What Is Print On Demand On Etsy?

By Scott Voelker •  Updated: 04/07/23 •  11 min read

POD or print on demand isn't a new phenomenon. Its been around for a while and is incredibly vast and was valued at 4.91 billion in 2021. 

In this article, we will look at what exactly Print is on-demand, how it differs from drop shipping, whether it is allowed on Etsy, and several other questions. 

What is Print on Demand? 

You may have come across print-on-demand products on Etsy or another e-commerce platform such as Shopify. 

Print-on-demand is a model where a business only creates products after a customer orders rather than in advance. This business model offers many benefits for businesses that utilize it properly. 

How Does Print on Demand Differ From Drop Shipping?

These terms may seem like they are interchangeable or work the same. However, Print on demand and drop shipping have significant differences, such as : 

How Does Print-on-Demand Work on Etsy

Starting your Etsy print-on-demand shop is a fairly straightforward proposition.

We like to think of it as a five-step process.

Choosing Your Niche

The first thing you'll want to do, even before creating your shop, is to select a niche.

Although you will see some Etsy ” gurus” telling you just to create your shop and sell one type of product, such as t-shirts, this is an outdated and usually unhelpful approach.

Rather than focusing on a single product type, such as t-shirts, the better and more sustainable approach is to focus on a niche.

Typically, we like to think of niches as something someone can identify as or say that they like to do.

For example, it would be a little odd for someone to say that they are a mug (that's a product, not a niche), but you likely would not even blink if someone said that they liked two fish or if they told you they were a fisherman.

Using a niche-based approach allows us to build a solid customer base and sell a wide variety of different product types and designs.

This allows us to create a solid foundation for evergreen revenue, rather than constantly chasing the next new product trend. 

Create Your Shop on Etsy

Once you have your niche selected, you can go over to Etsy.com and begin the store creation process.

The reason that we do this after selecting our niche is that your niche is likely to influence the name of your store.

Rather than choosing a name for your store that is generic, such as” Scott's Designs”, You're better off, including a keyword or phrase that your market would use such as “Scott's Bass Emporium”.

This allows us to be quickly found and identified by our target audience and gives our store the potential to rank for some of the keywords related to things our audience will be searching for on the platform.

Additionally, now that we have our ninja selected, we can begin flushing out the rest of the store, such as the store announcement, about section, and store banner with niche-related phrases and images.

Like the name of the store, these additional little touches help Our potential customers know that they are in the right place 

Select Your Print-On-Demand Partner

Once you have the shell of your store created, it's time to select your Print-On-Demand (POD) partner. 

There are a wide variety of choices out there and the right partner for your store will vary a bit depending on exactly what you're looking for.

A great option for people looking for someone with a good selection of products and good pricing would be to partner with someone like printify, which offers a huge variety of different products and product types and can be used with virtually any type of store.

If you'd like a more in-depth guide to the different print-on-demand services and how to choose the right one for your store, you can check that out here.

Create Your Product Designs and Listings

Once you have your niche selected, your store created, and your print-on-demand partner selected, you can finally move on to creating your product designs and product listings.

The first step in this process would be to create your designs.

We typically like to start with an idea similar to products we know that are already selling. If you'd like to learn the process that we use to find Etsy products that are proven to sell in five minutes or less, You can find that entire process here.

Once you have a little bit of inspiration to work from, it's time to create your designs.

For this, we typically recommend that people use a tool like Canva, which allows just about anybody to create professional-looking designs in just a few minutes.

Once you have your designs created, you can create the products inside of your pronoun demand provider and then have them listed in your Etsy store.

If you'd like to see this process done in a step-by-step way, need a little bit more help choosing your niche, or just want to see how all of this works together, you may want to check out the niche product magic workshop here.

Sell Your Products

Once we have our products created, we can move on to the final stage, making our first few sales.

There are essentially two approaches to this.

The first is what we refer to as the “field of dreams approach”.

Essentially, you create your products and then wait for sales to come in.

Although you will eventually start to see some sales as a result of organic traffic, it typically takes several months if you are using the field of dreams approach.

We prefer to jump-start this process a little bit by turning on low-budget ads within the Etsy platform (about $5 per day).

This allows us to get ahead of the algorithm and start to see initial traffic and sales much more quickly than we would otherwise.

If you are interested in seeing exactly what we do to get our first few sales in a new Etsy store, you may want to check out the video below.

Is Print-on-Demand Allowed on Etsy?

Yes, Etsy allows sellers to sell print-on-demand products on their site.

However, sellers must create the designs they plan to sell. Additionally, sellers must disclose the printing partners they are working with. 

