I heard good reviews about Redbubble. So, in januari I pulled the trigger and opened my own Redbubble shop. My attitude is not to be on to many Print-On-Demand platform. It will cause too much maintenance which can’t be justified by the meager sales you get. So why start another shop then?
There is a good reason to look around for successful POD platforms. Last two month sales were really slow, especially Amazon Merch is doing poorly. I noticed that other platform will pick up the slack and prevent my royaties incom from a total collaps.
Adding a new POD platform with a good track record can provide income when other platforms are doing poorly. So I picked Redbubble as my new experiment. Since I have the designs already for ready use, it didn’t take me long to get a shop up and running. Seven designs to start with, and januari showed sales from the get-go. As did februari, mostly stickers but an easy income stream for very little work.
Stickers are popular items that Redbubble sells a lot. I expanded the number of designs from 7 to 37 and made sure that at least the stickers were well designed. That should do the trick, right?
Alas, in march I sold nothing and also in april up-to this day. So, why did I go from a great start to a total collaps of sales? Perhaps poor ranking of my design in the Redbubble search has to do with it. For instance my Haida art design are ranking badly, even though many designs in the search result aren’t Haida art at all!
I think Redbubble is still a good bet, I only need to promote the shop better. First I made a proper banner in order beautify the shop as seen in the image above. On Pinterest I made a board with all the Redbubble stickers, since stickers is a big seller. And I need to complete my Redbubble profile better, linking to my social media accounts might give me more traffic. Posting on social media is a must if I want traffic to my merchandize. Let’s see how my shop will fare.
Your Amazon Merch designs will be deleted and that is a good thing. Last year I started with Amazon Merch, a new print on demand platform. Since Amazon has more than sixty million Amazon Prime account and that makes Amazon Merch a great opportunity. And I wasn’t the only one who thought that way.
Amazon got swamped with Amazon Merch accounts who produced more than a million designs. Amazon got problems fulfilling a flood of orders and the huge amount of designs made searching by Amazon Prime customers a hassle. Amazon needed to react and did so in a brutish manner. But that can be a good thing for serious sellers.
So, I decided to make a Youtube video about this issue. Yes, I make video’s now also.
At the moment I’m struggling curating my stale products in all of my Zazzle shops. Zazzle itself made changes in its policy regarding stale product. Not anymore six months without views and sales, but a generous fifteen months.
Zazzle had quite some trouble to get the views count fixed, daily counts were useless and counts over longer periods not quite accurate. I depended on views per 180 days and how many pages of products acutal views I would get. This was my measure of success of curating my products. Alas, Zazzle changed the view function completely.
This means there is only one reliable measure for long periods and that is earned royalties. I still intend to double my royalties per six months. The day job is stressing me out and at the moment all I do is curating and culling my products. But, although August should be a slow month I do see a healthy sale. I might get a doubling in August compared to December and Januari. My Zazzle sales are doing remarkedly well and I think all that struggling curating is paying off.
Another factor is that I started selling via Amazon Merch, a possibility I heard on one of the US resellers podcasts. Amazon Merch is a print on demand service which offers two type of shirts in several colors. At first you can upload designs up to 25 shirts. With a healthy stock of designs it take me little effort With millions of paying Prime Amazon customers sales are already good. Although this Amazon service is basic, I have high hopes. I migh double by royalties again at the end of the year. There is no Amazon shop but this link will get you to one of my products.
I also tried to make something of my Cafepress shop. Well, I created a new one. A friend of my who also dabbles with print on demand showed how he organised his products, one shop per one theme. And not like me every theme of design in one big shop. So I created a new shop dedicated to just Haida designs. This is an example of a product.
When creating the Cafepress shop I noticed that it is not mobile friendly and responsive at all. Only the Cafepress marketplace is up to date. I tried to make the crummy seller webshop template responsive, but the underlying is simply too old and outdated. I gave up and leave the shop as is, only suitable for PC and laptops. No wonder Cafepress is doing so poorly as a company. But it’ll be an interesting experiment.
Spring cleaning is something you need to do every year. This means also for my Zazzle shops. One of the shops does not perform at all, so it is selected for an experiment.
Until now I mainly used the “quick create” tool of Zazzle. With mixed results. Yhis is a handy tool to apply a design to a whole batch of products. That way I’m able to create a lot of products, but most of them won’t get any views from visitors at all.
Over a year in my shop, never had a view. Pathetic!
Zazzle started a new regime where product that didn’t get view or a sale in the last six month will not be visible anymore in their marketplace. Which sucks since most customers do their searching in the marketplace.
The advice Zazzle gives is to refine every product on title, tags, and descriptions. In that way each product is more individual and better for SEO. But that defeats the purpose of the quick create tool.
About more than 80% of my products in my Freshpatterns shop never had a view in the last six months, so I decided the following spring cleaning actions.
