Marketing - eCommerce

How to Design for Print on Demand Sites

In a recent article I told you about the best POD (Print On Demand) Sites. Today I am going to give you some more tips about how to create designs that sell.

1. Design for a Niche

As with blogs or any other product, you need to focus. You can’t offer products that are a good fit for any customer and any need. Instead, you need to focus on a niche.

It’s best if you design for a niche you are passionate about. For instance, if you are a biker, then you most likely know quite a lot about bikes, bikers, and what they like and you can create designs that speak to your audience.

Of course, you can choose a niche even if you are not too passionate about it. For instance, you can focus on floral designs, or on political designs, or become a wedding stuff designer. The point is, don’t try to be Jack of All Trades but focus on a couple of themes, topics, or niches only.

A Zazzle Shop in the Aviation Niche

A Zazzle Shop in the Aviation Niche

2. Design for a Product

While there are designs that are universal, more often than not a particular design goes well on particular products only. You will certainly see lots of bad examples on POD sites for designs that are not meant to be on a given product (i.e. baby apparel and text/images that are more suitable for adults) and as peculiar as it is, some of them even manage to sell but this is not the way to go.

There is no universal rule which kind of designs go on which products but I guess you get the idea. One example I can think of are patterns. They are great for phone cases, towels, wrapping paper, etc. but are not a great idea for T-shirts because T-shirts usually sell best when they have some text and/or images, not a pattern that repeats itself over and over again.

There is one more practical consideration against using the same design on any imaginable product – size variations and above all – proportions. If you use the same image for square-shaped products, for rectangle-shaped ones, and for circle-shaped stuff, the image will fit well on one group of the products but will be cropped on others, or won’t cover most of the design area. Some designers bother to create 3 separate variations of a design – for square-shaped, for rectangle-shaped, and for circle-shaped products but I am not sure if the profit justifies the effort. Nevertheless, you can try and see if it works for you or not.

Just a Small Fraction of the 804 Types of Products Offered on CowCow

Just a Small Fraction of the 804 Types of Products Offered on CowCow

3. Consider the Specifics of the Site

In addition to the specifics of the product, you also need to consider the specifics of the site. For instance, consider what the user can customize – add text, stretch/shrink the image, change colors, or nothing of the sort. It’s tougher to design for these sites that offer no customizations because you really need to know what the user wants.

What is more, customization options change and it’s hard to stay current. Sometimes a new customization option gets introduced but it’s not available for your older products. In such cases you need to figure out if it makes sense to re-upload your old designs in order to make them compatible with the latest changes or not.

Customization Options on Zazzle

Customization Options on Zazzle

4. Offer Multiple Colors

Even if the site(s) you are designing for offer customizations, it makes sense to make many variations of your design, so that they are ready made for users to choose from.

One of the simplest variations is colors. Very often a customer will like your design per se but would like it in a different color. When you offer multiple colors to choose from, this increases your chances to make a sale.

You can offer the same design in 10 or even 20 different colors. Try to include at least all major color groups (i.e. red, pink, green, blue, orange, etc.) and also some shades (i.e. light blue, blue, dark blue). I’ve seen designs that come in 50+ color variations, though I’m not sure if this isn’t an overkill.

The number of color variations to offer depends on many other factors, not only on your time and willingness to diverse. The choice also depends on the design itself. For example, if it is a photo, you don’t have many options but if it is text or a pattern, then you can easily offer 20 or even more colors or color combinations.

A Zazzle Shop with Multiple Color Variations

A Zazzle Shop with Multiple Color Variations

5. Arrange Your Products

POD sites, even the less popular ones, have billions of products. Needless to say, this is a huge competition. If you want your products to be found, you need to arrange them in an easy to find manner.

One approach is to have separate shops for separate niches. This works well for those sites where opening a new shop is free or cheap, or if you have numerous products in this niche and they sell well enough to make it feasible to pay the store fee.

If you can’t (or don’t want to) open separate shops, the next best thing is to arrange your products neatly in categories and subcategories. This works if you have dozens or hundreds of designs but for thousands it will get cluttered and your products won’t be easy to find.

A Zazzle Seller's Profile That Lists Some of His/Her Shops

A Zazzle Seller’s Profile That Lists Some of His/Her Shops

6. Promote Your Products

Neat arrangement of your products will help customers to find your products but this is not enough. With the fierce competition of designs, promotion does make a difference.

It’s easier to promote, when your products are in a niche (you see, one more reason to design into niches). There are numerous ways to promote your products – you can promote on your site/blog, social media, PPC, or buy ad space on top sites in your niche.

Affiliate Resources on CafePress

Affiliate Resources on CafePress

7. The More, The Better

POD is a quantity game. Sure, quality does matter a lot but you are more likely to make money with thousands of simple products than with dozens of very high quality one. The explanation is pretty simple – tastes differ. Very often what you consider a quality design won’t appeal to the masses because they won’t appreciate all the advanced techniques you used to create a design.

Additionally, not everybody goes for quality, even if quality is not more expensive than simple stuff. Again, this is a matter of taste. In other cases, even if a customer does appreciate quality, he or she simply doesn’t need it – why would a customer get a super high-quality photo on a T-shirt, when in 2 to 3 washes the colors will fade and the fabric will get distorted? Yes, this happens even with T-shirts that use state-of-the-art printing technology! What is more, a customer might need just a simple pattern, instead of a perfectionist design.

This doesn’t mean you should sell low-quality stuff. What I’m saying is that you’d better focus on simple designs (but do them well) instead of on super-duper designs that take days to create.

A Zazzle Shop with Close to 11K Designs

A Zazzle Shop with Close to 11K Designs

There is a lot of money to be made on POD sites. Even if you don’t turn this into a full-time opportunity, extra income is always welcome. If you follow these tips you will hardly become a POD millionaire but you will boost your sales for sure. You can’t expect this to happen overnight. POD success takes time and it could take you 2 or 3 years till you manage to make $100+ a month from POD but if you are persistent, your efforts will be rewarded.

About the author

Ada Ivanova is a fulltime freelancer. She finally managed to find the perfect job that allows her to combine writing, design, (some) coding, and entrepreneurship skills under one umbrella.

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