Dropshipping vs Print-on-demand: Which is profitable in 2023? (A Detailed Guide)

We live in an era where we have ample side hustle opportunities to earn money and make a living. One such industry that can be leveraged to earn a passive or active income is e-commerce, a reliable business channel that helps online businesses bloom noticeably in India as print on demand and dropshipping.

The e-commerce sales figure is predicted to reach 8.1 trillion dollars by 2026, proving that this industry will pave the way for successful entrepreneurs in the upcoming years.

In general, E-commerce consists of different business models, among which dropshipping and print-on-demand are quite profitable. Many people are curious to know about print-on-demand and dropshipping business models and are keen to learn more about them. However, both business concepts are often misunderstood in most cases, leaving aspiring entrepreneurs in a dilemma about which is right for them.

In this blog, our goal is to solve the exact confusion and make you understand the difference between the two most popular e-commerce models, and help you to know which can be your ideal business to start.

  • What is dropshipping?
  • How does dropshipping business work?
  • What is print on demand?
  • How does the print-on-demand process work?
  • Head-on-head features comparison drop shipping vs print-on-demand:
  • Which is right for you?

What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping is an e-commerce business model where sellers can market and sell ready-to-use products via e-commerce platforms like Shopify. Unlike any other businesses, you need not produce goods, handle inventory, and navigate shipping and delivery.

Did you know?

The dropshipping market is expected to surpass $200 billion by 2023.

how dropshipping works given in the pictorial representation by qikink

Source: Liquidblox

How does the drop shipping business work?

As a seller, the first step to getting started with dropshipping is finding an online store using an e-commerce website like Shopify. Moving forward, you have to manually choose winning dropshipping products that your ideal customers are interested in and list them on your online store.

Once an order is placed and payment is made, your dropshipping suppliers will process the order and deliver it directly to your customer.

You, as a seller, need not necessarily involve producing or transporting the goods. You act as a medium through which your customers can access various products.

So, how is dropshipping beneficial for you? 

Behind every business, they exist a common motive- Profit. When you’re involved in dropshipping business, you can decide your own profit margin for your dropshipping products to sell, thereby increasing the overall profitability rate.

What is print-on-demand? 

Print-on-demand is an eCommerce business model in which you, as a seller, design your product partially. To start a print-on-demand business, you need to create or purchase a design that could be imprinted by your print-on-demand suppliers, like Qikink on T-shirts, mugs, mobile cases, tote bags, and more.

Did you know?

The print-on-demand market is predicted to expand at an annual growth rate of 26.1% between 2022- 2030.

The one core reason behind the success of the print-on-demand business model is that buyers love customized products.

For instance: Customizable mobile back cases are the recent trend now. Not all customers are interested in buying standard designs used by countless people. They are on the lookout for a unique product. Interestingly, many customers are willing to pay more than the usual price for customized products, making print-on-demand a profitable business.

how print on demand works in step by step by qikink

To start a print-on-demand business, all you need is time and creativity. Print-on-demand can be an excellent choice if you are creative and have a certain amount of time to invest in creating a design. Once you create a printable design, the next step is to get them live on your online store and showcase how the design would look on t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, or any other material.

How does the print-on-demand process work?

Don’t you have time to create designs? Fret not. You can even hire freelancers or interns to do the design work on your behalf, or you can purchase designs online. If you can hire even one or two talented designers, you can create a line of print-on-demand products to showcase on your website.

When an order is placed, once the payment is made, your print-on-demand supplier will start printing the design on the requested material and delivers it to your customer.

In this section, we will be breaking down the pros and cons of Print-on-demand and Dropshipping to compare them to help you know which business model is your best bet.

Head-to-head comparison between Dropshipping and Print on demand:

difference between dropshipping vs print on demand

Source: Placeit


In general, to start a business, you’ll need some investment or capital. However, when it comes to dropshipping and print-on-demand (POD), it requires little to no investment while starting. You might incur a minimum cost to set up your online store or build your webpage; however, you don’t incur any charge in terms of inventory, stocking, and transportation.

Apart from monetary terms, if your want to kickstart your dropshipping business, you have to invest your time to research, review, and test the product to list on your online stores.

Whereas in the print-on-demand model, you are the creator of your design, which takes considerable time from your day. However, as mentioned earlier, you can delegate the design work to freelance designers, avoid spending your time on it, and concentrate on other business matters.

Worth to mention nowadays, buyers are interested in purchasing trending and meaningfully designed clothes. Hence, print-on-demand can be profitable when you target the right audience and produce a stunning design.

Moreover, in dropshipping business, you can be 90% certain of a product’s performance as there are multiple reviews and feedback on the dropshipping sites to help you develop your own line of products.

However, in the case of print-on-demand, you’ll create a design assuming that it will resonate with your buyer. The good news is with proper market research and trend analysis; you can create a fast-moving design that attracts an array of potential customers.

