According to my account history, I opened my very first CafePress shop in 2003. That’s not a typo— I am, at least in internet terms a) an old lady, and b) a “veteran” at these Print-On-Demand marketplaces. I closed my CP shop this year and pulled my designs. At a paltry 3-5% per sale, the effort required to maintain my numbers just became too great, especially after having opened my own shop, and spending a considerable amount of effort driving sales there instead.
The whole landscape of one-off shirt printing is different now than it was over a decade ago when I started. There are still plenty of benefits to participating in a POD marketplace, and it’s a good place to start with minimal investment, but here are 20 ways to know you’re ready to graduate:
- You’re ready to turn off “You’ve Made a Sale” notifications
- You roll your eyes every time you sell a sticker.
- Every time your marketplace of choice changes their particiaption score criteria, you are overcome with a feeling of exhaustion
- Your holiday sales numbers are looking more like your summer sales numbers from a few years ago, even though you’re putting in the same effort.
- You realize you’re sacrificing quality in the name of turning out new work quickly.
- You wish you could reach out to old customers when you made a new addition to a series you’re working on.
- You wonder where all these people are getting their enamel pins/ socks/ whatever made, and how you can get in on that.
- If you have to see another “does anybody make any money?” forum post, you’re going to tear your eyeballs out.
- You want to make things that your POD of choice just can’t provide.
- You’ve got a pretty decent Instagram/Facebook following, but you’re sure you’re not reaching them all because THE ALGORITHM.
- You know your SEO skills are on point because you diligently do your tagging and descriptions on every design.
- You can write a product description in your sleep.
- You’re starting to get resentful that you can’t connect with your customers directly.
- You can make ballpark projections about your monthly POD income, based on your past performance.
- You saw right through those weirdly-specific t-shirt advertisements that were all over Facebook a few years ago.
- You have considered buying a sublimation printer of your own, but stopped because Where Would You Even Put It?
- You realize that certain PODs are only offering designers Traditional Licensing markup (5% ish…I’m looking at you, CP), but you STILL have to put in the marketing effort yourself if you want to keep your sales up.
- You know there’s got to be a better way than throwing your quality work into the ocean of crap that is the POD marketplace.
- You have a style and theme that people are coming to recognize, and you think you can leverage that (you’re right, you know!)
- You’re starting to think a Shopify shop isn’t such a big investment after all…
I'm Writing a Book About This!
Want to know how I started an independant POD shop that makes actual money? Enter your info and I'll send it to you for free as soon as it's done!