Now I know that there has been a few reviews done of the best POD sites (print on demand websites) available, however I feel like I want to put my two penneth in and give an accurate review of all the 5 POD sites that I personally use for passive income. I have only been doing the whole POD thing since January 2019 however I have learnt a lot. I may one day also create a review video on YouTube to show you how all of the sites work but for now I will talk about the Positives and Negatives of each of these print on demand websites I’m signed up to.
In not just my opinion, but in many other designers opinions also, Redbubble is the best all rounder. Why? Well for many reasons;
- There’s over 60 products to assign your designs to and the number of products is constantly growing. I especially love the graphic t shirts where you can cover nearly the whole t shirt with a design.
- I have read quite a few success stories in regards to Redbubble from artist that are apparently making a living on Redbubble alone.
- They have an app for your customers to shop from and it works well, I’m sure this makes a huge difference in sales as buyers tend to buy more from their mobile phones these days. But even better still, the app features brilliant augmented reality and so if your mobile phone or tablet supports it, that means you can virtually place a canvas on your walls, place a cushion on a chair or even place a cup on a table to see how they would look in real life, how flipping awesome can you get!
- They have a generous affiliate programs through various platforms, a couple of these are ShareASale
that gives you a very nice extra 10%, or you can get 12.5% through Viglink (Sovrn) , this is on top of your design fee which is already pretty good.
- When you are in the process of uploading your design to the merch or apparel, you have the option of tiling your design. This is particularly awesome since you can make some great repeating patterns from doing this. It is also useful for products such as cups when you want to fill the cups design space. On other print on demand websites, this is normally annoying since you have 1 image on the cup and then a massive blank space which just looks terrible in my opinion.
- You can now use their copy design option (they didn’t have this option when I first started and it was a rigmarole uploading your designs) to save you a lot of work in having to place the design on each of the products. It not only saves the placing, but also the scale, the background colour, the title, the tags and the description and so uploading is now a breeze compared to before.
- You can write a good lengthy description and add up to 50 tags which is great for SEO and it helps to get your designs found on Google and other search engines.
- Importantly, they are highly ranking in Google’s search engine and in Google images. Type in any design name you can think of followed by T shirt or Tee and you will see what I mean. More views = more sales!
- They have good traffic flow to their website and they also heavily advertise even though I do question their advertising model since I’m also seeing a lot of their adverts too which is of course wasting their advertising budget, I’m not on the site to buy, I’m on there to sell and yet my browser cookies are telling them different.
- I have sold 15 products on Redbubble to date and that is without paid advertising. I know its not a lot however I didn’t expect this to be an overnight success anyway.
- They have their own little blogging tool and I have seen some posts from artists ranking at the top of google’s search from time to time!
- They have watermarking and download protection on your artwork images. They aren’t brilliant but at least it’s something.
- They allow you to change your markup (how much income you receive) from the sales of each product with the default set at 20%. I recommend setting some products to around the 100% mark though especially stickers and postcards.
- They pay you straight to your bank via BACS, so no Paypal or other merchant fees.
- You can display a good range of social media buttons on your profile page such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- You have a profile page and also a shop page that you can lead your potential customers to.
- You can hook up your Redbubble store to Google analytics, which is amazing. Redbubble do provide you with some traffic info but it is only basic. Google tells you everything!
- You can now design art relating to some large brands such as Thunderbirds and Miraculous since presumably Redbubble has built relationships with these brands and presumably purchased licenses to allow for it.
- They are a large and seemingly stable public company that in Oct 2018 purchased TeePublic, my second but joint favourite choice for print on demand sites on this list.
- You can now directly share your products to social media once a design has been uploaded and you can also download a good range of mock ups for your own advertising campaigns which is handy.
- So the number one negative for me is that they appear to have turned a blind eye to all the uploaded artworks that seem to be other artists works and/or other brands artwork that has been previously copyrighted and Trademarked. They do however make their artists click a disclaimer check box before each upload that states that you agree to having the rights to upload the artwork in question. I have heard of artists accounts been suspended however I think more needs to be done really.
- The images of the products that show off your designs look great on a mobile phone and probably a tablet also (I haven’t checked the latter) but on a desktop screen they appear to be low res low quality images that may put buyers off.
