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1. What is print on demand?

Is print on demand worth it in 2024? Deciding if it's right for you

So, you've heard about print on demand and are wondering if it's the right fit for you in 2024. Well, consider this: the global print on demand market is zooming toward a whopping $10.72 billion by 2025. Impressive, right? But big numbers aside, is print on demand still worth the hype?

Let's discuss the good, the bad, and the in-between to help you determine if this is your next big thing. Ready to dive in? Let's go!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Print on demand (POD) is a low-risk business model that allows third parties to handle production, shipping, and some customer service aspects.

  • Major cost benefits of POD include lowered startup costs, no need for inventory storage, and payment for product production post-order.

  • Pricing strategy in POD is flexible, with profit margins usually between 30-50%. Startup costs for POD can vary between $0 and $5,000.

  • POD offers simplified business processes, cutting down time-consuming tasks and providing streamlined operations and fulfillment.

  • Challenges in POD include ensuring consistent product quality and managing customer delivery expectations.

  • Gelato offers an industry-leading platform for POD with a focus on local production, ensuring timely delivery and scalability.

What is print on demand?

Print on demand is a manufacturing process where products are created as each order is placed, eliminating the need for inventory. It's widely used for books, apparel, and customized goods. When a customer orders, the product is printed, checked for quality, and shipped directly to them. POD reduces upfront costs, mitigates the risk of dead stock, and allows for easy product personalization. It's a sustainable model that minimizes waste and can be conveniently integrated with online stores, making it popular among ecommerce businesses and independent creators seeking to offer a wide range of items, like t-shirts, mugs, wall art, phone cases, photo books, etc., without significant initial investment.

Financial implications of print on demand


Let's consider the costs associated with a POD business model. Unlike traditional retail setups, POD significantly lowers your startup costs. You don’t need to store inventory or manage physical stock, which effectively eliminates storage and logistics costs. Instead, you pay for the production of a product only after a customer has placed an order, thereby eliminating unnecessary financial risks. 

With the right pricing strategy and market research, you can ensure a steady profit margin despite the individual item cost.


A crucial aspect of your financial consideration is understanding pricing in the POD business model. You have the freedom to set your own prices based on what the market can bear, your targeted customer demographics, and your desired profit margin. While it’s tempting to price lower to attract more customers, this can also inadvertently lower the perceived value of your products. Therefore, finding a balance is key.

Calculating potential profit margins

Is print on demand profitable? For starters, the usual profit margin falls between 30-50%.

The beauty of the POD model lies in its remarkable flexibility when it comes to pricing. Since you don't have to worry about the upfront costs related to manufacturing, storing, and unsold inventory, like in a traditional retail model, you have complete control over your pricing strategy. This could translate into higher profit margins if done right. 

As an example, let's say you're selling t-shirts. The production cost for one t-shirt might be around $12, but you can easily sell it for about $25. The difference of $13 would be your gross profit. The same goes for other products like tote bags and posters

Startup costs: What to expect

Startup costs for a print on demand business can range from $0 to $5,000, depending on the scale and complexity.

Embarking on the print on demand (POD) journey is relatively straightforward in terms of startup costs. Unlike traditional ecommerce businesses, POD significantly reduces initial financial commitments. Let's dive into what you can expect in terms of expenses. 

Set-up cost

The primary expenditure is the cost of setting up your online store. Given the vast array of ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, and others, creating an online store has never been more affordable. Each of these platforms provides different packages ranging from basic options suitable for beginners to advanced plans catering to established businesses. With an online business store, you are opening your doors to a global clientele, meaning increased chances of sales and profit. 

Design cost

The design of your merchandise is crucial in the POD business model. There are two primary routes to consider here. You may choose to take a DIY approach, utilizing platforms like Canva and Adobe Illustrator, which are either free or have a minimal fee. Alternatively, you can hire a freelance designer. The cost here would depend on the complexity of your designs, and the reputation and skills of your chosen designer. 

Subscription fee

While most POD platforms, including Gelato, do not charge a subscription fee, some others might. So, it's important to factor potential platform fees into your startup costs. 

The beauty of POD is that it eliminates a huge chunk of traditional retail markup costs – there are no warehousing, bulk manufacturing, or inventory fees to worry about. Your products are created only after a customer places an order, thus keeping your startup costs significantly low. 

Effective pricing strategies for print on demand

Establishing an effective pricing strategy is an indispensable component when it comes to building a successful Print on Demand business. However, bear in mind that this is not merely an arithmetic exercise of calculating cost and adding profit. A well-defined pricing strategy takes into account several significant factors, such as your target market, product value, competition, and perceived value of your product. 

1. Understand your target audience 

Determining who your customers are, their behavior, and their willingness to pay is critical in forming your pricing strategy. For what it's worth, around 40% of consumers are willing to pay more for personalized products. More importantly, it's not about charging what you think your product is worth, but about understanding what your target audience believes it's worth.

2. Analyze competitor pricing 

No business operates in a vacuum. Take the time to analyze your competitors – their pricing structure, the quality of their products, their branding, and customer perception. All of which can provide valuable insights to guide your pricing decisions. Remember, it's not always about being the cheapest. Sometimes, a higher price indicates better quality and service to customers. 

3. Value proposition 

Your pricing should be indicative of the value you’re offering to your customers. Including factors such as product uniqueness, quality, design, and even your brand story can help you justify a higher price point. 

4. Pricing for profit 

Ultimately, your pricing needs to cover your costs and yield a profit. You'll need to account for all the associated costs - production, shipping, marketing, and possibly returned goods. It's also essential to keep in mind any fees imposed by the POD platform you're using.

