This article may contain some things that you might have a tough time hearing if you are experiencing difficulties selling products with your photography. Why do some photographers sell, and some do not? Let’s talk about it.

The basics

The Canon 5dMKIV, a pro level DSLR camera outputs images at around 6700 X 4400 pixels. There are cameras which are many times that resolution, but I will use the 5dIV for this example because it is considered an industry standard in terms of image quality output. As a point of interest, the lower end prosumer model Canon T7i outputs around 6000 X 4000 pixels and is a very capable camera at a fraction of the price. I will not get into he differences between the two cameras because one is full frame and the other is APS-C, rather I will just stick to the output resolution because those dimensions directly correspond to the products you can put your image on in the Redbubble (and other PoD services like Teespring, Teepublic, Spreadshirt and the like.) interface.

Aim to the Duvet

The printable area for the king size Duvet needs a file with dimensions equal to 7632 x 6480 pixels at 300 dots per inch, and a file of this size is compatible with most of the other products available on Redbubble. If you aim toward the largest size needed, most other products will work. The problem with using an image from a camera is that you are under the file size needed for some of the cooler  products. So how do I get a useable file for a Duvet out of an image off my camera?

Let’s process this

If you are shooting on a smartphone, and then uploading to Redbubble, the quality is just not going to be there. I am all about the camera you have is the best one adage, but the quality of the images that are output from a smartphone are (in mast cases) not going to stand up to printing on a very large format like the King Duvet. Even with some of the larger pixel smartphones coming out, the fact is that the sensor in the smartphones is so small that the quality does not stand up to larger printing formats. We shall see what the quality of the new cameras offers, as I type this a new Samsung is slated to hit the market soon which may change the opinions.

How you process your images is also important, in many cases the horizontal edge can be upscaled a bit and will fit on one edge of the Duvet, but then there is space that is not filled with your image, what do you do about that? A solid color? This can b done in the Redbubble interface. The other option is to upscale the image so that the short side of the image meets the 6480 resolution requirement. The net result of this will be a cropped image from your original, so be sure to shoot for the crop you need for your final image.

The method you use to upscale your image is also important. Not all algorithms are created equal, and I have found that the output from free software packages like GIMP tend to leave images blurry. The good news about this is that you are printing on fabric in most cases, so a blurry image is going to matter more on prints and coffee mugs. A better option is to subscribe to Photoshop or buy a dedicated resizing program or plugin. Adobe recently announced a new feature called super resolution which can upscale an image four times it’s original size with little quality loss. The photoshop bundle costs 10 bucks a month, if you are a photographer, I can’t imagine why you would not take advantage of this amazing price.

 So, if your technical photography game is on point, and you still aren’t selling products with your images, what are you doing wrong?

Amateur hour

The internet is a fickle place, and good photography is available everywhere. This means that if your image quality is not in the very good to great level of quality then your stuff isn’t going to sell. Not to bury the lead here, but this is the most common problem I see when I consult with Redbubble sellers who are struggling to get consistent sales with photo products. This can be very tough to hear, especially when everyone you know is telling you how amazing your photography is. You might have an amazing image of a beach that is just not selling even though it looks great to you. What you need to assess is whether the image is great because it means something to you – like memories of a great beach vacation or if it is technically great. When you look at your image, you remember the fond times on the beach and the margaritas you had and how warm the water was. When I look at your image, I see a shot of a beach that I may have seen a million times before, and it was likely shot at midday. The sun is probably harsh, and the sky is boring, making the image overall lifeless. The easiest way to fail at Redbubble with photography is to upload snapshots instead of art. To be frank, nobody cares to hang an image of your girlfriend on the beach in her bikini, or an image of your car shot on the street in midday.

Boring presentation

The other big way I see designers struggle is with the way they put the images on the products for Redbubble and other print on demand sites. There is nothing more boring than plopping an image on a shirt and calling it a day. Even if it is an amazing photo, if you do not add text or some other design elements to the design they generally don’t sell well. See? Tough love here in this article. So, how do you get better and make images that are quality enough to sell?

Practice!