- I once had a message on one of my listings, but even after scouting nearly their entire collection of website links, there seemed to be no way of getting to it to reply to the kind person that had left me the nice comment on my artwork. A month later I found out that only some products included the chat option and so instead of going to a listing for a t shirt that doesn’t include the chat for example, I had to go to the listing for the tapestry instead that did include the chat facility.
- Even after using all the correct SEO techniques, I still find that sales are slow. Ok, so I’m not the best designer in the world however I believe I do have some fairly decent ones uploaded and I do get nice comments from even my harshest of critiques at times. However I didn’t come into print on demand thinking that it was a get rich quick scheme anyway, its not! If you don’t mind spending hours on designing and uploading, and not getting paid for it, then go for it. It is a numbers game after all and the more designs you have uploaded, the more you are going to sell. I have just passed the 235 designs mark and I’ve sold only 15 products so far but I’m getting more proficient in Photoshop and learning new things all the time and so I’ll keep going and review my efforts when I get to the 1k design mark. If I’m still not making much by that time, then I may just give it in, who knows.
- If for example a buyer from the UK is viewing the Redbubble website, it displays the currency in GBP and I presume other currencies for other countries. However the prices aren’t rounded up or down for that currency and so you have products with random prices such as £15.60 or £9.26 unless you change them yourself like I did. It is well known that in retail, items with a rounded price such as £14.99 or £19.99 sell better, strange I know, but that’s the human psyche for you. The only issue here is that now I have rounded the price up or down for the UK market, it isn’t the case for other currencies, so you can’t win really. I have just tried to determine who will be viewing my shop more from who I pitch to the most globally.
My second favourite has to be TeePublic, simply for their straight down the line approach. Redbubble however only beats them fractionally due to the amount of products they offer. The Teepublic website is nice and simple and it makes using it a refreshing change when you have used the other print on demand websites. So why is this platform second on my list then?
- They have a simple and streamlined website that is very easy to use.
- You only have 14 product templates to arrange when uploading.
- One of the most important things (if not the most important thing) is that their SEO tactics are strong which can see your designs ranking really well on Google search and in Google images. Again, more views = more sales.
- I have had the most sales with TeePublic and made the most money. To date I have had 24 sales and made $74.50. My very first sale amazingly was 3 x large posters of one of my designs in one go which saw me earn a handsome $12 and that was for my first ever sale, but the most exciting thing that has happened so far has been TeePublic’s legal team contacting me. Somebody had messaged them asking how they could obtain permission to use one of my pieces of art for their product labels! Now I seriously was not expecting something like this at all to happen, I was flabbergasted to say the least and I don’t think I could receive a bigger compliment on my art to be honest. I was expecting to sell T shirts and a few other bits and bobs and never thought of the bigger picture! After doing a little research it seemed that for now, my next step was to purchase the book called Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. This book is amazing to say the least, it provides you with a heap of advice on selling your artwork including what prices to charge for various types of art and it even contains legal contract templates that not just me but also many other people are saying is worth it for that alone, we shall see! For now it is a waiting game and I remain sceptical of anything becoming of it but you never know I suppose. Anyway…..lets move on…..
- They provide you with your very own simple store front however there are no mock ups here and only the design is shown, but it helps keep it clean I suppose.
- They use proven sales/promotional tactics to grab buyers attention.
- TeePublic have gone that little extra further to try and prevent rippers from stealing your artwork. Not only do they allow watermarking, they have also created a tool called ‘art protection’. It is still in it’s beta stage at the moment however what it apparently does is check other print on demand websites for copies of your artwork and then it allows you to send a take down request to the offending site. Very nifty!
- As with Redbubble, you can also add a google analytics ID tag to your TeePublic store which allows you to see all kinds of data such as traffic numbers and its sources.
- As mentioned earlier, TeePublic was purchased by Redbubble in Oct 2018 creating an even larger company. Hopefully this is a very good sign for both TeePublic and Redbubble and we may even see the two platforms merging together in a way that only requires the uploading of your artworks once to see it on both platforms, that would be nice!
- You have the option of letting people contact you as an artist for hire. They describe to you what they want, and you create it for a fee. I haven’t tried this myself yet as I’m not sufficiently known as an artist, however it’s something I may look into later on.
