Print on Demand vs. Printing Yourself: Which is Better?

by Gooten Editorial Team on Feb. 7, 2023

These days, printing custom merch and personalized apparel is big business, providing a unique way to connect with niche audiences by offering one-of-a-kind designs. For those who wish to get into this industry, there are a few major decisions to make, with none more important than the decision between print on demand vs. the do it yourself model.

As you weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing to a print on demand partner, as opposed to handling everything on a DIY basis, here are a few considerations to keep top-of-mind.

What are the Differences Between Print on Demand and DIY?

1) Labor

One of the big distinctions between these two methods is the sheer amount of time and effort required of you.

If you handle all the printing and fulfillment yourself, it means that you not only have to physically create the products (with exacting attention to detail), but you also have to pack and ship them. During the holiday shopping season, when most custom merch shops are really slammed, the amount of labor required can be truly staggering.

With the print on demand model, your vendor fills the orders, then packs and ships them on your behalf. This saves you a lot of time, which you can then invest back into your business, devoting more of yourself to creating new designs, marketing the business, or interfacing with your customer base.

2) Variety

Another key distinction between the print on demand and DIY methods is the range of products available.

Going it alone means determining what types of materials work best with your printer, and probably running a bunch of tests to see which products are most viable.

A print on demand partner will have a huge assembly of products ready for you to choose from, ranging from custom sweatshirts, hoodies, and tees to wall prints, calendars, mugs, and mouse pads. All you have to do is figure out which of these products will be most appealing to your customer base.

3) Cost

Of course, one of the primary drivers will be cost.

Working with a print on demand company will obviously entail some expenses, and you’ll need to be diligent about monitoring your costs to ensure your business remains on solid ground.

But taking the DIY approach also comes with some expenses, including the initial cost of the printer (plus ongoing maintenance). And there will also be costs associated with any mistakes or trial-and-error products you make but ultimately have to scrap.

4) Marketing

Simply making great products with winsome designs isn’t enough. You also have to connect with potential buyers via marketing and advertising.

If you go the DIY route, well, you’ll be doing all the marketing yourself. That means researching the methods that are best suited for reaching your target audience, whether that means SEO, PPC, social media, video marketing, an email newsletter, or all of the above. And actually executing these strategies will further drain your resources, both in terms of money and in terms of your time.

Print on demand fulfillment partners, on the other hand, will usually have resources available to assist and support you in marketing your store. You’ll still need to invest a bit of time, but a good print on demand partner will be wholly devoted to helping you succeed.

Choosing the Best Way Forward with Gooten's On-Demand Solutions

The bottom line: For truly small-scale and local custom printing efforts, a DIY approach may make sense. But for more serious e-commerce endeavors, partnering with a reputable print on demand fulfillment company like Gooten is likely the most efficient way forward.

Contact our Solution Consultants to start scaling your on-demand efforts!