Karen is a graphic designer, creative thinker, artist, writer and generally an ideas person that loves to try new things.
You Don't Have to Be a Great Artist to Sell POD
One of the beauties of running a POD merchandise store, is that you don't have to be good at art!
Text, photos, patterns and simple graphics are all very popular on these sites. All you need is an eye for what's popular and a little creativity.
Humour is a particularly successful category, as are slogans.
What Are Print-on-Demand Merchandise Shops?
Print-on-Demand (POD) websites enable you to sell products online such as tee-shirts, mugs and bags, without holding stock or big investments. They have become big business and are a great way for you to make money from your art no-matter your circumstances or background.
Previously if an artist wanted to get their art onto products to sell, options were limited. You could license your work to manufacturers for a small amount per product, or invest lots of money getting products printed and sell them yourself. Many people still use these methods and make a good living from it. But luckily there is a new option for us all. POD doesn't require a big investment or dealing with manufacturers and agents and gives you complete control.
How It Works
Sign up to a site like the ones listed below. You upload your artwork and choose which products you would like it to be available on. Products are available in your own online shop and when someone buys one the POD company print, process and ship the item for you—they even handle returns and customer service. Products are only printed to order, so there is no stock left over. Each item has a base price (which goes to the POD site) and you choose how much commission you want on top of that. An average commission rate is about 10–25% and this is what you get on any sold products. You are then sent payments for your total commission at certain times of the year, depending on your chosen settings.
With over 2 million shops and 300 million products currently available, Cafepress.com is possibly the most popular POD website in the World and has a reputation for high-quality products and exceptional customer service.
- Based in: USA
- Product Range: 250-300, including clothing, gifts, home-wares, stationary and accessories
- Organic Products: Yes! T-shirts for men, women and children
- Customisable Store: Yes! Header, Featured Products, Categories, Templates and HTML
- Clothing Sizes: Vary by product but sizes include Men~ S-4XL, Women~ S-2XL and Women Plus~ 16-34
- Fees: 2 Options (see chart below)
- Your Shop URL: cafepress.com/SHOPID
- Compatible With Own Website?: They do not recommend embedding your store but there is a widget available.
- Extras: Shop performance bonus. Earn $100+ to get a 10–30% bonus on base sales for that month.
No Up Front Costs
10% (up to $10 USD) taken from Royalty Cheques
$6.95~ 1 Month
$18.45~ 3 Months ($6.15pm)
$34.95~ 6 Months ($5.83pm)
$59.95~ 12 Months ($5pm)
Hot on the tail of Cafepress is Zazzle.com with nearly 1 million sellers and 20 million visitors per month. They have shipped items to 225 countries, including Antarctica, and boast a huge range of products to choose from.
- Based in: USA
- Product Range: 350+, including clothing, gifts, home-wares, stationary and accessories
- Organic Products: Yes! Clothing and bags
- Customisable Store: Yes! Completely customisable to match your brand.
- Clothing Sizes: Vary by product but sizes include Men~ S-6XL and Women~ S-2XL
- Fees: None
- Your Shop URL: zazzle.com/MYSTORENAME
- Compatible With Own Website?: Flash Panel Widget
- Extras: Proseller Program. Earn $100+ (lifetime) to earn added benefits. Customers can comment on your products and can become 'fans', being updated on your latest products. Trending search topics listed on the Zazzle homepage.
Not Just for Artists
POD is an ideal additional income for charities and brands.
You don't even have to sell your creations. Print-on-Demand is a fantastic way to create team uniforms, promotional items and personalized items for special occasions such as T-shirts for hen dos or stickers for party bags.
The first and only UK based POD Merchandise website. Streetshirts.co.uk is not as big as the above two but still has a lot to offer including being the only one here that lets you use your own domain name!
- Based in: UK
- Product Range: 150, including clothing, underwear, toys, drinkware and accessories
- Organic Products: Yes! T-shirts for men and women
- Customisable Store: Yes! It can also be designed to be embedded into your own site.
- Clothing Sizes: Vary by product but sizes include Men~ S-4XL and Women~ XS-XL
- Fees: None
- Your Shop URL: streetshirts.co.uk/YOUROWNUNIQUENAME or your own Domain
- Compatible With Own Website?: Generated code for embedding.
- Extras: You can choose to have your design printed or embroidered onto items. Choose up to 16 colours from their pallet of 500. FREE shipping for the UK.
Spreadshirt.net is not the biggest POD store website, but it does have a lot of unique features to offer which I think gives them an edge over the others.
- Based in: Germany
- Product Range: 123, including clothing, gift certificates, home-wares, pet accessories and bags.
- Organic Products: Yes! Clothing for men, women and children/babies
- Customisable Store: Yes! Header, Footer, HTML and Colours
- Clothing Sizes: Vary by product but sizes include Men~ S-3XL, Women~ S-XL
- Fees: None or £6.66pm for premium (see extras)
- Your Shop URL: SHOPNAME.spreadshirt.net
- Compatible With Own Website?: iFrame embedding available. You can also add your shop to your Facebook page~ customers won't have to leave your page to order.
