How to start a print-on-demand business in 2023

How to start a print on demand business in 2023

Starting a printing business may initially seem daunting, considering investment costs, inventory management, and potential risks. However, print-on-demand is a more flexible and affordable alternative. This approach allows you to explore the world of entrepreneurship and test your business idea at minimum investments.

According to Precedence Research, the print-on-demand market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 26.71% over the forecast period from 2023 to 2032. 

In this article, we'll talk about how to start your very own print-on-demand business most successfully. Keep reading!


Print-on-demand (POD) is a business model that allows you to fulfill orders only when a customer places an order. Unlike a traditional business model that requires having inventory on hand, POD allows you to pay for the product only when you sell it.

POD businesses work with third-party suppliers who handle everything from printing to shipping. You only need to set up a website, create product designs for your customers to choose from, and do some marketing activities to get consistent traffic. 

POD's business model allows you to diversify products and saves a ton of time and money. For instance, you'd need to invest in two printers if you offer multiple products and printing techniques, like DTG printing for apparel and screen printing for stickers. However, you can outsource the printing process to the supplier with the POD model.

Moreover, the POD approach is more flexible regarding product customization, allowing customers to design and order personalized products per their requirements.

As customers now prefer customized products over standard ones, providing customization options for your POD business can give you a competitive edge and result in a more engaging customer experience, increased brand loyalty, and higher sales.


The cost to start a print-on-demand business depends on different factors. Still, we will overview the main expenses required:

Set up a website. Depending on your specific needs, the cost can range from nothing to a few hundred dollars for more advanced features. A popular option is Shopify, which offers a $1/month plan for the first three months of subscription.

Domain name. Popular eCommerce stores usually provide a free default domain name. Still, you can buy a custom domain for a better brand image. The average domain name pricing range is $2 to $20 annually.

Product designs. Creating designs on your own can be free. However, if you hire a graphic designer, the average rate would be around $25 per hour. Another option is to utilize an online product designer, which allows your customers to handle the design process. The price for this option varies depending on the included features and license model, ranging from several tens of dollars to thousands.

Sample orders. Depends on the products you’re planning to sell. For example, selling custom socks costs ~ $20/item + shipping tax (which can be zero to $10 depending on your POD platform terms).

Starting budget. Some POD platforms like Printful require a starting budget on a card, e.g., $100.

Starting a print-on-demand business can generally cost from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The minimum required budget is ~ $150.  



Launching a print-on-demand business is like starting any new business. It starts with the goal you are trying to achieve. For instance:

  1. Manifest your design ideas;
  2. Start a line of your own branded merch;
  3. Crowdfund for a cause;
  4. Test a small business idea;
  5. Create and test unique products;
  6. Get attention to your community by offering unique merch to your fanbase;
  7. Build long-term enterprise business;

Goals provide a benchmark for success. When you have a goal, you understand what you want to accomplish, what outcomes to expect, and the criteria for evaluating your POD business success.


Print-on-demand is often associated with t-shirts only because these products are the most popular. However, the t-shirt niche is highly competitive and can be challenging for newcomers to succeed in. Luckily, there are many other untapped or less popular niches to explore. For example:

  1. Promotional products such as phone cases, tote bags, and mugs
  2. Jewelry
  3. Socks
  4. Sports uniforms/jerseys
  5. Canvases
  6. Stickers
  7. Stationery
  8. Apparel such as hoodies, caps, and hats

How can you find more business ideas for your print-on-demand store?

You can do your research to
discover the perfect niche and business idea to build your store around.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a free tool that uses Google data to show keywords and customers' searches. 

You can review trending topics on the home page to check what is currently popular and has high sales potential. Filtering by country can help you understand your target audience better.

You can also type in search of any ideas that come to your mind to get real-time results on popularity and business potential. Comparing the searches can help you understand the best fit for you. The tool allows you to check if the product has been popular for the whole year or has seasonal demand.

Google trends results for POD business launch


Additionally, you can review distribution by subregions and similar requests that can push you to any more business ideas. 

