November 27, 2016 Cindy Bendel

Branching out from Zazzle – Next Steps

I know a few designers that are interested in branching out from Zazzle. They wonder what the next logical step would be? Well, it depends on a number of things.  Let me first throw out five questions:

  1. Would you like to make 3-6 times what you are making on Zazzle royalties? For example, the average t-shirt sells for between $25-30 on Zazzle. If there isn’t a sale you’ll make a few bucks per shirt. If you sell independently you can sell that same shirt for $20 with a cost of $10.  If you do the math the profit is $10 per shirt.
  2. Would you like to paid daily or weekly? Yes that’s right! Instead of waiting for that monthly mid-month payment from Zazzle, you can be paid more frequently.
  3. Would you like to set your own return policy? Zazzle’s policy has been “if you don’t love it then we’ll take it back”. It’s great for customers, not so great for designers. Especially if it’s a large order or is returned six months later.
  4. Would you like to sell products that Zazzle does not have? What if you could sell your designs on an all-over-print apron? The ones that Zazzle has only have a small design space. Or what if you wanted to sell pillow covers? Zazzle currently only sells the kind with an insert. If you are an invitation designer – what about foil printing? Zazzle had promised to introduce it, but as of November 2016 we have not seen it.
  5. If your images have been stolen from Zazzle – would you like to have more control over your images? A couple years ago thieves started stealing images from Zazzle. They then used these images to print on pillows and other products. Then to add insult to injury they listed them on Amazon for sale. That’s the short story. It doesn’t even begin to describe the heartache it’s caused many designers.

If you answered YES to these questions, then you’re ready to branch out and find other avenues of income. While there are many advantages to using the Zazzle platform, there are also limitations. But the most important reason to branch out – don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

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That simply means that you shouldn’t put your entire livelihood in the hands of one place. Especially when the landscape is constantly changing.  If you have been with Zazzle for a number of years, you have seen many changes take place. There was at one point a Volume Bonus plan. If a sale was not referred/third party, you earned a bonus for the sale. Then in the last couple years they introduced ZRank which would decide your fate in Zazzle’s marketplace. And don’t get me started on image theft and Amazon. I briefly alluded to it above.

Those are just a few examples, if I think a little harder I could come up with more changes. But you get my point right? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, put them in many baskets. Stock investors refer to this as diversification. You reduce your risk when you branch out and find other sources of income.

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So what is a Zazzle designer to do? There are many possibilities including signing up with other PODs. But you run into the same scenario and other challenges:

  • Aside from Cafepress, the other PODs are smaller and don’t have as big a reach as Zazzle. Royalties are not going to be as frequent. They don’t have the same marketing and advertising budget as Zazzle.
  • You are subject to the PODs rules and limitations including when you get paid, return policy, etc.
  • Image protection is not high on their priority list.

So what’s left? Blazing your own trail.

Webstores and shopping cart systems have made huge advances in the past few years.  Would you believe me if I told you that you could have a store like Zazzle, sell the same products and make more money?

It’s true! Really. There are many websites that offer the opportunity to host your own store.  Shopify is one of the most popular sites.  There are other contenders such as Big Commerce, Square and Volusion. I tried them all and will cover them in another blog post. But at the end of the day, I decided on Shopify. (affiliate link)

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Why?

Drop-shipping and order fulfillment.  It’s easy to connect your Shopify store to a fulfillment company. The seamless integration makes it easy for a customer to place an order through your store, and then have that order sent automatically to a fulfillment company. You don’t have to touch a thing. You don’t have to buy and store inventory. You don’t have to print anything. You don’t even need to ship anything out! We call this drop shipping. And I would say most of the products that are sold on Zazzle are available through these fulfillment companies. For example, there is a company called Gooten that can connect you to these dropshipping companies. Sign up for a free account and look at their product lists and pricing.  It’ll give you a feel for what kind of money you can make. When you have a Shopify store you can connect it to Gooten for order fulfillment.

If you sign up for a Shopify account you can get a 14 day trial. And I will let you in on a secret: you can extend that trial by two weeks. So a Shopify trial can last for a month. But you really only need one day. You can get a basic store up and running very quickly. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

I will confess that when I first opened a Shopify account I felt lost. I had no idea where to start, it was all a big jumble. I could not make sense of it all. So then I tried out other websites such as Volusion and Big Commerce. I even spent a year learning OpenCart – a free open source shopping cart that you install on your website. I really love Opencart. But it doesn’t offer seamless integration with dropshipping companies. All my orders had to be submitted manually to a dropship company. And it was a big pain in the but!

As I write this we are in the middle of the holiday shopping season. I don’t know how your Zazzle sales are. They might be amazing. But they might also be disappointing. If that’s the case I encourage you to consider Shopify. If you feel unsure about it, I am planning to make a series of videos and blog posts to help you get started. But in the meantime, open that Shopify store. Play around with it and develop an understanding of how it works. Then ask me questions, ask me anything. If there is anything I love about you Zazzle designers, it’s the community of support. I’m going to keep the tradition going. If you need someone to help you get started, I’m your gal.

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