Print On Demand (POD) is a fun and potentially lucrative endeavor that can make you anything from side hustle money to full-blown business money. Whether you already have a brand established or you’re looking for a new way to make money online, POD is one of the best ways to start an online store, even if you’ve never sold anything online in your life. It’s one of the easiest ways to create your own brand selling products like apparel, mugs, posters, and other types of merch. You can read a more in-depth description of how print-on-demand works in this post.
There are many different POD companies out there that all have slightly different business models, so it can be difficult to decide which one to choose in the beginning. Before signing up to work with a POD company, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you want to establish your own brand and customer relationships, or just take a stab at it and see what sells before taking it more seriously?
Are you willing to pay the base price for products when your customers place an order, or would you rather just collect your margins when you make a sale?
Do you have a lot of designs made, or do you still need to come up with and create some?
Do you have a marketing plan to promote your own website, or would you prefer a marketplace with a built-in audience?
There are POD businesses that support all of these options, and they all have their own pros and cons. Some work better if you already have your own store, while others are strictly a marketplace where you sell your designs alongside thousands of other designers. Regardless of what you’re looking for, once you discover the world of Print On Demand, you’ll probably end up working with more than one of these companies. Aside from the opportunity to find different products from one company to the next, it also helps to have a backup company in case something is out of stock at another.
These next two lists are the most popular print on demand companies and the pros and cons of their service. Whether you’re a POD newbie or an experienced seller looking for new products and income opportunities, I hope you’ll find something that helps you meet your goals and make more money.
(This post contains affiliate links, because a girl’s gotta eat.)
Private Label Print on Demand Companies
Private label print-on-demand companies are for selling products through your own online store that you manage. You’ll need to have a shop on at least one selling platform like Etsy, Shopify, WooCommerce, or Amazon Seller.
(Don’t have a store yet? I highly recommend starting with Etsy, it’s the perfect introductory platform.)
With a private label POD company, you upload your designs on their products and sync them to your store. When a customer places an order, you pay the base price to have the product printed and shipped. You can sell your products for any price you want, but you have to pay for each product ordered. What’s nice about these companies is that everything your customer receives appears to have come from your business. Your packing labels and invoice slips will include your logo, and with some companies, you can create your own t-shirt neck labels, which is great if you want to establish a serious brand.
Here are my top private label print-on-demand companies:
In my experience, Printful is the king of Print on Demand. As I discussed in my first POD-related post, I use them for both my Etsy and Shopify stores. With Printful you can sell your designs on men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, posters, coffee mugs, jewelry, bags, and more. They even have an embroidery department that will embroider designs on products like apparel, hats, and aprons. Whenever I check out a new POD company, I measure them up to Printful because their overall service, in my opinion, is the best I’ve come across in the world of POD.
- Custom packing labels and invoices
- Custom neck labeling for some apparel products
- Excellent customer service via live chat and email
- Very high success rate (out of thousands of orders I’ve only had a couple of errors, and Printful refunded or replaced them every time)
- Option to include a gift message on your invoice, which also hides the price of the product if someone orders as a gift (priceless during the holiday season!)
- Most of my orders have shipped in 4 business days or less, which keeps customers happy
- Syncs with 17 different selling platforms (the most of any POD on this list), including Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, and eBay
- Updates your order as it’s in process and includes ship date estimates
- More expensive than a lot of other POD companies
- Occasional delays on high-demand products that can take more than a week to ship
- Less variety for popular products like mugs and women’s sweatshirts/hoodies
Overall, the reason I stick to Printful is because I’m a control freak. With POD, there are so many aspects outside of my control – important things like when the product will ship and whether or not the right product is even in the package! Ultimately, Printful has the most transparent process and I know I can get in touch with someone quickly if I need to, which is a big deal when almost everything is outsourced. Sign up for Printful here.
Printed Mint has similar products and prices to Printful but they also do foil printing, so you can sell all kinds of gold or silver foil products. They also have blankets, cosmetic bags, camping mugs, and clear glass mugs. So hot right now.
Printed Mint Pros:
- Full branding available with customizable packing slips and colors
- Foil printing available
- Excellent customer service
- High-quality, unique products (I really like their canvas cosmetic bags and have sold tons of them)
- Lovely selection of styled mockups for your store
Printed Mint Cons:
- Only syncs to Etsy and Shopify
- Smaller apparel selection than some other POD sites
- Fewer customization options for your files once you upload them to your product
- No processing updates like Printful, although everything I’ve purchased through Printed Mint has shipped in less than a week
Printify is a POD platform that outsources all the work to several print companies they work with. When you go to print a product with Printify, you’ll have several print companies to choose from. The most popular one, and the only one I’ve ever used through Printify, is called DJ. They are not always the cheapest, so if you want to fully trust each printer available through Printify, you’ll want to order samples and ensure it’s up to your standards to prevent unpredictable quality and angry customers. Despite the huge variety of unique products, it’s because of this inconsistency that I almost never use them anymore, but I know a ton of people use them with lots of success.
- Bigger product variety, especially with women’s apparel products and unique home decor
- Lower prices than a lot of other POD companies
- Branding available for your shipments
- Neck label printing available
- Only syncs to Etsy, Shopify, and WooCommerce
- The work is outsourced – multiple printing companies can lead to less consistent quality
- Paid subscription required for multiple shops
- Less transparency about your product status and when it will ship
Gooten is another POD company that outsources printing to other companies. I have not yet tried them so I don’t have personal experience to speak from, but I know lots of people love Gooten for their unique variety of products and lower starting price points than most Printful products.