Getting better at photography is just like getting better at any skill. Do not rely on your camera and think that the camera will make the shots great, I have tens of thousands of dollars in camera gear that is very capable of taking terrible images. Consider enrolling in a community college course to ramp up your photo skills. The YouTube videos can only offer so much, and being in a classroom and having your work evaluated will be one of the biggest steps you will take to increase your skills in photography. There are many keys to a good photograph, the light, the composition, technical aspects, and post processing. With the rampant availability of great images online, if you fall down in any of these categories, you could end up with an image that will not sell well for you.

Don’t be discouraged

There is a market for every kind of art in the world. There IS a market for your boring vacation snapshot, you just need to find it. If you are looking to sell images of a car then join and get involved in a Facebook group dedicated to that car (I’m sure there are many) If you take the extra steps to make the designs interesting with some graphical or text additions then you might be able to find a great niche for Redbubble.

Conclusion

There you go, was it painful to hear that? I mentor people on print on demand and photography, and I am well aware that it can be devastating to hear that your work is not as good as your family is telling you it is. Did you learn something? Do you know someone else who is struggling to sell photography on Redbubble, Teespring Spreadshirt, Etsy or other platforms? Share this article with them and help me to continue to make this kind of content. Feel free to drop me a message here if you have any questions about this article.

Get out and get designing!

The print on demand industry has an incredibly low bar for entry, and if you do it right, it can be a good source of passive income. There are tons of great places to sell your designs online like Redbubble, Teespring, Teepublic and even directly on Amazon using their Merch by Amazon service. Getting started can feel overwhelming because there are so many options, so where do you start? Let’s talk about it.

The basics of design tools

There are two common types of graphic design tools used to create designs for print on demand, raster and vector. Raster or pixel-based tools like Gimp (free) or Photoshop are tailored to work on pixel-based images like photographs. The biggest downside to these programs is that the files you output are limited to the resolution of the source material you start with. As an example, many images found on stock photo sites like pexels or unsplash will be downloaded at around 2000 pixels at 72 to 100 dpi (dots per inch) on the long edge, and most sites like Redbubble want files around 4500 X 5400 pixels at 300 dpi for maximum compatibility with all products. This means that if you download an image of a squirrel depending on how big the squirrel is in the frame, you very well may not be able to use that image for printing purposes. Recent updates to photoshop have included the ability to increase the resolution of an image significantly, and there are dedicated plugins which will also increase the resolution of your image, but these can only go so far before the output begins to look fuzzy and unusable. Generally, if you plan to base your designs on photo type images, you will want to take your own photos so they are in higher resolution.

The second type of tool commonly used for print on demand is vector-based programs like Affinity Designer (Win/Mac $24.99, iPad $9.99) and Adobe’s Illustrator (subscription). The benefit of using vector-based programs is that they are not based on resolution or file size. When you create designs in vector software, you are putting points and curves together to make a shape. These shapes are all mathematically based and can be scaled to any size and resolution needed for your printing needs. The biggest downside to these programs is they take time to learn, and the end result is often cartoon-looking.  Be aware that vector-based programs are CPU and GPU intensive and can really bog down an older computer.

What if I can’t draw?

The tool many choose to create designs for print on demand, especially when first starting out is often a template-driven drag and drop site like Canva.com. Canva provides lots of good-looking templates to get you up and designing (and selling) right away. Canva includes commercial usage rights and can keep you virtually buried in designs to choose from if you opt for the premium subscription level of Canva’s service. Canva is a great place to start if you have no graphic design or layout skills and want to quickly get some designs up on your print on demand service. If you have watched any of the YouTube creators, they often tout Canva as the go-to solution for most beginning print on demand workflows.

The biggest downside to using sites and drag and drop solutions like Canva is that everyone with little to no graphic and design layout knowledge is using the same templates. Customers are picky and they tend to glaze over their interest when offered multiple versions of the same shirt with marginally different text treatments. Remember that if your dream shirt says I love Dogs with a picture of a dog, you can execute the design in Canva, but the result you will upload to Redbubble will use text, images and layout that many other designers are also using. Your I love dogs shirt is no longer unique since it uses the same dog picture that is on a hundred or thousand other shirts available on Redbubble. This one reason is why most new designers fail to sell designs on Redbubble and other platforms after watching the YouTuber crowd hype the ease and lucrative nature of print on demand.

