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Print on Demand Vs Dropshipping: The Differences

In this blog, our goal is to solve the exact confusion 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.


Brand Partnership Manager at Qikink


Brand Partnership Manager at Qikink

dropshipping vs print on demand

Print-on-demand vs. Dropshipping confusion exists among sellers who want to sell online. They work differently in their businesses. You must understand the difference to decide which is better for your business.

We live in an era of ample side hustle opportunities to earn money and make a living. One 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. 

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. 

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

In this blog, our goal is to solve the exact confusion 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?

Dropshipping is an e-commerce business model where sellers can market and sell ready-to-use products via e-commerce platforms like Shopify. Unlike 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.


Source: Liquidblox


As a seller, the first step to starting dropshipping is finding an online store using an e-commerce website like Shopify. Moving forward, you must manually choose to win dropshipping products 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 it and deliver it directly to your customer. 

As a seller, you need not necessarily be involved in 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, there exists a common motive- Profit. When you’re involved in a dropshipping business, you can decide your 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 print-on-demand business model’s success is buyers love customized products.

For instance, customizable mobile backcases are the recent trend. 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 usual for customized products, making print-on-demand a profitable business.


How does the print on demand process work?

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 it live on your online store and showcase how the design would look on t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, or any other material.

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 deliver it to your customer. 

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 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.


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Head-to-head comparison between dropshipping and print on demand

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


Source: Placeit


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 for inventory, stocking, and transportation. 

Apart from monetary terms, if you 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 time on it, and concentrate on other business matters. 

Moreover, in the 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 line of products.

However, in the case of print-on-demand, you’ll create a design assuming 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. 

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.


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 allows sellers to imprint their brand name on the product being produced. 

If you’re starting 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. Dropshipping suppliers take 4-8 days to ship and deliver the product to your customer. This is because if you use dropshipping platforms like Aliexpress 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 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 the dropshipping business, when you order a product, your dropshipping supplier incurs processing and shipping costs alone.

Regarding POD, the printing cost adds up with the shipping and processing costs, as 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.

However, there is zero risk in inventory management and damage. Moreover, you don’t have to invest to start your print-on-demand business.



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

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. 

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

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.

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


Scaling up

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

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.

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

The barrier to entering the print-on-demand and drop shipping businesses is 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 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, which can be one of the main advantages because it helps you set the 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?

Having understood the common grounds and the differences between drop shipping models and print-on-demand services, you’ll now know about both businesses.

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

  • How much time can I invest in this business?
  • Which 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?

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. 

Tell us in the comments if you have any questions.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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!

People often misinterpret both business models. Dropshipping is where you pick a list of products from sites like AliExpress 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, which is manufactured only when an order is placed.

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

Both Dropshipping and Print-On-Demand require little to no initial investment. However, creating an online store to showcase products may require more investment in Dropshipping, while in Print-On-Demand, purchasing or creating designs is enough.

Dropshipping involves marketing and selling ready-to-use products through e-commerce platforms, while in Print-On-Demand, the seller partially designs the product, and the supplier prints the design on the requested material and delivers it to the customer.

Print-On-Demand offers a wider variety of products to sell, including T-shirts, mugs, mobile cases, tote bags, and more. In contrast, the variety of products in Dropshipping is limited to the supplier’s offerings.

In both businesses, the profit margin depends on the pricing strategy. However, in Dropshipping, the profit margin is relatively low due to competition and supplier costs. In Print-On-Demand, customers are willing to pay more for customized products, which can lead to higher profit margins.

Potential challenges and risks associated with Dropshipping include supplier reliability, product quality, and shipping duration, while Print-On-Demand’s challenges include copyright infringement, product quality, and delivery time.


With over 6+ years of experience in the industry, Ayushi excels in building strong customer relationships and guiding clients toward growth as a Brand Partnership Manager. She enjoys sharing her experience in her content.

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About the author

With over 6+ years of experience in the industry, Ayushi excels in building strong customer relationships and guiding clients toward growth as a Brand Partnership Manager. She enjoys sharing her experience in her content.
With over 6+ years of experience in the industry, Ayushi excels in building strong customer relationships and guiding clients toward growth as a Brand Partnership Manager. She enjoys sharing her experience in her content.
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