Making Money with Print on Demand: A Newbie’s Guide

  • Time to read: 14 min.

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Dollars from Cents is all about how to make money without spending a fortune.Print on demand fits perfectly within this model because it allows you to sell your products to people without having to carry an inventory. Lots of people these days are making a good side hustle (and some even full-time income) exclusively from print on demand.

This newbie guide to making money with print on demand is meant to be your one-stop-shop for everything you need to get started. So if you’ve ever seen a witty t-shirt or a funny-looking coffee mug and thought, “Hey, I can come up with something like that!,” then read on, because this guide will tell you everything you need to know to make money with print on demand (POD).

A POD business is the perfect side hustle for people who don’t have a lot of money to invest upfront and want more control over their inventory! In this blog post I’ll help you understand what print on demand is, explore how to make money with it, figure out whether it’s right for you, and show you where to start if you decide to move ahead.

The content will be broken up into different sections for easier reading, and each section has links at the end of it that can take you to more information about its topic.

What is print on demand?

The first thing for any newbie to understand when looking into print on demand is to understand what exactly it is. Print on demand means you print one copy of any design that you want, when a customer orders it. In contrast to traditional print runs which produce a large number (usually hundreds or thousands) of copies that go into inventory until they’re sold–print on demand allows for more flexibility in printing quantities as well has having shorter turnaround times because it usually doesn’t have any initial set-up costs.

This also means that you don’t have to spend a lot of money up front. With print on demand stores you only pay a percentage of the sales you make. If you don’t make any sales, you don’t have to worry!

How does the POD process work?

So print on demand, otherwise known as POD, is a relatively simple process. The process for making POD products can be simplified into four relatively simple steps:

  1. Make your design (or have it made for you)
  2. Choose a POD platform
  3. Decide on which products you want to create
  4. Promote your stuff
Print on demand process.

Come up with your design(s)

The first step in making money with printing on demand is to come up with a cool design. You can either do this yourself or pay someone to do it for you. Either way, you want a design that potential buyers will be drawn to so that your products will be more likely to sell.

The design should either have a specific theme or be very simple and versatile so that you can use it on other things, like t-shirts for example (more about this in the next section).

Most people who are successful at print on demand try to keep their designs to a specific theme in order to attract a specific set of customers. You probably don’t want to have cat designs alongside vampire designs, for example. If you did, you’d likely alienate part of your audience.

Some popular themes for print on demand products might include:

  • cats
  • sports
  • funny sayings
  • dogs
  • medieval
  • memes
  • geometric designs

If you’re just starting out and are trying to think of a design or a theme, start by finding designs that other people have already done for a specific theme or topic. You’ll get some good ideas and from there be able create your own products. Don’t forget, thought, that you don’t want to use someone else’s design without their permission because that design belongs to them.

Another thing you can do to help you come up with a theme or design is to really nail down who your potential customers are. Do you want to sell to mom’s with little kids? Or teenagers who like baseball? Or tweens that love to play Minecraft? By defining who your potential customers are up front, you’ll be able to better focus on your designs.

Make your own designs

Speaking of designs, if you’re going to make your own designs, you’ll want to make sure that you follow the requirements laid out by the platform you want to sell on. You want your design to look good on whatever product it’s printed on. That means that you’ll likely have to invest in good design software like Adobe Photoshop. Buying a good design software will help you optimize your designs for print on demand.

Buy designs from someone else

Now, what if you’re like me and aren’t as creative in coming up with designs?

Hire an artist if you can't design your own art.
The extent of my drawing abilities.

You can hire someone to make the design(s) for you. The good thing about hiring someone to do the designs for you is that they already know what works for print on demand and likely have experience in graphic design. They will also already have the software to make the designs (and know how to use it).

There are lots of places online where you can hire print on demand designers. Some websites include:

These are all popular crowd design sites where you can find tons of designers to choose from who specialize in print on demand graphics. Be sure that the designer is willing/able work with your file types (.PSD/.AI/) before hiring them! You don’t want anything getting lost because they’re not compatible formats. Also, if you’re not really sure where to start with your designs and need professional help coming up with something, you can always try Pinterest to get some ideas.

Once you upload your design to one of the websites, you can decide what type of products to put your design on. Different websites have different types of products but some of the products you can use are t-shirts, mugs, mousepads, long sleeve shirts, and hats.

Choose a print on demand service

The second step to successfully making money with print on demand is to choose a POD platform. There are lots of platforms that you can choose from. Be sure and do your due diligence so that you can be sure the platform offers what you need. Before you choose a specific POD platform, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for. Some questions to ask yourself might be:

What products do I want to sell?