Google Trends related queries results

Communities, social media

Explore social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, which can help you effectively gain insights into the interesting products for your target audience.

By analyzing their purchase patterns and design preferences, you can better understand what they like and tailor your offerings accordingly.

Amazon, Etsy, eBay

Check top POD players such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay to review what products are popular and whether they can earn you maximum profit.

For example, the most popular products on Etsy now are personalized jewelry, engraved wood coasters, and other custom products.

Most popular products on Etsy

Since you do not invest in inventory, you have room for experimenting and testing your ideas risk-free to find the most profitable niche.
However, the most important is to choose the niche that will enchant your target audience. Conduct thorough research on your target audience's interests and preferences to ensure your niche meets their needs. Selling the right products to the right people can bring success to your print-on-demand business.


To begin selling online, you need to launch a website. Start with registering a catchy domain name for your website to help you build your brand. 

Once you officially register the domain, you can choose your eCommerce platform and start your online shop preparations. Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce are the most popular eCommerce platforms. Among these, Shopify is used the most often for POD businesses due to its user-friendly interface, the abundance of POD applications, and effective marketing features.

When choosing the platform, ensure it’s fast and customizable and allows you to do effective SEO to build your visibility.


Once you’ve set up your store, it’s time to prepare appealing designs so you can start filling your print-on-demand product catalog. Here are some tips on how to do this:

1. If you have ideas and are good at designing, you can use free tools such as Canva, Adobe Express, etc. Pinterest and similar platforms can help you find some inspiration.

2. Hire an external designer. You can use some outsourcing platforms like Behance, UpWork, and others.

3. Opt for an online product designer, a software that you can integrate into your online print-on-demand shop and give the product personalization process to the hands of our customers. You should upload just blank products and configure fonts, colors, and an artwork gallery. Such tools also allow you to set up product locations and printing areas.

Online product designer software

Additionally, you can configure a templates gallery so your customers can use ready templates and tweak the design according to their liking rather than starting from scratch. Once they place the order, you get the production output files and order details you can send to your POD fulfillment provider.

The result? Increased sales, engagement, improved communication with your customers, and great scalability. Check our real case study on developing a print-on-demand platform for the jewelry business that helped it scale globally.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is highly used in numerous industries, and the print-on-demand sector is no exception. Utilizing AI-powered tools can help you enhance customer experience, generate design examples, and streamline your operations.

For example, you can use Chat GPT, a chatbot trained to provide detailed prompt responses. You can ask the chatbot to suggest some eye-catching slogans to use in your designs or inquire about the most popular designs and colors among your target audience.

MidJourney or DALL-E tools can help you generate realistic images based on your text description, which you can use as ready designs. Ensure you are very descriptive and specific in your prompts to get images that fit your needs.

One way to improve the design process is to integrate AI tools with an online product designer tool. This tool can help close the gap between customers' ideas and designers while reducing the required manual work. With tools like MidJourney, DALL-E, or similar, customers can describe their design ideas, and AI software can transform them into visual representations. Then, the online product designer applies the design to the final product with a real-time preview.


Once you decided which products to sell and figured out the best way to create designs for them, choose the print-on-demand provider you will be working with. Below are some well-known POD providers for you to consider:

#6.1 Printful

Printful is one of the most popular print-on-demand providers and offers an extensive selection of products catering to small startups and large enterprises. Whether you plan to sell custom print-on-demand t-shirts, hats, mugs, signage, or other items, Printful covers you.

Pricing: Free

Integrations: Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, Amazon, Etsy, and others

Fulfillment time: 2-5 business days

Handle printing & packaging: Yes

Products: More than 300 (the most popular: t-shirts, hats, mugs, totes, phone cases, signage)

Printing techniques: DTG, all-over printing, sublimation, embroidery, direct-to-firm

Custom branding: Yes

Features: Mockup generator, no minimum quantity, easy to use

#6.2 Printify

Printify is no less popular than Printful but more cost-effective. Affordable pricing is possible through global partnerships that let merchants choose local producers for production and shipping.

