Can You Make Money With Spreadshirt?
Short answer: Yes.
While you can make money with Spreadshirt, I think the real question is: "Is it worth it?" I'm going to save you some reading time and say, "No".
Don't get me wrong. I have received some payments from Spreadshirt but it has given me so many headaches, I wish I had spent my time doing something more productive. Like watching Fox News ;) There are many people making money off of Spreadshirt. Most people are not.
Let's go through the good and bad. Maybe my experience will help some of you aspiring artists out there looking to turn your talent into cash money.
Sounds easy enough right? Make some nice designs, sit back, and let the money roll in. Piece of cake right? Wrong. It's not as easy as it sounds.
Spreadshirt sounds good on paper but it can be a huge mess. You start off with a standard shop. Here you can upload your designs and wait for them to "pass" an inspection.
If you are looking to make any money, you need to learn how to make vector designs. Vector designs are unique designs that can be resized and retain their quality. Raster designs on the other hand get blurry and pixelated when resized.
Vector designs need to be inspected in order for the plotting machine to accept the design. And you have to do vector designs saved in .EPS format.
Sure you can upload raster designs but they look like crap and they get horribly pixelated when resized. Oh, and you are only allowed to use 3 colors for your vector designs. Black and white counts as colors too.
You can quickly see how your artistic vision gets limited quickly.
The Process Step-by-Step
So you begin by making a vector design using 3 colors, and exporting it into .eps. Okay, time to upload. Then you play the waiting game only to find that your design was rejected because the machine can't accept it.
Apparently, some of your lines or curves are too close to each other, or they are too sharp of an angle for the plotting machine to cut. You can see how this can get irritating fast. After a couple of tries and a few days later, you design is accepted. Nice! Now you can put your design on products (T-shirts) and publish them onto your shop.
You will also have the option of publishing your design on the Spreadshirt Marketplace which is a huge mess. Another annoyance that you may encounter is that you are limited by the amount of designs you can upload.
So you have to "upgrade" your account to get unlimited design uploads and a designer shop. The designer shop seems cool at first, but it's pretty much useless. It's like a gimmick in my opinion. Real talk.
After you get your shop set up, it is now up to you to promote it. Meta tags and optimizing can only do so much. Google adwords can get expensive fast. After spending some money on adwords, I quickly realize that I was selling more from the marketplace, or rather other shops than my own.
This made me realize what a waste of money the upgrade was. To best take advantage of the upgrade, I suggest you have your designs ready, buy one month of the upgrade and upload your designs all at once. If I had to do it all over again, I would've left my designs on the marketplace and left it at that. Hopefully, the designs do sell themselves and aspiring shop owners will use your design in their shops.
I consider myself an above average user. Spreadshirt admits that most shops that get started fail because of poor design, layout, etc. Considering that I made some money with Spreadshirt I can't really say that it was a complete failure. I do however value my time and in all honesty, I believe Spreadshirt is a complete waste of time.
If you are thinking about making money with Spreadshirt, please be realistic. To get anywhere, you will need to invest in lots of time and energy. A LOT. Also consider current events and trends. We are in a rough economy. People are going to tend to save and downsize. Spreadshirt is a luxury. I am sure everyone at Spreadshirt is hurting. Even the big boys.
This is the realness. My personal experience. Yours may vary.
Current Payouts and Previous Payouts
Not Too Bad?
I know some of you guys are looking at my screenshots and thinking, "That's not too bad." Well, guess if I put in less effort, I would be saying the same thing but you have to think about the time invested. Time has value and you can never get it back.
If you spend countless hours working on designs only to get it rejected or not sell at all, than that would be a zero return on your investment. I am however humbled and glad that I got some money out of it. I just wish the market was more stable.
Trendy, edgy and thought-provoking designs sell the best. Stay away from "cute" designs. If you want to analyze the market yourself, start by uploading many random high quality designs.
Keep an eye on which designs get put on different shops. The more shops selling your designs, the more popular that style is. You will quickly realize that you need designs that stir up emotions.
Find Your Niche or No?
They say you should find your niche, and while this is a good idea if you were starting up shop and compiling other artists' designs, the work involved would constitute a full time job plus overtime.
If you decide to go the route of opening and promoting your shop, you must work on marketing and search engine optimization which is a daunting task in and of itself. Not only that, you still have find time to be creative and make the designs.
