I'm a freelance writer and digital artist. I've made money from my designs on Zazzle.
Is Zazzle Worth It?
Zazzle is an online retailer that enables members to add visual designs to any individual item from its huge range of onsite products. Members can earn a royalty from any sales made bearing their designs.
While I've known of Zazzle for years and occasionally had a look around the website, I had never actually joined. So now I've joined in order to embark upon a more thorough investigation of its money-making potential for members (not the potential for the company; they seem to be doing fine).
What Is Zazzle?
Zazzle is an online retailer selling a variety of products with visual designs added by members of the site worldwide. The company, according to its About page, started "from humble beginnings" in 2005 and is based in Redwood City, San Jose, California. Their international headquarters are in Ireland (no doubt for tax purposes—just like Google has done).
What Does Zazzle Sell?
Zazzle has a large inventory of stock categorised in different departments:
- Art and posters
- Cards and clothing
- Craft supplies
- Home and pets
- Office products
How Sales Work
If a member wants to sell one of their own designs on any Zazzle product, they can add it by pasting it onto a picture of their chosen product, and it will be offered for sale on the site. At this point, the finished product doesn't exist yet except as a picture on the site.
If a customer offers to buy it, Zazzle then produces and posts it. The agreed, previously chosen royalty is then paid to the member according to Zazzle's "following month" payout procedure.
What Are Visual Designs?
They're simply images such as photos, artwork, humorous text messages or graphics that members create or that they have the usage rights to. For example, you can submit a photo that you took and have it placed on the front of a T-shirt, or a phrase such as "World's Best Dad" on a coffee mug. You can also use Public Domain photos, i.e., old photos for which the copyright has expired. Obviously, using anyone else's photos or designs that you don't have the rights to is illegal and a violation of Zazzle's Terms and Conditions.
In the mouse pad design above, making it was simply a case of taking one of my designs I'd made earlier, pasting it onto Zazzle's picture of a blank mouse pad and making a few size adjustments to ensure it fit right. It's as simple as that. The abstract design I used could just as easily have been a photo, a drawing or even just some text.
How Much Does Zazzle Pay?
Zazzle pays you a percentage of the sale, which can be decided beforehand. The final price to the customer takes that percentage into account. The default is 5%, but Zazzle recommends choosing around 7% at most. Any more than that can make the item uncompetitive and less attractive to buyers. However, a royalty as high as 99% is possible. That increases the price enormously, so it would have to be a very special design to persuade any customer to pay a lot more than they have to.
Royalty Calculation Example
For example, if an item costs $10 before your royalty is added, but you want 99%, that leaves 1% for Zazzle. But Zazzle always gets the net cost of $10, so that means their $10 is worth 1% of the total price that the customer pays, and your 99% will be:
- 99 X $10 = $990
That comes to $1000 that the customer would have to pay for a $10 item. It's extremely unlikely they'll buy it unless they really must have your design and no other will do—and money is no object. Strangely enough, though, quite a few people do price their items like that. I'm not sure why. You can see them on the site, e.g., a $20 T-shirt priced at $2,000.
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Obviously, there won't be a rush of customers for those, and that's why Zazzle recommends 7%. Also, a small charge is applied to commissions over 20%.
More Earnings Opportunities
If you have a website, you can place a Zazzle banner on it as a Zazzle Associate to promote their site. If anyone clicks through to Zazzle and buys anything, you will earn 15% commission on the sale. Your Associates ID number is in the Associates section in your Account.
There's also a volume bonus paid, depending on how much you've earned in the previous month.
There are several international Zazzle sites in addition to the original zazzle.com site, and the payment procedures are slightly different depending on which one you've signed up through. For the US site, you can receive payment by PayPal when you've earned $50 or the equivalent in your own country's currency if applicable (e.g., UK minimum payment is £30). You can also be paid by check, but in US dollars only, and the minimum is $100.
As Zazzle is a US company, everyone needs to fill in a tax form in order to be paid. Different forms are available on the site, depending on whether you're a US resident or not.
