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:

  1. You’re ready to turn off “You’ve Made a Sale” notifications
  2. You roll your eyes every time you sell a sticker.
  3. Every time your marketplace of choice changes their particiaption score criteria, you are overcome with a feeling of exhaustion
  4. 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.
  5. You realize you’re sacrificing quality in the name of turning out new work quickly.
  6. You wish you could reach out to old customers when you made a new addition to a series you’re working on.
  7. You wonder where all these people are getting their enamel pins/ socks/ whatever made, and how you can get in on that.
  8. If you have to see another “does anybody make any money?” forum post, you’re going to tear your eyeballs out.
  9. You want to make things that your POD of choice just can’t provide.
  10. You’ve got a pretty decent Instagram/Facebook following, but you’re sure you’re not reaching them all because THE ALGORITHM.
  11. You know your SEO skills are on point because you diligently do your tagging and descriptions on every design.
  12. You can write a product description in your sleep.
  13. You’re starting to get resentful that you can’t connect with your customers directly.
  14. You can make ballpark projections about your monthly POD income, based on your past performance.
  15. You saw right through those weirdly-specific t-shirt advertisements that were all over Facebook a few years ago.
  16. You have considered buying a sublimation printer of your own, but stopped because Where Would You Even Put It?
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. You have a style and theme that people are coming to recognize, and you think you can leverage that (you’re right, you know!)
  20. You’re starting to think a Shopify shop isn’t such a big investment after all…


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