- They do not have a phone app that buyers can use.
- They do not have a tiling option however I do like the fact that you can flip the design in increments of 90°.
- You cannot place the same design on a cup twice which means you are left with a large blank gap unless the design is wide.
- They have no template saving option but being fair it takes very little time to place the designs on TeePublic anyway.
- You are unable to set the design price.
- They only accept PayPal and Payoneer as payment receiving options.
- No quick linking to social media sites.
- They show no mock ups to their buyers (ie. Models wearing the t shirts with your designs on).
- Its Amazon, need I say anymore, they are the largest online retailer in the world and because of this we know they have the ultimate amount of traffic flowing through their websites, they are trusted by most and they have a great shipping and returns policy.
- The products you design for qualifies for Amazon Prime shipping which further increases the chance of making a sale if your potential customers are members.
- You can set your own design prices with the default price giving you a pretty good commission, in fact one of the highest out of all of the available POD websites.
- Amazon pays you straight to your bank account.
- Amazon has a darned good affiliate network where you can earn a nice extra on top of your design fee! Awesome! However be aware, that after you have signed up, you have to gain 3 sales before they even consider you as a full time affiliate and you also have to provide them with a URL of a website or a channel from where you are receiving traffic from that fits within their policies. It can be quite difficult to get properly enrolled but it’s worth it so keep trying if you are not accepted at first.
- You can list your products on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de to reach a much wider audience.
- I’ve heard many success stories coming out of Merch by Amazon, more so than Redbubble and on some occasions I’ve actually seen the designers excellent monthly income figures which is highly encouraging.
- They are always improving their platform and adding more products to it.
- It isn’t clear which Amazon site is the best to list on. When I started I only ever uploaded to amazon.co.uk however I was told that you get way more sales on Amazon.com. I wrongly presumed that because I lived in the UK, Amazon.co.uk would be the best site to list on, but I was apparently wrong according to a YouTuber I was speaking to. And it makes sense, since Amazon.com receives around 5 X more traffic than Amazon.co.uk!
- Amazon works on a tier system. You start at tier 10 which means you can only list 10 products until you sell a few and you can only list 3 products per day on any one of the Amazon sites. You used to have to sell 10 before moving up but apparently some people have been moved up by only selling a few which is good to hear. You then move up to tier 25 and then I think it’s tier 100 after that. So as you can imagine, it’s a very slow process. I heard that you can purchase your own products to tier up faster and after researching this and reading through Amazons policies I can confirm that they do actually allow you to do this. Just don’t buy through your affiliate links as that is not permitted whatsoever. I’ve seen or heard somebody mention that you shouldn’t buy them all in one purchase too as it doesn’t count, however I’ve yet to confirm this.
- Uploading your designs is a slow process however they have made it a little better in recent months. They also require you to have different file sizes for each of the products which is a little frustrating. Amazon do however seem to be trying to implement ways of making the upload process quicker for us though.
- You can only put your designs on a handful of products at the moment though this may change in the future.
- It can take Amazon nearly 2 months to pay you your design fees and nearly 3 months to pay you your affiliate fees, yes you heard right, 3 MONTHS! For the design fee, you are paid 30 days after the end of the month you sold the product in. So for example, if you sold a t shirt on January 1st it wouldn’t be until the end of February that you received your payments and then if you was wanting payment via wire transfer, you would have to reach the minimum threshold too which I believe is £100! As for affiliate commissions, they pay these 60 days after the end of the month you made the sale in, the product has to have been shipped and not returned to qualify. This is probably down to Amazons returns policy, as with all POD’s, if the buyer returns the product, you don’t get paid and it’s understandable.
- It’s becoming incredibly competitive as you haven’t just got the Merch by Amazon sellers on Amazon, you also have other businesses selling their products such as T shirts on there too and sometimes for a lot cheaper. I have only made 2 sales on Merch by Amazon up to now, however I have just recently uploaded my designs that are selling well on other platforms in the hope of having a better chance of receiving some more sales so I’ll have to wait and see how that does.
- Buyers have to pay for shipping for purchases under £20 which may put a lot of buyers off unless they have an Amazon prime subscription which qualifies them for free shipping.
