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How to Be A Successful Artist on Print-on-Demand Sites

Okay, so how many of you have one or multiple print-on-demand (POD) shops? It seems like a no-brainer right? Well…. kinda.

What is POD?

To those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘print-on-demand’, it is a platform where you can create artwork and have your designs printed onto a product (like fabric, throw cushions, greeting cards, t-shirts, shoes, comforter, water bottles etc.), the site handles all the orders and delivery, and cha-ching, you get a commission for every sale you make.

Can You Make Money From It?

These days, you’re spoilt for choice: Spoonflower, Society6, Red Bubble, Threadless, Gooten, Printful and the list goes on. The real question is, can you actually make a respectable income through POD sites? And the answer is, YES but, it depends a few factors:

  • Can you whip art out consistently and quickly?
  • Do you have a niche/ signature style?
  • Do you have a social media following or a newsletter?

The truth is, I actually know artists who’ve made six figures on Society6 (not me), and another who has made seven figures on Creative Market doing fonts (also, not me). So yes, you CAN make money on POD sites.

What’s The Catch?

The big B-U-T is, you really have to be churning out art consistently, at least once a day for months, if not, years. The key is to focus on just ONE site to do this because it is a mega effort.

Every POD site has different upload dimensions, that means you have to keep resizing, cropping and uploading to those sites.

The other secret to hitting the POD jackpot is adding the right SEO tags to your listings. This will increase your chances of having your work found. It’s not as simple as create, upload and forget. You have to create captions and keywords that are search engine worthy so when someone types in a keyword, your listing comes straight up.

Isn’t it a BAD Idea to Put ALL Your Eggs into One Basket?

There’s only so many hours in a day, my friend. So, yes, I am actually encouraging you to put ALL your eggs in one POD basket. Pick one site like Spoonflower, then set your focus on designing and uploading, tagging, rinse and repeat. Why? Because the secret is in numbers. The more you have in your shop, the higher chances you attract traffic. If you have ten POD sites, you will be spreading yourself way too thin.

Secondly, in order to play the POD game, you should also have a strong signature style. What do you want people to know you for? Your painterly florals? Modern calligraphy lettering?

There is a SEA of artists, designers and illustrators on print-on-demand sites. In order to stand out from the crowd, you must have that ‘special something’. By defining your style, you will naturally attract your tribe. This is where social media comes into action. When you consistently share you work to the world, you will slowly and organically grow your followers and your ‘fan base’. But all this hard work takes time. A lot of time.

Pros and Cons to Print-On-Demand Sites

Here are the pros to POD platforms:

  • You don’t have to work in collections
  • You don’t have to pitch to companies or deal with art directors
  • You just need to focus on creating, uploading and tagging
  • You don’t have to deal with printing, manufacturing, deliveries
  • You may not have to deal with cranky customers
  • It can be a nice passive income avenue
  • It is low risk and has low barrier to entry

Here are the cons to POD platforms:

  • It’s highly saturated and competitive
  • It is time consuming
  • It has low returns
  • It takes time to establish your brand
  • You still have to promote your work on social media
  • You have to produce artwork consistently… for years
  • You have no control over the product quality

SO, do you still think POD is a good idea? I’d love to know what you think!

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@mabletandesigns

Hi, I'm Mable! I'm a surface pattern designer and mentor. I'm passionate about sharing my love for designing.

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