Amazon Print-on-Demand stores are blowing up right now! According to a recent survey, the average Amazon store is only 3.9 years old and does $40,472 a month in sales! We recommend building your store with Shopify and adding the Amazon Merchant app to get the best of both worlds!
In the post, you'll learn how to:
Choose good Print-on-Demand products
Build an online store
List your inventory for sale on Amazon
Table of Contents
There are few things in the world as personal and expressive as clothing.
The last decade has seen thousands of online clothing retailers mushrooming across the world. Utilizing the talents of graphic artists and printing experts alike, it’s easier than ever before to make bespoke clothing; and print-on-demand services have made that possible.
While designing a T-shirt may seem simple, you might be wondering - ‘how easy is it to set up a print-on-demand business of my own?’
To put it simply - the entry costs, economies of scale, and skills required to successfully run an online clothing line have never been this accessible. The custom t-shirt printing market is projected to cross $10 billion in 2025, and designers have largely turned away from the sluggish inventory management, high initial costs, and inflexibility of wholesale textile makers in favor of print-on-demand (POD) models.
Before we get started on a guide though, let’s address the elephant in the room:
What’s The Difference Between Print-On-Demand And Dropshipping?
Even if you’re a complete novice in the realm of e-commerce, chances are that you've heard of the term ‘dropshipping’.
Put simply, drop shipping refers to a business model where the seller accepts orders for products that aren’t necessarily in its inventory. When an order is placed, the seller automatically reaches out to a partnered manufacturer, who then pushes out the product to the dropshipper - and many others like them. Several of the products you see influencer marketers peddling on Instagram and Twitter accounts are dropshipped to their buyers.
While sellers do save on initial investments by not needing to bother on inventory management and buying said initial inventory, the profit margins on dropshipping are considerably low - you’ll see why in a moment.
So What Is Print-On-Demand, And Why Is It A Good Idea For Your Clothing Business?
Print-On-Demand, or POD, has several similarities to dropshipping - in both cases, the seller is not directly responsible for manufacturing the product itself. You place an order with your partnered manufacturer, who satisfies the order and delivers your product - without any need for massive inventory space or expensive printer investments upfront.
The biggest difference is that with POD, you’re selling your own, unique product. Dropshippers usually sell products that are targeted by thousands of rival businesses with the same model - forcing you as a seller to rely solely on marketing gimmicks and brand fame to turn a good profit. While several online articles suggest that dropshipping is easy money, it takes a lot of hard work, luck, and business acumen to make a dropshipped business work well - especially when everyone is undercutting everyone else for the same products.
POD businesses, however, rely on you to develop your designs - designs that can be protected through copyright and registration. Regardless of what you get your designs printed on - from pillowcases to hoodies and backpacks - you are ultimately crafting a unique product that competitors can never (legally) sell, making a significant guard against rival companies.
POD is also highly flexible when it comes to the manufacturing process. Recent advances in fabric printing technology allow for excellent quality and speed. Many providers can reliably churn out products that rival the texture, longevity, dye quality, and speed of manufacturing of major brands - complete with unique designs that can’t be found in most stores.
POD products also have a more comfortable margin of error for fledgling businesses. After choosing a manufacturer, you may discover that one genre of your designs isn’t selling very well - but another is beginning to show signs of promise. POD allows you to quickly and easily change your store lineup as quickly as you can send designs to your manufacturer, with no extra cost. Most manufacturers do not have minimum order amounts and will only print and charge for orders that come through - allowing you to be flexible and find out what products sell better with little downside.
Convinced? Let’s dive into the basics.
Getting Started with Print-on-Demand
Before locking in on your business plan, there are a few key decisions to make surrounding a POD clothing business. While any product can sell, it takes nuance and planning to make a business scalable and earn you great profits over time.
Choosing Your Product
Before you can make any other decision for your clothing line, you will need to decide on the kind of clothing you want to sell.
Fortunately, we’ve all developed some intrinsic know-how when it comes to clothes and our personal preferences. Clothing is a truly diverse market with dozens of basic staples to start with, such as:
Tops: T-shirts are a tried and tested winner, although depending on the identity you’d like your brand to have, you may want to go for anything from full-sleeved tees to polos, hoodies, sweatshirts - if you’re looking at athletic or leisurewear, you may even want to consider tank tops/crop tops - just make sure your designs fit on them.
Dresses: A great option that’s been picking up in fashionability in recent years, print dresses allow for a larger canvas and more abstract patterns than most other forms of apparel.
Yoga Pants: A big hit with fitness-minded folks around the world, custom-printed yoga pants are a great option for when people want to show a little custom flair during their workouts.
