What is Print On Demand (POD) & why is it good for independent artists?

Print on demand (POD) is a business model where products, such as books, apparel, and home decor, are manufactured and printed only after a customer places an order.

This means that items are not pre-produced or stocked in large quantities. Instead, they are created on an individual basis as per customer demand.

For artists, print on demand eliminates the need for large upfront investments in inventory, storage, and fulfilment.

This allows independent creators to enter the market with minimal risk and cost.

From a customer’s perspective, print on demand offers a wide variety of unique products.

Customers have the freedom to choose from a range of designs, styles, and colours, tailoring products to their own preferences.

This not only provides a more personalised experience but also reduces wastage by eliminating overproduction.

Print-on-Demand (POD) has revolutionised the way products are created and delivered to customers.

Digital printing technology and the POD business model have paved the way for a more efficient and sustainable approach to manufacturing.

With POD, items such as t-shirts, books, mugs, and other products are not produced in bulk, but rather printed and manufactured only after an order is received.

Unlike traditional printing methods, where large quantities of products need to be manufactured in advance, POD allows for on-demand production, eliminating the need for excessive inventory.

This not only reduces costs but also minimises waste, making it a much more environmentally friendly solution.

Many POD companies are also working to reduce the negative effects of their manufacturing on the environment, making it an even more attractive way to buy and sell goods.

What are the benefits of using print on demand?

Print on Demand (POD) offers several significant benefits, especially for small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, and writers. Here’s a breakdown of its main advantages:

1. Low investment costs

  • No initial inventory: You don’t need to buy large quantities of stock upfront, significantly reducing initial investment.
  • Minimal risk: With no pre-purchased inventory, there’s less financial risk if products don’t sell.

2. No need for storage space

  • Space saving: Since products are printed and shipped by the supplier, you don’t need physical space for inventory.
  • Reduced overhead: This leads to lower overhead costs, ideal for small businesses or startups.

3. Flexibility in design and product range

  • Easy to test ideas: You can experiment with different designs without the commitment of a large inventory, and find out which designs sell well (and invest more in those).
  • Wide range of products: Many POD services offer a variety of products, from clothing to books to household items.

4. Customisation and personalisation

  • Unique products: POD allows for the creation of customised and personalised products, catering to niche markets.
  • Adapt quickly: Quickly respond to market trends or customer feedback with new designs.

5. Scalability

  • Grow on demand: Your business can scale up easily without the need for significant additional investment in inventory.
  • Global reach: Many POD services offer international shipping, helping you reach a wider audience.

6. Sustainability

  • Reduced waste: Printing products only when they are ordered helps reduce waste associated with unsold products.
  • Eco-friendly options: Some POD services offer sustainable materials and eco-friendly printing options.

7. Ease of use

  • Integration with e-commerce platforms: Many POD services can be integrated with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Woo Commerce or Etsy, streamlining the sales process.
  • Automated fulfilment: The printing, packaging, and shipping are handled by the POD provider, reducing your workload.

8. Ideal for niche markets

  • Target Specific Audiences: Create products for specific interests or communities without the worry of unsold stock.

9. Direct to customer & global accessibility

  • No Middlemen: Sell directly to your customers, allowing for better profit margins and direct customer feedback.
  • Reach customers worldwide: Many POD services offer global shipping with printing facilities all over the world, broadening your potential market without additional shipping complexities.

Print on Demand is a versatile and accessible way to start or expand a business, offering a low-risk avenue to explore creative ideas and market products to a global audience. It’s particularly beneficial when you’re looking looking to minimise upfront investments and operational complexities.

When compared to bulk manufacturing, there are some downsides to POD, like;

  • higher production costs per item: Typically, unit costs are higher than bulk manufacturing.
  • limited control over production: Since the printing is outsourced, you have less control over the production process and quality. By doing your research into the base materials used and ordering samples, you can avoid a lot of heartache.
  • longer delivery times: As items are made to order, it might take longer to ship products to customers.

But honestly, all the disadvantages are easily outweighed by the advantages of using POD, especially when you don’t have a lot of money or simply don’t want to invest a lot in getting your designs manufactured.

Why I use Printful for POD as an independent artist.

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When I started looking around for a POD service to fulfil my needs, I ended up using Printful*.

Printful, Inc. is a printing company that was founded in California in 2013, and now has EU headquarters in Riga, Latvia, with fulfilment centres in Barcelona, Riga, Birmingham, Toronto, Charlotte, NC, Dallas, TX, and Tijuana, Mexico (and adding more every year).

Printful operates on a print-on-demand drop shipping model*. It allows you to create and sell custom products online, but they handle the production, shipping, and fulfilment.

You create your designs using Printful’s design platform, upload them to your own online store, and Printful fulfils the orders as they come in.

This model is integrated with various e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Etsy, and WooCommerce.

Printful does not have a marketplace of their own, instead, they’re a white-label manufacturer.

If you’re looking for a POD service that comes with a marketplace, consider something like RedBubble instead.

What I love about Printful…

  • They use high-quality blank products and the printing is good quality.
  • The design interface is intuitive to use and was easy to learn.
  • They offer a true white-label option for when you want to build your own brand without being subject to other platforms’ branding.
  • They’re constantly adding new products to the line-up.
  • Their video tutorials are a huge help when you’re learning how to navigate using Printful (and they’ve got a ton of resources on their blog).

Using Printful allows you a lot of control over how you build your brand, you can choose what products to offer (for instance limit the number of available colours on a t-shirt) and even customise your packing slips for a really great brand experience for the customer.

Using Printful will make it look like you’re running your own brand as Printful essentially becomes invisible to the customer, while still doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

It’s the perfect tool to help you run a small business based around your art.

PS – Just to keep things above board: links marked with an asterisk* are affiliate links, which means if you buy through that link they pitch a few cents into my coffee jar for referring you. It’s at no extra cost to you and I only recommend that which I love myself! Thank you for reading 💛