This is one of the most common questions I get. Sometimes it feels like you have your niche totally nailed down and sales are starting to really ramp up, then suddenly they drop off the cliff. What causes the ebb and flow of the income from Print on Demand and what can you do to help the low sales months? Let’s talk about it…
Time marches on
One thing the Print on Demand influencers on YouTube don’t tell you about the print on demand industry is that sales tend to rise and fall over the course of the year. You will often hear Q4 as being the best because this time of year represents fall and the holiday season. Because people are all looking for unique gifts, shirts and products with unique art sell very well during this time of year. During the holidays you will see the largest spike in your sales, then they will decline starting in January for a bit because the holiday madness is over. Most PoD shops will see significant bumps in sales a few weeks before the fun holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo and Fourth of July. Make sure your store is stocked at least a month before these dates to ensure that your designs have propagated through the system and your customers can find them.
Putting up a new design is only the start of the process when it comes to Print on Demand. Advertising your products in appropriate places online will help significantly in terms of sales. Don’t rely solely on the Redbubble algorithm to bring customers to your shop. You might be disillusioned by the amount of traffic that you get during the holiday season and slow down your advertising – this is not a good plan. As a shop owner, you need to strike a balance between advertising your products enough to bring in customers and spamming them. Likewise, if you are spending more time advertising and posting your products instead of creating new designs, then you need to look at where you are advertising and if your posts are hitting the target audience for your designs.
Customers are finicky. Trends change, and if you still have all those old designs about COVID-19 and expect to have a stable monthly income from them, you are doing it wrong. People want to move past COVID, they are tired of wearing masks and are not buying them like they were at the beginning of the pandemic. As a shop owner, you need to realize this change in trend and make the necessary changes to your designs. This is the same for all those designs that have been around for years like the Bigfoot silhouette – even though many updated this to be social distancing champion, which did well at the beginning of the pandemic. If you are using Canva or other template or stock asset site, you already have one strike against you in terms of originality of look for your designs. If you made a bunch of designs and never updated or added to them using these assets, then they have gotten stale and people are no longer interested in them, plain and simple. To succeed in print on demand, you must constantly be searching for new trends and styles to keep your shop fresh. This applies to evergreen designs as well as your current trending designs. Styles change, trending colors change, the fonts customers want change, layout preference changes, and you must keep up with all of it if you really want your shop to privide you wth monthly income. .
If you have a design that sells really well and the sales suddenly drop off a cliff for it, there is a strong likelihood that someone may have either borrowed your idea and is selling it for cheaper than you are, or they have stolen it outright. Try searching for similar keywords on Google and see if other results similar to yours show up. You can also do a reverse image lookup on Google images, just upload your image in .jpg form and tell Google to search, and it will generate similar images. If you have found that someone stole your design, then you must go through the process of issuing a takedown request through the print on demand company. Redbubble is usually fairly good about it, but other companies like Teespring Teepublic and Etsy can be notoriously tough to get positive results. I’m working on an article coning soon about the process for each PoD site if you find someone has stolen your design. Be aware, that unless your design is copyrighted or trademarked, there is little you can do if someone creates a similar design to yours. You really only have grounds to stand on if they stole your design outright. This is a generality and depending on the design you might have more or less luck getting something stolen removed from a site.
Resolving the issue
If you have fresh designs (not outdated trends), and you are doing a good amount of advertising to your target niche, but still have slow sales then you might need to consider that your designs are not compelling enough, or that the designs you are making are too targeted. If your design targets Veterans who love Corgis and live in the state of Alabama, then you have to realize that your target audience is too small. This can be as big of an issue as shooting for a target audience that is too large like Corgi lovers. With a larger audience like that, your design has to be stellar and original to float to the top of all the other designs available in the market.
If you designs are mostly current trends, you might need to consider adding some evergreen designs like birthday, graduation etc. that an help your store weather the slow months.
What I do
I have a mixture of offerings in my shops ranging from specific holiday themes to alcohol and other evergreen type designs. I add current trends as I have time and find design ideas that inspire me, then I remove the, when they are no longer appropriate. A good example would be to have removed designs from the 2020 election from your store by January 2021 or so. Another question I often get is “should I remove or disable holiday designs once they pass?” I leave them up and in the case of Redbubble just put them into a holiday design category. It seems strange, but the Christmas in July thing many people do often gets me quite a few sales of Christmas designs from the year before in mid to late June. This year I have new Christmas designs going up specifically for Christmas in July and I will report back on the success of those.
What do you think? Did you learn anything? Let me know if you found this or any other article here useful. Please also share this content on your print on demand forums. If you have a specific topic you would like me to cover in an upcoming article, feel free to drop me a message her eon my contact form.
Now get out there and get designing the next viral shirt!