Which is best free or paid software?

The best answer to this is: it depends. If you are looking to throw a few text-based designs up on Redbubble and make a few quick sales, then perhaps Canva might be the best option for you. With Canva, you are limited to the look of their designs templates and if you do not plan to do t-shirt design long term this is a good solution.  

The biggest factor to consider in your decision when looking at tools to create your print on demand designs should be longevity and flexibility. What if you start a print on demand business today and spend thousands of hours creating and uploading designs and the free service or software you are using to create your designs is suddenly no longer available? Canva is a big site, but what if the legislation surrounding their content and templates changes? What would you do if the free software you spent hundreds of hours getting used to is no longer being upgraded? Choosing programs like Affinity Designer, Procreate and Illustrator are not only industry standards, but less likely to vanish because their team is not making it on the freeware model. I have gone the free/cheap route with programs before, and the program I spent hundreds of hours learning was suddenly gone because the technology in the free program was purchased by a larger company (Sony) and later phased out.  It is frustrating and can lead to downtime while you learn a new program or suite.

The argument for paid options

What if you want to get serious about making designs and the templates offered at Canva do not fit your needs? If you are looking to make unique designs (that have a better chance of selling), then it is going to cost you two things: money and time. If you subscribe to Illustrator, you will be learning to use an industry-standard design program. There are a million and one free YouTube tutorials available to get you up and running quickly. The point that I like to make is that when you are learning to use an Adobe product, you are learning a lasting skill. It can take time, but there are a lot of sources available for support when you decide to walk down that well-traveled road.  

The time part of the equation is learning the basics of graphic design. YouTube is a good source, but I have found that sites like skillshare and Udemy offer great courses that are produced by knowledgeable instructors. Udemy often has sales offering their master classes for less than 20 dollars. This isn’t an advertisement for Udemy, I just personally use them and have found their content very high quality and I recommend them to anyone looking to learn a skill.

Setting yourself up for success long term

Learning graphic design and a program like Illustrator will net you a set of skills that are not dependent on companies like Canva to produce your product. You are also setting your work apart from the competition. Once you know the rules for text layout and can create assets (like your dog picture for your dream shirt) then your work is elevated above all of the designers who rely on Canva.

One thing those who take this advice learn quickly is that once they have the basics down pat, they have another source of revenue available to them that other designers do not. If you can create the dog picture in illustrator, suddenly you can offer services to other designers who lack the skill to create those assets themselves. Offering to create those awesome dog pictures on sites like fiverr can be a good source of income that you can do while you are creating new designs for your print on demand shops. I have often created assets that never became shirts, and was able to sell them on fiverr, recouping my time spent on those images.

Setting yourself apart

So, learning graphic design and illustrator sets your work apart from the rest of the crowd, and also opens another income venue, why wouldn’t you do it? Remember that a monthly subscription to use illustrator is a business expense, which you will be happy about when tax time comes. The problem with setting your work apart for the competition is that you will get more sales and thus have to pay more taxes. Print on demand is a very low overhead business and a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud can certainly help offset that. Who knew that selling more could cost you so much?

Conclusion

What do you think? Did this article convince you to consider investing in yourself to learn a new skill, or will you stick with the free or drag and drop options? I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a message here with comments about this article or questions about print on demand. Because I use name brand words, I can’t monetize my content so if you like articles like this, please share them with your print on demand community and spread the word.

Now get out there and get designing!

The short answer is: it depends. Before we get to the good bits here, let me state that I am not a lawyer, and nothing in this article is intended to replace the advice of legal counsel. If you have specific questions about using images downloaded from the internet in your print on demand designs, I always suggest contacting a copyright attorney. Ok, now the rest of the answer: The long answer to this question lies in the source of the image you procured from google. There are stock photography websites like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock which allow you to license their images for personal or commercial use, and the price you pay will be significantly more for commercial use (and the restrictions of how it can be used are more stringent.). So, at this point, you might be asking yourself can I or can’t I use the images I find on google for my designs?

