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Trying to Make Money With Zazzle: My Experience

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As an artist, I have sold designs on Zazzle. I share my experiences and successes to try and help others.

Blue sunflowers that I offered in my Zazzle store.

Blue sunflowers that I offered in my Zazzle store.

Starting With Zazzle

After a few months of earning beer money online from writing, I expanded my attempts to Zazzle, the print-on-demand company.

I don't know why I hadn't started there earlier. I think my mind was completely focused on writing articles and SEO. Also, I have never seen myself as an artistic type. However, I had been using Zazzle images to illustrate my writing, mostly on Squidoo articles, and suddenly I thought, why not? After all, the idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket is very sound.

I had been concentrating on writing on a few different venues, hoping they would not all be slapped by Google's Panda update at the same time. Surely trying to sell graphics and photos, because that is really what one does on Zazzle, is an even better form of diversification.

I wrote up these thoughts after my first month on Zazzle—mainly because it will be very amusing, once I'm a grizzled veteran t-shirt seller making my living on the site, to read my naïve newbie thoughts here. Also, at the time of writing this, I'd just had my first sale! I made $5.11 from selling a grapefruit-turned-to-green-flower iPhone 5 case and was brimming with enthusiasm and expectations of great success.

Setting Up a Zazzle Store

Setting up a Zazzle store and making your first products is free and incredibly easy. Just sign up, make up a name for your store, and start posting away. You can either upload images from your computer to start with, then use them to create products, or just start creating stuff and upload the images on the go.

I did spend some time personalising my gallery with, to me, a calm and pleasant colour scheme. There is a lot of freedom in choosing how to display one's stuff; after uploading some designs, I chose some 'featured products' which is the first thing a visitor to my Zazzle sees.

I started off with pictures of my geckos and frogs.

I started off with pictures of my geckos and frogs.

My poor frog Zoidberg with Photoshop body paint.

My poor frog Zoidberg with Photoshop body paint.

Where to Get Ideas for Zazzle Images?

I started off with the images of my frog Zoidberg and my geckos, of which I am extremely proud. However, it did occur to me that this niche is perhaps a little bit too narrow.

I had used Photoshop over the years for work, but I had never really explored all the capabilities of the software. Now was obviously the time to do it.

Luckily, there are many YouTube videos out there that explain how to achieve exciting effects. I used Photoshop to add some interesting colours to my poor frog. Then I had fun with the 'hue/saturation' sliders to produce bizarrely coloured objects. I'm developing a new line of 'supermarket art'. The process goes something like, buy groceries, photograph them, turn them into Zazzle products, consume the food.

This is what frugal living is all about—nothing goes to waste.

Different colors easily created with the "hue" slider in Photoshop

Different colors easily created with the "hue" slider in Photoshop

First Success

I was really enjoying my Zazzle store; it is great fun uploading new images and thinking up new designs. It's also good to have a way of trying to earn money online that doesn't involve writing. It is very refreshing to read the Zazzle forums, where panda is a cute black and white animal, not a weapon from the Evil Empire bent on ruining our livelihoods.

However, I was not really doing this just for fun, when would I sell something? Had I found another promising way of making money online that doesn't actually make any money? Had anybody noticed all the artistic produce I've uploaded prior to eating it?

Then I had my first success (sort of): I was given the Best of the Day award!

Ok this wasn't exactly the same as earning cash, but at least it was some kind of recognition of my work. According to the email "your candy jar has been hand-picked as an example of creativity at its finest. Out of thousands of products on Zazzle, yours was chosen for being one of the best!"

Perhaps I have lived for far too long in the UK, but I find a lot of the enthusiasm-on-steroids feedback from US revenue-sharing sites a bit off-putting. I'd much rather have cash then the "creativity at its finest" superlatives. Plus this particular design (made from extremely yummy pink grapefruit from Waitrose) is not even my favourite. I suspect these 'featured products' are not handpicked with that much care or artistic consideration. Still I can't deny that I was rather pleased that something I created received any recognition.