POD or Etsy or Shopify? Which is better?

If you’ve been selling through Print on Demand Sites such as Zazzle or Cafepress, you know that making sales on those sites is no easy task. And if you have been in the POD world long enough, you’ve probably seen conversations surrounding Etsy and Shopify. How are they different from a POD? And are they worth looking into?


Let’s start with Etsy. It’s a place for independent creatives to sell their work. And it has an active marketplace with over 28 million buyers.

You can open a store and list your products for sale. There is a nominal charge for listing and for selling an item.

Advantages of Etsy:

  • Access to an established marketplace. There is no need to build a customer base and drive traffic, Etsy gets a steady stream of customers.
  • Control over product images. Since you will be posting your own images, you have control over how big they are and what photos to use.
  • Analytics. Etsy reports show you how a customer found your listing. It shows what search terms were used, if they came from another site such as Pinterest. There’s a lot of good information that you can use for your store.
  • Your products show up on Google. When you create a listing, it also shows up on Google shopping. No further effort on your part.
  • Pinterest loves Etsy. Look up any products on Pinterest, I guarantee you’ll see Etsy listings at the top.
  • Etsy doesn’t fool around with image theft. If you are caught they will shut you down. Instantly.

Disadvantages of Etsy:

  • Ever-changing rules. At first Etsy was strictly for handmade items. Then they started allowing outside manufacturers, provided that you still had a creative hand in the process. This opened the gates for a multitude of sellers to come in. Which also created more competition.
  • Inconsistent sales. If you visit the Etsy forums, you’ll see sellers complain about their sales drying up. This seems to happen when Etsy implements a major change. It’s like these changes have an effect on its search algorithm and how listings appear in their marketplace. So you’ll see many thread discussions about the sudden decline in sales with no recovery in sight.

So those are some of the pros and cons of selling on Etsy. There is one thing I didn’t mention and that is order fulfillment and customer service. When you sell on Etsy those additional responsibilities are added to your plate. Some may see that as a Pro and enjoy interacting with customers and ensuring the product quality is high. Others who enjoy the anonymity of a POD may see it as a negative and don’t want to have any interaction with a customer.

So that’s Etsy in a nutshell. What about Shopify?

Shopify is a platform which allows you to open your own independent store. There are similar platforms such as Woocommerce, Square Space and Big Commerce.

Why use Shopify?

Shopify makes it very easy to start your own store. You can literally get it done in a day. It’s very well organized for workflow.


  • Customer Support. They are available round the clock for any questions or issues that come up. Their support is top notch.
  • Readymade templates. They have a wide variety of store templates to give your store a professional look.
  • Seamless integration with apps. You can instantly connect your store to an order fulfillment company with an app. For example, Gooten provides order fulfillment for products such as t-shirts, mugs, pillows and blankets. Once you connect your Shopify store with the Gooten app, you can upload your designs onto products and post them for sale in your store.

The seamless integration with order fulfillment companies is a BIG plus. It enables you to have your own personal POD.

The other advantage of Shopify?

Profit. The common retail price for t-shirts is $21.99. With your Shopify store, your cost will be between $8-12 depending on what brand you use. So for every shirt you can make between $10-14 for each sale. Let me repeat that. You will make between $10-14. On each shirt.

Now I know as a seller on a POD you will not make that kind of money. Maybe a few bucks if the customer didn’t get it on sale. But there is no way you’ll make ten bucks!

It’s eye opening to see what the base prices are for various products. And even more eye opening to realize how much you can make when you SELL ON YOUR OWN.

Need more convincing?

Okay. Let’s take leggings. Zazzle uses Art of Where (AOW) for order fulfillment. If you use the lowest royalty of 5% the retail price approximately $60. Your cut will be $3.

Guess what? AOW also connects to Shopify. When a customer places an order through your Shopify store it’ll be sent to AOW for fulfillment. Your product cost? $35. So if you use the same retail price as Zazzle, we’re talking a profit of $15.

Now I know I haven’t factored in shipping and other costs such as credit card processing. But even then then you’ll still make a lot more when you SELL ON YOUR OWN.

You may be thinking, I don’t want the hassle of running a store. I just want to upload my art and designs and let someone else handle the rest. It’s just too complicated to figure out all the details that go into running a store.

I totally get that. It’s what drew me to Zazzle in the first place. And I don’t want to dissuade you from using a POD. But I urgently advise you not to keep all your eggs in one basket. You’ll hear this over and over again in my blog posts.

I’ve been with Zazzle for eleven years now. In that span of time I have seen many changes. Remember the volume bonus plan? What about the Market Optimization? ZRank? Reducing the number of tags from forty to ten?

My point with all this is that you have LITTLE CONTROL when you sell on a POD. You are subject to their rules and any changes to it. You are just a guest in their home. You have little control about when and if your products show up in the marketplace. You have little control if someone decides to scrape your images and sell them on Amazon. You have little control over the return policy. Heck, you have little control when the website isn’t working!

So my advice is to stay with the POD sites. But do me a favor and give Etsy or Shopify a try. I guarantee it will help you look at POD in a different way.

You might be also thinking, Shopify costs $29 a month and that’s just too expensive. Having a POD store on Zazzle or Red Bubble is free.

Well, not really. You make less on royalties. Much less. Believe me, Red Bubble is charging you for having a store on their website. It may not be in the form of a monthly fee. It’s factored into the royalty amount they pay you.

I could go on and on about why you should start your own independent store. And why you need to stop sitting on the sidelines. But I’ll stop here. I know I covered a lot of information in this post. Congratulations if you made it this far. What are your thoughts? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’d like to give Shopify a try message me. I can help you get set up with a free trial period and answer any questions.