It is complicated

Before you use an image downloaded off google in your design you need to be aware of the legal rights of the image holder, the person who actually took the photo or made the image you want to use. Has this person released the content into creative commons where anyone can use it as they see fit? Have they released it to stock sites so they can make a per-image fee from its use? If you are not 100% sure of the source of the image and how it can be used, then don’t use it. Artists have rights, and their images come with inherent copyright just lie your print on demand designs do. If you create a cool design and upload it and someone steals it right away, how do you feel that they are making money off the design you made? Is this starting to make a little more sense now?

Long term considerations  

If you download an image from a stock website and use it in one of your designs do you know your rights? If the stock site goes out of business does the license you are using the image under still apply? Or are you required to take your design down? If you get dinged for copyright on one of your print on demand sites do you have a copy of the image license on file that you can access if you need it? If you get sued would you be able to produce a verifiable license agreement (even if the website was out of business) for the image you used and made money from?  

Pexels

If the source of the image you are using is a website like pexels.com then according to their license agreement, you can (as of this writing) use images downloaded from their site for commercial applications like blogs, websites, commercials, and even print on demand designs. I would of course refer you to their site for the most current restrictions in their license agreement.

Here is a link to the Terms and Conditions for Pelxels:

https://www.pexels.com/terms-of-service

Is it worth the trouble?

This all sounds like a lot to keep track of. If I download an image from Pexels I have to keep a copy of the license agreement and I have to actually read the agreement to ensure that my application is not voiding my license for that image? I also must keep track of the sources I have used in my designs and ensure that the licensing has not changed for the materials I am using in my designs? Yes. The alternative is that you get sued and lose your car, house dog, etc. Again, I will state that I’m not a legal scholar but I have a lot of experience with licensed properties, and believe me if you are being taken to court over copyright infringement you should be concerned. Most lawyers won’t take a case unless there are clear and current materials representing the copyright claim. You do have an LLC (limited liability corporation) that you run your design business through just in case, right?

Everyone is in the same boat

So what if you are like the many out there who are doing print on demand designs with no graphic design background or skills? You don’t have the ability to make cool designs yourself so you scour the internet for clipart and images you can use for your designs. Well, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but there are a lot in the print on demand industry who do exactly the same thing you do. When you use images from Pexels, yes, they are useable in commercial designs, but realize that everyone else is also using the images from Pexels in their designs as well. Print on demand is a very saturated market to be in and when you are working in a saturated market, you need to figure out what you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Set yourself apart

If a customer comes to Redbubble and searches for “I love coffee” shirts, and five results come up, two with just words, two with the same coffee cup image from google images and the words and one with a cool character holding coffee which one do you think is going to sell? Generally, depending on the design the more unique offering will be the one that sells. So how do you get to be the guy selling the unique design instead of the cookie-cutter design everyone else is doing? Take some classes, get real software like photoshop and illustrator and learn to use them. If you are using the free options, pre-made templates or just text designs your work is not going to stand out from the crowd. Learning to make (good) unique designs can be a long road to take, but you will sell more in the long run, and what is even cooler is that once you make your fortune from your designs you can release them to stock sites for others to license and make you even more money from. Cool huh?

Conclusion

Is stealing images from the internet for your designs worth it? No. at best, your images will get copyright flagged and taken down, at worst you will get sued and the money you made from that design will have to go to the rightful owner (the creator of the design) and your lawyer. Take your own pictures, make your own designs, create your own illustrations and overall you will get a financial win and a moral one because you didn’t steal other artist’s work to make money.

Get out there and get designing!

Print on Demand (or PoD) is considered a passive source of income and is an internet-based business anyone can start. When most people talk about Print on Demand, they are generally referring to a company online which prints T-shirts for you, however today’s print on demand services offer everything from face masks to phone cases and beach towels. Essentially you create a high-resolution design and upload it to a service, depending on the service you choose to partner with, they will promote, print, and ship the order to your customers. You get a percentage for each sale and most services allow you to choose the amount you make on each item sold. This lets you focus your time on creating new sellable designs rather than dealing with business infrastructure. How does it work? Let’s talk about it.

How much does it cost?

