Finding trends to make designs for can be a difficult endeavor. Where do you go to find the latest trends? And once you find a good source for trends, how do you evaluate the suggested trends so that you are not wasting your time on designs that are not going to sell?  Let’s talk about it…

Considerations

Before we talk about where to find trends for your print on demand designs, lets take a moment to put a couple warnings out there. First, remember that everyone who does print on demand is also looking for good sources for design trends, we all want to get in on the ground floor for that next viral design. Second, if you rely on YouTube or blog articles for your weekly source of trending designs, realize that your sales for that design will often depend on when you get your design completed and uploaded for sale. If your source uploads a video or article on Sunday and you wait until Tuesday to start working on your designs, many other designers will be in the market with that design before you, and the market for that design will be saturated.

A trending story

The freshest and least competition source for trends will always be the news. This can be from twitter, a local or national news station or even Facebook. Who has time to watch the news all day? Nobody, but it is a good source. As an example, one of the designers I have been mentoring for a long time made a design last year using the phrase “it is what it is”. The designer happened to be watching the news the night that the story broke and within a couple hours he had a design created, tuned, and uploaded. The phrase went viral in the Print on Demand world and the designer did very well for the short time the phrase was a thing. This is a good example of noticing a trend, creating a design, and uploading while customers were actively looking or shirts with the phrase. The shirts sold great for the first few days and then sales held steady for three weeks. This is the lifetime for many trends, the first few days will do great then as the trend is fading you will see steadily declining sales as more designers get into the market for that trend. This is the problem many PoD designers see; they find the trend too late and unless their designs are above average (not using Canva or other template sites) they generally hit the market for that trend after the initial sales rush is over. The late to the party designer will see a few sales (or likely none) and get frustrated.

Competition

This can be difficult to hear, but designers who chase the latest trends but lack graphic design skills are the most likely to fail at print on demand, or struggle with sales. If you take one thing away from this article, know that the best way to make a decent number of sales on Redbubble, Teespring or other PoD services is to offer good quality designs that stand out from the crowd in a low competition niche. The number one thing you will hear from anyone offering advice on Redbubble or PoD will tell you that you need to find a niche that you are passionate about and is low competition. If you start out your PoD journey by jumping into the Pets or alcohol general niche, you are jockeying for a place at the table with well established designers. Unless your cat design is amazing, don’t expect to do well in an oversaturated niche until you get established in the market. Now, if you drill down into a niche to a smaller portion of it, like cats and coffee or cats and marathon runners (as an example, but these are also pretty saturated) you can expect to sell significantly more units that if you stayed in the general cats niche.

Do you suggest paid options?

My answer to this is meh.  I have been mentoring designers for a long time, and I have seen some do well with the paid services, but generally designers who find their own sources for trends make more sales than having a service spoon feed you the trends to work on. Much of this depends on how much time you must devote to your print on demand business. If you have time to watch the news and can move quickly to get a high quality design out to market, you can do well. As before, realize that there are a lot of other designers who are frustrated and struggling like you are and looking for that easy source of trends. The way to succeed in business is to find a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. If everyone is using the paid services and making the same shirts, how many do you really think are succeeding?

Evaluating trends

Many designers use bubble trends as their primary source for designs. You can find them here. (https://bubbletrends.herokuapp.com/trends) The site lists the trending searches on Redbubble, and a lot of designers hawk this site daily and make designs based on the daily results. Let’s take a look at the top 20 results for today, but first something to think about: The results on these sites can be skewed. The number one search is abs in progress, when a designer sees this, he or she will often go to Redbubble and search for the term and look at the resulting designs. This artificially increases the validity of the term and raises it higher or keeps it on top. The thing you don’t know is how many non-designers searched for this term.

The first thing you should notice about this weeks top twenty is the copyrighted material like Baron Zemo (from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) or celebrity names like DMX or Angela Dean. Copyrighted material cannot be used to make print on demand designs unless you are working with a partner program through Redbubble or other service, and celebrities are protected just like copyrighted material. You cannot use likenesses of celebrities in your designs without permission. The rest of the searches are reasonable sources for designs depending on hos many results there are. The only other point I would make about this week’s list would be the fully vaccinated still antisocial term. Some print on demand services are still purposely pushing results for Coronavirus and Covid-19 searches down into the lower rankings. They do not want to be responsible for people profiting off of the pandemic. I would use this one at your own risk. As of this writing, many services consider it a grey area but I personally don’t use it in my designs.

So is Bubbletrends a good site? Is the information valuable? It depends. I am telling you about it and you are checking it out today. How many other designers have read this article and are using the site on a daily basis now? The viability of a trend is determined by your ability to get a quality design out to market.

Conclusion

What sources do you use for finding trends? Are you struggling with low or slow sales on Redbubble Teespring, Merch by Amazon or other PoD service? Drop me a message and let’s talk. Please share this article with your print on demand communities and get out there and get designing!

