Category Archives: Make Money with Zazzle

Ever wondered how to make money with Zazzle? These posts will be about my successes and failures. And my experience with Zazzle.

Harry Potter and making money magically

For many years I always wanted to make a post about the Wizarding world of Harry Potter. I’ve read the books at least two times and I have seen the movies on multiple occasions. This blog needs more posts, posts of a more divers character. Lets start something lighthearted about magic.

If you’ve read the books and seen the movies you might noticed that the wizards and witches aren’t exactly the most happy lot. In the movies many are portrayed as a bit scruffy and not particular wealthy. Which is odd since they have this ├╝ber power called “magic”. In this post I’ll try to give my view of what I read and saw about making a living in the Wizarding World. And how this relate to the muggle world, because J.K. Rowling wrote this book in a very non-magical, highly technological culture. Magic really doesn’t exist, you know.

How to get some dough

Gamp’s law says you can’t create money out of thin air. As you cannot with food, which dough is really. Money is just an object, a wizard shouldn’t have trouble with creating some. But we’re talking about wizarding money, which is made and tightly controlled by goblins. Apparently the amount is fixed and can’t be increased by the muggle way of fractional banking. At least the only debt I encounterd in the books were betting debts. Money is exchanged as a physical object only.

Only gold, silver and bronse, secured with goblin spells, as money may appeal to the romantics, but it makes live pretty difficult. Mrs. Weasly clearly was scraping by with difficulty getting cash, while Harry had a pile of gold sitting idle in a vault. My impression was that every adult wizard and witch was trying hard to get galleons, sickles and cnuts. Only two ways were presented to earn an income; working for a handful of institutions or being self-employed.

Making money magically
“Heart of the Wizarding economy”

In fact there is one institute where almost everybody wants to work, the Ministry of Magic. Outside the Ministry, if you’re not working for the Daily Prophet or Hogwarts, then your only option is being self-employed. In this case, bar some shops in Diagon Alley, this means being a poor peddler.

All the talent, but no skills

We’ll get back to the Ministry later. First, making a cnut on the street. You would expect that a wizard would have no trouble creating a good life for himself. And having plenty of purchasing power. Lets see, a roof over your head? No problem, with magic you can make a nice house with magically produced material. Need a plot for your house? Pick any remote spot with no muggles in sight. You’re a wizard, transportation is easy and free to any spot on the planet. Food? Conjur the best salmon from the rivers, fruit and wheat from muggle farms. They won’t notice. In short, magic will provide almost all, for free.

J.K. Rowlings is brilliant though. Being a wizard, or witch, makes you lazy. Everybody has the same talent as you have and magic takes a lot of muggle effort away. Hermione may be the best witch of her age by studying hard, when push comes to shove the difference with others is negligible. Harry has better fighting talent and that’s all he needs. Thanks to their muggle upbringing Harry and Hermione do have street creds, which keeps them ahead of their peers. Most students, even Neville, reach the same level off skill, the difference really is only in the amount of skills, for instance the number of spells you’re able to perform. If there is no real incentive to excel then what you get is a bunch of bone idle wizards and witches who get through live with the least amount of effort.

The result is people scraping by or hitting rock bottom in Knockturn Alley. Given that the estimates of the British wizard population varies from 3000 to 15000, that’s a lot of bums I saw in the movies. According to this wiki it seams that most wizards get their wealth through inheritance and not through business. Then again how shall a wizard succeed in business if he has never learned to work hard, study hard and apply discipline. It is no wonder that being self-employed is a poor mans option. George and Fred may have been natural business men, Mrs. Weasley was horrified. A funny objectivist view on the Harry Potter world points to the oddity the Wizarding world is, despite his excellent talent in potion making, it never occured to professor Snape to monitize his concoctions.

Knockturn alley
“A lot of loosers for that tiny part of London”

The Ministry, the only game in town

There is another reason why being a being a business men is hard for a wizard. You can’t interact with the muggle world very much. As a wizard you could create great value for muggles, if necessary in secret. But this Ministry of Magic keeps a Big Brother style of control on magic performed close to muggles. With thousands more muggles than wizards, that’s a huge market which is out of bounds. The British Wizarding world itself is barely the size of a small town. This keeps wizard businesses at the level cottage industry. Except the Ministry itself.

The Ministry is the 900 pound gorilla in the room. Any wizard who wants to have a decent income tries to get a job at the ministry. The Weasleys pretty much a civil servant family. A save bet but the pay isn’t always stellar. Which is no surprise since the Ministry is depicted as a rather large organization. With so many mouths to feed and such a poor tax base, money is spread thinly. Especially since the Ministry can’t print its own money. No doubt the offices are filled with poorly trained wizards and witches doing a half-assed job (what do expect with just five years of secundary education).