Getting started in any business requires startup costs. Depending on the path you take, your startup cost for getting into Print on Demand can be very reasonable. All but a couple of the Print on Demand services are free to join, but you might be required to jump through a few hoops to get your items listed.  Until now, if you wanted to be able to make your own T-shirts to sell, you had to learn screen printing and buy the bulky equipment and all the blank shirts and inks. You had to buy into a credit card service and deal with the hassle of not only promoting your designs, but printing and sending them out to your customers yourself. With Print on Demand services, you just upload a high quality, high resolution file and they handle the rest. But what about the most important part of the equation? The designs?

If you don’t have a background in graphic design, color theory and typography, can you still make designs for Print on Demand? Of course, there are websites like  Canva.com  that allow you to create designs from templates, all you need to do is come up with the text you want to put on the shirt. Here is where most Print on Demand tutorials end – they don’t tell you the truth. You can use these design templates, but there will be many times when you want to make specific changes to a design to fit your needs for a shirt design, and having a background or at least some basic knowledge in graphic design can go a long way.

The most significant cost associated with starting a Print on Demand will be time. No matter how simple all of the other tutorials say it will be, there will be significant time involved in getting your business up and running, then you will spend a ton of time researching new niches for shirt designs, promoting your work and uploading your completed designs to your shop. There are automation services which streamline the process for you but be prepared to pay a monthly charge.

What you need

First and foremost (other than an internet connection) you are going to need a computer or tablet that can create designs for your Print on Demand shop. You will also need software to create your new designs on, there are free options available like GIMP, but I prefer Photoshop over all other programs because there is so much information available online to learn the program. All the best plugins, and content is created with Photoshop in mind, and I can’t see a viable reason to not use Photoshop for creating designs. My thinking is that you can get a free program like GIMP and try to translate tutorials and lessons to that platform, but learning new software can be difficult enough without having to add in a translation errors when you already don’t feel comfortable with the program.

Photoshop used to cost hundreds of dollars and needed to be upgraded each year. These days, you can get photoshop in the photographer bundle for $9.99 a month, less than the price of a cup of coffee. This will give you access to all the cool new features in photoshop and it is constantly updated. In the photographer bundle you also get Lightroom which is a great program to catalog and edit all your photos. We aren’t affiliated with Adobe, and get nothing for recommending photoshop to you, it is just the best program to use for design creation hands down.

You will also want a backup strategy for your designs. You are investing time into your designs, and a computer crash could completely derail your business if you don’t put a plan in place form the outset. 1 Terabyte dries ca be had at any big box store for less than a hundred dollars – often way under a hundred dollars. Back up your work often, believe me the first time you have a computer crash you are going to thank me.

Lastly, you are going to need your tax information. When you sell something online you must pay taxes on it, there is no way around it. Most Print on Demand services will ask for your social security number and will give you itemized comma separated lists of the items you sold over the year so you can claim them on your taxes.

If you are serious about starting your Print on Demand business, I highly recommend that you consider setting up a LLC. I’m not a lawyer and don’t consider this legal advice, but a LLC will protect your personal assets in the event that someone sues you over a design. Whether you are making shirt designs, jewelry or looking at a career in photography a LLC can be a lifesaver (and property saver). Again, I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice but Legalzoom.com is a great place to get a LLC setup for around $300.

Set yourself apart

Since COVID-19 hit the Print on Demand industry has exploded with new designers. Some have come and gone, others are still hanging on. With the field so crowded, you as a designer need to set yourself apart from the herd. When you use services like Canva.com to create your designs, you must realize that your work is going to look like other’s work. You can’t get around this and no matter how many different templates are available, customers are going to see the same shirt template all over the place. How do you set yourself apart from all the other designers? I am a bit proponent for learning new skills. Rather than just replaying on pre-made templates, why not take the time to learn how to make the designs yourself? This will open all sorts of new avenues for you. Consider this, if you know how to make the templates you could not only create your own designs to sell, but you can also create designs to sell to other designers who don’t have the design skills.

Is it worth it?

