Making that first sale can be one of the most exciting moments for an artist. Someone has been so impressed by the artwork that they have decided to take out their wallet and make a purchase.
What a stamp of approval!
But, when it comes to online vehicles for your art, you have probably already asked the following question:
Where Can I Sell My Art?
If you haven’t already started selling your artwork, then a Print on Demand Company (POD) could be just what you are looking for, to experience that type of excitement.
POD companies can be some of the best places to sell art online, not to mention general graphic designs and slogans.
This golf ball character design that I have created, for example, sells on mouse pads (as shown here), on t-shirts, coffee mugs and a whole range of other gift items. All of this is courtesy of a POD company that handles printing and shipping for me. In this case the POD company is Zazzle.
If you have a blog or a website but are not sure how to best monetise it then you too could start selling t-shirts or gift items featuring your own designs and slogans. This is a great way to add interest to a niche site.
If you run out of ideas for t-shirt designs of your own, then you could take part in the Zazzle referral program for example and make affiliate commissions from promoting the work of other Zazzle designers.
What is a POD Company
POD stands for Print on Demand. This simply means that when someone places an order for an item that features your design, then that item is manufactured with your design on it, on a needs basis. In other words, there is no need for you to stockpile an inventory of items first. This makes the whole venture very cost expedient for the artist/designer.
And of course, you then get a commission each time a sale is made. Just how much, depends on the POD company that you choose for your designs.
Many POD companies provide all kinds of products for you to feature your uploaded designs.
For example, you might have funny designs with slogans that would look great on coffee mugs in particular, or short-sleeved t-shirts. Photographers on the other hand, might choose framed prints or calendars to display their work.
But the sky is the limit, or at least it feels that way, with respect to the choices offered by some POD companies. I have loaded artwork on tote bags, t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, printed tiles etc. I have also created and featured many slogans as well as my artwork.
The beauty of using a POD company is that your work can sell continuously. I have one design, for example, that keeps on selling over and over again, on a whole variety of different gift items and t-shirts.
Advantages of Using Print on Demand for Your Artwork
The advantages of POD companies in my view include:
- Each design can sell over and over again.
- With many POD companies you get to set the commission yourself (not all).
- You can choose which products your artwork is best suited for.
- Many POD companies are free to join.
- The POD company handles printing, shipping, returns, customer service and sending you your payment once your sales meet the threshold.
- Most allow you to create your own site on their domain, as a sub-domain.
- You can link to your POD site from an external website if you have one.
- You can benefit from the traffic that the POD company enjoys, as a large company, by selling your designs in their marketplace.
- Many have an affiliate or referral option.
- Set up is fast. You can usually have a shop set up on the POD company’s site in under an hour. Customisation to your liking of course can take a lot longer but you can be up and running on the same day that you join up.
POD (Print on Demand) Companies
Popular companies that print on demand include:
Zazzle is the site that I moved to after becoming demoralised with changes at CafePress. As you will find, it is very easy to set up your own shop. You can add your own creative flare to the design and start uploading images and slogans on products of your choosing. You can check out my shop here:
The main features of Zazzle include the following:
- It is free to join and create your own store.
- You can set your own commission but the 15% mark is usually considered optimal. However, there are shop owners targeting anywhere between 10 to 30%.
- Customers can customise designs on items they are purchasing.
- They have a huge range of products that you can sell with your uploaded design.
- It can take a little extra effort working out how to use templates and how to set up your store to your liking.
- You can upload vector designs.
- You can earn a 15% commission by promoting products featuring other sellers’ designs (referral program).
- Zazzle has a Volume Bonus Earning Program.
- There are discounts on bulk orders.
- Tools are available to help you integrate your products within your own external website.
- It is very easy to social share your creations.