Unfortunately, Zazzle has introduced a non-contributor fee of $2.00, which they deduct from your balance every month that you don't upload a new design or make a sale. The deductions stop when your account balance reaches zero.
Setting up a Zazzle Store
Any member can set up one or more Zazzle stores for free. Basically, a store is just an area of the site where you showcase all the products that you have added visual designs to. Having more than one store enables you to separate product lines by different niches. You have complete control of your stores and can manage them as you like. You can add as many products as you like, delete any you no longer want to sell or even delete a whole store.
$100,000 and above
Making Sales: Advice From the Experts
The first thing that new members find off-putting (and the reason I never joined before) is the huge amount of competition. While the store has a large range of products, it's tiny compared to the number of designs available for each product. They number in the millions!
So if you submit a design and add it to a coffee mug, for example, what are the chances that someone will choose yours among the four million currently available or even see yours? One in four million? Not quite, as the customer can filter the results in search of a certain type of mug or design, but it's still a huge number. So that's obviously not how to do it.
Having just joined the site, I'm not in any position to advise how to make sales. The only people who can do that are those experts who make sales regularly. Obviously, they don't just stick a design on a product and hope for the best. So how do they do it? The easy way to find out is by spending time on the Zazzle Forum. Regulars there offer advice on how they make it work for them, which I've condensed into the following:
Promote Your Products
Promote your products (i.e., Zazzle's products bearing your designs) anywhere and everywhere (short of spamming). Social media is good, obviously, and so are your own sites if you have any. There are also article sites, such as Writedge, that allow their members to place ads for their Zazzle products on articles they've written.
Tag and Describe Products Well
You need to describe your design well and fully and add good tags or keywords (single word or phrases) so that anyone using a search engine (including Zazzle's onsite search engine) will have more chance of coming across your products in response to their search query.
Make Your Designs Customisable
A customer may like your design on an item, such as a mug, but also want someone's name on it, or a phrase that's relevant to them or someone else personally in some way. So, unless it's something like a fine-art print that you don't want to be altered in any way, you can leave an area of your design blank that the customer can add any text they like to before buying the item.
Keep in mind, too, that customers can also make their own design from scratch and buy the product themselves from Zazzle. So if your product was simply a blank coffee mug with "Hello" written on it in plain text, any customer could do that for themselves by choosing a blank mug and adding any text they want using the Zazzle text editor—and cut you and your commission out of the deal completely.
Follow Trends and Design Accordingly
Keeping up with and tailoring your designs to current trends and happy, newsworthy events (e.g., a royal birth) can increase your sales. Also, you can anticipate seasonal or annual events such as Xmas, New Year, Easter, Holi, Fathers' Day and Mothers' Day as a lot of Zazzle products are purchased as gifts.
Have a Large Stock
The more products you've added designs to, the greater the chances of making sales. Some of your products will never sell, and that might even be true for most of them. Others will sell, however, and those that sell will help you produce new designs that are more attractive to buyers in the future because you can then tailor your design efforts to be more in line with what people actually want. Remember that, unlike a real store, you can have as many products for sale as you like without paying anything. The only investment is your time.
So, Can You Make Money on Zazzle?
From my research based on the experience of lots of users, I've concluded that, yes, you can make money on Zazzle. You can actually make a reasonable amount of money if you do it right. That said, the majority of members make next to nothing because they don't do it the way the successful sellers do it. They put up a few products and wait for sales . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . and give up. Giving up is their best option, as that waiting and hoping strategy is just a waste of time.
So if you want to make money on Zazzle, follow the successful regulars' advice above. Be committed and run your shop like a real shop—diligently and professionally.
If you're an experienced Zazzler (if that's the right word) and want to share your experience of the site, good or bad, then feel free to add a comment. It will be appreciated.
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.
© 2015 Chas Mac
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on August 05, 2020:
Thanks for sharing this. I haven't been able to warm up to zazzle for some reason. Not sure why but it never makes me want to work with them.