Pricing: Free

Integrations: Shopify, WooCommerce, Prestashop, BigCommerce, Etsy, and others

Fulfillment time: 2-7 business days

Handle printing & packaging: Yes

Products: More than 800 (the most popular: t-shirts, stickers, promotional, pillows, sublimation socks)

Printing techniques: DTG, sublimation, all-over-print, direct-to-firm, embroidery

Custom branding: Yes

Features: Lower than average product costs

#6.3 CustomCat

CustomCat, a US-based POD company, allows fast shipping and competitive prices. They also provide hundreds of customizable products that are printed in high quality. CustomCat can be a good choice if you plan to sell custom sports jerseys.

Pricing: Free

Integrations: Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Etsy, and others

Fulfillment time: 3 business days

Handle printing & packaging: Yes

Products: More than 500 (the most popular: apparel, jerseys, accessories)

Printing techniques: DIGISOFT, dye sublimation, embroidery

Custom branding: Yes

Features: Fast US-based fulfillment services, high-quality prints due to DIGISOFT technique

#6.4 Gelato

Gelato is a worldwide POD provider that operates in 32 countries. They utilize an algorithm to identify the most suitable print provider for your delivery location to offer fast shipping. Initially started with custom paper products, they have expanded their offerings to include apparel, stationery, and promotional products.


Pricing: Free

Integrations: Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Squarespace, Etsy, and others

Fulfillment time: 1-2 business days

Handle printing & packaging: Yes

Products: More than 100 (the most popular: t-shirts, hoodies, wall art, phone cases, mugs)

Printing techniques: DTG, sublimation, embroidery

Custom branding: Yes

Features: No minimum order quantity, monthly and bulk discounts

Ultimately, the choice of print-on-demand provider can significantly impact the business venture's success. It is crucial to ensure that your chosen provider aligns with your niche.


Once you have chosen your POD provider, it makes sense to order test samples to ensure colors, sizes, and quality match the requirements, and you will provide excellent service for your customers.

You can also evaluate packaging and shipping to confirm that the products arrive in good condition. Obtaining order samples can also help you plan any potential improvements before you launch your print-on-demand business. 


Once you launch your POD business,
the next step is to promote it to reach potential customers. Here are some quick tips:

#8.1 Set up social media accounts

Social media is a great and free way to reach your target audience. You can boost your online presence by joining community groups and engaging with the audience. Consistently posting interesting content with appropriate tags can also help attract new subscribers. You can experiment with different social media platforms and choose the one that works best for your marketing efforts.

Additionally, suppose you're looking for quick results and are willing to invest. In that case, you can consider running ads on Facebook or Instagram.

#8.2 SEO

To rank top positions in Google, you need to do search engine optimization and provide high-quality content that interests your audience. You can check Google SEO recommendations on what steps you need to take to meet their guidelines.

Start with basic keyword research to understand what target keywords you can use for your landing pages and blog posts. You can use Ahrefs or Semrush tools for such purposes. These tools provide free limited access that can help you at the start.

Moreover, such tools allow you to do an SEO audit, which can identify technical issues such as low speed, lack of internal linking optimization, or incorrect website structure. It's also essential to ensure that product pages are indexed correctly.

Lastly, don't forget to consider the importance of user experience when optimizing your website, which is also an essential factor in improving your search engine rankings.


Launching a print-on-demand business with minimal investment is feasible. POD offers flexibility when it comes to customizing your products to meet your customers' needs, regardless of whether you're operating in the apparel, promotional, uniform, sign, or any other print-based niche.

Furthermore, as your POD partner handles printing and shipping, you can dedicate more time to developing your business.

The LiveArt team has much experience in print-on-demand and can help you take your business to the next level. Get in touch with us to start your journey!

Author Info

Volodymyr Yatsevsky
As CEO of LiveArt, I am passionate about leading a software company and providing expert consultation on solution design. With 15+ years of C-level experience, I specialize in leading the development of web-to-print solutions. When I'm not navigating the software world, I enjoy making music!
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