Is Print-on-Demand Profitable? 

Yes, print-on-demand can absolutely be profitable if you do it the right way.

One of the reasons that we advocate for a niche-based approach, rather than a product-based approach is because it helps us to ensure profitability.

For example, if your entire store is built around selling t-shirts and the only reason somebody might visit your store is that you have the lowest price (a common problem for product-based stores) You're going to operate with a lower profit margin.

Using the niche-based approach, however, customers are substantially less price sensitive and we can ensure that all of the items we sell are profitable.

A general rule of thumb that we like to use is that when we list a new product in our Etsy shop, we want to make a minimum of a $10 profit when that item is selling at the standard retail price.

This not only helps us to ensure that we will make money on every sale, but it also gives us room to do things such as run etsy sales or promotions and be able to afford to run Etsy ads without having to worry about it eating into our margins.

Benefits of Print on Demand on Etsy 

If you’re looking for a new side hustle, it can be hard to beat starting a POD store, for a variety of reasons.

Unlike other e-commerce business models, you don’t need to purchase inventory in advance. 

With print-on-demand, sellers can list products and start selling immediately as the print-on-demand partner deals with the production and shipping of the orders. 

Because of this, you have no up-front or ongoing inventory costs and the only time you have to purchase inventory is when you make a sale.

 Although this can result in slightly smaller margins than you would have if you bought all of the products up-front, it also gives you substantially more flexibility and allows you to test out a wide variety of different products for as little as the $0.20 fee that Etsy charges to list a new product on the marketplace.

Additionally, if you’re using Etsy as a partner for your new Print-on-Demand store, you don’t need to build a website or worry about becoming a “master marketer” overnight.

The Etsy marketplace gives you the benefit of being able to give you traffic from day 1, as long as you’re creating products people want to buy!

Challenges of Using Print on Demand 

Unfortunately, nothing in life is all sunshine and rainbows, and launching a print-on-demand store, even with Etsy as a partner, is no exception.

As mentioned above, although you don't have any large cash outlays for inventory or warehouse space, you will typically have slightly smaller margins than you would if you were pre-purchasing inventory upfront.

Additionally, you may occasionally run into quality issues with your print-on-demand provider or customer service headaches because you don't control the entire process.

This can be especially frustrating during the holiday season if one of your top-selling products is suddenly out of stock at your print-on-demand provider.

Lastly, because of the lowest startup cost, there tends to be a bit more competition in the print-on-demand world.

Thankfully, none of these things are deal breakers, and with a little bit of effort put into customer service, creating great unique designs, and focusing on serving your niche, these can easily be overcome. 

Tips for Being Successful with Print-on-demand on Etsy

With all that out of the way, I wanted to leave you with a few tips for being a successful print-on-demand seller.

The first thing, as mentioned above is to start with your niche in mind.

Choosing a profitable niche can be the reason that is store either makes it or doesn't.

Once you have your niche selected, spend the time to create unique and eye-catching designs.

Although it's okay to take inspiration from other things that are selling, in your niche or otherwise, avoid the temptation to copy it directly.

With how easy it is to create totally unique designs using tools like Canva, there's no excuse for copying what someone else is doing.

Once you've launched a few products, take the time to truly optimize your listings.

One of the most powerful ways of gaining consistent sales on Etsy is by showing up at the top of Etsy's organic search results.

This process is a bit more in-depth than most people lead you to believe it is, but thankfully it's fairly straightforward as well.

Additionally, you'll want to make sure to focus on customer service.

Although Etsy customers are much more forgiving than they are on most other platforms, like Amazon, you still want to stay on top of orders.

Not only does this lead to having happier customers, which leads to more sales, but it's likely to lead to more product reviews, which help new customers can convert at a higher rate.

Lastly, this is not a totally passive adventure. Once your store is up and running. You'll want to set aside a few minutes each day, not only for the customer service tasks, but also to check on your store analytics, review ads, and see if there's anything else that you can do to help improve sales.


Print-on-demand offers low-risk and cost-effective ways for sellers to turn their designs into profitable ventures. While the process isn't easy, print-on-demand is still an attractive option for first-timers looking to dip their toes into Etsy. 

Scott Voelker

Over the years I’ve helped thousands of people TAKE ACTION to UNLOCK their true potential on building their ultimate freedom business, by developing the skills to make them resilient, confident and FUTURE PROOF. I’ve clocked my 10,000 hours over the years working in the trenches myself and helping others build and grow their brands. I know the power in TAKING ACTION better than anyone and I’ve seen people lives changed as a result of it...including my OWN!