- They can be a little harsh in their rejections, apparently sometimes rejecting designs that even abide by all the rules. I’ve also heard of accounts being closed down from having too many rejections and so you have been warned. Bare in mind that for obvious reasons, they are even harsher with designs set to go on products marked available for youth.
- Their design approval can sometimes take a while, I once waited 3 days for a design to be accepted which was a little frustrating but it does seem to be getting faster.
- It can sometimes take a while to be accepted into the program and I’ve heard that it wasn’t uncommon back to when Merch by Amazon first became available that some people were waiting months to be accepted.
Teespring was the first POD I signed up to and yet it is the one I use the least now. It has many good things to offer however like all the other POD’s it does have its downsides;
- It’s a nice looking website and is pretty straight forward to use.
- There’s a good selection of products to choose from to put your designs on.
- The designer fees you’re paid are fairly handsome and are more than any of the other print on demand websites mentioned in this article for their default prices.
- They have excellent incentives for artists that continue to abide by their policies including increased views through having your designs promoted on marketplaces such as Ebay, Amazon and Wish. This now works on a trust score system and a trust score is provided to the artist upon receiving their first sale.
- Your shop front looks very tidy and modern.
- Shipping costs to the buyer are very reasonable.
- When you sell more than 100 products, you start to receive a bonus on subsequent sales. There are another 6 more tiers after this too and the max tier earns you an extra $4.80 per sale, that is huge!
- You can copy an already uploaded design to save time creating future listings.
- You can have multiple store fronts so that you can group related listings together, this can apparently be powerful when you are targeting certain niches.
- You can create promotions on your products in the form of discounts that is taken from your profit margin, this again is great and could be part of another powerful marketing strategy!
- You get an extra $0.50 profit on each sale if you link your TeeSpring account with your Facebook ads account.
- Teespring works seamlessly with Google analytics and amazingly Facebook ads and your Facebook pixel which is a massive plus if you are wanting advanced demographics on your visitors and/or to promote your art through paid advertising.
- If you qualify for the YouTube partner program and live in the US (you also need 10,000 subscribers I believe), you can integrate your listings with YouTube and you even receive an extra $1 for each sale made on YouTube through their so called merch shelf widget that is placed just below the video content.
- Your first listing upload process that you can eventually use as a template for following listings is a long winded process.
- They can only pay you via Paypal or Payoneer.
- It seems that you do not get any advertising for your store or products unless you have been actively listing on TeeSpring for so many weeks, you have been meticulous in abiding by their policies and have gained a trust score.
- It’s a shame that you have to open multiple storefronts instead of TeeSpring just allowing the option of having categories for one store front.
- You are limited to 50Mb upload file sizes however this is to be expected. What is not expected is when you don’t realise that the file you uploaded is over 50Mb in size! Instead of TeeSpring warning you of this, they let you go through the whole tedious process of uploading the design to all the products to later find after submission, it just crashes the browser page and doesn’t save the products! Barmy! This actually put me off from listing on there for a long time.
- You cannot edit a listing after you have submitted it which I find unbelievable. You can edit the description and tags but not the layouts, colours, products, pricing etc. You have to recreate the listing from scratch or contact them to change it.
- It seems that you can only add product tags to listings after the design has been uploaded which I find kind of odd.
- Their website is very slow and clunky and it can be frustrating to use especially when you are uploading your designs.
Spreadshirt looks to be a great print on demand website at first with their many excellent features and I could write an article on it’s own regarding the features and benefits of a Spreadshirt store, however even with their streamlined upload process and comprehensive customisation options for their stores, all is not what it seems;
- The store you can build is fully comprehensive and the options and possibilities seem endless and to top this, the affiliate commission you automatically receive from people buying from your store is very good indeed.
- Once you have undergone the arduous task of uploading your first design to 125 products, you can then save your product choices, colour choices, and placings as a default template to use with future listings. You can even have up to 10 of these self created templates which is great, so for example should you wish to have a white background instead of a black background for your design instead, you could do that with just a few clicks.
- As previously mentioned, Spreadshirt currently allows you to put your designs on over 125 products however this number is always increasing!
- They allow up to 25 tags per design however the auto tag fill isn’t great and I always have to delete these to replace them with my own.