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!

Print on Demand has two very distinct paths, and how you allocate your time when designing new products can affect the overall success of your print on demand business. Does it make more sense to chase current trends or produce evergreen designs? Let’s talk about it…

Two schools of thought

I get a ton of messages every day from struggling designers begging me to enlighten them on the latest trends, I am also asked all the time why I stopped publishing articles devoted to weekly trends. In truth, both questions are related to the same thing, time. I write articles for this blog, but I also spend my day (full time) designing print on demand products. Over the years, I have done a ton of experimenting with time spent on chasing trends and evergreens. Which is your time best spent on? Let’s talk about the right way to chase trends first.

Doing trends right

Most struggling designers focusing primarily in trends for their stores think that watching a YouTube video on this weeks trends, and jumping on those trends is the ticket to success in print on demand. Unfortunately, these are the designers I usually hear from saying they cannot figure out why their work is not selling. The reality is that (often) once the YouTubers have made their “this week’s trends” video, so many people have already made and uploaded designs for those trends, it is like jumping into a crowded pool. This means that the only people benefiting from spreading the word about the trends for the week are the YouTubers getting money for your views. Do not fool yourself into thinking that if there was a great trend the person making the video stumbled on, they would not sit on that trend themselves and make some money.

So, what is the best way to find new trends if the YouTube niches of the week and Redbubble trends tools are providing information that is mostly out of date by the time you get it? The best trend research tool is going to be you taking the time to surf the internet and television. Many of the trends no associated with holidays come from the news. As an example, in the news this week was the removal of six Dr. Seuss books from publication. Depending on the source of your information you would see that the cancel culture has taken the books off the shelf or that the Dr. Seuss organization decided to take them off the publication list for what they considered to be inappropriate material. Regardless of the stance you would take on the subject, the next thing you would do is find out If Dr Seuss was in the public domain and if you could use it on a shirt design. You would find out that it is a copyrighted property and that you cannot use it on a design in any way. How much time did this one search take, and did it net you an idea for a new design? If you end up spending your time surfing and reading news looking for the next trend is that a good use of your time?

Trends versus evergreen designs

This is a decision you need to make for yourself. If you are nimble and able to create designs quick enough to jump on emerging trends, then chasing trends could very well be profitable for you. If you sit back and wait for the YouTubers to tell you which trends to make designs for, then likely you are going to struggle. Whether chasing trends is a viable business decision for you is up to your individual situation. If you have another full-time job, and you work on print on demand in the evenings, then likely you will struggle with chasing trends, unless your designs are amazing and can stand above the rest. If you are making your designs with template sites like Canva, or using the same old stock images that everyone else is using then you might have a tough time. How much time you spend on chasing trends versus creating evergreen designs should also be a consideration based on where you are with your business. If you don’t have a lot of sales and you are focusing your efforts on trends, then maybe consider finding a few evergreen (good all year long) niches to work in and get some sales. Finding a good mix of trends and evergreens will net you a good return on your time invested in your business.

I love to work in my proven niches, but also spend some time each day looking at trends and determining if the trend of the day is something, I am interested in. Finding the right balance for your workday can keep you fresh in your niche while still allowing you to branch out into trends.  

Trend Saturation

Trends quickly become saturated in the market, especially the ones the YouTubers are pushing. Designers hear about the trend and jump on their Canva account and make a text only version of the trend so they can get something to the market quickly. The result is that the customer is deluged with a million designs that all look the same and they just move on.  When you are getting started, or if you are struggling to get your first few sales on Redbubble or Teespring, you must determine if you time is best spent uploading a design that is similar to the other offerings in the market, or if you could work on a good original design for an evergreen niche.

You make it or you don’t

If I make a design using the Dr. Seuss example from above, I must balance how long (time) I am spending on creating that design versus time that could be spent on an evergreen. How long will the Dr. Seuss story be a trending topic? Odds are that as you are reading this, the trend is long gone. If I spent time making a design and uploading it, was it worth my time if I do not sell any? We all want to have the next viral shirt design, but honestly how often does that happen? If you spend a few hours deciding on a trend to make a shirt for, spend a couple hours or more making the design, upload it and sell one at your current profit margin, was it worth it? Most of the Merch by Amazon shirts are getting a few dollars in profit. If you spent two or three hours researching, designing and uploading and you sell one (or none) is your time worth the dollar or so an hour it took to make that shirt and sell it? That doesn’t count for viral shirts which make up for any loss of sales of course, but If you are reading this how many viral shirt designs have you had?

