The custom T-shirt printing market is expected to be worth more than $10 billion by 2025. And small print-on-demand businesses are likely to be a big part of that growth.
Platforms like Printful make it easy for entrepreneurs to open their own shops and sell custom T-shirts and a variety of other products featuring their own designs. But there’s still a fair amount of work that goes into running this type of business. And some tend to underestimate the commitment and make other mistakes along the way.
Print On Demand Business Tips to Avoid
If you’re trying to start or grow a print on demand business, here are ten of the most common mistakes to look out for, along with some tips for correcting them.
Setting Up a Storefront and Expecting Immediate Success
Lots of people try to start a print on demand business because they think it will be easy. But you have to actually commit a fair amount of time to it if you want to make sales.
Raitis Purins, Printful’s head of marketing said in an email to Small Business Trends, “It takes quite a bit of work and time to run a profitable POD store. In fact, it seems that only 1 out of 10 entrepreneur become successful. So if you have full time job, you’ll probably have to spend all of your free time to keep your POD store up and running.”
Selling Generic Designs
Since the print on demand industry is already so large, customers can find plenty of basic designs from other sellers. To ensure success, find a specific niche and focus your efforts there. Purins recommends using tools like Google Trends or etsyrank.com to identify trends that you could include in your designs.
Trying to Compete with Amazon Prime Delivery Times
Since products in this space are quite literally printed on demand, they take a bit longer to ship than ready-made items from big sellers like Amazon. Purins says that most customers in the U.S. receive their orders a week or two after their order. So don’t try to mislead people with promises about convenience or fast shipping, and instead focus on communicating your brand values or creating unique designs people are willing to wait for.
Doing It All on Your Own
Running a print on demand store requires you to design products and then market them to potential customers.
Purins says, “It’s very rate that an entrepreneur is an excellent designer and marketer. If one of these fields is your weak point, simply partner up with someone who’s good at it.”
Setting Unclear Policies
Customers want to know what they’re getting before they buy. They also want to know how long the entire process should take and what should happen if they’re not satisfied. So take time to outline every step of the process on your website.
Purins says, “Believe it or not, customers carefully read shipping, returns, privacy policies and other important disclaimers. All this information helps them evaluate whether they should trust your store.”
Selling Too Many Variants
Purins explains, “Having options is good, but having too many can result in analysis paralysis. Sellers should believe in their designs and limit the options (colors especially) to bare minimum.”
Selling T-shirts Only
Purins adds, “Entrepreneurs often forget that there are many other products that they can put their designs on: hoodies, phone cases, mugs, pillow cases, etc. Since you don’t have to buy the inventory or keep the stock, there are nothing to worry about when introducing new products.”
Investing in Ads Before Your Store Is Ready
Advertising is a great way to get your store in front of new customers. But don’t invest in them until you have all of your policies in place and enough designs to satisfy customer demand.
Not Collecting Customer Reviews.
Product reviews help new customers learn about your products and gain trust in your brand. If you’re not asking past customers to review their purchases, you could be missing out on plenty of future sales. Just a quick note or link to your reviews section on your order page or in a follow up email could give your store a major boost.
Not Following Up
It’s always a good idea to learn about the customer experience and make changes when necessary. This is especially important for new businesses. But many in the print on demand space forget about this important step once the sale has been made.
Purins says, “Once the first orders start flowing in, take time to reach out to your customers and ask a few questions that would help you understand how your products were discovered, what is good, and what needs improvement.”
Photo via Shutterstock
A big one is identifying your target audience and having a plan for how you’re going to reach them.
This has been quite popular nowadays. Even influencers are now selling their own shirts with these.
I’m thinking of selling printed shirts someday, which is why I’m currently looking for a screen printing service that I may work with. Well, I agree with you that a business like this must find a niche so they may focus on their demands. You’re also right about the importance of partnering with someone who is an excellent designer.
Hi, Annie, you have provided us with some amazing tips to avoid while starting a print-on-demand business. Some of the most important points that you have highlighted in this article are setting up a store and gaining immediate success and not following up. I agree that this business requires a lot of time and effort and one must take the help of someone if one does not have the time to run the store full-time. Thank you for sharing such an interesting article with us. It was a pleasure reading your article.