Why Print on Demand is a Perfect First Online Business Opportunity

by | 20 February 2020 | Print on Demand | 4 comments

8 min read

Chances are high that your journey before arriving here at this article began with typing “how to make money online” into Google at some point in the past. Maybe it was earlier today, last month, or a few years ago.

You have probably already spent a long time browsing through different websites, reading different articles, watching different videos, learning about seemingly infinite different ways to build something on the internet that can make you some money. In this context you have heard about the term “print on demand” and are curious to learn more about it. Good.

To make sure everyone reading on from here is on the same page, let me share some basic information first.

For me there are two kinds of print on demand models available to get started with as an online business:

  1. Running your own website and online shop, working together with a print on demand and fulfilment provider, fully responsible for your own marketing, and in direct contact with customers buying your products.
  2. Using a print on demand platform which takes care of all the customer handling. You’re simply uploading your designs to the platform and whenever a customer buys a product with one of your designs, the platform provider takes care of production, fulfilment, and customer service and pays you a royalty fee for each sale. The most popular platform in this field is Amazon’s “Merch by Amazon” program.

This article is mainly focused around the latter, which has significantly lower requirements to get started.

Now, let’s get into the matter of why I think that the print on demand business offers a great opportunity for anyone interested to get started with building an online business.

Great Side Hustle Potential

The average person interested in building an online business is not able to simply quit their job and get started with it full-time. Despite all gurus trying to tell the world how easy it is to build an income on the internet “if you just follow their formula”, you probably know this is complete bullshit.

While it’s true that there is probably no upper limit to how much an online business can make you (including print on demand), all beginnings are small and take their time. Therefore, to make your first steps towards a growing online income, you will want to find something that seems reasonably doable without requiring too much of your most scarce resource — your time.

The whole process of operating a business on a print on demand platform can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Research — Finding a niche with sales potential.
  2. Creation — Creating digital designs suitable to be printed on products and attractive to your researched niche.
  3. Upload — Making your design available on the platform, provided with the right keywords to make it findable for your target audience.

This is a reasonably manageable amount of steps that you need to get familiar with before having the chance to generate sales and make actual money.

Just compare this to another path that many people choose to get started with their first online business — starting a blog. To start a blog you will need to:

  1. Find and buy a domain.
  2. Figure out how to host your website.
  3. Build your website.
  4. Research content ideas people are looking for.
  5. Create and publish targeted content consistenly to be found and to get traffic to your website.
  6. Think of creative ways to monetize your content.
  7. Learn and integrate those monetization methods into your blog.

And this is already the most simplified list of steps to create a blog, without having had a chance to make even $ 0.01 yet. Doesn’t uploading design files to a marketplace where people can find and buy products with it without you doing anything seem a lot more doable?

Just don’t be fooled to think that starting and running a print on demand business is easy. It will absolutely require a lot of time and will overwhelm you at times. But in comparison to other online business opportunities it is simpler to start out.

If you can free up just a few hours each week to learn and constantly improve those three steps from above, you will eventually make your first sale at some point — and the likelihood of making another sale increases with every single design you upload. That’s how it works with selling something on the internet.

A Tangible Introduction to Ecommerce Dynamics

Another reason why print on demand is a great entry into the online business world in my opinion is that it’s combining something very familiar for anyone — selling and buying simple everyday items like t-shirts — with the infinitely big market that the internet resembles and making it accessible to anyone.

The reason why participating in e-commerce holds such a tremendous opportunity for anyone is the fact that there is literally no upper limit to how much money you can make when selling something online. I illustrated this in the simple chart illustration below.

In the chart you can see a simple comparison of the potential income development of a job vs. selling something online over time.

While a job has the upper hand in the beginning, you will never have the opportunity for exponential growth by getting a promotion and raise every few years. Also, since being paid by the hour and the necessity to sleep every night, the time of generating income is limited to probably a maximum of 16 hours per day. Only in theory though, because at that point you can probably not call it a life anymore.

On the other hand, when selling something on the internet — aka the marketplace that is always open — you can generate an income at any given time, completely detached from what you are doing in the moment. Selling something online has the potential for you to become completely free in managing your own time.

The following quote has been used ad nauseam, however, it really hits the nail on the head: 

If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.

— Warren Buffett

The internet never sleeps. People buy products online literally all the time, no matter what you are doing. Your products could be part of that economy and print on demand is one of the simplest ways to get into it.

And trust me, once you wake up one morning and you see that somebody bought a product with one of your designs that made you a few dollars in royalties while you were sleeping, there is no going back.

Opportunity to Develop a Versatile Skillset

Last but not least, getting into the print on demand business can be a great driver to develop new skills that will be especially useful for any following online business efforts.

It confronts you with learning to analyze market demand and the understanding that you will need to serve to it, rather than trying to push something onto it that you think will be valuable to people. This is probably the biggest learning you can ever make when dealing with any kind of online business, and learning it through a print on demand business might save you from investing a lot of time and capital into something that you might later realize is not solving anyone’s problem, need, or desire.

If you are a creative person versed with Photoshop and Illustrator, this business model is literally made for you. If you’re not yet, but willing to become, you can learn all the necessary skills to create designs worth a few sales from free resources like YouTube in a relatively short time. Especially since often the bestselling designs are not the most complex ones, quite the opposite actually. Learning those skills will also open up a whole new world of creating digital products for you and with it a ton of new opportunities to make even more money online.

The whole business will teach you to get organized in terms of creating sustainable workflows and structuring yourself to become more efficient and to increase your output to increase your income. Each hour spent more could be another few ideas or designs that could sell for weeks, months, and years to come. In your job you might be fine with slacking for the last two hours of your day before going home, but if it’s your own business you will suddenly find yourself staying up an extra two hours to get those extra few designs out. 

Once your business is generating a stable income, you might even be able to consider outsourcing some of your work, e.g. by working with freelance designers to create new designs for you. Then your acquired organization skills will come in handy.

I have only started my print on demand journey about a year ago, but the results so far have convinced me to continue putting a lot of effort into it moving forward. I highly recommend you to have a look at it, if you are looking for a way to get started with some kind of online business in 2020.

You can follow the progress of my print on demand efforts in my monthly print on demand income reports.

If you have any questions or comments, just shoot them in the comments below this article.

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Hi Benny, I found your blog through Buy Me a Coffee. I thought about print on demand, it seemed a reasonable way to start earning money as a graphic artist/illustrator. Unfortunately, I’m not a digital artist, and this means I have to edit my images in order to upload them on platforms like RedBubble, Society6… also, I wasn’t happy that they take up to 90% of the money. I know that they handle most of the issues for me, but still it felt like I had to market my profile and sell a huge amount of mugs, t-shirts or other… Read more »


I’ll have another look at those platforms, I’m at the very beginning of my journey as an illustrator and they can be a great relief in terms of admin. There are so many though, I’m a bit confused! I need to do some research and to compare.
Thank you for this post and your help.