How much do the products cost?

How much product inventory do I need to have on hand (if any)?

Do I have to pay a monthly fee or will the products be for a one time purchase?

What is the shipping cost per item sold?

What services does this POD platform offer that are beneficial in my business type (ie: custom website design, marketing tools)?

Do they charge any fees above their service prices such as percentage of sales made?

Does the POD platform have an affiliate program so others can sell my items online as well?

How many designs/products can I make at once before uploading new ones onto the site?

Can the uploaded images work without resizing?

Not all of the above questions might be relevant to your situation but these are a good place to start.

Once you have a list of questions in mind, you can start checking out some of the POD services below.


Printful is one of the most popular print on demand platforms. The reason it’s so popular is because it’s easy to use and has an excellent affiliate program.

Printful will print your items, handle shipping from the printer warehouse for you (for a small handling fee), as well allow customers to purchase products directly off of your site with just one click! They also have great support which is always nice when starting out in the print on demand business. The Printful setup process takes around 30 minutes but it’s pretty intuitive.

You can set up your own store on Printful or sell through your own Shopify or Etsy storefronts.


Redbubble is another online POD platform that makes it easy to upload your artwork, customize products with text and images, or design templates from scratch, as well as take care of the printing and shipping. Products can be sold on Redbubble’s site or on your own storefront. One of the reasons I like Redbubble is because they have a very large community of artists and makers, so there’s already established content for you to sell if you don’t want to make your own designs.


Like Printful, Spreadshirt is a great platform if you’re just starting out because the process is very intuitive and easy to use. You can set up your own store on Spreadshirt without any upfront costs but they do charge a fee for every item that you sell. Spreadshirt is great for selling customized t-shirts, laptop cases and other items. It might not be as easy to upload your own designs (like on Redbubble or Printful) but it does have a large library of templates that you can use if want something ready made for sale on the site without too much hassle or design work involved.


Teepublic started out doing print on demand for t-shirts but now have a large selection of products including phone cases, laptop sleeves and mugs. They also offer more templates than Spreadshirt but the process is just as intuitive to use with no upfront costs for you store design or product uploads (just like on Redbubble). The main drawback with doing POD at Teepublic is that they don’t offer any of the tools that some other companies have for analytics, SEO or marketing in general. If you’re looking to do more than just sell t-shirts then Teepublic is a great option but if not and those features are important (and relevant) I recommend Redbubble.


Zazzle has been around for quite some time and most POD-ers have heard of them. Zazzle is different than the other platforms in that they have a whole range of products available, including phone cases and laptop sleeves. They offer the widest variety in terms that they are not limited to just shirts or prints like Redbubble is with their t-shirts only model (though you can use any product template). They also give more information on your sales data than Teepublic offers.


I remember when I first learned about print on demand services. It seemed that the only player in town was CafePress. The company has been around for a long time and is still going strong. They have all the features of any other POD site but they also offer products like mugs, hats with logos on them (and as I’m writing this it’s snowing outside so that would be perfect!), novelty items such as pens or magnets – pretty much anything you can think of. If you’re looking for a POD company that has been around for a long time, CafePress is a company you should check out.


Society6 is another POD company that offers all the features found on any other site. They have a nice range of products available like shirts, mugs, bags, and more! You can upload your own artwork or purchase art directly through Society6’s marketplace section (and just like with CafePress they offer many items not listed in their store but that you might want). One thing I really appreciate about this website is how easy it was for me when setting up my account – no complicated uploading process as there are plenty ready made templates already created by graphic designer professionals.


Gearbubble is another POD service. One of the things that differentiates Gearbubble from other POD sites is that they offer a “bundle” option for products. For example, you could purchase 100 t-shirts at once and then sell them off individually to make an extra profit on the shirts or create your own custom bundles of items that would work well together like (bracelets + patches). This type of order fulfillment model can be really useful depending on what you need.

Decide on the products you want to create

The next step in the POD process is figuring out which products you want to sell. Each POD platform has its own products you can sell. The way to decide which products to sell is to think of your customers and the kinds of items they might be interested in purchasing. If you’re selling to people that don’t wear t-shirts, it probably doesn’t make sense to sell your designs on t-shirts, for example.

The great thing about POD is that there are lot of different products you can put your designs on.

Types of products that you can sell with print on demand services

Promote your designs/products

The final step is figuring out how to best promote your designs and sell products. One way to do this is by creating a blog post on your website about your products and linking to the product on one of POD platforms.

