An Artist’s Dream

It is every artists’ dream to be paid for their work.

That’s not true. I’ll go ahead and speak for every artist out there and say that we create because we love it. Plain and simple. There’s no greater satisfaction than bringing a creation to life. But the idea that a creation could help sustain life’s other joys? I couldn’t possibly resist.

Thank the heavens for the Internet. And for the extremely random (and lucky) Internet browsing skills I possess. I’ve come across a multitude of online retail establishments that include the small-scale designer in their business model. My three favourite, and the ones that I’ve registered with and actively been using, are Redbubble, Zazzle, and Cafepress. Yes, they are ranked in order preference.

These sites allow me to upload my designs to a variety of merchandise and goods, while retaining a royalty upon sale. When I have told people this, the general reaction has been negative… I don’t think people have given it quite the thought I have. I retain no overhead, no costs, no responsbility (shipping, liabilities, manufacturing). I could go on, but that’s the gist. In the end, both parties are winning. I have no problem with a win-win scenario when the alternative is never being able to achieve this on my own.

On to the websites!

Redbubble allows me to set my own royalty rate, which will certainly be helpful in attaining the minimum payout amount (all three sites have one). Redbubble is also far superior in its navigability, from the search bar to my individual shop. You search by design, and once you have found a design you like, it brings you to the product page where you can tab/navigate through each product they sell. My design is superimposed onto their products, and done so extremely well and at a fast rate. The visuals are superb. And the navigation is flawless and intuitive. My only criticism of Redbubble is that, in comparison to the two other sites, they have far less individual products.

On to Zazzle. Zazzle has a tremendous amount of products and allows me to set my own royalties. But their design uploading system is less intuitive for the designer who wants to mass-upload. Their search function is also… bizarre, for a lack of a better word. I have made multiple attempts to string a query that I know should have results, and yet I get “No products are found.” If you do manage to come across my shop, though, it shows quite nicely. You can navigate either by design or by categories. There are no hiccups when navigating my shop.

Cafepress puts on a good front. Their customer service has been superior (I had multiple response times of one hour) but everything else has been dreadful. I didn’t mind not being able to set my own royalty, but it takes me anywhere from 3-6 hours to “edit” the design I have uploaded so that the design prints end-to-end. The fact that this was an automatic feature on both Redbubble and Zazzle had not even occurred to me until I began toying with Cafepress. What I’ve also noticed is that although it says there are 450 products (and thus, 450 products I edited), there are actually only 350 that show up in the search function or my shop. I didn’t realize that till about the 10th design, so, that really sucked. Cafepress’ search function is just difficult. Their main page lets you think that they display one of each design, but in fact they can have pages of the same design and then one slot for the next design. Unfortunately, and rather selfishly, I have not been one of the lucky ones that has their designs repeated for pages. It is not any easier to “Narrow by Department” as I have found some of my products are missing entirely. It seems to be random guesswork and hopeful navigation to get to the type of product you want. Finally, the shop leaves a bit to be desired. Again, “Narrow by Department” doesn’t actually do anything, which would be really helpful with “450” products. You can only browse by design, which is fine, until you realize, “I really just want to see all the bedsheets you have!” Have fun loading another “450” images just to switch design.

Well, that’s my ramble on Cafepress! Summary: Redbubble = Good! Cafepress = Bad! (but opportunity is opportunity)

Are you selling your designs on any sites? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below!