Business sustainability : 

The primary factor that helps digital stores step up to the next level is their branding. In the dropshipping market, you will sell products of different brands under your store. In contrast, print-on-demand gives sellers the liberty to imprint their brand name on the product that is being produced.

If you’re starting off with print-on-demand products, you can request your supplier to print your logo on the final product. In the long term, this benefit helps you to see the possibility of running a standalone online brand.

Shipping duration:

The buyers get a “Nay” feeling when a product takes weeks to be delivered. Generally, dropshipping suppliers might take 4-8 weeks to ship and deliver the product to your customer. This is because if you use dropshipping platforms like Ali express that import products from China, it usually takes longer to transport them. However, the shipping cost can be controlled or reduced when a bulk order is made.

Whereas in print-on-demand, the longevity of shipping time depends on the location of the printing company. If your print-on-demand partner has a regional or local outlet, the raised order can be fulfilled within 3-5 days. However, considering the time taken to print the final product, the above-mentioned time can vary depending on the printing services. Unlike dropshipping, you cannot order products in bulk to reduce the shipping cost as you might be uncertain about the sales count.

Costs incurred:

In dropshipping business, when you order a product, your dropshipping supplier incurs processing and shipping costs alone.

However, there is zero risk involved in terms of inventory management and damage. Moreover, you don’t have to make any investment to start your print-on-demand business.

When it comes to POD, the printing cost adds up with the shipping and the processing cost, as the rest 50% of the product is designed only after an order is placed. Hence, print-on-demand attracts higher shipping charges when compared to drop shipping.


When it comes to the profitability of the business, it depends on what you sell and how you sell a product.

Not to forget, if one of the products makes more sales, you can increase the price and earn more profit. And, once your audience well recognizes your brand, it gives you the opportunity to increase your profit margin.

The print-on-demand business model has a profit cap. For example, you can only charge a certain amount for t-shirts and mugs. Because your customers are aware of the value and worth of the product, they might not be willing to pay a lot.

In dropshipping, your profit margins are quite higher, thereby increasing the profitability rate. Even though dropshipping is not a get-rich-quick scheme, some famous entrepreneurs proved dropshipping is a reliable and profitable business model.

However, by following a proper strategy and with the help of platforms like Qikink, you can generate a steady profit from POD. Once you find a perfect print-on-demand service provider, you can get reasonable offers and deals from them.

Scaling up: 

Both business models require the same skillset; however, you must also have designing skills under your belt for print-on-demand.

You can cross-promote your dropshipping product on various e-commerce channels and social media as a part of your marketing campaigns.

When you have a list of dropshipping items showcased on your online store, you can leverage it by attracting ideal customers through different channels and mediums.

The barrier to entering the print-on-demand and drop shipping businesses are low; Hence if you have a knack for marketing and sales, you can scale up and upgrade your e-commerce sites within months. The success of your online business depends on how well you market your service.


In terms of competition, the dropshipping model is quite competitive when compared to print-on-demand. Many sellers might offer the same products for a lower price than what you have listed on your website.

While in print-on-demand, the competition is comparatively low as you are the designer of your final product. You are selling unique products that can rarely be found on other channels, and this can be one of the main advantages because it helps you to set your own price for your product. Moreover, you have complete control over how your products turn out.

Which is right for you? Dropshipping or Print-on-demand

  • How much time can I invest in this business?
  • Which of the two businesses can be profitable based on location, niche, and demand?
  • Do you have the time and creativity to design?
  • Do you love researching a product before buying?

Having understood the common grounds and the differences between print on demand dropshipping India, you’ll now have an idea about both businesses.

If you’re still unclear about which business model is the right fit, ask yourself a few questions. Start here.

Tell us in the comment if you have any questions. 

While asking many more questions, you will eventually get to know what interests you. Even if you don’t, remember most successful dropshipping entrepreneurs have transitioned from POD to dropshipping and vice versa. So, you can always experiment. Pick your industry depending on your time availability, goal, and skill set.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is drop shipping dead?

Definitely not. You might hear a lot of rumours about dropshipping as the industry grows day by day. It is common to have misconceptions about business concepts; however, understanding how dropshipping works can help aspiring entrepreneurs enter this industry effortlessly. Many successful dropshipping entrepreneurs are lined up to share their winning business experiences with us, which proves that dropshipping actually works!

Is it possible to start a dropshipping business with less start-up money?

Yes, it is definitely possible. Once you start making your first few sales through your e-commerce store, you can continually reinvest the money to upgrade your business. 

Is Print-on-demand is same as dropshipping?

People often misinterpret both business models. In short terms, dropshipping is where you pick a list of products from sites like Ali Express and showcase it on their online store to sell them. On the other hand, print-on-demand is when the seller partially designs the product, and the product is manufactured only when an order is placed. Learn more about print on demand dropshipping in India before starting your ecommerce journey.

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