Print on Demand (POD) services have become big business in the dropshipping industry.
It makes sense. People can create their own unique designs, have them printed onto t-shirts, coffee mugs, or any other assortment of merchandise, and shipped off to people all over the world for a small profit.
There are a number of companies who are getting in on the business, streamlining the process, and making it easier for dropshippers to sell their wares.
Determining which one is the best fit for your business can be difficult. We’re going to take a look at a couple different options, but first let’s explore what exactly a Print on Demand company does.
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What Is Print On Demand?
These services allow you to sell custom printed merchandise – everything from t-shirts and mugs to yoga mats and laptop bags.
The company fulfills and ships the orders for you while all you need to do is upload your custom designs and make the sale from your site.
Because of the way the POD business is designed, merchandise isn’t printed until the company receives an order. This allows for prints of singular or small quantity runs.
The industry developed as a result of digital printing, whereas before it was too costly to print small-run or individual products using traditional printing technology.
As a result, many traditional small press companies have replaced their traditional equipment – like letterpress and offset printing machines – with POD equipment, or they will contract their printing to POD service providers.
In fact, many organizations that traditionally do small runs of things like books – think academic publishers like universities – will use POD services to keep their back catalogues available.
All of that means that there is plenty of opportunity for small upstart dropshippers to get in on the action.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to concentrate on the t-shirt printing business and two companies who are making a name for themselves in that segment of the market: Printful and Teelaunch.
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If you peruse the various reviews online, Teelaunch has built itself a decent reputation. On the Shopify online store, for example, the service has a 4.6 star rating, which is nothing to shake a stick at.
Most users appear happy with the quality and speed of turnaround from the service. The company’s Shopify app also makes it easy to customize your shirts, with different colors, sizes, and logo placement.
A sample image of your t-shirt will be available to see how it might look in different colors.
Once you have finished customizing your merchandise, you can hit publish and the shirt is available for people to buy.
You can repeat this process for different shirts, designs, and even different types of merchandise.
Fortunately, Teelaunch makes its pricing model easy to understand. An American Apparel t-shirt with a custom design costs $14 plus $4 for American shipping and $10 for international shipping.
If you charge $20 for your shirt, that means you can make a profit of $2 for each shirt you sell. Prices and profits vary for different products.
The lack of subscription fees and other hidden costs makes Teelaunch an attractive option for dropshippers. All you have to do is make the sale and Teelaunch will print and package the order, shipping it directly to the customer.
Orders can be tracked and updated from your Shopify store, while shipment tracking numbers are available on the Orders dashboard.
Shipping status is updated automatically, and Shopify’s automated notification system sends all of the shipping details directly to your customers.
For a nice personal touch, you can also provide your own logo to be used on the packing slip.
The Shopify dashboard also allows you to set up free shipping rates and Teelaunch offers a discounted rate of 50 percent for store owners.
This allows drop sellers to check the merchandise first to make sure it meets their quality standards.
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After deciding what type of product you want to sell – a t-shirt, or a coffee mug, or any of the myriad of other products they have on offer – you can move on to designing.
Printful design tools allow you to upload images, designs, logos, and more. Essentially, you drag and drop the design onto the product then adjust the size and location.
The company’s guide is quite effective at explaining the process and anything you might need to change after your upload.
One of the nice things about Printify is that it makes printing relatively painless. You don’t need to worry about choosing the best printing method, rather every product the company offers is printed in the way best suited to the product.
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Printful also has a strong quality assurance philosophy. This is good for dropshippers as it insures that if you make a mistake with your order, the merchandise won’t be sent out to a disappointed customer.
This helps maintain the reputation of your business as well as that of Printful.
Another great benefit to choosing Printful is that there are no upfront costs. Essentially, you’re signing up for a free account, designing the merchandise, and listing it all on your website at no charge.
Printful makes its share of the money when you make a sale on your website.
To that end, the company offers a handy profit calculator. So, for example, a Gildan 64000 Unisex Softstyle T-Shirt with Tear Away Label is $8.95. If you sell the shirt for $18, say, then your profit is $9.05.
The company offers this service for all of its other products as well.
Printful is often celebrated for the quality of its products. It’s easy to buy low-end t-shirts and turn them for a big profit, but by all accounts, Printful takes care in choosing the best quality products.
It’s important to take into account of your sample order as well. As we talked about above, it’s important to determine the quality of the products you’re selling for yourself.
The Printful sample orders aren’t quite as good a deal as Teelaunch, with just a 20 percent discount for store owners, but the company throws in free shipping to Canada and all US states and territories.
Similarly, if you order a product from the company’s European facility, the shopping is free across Europe. For all sample orders you receive two products.
Perhaps one of Printful’s greatest strengths is its ability to interact with various ecommerce platforms. Printful works great in tandem with Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, Bigcartel, SquareSpace, and Big Commerce, to name a few.
The company is also highly praised on Shopify, with a 4.7 star rating.
Printful Vs Teelaunch – Final Verdict
In general, Printful ekes out a slight edge over Teelaunch. Printful’s fast shipping, alongside its quality products, make it ideal for dropshippers. It’s easy to set up, offers affordable samples, and has high quality control.
Still, Teelaunch has its own benefits with competitive profit margins and a significantly more affordable sample cost.
Depending on how much you decide to sell your merchandise for, Teelaunch does tend to offer slightly greater profit margins. You could potentially use the extra income to pay for advertising or promotion.
In the end though, Printful takes a very slight advantage over the competition. It will be interesting to see how the two companies stack up a few months from now.THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Hi guys..this is Brian. I started my first e-commerce company in college designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using Print-On-Demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7 figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you get succeed.