If you’re looking to start your own business in the UK, print on demand might be the perfect opportunity for you.
With the rise of online marketplaces and e-commerce, starting a print on demand (POD) business has become easier than ever before.
There are many large POD suppliers in the USA, and now many are venturing to the UK.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how you can start a print on demand business in the UK.
Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or new to the world of business, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to start selling POD products in UK.
Whilst many articles out there are focused on USA-based sellers and stores, this article will focus solely on UK-based sellers.
What Is Print On Demand UK?
Print-on-demand refers to a business model where products are printed as per customer demand rather than maintaining a stockpile of inventory.
This approach is particularly advantageous for entrepreneurs who want to start an online business because it eliminates the need for expensive upfront costs and storage space.
There are many US based POD Suppliers like Printify and Printful that are well established, but their fulfilment facilities in the UK aren’t as strong as companies like Gelato, AOP+ and Inkthreadable.
So if you are selling from the UK to predominately a UK customer base, make sure you choose a POD supplier that has strong UK capabilities and or is UK based.
How Does Print On Demand Work?
There are two main approaches to print on demand. Using a print on demand site or selling on an ecommerce platform or marketplace.
To sell on a print on demand site, you:
- Create a design
- Upload it to the POD site like Redbubble or Teemill
- Choose the products you want to sell
- Set the price & add details like tags, description, etc
- Publish it on the site
- Sit back and wait for the sales to come rolling in (it’s not quite that easy).
When you receive a sale the POD site takes care of everything from printing to returns.
Selling using a marketplace or your own online store involves more effort on your end. You need to:
- Choose a Print On Provider to Use
- Build an online store or shop on a marketplace
- Connect your POD supplier to your store or marketplace.
- Upload your design to the POD suppliers’ platform
- Add the design to the products you want to sell,
- Publish those products to your website or the marketplace you are using
- Complete the product listing by adding additional information and images.
When someone places an order on your site, the information automatically passes to the POD supplier, who prints and ships the item directly to the customer. Order details are passed back to your store and the order status is updated.
Choose An eCommerce Site, Platform, or Marketplace
There are three main options when it comes to POD and where to sell:
- Use a POD Website like TeeMill, Redbubble, Shirt or Merch By Amazon
- Use an online marketplace like Etsy, eBay etc
- Create your own website / store using services like Shopify, WooCommerce or BigCommerce
There are pro’s and con’s with each option these are summarized below:
Pros and Cons of Selling on a POD Site like Redbubble
- Low-risk investment
- Easy to set up
- Less costly
- No inventory management is required
- Great marketplace exposure
- Profits aren’t tied to a single platform
• Limited control over branding and marketing
• Low-profit margins
• No control over shipping and handling
• Limited ability to upsell or cross-sell
• Limited customizability options
• Can be saturated with competitors
• Lots of work for lower profits
Pros and Cons of Selling on Your Own Website Site
• Complete control over branding and marketing
• Possibility of higher profit margins
• Complete control over shipping and handling
• Complete customizability options
• Ability to upsell or cross-sell
• Strong seller support
• Higher upfront costs
• Inventory management required
• More complex setup and maintenance
• Requires greater marketing and advertising efforts
Pros and Cons of Selling on an Online Marketplace
• Easy to Set Up Shop
• No Inventory Required
• Low Overhead Costs
• Access to a Large Customer Base
• Built-in Marketing and Advertising
• Established Reputation and Trustworthiness
• Secure Payment System for Buyers and Sellers
• Fees and Commissions on Sales
• High Competition within the Marketplace
• Limited Control Over Design and Branding
• Limited Customer Data and Analytics
• Dependence on Third-Party Platforms and Policies
• Risk of Copycats and Intellectual Property Infringement
• Difficulty in Standing Out Among Thousands of Sellers
• Limited Ability to Establish Long-Term Relationships with Customers.
My Recommended Approach
There is nothing stopping you from selling on POD sites, Etsy, and your own e-commerce site other than the fact it’s a hell of a lot of work. When you’re just starting out you want a simple approach
I started out playing around with Shopify and running Facebook ads but felt that I wanted to test designs, products, and niches without having to run ads. This is where Etsy is perfect.
I set up an Etsy store and got some success with certain niches (including having designs featured in the Guardian newspaper). I then created standalone e-commerce stores for those niches and grew them from there.
This way you get to learn about designing, selling, customer service, and print-on-demand on a user-friendly platform. Once you have those things down you can move to building your own store and running ads with more confidence that it will work due to your success on Etsy.
Find Your Print-On-Demand Products
When people think of print on demand they often only think about t-shirts, sweatshirts, and maybe hoodies. In reality, there are so many different products out there it is worth spending some time researching what you want to sell.
Considerations when choosing what POD Products to Sell:
Does your chosen partner sell them? – If you haven’t chosen your print supplier yet, keep this in mind.
Are you allowed to sell them – e.g. if selling on a marketplace, are you allowed to sell them there?
The complexity of design – T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, mugs, tote bags, and phone cases are all examples of products that are easy to design for. Designs can easily be created using Canva or similar software. If you chose All Over Print products, for example, the templates you need to use often require more advanced software and a greater level of technical skill.
Market Saturation – If you’re selling on a market place you need to stand out. If Dog mums is your niche, selling t-shirts won’t cut it. Consider products like car seat covers to protect the car seat from the dog, or dog bandanas, pet bowls etc.
Niche – Certain products will fit your niche better than others. For example, if your niche is mountain biking then selling purses may not be a good fit. In this case selling t-shirts & hoodies would be a better fit. Consider if your niche is something people want to show off or keep to themselves, this will also determine which products will work the best in your niche.