- Huge variety of unique products, especially on-trend apparel
- Lower prices than many POD companies
- Flexible editing allows you to easily adjust your design on multiple products
- Custom order form tailored to your branding
- Outsources the work to other fulfillment companies
- Only syncs with Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon
TeeLaunch is only available if you have a store through Shopify. You can access it through the Shopify app store, where you can then sign up and sell your designs on their assortment of products. I used Teelaunch for awhile at the recommendation of a client, and nothing beats their prices ($3.50 for a mug? Get outta town). However, I found that their uploading process is not as user-friendly as Printful and it’s not as easy to adjust your design to fit the product how you want. I also found their customer service to be lacking, but again – $3.50 for a mug! You can’t beat that.
- Some of the lowest POD prices you’ll find
- Custom packaging available
- One of the biggest selections of POD products I’ve seen
- Requires a Shopify account for access
- No gift message option on the order receipt (of course everyone wanted a gift message when I sold TeeLaunch mugs last holiday season)
- Customer service was pretty meh when I needed help
- No status updates before the order ships
Print On Demand Marketplaces
Print on demand marketplaces work differently from the previous list in that their website is the storefront. Rather than using these companies to sell products through your own store, you can create a seller profile which allows you to upload your designs on their products and sell them in their marketplace. Most of them allow you to have a profile that links to all your products, so you can share your items via social media that way, but in most cases, you won’t have a custom shop domain or an official “storefront.” It’s less official in terms of a brand identity, but the tradeoff is that it’s a much more passive and hands-off process.
If you’re just testing the waters for Print on Demand and you’re not ready to start an official store just yet, this is the perfect way to get your feet wet and see what sells.
POD Marketplace Pros:
- You don’t need your own website or storefront
- Free to upload your product designs
- No paying out-of-pocket for the base price of the order
- The marketplace handles all printing, shipping, returns, and financial obligations
- Access to a built-in audience that trusts the marketplace and their established brand
- Awesome way to display your artwork alongside thousands of other artists
POD Marketplace Cons:
- Limited branding – your products are partially under the marketplace brand, so when people buy something they’re more likely to say “I got it on Society6!” rather than “I got it from -your brand name-.”
- Many products have pre-set profit margins so you have no control over how much you make per sale
- Only get paid on payout days (usually once a month, sometimes with a payment threshold)
Society6 is the first POD marketplace I ever tried, and I really like them. They’re well known for their selection of unique home decor, and one of the only I’ve found that offers coffee tables and other pieces of actual furniture. If you make digital patterns, I highly recommend Society6 for the furniture alone. I’ve been using it since 2012 and most of my designs sell on prints, posters, framed artwork, and serving trays. They have sales pretty often, so you can promote your products on your blog or social media along with their sale codes.
Payout: 1st of each month via Paypal, no minimum
Margins: Set your own margins for wall art. You get 10% of the purchase price for all other products.
RedBubble is similar to Society6, but allows you to set your own margins for all of your products, not just a few of them. Their editor is easy to use for uploading your designs, with the option to repeat your design in a pattern, which is cool. You can also add background colors for each product, so you can make one file and add it to products in all sorts of color varieties.
Payout: 15th of each month via Paypal; $20 minimum
Margins: Set them to anything you want
CafePress is a popular choice for selling t-shirts because they’re so cheap (and they have lots of sales). I haven’t signed up yet so I don’t have personal experience with this one, but plan on taking advantage of their lawn signs for the 2020 election.
Payout: Monthly via Paypal or check
Margins: 5-10% of the base price
Amazon Merch is the easiest way to sell Prime-eligible apparel on Amazon.com without setting up your own Amazon storefront (which personal experience has taught me is the biggest pain in the ass of all time). Sadly, Amazon Merch is ALSO a pain in the ass, but it does get your products on Amazon without the headache of an Amazon Seller Account and FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon, which requires sending them stock so your products are Prime eligible, which defeats the purpose of Print on Demand).
First, you have to apply to join the Amazon Merch marketplace. When you submit your application, they will give you an estimated wait time. I was accepted in June of 2019. They told me it would take about 2 weeks, but I was accepted within a week. It helps to have an existing store with a bunch of designs to show that you know what you’re doing and they’re not wasting spots on someone with no designs. By what I’ve seen, it’s extremely competitive.
Once you’re approved to set up a store, you only have a limited number of products you can upload per day and sell at a time. I’m still on the bottom tier, which allows me to upload one product a day and sell 10 products at a time. Once I make 25 sales I’ll unlock the ability to sell more. This is a true test of my patience because I have way more than 10 designs but I can’t upload them until I make 25 sales, which would be a lot easier to do if I could add. more. designs. *Sighs dramatically*
Payout: Monthly via bank transfer
Margin: Set whatever prices you want. I’m keeping mine pretty low until I make my first 25 sales and move up a tier.
I hope this helps make it easier for you to decide which print on demand service is right for you. Ready to open your own print-on-demand Etsy shop? Grab my step-by-step walkthrough here and you’ll have your store up and running in a weekend.