Zazzle is the most versatile of the three print-on-demand sites. They offer the most individual products which you can apply your own designs to and they have a great user interface for uploading designs as well as selling and promoting them. All three companies offer some sort of affiliate program for participants to earn revenue off referrals. Spreadshirt pays the highest referral rates at 25% but acceptance into the program is not a given. Cafepress has a higher profile at this point and licenses more images from popular movies and TV shows which you can place on many different products. All three companies are competitively priced and routinely offer special or reduced rates.
Covered in this report
A very wide range of products on which to place your designs
Great referal program allows users to earn even more money on sales
Best for: Designers who want to put their images on multiple products and sell them on-line
Affiliate programs pays 25%, making it the best paying program of the three companies
A growing young company eager to expand through partnerships
Best for: If you're a small but well known artist or company, Spreadshirt will should be able to spend more time developing a partnership with you
Has more licensing agreements for more choices in products featuring your favorite movies, TV shows and comic book characters
Has more options for creating different styles of the same product
Best for: Shopping for unique and quirky gifts with millions of product possibilities
20% off orders from CafePress, excluding shipping charges, gift wrap charges, taxes and custom duties. - [activate coupon]
COMPARING ON-DEMAND PRINTING OPTIONS
Back in the pre-Internet days, artists and designers with a clever idea for a t-shirt had few options for seeing that idea through to a finished product. It required actually having the product made, shipped, stored and hopefully sold through mail order or brick and mortar stores. Several hundred shirts might need to be silkscreened and stored in your attic, basement or closet. This could get expensive, especially if you had multiple designs and no idea how to gauge whether or not the public would buy them even if you could find a place to sell them. Problem solved. Thanks again Internet. With sites like Cafe Press, Zazzle and Spreadshirt, you don't have to worry about storage or overstock or shipping or which retailer will let you leave your products on consignment. With a one-stop site like the three companies mentioned above, it's a breeze to design as many products as you can imagine, set a price and then do a little on-line promotion. What's the catch? Profit, maybe. Assuming you've designed a hot product, you could certainly stand to make more dealing directly with stores, possibly taking a larger percentage of the sales. However, we're not all businesspeople, so the potential profit is diminished by the risk involved. Using a print-on-demand site is a low risk for a moderate reward. Of course, a consequence of the ease of use of these sites is that anybody can do it. If you actually want to sell your stuff to a large group of people, competition can be fierce. One of the triumphs of the Internet is, it leveled the playing field so everyone can get into the game. The drawback for a serious designer who wants to sell their product is, with a field so level it's hard to get noticed in the crowd. However, if you're just one person with one idea for a shirt that only you will appreciate and buy, then the power is yours.
Zazzle was launched in 2005, but the company has raised its profile quite a bit in recent years. Zazzle calls itself "The Make Engine™" and their mission is "To Enable Every Custom, On-Demand Product in the World On Our Platform." To that end, they certainly do offer more products than their competitors. Zazzle users can place a design or slogan on everything from keychains and pacifiers to underwear and skateboards. They have a great looking, easy to navigate website where you can buy one-offs of your own creations or you can sell and market your own creations to a wide audience. You can also simply shop for designs and products you like.
If you want to browse for clever or cool designs on greeting cards, t-shirts and dozens of other products, Zazzle is easy enough to navigate and features hundreds of designs to chose from. Zazzle also allows customers (if the designer consents) the option of customizing the products they want to purchase. Different colors, sizes and styles are available for almost every product.
Creating & Selling Your Own Products
It's very simple to use the Zazzle site to upload your own designs. Some of the product categories Zazzle offers include:
- Accessories (bags, hats, watches,)
- Cards and Postage
- Electronics (iPhone cases, device cases, laptop sleeves)
- Office (business cards, mousepads
- Art (photo prints, wall decals)
- Home (mugs, pillows, playing cards)
It's pretty simple to create your own product with your own design, logo or slogan. The website is very easy to navigate and it's a quick process from start to finish. To sell your design, you'll need to register first, but the process for creating an item to sell is very similar to creating one to buy for yourself. First you chose the product you want to feature your art on, a keychain for example. You can choose from several different styles of keychains, rectangular or round, etc. You then upload your design from your computer. You create a title for it and a product description. You can choose to sell your design on all styles of keychains available. Select a category for your design. There are many options as well as subcategories. It can be tricky categorizing where your design should fall. Is it graphic art? Abstract? Decorative? Cartoon or comic art is not an option but it certainly should be. There are a few optional categories for events and locations as well.
Choose your tags carefully. Tags rule the internet it would seem. Zazzle recommends listing 5-10 tags for your product so that it will show up in searches. You need to select a rating of either G, PG-13 or R, depending on its suitability for younger customers.
