TIP 5. Spread Yourself Out: Right Click On Red

Posted by Mongo Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remember I said I have one design that sells real well and 15-20 others that don’t? Ok, well, if you have a killer idea for a design. One that you know will sell well on one site. Why not spread it around a bit? The one thing you have to realize is, this is your artwork, granted you are following the terms of service and usage policies. Do you think that Nike sells its shirt designs to just Foot Locker or Wal-Mart? No. They are all over the place. The same rules can apply to you.

There are several POD sites around the Internet. CaféPress is probably the biggest while Zazzle is following a very close second. Spreadshirt and Printfection are up and comers to name a few and Skreened is unique because of its stance on using only American and non sweatshop apparel. I could spend hours giving you the rundown on how each shop is similar or different but on the surface the biggest difference is price.

While all mentioned businesses offer free accounts to sell designs, CaféPress has two models, basic and premium. Basic shops are free but very limited in terms of design and visibility, while premium shops offer more features and possibilities for around $60 a year. Here is the comparison between basic and premium shops. Zazzle, being the other major player, gives you the same options as a CaféPress Premium Shop at no charge. The biggest difference, other than the price, is the layout and controls. Zazzle has a little more complex organizational model and I’m still coming to terms with how to optimize my store. However, while CaféPress operates to have you be in control of your design and what you offer it on, Zazzle gives you the option to let the buyer customize their product around your design. In essence you can sell the design and let the buyer pick what they want it to be printed on when they shop. Still, having everything pre-made in your store allows you to kind of point the buyer towards a good marriage of product and design. I’m still learning about Spreadshirt and Printfection so I apologize for not having much information. However, since both of these sites offer free accounts to host your designs, why not do a little research and multiply your sales potential with having a killer design on different sites.

Each one is different and has its own TOS and Content Policies. I’ve found that certain designs on one site are ok, but on another site they are bad. Granted, I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I am parodying a popular theme and one legal team draws a thicker line over “fair use” versus another. That doesn’t mean you can’t try. Just be careful in how you go about doing business or you could find yourself having bigger issues.

I really have two reasons for why I started branching out into other POD sites for business. The first is that while I really don’t have the additional time to run four or five stores, I can at least put my best sellers out in all directions and maximize profits. When I get time, I can begin to start posting my previous work on the other sites. As of now, I have yet to see the same volume of sales as I did with my original store on CaféPress, but Zazzle is slowly picking up.

The second reason, which I will rant about later on, is because not all POD sites pay equally. CaféPress really toned back their generosity towards shopkeepers and designers this summer when they changed their business model. Premium Shopkeepers pay to use their site and CP pretty much reduced a majority of shopkeeper’s profits by almost half. Now, you can still make the same amount of profit as you did before the change but you have to really market your store as a separate entity from the normal process of customers going to CaféPress.com and just searching from there.

Now, a lot of shopkeepers got extremely pissed at the change, pulled up stakes and just left, closing their store at CP for good. While I commend them for sticking to their principles and telling CP where to shove it, they need to realize something essential in business. CP makes money off the designers, not the product. Designers make money off the shoppers, not CP. You need to go where the shoppers are and by the looks of my sales reports, the shoppers are at CP more than Zazzle. Do I see a better profit margin at Zazzle? You betcha. And you can argue semantics all you want, “I lost half my profit due to the restructuring of the business model” but I, for one, cannot argue that if I were to follow suit and close my CP store, shoppers would just keep going to CP and buying some other design instead of mine. 10% profit is 10% more than zero.

I may only see 10% of all sales from CP, but considering that 90% of all my sales come from CP I’d be cutting off my nose to spite my face. Unless you can convince shoppers to go elsewhere, you are just losing money, plain and simple. That’s why Walmart is still in business. Bitch all you want about Chinese imports, employee healthcare and the fleecing of American small businesses, they are still opening a new store roughly every three days from what I’ve read.

That being said, divide and conquer the Print On Demand business. You own the work, why not showcase it? If you took 100 cola drinkers and 50% drank Coke and 50% drank Pepsi, you could still say that 100% drank cola. Be the cola and be successful.


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