It has been suggested that a great way to get readers involved is to take them on a journey of discovery with you. So that is my plan over the next weeks (or even months). I told you in last week’s post that i would be discussing more about POD or Print on Demand ecommerce websites. So I have decided to embark on the project of creating my own ecommerce website and show you step by step as I do this.
The idea of POD products is not new, but the technology has improved greatly in recent years, and combined with the pandemic and POD companies providing more integrated apps, it is finally something that every ecommerce company should be taking a closer look at. My interest initially started based on those who have lost their jobs or been forced into early retirement due to Covid, but the opportunity is there for anyone. Basically Print On Demand is a process of providing designs to a POD partner, who then creates your product when a customer orders it and ships it directly to your customer. Thus, there is no upfront cost or inventory to worry about, which makes it a great ecommerce business model, whether you are already selling physical products or not.
Other ecommerce models fit these criteria: selling digital goods like ebooks, courses, and memberships, or having a drop-ship business model. None of these requires you to maintain an inventory and they allow you to work from anywhere whenever you want. Digital downloadable products might be uniquely yours but selling non-tangible products is challenging. Drop ship business models can also give you time and location independence, but the products will not be unique to you, and thus the margins are often tight. Print on Demand gives you all this and can be a stand-along business model or it can easily be added on top of what you are already doing.
Let’s say you already have a physical store, but you don’t want to get involved in shipping or warehousing. Perhaps your shop is located in a mountain town – so you create products related to your town. It’s simple enough to make a t-shirt that has a picture of an elk on it and put the words “Estes park” on it. Or let’s say you have a shop targeted to car enthusiasts, so you create designs that appeal to car buffs. The products can range from t-shirts to coffee mugs, to duffel bags and back packs to car seat covers, blankets, socks and shoes and more. It turns out you can print on just about anything! Take a look at the website I am working on, AdventuresInSkiing.com to see just some of the kinds of products you can create. In my case, the products I’m creating for my POD store are all skiing related, but you can create products like umbrellas, flipflops, dresses, and more. Here’s how to get started.
First, you will want to have either a WooCommerce store or a Shopify store. While some POD companies work with other shopping carts, these are the big 2. I recommend working with POD companies that also integrate with at least Etsy and perhaps eBay and amazon. The reason is that you will want to put your designs out on the major marketplaces, not just your store, so that you can start to grow a following. Publish where the people are, which is on the marketplaces that already have a lot of traffic.
Next, you will need to create your own designs. The designs are critical, as you don’t want to appear amateurish. Let’s take a look at the complete process of building a design, and publishing it with a POD partner, In this case, Printful.
I’m going to start by doing a Google search on “Funny Ski t-shirts.” The reality is, I may not want to sell t-shirts, but they are a great place to get sayings. Bumper stickers are also a great place to collect sayings. For example, in my search, I uncovered a saying “Just Send it.” That can be used on lots of different types of merchandise.
Note: You must exercise caution to not use any copyrighted material including logos and slogans. Use only public domain images and freely available wording and come up with your own designs.
Next I want to find a graphic to go with this saying. this is not absolutely necessary – you can make a “design” using nothing but the quote, but I want to add something to this, so I head over to Pixabay and do a search for “skiing silhouette” and change the image type to “vector graphics.” It is not necessary to use vector graphics, but they are clean and make for nice simple designs. I use Paint Shop Pro, but you can use whatever graphic design program you prefer, even online tools like Canva or LunaPic.
Here is the resulting graphic I came up with.
The cyan color is set to transparent so the shirt color will come through. Now I head over to Printful and select the product I want (I have already integrated my store with Printful).
Then, I upload my design and select the colors I want to use.
Next, locate the design on the item.
Now we proceed to mockups and select the mockup style we want to use.
The details page allows you to modify the title, description, and category (or categories) the item belongs to. This default description is provided by the POD partner, and the categories are from your integrated store. Note: Not all POD companies allow you to set the categories from their plugin – with many of them you may have to edit the product afterwards from your store to set the categories.
OK, now it’s time to set your prices. These can be whatever you want them to be to get the margins you need. Prices for most POD partners do NOT include shipping, which for Printful is $4 per t-shirt. Their plugin (app) does include integrated shipping however, so you can just set this to use Printful’s shipping rates and not worry about it.
Ready fr the magic to happen? Click on the “Submit to store” button and the app will upload it into your store!
Let’s head over to my Woocommerce store, and we can see that the product is live!
Here’s the best part: when someone orders this on my store, the order is sent automatically to my POD partner (in this case, Printful). They make the shirt to the customer’s specifications (size, color, image), and ship it directly to the customer using my website name. I keep the difference between the POD cost and my selling price. I’ve never touched the product, even though it is only available through me.
In future posts I’ll go over how to create other types of products, other POD partners, using marketplaces like Etsy, and marketing to drive your ideal customers to find your products.
This business model is perfect for early retirees, stay-at-home moms, anyone who was recently laid off due to Covid, college students, and especially as a way to expand your already existing online store.