Another way is by getting reviews from bloggers that have website audiences similar in size as yours who are willing give you honest feedback. Finally, promote the products on your social media or email newsletters so that potential buyers can see the items being used. (It’s a good practice to wear your own items on your social media sites.)

What are some of the benefits to using POD services?

If you’re just starting out looking for opportunities to make money online, selling items through print on demand is a great option, especially considering the time and effort involved. There are lots of benefits from choosing print on demand over other money making opportunities like investing in bitcoin or earning money by advertising on your car.

The first benefit to print on demand is that you can make money with a business without having to spend anything upfront. (You don’t even need a website!) The only thing that print on demand requires is the investment of your time and creativity and a printing partner to get things started.

Another related benefit is that you don’t have any risk when using POD sites, so if things go bad (like you don’t have any sales) all losses are limited since there weren’t many risks taken up front to begin with.

Additionally, creating a print on demand product is a great way to advertise your brand or create additional brand awareness among your fans (while increasing income). Let’s say that I wanted to design clothing around my Dollars from Cents brand. It would be easy enough to do and I could advertise those POD products on my website which already has existing customers.

What are some drawbacks to using POD services?

Of course with any online business model, there are some drawbacks to using online print on demand platforms. One drawback is that if you’re not very creative, it could be hard to come up with designs that will bring in any income.

Another negative is that if you use designs that relate to current popular culture, those designs could quickly become outdated and you’ll have to make sure you are constantly cranking out new designs.

Finally, when using POD platforms like Printful, you don’t really have control over order fulfillment which could impact how soon your customers get their items.

Tips to keep in mind when starting your own POD business

Now that you have a little bit of a background on how print on demand services work, it’s time to share with you some tips that will help you make your POD business a success.

Tip #1: Use designs that can become classics

One of the best ways to use print on demand services is by creating classic and timeless custom designs. This way, you will not have a problem with your products becoming outdated or irrelevant.

Tip #2: Create multiple products

Don’t limit your store to just one or two products. Because it’s so easy to create print on demand products, you should really think about creating multiple products and designs so you can appeal to a wider audience.

Tip #3: Invest in high quality materials

When it comes to print on demand, the material that you use is really important. You don’t want your product falling apart or looking cheap because of a low-quality fabric. If you’re doing clothing, don’t skimp out on bad fabric just to save a few bucks because you won’t have any repeat customers if you do that.

Tip 4: Invest in high quality art

If you want to make money with print on demand, then the quality of your product is really important. One way that this can be improved without a huge investment upfront would just by buying better artwork or using quality photo software to make your designs stand out.

Tip 5: Don’t use copyrighted images

Just because you see a shirt or mug with a picture of your favorite artist or basketball team logo doesn’t mean you can do that. It’s against the law to use copyrighted images for your own personal or business use. Stick with designing your own artwork or paying someone to create something for you.

Tip 6: Keep up with trends

If you’re going to make money through print on demand, then it is important that your products are relevant in the marketplace. Keep an eye out for new styles and designs coming onto shelves or online stores so people will be more likely buy from you as opposed to buying what’s available locally.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, print on demand is a great way to make money by promoting stuff you design yourself or by hiring someone to design something for you. It’s a great way to build your brand and show some love to your fans.

FAQ – Making Money with Print on Demand

Can you make money with print on demand?

Yes, you can. There are a lot of different factors that will determine how much you can make.

Where do I start with print on demand?

First read this article to get some ideas on how to approach the print on demand business and possible print on demand platforms you can use.

What are the best selling print on demand products?

The best selling print on demand products are custom design t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and posters. This also depends on your specific audience.

Is it easy to make money with a print on demand store?

It really depends. There are many factors that can affect your success, but the good news is you don’t need a lot of resources or skill sets for this business model as long-as you have an audience willing to buy.

How can I get more people to buy stuff from my print on demand store?

The best way to get more people buying your products is through social media. You need a page with pictures and descriptions of the product on it, along some information about how they can purchase them. Also, you should be wearing your designs in your pictures and posts so that people can get an idea of what you’re selling.

How much does it cost to start a print on demand online store?

It normally shouldn’t cost you anything to start a print on demand business, especially if you are using your own designs. If you hire someone to do the designs for you, it will cost a little more.

Do you need a business license for print on demand?

No, you generally don’t need a business license to sell print on demand products or run a print on demand business.

Is starting a t-shirt print on demand online store profitable?

Like any new business venture, starting a t-shirt print on demand business it has the potential to be really profitable. The amount depends on how much work you put into it.