Remove all individual products that didn’t get a view and were in my shop already about a year.
Remove a complete set of product’s that both never sold or got views. I will only concentrate on product classes that either sell or get views.
Update the remaining products and make them individual in title, tags, and description.
One result of this experiment will be that I’ll focus on quality in stead of quantity. And not using the quick create anymore. This also means adding one product at the time and making sure the design is optimal placed.
So how am I going to measure success? One way I’m thinking of is watching the 180 days views. If more pages have products viewed in the last 6 months then I’m on the right track.
As I write this I have 7.1 pages with 96 products each which had at least one view in the last 6 months. Ten pages would a good goal, about 40% of my total amount of products.
Owning a small business is all about creating value. You’ll hear entrepreneur’s often put a lot of emphasis on creating value. Without it their business won’t have a reason for existing. But what do they mean with value.
Many of us work for big companies, like I do. Deep inside a large hierarchy it is difficult to see if our work has any impact on the organization. Although these days with new fads like Scrum and Agile there is a lot of talk about adding value, just try to figure out of your new piece of software adds anything to your big corporate.
In a small business creating value is much easier. You create a product or design, market it and see if it sells or not. For instance this Barcelona cement tile design is based on an existing one. I copied it and put it on Zazzle products like iPhone cases. Lo and behold, I sold products and made a profit. Therefor I for a couple of people I created value.
I can put a figure on value. And I can experiment with creating value. I wasn’t pleased with the original design, so I tweaked it. Making sure that it was more like an Islamic geometric pattern. With the following result.
The new version I introduced in my Society6 shop and hopefully it will start to sell.
The point is that in my online business I know that I’m creating value. And that I can improve on creating value, either by new insights in marketing and designs or new skills in making designs. That is a powerful control on your life and income.
Working as an underling in a big corporation you’ll never really know if your work really matters. Or more scary, after you get a pink slip, it really doesn’t matter for the rest of society also. Over the last four I saw many colleagues leaving the company, voluntaryly or involuntaryly, and not being replaced. As if their jobs never added value after all.
So take control of your life by taking control of creating value.
Last week Zazzle posted an anouncement on the Zazzle about changes in searching the Zazzle marketplace for your products. They noticed a lot of designs of Zazzlers did not sell at all, for ages. So they decided that all products that didn’t had a sale or a view for the last six months won’t show up in the marketplace. But only in your store.
The advice was to take a good look at the description and tags you made for the products. And make sure they were SEO friendly. Now, in the beginning of my shop, I didn’t pay attention to tags and that stuff. A bunch of my early designs didn’t sell at all and I thought that most likely SEO wouldn’t make a difference. The designs weren’t simply good enough.
With the Zazzle post I started to wonder. Zazzle did put an emphasis on search friendly tags and descriptions. Zazzle also said the search engine traffic from for instance Google, Bing and Yahoo is very important. I therefor started to look again at my early designs. I did put a lot of effort in them. It’s going to be a pain to create a good set of texts an tags. Probably one design per day, the tags have to be investigated with for instance a Google Adword tool.
So far I did a couple. This is a popart design which didn’t sell at all:
Also, most of the early designs I didn’t use with templates. So the amount of products is low. For now I only concentrate on early designs which are real illustrations with little tags and poor description. And I’ll see if I can boost the product amount with the Zazzle templates I created for this purpose.
It is going to be an interesting experiment to see if the SEO friendly tags and text will help increase sales.
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.
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.
One type of illustration always did very well and that was my Haida salmon, I therefor added a Haida art Thunderbird. In fact, I use the Haida Salmon as my logo. This salmon did very well and I like the aspects of a salmon. Swimming against the stream and against all odds.
It took me a fair amount of time to get the salmon done, but I decided to create a bit more ambitious project. Again, it is a recreation of an example I saw on the internet. A tedious job which took me a couple of months, just an hour work now and then. I kept putting of finishing the damn bird. The end result is not to bad I guess.
Probably the most important reason I found this job more tedious than all the other projects is that I really don’t know Haida art works. Why are the elements constructed the way they are? Well, you can read about ovoids and u-shapes and stuff, but how do you put this all together?
By chance I stumbled upon a workshop by Steve Brown which was taped and put on the internet. It is video of two days and together you have to watch 6 hours of footage. But for anybody who wants to make a go at Haida art, this is probably the best start you can make. And I did watched it completely.
That was after I finished my Haida art Thunderbird. Looking back it doesn’t seem that excellent because my Haida art Thunderbird doesn’t follow the set of rules very well. Nevertheless I’ll put the illustration on Zazzle and Cafepress products since people like this type of art.
One thing about Haida art is that it suits vector art very well. So I ventured to get myself better aquainted with Formline art. I hope to get that way better quality illustrations which sell, without losing the convenience of vector art.
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.
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.