Benefits of the print on demand business model

Looking for a business model that's straightforward and easy to manage? A system that doesn't demand your constant attention, freeing you to focus on the areas that truly inspire you? That's exactly what print on demand (POD) offers - a simplified way of doing business where complicated tasks like managing stock or handling delivery logistics are a thing of the past. 

From product creation to sales, every step in the POD process is designed to be hassle-free. Let's delve deeper into the mechanisms that make this possible. 

Instant product creation 

One of the major perks of POD is the ease of product creation. You simply upload your designs on your chosen platform, select the items you wish to sell, and voila – your products are ready for customers to purchase. No need for large-scale manufacturing. No need for storage space. Your product comes into existence when your customer decides to buy it. 

Cutting down time consuming tasks 

Running an ecommerce business is often synonymous with having to juggle multiple responsibilities. From stock management to processing returns, the work tends to pile up. With POD, these time-consuming tasks are handled for you. This affords you the luxury of time — time to create, time to market, and time to strategize on expansion. 

Streamlined operations and fulfillment 

The operational and fulfillment side of POD is impressively streamlined. Orders received are directly sent to print on demand suppliers, who print the product, package it, and take care of delivery. This model efficiently bypasses the traditional stages of order fulfillment, which often involve manual tasks and can slow down the delivery process. 

Focused marketing efforts 

Not having to worry about operational tasks allows you to channel your energy and resources into marketing efforts. After all, the success of your POD business largely relies on how effectively you market your products. You can experiment with different marketing strategies to find out which one works best for your brand. 

The hassle-free approach to inventory management

Inventory management can easily become a thorn in the side of any ecommerce business. The traditional model demands keeping track of countless items, potentially leading to overstocking and understocking issues. On top of that, there are complicated logistics to take into account, from warehouse costs to dealing with unsold items. Seems quite a headache, right? 

Now, imagine a hassle-free approach to this scenario. Here's where print on demand truly shines. One of its prime advantages is the streamlined approach to inventory management. Since the production is triggered by a customer order, there's no need to maintain a stocked inventory.

Scalability: Growing your business with print on demand

Isn't it exciting if your business could grow without substantial investment in infrastructure? That is the magic of scalability offered by the print on demand model. 

By using print on demand, you can expand your business seamlessly, whether you're planning on introducing new designs, testing unique products, or moving intonew markets. And the best part? You're not tangled in investment considerations or physical concerns like storing increased quantities of stock. Everything happens virtually, and production occurs only where there's demand.

Challenges in the print on demand industry

Despite the many advantages of the print on demand business model, it's essential to know that it's not without challenges. Like any business model, Print on Demand has unique hurdles that, if unprepared for, may pose significant problems for your ecommerce venture.

Let's delve into some of the common challenges you might confront in the POD industry. 

Ensuring consistent product quality 

In a print on demand business, maintaining a uniform quality across all your products can prove challenging, especially when dealing with many designs and providers. Products are not printed until an order is placed. This means you don't have physical samples to inspect before the goods are delivered to customers. Hence, this raises the risk of inconsistent print qualities or errors. 

One workaround is to order samples before introducing a new design or product line. It allows you to verify quality, design positioning, and other factors contributing to a superior product experience. 

Managing customer expectations 

Another challenge is managing customer expectations, specifically concerning delivery timeframe. Since POD items are created when ordered, production and shipping times may be longer compared to traditional retail models, where goods are pre-made and stored in inventory. Shipping times can also be influenced by the location of your printing provider in relation to your customer’s address. 

Transparency is key to overcoming this hurdle. Be upfront about production and delivery times. By setting clear expectations from the onset, your customers will be more understanding of the additional time required for the creation and delivery of their unique, personalized items.

Introducing Gelato's print on demand platform

With print on demand surpassing expectations in the digital business world, it's only reasonable to partner with someone that does it best. Enter Gelato, a global print on demand platform that's reinventing the print commerce landscape. 

But what makes Gelato's model stand out from the crowd? How does it fit into the complex world of ecommerce in 2024, and how can it make your print on demand business profitable? Let's dive in and answer these questions. 

An industry-leading technological approach 

Gelato's print on demand platform is designed with precision and usability in mind. Its high-tech interface makes running an ecommerce business a smoother, more efficient journey, offering unique features for customization, order management, and global fulfillment. What's more, this powerful platform connects you to more than 100 print on demand sites worldwide, a reach that is hard to parallel.

Meeting demand with local production 

Sell globally, produce locally - that's the mantra at Gelato for print on demand businesses. Our model relies heavily on localized production, meaning customers never have to wait excessively or pay exorbitant shipping charges. This approach also significantly reduces the carbon footprint by cutting down long-distance shipping – a win-win for you and the planet. 

Promises delivered on time, every time 

The key to earning customer loyalty is consistency, and with Gelato, consistency is a given. Our swift delivery model ensures your customers receive their products at the right time, every time. By automating processes such as order tracking and fulfillment, Gelato eliminates the guesswork and gives you more time to strategize and grow your brand. 

Scaling up has never been easier 

Whether you are just starting out or looking to expand your existing ecommerce venture, Gelato offers scalability with quality control like no other. As your customer base grows, so does your production. There's no need to stockpile inventory or worry about storage space - Gelato’s lean model caters to both low-volume and high-volume demands with equal ease.

Ready to venture into the lucrative world of print on demand? Sign up for Gelato today.


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