Is there a lesson for us?

Although the Wizarding world is weird, there are some striking similarities. For instance the dominant Ministry of Magic is starting to get its counterpart in the Muggle world, namely the modern western government. Also citizens getting resources with hardly any effort, for instance benefits, almost look like wizards and witches. But this blog is getting too long already and these comparisons I would like to keep for another post.

Intellectual property and Escher and Zazzle

I never realized that intellectual property and Escher would be such an issue. I mean, come on, the guy is more than four decades dead. Zazzle has a different view on the matter. No references to Escher on your American Apparel designs.

We all know M.C. Escher, right? The famous Dutch graphic artist who made those wonderful fish and bird tile drawings. And those impossible construction where you loop around like a Moebius ring. Some time ago I saw a T-shirt with an impossible triangle construction, a triangle which you can find on the web in many versions. It reminds people of those impossible Escher drawings, although I’m not even sure he ever made such a triangle. Never mind, Escher doesn’t have a monopoly on impossible constructions.

In any case I made my own interpretation, a triangle made of wooden toy blocks. Obviously because the design reminds people so much of Escher, I made references in the text to M.C. Escher. Apparently I shouldn’t have done that, apparently M.C. Escher is some kind of brand name owned by a Dutch company. Zazzle notified me about this “copyright infringement” and removed my products. The image below is from my Spreadshirt store. Notice that all the texts are neutral.

For now I only have the design in my Spreadshirt store, without the Escher name. I removed them from my Cafepress store for practical reasons, editing 200 products is a bit too much. I’ll recreate those products with a neutral text later and see what happens. If I don’t get an “intellectual property and Escher” issue in the coming months, I’ll use the design again in Zazzle. Without any references to Escher.

And ofcourse I keep to more save designs, like this tile pattern in ovals. Yes, I saw it on somebody’s denim shoes, but I don’t know their brand name.

Haida Killer Whale and a Spreadshirt shop

In my previous post I mentioned that I wanted improve on my formline designs, this resuted in a Haida Killer Whale. This time I looked closely at the different formline elements. The example I found on the internet I modified there where necessary. All in all I’m pleased with the result.

Besides a new design I’m still tinkering with leveraging my designs to a bigger audience. I already started a Cafepress shop which started to fill up nicely. Obviously also with my Haida Killer Whale.

I asked the lady of five green lizards if she also used different print on demand services liek Cafepress. She tought the inteface of Cafepress too much hassle, so se doesn’t. Indeed it is a pain and you don’t have the flexibility of Zazzle. But I want to give Cafepress a try because sell cheaper products, maybe I can access a different audience. To date I only made one sale, so not much luck yet.

Zazzle and Cafepress cater mainly for the US market and I don’t want to skip the EU market. My first choice is Spreadshirt, a German company. They usually target per language in the EU, so my Dutch shop only sells in the Netherlands and Belgium. But the also have an EU wide website. I started a shop there and put some designs for sale, but Spreadshirt really uses your designs through their marketplace. So I made sure my Haida Killer Whale is on the market place for all Europeans to find.

Both the Cafepress and Spreadshirt shops need time to get some sales. In the mean time I’ll look for another POD service for the EU.

New illustrations for Zazzle and Cafepress

Since my last post I noticed that my production of new illustrations started go down. I might have touched this point that creating an illustration for a design is a bit harder than a pattern. For a pattern it is easy to get inspiration. Patterns are everywhere, in advertisement, on the web, there are even books just about patterns. Once a pattern is made in a tile, images are quickly made for every type of product, be it from Zazzle or Cafepress.

An illustration needs more planning. What style do I use? What subject will sell? Will I keep to vector graphics, which need less artistic prowess? Or do I start digital art directly in bitmap format? For instance in Gimp or Photoshop. Also, won’t my new illustrations to much restrained in product choice?

For now vector graphics will be my main craft. Japanese Mon designs sell reasonably well and I added two to my collection. First a “three geese” design.

And secondly a cute little bunny rabbit. I found an example on the web, but I didn’t like the line work very much. I gave it my own interpretation. I’m pretty pleased with the result. Also because I learned more about Inkscape functionality.

In the mean time I started to revive my drawing skills, because I can’t be to dependent on vector graphics. Illustrations sell and patterns hardly, so I have very little choice. Maybe I’ll start showing my progress in my drawing skills on this website. As a means to keep me motivated.

Setting up a Cafepress shop alongside Zazzle

Years ago I set up a Cafepress shop for the Dutch Mars Society. Cafepress was the place to go for print-on-demand t-shirts. I always found the user interface unfriendly and difficult. Soon after I discovered Zazzle and was impressed how Zazzle implemented their user interface. I left the Cafepress shop for what it was and moved on to Zazzle.