The revenue you are going to see (especially at first) from a Print on Demand shop isn’t going to pay the rent, and in most cases, it might not even buy you lunch. Print on Demand is a very crowded market and there is no get rich quick scheme. Just like any business, it is going to take time to research your designs, find new trends to create designs for and upload your designs. The margins you make are razor thin and you will rely on volume to start seeing a reasonable income on a monthly basis. If you have time, and you love to create things that other people can enjoy, then Print on Demand is right for you. I love to make the designs, but even to this day years later I still find myself buying a lot of my designs and wearing them every day. The joy of someone telling you that they love your shirt and you being able to hand them a card and saying I made this is priceless. For me, the time involved in Print on Demand as a business is well worth it.

Copyrighted material

Any “what is Print on Demand” article should include a bit about copyrighted materials. If you have questions about the legality of using the Nike logo, or Baby Yoda in your designs, we have detailed explanations here. For now, the best piece of advice I can give about copyrighted materials is this: If you didn’t create it don’t use it. Drawing Baby Yoda is not creating it. You must produce the design or idea and then implement it to be able to legally use it on your designs. If you venture into the copyrighted materials game be aware that the best thing that can happen to you is your account gets banned or they just take your design down. If you make that shirt with Baby Yoda and it sells well, Disney is going to come after you. Larger companies like this have teams of lawyers that do nothing all day but look for instances of people using their intellectual property and suing them.

Using copyrighted materials in your designs can be a way to get some quick sales, but the hassle and litigation surrounding the use of copyrighted materials is not worth the risk in my eyes.

Print on Demand services

There are a ton of Print on Demand services, but three stand out – Redbubble, Teespring and Merch by Amazon. These three services all use the same base file resolutions 4500X5400 and all three are non-exclusive, meaning when you create a design you can upload it to all three of these services to sell. Let’s break down a quick summary of each of these services:

Redbubble

When you are first starting out, Redbubble is going to be your best source of income. The process of uploading your design and choosing the products it will appear on is quick and easy. You can choose your profit margin and once your design is uploaded it will propagate through Google and the Redbubble service. They will immediately start including you into relevant searches and customers will be able to start finding your designs right away. Redbubble is stringent on enforcement of copyrighted materials, so if you upload something you don’t have the rights to use, they will catch you and remove the design. Multiple infractions will lead to a banned account. If you are going to just choose one Print on Demand service to work with, Redbubble will be the quickest and easiest to get up and running. They are a great way to dip your toe into the Print on Demand game and see if it is right for you.

Merch by Amazon

Did you know Amazon has a Print on Demand service? The shirts are decent quality, and they promote your work on Amazon. This is good and bad, good that it is Amazon and your products will be promoted where everyone is already shopping, but bad in that Amazon is so bug your work can get lost in the myriad of other designs available on the service. You also have to apply for a seller account and prove that your work is good. Once you are in you work your way up through a tier system starting at 10 design slots available. After your designs sell 10 shirts you move to Tier 2 whish has 25 design slots. Getting to the point where you can add a reasonable amount of designs onto your account can take quite a few months depending on your designs.

Teespring

Teespring has a metric called a trust score that you are required to navigate before they begin adding your designs into relevant customer searches. This means if you add 25 designs featuring dogs, your work will not be shown to customers searching for dogs until you have sold a few items and met the first tier of trust score requirements. The royalties are good on Teespring, and at the end of the day it is well worth the hoops you have to jump through to get a few sales to start your account. Use Twitter and Instagram to promote your work and get a few sales and you will be all good.

Big note: Teespring’s trust score is there to keep people from uploading and selling copyrighted materials, Don’t even think about uploading your fan art of Baby Yoda, your design will get taken down,  and your trust score will go into negative territory meaning you have to make even more sales on your own before your work starts showing up in relevant searches on the site.

Will you make a lot of money?

It depends. If you are using pre-made templates, and your work looks like everyone else’s, you might not. If you make create fun designs that people want, then you should do well.  Customers want fun topical and interesting designs.  

Give it a shot

Give Print on Demand a try. Don’t give up until you have at least 100 designs up. Once you reach 100 designs, you can take a step back and breath for a minute. Give it some time, depending on the time of year sales can be slow. Towards the holidays sales are always better, consider this as a long-term passive income source. That doesn’t mean to put up a bunch of designs and walk away, rather take the time for that big initial push to get 100 designs then evaluate where you are. Look at the designs that are selling and the ones that aren’t. Trends change, people’s taste change and your skills improve. Once you hit 100 designs I guarantee that you will look back and wrinkle your nose at some of the early designs you created.