Pajamas: On the other end of the spectrum, there’s nothing better for a lazy day indoors than a set of comfy pajamas with unique prints. Given the work-from-home marathon that many of us have been on for over a year, people have begun to want something special and unique to wear, even when on their weekend Netflix binges.
Underwear: A surprise hit that might draw a few laughs at home, custom underwear is a fun gift idea for a partner or friend that they’d never see coming. This is a great place to showcase some cheeky creativity - and a unique POD twist that can work wonders on social media.
The sky’s the limit, honestly.
POD manufacturers have been in the business for several years and can get your designs on any garment known to man - from socks to sweatshirts. Whatever you choose, make sure it resonates well with your niche - which brings us to…
Developing a Niche
Like any customer, your POD brand will have some kind of personality that attracts attention and interest from different kinds of people.
As for discovering what works best, it is generally ideal to first consider what kind of apparel you would like to own and wear. Maybe you already own a set of prints that you love and resonate with - so whether you like positive quotes, funny illustrations, abstract geometry, or cute animals, figure it out. Not only is it likely that you will better understand how to market your POD business when you share interests with your customers - but you’ll also naturally pick better designs and have a higher degree of job satisfaction.
There’s always the danger of going too far into a niche though - you still want your POD business to turn up a healthy profit. To better understand which zone works best for you, use tools such as Google Trends to figure out how popular your potential niches are. Another good idea to stop by at relevant message boards such as Reddit - this will give you an idea of how active a niche community is, and if they may be interested in purchasing your product.
Once you’ve locked down on a niche, try and determine which products work best with which designs. While unisex items such as hoodies and T-shirts can go either way, perhaps yoga pants and dresses could skip the bro-code weightlifting designs you had in mind.
You can also benefit by using existing marketplaces to your advantage while researching niches. Once you’ve envisioned a few products, try scouring some of these e-commerce websites to find similar products as the ones you’ve envisioned:
eBay in particular is very useful, as it gives you transparent, real-time data on the number of products sold.
If you find a successful product in a similar space as your idea, you’re onto a safe bet. If you don’t find a similar product but are confident that a hidden audience for it exists - you may have struck gold!
Two Kinds Of Niches - Case Studies
The hardest part when it comes to selecting a niche is possibly figuring out which idea balances well between uniqueness and mass appeal.
To better understand how some successful POD apparel companies made their brand choices, let’s take a closer look. (Amusingly, they both involve founding fathers, if you’ll excuse the pun.)
Made on Shopify and founded by parents Nick and Darlene Abrams, StomaStoma is a POD business that makes apparel designed for children and adults who live with stomas - medically required openings in the windpipe or digestive tract.
The concept originated when the couple’s young son was born requiring a tracheostomy. Nick put his skills as a designer to use to create unique and empowering designs that help normalize a medical condition that leaves thousands of people ostracized and helpless - forming a community of survivors and family members that have found his products inspiring and lighthearted.
While StomaStoma is aggressively specific in terms of the niche it occupies, its unique designs and excellent community message have brought it tons of attention and admiration - from ostomates to regular folks looking to make a difference and support a good cause.
In Nick’s own words - ‘We're a family of people that are proud of who we are and the path we're on, even if it is really hard. Art on shirts isn’t going to change the world but we believe it can be one part of taking this overwhelming and scary situation and make it a little bit better.’
On the other end of the spectrum is Classic Dad - a meme-page turned apparel store that focuses on all things dad. With around 74.5 million fathers in the U.S., it’s fair to say that Classic Dad isn’t particularly niche, although they have a simple focus on the average American family man.
Back in 2019, brand founder Daniel Stone set up a POD fulfillment framework through Shopify, and the rest is history. His team even considered relying on local print shops in the past, but have found even better long-term success through relying on POD manufacturers.
Over time, Daniel also began to recognize individual dad preferences. His team began to cater fitting to different ages of men - younger dads preferred well-fitted t-shirts while older ones liked loose fits that allowed them to relax at home with the family, with a fun quip printed on the chest.
Starting as a meme page, the business also heavily understands the value of social media and takes up design ideas from user-generated content as well.
Preparing Your Designs
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s address the key differentiator of your POD business - your designs.
This is where skills as a graphic designer can come in handy. Whether you’re a professional or an amateur with a grasp of the basics, understanding basic design trends, and Photoshop techniques can allow you to easily turn a quirky, unique idea from your mind into reality.
What If You’re Hopeless At Design?
