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.
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.
I want to add more historical Tokugawa Shogunate kamon designs and I start with the Takeda kamon. And besides that I had an old design of the Oda Kamon which needed rework.
My new kamon of the famous Takeda clan from the Sengoku period. The most famous Takeda member is Takeda Shingen who fought in the Battles of Kawanakajima against Uesugi Kenshin. The clan is pretty famous in Japan, so I hope it will sell. Even though the Takeda kamon is a simple, minimalist design.
There are a couple of kamons of famous clans I want to do. And if I keep find more then I will add those too. Another famous clan is Oda. I already had the design, but I never made full use of it. In my last post I wrote my thoughts down about creating value. I do know that my Oda design sells and therefor I created value. This new version will create value for some future customer for sure.
To make sure that I reach a large enough public I made sure that my designs are implemented in all my stores. If possible. Last couple of months I’ve been busy topping up my other stores besides my main Zazzle shop. And therefor the new Oda design is added to my Spreadshirt Kamon shop and my Cafepress Digital Homestead shop.
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.
The output of new designs is low last months due to a moving house project, but I got some Shogunate and Ottoman empire designs to show. Firstly, I have two new Japanese kamon designs. On is fictional and the other is real.
I start of with the Hattori mon. It is a clan mon from the Shogun Total War game, although it is a little bit based on Japanese history. It’s a fictional clan based on a famous Japanese samurai and ninja Hattori Hanzou. I liked the Total War PC games a lot, in my opinion one of the best strategy games for PC. I bought the Shogun 2 verion some years ago and I thought “why not use one of the mon from the game”. This version is gold texture on black, but I’ve got also the game colors red on dark grey.
The second one is the kamon of the Inoue samurai clan. This japanese clan came to prominence during kamakura and edo period. The kamon consists of feathers groups in a cirkel. I used a gold texture on a black background in thid example.
When I started with my little business I created a couple Ottoman Empire designs. Most of them are meant for patterns with tiling. But you can use a single tile as a stand alone illustration. I did sold some products this way, but I never used on as many Zazzle products as possible.
Now I’m using templates in Zazzle, I can create products in large batches. A couple of Ottoman designs are revisited and tweaked for processing this way. There a other designs I can use the same trick on, but that is for the future. But first these three.
It’s been a while since I posted a blog and in the mean time I created some new designs. I finally finished a new Haida formline drawing, this time a Kaigani Thunderbird. Drawing the thing on paper is fun, recreating it in Inkscape can be a chore. To give you a glimps of my work process I made this little gif.
On a Zazzle t-shirt it looks like this.
I like making formline art and they make steady sales on Zazzle. Another type of designs is my selection of Japanese mon. I made two new ones, they are not particular famous. But they turned out to be very nice looking. For me that’s enough to put them in the store. The first one is a Japanese mon that looks like three tadpoles with their tails intertwined.
The second one is mon I saw on a young womans shirt during the Tokyo Sanja Matsuri. I reminds me of an ancient wheel design. With the big wooden rim in sections. And fat spokes.
Sometimes I get a spontaneous idea and I put it to “paper” immediately. In this case to Inkscape. I thought this mega SIM in contrast to those tiny nano SIMs was funny. If only a buyer will also thing so.
My photo shop with the traditional Dutch theme isn’t very developed yet. I need more good quality photos. This one is made with my Motorala Moto G. I’m pretty pleased with the result.
I also made a set of new patterns. But that is for a future post.
Updating tags and description of old products can be boring, so I thought it time to add a Bishamon pattern and a Koinobori scale design. These are two traditional Japanese designs you find in different variations.
First the Bishamon design. Its peculiar trianle patterns is said to be derived of the Buddhist deity, Bishamon. For me it makes a very pleasing tile pattern. I will try different colors and see what works best. Mostly I reuse colors of other Japanese which I sold earlier.
If you ever visit Japan you will notice those windsocks in the shape of a fish, also named Koinobori. Most of its body is covered in fish scale shapes. I made some time ago a Koinobori scale design and I sold a couple of products. By chance I came upon another version of a Koinobori scale and I liked it a lot. Primarily because it was a type of Delft ware blue on a white background. Also the line work was better than the Koinobori scale design I made earlier. An example on an Apple iPhone 6 case.
A small remark about the Zazzle marketplace search update earlier this year. I updated a lot of tags and expanded the descriptions. It is still unclear if it had any effect. The designs which didn’t moved stil don’t show any sign of sales. On the whole, Februari was dismally slow, but March made up a lot. Have already had some sales for April, but it looks my sales are flat lining for now.
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:
These are two cartoon images I put a lot of effort in. But no sale 🙁
This Humulus lupulus hop in art design did reasonably well. People like more traditional designs.
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.
I haven’t added much new designs to my store lately, but I managed to add a kamon with golden waves and a Zazzle Teddy Bear. Most work I did last couple of months went into recycling old designs to new products. This is an easy way to boost the amout of products without spending too much time.
First new design I want to show of is a pattern. It’s a yellow and orange flower on a light brown background. It has a typical Southern France feel to it.
Golden waves kamon
Next in line is a new Japanese Kamon design. It’s stylized wave design and this time I use a different gold texture. Brushed gold in stead of the sparkly deep yellow gold I used in all the previous design. The old “gold” designs always did pretty well and I’m curious how the more modest brushed gold texture is going to do. Personally I thibk it is an improvement.
Zazzle Teddy Bear5>
It was about time to add a more funny cartoony image. I found some nice images of teddy bears and I created a vector image. I always think my cartoons are done well, but it is a wild guess whether the products will sell. Here is my first Zazzle Teddy Bear:
Pinterest iPhone 6 board
Zazzle has a wide range of cases for phones and tablets, for instance for the iPhone, iPad, Galaxy, Droid, Kindle, etc. Apple recently released their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+. Which means Zazzle offered a new range of cases begging to be sold. I thought I could make a board on Pinterest and display all the designs I put on the iPhone 6 cases. And also I could show other Zazzlers designs I like and make some affiliate money in the process. It’s an experiment and I hope it’ll work.