If you're having trouble finding a relatively low-cost method of starting your own business with no inventory, then a print-on-demand business may the solution you're looking for.
Imagine having an online store that automatically sells your t-shirts, journals, card desks, or planners even while you sleep. No need to package products and ship them, maintain a physical storefront, or make those dreaded sales calls. Your website does the selling for you.
For those of us who are introverts, this sounds like heaven!
But then reality returns. How do you make this happen?
Fortunately, I have a mentor who has been running various internet marketing businesses for as long as I have. Alice started her business in 2002, a year after I registered my first domain. Even better, Alice now owns a company that produces private label rights (PLR) printables.
That means you can purchase most her printables for a one-time fee and then resell them under your own brand. She has taken the heavy lifting involved in print-on-demand and made it super easy!
But how do you get started?
Choose your niche and designs
This is where you need to take a close look at your self and your potential customers. If you're a food blogger, you could offer:
- T-shirts, mugs, notebooks, etc. with a clever saying and your site's brand
- Coloring pages that you can offer your readers for free – or for sale
- A good journal so your readers can keep a chronicle of their food journeys, favorite recipes, etc. This journal would include writing prompts and quotes, so not just blank pages.
- A planner with space to record daily nutritional goals, commitments, tasks, meals, hydration, etc.
- Inspirational quotes prepared for printable card decks, which apparently are all the rage right now.
For example, I am an English teacher and all of my teacher customers are, too. English teachers love books — and that includes planners and journals. So I purchased one of Alice's kits and modified a journal so that it fits my English teacher clientele. Presto! I have a print-on-demand product ready to go in just a few days.
Build Your Website
If you're already writing online for an audience, selling services or affiliate products, you may already have a website. If this is you, go ahead and read Alice's advice on how to setup your site for your print-on-demand business.
This is important because, if your website isn't your own, you need to make sure you solve that problem. What I mean is, even if you have thousands of followers on Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook, that website is not yours. The people there may be subscribed to your page or feed, but the company who owns the site has control. If they shut down your account, you could lose everything, which recently happened to a HUGE coloring book creator on Amazon, so don't think you're safe there, either.
Build your own.
Like I said, I've known Alice for decades, so I know she goes way above and beyond to take care of her people, so I wasn't surprised when she published this primer on how to setup your own website. This means that you control the content, where it's hosted, and you can download the whole thing and move elsewhere if you needed to. (And I do recommend making frequent backups, just in case.)
That said, Alice suggests that you use WordPress and WooCommerce to build your print-on-demand business. In the article I've linked to, she explains that both are free, so you only need to buy the domain name and hosting.
Choose Your Email Marketing System
Email marketing software costs money, but it will help you manage your time and reach out to customers — even while you sleep. Customers will be able to sign up for your list on your website, receive a sequence of emails you setup to convince them to purchase your product, or teach them a concept they need to understand (which may then lead to a product or service purchase).
Alice suggests several email marketing software providers, but I'd like to recommend one in particular from her list: ConvertKit. I use them for all of my ventures because their system features one list, which I segment by interests. This means if someone signs up through several of my forms or landing pages, I am only charged once for them.
I also love that ConvertKit has a process for finding cold subscribers and asking them if they'd still like to stay. Then I can delete those that don't, which means I my open and click through rates are better, even if my subscriber numbers are lower. My list is much more responsive as a result.
Choose Your Affiliate Management System
One of the best ways to build your print-on-demand business quickly is to get other people promoting what you offer. The way you build that army of affiliates is by paying them a commission for the sales they make. Just think of it like this: If it wasn't for that one person (or 10 people!) promoting your product, you would not have made that sale. I used that method when running my web hosting company by partnering with popular designers in the mom entrepreneur community. When a web designer sent me a $10 per month hosting client, my website would credit $1 to her account. Now, imagine how many clients she was bringing me when I was paying her $300 per month! And that was just ONE designer!
I personally use aMember for digital product affiliate management, but Alice has several recommendations for tracking print-on-demand affiliate sales.
Alice also writes about setting up sales funnels, which are how you'll attract people to your site and guide them through the online sales process in a friendly, non-icky way. Basically, you'll be helping them solve a problem for which your products are the solution. I don't use any of the sales funnel plugins Alice recommends, but I completely trust her.
Finally, once you have your niche chosen, designs ready to go, and ecommerce solution setup, you'll need a place to print your items. For that, I recommend reading about the print-on-demand suppliers Alice recommends.
Want to learn how to build and market your online print-on-demand business?
Enter your name and email address below to receive notifications of our new posts, products, and courses in your inbox.