If you have a highly specific or detailed design in mind and don’t have the skills to execute it, don’t worry. Websites such as Fiverr allow you to snag graphic design commissions at all kinds of rates, although we’d recommend that you try to find someone you know well and can collaborate with regularly to release new products over time. DesignPickle is another great space to find the right kind of designer-entrepreneur relationship you need.
This comes at a price, however - once that will affect your early business viability. To get around this, consider working with simple typography and shapes. Alternatively, you can use and modify copyright-free designs from websites such as Creative Market.
Remember, never copy-paste another designer’s work. This is unprofessional and can lead to severe legal issues.
Once you’ve got a few designs ready to go, ensure that you save your files in high DPI to avoid blurriness when printing, and make sure that your prints can realistically fit on the apparel you choose.
Creating A Website
Once you’ve got a set of designs, to begin with, it’s time to create a marketplace to sell them on - your POD brand website.
Generally speaking, you’re better off relying on dedicated e-commerce capable website builders, rather than enlisting the services of a web developer to craft your website from the ground up. This is because:
Most POD websites require little more than good product displays, a robust checkout system, and brand-specific customization options - all of which come standard on most website builders.
Relying on a 100% custom-built website comes with heavy upfront costs - good web developers don’t come cheap.
Website builders have dedicated teams that help minimize website downtime. In the case of an issue or change, relying on a personal developer is time-consuming and will result in significant downtime for your website and its profits.
It isn’t the early 2000s anymore - modern website building is easy, hassle-free, and even quite fun once you get a hang of the basics.
If you happen to be a web developer yourself, take a shot at it - although we’d still recommend the easy (and smart) way out.
Once your website is established, you'll need to set up your Amazon Merchant account and then add the Amazon app to your online store in order to list your inventory on Amazon.
When it comes to website builders, there’s a dime a dozen on the internet right now. Some of the best for POD e-commerce websites are:
All of these are easy to use, accessible on all platforms, and provide the tools you need to get started. Remember to focus on creating an attractive landing page first, that helps showcase your hot items, communicates your brand identity, and has a CTA (call-to-action) that guides customers towards your products.
You will also need to create a shipping details page, an about us/contact page, and a payment details page to be able to process orders - so get that out of the way next.
We recommend using Shopify because it interfaces with Amazon very easily.
Choosing A POD Provider
Now that you’ve got a storefront and products in it, it’s time to get the real machinery working - setting up your POD manufacturing partner.
This is one choice you cannot afford to make a mistake in - picking a reliable POD provider allows you to rest easy when it comes to product quality, shipping times, and changes to your lineup - allowing you to focus on marketing your business, fine-tuning print designs, and keeping on top of your business analytics.
A good POD provider must offer the following:
Good Product Range
Even if you’re looking to sell basic t-shirts, what if you realize that your store could greatly benefit from seasonal hoodies or other kinds of apparel? Picking a store with a wide variety of products to print on allows you to cater to a wider range of potential customers.
Ideal Pricing Models
One of the best advantages of running a POD business is that you don’t have to pay upfront for storage and inventory costs. The downside is that several print providers already know this, and will seek to cut into your profits. Generally, you want to look for transparent, single-price models - subscription or profit-percentage models will make it very hard for you to sustain your business, especially early on.
After Amazon’s Prime Delivery service launched over a decade ago, internet shoppers have come to expect quick and painless delivery times for anything they purchase. This means that you would benefit by finding a POD service with worldwide locations, allowing for quick product delivery.
Most people rely on customer reviews to help inform and make their purchases - and for good reason. Reviews can help you build a case of questions to ask your POD provider representatives before you begin a business relationship with them.
Look for high numbers of reviews and keep note of specific issues faced by clients leaving lower scores - especially if they recur.
It’s unreasonable to expect a POD provider to work 100% of the time - sometimes, errors and screw-ups happen. To deal with this efficiently, a potential partner needs to have a clear and transparent returns system that handles any orders gone wrong.
After asking for their returns policy, you may want to adapt or use it on your website. This keeps your customers and your providers on the same page.
People are often touchy when it comes to what they wear, and if a customer has an issue, you’ll need a clear, pre-established communication process from client to yourself and down to your providers.
24/7 support from your POD provider is a fantastic perk that shouldn’t go underappreciated. It allows you to swiftly deal with customer issues and keep downtime between changes and return orders as low as possible.
Last but not the least, you’re looking for a company that doesn’t skimp when it comes to the actual quality of the fabrics and inks your products will eventually become.
Get an understanding of the different materials used by POD manufacturers to create apparel, as well as the machinery they have on board. With a little research legwork, you can find out if they’ve cut corners anywhere in their manufacturing process - and consider that before taking the plunge.
