So you want to start selling POD t-shirts on Etsy?  Cool, so does everyone else.  Print on demand isn’t a well kept secret anymore.  How are you going to position yourself so that you’ll stand out against your competitors and actually make some money?  In this article — we’ll talk about what to avoid in your POD business and some marketing ideas to help you gain traction in a crowded marketplace.

First, let’s start with the don’ts of any POD business.  We’ve all seen the stores on Etsy and elsewhere using popular copyrighted designs to gain traction.  Some stores get away with it, and some are not so lucky.  My advice?  Steer clear!!!  Build your business with integrity!  Just because other people are doing it and getting away with it — doesn’t mean you should.  If you choose to go down this dark and windy road — building a house out of cards – will crumble.  Why would you want to put time, energy and effort into something that could potentially (and most likely) get shut down so easily due to copyright infringement?  If Etsy doesn’t catch you, a jealous competitor surely will!

Another area to avoid when starting your POD business — throwing up less than inspired design just to get something out there.  If you don’t love your designs – then chances are others won’t either.  Maybe you’re not super creative and you’re just doing the best you can — that’s fine!  Most POD shop owners aren’t designers by trade, but they’re smart enough to know what they’re not great at and when to outsource.  Having outdated, basic designs and just playing the numbers game in hopes that someone will buy what you’re offering is one of the most common mistakes I see in POD shops.  

Now, let’s talk about some ideas to make your shop successful.  What is your brand about?  Do you have a niche?  Starting a POD business within a well researched niche will always outperform a shop that throws up any/every design just for the sake of playing a numbers game.  Focus on finding your niche and building your brand!  This will make your shop more credible and much more memorable. I could go on and on about the benefits of niching down – but I’ll leave that for another day.  

What do your product images look like?  We’re all too familiar with the out of the box mockups Printful and other POD companies come standard with.  Investing in quality mockups is worth the extra spend just like investing in your designs!  You’ll look more professional and stand out against other shops.  

Let’s recap — If you’ve had a POD shop for awhile and you’re not gaining much traction – be really honest in asking yourself these questions:

  1. Am I in a niche or am I just adding random designs for the sake of having a “full” shop?
  2. How crowded is the niche I’m in?
  3. What does my branding look like?  Is it cohesive, attractive & does it make sense?  Does it stand out?
  4. How great are my designs?  Do I LOVE them or are they just okay?  Do OTHER people love them?  Get honest feedback from multiple sources!
  5. When’s the last time I added new designs?  How often do I add new designs?
  6. What do my product images look like?
  7. Am I putting myself and my brand out there in front of my ideal customer in a quality and value driven way?  

In working with people, I often find that it’s one of these areas that they’re struggling with that’s holding them back.  It can sometimes be hard to see yourself and is helpful to get the perspective from an outsider.  Ask someone you trust these questions and tell them to be 100% honest with you.  Market research or gathering data through focus groups doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds.  It could be as simple as asking friends, family or trusted peers to fill out a survey for you.  Even anonymously if they’re worried about hurting your feelings and to make sure you get unbiased data!  

I hope this was helpful and you at least walk away with 1 golden nugget you can take to make your business better!