- Extras: Premium accounts includes no ads, personalised invoices, shopping incentives, multiple shops and newsletters. Sell your design in the marketplace and earn commission when others buy using your designs in their customised products. "Blog This" button on each product, making it easy to tell your audience about your products.
Things to Consider Before Selling Personalised Merchandise Online
Which POD site you use will depend on your personal and business needs. Before you decide, make sure you take the following into account...
- Currency Conversion Fees: If you use a site that is not based in your own country, there may be an extra fee to pay when it comes to collecting your royalties. Check your payment settings and with your bank if you are unsure. I got caught out with this once. I got a cheque from Cafepress and lost most of it to the currency charges.
- Import Fees and Delivery Times: Consider where your main audience is from. If they are mostly in a different country to the POD site they will probably have to wait a long time for their orders and have to pay added import taxes which will put them off being repeat customers. Double-check with the sites (for example Cafepress.co.uk items are still sent from the USA NOT the UK) and try a test order.
- Marketing: As with all businesses, you cannot rely on your items to sell themselves. Just because they are part of another site, it does not mean you will be easily found. These sites are very popular and there is huge competition. Learn all you can about marketing online products and be prepared to spend more time telling others about your stuff than creating it.
- Copyright: Make sure you have the right to use the images on your products. This also goes for quotes, fonts, names and photos—you don't want to be sued for thousands, even if you didn't make a penny on it in the first place!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Katie on August 22, 2016:
I was with CafePress for many years until they changed their payment structure, I used to make a few hundred dollars every month, now I only make About $40 every couple of months. So I moved to Zazzle. I fell in love with it and have been there for nearly 7 years. My site was making up to $1000 a month! Then, they decided to change their algorithm. For the past couple of years, my income has been slipping more and more. I now make about $250 a month. I can see the writing on the wall here and am looking elsewhere, again. I'm finding these sites don't like people to be successful so they start make changes so they aren't. In Summary, don't waste your time with CafePress, you will be lucky to make a few cents for every sale. Zazzle is still very viable, but it too is starting make it more and more difficult to make any real money.
Jade Trent on August 20, 2016:
I think this information is out of date - Streetshirts ONLY sells clothing and tote bags - disappointing.
Katie on August 11, 2016:
Unfortunately the UK-based company Streetshirts do not offer any products other than clothes.
mimilka on September 06, 2015:
I heard there are complains about Cafepress because of the quality of products and the customer service but I haven't used them so I cannot comment from my own experience. Something that is worth mentioning is that people complain that Zazzle has much more expensive products than other websites and therefore the profit for yourself will be much lower. For example if a t-shirt costs $20 at zazzle and the same type of t-shirt can cost maybe $12 at another website. You cannot sell your t-shirt for too much so the profit from Zazzle will be lower then from other websites if you plan to sell your t-shirts with the same price.
Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on April 21, 2015:
Many thanks for all your advise. I tried signing up with CafePress last year and started with two designs but when I want to create a shop I must fill in a tax form? I'm not sure if none USA citizens can earn at CafePress and get paid on Paypal.
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on December 31, 2013:
Thanks Younghopes :) I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Shadaan Alam from India on December 30, 2013:
Good job, i have only known about cafepress and zazzle, rest are new to me. Thanks for this, i m sharing this hub
Natasha from Hawaii on September 24, 2012:
I'd forgotten about Cafe Press! I'm not sure how, but thanks for reminding me. I use Zazzle and have sold some stuff, but not enough to get a payout. I like selling my photos on Society6. There is a waiting period, but no minimum payout. Woohoo!
Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 19, 2012:
Great information! Thank you!
Karen Creftor (author) from Kent, UK on June 11, 2012:
Hi all, thanks so much for your comments :D
I'm glad you have found this helpful, I know what a minefield it can be starting something from scratch!!
Angela, that's fantastic that Zazzle is working for you, very encouraging for the rest of us hehe
I hope you all come back soon and let us all know how you're getting on and what you think of the websites.
topaz blue on June 09, 2012:
Very interesting hub. I'm developing my own Zazzle uk shop as I type.
Many thanks for a great informative hub.
Claire from Lincolnshire, UK on June 09, 2012:
Signed up to Streetshirts. I have a few ideas but even if I don't end up using it yet, I have my shop name. Thank you
Karen S Falcon from Las Vegas, NV on June 08, 2012:
Good job. ;-) I now have a cafepress shop.
Claire from Lincolnshire, UK on June 08, 2012:
I knew of cafepress but was put off by it being based in America. Thank you for this hub, I wouldn't of known where to start looking for other similar sites.
Angela Michelle Schultz from United States on June 07, 2012:
I really enjoy zazzle, and have earned some money using it!
RTalloni on June 07, 2012:
Yes, interesting--thanks for the information on this POD option.
Judi Brown from UK on June 07, 2012:
This is really interesting - I have heard of Cafepress and Zazzle, but didn't know too much about them, or that there were other sites like them. POD is a new term for me too.
Voted up etc.