If you are someone who likes to design and want to profit from that artistic skill, you might have heard about printing your work on merchandise and sell them through Cafepress. With more than 300 product selection, I can see why this platform is such a popular choice. But, can you make money using Cafepress? I explore their revenue options and found a few pros and cons to share with you.
#1 Sell Your Designs
The most common method to start selling is to list your design on the Cafepress marketplace. On the user dashboard, you’ll find a tab that says ‘Add a Design’. This is where you upload the design and choose the type of merchandise that you want to go with it.
It’s important to note that you need to tag the item with appropriate keywords and I’ll explain why this is in a short while.
- Listing on the marketplace is totally free, which means you can upload as many designs and select as many products as you want to print on.
- When someone purchases the design, you’ll earn 10% of the product sales. For example, if someone chooses to print a dog tee-shirt which sells for $19.99 using the design above, I’ll make $1.99.
- The marketplace is crowded with a ton of designs. A quick search on the term ‘red flowers’ returned me 30 pages of results which I think is a lot to look through from a customer’s point of view. For sellers, this means tough competition and if your design is listed on page 28, people will probably never discover your work.
- Remember the part that you need to tag keywords? Well, this actually helps Cafepress ‘search engine’ to identify what your design is all about. Without a good grasp of keyword research, using broad/general phrases could cause your listing to be embedded in the crowded marketplace. You might have better luck with specific/targeted phrases, but it is hard to gauge what words people are actually using to search for designs and there’s no clear reference to this on the marketplace.
#2 Create an Online Shop
Another method to sell your designs is to create an online store within Cafepress itself. You’ll need to go through some process of setting up the site, upload the designs, select merchandise to match and then share the store link with your audience.
- There’s no cost involved in building the online store and the process is fairly easy.
- You don’t have to worry about inventory because Cafepress handles the stock as they print on demand.
- Just like the first method, you can choose as many products as you want, but you get to set the selling price. This is more flexible because you earn from the mark-up price. For example, if the base price of a T-shirt is $18 and you sell for $23, you’ll get to keep the $5 difference.
- The online store resides on a subdomain like “www.cafepress.com/yourstore” which is free, but this is not the best technique for online marketing. If you want a solid brand, you need to invest in a custom domain name.
- The online store templates provided by Cafepress are limited, the designs are somewhat outdated and most importantly, they are not mobile responsive.
- The shop is purely for product listing and it doesn’t have any feature for blogging or adding additional pages. You can’t even write an introduction of yourself. Without content, it’s going to be very difficult to rank on the search engines.
#3 Earn Performance Bonus
This incentive is given by Cafepress based on the sales performance of your online store. Basically, if your monthly price sales hit over $100, you are entitled to a cash bonus. Here’s the breakdown of the tiers.
|Tier||Monthly Base Price Sales||Bonus|
|1||$100 to $500||10|
|2||$500.01 to $1000||15|
|3||$1000.01 to $2000||20|
|4||$2000.01 to $5000||25|
- It’s extra money – who doesn’t like that, right?
- You need to know how to drive online traffic and get people to buy from your shop. The problem is, your online store is not optimized for the search engines (see point #2 above) so getting free traffic is almost impossible. You might opt for other sources such as social media (you need to build an audience first) or paid traffic (definitely not free).
#4 Cafepress Affiliate Program
Promoting merchandise (from other designers) is another way you can make money using Cafepress without owning an online store. Through their affiliate program which you can sign up via CJ Affiliate and earn up to 15% in sales commission when the person that you refer to the marketplace makes a purchase.
- There is a lot of merchandise that you can leverage from. Plus, Cafepress promotion is very theme oriented. So if you are into seasonal niches like Christmas or Halloween, this is something that you can consider.
- This might sound blunt, but none of these items is unique – T-shirts, mugs, calendars – people can get them from their companies/events all the time (for free) so there’s no strong desire to buy them online unless they are really interested in a certain theme.
- Assuming that all the product quality is the same, what you are basically promoting is the designs (not really the product itself) which can be quite subjective to interpretation.
- There are no customer reviews for the products on the marketplace. Therefore, it would be difficult to get details about the item unless you purchase your own.
So, Is Cafepress Worthy of Your Time?
Cafepress certainly offers you many ways to make money online by sharing interesting designs, but they are not without any challenges. Here’s my perspective;
- If you want your design to stand out and appeal to customers, you need to promote through a website/blog; not on a crowded marketplace. On your own platform, you can add some personality and engage with your audience better.
- Since setting up an online store is very much like running a business, it’s best to get a custom domain (subdomains are not recommended) for better branding. If you can add a blogging feature (which I think you must), that will offer more advantages in terms of search rankings.
- Affiliate marketing is a great business model, especially for beginners, but you need to research what appeals to your niche and what is the ongoing trend. As such, you want to promote something that is more unique/value-added (not just the common merchandise) because people have a good reason to buy them over again.
Overall, Cafepress is an easy place to start, but it doesn’t come with the resources for running a successful online business. If you want to learn how to create a blog, an online store or finding the right affiliate program, then I would recommend the program at Wealthy Affiliate instead.
Have any thoughts or questions? Feel free to leave them in the comment area below and I’ll be happy to respond.