If you want to do this "on the side" I suggest you pick and choose. Either be an artist and submit your designs to the marketplace or open up shop and find designs in the marketplace to put in your shop.
If I had to choose all over again, I would've chosen the first option instead of doing both. It is very difficult to promote your shop. You literally have to start at zero. You get no help from Spreadshirt to promote your shop. Spreadshirt only links designs in the marketplace.
Something's Not Right
While you can see the number of shops selling your designs, you cannot view these shops. Spreadshirt does not provide links to them, disconnecting shop owners again. Looking at this from Spreadshirt's perspective, it is not in their best interest to link and promote shops that do not make them money.
Another thing that smells funny to me is that the "marketplace" seems to be just a front word for their own "shop" much like ours. What do I mean by this? Pay attention. You have a design on a shirt in your shop that sells for $16.99. The same design on the same shirt can be found on the Spreadshirt "marketplace" for $19.99. Who's making the difference? And why? Spreadshirt is already getting a product cut from the shirt.
There is no difference between the products except one is located in their directory they call the "marketplace". See where I'm going with this? It seems like the "marketplace" is just a fancy name for their own shop. I guess the markup can be justified as advertising cost but it's annoying to see different prices of the same product everywhere.
If I were a customer and I wanted a shirt I saw on the marketplace, I want to get it for the cheapest price. Well, I can. You see I have to click on the product, click on the designer's name, click on their shop name and bam, there it is. A few clicks just saved me a few bucks.
But you can see how pointless and idiotic this is. Spreadshirt has a loyalty towards their end customer and the bottom line of course. But they need to take care of their shop owners and designers too. You know, the people that actually put them in business. The $25 minimum cash out balance is pretty high in my opinion. It can take a long time for a designer to reach that threshold especially if he or she is new.
Also admitting themselves that most shops/designers fail — where does that money go if it is below $25? I can imagine lots of designers giving up at $15-$20.
Think of it like gift cards. Gift cards are free money. They are instant profit and become lesser profits when they are redeemed. Design commission are instant profits until you cash out at $25. I am just one designer but I'm sure many more people are dissatisfied with the company.
After I published this article, I got an e-mail from Jana Eggers, CEO of Spreadshirt. I guess they are doing damage control and my article conflicted with their best interest. In my profile page, I have said that I was going to give you (the reader) my experience. I like to keep things real. I'm not going to sell you anything. If I like something, I will tell you. If I do not like something, I will not be afraid to say it. We all are looking to make that money and save time. I'm just trying to save you some time with my article. That does not mean that I hate Spreadshirt. Oh well. Let's get to it shall we? Here is Jana's email in it entirety.
We saw your hubpages post regarding Spreadshirt. Thanks for the upfront feedback. We of course aren't happy that you find Spreadshirt overall not worth your effort. A few thoughts:
- Thanks for the feedback on linking to other shops that use your designs (we can do that).
- Not sure what you think is gimmicky about the designer shop. If you can give more specifics we'd love to know.
- We've found that shops with few designs perform worse... 3 is definitely few. The value of print on demand is that you can put many designs up and provide choice to your customers.
- In addition to this, many shop partners come with their own communities, so they don't buy AdWords. They are looking to express themselves/their community.
The question of vectors is a tough one. This provides the highest quality printing, but it does mean the designs have to be specific. You can always use digitals and have many fewer constraints. Maybe you didn't see that option?
- Most of our Shop Partners chose vector because of the quality. To give you an idea of the customer perceived quality, satisfaction on the vector printing is 2x that of the digital printing.
Regarding getting products cheaper directly from the shop, this is by design. We do not want to compete with our shop partners. This is one of the reasons many shops partners work with us.
If you have more feedback, we are happy to have it.
-- Jana Eggers CEO, Spreadshirt em: firstname.lastname@example.org ph: +1-781-929-2223 Create your own label www.spreadshirt.com Apparel you love to wear! Quasi-personal + quasi-business blog www.lifeonashirt.com
Above is the e-mail uneditted (except my name of course). My first reaction after reading that was shock. I was surprised that my itty bitty article gained the attention of the CEO of Spreadshirt. Imagine doing a review on Windows 7 and getting an e-mail from Bill Gates. Ok, this isn't as big as Microsoft but you get my drift.