Nevertheless I’m in the business of selling digital design, which means I have to explore every possibility for selling my stuff. Over the years I have collected a number of images and it would be a shame not fully exploit them. So I gave a Cafepress shop a second chance.

Fortunately Cafepress improved their website and the user interface for shop owners. Now it is easy to put a design on many products, not as cleverly done by Zazzle, but good enough. Creating a shop is easy and you have products on display in mere minutes. My Cafepress shop is of course named DigitalHomestead. And I’ve already got a few designs on display:

There are two things I don’t like about a Cafepress shop. First, most importantly, the customer can’t adjust a design on a product to his or hers liking. Which means I have to adjust the design on for instance a t-shirt myself and hope shoppers like my choice. Zazzle in this is absolutely brilliant. With Zazzle a shopper can do almost anything with the design. Scale, move, rotate etc.

The second thing is that a Cafepress shop won’t be used that much. After a query Cafepress will direct buyers to their own market-place where a shopper can purchase your product. Only, at the low commission Cafepress set as default for their market-place.

Nevertheless I want to use my design as much as possible in order to make money online. Every dollar is welcome. And a Cafepress shop will help me in this. I guess it’ll be a couple of month before a make a sale.

Illustrations sell better than patterns

Recently I’v come to a surprising conclusion that illustrations sell better than patterns. It’s been a while since I posted a blog, October and November were rather busy. But I didn’t sit on my hands. I did some research on my sales to see what actually sells best. I made a lot of patterns, but also illustrations like Japanese mons or Haida art animals. Patterns go well on iPad and Kindle cases and the like. But cases can be quiet expensive.

Zazzle allows you to download an Excel-sheet with al your sales. My sales I categorized in pattern and illustrations. More than 90% of my sales were products with an illustration as a design. Conclusion: illustrations sell better than patterns. Action: make more illustrations. As I mentioned I created some desigs based on Japanese kamons. This is a sample:

Uesugi Mon Japanese samurai clan Jewelry Box
Uesugi Mon Japanese samurai clan Jewelry Box by ejkaal
Look at other Uesugi Gift Boxes at
Sakai Mon Japanese samurai clan
Sakai Mon Japanese samurai clan by ejkaal
Find more Sakai Tiles at Zazzle

This new insight urged me to visit my older designs of illustration and put them on the new products. Zazzle now has gift boxes for sale, ideal for a single illustraion.

It’s a bit early to declare my conclusion correct. Anyway, sales are picking up. November brough me 10 times more dollars than an average month in 2012 or 2011. That could be due to the amount of patterns I created the last two momths. They may help my store and Zazzle products to be found more easily. Mayby the patterns will take off some months later. But for now I’m happy with the increased sales. And I will keep a close look on what product and designs sell or don’t.

Cool iPhone cases from Zazzle – retro space

One way to make a buck is to market cool iPhone cases from other Zazzle stores. This is done by means of the affiliate program of Zazzle. In your Zazzle account you’ll find a unique number which you add to the link of the product on your website. Or better. Log on to Zazzle, find those cool iPhone cases and use the “share” button to retreive the URL/HTML-links with your affiliate code included.

Getting the links with the affiliate code is the easy part. How to use them in a clever manner is a bit more difficult. One solution I saw with a succesful Zazzle seller is to create a web page and fill it with a selection of products with design you think are well executed. For instance Apple iPhone or Samsung cases with a retro space theme. Here’s an example;

If you search on Zazzle you’ll see most of the design aren’t very well made, even though they are popular according to Zazzle. That gives you the opportunity to create a selection of cool iPhone cases which are both popular and well executed. I’ve put my selection on a seperate page on this website.

Yet another solution is Pinterest. Here you can collect images and categorize them the way you like. Pinterest groups images (and other media) into “boards”. You can make a board for cool iPhone cases with a retro space theme and let them link to Zazzle with your affiliate code. On Youtube there are plenty tutorial how to create a board.

I’ve no Pinterest account myself yet, but I can see the potential for showing of affiliate products or your own products. Anyway, I just started with this affiliate business and I probably have to create a whole bunch links and images with my affiliate code before I even make a dime. And I have to start to get some traffic to those links.

Making Money online with a Digital Homestead

What is it with people wanting so eagerly making money online. Ever since the internet took off, so did the number off people wanting to start a business. Thanks to the web it’s never been so “easy”. But are all those budding entrepreneurs real business man and women?

Getting some freedom back

A common reason why people start a business is to get an extra income stream beside their day job. They don’t want to be fully dependent on a employer. Having a day job does give you a false sense of security. It looks ok, a steady contract, but usually when a employee gets sacked he or she has nothing to fall back on. Continue reading Making Money online with a Digital Homestead