- I have read some excellent reviews by satisfied customers
- According to resellerratings.com, 306 customer reviews gave the company a score of 7.24/10
Now TeeSpring is a company I have heard a lot about but until now haven’t been interested in trying myself. However, it appears that I have been too quick to dismiss it as a viable option for artists and am starting to explore the idea further. In addition, I must say that a number of people have been doing very well with selling their art online via TeeSpring.
- It is free to start.
- It is campaign focused.
- You create a campaign, setting a goal of the minimum number of shirts you aim to sell by a given date. This number needs to be reached before any shirts are printed.
- The campaign page is shared in order to reach the goal.
- You can run multiple campaigns at the same time.
- If a campaign goal is getting close to expiring without you having reached your goal, you can reduce the goal, 10 being the minimum.
- Social media integration is used for promoting designs.
- You do the promoting of your own campaigns.
- It looks like a great opportunity if you have designs that have a chance of going viral.
A number of successful entrepreneurs have created courses and written books showing you how to go about succeeding with TeeSpring and here is one of them:
There is no shortage of people discussing their success with TeeSpring. Benny Hsu, for example, has written a very interesting blog post that describes his initial failed campaigns before ‘getting it right’ and going on to achieve incredible results.
I am relatively new to SpreadShirt. As the name suggests, they are really targeting variations of t-shirts but do offer some other products as well.
It is free to set up your store and submit your designs.
- Designs are screened before being made available for sale but you usually get the go ahead within 24 hours.
- You need to load each design individually for each item.
- You can choose to make your designs available to others to load on items of their choice.
- There are some restrictions on the number of different colours you can use for certain items.
- SpreadShirt provides a larger than normal printing area on t-shirts.
- Payments are received quarterly, which I see as one downside. I prefer to be paid as soon as a threshold is reached.
- There have been mixed reactions from customers:
- According to resellerratings.com, 745 customer reviews gave a score of 0.35/10
It was thanks to Lisa Irby from 2createawebsite.com that I decided to try SpreadShirt and was surprised how quickly I sold my first 4 t-shirts.
CafePress was how I got my start with POD companies and for a long time, this was the only POD company I ever wanted to use. In the beginning you could set your own commission. However, over time, they have significantly revised their commission system, first capping commissions at 10% for marketplace sales and then lowering the cap even further to 5% if the seller fails to earn significant social shares. Shop owners can still set their own rate for sales from their own store (shop) but I have found shop sales to be much harder to get since these changes.
- Sellers can set up their own store but they need to pay either a monthly or annual fee.
- Marketplace commissions have been capped at 5% since October 2013.
- CafePress offers an affiliate program if you wish to earn money by promoting others’ designs but there are some limitations such as certain states being excluded. Also it applies to marketplace sales not shop sales.
- CafePress supplies a huge range of products.
- There have been some very mixed reviews by customers:
- According to resellerratings.com, 323 customer reviews gave a score of 1.65/10
At the time of writing this post, I hadn’t used Redbubble myself but I have certainly used it since and you can read about why I decided to set up a store on Redbubble here.
- You have full control over your markups. According to Redbubble, at the time of publishing this post:
Redbubble artists actually earn an average margin of 17% of the retail price, but whether it is 10% or 30%, you get to decide.
- Designs are screened
- Whilst RedBubble might not have the comprehensive range of products that a Zazzle has for example, they do offer considerable variety and periodically add more.
- I have read very mixed feedback from customers but it should be noted that the following score is based on a very small number of reviews::
- According to resellerratings.com, 26 customer reviews gave a score of 4.25/10
Fine Art America
This is a site that helps both artists and photographers sell their work online.
You’ll find this article extremely interesting I’m sure. It discusses the concerns by artists when faced by lowering commission rates by other POD companies.
Where I Stand with Print on Demand at the Moment
I am currently happy to continue using Zazzle. I still have designs with CafePress but won’t be uploading any new designs there in the future and will eventually remove my existing designs.
I do want to explore TeeSpring further. I will keep you posted on what I think of it as I try out a couple of campaigns.
Have you tried to sell your artwork online? If so, which POD company do you work with?