At first, I thought it was just someone that worked at Spreadshirt and it took me a minute to read the signature. I felt a bit insulted when I started to read between the lines. I'll go through each bullet and respond here.
1. "Thanks for the feedback on linking to other shops that use your designs (we can do that)."
2. "Not sure what you think is gimmicky about the designer shop. If you can give more specifics we'd love to know."
Although I said it was cool at first, I think it's gimmicky because it's pretty much useless unless, for some reason, you want to specifically have a design on you sleeve or back. While it offers the customer some control, it costs a premium to shop owners to get a designer shop with an upgraded account. If they do not upgrade their accounts, the customer would have to navigate to Spreadshirt's designer shop through their main website and pay a little extra. (I'll get more to this at the last bullet). Some people will like it, I did at first, but I didn't find it to be worth it later.
3. "We've found that shops with few designs perform worse... 3 is definitely few. The value of print on demand is that you can put many designs up and provide choice to your customers."
Taking a shot at me now? Yes I have 3 designs in my shop. This was after I decided just to go the marketplace route. Beforehand I had almost a dozen designs until I decided that maintaining a shop wasn't the reason I joined Spreadshirt.
I deleted my other designs but having those designs did not help my traffic or my shop. So I shut down my shop, basically abandoning it and left only the designs that were on other people's shop, the 3. Refer to my paragraph, "Find Your Niche or No?"
Like I said, opening your own shop is hard work. You start from nothing. Zero links and no visitors. Actually, I take that back. You start with 1 link maybe. Doing a google search of "list of spreadshirt shops" I found a directory. SEO is huge job. It's unreasonable for the average shop owners to come up with designs, while maintaining and promoting their own shops on their own. Summary: Shops with lots of designs and no traffic do worse. Traffic is the problem and these shops just aren't getting any.
4. "In addition to this, many shop partners come with their own communities, so they don't buy AdWords. They are looking to express themselves/their community."
5. "The question of vectors is a tough one. This provides the highest quality printing, but it does mean the designs have to be specific. You can always use digitals and have many fewer constraints. Maybe you didn't see that option?"
I did see that and I mentioned the benefits of vector in a way that it becomes the standard in order to compete. I never questioned the quality of printing, I just simply pointed that process for designers can get frustrating.
6. "Most of our Shop Partners chose vector because of the quality. To give you an idea of the customer perceived quality, satisfaction on the vector printing is 2x that of the digital printing."
I understand this completely, that's why I suggested to my readers to avoid raster designs.
7. "Regarding getting products cheaper directly from the shop, this is by design. We do not want to compete with our shop partners. This is one of the reasons many shops partners work with us."
But the shop partners are getting the "design commission" either way. Both the shop owners and spreadshirt benefits, Spreadshirt just benefits more while the customer loses. The only way for shop owners to take advantage of this is to adjust the "product commission" so that it is just under Spreadshirt's main shop. The "product commission" serves no other purpose except to even things out with Spreadshirt. Shop partners benefit from a link they would normally not get. A sale they would normally not get because of low web traffic. Either way you cut it, we can both be right.
Well that was interesting right? Why did I choose to post this e-mail and respond publicly? My loyalties are to you, the reader. I also hate getting disrespected. I understand that it's easy to misinterprete things online but I am also smart enough to read between the lines.
Since this email. I've deleted my account with Spreadshirt. This is why we hire public relations experts. Because they are good with public relations. I made some Youtube videos helping other designers that wanted to try Spreadshirt. I've deleted those videos also. Things come and go. It was time to move on from this. Those who have any questions or comments, please post below.
Anyone can post, you do not have to register. I would love to hear your success stories or experience with Spreadshirt.
After all this, I don't want to leave my visitors sad and depressed. The best thing for me to do right now is to direct you to Spreadshirt competitors.
Zazzle, Cafepress, and Printfection are a few companies to consider. I have to be honest, the quality of these prints is what drew me to working with Speadshirt in the first place. However, my experience with them has been tarnished and I don't see myself supporting them at all, for anything. I don't have any experiences with those companies since Spreadshirt was the first I tried so keep that in mind.
For all the would be designers out there, make sure you plan ahead. You will have to do everything on your own. It isn't exactly easy spending hours designing and then spending days promoting it.