Conclusion

Finding a good balance of trend and evergreens that work for you is the toughest part of this equation. I don’t have a hard and fast time allotment because there are so many factors involved. The biggest consideration I can give you is to remember if you spend hours finding a trend and make a design for it, and it doesn’t sell can you reuse the assets you created for something else?  Find that balance and let me know how things are going for you. I love to hear from my readers and love to hear if the advice here helps you in your endeavors.

Remember, because of the trademarks and copyrighted words I use on this blog I can’t monetize my content, so if you find articles like this useful, you can help me out by sharing the site and articles with your friends in the print on demand communities you belong to.

Get out there and get designing!

If you are new to Print on Demand, you might have shared some of your designs only to have people in the forums complain about copyright infringement, stealing, and all sorts of other things. How do you know when you are creating a design if the material you are using is copyrighted? Here is a quick list of topics that should not be used in your print on demand designs (unless you have permission from the owners of the property, or you are working with a partner program.)

I compiled this list after doing a very quick search on Redbubble, Teepublic, and Teespring. There are many more examples, this is not intended to be a complete list. I often see examples of designs using many of the properties on this list, and it seemed like a good idea to compile a list of areas that you should stay away from when making print on demand designs.   

Brands

  • Starbucks
  • Food – Pizza Hut, Chilis logo, etc.
  • Clothing Brands like Nike and Adidas
  • Soft Drinks like Coke, Mt. Dew, and Pepsi
  • Alcohol like Budweiser, Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels
  • Cars, not just the names but the shape of a car is also copyrighted and therefore should not be used without permission.
  • Toys, like LEGO – they are copyrighted.
  • Any logo for any brand or franchise. This includes Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, and any other logo which is recognizable and represents a brand. This also extends to logos that might be more obscure like the logo for the Empire or Rebels from the Star Wars franchise, they are all copyrighted and may not be used in your designs.
  • Electronics – Dell computers, Cooler Master, Sony, Apple (iPhone iMac, etc.) Camera brands like Canon, Nikon, etc.
  • Catchphrases and marketing phrases – D’oh from The Simpsons, Just do it from Nike, I’m loving it from McDonald’s

Cartoons and Television

  • The Simpsons are owned by Fox who is owned by Disney, they have scores of lawyers that scour the internet every day looking for people using their property without permission
  • Any Disney Character – Baby Yoda and The Mandalorian, Lino, and Stitch, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aladdin, etc.
  • Star Wars – R2D2, X-Wing or Tie fighters, Mandalorian armor
  • Marvel Characters or the logos for those characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc.
  • DC Comic Characters and their logos – The Punisher, Batman, etc.

 Videogames

All aspects of a game, including the characters, the game logo, etc. Among Us, Pokémon, Kirby, Mario, etc. This is especially true with the Among Us franchise, they are a smaller company and are currently working toward creating their own merchandise. The developer has requested that people making PoD gear with their designs please stop.

Music

Music, lyrics and band logos are all copyrighted and should not be used in your designs. This includes just a few words from a song or the musical notes for a song’s passage. Art from album covers should also not be used, even if it is “only part” of the artwork. 

Too many rules

It can seem like with all these areas that you cannot make designs from, that there is some sort of conspiracy or the world is against you making merchandise for your favorite band, or game. The reality is that if you make a shirt with the Nike Logo or the words Just Do It and you make money, then you are making money off of a brand that you do not own. Another example is the team that made the game Among Us. They worked very hard on their game and there was a significant investment in time and money that went into creating the game. It is not right for you to take their characters or other aspects of the game and make a design so you can make money off their hard work. You might think that a big company like Starbucks would not care if you made a design with their logo, but they most certainly will. The design you make can hurt the brand, and this can get you into even more trouble. While searching, I saw a Baby Yoda drinking a beer with a pot leaf, alcohol and drugs can do even more harm to a brand by associating them together in a design, and Disney would be even more aggressive defending this sort of case. 

Conclusion

So, if you can’t use any of these properties when making your design, what are you supposed to do? Create your own stuff. But what if your design isn’t as exciting or interesting without the words Just Do it? Create your own catchphrase, don’t expect Nike, who spent millions marketing Just Do It to let you use it for free. What if your design isn’t as cool without the Among Us characters? Create your own. It is all plain and simple. If you didn’t create the art/character/drink etc. DON’T USE IT!

Now get out there and get designing!

One of the best ways to get sales on any print on demand design starts with finding effective keywords. There are two schools of thought on how to use keywords in your listings: 1. Find relevant keywords that will drive buyers to your design and 2. Use popular trending keywords (even when they don’t fit the description of your design). Which is the best approach and are there risks associated with either method?

Where to start

With the margins for print on demand sales so thin, I always prefer free solutions to paid ones, and besides who doesn’t like free right? I recommend two services which are (as of this writing) free to use. They will require an email or free account signup. This can be easily sorted by just making a new Gmail account for your print on demand business if you haven’t already.