- You can choose to sell your designs on Spreadshirts marketplace and your own shop at the same time if you wish to do so. You have to advertise your store yourself however the profit from each sale is much higher.
- Spreadshirt ranks high in Google search and in Google images which can of course lead to more sales.
- They pay you to your bank account.
- Even though I haven’t looked at it all, they seem to have lots of available tips and tools for you to read and use.
- They have an affiliate network that you can join through VigLink (now known as Sovrn) where you can earn amazing commissions!
- Number one on this list has to be their super finicky design rejection policies. I have had no end of designs rejected because of really silly reasons and it’s come to the point of me questioning whether its actually worth my time and effort uploading anymore to the site. So far I’ve had over 20 rejections from around 140 uploaded designs and it’s disheartening when you’ve spent a good amount of time uploading them all;
My first design was rejected because of using photographic material, yes, it’s true, no photographs are allowed apparently, however that’s fine by me as I’m not wanting to upload my photography as designs, I was only wanting to upload a few designs that were memes that contained photography anyway, memes that I had previously created and that I thought may have looked ok on a t shirt.
One of my next rejections was a birthday inspired design where I had all the important birthdays for one design, so the design was kept the same but the age number changed (the number taking up a lot of space in the design). They took down all 8 of my designs in one go, with the reason being that they didn’t want similar designs uploaded however they didn’t even bother to keep at least one of them up! A little strange as each design catered for each of the large birthdays, but I thought “fair enough” and after asking them, they reinstated one of the designs.
One of the next rejections was due to apparently me using copyrighted material. They wrongly accused me of using an image of an Xbox controller which I most definitely wasn’t. When I told them that this wasn’t true and that it was a generic controller in the picture, I was told that the image was still classed as copyright infringement and so I went and provided them with more than enough proof in the form of a link to where I obtained the image from that clearly stated it was a public domain image with a CC0 license. It was further a shock, and even more so when even after explaining all of this to them they still came up with an excuse as to why they won’t allow it, I guess they hate to be proven wrong, or at least the guy/woman I was talking to did!
I’ve had a few more rejections too, some I cannot remember but one was for the said reason that my design was pixelated. I told them that this was impossible (The Spreadshirt design canvas size and setup that I normally use is 4000x4000px @ 300 PPI and the excellent quality image I used was larger than this and wasn’t even made to fill the canvas) and they quietly reinstated the design without apology which I thought was pretty rude! Again they didn’t like to admit that they got it wrong obviously lol.
However the following rejection reasons which are the most shocking of all (especially since they do not sell stickers) is because of me accidentally missing and not removing a few stray pixels. I was told the edges needed to be totally smooth with no stray pixels whatsoever and they insultingly told me that I had a poor design with sloppy borders and said that I should just accept their rejection decision. The design in question was of a dinosaur. The photo of a dinosaur model had been changed through using a Photoshop filter into one that looked simple, bold and modernistic. I went back to my design and I could not for the life of me see why they had said that the design was poor. Anyway I asked them where the problem was and they then sent me a picture of a massively zoomed-in part of my design where just a small streak of stray pixels were found.
They also tried telling me that the design had a grey line running down the centre of it which was total nonsense and it was shading on the tusk that the filter had over exaggerated. I was gobsmacked to say the least and at this point I just felt that they were nit picking now. I seriously believe this to be very petty indeed but accepted the reason and moved on, at the end of the day the rejection did have some plausibility. Following this, I had issues with yet another design because of the same reason. It however contained a cloud formation in the design, something that is naturally going to have stray pixels, just as you would have if using a scanned flicked paint painting design or a design that is made up of space matter, or for another example, you can get fonts that have purposefully placed matter around the edges of the lettering to make it look like dirt, its part of the artwork for goodness sake! The clouds design was rejected because of the stray pixels and also because of the design containing semi transparent layers (I could actually understand this) but I couldn’t be bothered to argue with them and just accepted it. After complaining and explaining the reasons as to why I thought there was nothing wrong with my designs till I was blue in the face, I was tired of complaining.