Print on Demand is a fun and rewarding source of passive income. It is cheap to get started as it only costs you time at the outset. Go into it with an open mind and see if what interests you and drives your creation sells.

Print on demand can be an incredibly rewarding or frustrating business venture. Since COVID-19 struck and people started looking for passive sources of income, the YouTube content creators who educate on Print on Demand saw an explosion of traffic on their sites. They promised the equivalent of get rich quick schemes and many fell for it. They said “All you have to do is follow the current trends, upload shirts and you will make a fortune”. Maybe you were one of those poor souls who fell for the hype? Did you make a bunch of designs and not sell one? Now, are you are here trying to find information about Print on Demand and how to make sales. What went wrong? What can you do to make more sales on your Redbubble, Teespring or Teepublic account? Let’s talk about it!

Busy place

When interest in Print on Demand first exploded earlier this year, the market was well saturated with designs. The market was crowded, but sellers with little or no graphic design skill could easily upload designs utilizing pre-made templates and still see reasonable sales margins for their time spent creating. The pandemic changed the Print on Demand industry just like it did so many others. People were out of work and looking to supplement their income, so many turned to passive income options like Print on Demand to fill the gap.  As the year wore on and quarantines started becoming the norm, layoffs caused even more people to venture into the already overcrowded Print on Demand market. These latecomers were inundated with content from YouTube creators promising a quick buck.

Education not creation

When times change, businesses need to change with them or face failure. Seeing their business change with a huge influx of new creators, those who have been in the Print on Demand game for a while, (yours truly included) saw an already overcrowded market  changing with new creators hungry to be educated about the Print on Demand game so many shifted their focus from creating designs to creating educational content, and their channels and blog traffic exploded. These new educators led new designers toward the path many of these creators took early on, relying on pre-made templates. They partnered with websites that create ready-made solutions like Canva and the market for new creators continued to explode. The problem was that they didn’t realize the biggest flaw with content creat3ed by these sites,

Everyone is doing it

The most common question asked in any Print on Demand forum is how to get more sales. New creators jump on this Canva bandwagon and create a ton of shirt designs, then end up selling one or two and give up. Realize that everyone is in the same boat as you are, whether you are new to Print on Demand or an old grizzled designer, the quest for that next viral shirt design is something we all share. Some use memes as content while others watch TV and keep up with current events in the news looking for subjects for their designs. Let’s look at an example, In late summer President Trump was on a news show where he touted that he has had aced a cognitive test where the test moderators asked him to remember five words, man, woman, person, camera, TV. This led to a rush of designs featuring the five words and quickly became a short-lived Print on Demand trend.  Designs featuring the five words sold very well for a couple weeks and those who had shirts in early to the game did well. Those that jumped on the bandwagon late saw little income from this design because the trend machine had moved on to the election and a myriad of other topics.  The lesson that many learned was that if they kept up on current events, and jumped on the design ideas as they came, it payed off.

Shortcuts

When you are looking for ideas for your next design, it can be very tempting to consider joining sites like Canva. They provide ready made designs, and all you need to do is type your text in, upload it to your Print on Demand account and wait for the money to start rolling in. The problem with this solution is that everyone is doing it.  There may be a lot of templates to choose from, but at the end of the day customers looking for shirts are going to recognize the design you used and pass yours by even if your text is more creative or funny than others. We all like shortcuts and learning graphic design, color theory and typography is a long and boring process and the allure of using templates can be strong.  The truth about the matter is that using pre-made templates is the most common reason for not getting sales in Print on Demand. You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to designs in a very crowded market.

Is it worth it?

Print on Demand is awesome. There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing someone you don’t know on the street wearing your design. Print on Demand is an easy an inexpensive business to get into, but it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you have no skill in graphic design. At the end of the day, t-shirt design is art, and there is a market for every type of art. Regardless of your preferred design topic, you will find your market if you look hard enough. Next time we will talk about some techniques you can use to get more sales in your Print on Demand business.