Here's what most people probably find the hardest part: what to charge for your product. The product has a base price. The basic keychain style is $9.50. You set your own royalty, so you determine what the customer will pay above the base price. Keep in mind that changes to the royalty rate won't go into effect until the 20th of every month, so while there is flexibility in experimenting with different rates, if you make a change on the 21st of the month, you've got a long wait before the new rate is reflected. Choosing a royalty rate of 10% will earn you 95 cents for every keychain sold. That may not sound like a lot, but if you sell 100 that's almost 100 bucks plus you don't have to ship or store any of the inventory and higher royalties mean a higher retail price which runs you the risk of lower sales.
The Zazzle site includes a handy royalty calculator that allows you to see what your earnings would be based on the royalty you enter. Zazzle recommends between 10 and 15%. Accept the Zazzle User Agreement, then post it and you're done. You can use the code the site generates to promote your products on your website or social media sites or in e-mails to your friends.
Promoting Your Own Products
Zazzle's store builder is an easy way to promote your store on your website. You can also earn referral fees on links to your own products from your own website. It's a good way to beef up your profit margin. Zazzle pays a 15% payment of referrals plus up to an additional 17% volume bonus.
As mentioned above a great aspect of Zazzle is you can become a Zazzle associate and earn money on referrals. You don't even need to be a designer or have any of your own products for sale. If you are good on-line marketer, you can easily incorporate Zazzle stores into your social media sites. Sign up through the Zazzle website.
Spreadshirt is a print-on-demand company that went on-line in Leipzig, Germany in 2001. Early on, the company was deemed to have an “unrealistic business model" by judges of the Cologne Business Plan Competition. Since then, Spread Shirt proven that prediction to be false as the company has grown considerably with global partnerships across Europe and the United States. They're a small but expanding business looking to compete in the print-on-demand market worldwide.
For shopping purposes, Spreadshirt works like other print-on-demand companies. Unlike CafePress, the designs that are available for purchase on Spreadshirt were all created by their community of designers. Designers must own the images they upload. You may not be able to get any Star Wars characters printed on your shirt, but there is no shortage of creativity in the designs on hand.
Creating & Selling Your Own Products
Spreadshirt features mainly men's and women's shirts (tees, long and short sleeved, polos) and a few other clothing options including:
- crewneck sweatshirts
- boxer shorts
- safety vests
and yes, even thong underwear.
Spreadshirt can't really compete with the sheer volume of available products that Zazzle and CafePress offer. Right now they feature just over 100 different clothing items. There are no mousepads, keychains or novelty items available at this point. Plenty of tees though, and bulk discounts are available. The process for uploading your design is easy, but there aren't as many options for customizing the product as there are on Zazzle.
Promoting Your Own Products
Like most print-on-demand sites, you can create your own free on-line store to sell and promote your stuff. Unfortunately, if you want to partner with them, Spreadsheet usually affiliates with "large businesses and popular brands." What does that mean and do you qualify? You can contact Spreadsheet and find out.
"Our affiliate shop partners receive a rather high margin of 25% on purchases averaging $40 per customer." So says the Spreadshirt website and that's a pretty high rate of return. That's certainly a good incentive to promote their products.
CafePress bills itself as "The World's Customization Engine®". In business since 1999, CafePress may be the better known print-on-demand company. CafePress has branched out into five additional brands that specialize in product customization. They are:
- Canvas On Demand
- Canvas On Demand Pro.
- Great Big Canvas
Designers and artists may use CafePress to sell and promote their own products, but the site is also great just for browsing and shopping. CafePress sells t-shirts to individuals as well as companies. They have licensing deals with TV shows, comic book publishers and movie and television companies.
Creating & Selling Your Own Products
CafePress is great for uploading designs for your own personal ordering. Using their sell option is not quite as easy as Zazzle and the products they offer seem to be a little more limited. They claim to offer 700 million products but that includes choices of different styles, colors and sizes of the same items.
Uploading a single design to a product is relatively easy, but creating a product to sell is more difficult. Instead of choosing a product to create like a t-shirt or a coffee mug, you are asked to upload the image to see what products they would be "perfect" for. This can be frustrating when the site determines the products that are perfect for your design are products you have no interest in.
In a personal example of my experience uploading a design, I had several images that I was unable to upload even though I had uploaded the same images successfully through the Zazzle site. Once I was able to upload an image, the site gave me only four options for products to place it on. For my particular design that I could place on any product Zazzle offered, on CafePress I was given the options of a rectangular cocktail plate, a tea tumbler, boxer shorts and a very ugly Christmas stocking.
Promoting Your Own Products
Cafepress has a few ways you can promote your store. They recommend using tags to best describe your products, updating your store regularly, creating an appealing layout and using their banners and links on other sites. They also recommend off-line marketing such as creating flyers, sending out a newsletter and wearing your own products in public to generate a word-of-mouth buzz.
CafePress also has an affiliates program that can earn its participants up to 15% in commissions on referrals that result in sales. They also have widgets available so you can promote from your own website.
CafePress is great for shopping for products with licensed images. Seinfeld, X-Men, Marvel Comics and Star Trek shirts are available. With a limited amount of options in clothing and apparel available, Spreadshirt simply does not have enough choices at this point. Zazzle is better for designers. Their site is easier to use and offers more options for resizing images plus they offer a more diverse line of products to sell.