Personalisation – Could you offer custom products. Offer your buyers the opportunity to customise the product by choosing text to included. Could you use this as an upsell in your store.
Margin – Selling t-shirts may seem the obvious place to start however once you’ve factored in Facebook ads or marketplace fees, the margin you are left with is quite small. Compare that to a hooded blanket or boots and you earn a lot more per sale. Here is a comparison calculation
Tshirt Selling Price £23 – (£10 product + £3 shipping + Etsy fees of £3) = Profit of £6
Boots Selling Price £80 – (£35 product + £5 shipping + £13 Etsy fees) = Profit of £37
Choosing Your Print Provider
To start your print on demand business on a marketplace or your own website you need to choose a print on demand supplier.
If you are targeting the UK market you want a supplier that:
- Is based in the UK
- Has the products you want to sell
- Integrates with the ecommerce platform or marketplace that you have chosen
- Has a good reputation & good reviews
- Offers good value.
If you stick to the above criteria it would rule out companies like Printify. Whilst Printify is great, it isn’t good for selling to the UK as their UK options are very limited.
Having tested most UK POD suppliers over the years there are three that stand out. Each of these suppliers is
Gelato Print on Demand is an amazing option for businesses that want to print personalized items quickly and efficiently. However, as with every service, there are pros and cons to using Gelato.
Pros of using Gelato Print on Demand
1. High-quality products – Gelato uses the latest print technology to produce high-quality print-on-demand products. With Gelato, businesses can be sure that their products will always look excellent and reflect their brand’s quality accurately.
2. UK Facilities and global reach – Gelato has a presence in the UK and many countries worldwide.
3. Fast turnaround times – Gelato has an excellent turnaround time, with most orders being delivered within a few days.
4. Integrations – Gelato integrates with the main marketplaces and ecommerce platforms
Cons of using Gelato Print on Demand
1. Limited product range – Gelato’s product offering is currently limited to only a few products, including t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and paper-based products.
2. Limited printing options – While Gelato’s printing capabilities are impressive, they are limited in some ways. For example, they don’t offer all over print or embroidery, which can be a dealbreaker for some.
3. Limited Colours – Some products are only offered in a limited colour range.
AOP+ are one of my main print on demand suppliers. I’ve used them for years and they really care about your ecommerce business. You succeed they succeed.
Pros of using AOP+
- Competitive pricing – with additional membership options that reduce the prices further
- Great Customer support – 24/7 customer support and activate facebook group.
- A wide variety of print on demand products including all over print items
- AOP+ is incorporated in the USA meaning there is no VAT to pay on purchases.
Cons of using AOP+
- Limited integrations with ecommerce platforms, but more are coming in the future
- Some users do not like their software.
If you are looking for a UK business that really cares about the environment then Inkthreadable is a great choice. The owners Alex and Amy really put sustainability at its core and offer a great range of organic products and offer paperless packaging.
Pros of using Inkthreadable
- Easy-to-use software – Great for beginners
- Strong product range – From organic clothing, to active wear, Inkthreadable have a solid catalogue
- Competitive Pricing – Prices offer good value and Inkthreadable have recently released a discount scheme based on the volumes you sell. Sell more and your side hustle benefits from reduced pricing.
- Strong Embroidery Offering – If you’re looking to offer something a little different then embroidery could be a good option. Inkthreadable’s embroidery is worth looking into.
Cons of using Inkthreadable
- Only suitable for UK businesses – International shipping is expensive so if you are selling a significant volume to other countries you may be better off looking elsewhere.
- No AOP Products – Inkthreadable do not offer any all offer print products
Find Your Niche
One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is choosing a niche. It can be challenging so here are some facts to consider when choosing a niche for your print on demand store.
Passion and interest
Choose a niche that aligns with your interests and passions. This way, you’ll be able to market your products better, and your passion will reflect in the quality of your products. You may already know where people hang out and the things that people like so could stand a better chance of selling to them.
The market demand for the niche you select is the second essential factor to consider. Suppose you decide to choose a niche with little or no demand; it will be nearly impossible to make sales. Therefore, you should select a niche with a high demand for your print on demand products.
A highly competitive niche can be difficult to penetrate as a new store. Research the competition level of the niche you’re interested in and assess if you will be able to compete effectively.
I started with a general store which meant I could try many different niches. Once you find something that works, build it out. Create products based on what has sold and if the niche continues to do well, you can niche down and focus solely on it.
Tips For Creating Your Designs
Before you dive in and start designing you should spend some time checking out what is selling. Look on the first few pages on Etsy (for the product e.g. t-shirt), and check out Amazon, Google Shopping & Aliexpress. Sort by orders and you will get a feel of what is selling.
With your brain primed, you can design with more confidence.
Dont Over Complicate it
Simple designs can sell really well, so dont over complicate it.
Use Supplier Templates
Many print on demand suppliers and popular print on demand platforms provide a template file that will often contain guidelines. Using the template will help ensure your design file meets the necessary requirements.
Design files should be transparent PNG and at least 300dpi. This ensures the design is of high enough quality to print correctly.
Over time you will create many different designs and publish them across a number of different products. Each product listing may have multiple mockup images. You need to start off with a simple folder structure on your computer to organise your files.
Plan and Track
I use a google sheets spreadsheet to track all my listings. If I create a design, I name it and put an entry in the spreadsheet for all the different products I plan to publish with that design. Once they are done, I mark them as complete and put the date I published the listing. This way you know what you have and haven’t done and can go back and look at the stats for a listing after a period of time e.g. a month or two.
Conclusion: How to Start A Print On Demand Business in the UK
I hope this article has given you enough information to start your own print-on-demand business today.
There are many things to consider and the tips in this article will help take the right approach from the start. You get to learn from my many years of trial and error.