fan and an overall nice guy.

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