Merchtitans

My go-to is the merchtitans.com keyword finder for Redbubble, it can be found here. Merchtitans does a good job of scraping the data from Redbubble listings when you type in your keyword or phrase. Merchtitans will collate a list of words and show you how many times they appear on Redbubble. Click the format and copy tags and it will present you with a list that is ready to be pasted into your listing.

 

 

 KWFinder

This one will require an email as well. You get only a few searches a day and in most cases, you only get the first five or so results. I consider this a decent resource, but to get the most out of this one you need a paid account. I have found that the results from KWFinder are fairly close to the ones that come from Google Adwords (which I will be doing an article on in an upcoming post.)

Relevant keywords

If you have a picture of a bear drinking coffee on the design you are listing, the relevant keywords would be bear, coffee and drinking. From there, consider using descriptors of the items in your design. Coffee cup, coffee mug, grizzly bear, cute bear, teddy bear, blue mug etc. Don’t forget words like cute, adorable and the like.  Clear use of keywords can get you far and most importantly keep your design from being removed from Redbubble and other sites which use keywords. Some of the best-selling products on these sites use a few clear keywords to describe the design instead of a million useless words.

Trending keywords

The other school of thought is to add keywords that are trending in the news and other media. The thinking is that when a buyer searched for these keywords on Google or other search engine, your design will come up and you will get your design in front of more eyes. In practice, adding irrelevant keywords or words containing celebrity names or other properties generally get you listed lower in the rankings when the customer searches for similar keywords to the ones in your listing.  The automatic algorithms are also much more likely to flag or take your design down if you use these type of trending keywords.

Order matters

Algorithms change, and as of this writing, the sites like Redbubble that use keywords give more weight to the keywords that appear first in the listing. Fewer keywords also put more weight or emphasis on the words used. This also goes for Merch by Amazon so use your most important keywords in your first description boxes. 

How many keywords?

Just because sites like Redbubble allow you to use more than 20 keywords doesn’t necessarily mean you should use more than 20 keywords. I generally to keep my word count under 15. Put the relevant ones up front in the listing and then use them in your description. This will add even more weight to these words. Do words like best-selling top-selling and others help? Not as much as you would think. There are a lot of people listing designs every day and how many of those people do you think are using words like best-selling and top-selling? Those words become less weighty when a lot of people use them. You have to come up with words for your design that are unique to your design.

Conclusion

What do you think? did this article help you? then help me out by sharing this article with your print on demand forums and on social media.

Now get out there and get designing!

If you are creating T-shirt designs and you are looking for some inspiration, each week we review the Print on Demand top Niches. Keeping track of what is hot and what is not is a tough process, hopefully this information will help you out.

This week we are transitioning away from Halloween, because regardless of which PoD service you work with your customers will not have time to order shirts or other items and have them arrive before Halloween which is next weekend. By now, you should have your Thanksgiving designs up for sale, and be actively working toward Christmas and New Years designs. Speaking of Christmas and New years, let’s talk about this week niche suggestions.

2020 Sucks

With COVID-19, lots have had a tough year and they are looking to show off their dislike of the year from hell. 2020 sucks shirts are still selling well, you should consider creating some designs which feature 2020 sucks somewhere. Perhaps marrying 2020 sucks with Thanksgiving, New Years or Christmas somehow would yield good results. If this works for you, let us know with a tweet or message!

I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands.

Look it up on Amazon or Redbubble, it’s the words with a guitar. This is a shirt that can seel anytime of the year, so consider this as one of those long-term designs for your shop. Do be careful of the guitars, don’t just go on Google Images and grab a vector or image of a Fender or other guitar, copyright police will come for you and make them take your  design down.

Kayaking gets me wet and SUP

Its strange, but the Kayaking gets me wet design is doing well this week and last. I have also seen Stand Up Paddling gets me wet designs out there quite a bit. This is also called SUP. It seems early for summer sports, but hey, if it is selling why not? Have you tried this niche? How is it working for you?

Merry Quarantine Christmas

Christmas designs are starting to fill up the stores and they are selling well. From what I have seen so far, it los like lots of the larger shops are re-tooling their designs from last year and adding Merry Quarantine Christmas to them.  Many are also incorporating toilet paper rolls into the 2020 zeros. I have also seen lots of elves with 2020 toilet-paper-ized.  

Voting is hot 2020

We are at the end of the election season, you should have your Biden won and Trump won themed shirts in your stores (if you are playing both sides of the fence).  Redbubble is showing trends for Coting is Hot 2020 at the moment, it’s a bit late to jump on this trend but who knows if you have an original design it might be worth it. I still think that designs featuring both candidates for winning the election will be a good seller right after the election. Just put both up and whichever candidate wins the election pull the loser’s shirts down.

Did any of this help you? Did we inspire you? Let us know if you like this series we will keep it going each week. Now get out there and get designing!

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.