A Guide to Print On Demand Websites

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Are you an artist looking into ways to sell your artwork and make passive income? If you've researched this at all then you've probably stumbled upon "print on demand" websites or "POD" sites as they are often referred to as. But what exactly are print on demand websites, what's the best way to start and what should you look out for? Lets take a look.

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My Story

I started multipliCITY about 5 years ago with one map on society6. Over the years I've expanded the range to include cities from all over the world as well as subway, state and country maps. Now spread over various print on demand platforms, as well as sales through Urban Outfitters and Target, multipliCITY has become a reliable revenue stream. I count myself as very lucky and wanted to share my journey and what I learnt along the way to help others achieve their goals. So lets get started!

What Is A Print On Demand Website?

Put simply a print on demand website is a platform where artists can upload their artwork onto paper and / or products. When somebody buys a product the platform company will then print the product and ship to the buyer. Effectively they take care of the whole process, leaving you (the artist) time to create more incredible artwork. Print on demand sites have been growing and will probably continue to grow as they have the benefit that they don't need to store huge amounts of stock and they have lower risk attached to them because they only print when they sell... hence the name "print on demand".

As An Artist Should I Sell Through A Print On Demand Website?

Its a problem I've often debated with friends but haven't really stumbled upon that much online so thought I would have a go at answering here. In short I would say yes but first let me explain. Lots of artists and designers struggle with the idea of selling through print on demand sites as its seen as commercialisation and honestly it is... but there are pretty easy ways round this. You can still be a serious gallery artist and enjoy the benefits of print on demand sites. The trick I think is not to limit yourself or think too black and white about the issue. For example if you want to experiment with Print On Demand websites as a gallery represented artist you could just post open edition prints on a few POD platforms and then keep your limited editions and originals strictly for gallery style exhibitions. It also has the added bonus that it potentially brings in a new generation of buyers. At this point you might be thinking "hmm but open edition prints on POD sites are so cheap. Wouldn't that devalue my artwork too much?" I hear you and if that's the case then why not think about creating a pseudonym and trying out a whole new style? Chances are you're super creative so what can be more exciting than starting a whole new creative outlet! Here are a few examples of how different artists use Society6: Little Thunder's artwork is available as prints or phone cases. Otherwise her work has to be bought from her or her representative gallery.

Marc Allante's artwork is available on a wide range of products but his limited edition prints have to be bought through his personal website or representative gallery.

Cat Coquillette's artwork is 100% POD based. Her work is available on pretty much everything.

What Print On Demand Site Is Best For Me?

It honestly depends what sort of products you wish to sell. My best performing print on demand sites tend to be Society6 followed by Redbubble. I'll do a post in the future going into more details about the various POD sites and their pros and cons so stay tuned. I generally found Society6 a great place to start. Redbubble has a similar platform which is pretty easy to use. If you are more interested in selling tshirts online you can try POD sites like threadless or teespring. The best thing you can do is to visit the sites and see what their most popular products are. What style are they? Are they mostly selling art prints? This will give you a good idea of how good a fit they are for you.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Print On Demand Websites?

As mentioned earlier the pros are that the business / sales end of being an artist is largely taken care of. However it does come at a cost. For every sale you'll get about 10 - 20% but bear in mind POD sites have to deal with printing, shipping, customer care etc. POD sites bring in a large amount of traffic. According to trackalytics Society6 has approximately 500,000 daily site visitors which is pretty crazy! That's a tonne of people seeing your artwork (and potentially buying) which is a huge plus. It really comes down to you though and what you are comfortable with. There are certain POD sites which allow you to set your own royalty rates so bear that in mind when making your decision.

Last Thoughts?

Print on demand is definitely worth trying. Even if you aren't comfortable with it create a pseudonym and start experimenting. Bear in mind though that it won't be easy and it takes a lot of work. I have issues with people calling it passive income as there is honestly not much that's passive about it, so be prepared! It will take time. I had a few shop failures experimenting on POD sites before multipliCITY was a success so don't be discouraged if things don't work out the first time round. I made about 4 USD in my first month on POD platforms and it took about 2 years to grow it to a decent income so don't be put off if you don't see crazy results when you first start out. All in all it has its challenges but its a great experience and its super liberating. What are you waiting for? Give it a go!

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