Who could have dreamed that you could set up a profitable retail business, with zero stock, zero money, and zero risk. Just a few years ago this would have been a pipe dream. Today it is a reality.
It’s a business model called drop shipping. See here for our popular guide about how to set up a drop shipping business in the UK.
In this article, we’re going to focus in on a particular type of drop shipping that is opening up opportunities for designers and campaigners in particular: print-on-demand (POD). How does it work? You make sales and the POD company produces the design and ships it to the customer. There are discounts available for bulk purchases but POD can happily deal with single, bespoke orders.
But first, let’s be clear. While you can start a print-on-demand business with zero stock, money and risk, you do need to invest time and commitment. You’ll need to do your research, know your market and put together an excellent sales and marketing process to succeed. Still, this is about smarts, not silver spoons. This is one type of business that you can certainly start from nothing.
How to get started? Let’s break it down. We are currently setting up a shop with Printful. Here are some simple steps we suggest you follow:
1. Sign up to the Printful platform
You can get started quickly, easily and for free. Printful costs nothing to set up. When you have your account in place you can explore the various products that are available to customise. These include basic clothing for men, women, and children, as well as accessories, homewares, and stationery.
There is a Printful academy with training videos on all aspects of eCommerce, marketing and design. It’s quite a treasure trove and if you are new to online retail then it will be well worth your time going through some of the courses.
2. Connect your online store
Printful is a white label product, which means that you sell through your own store and there is no mention of the Printful brand anywhere. For all extents and purposes, your customers believe that they are buying directly from you.
What this also means is that you sell from your own store not from the Printful platform. Printful integrates with all the main eCommerce platforms out there in a couple of clicks, it is very easy. If you are new to the whole arena then you may want to start with a very simple and easy sales platform like Wix. You can also set-up your store directly on a sales platform like Etsy or Amazon. If you want to add a shop to an existing WordPress website, like this one, then you can use an add-on like WooCommerce.
3. Prepare some test designs
You can create your designs using a graphic design package like photoshop and upload them to the platform. Or you can design directly in Printful using their excellent design tools. There is a large collection of templates and backgrounds to use and you can of course upload your own images. You can choose to produce your design in print format or embroidery. There is also the option for repeat overall designs. If you feel that you need professional help, there are design services that you can access for additional costs from the platform.
To be fully confident about the final product you might want to order a sample. Those are available at a 20% discount. The sample will enable you to check that the print or embroidery quality and placement is exactly what you want and also to check packaging and shipping. And of course, you will have a product to photograph and include in unique product photos for your website or social media.
4. Get marketing
Marketing includes, as a minimum, what’s known as the 4 Ps. That is: product, price, place and promotion. You will need a plan for each of these and then you’ll need to regularly review performance and make tweaks.
Starting with price. Printful will charge you their product and shipping price. Say that’s £10 for a unique customised laptop case. You then charge your retail price, say £18. Your profit is the difference between the two figures, £8. If you sell lots at this price, you may want to edge the price up a bit and see what happens. It can be interesting to see what difference small tweaks can make. Don’t assume that people will buy more because something is cheap, sometimes the opposite is the case as price gives a value signal and the types of bespoke designed products you can produce with print-on-demand are likely to appeal more to values.
What about Place? Where are you going to promote your products? Designers very often find that they sell much more on a sales platform like Etsy than on their own website. That’s because the big sales platforms invest a huge amount in marketing. You can of course put your products in a variety of places and see what does best.
As for Product. Test trade first with a small range and make adjustments as you get feedback and sales.
Promotion is perhaps the most important step. Without effective promotion you don’t have a business. Where to promote? Well, that’s where your customers hang out. If you are lucky enough to already have loyal customers and/or a mailing list then you’re already off to a good start. Otherwise, you can try a combination of social media, online advertising, and being on the right sales platform.
Whether you want to add some merch to your current business or campaign or whether you want to set-up a new print-on-demand store, the tips above will get you started. With zero risk or outlay, it’s certainly worth a try. Click here to get started today with Printful.