I then however later found that they had gone through all of my designs, and rejected another 8-10 of them straight off, and these were including designs that I had accepted on Spreadshirt months ago! All were rejected because of them apparently being poor in design quality, but guess what, two of the designs were made up entirely of vector graphics, so there’s no chance of them having the so called sloppy borders, pixelation, or untidy cropping, they were not cropped at all and in fact it was just vectorised text, they were typography designs without gradients! From what I could make out, the reasons for one of these being rejected was due to me having a grey stroke around the edge of the font, a purposefully included effect that made the text easier to see! I seriously give in!
I felt at this point that they were really just gunning for me now, I obviously annoyed them by constantly questioning their reasons for rejection and I feel inclined to just leave Spreadshirt in the dust because of their seemingly pathetic behaviour. I feel they are just not worth my time anymore but anyway….moving on.
- Unless you have a shop, I feel personally that it’s not really worth all of this hassle, and at a recommended design fee of just £0-2 (yes it really is recommended by Spreadshirt for us designers to set our design price to between £0-2!) its barely worth the time and effort let alone the stress of having to deal with designs being rejected all of the time when they are being readily accepted on all of the other platforms.
- I had been exchanging correspondence with a rudely insulting assistant who didn’t know what an apology was.
- Some of the products are just awfully plain for the designs to go on and in fact the worse that I’ve seen out of all the print on demand websites to be honest. For example you only have the option of a white phone case and you have a very small area where your design fits. The same goes for the bags, the cups, the water bottles, the aprons (you can change the colour on these), the mouse matts, and the coasters. I doubt anyone would want to buy these!
- Earlier and within the first few months of me starting print on demand on Spreadshirt, if you started without a store of your own and with just your design being listed on the Spreadshirt market place, you would have been surprised to learn that it wasn’t easy to populate your newly created store with the listings that you already had on their marketplace. You had to tediously click on each listing and one by one add the listings to your store, there was no option for just choosing multiple listings to add to your store. It was something so easy they could have done to incorporate this into their website and it amazed me that they hadn’t done this, it was incredibly cumbersome to say the least, especially for designers who have hundreds of listings. However they have now incorporated this feature which makes it a whole lot better for designers creating their new stores.
- I have only ever made 3 sales on Spreadshirt however this is probably down to most of my designs being rejected.
- Their website has been very slow at times to the point of always wondering whether your designs were going to upload at all, never mind properly.
- I have heard on the grapevine that Spreadshirt are now stopping any designs that have used free available graphics and this even includes images in the Public Domain with creative commons license CC0 however I have yet to verify this myself.
To sum it up…..
These POD websites were chosen by myself not just from experience alone but by doing a lot of research into which platform was thought to be the best by the masses on average. I read many online reviews, consumer reviews in various places such as in forums, I watched a countless number of videos on YouTube and most importantly I looked to see how they ranked in the search engines. There have been a few success stories that I have read and listened to, though I have found it hard to believe them all to be fair. This has been my totally honest and unbiased review on all five POD’s mentioned and I don’t mind honestly saying that I’ve only made around 40 sales so far from all of them combined. So can you make money from it, yes, but you really need to scale it up and it’s true what they say, it is a numbers game. I would recommend to aim for 1000 designs just like I’m doing myself and then see how much you are making when you get to that point. If you decide that it’s not worth it then move on, however do leave your accounts open as you may find that sales come in dribs and drabs.
Why have you not mentioned others?
There are many print on demand websites online but I came to the decision after my research that these five Print on demand websites were the best overall to start with. I will however say that Society6, Cafepress and Zazzle are all worth a mention and I’m sure there are other great sites out there too but looking at them all, let alone reviewing them, would be a big task. The latter PODs were not ranking anywhere near as high as the five sites I chose but I may look into joining them myself in the near future. Simply because the more sites your art is on, the more exposure you have thus leading to more sales.
I will also mention about the whole Etsy and Printful method too however this POD method isn’t going to get you totally passive profits and still requires you to deal with customers etc. But whatever you do, please don’t discount it because good money (and potentially more money) can be made using these two companies together! You list your designs on the products and sell them on Etsy, and Printful fulfils the order for you, it is nearly all automatic and is pretty much a drop shipping method that you can see some very good returns from, research it for yourself and you maybe quite surprised.
If you have any recommendations for other POD’s out there or on how to more successfully use the POD’s already mentioned, then please feel free to comment below.