10 Things You Need to Know About Print on Demand

It's been a steep learning curve over the last few months, selling my work on Print on Demand sites such as Zazzle, Fine Art America and RedBubble. If I knew at the time what I have since learned, I might just have been able to keep my expectations lower, and my sanity in check!

So would I still go down the print on demand route had I have known some of the things I know now? Yes, absolutely. POD services can be a great way to get your work online, but you have to remember that just uploading your work and then sitting back is going to give you at best maybe one or two sales in six months. So here are the top ten things I have learned since starting to sell through this route.

1. Uploading art and then not doing anything to promote it yourself will bring very few if any results. You're competing with literally billions of products and some artists have been working these sites since they were introduced many years ago. You need to promote, promote, promote.

2. You need to upload lots of work. Many people make a living from POD sites by uploading many takes on the same design. Their stores grow, and it becomes easier to then rank somewhere in the top search results. Having a single product, unless your a very well known and established artist isn't going to cut it. Other Zazzlers indicate that they didn't see sales until they had between 800 and 1000 products in their stores. It makes sense, if you walked down the high street and saw an half empty shop, would you go in?

3. Descriptions and meta tags. These are the Bain of my life. However, what I have learned is that you do really need to spend some significant time on working out descriptions, titles and meta tags. Simply saying that this is a red painting isn't all that inspiring.

Saying that it's vibrant, and contains x, y, and z, makes it much better. As for meta tags, some people on POD told me that they never really bothered with them when they first started. Wrong! Meta tags are what search engines and more importantly the search systems on each of the POD sites rely on when a potential buyer searches for a particular piece. Imagine going to Google and entering what you want in the search bar, but then nothing other than random stuff not relevant shows up. That's why meta tags are important. My advice is to spend at least an hour working on descriptions, meta tags, and if you think of any in the interim, write them down.

4. Don't expect to make a million on your first piece. The truth is no one knows you are there, and to some extent you have to be self critical. The question to ask yourself is would I like this on my wall? But more importantly asking friends who are honest, would they like it on their wall? It's important to remember that everybody has different tastes, and what you think is better than anything Picasso ever did, might in others eyes be something they wouldn't touch with a six foot paintbrush. Get opinions, but also remember that the opposite is true as well. Something you don't like might just be that new Picasso.

5. Promote, promote, promote. Friends, family, and beyond. You are a very small needle in a haystack that's bigger than you can imagine. Without promotion, your masterpiece will sit dormant without anyone viewing it unless you are really lucky.

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, are good tools for use, but you need to put the effort in. Getting followers on Facebook can be difficult because of the algorithm used to decide who gets to see your post. You can pay for ads, and these generally turn into likes, but be warned, set yourself a budget you can afford. Spending £20 over two days will probably get you about 30 likes if you have something to actually like in the first place. If you're serious, you need to spend way more than this.

Big companies generally get organic likes as opposed to paid, but remember, they have the budget and generally a recognised brand or product. I tend to go for organic likes, they tend to engage ore than my paid likes, but also be warned that you need to get the balance of posts correct. You don't want to spam everyone every five minutes. The rule is generally around five or six posts a day.

I have had just over 5000 views on my Google Plus page over the last two weeks, I'm growing my Pinterest following, and at the moment I haven't got enough time to add in Twitter updates. I know I'm probably missing out, but you need to put aside some serious time to update your store, your social media outlets, and actually create new pieces of work!

6. Use the forums on each service. Regulars to the forums will generally help each other to promote their work, but you can also get some great advice from those who have been doing POD forever.

7. Make the highest resolution work you can. You'll find it easier if you follow the guidelines on each POD site as to what size art fits what product. What you don't want to do is create a beautiful piece that's about 1000 pixels by 1000 pixels and 72 dots per inch. Especially when you need something probably four or five times a big to create a large print, and the image must be around 200 dots per inch. 72 DPI looks great on the PC screen, but it looks blocky and frankly horrible when printed out.

8. Learn to use some different apps and programs when making digital art. You need to create a variety of work initially, or until you have at least found out what your style and niche is.

9. Read blogs, especially this one! Blogs are brilliant for understanding how people use POD and to pick up useful advice and tips.

10. It has to be the same as five. Promote, promote, promote, and then promote some more. Get some small cards made up with your POD site links and maybe add a piece of your work on the front and hand them out to everyone you meet. If you spend £10 on some cards at a local print shop, they could return tenfold if a percentage of people buy something. Make sure you put your referral URL on the card and everywhere you promote. Usually this pays out on any artwork the person buys, even if it's not yours. You can usually get a small percentage of additional sales such as mats and frames.

So what are your tips for POD? Would you like to hear more? Leave a comment and remember to find me on Facebook at Facebook.com/beechhousemedia



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