Always place a test order and try out the actual products for a decent period. If your prints fall apart within a few washes, expect several disappointed customers clamoring for refunds.
Promoting Your POD Business on Amazon
Now that you’ve done all the groundwork, it’s time to bring your business into the spotlight.
You could have the best designs, and top-notch provider, and a great website - but it all means nothing if you don’t spread the word about your business. There are currently over 24 million e-commerce websites on the internet - and you can bet that the top 1% know how to play their marketing and advertising game well.
Social Media Presence
The first thing you ought to do after establishing the groundwork for your business is to expand its social media presence. Not only will this directly connect you with millions of people - but it’s also largely free.
First, identify which social media accounts you’d like to focus on. Generally speaking, you will have to focus on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube - although the very visual and fashion-driven nature of apparel can result in great coverage over platforms such as TikTok, so don’t discount them.
Early on, focus on adapting your existing brand material to social media dimensions. Post regularly, and interact with customers - a good way to kick this off is to offer mini-discounts when clients post your products along with your brand hashtags. Don’t get too pushy with your content, however - you’re looking to entertain your audience before you convince them that your product is worth their money.
Once you’ve established a good flow to your social media, you may even consider investing in influencer marketing. 57% of fashion and beauty brands rely on influencer marketing to target audiences, and with social media gradually filling up more and more space in the public consciousness, you may want to keep an eye out as your business grows.
Optimizing Your SEO
By utilizing the right keywords and optimizing your page layout, SEO is a simple and inexpensive way to help drive audiences directly to you from search engines.
There’s no shortage of resources on how to get started with proper SEO practices for your website, so it’s prudent to spend a bit of effort tweaking your website copy to rank that extra bit higher.
Once you’ve got a good social media presence, consider setting up a blog on your website to further engage with potential customers. You can discuss everything from design ideas to roundup posts and other content here - just make sure to compound the effect by sharing your post links on social media as well.
Like any business, you need to periodically check on your overall performance metrics and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
This requires regular monitoring of metrics - over some time, you’ll see customers make certain decisions as a collective when it comes to your products. You may even notice that certain social media content performs considerably better than others - don’t be afraid to embrace change and even introduce new products when you feel like the numbers are telling you to take a certain direction.
Extra Amazon POD Business Tips
After taking care of the above, you’re in a good position to settle in and put in the regular work your business needs to grow and thrive on Amazon. There are a few ways in which you can gain further mileage out of a POD apparel business - here are some tips to follow:
Offer Color Options
While not every design works well on varying color backgrounds, it’s no secret that customers love options.
Providing a few different color variants helps your designs match different outfit styles, which in turn means more potential customers - although according to Amazon, grey and black tend to perform better in the market - probably due to their high compatibility with other colors.
That said, try to limit your options to around five - going beyond is overkill and may overwhelm a potential customer.
Try Lifestyle Product Shoots
Far too many apparel e-stores are full of bland, lifeless images with no humans in them. People engage much better when understanding how a piece of clothing fits on a person’s body - especially in real-life scenarios. This is extra important if you aim to sell athletic wear, for which motion and dynamism can go a long way.
Consider investing some time in a small photoshoot - perhaps syncing with the themes of your designs. If this is too expensive or unrealistic for you, consider using PlaceIt. This service takes your designs and places them on pre-photographed models - for a much cheaper price.
With so many options to optimize and scale a business, it can get easy to go overboard and invest too much, too early.
Focus on the basics first. After understanding the profitability of your business post the first couple months, plug any leaks you find and only then focus on big campaigns, massive design overhauls, and influencer marketing.
Focus on the product and putting in the marketing legwork, and buyers will come.
With modern e-commerce tools making life much easier for POD business owners, there’s never been a better time to start an Amazon Print-on Demand business. Just over a decade ago, starting an apparel business was a behemoth task that demanded several thousand dollars in upfront costs.
Now, all you need is a good set of designs, a bit of starting capital to launch your brand, and you can immediately begin marketing your product without worrying about all the manufacturing and inventory problems apparel companies have dealt with for decades.
Print-on-demand makes life much easier for first-time entrepreneurs with lower budgets and small teams - just remember to never underestimate the importance of keeping a rock-solid partner-seller-shipping relationship. Maintaining this can be the key differentiator between running a long-lasting successful business, and burning out within a couple of months.
While your brand will require dedication and focus on your part, putting in the hours can lead to a rewarding, profitable business that is flexible and comes with much lower risk than traditional business ideas.
For more information about how to start a Print-on-Demand business, check out this free webinar from Shopify titled: "How to Quickly Start a Profitable T-Shirt Store."