A GUIDE TO ‘POD’ SITES

1. What is POD?

Let me start by explaining what POD means. POD stands for Print On Demand. It means you are outsourcing the work. As a seller it means you upload a photo and the website you’re uploading to will handle all the work. They will print and ship the product and they take care of the customers. This way you don’t have to print anything yourself and you don’t risk to have an overstock of products that don’t sell. For photographers who are not selling too many photos or don’t like the work, this is an ideal way to sell prints.

2. Disclaimer

In the guide below I will compare 3 different POD websites. There are of course many more on the internet, but I will focus on the 3 popular ones I have been using myself: Society6, RedBubble and InPrnt. I have been using Society6 for a couple of years now. RedBubble also, but on and off. InPrnt I only started using recently.

I will compare all three on all important aspects of working with POD sites from becoming a member to how much they pay. I’ll try to be as open as possible about how I have been selling my prints and about how much money I have made doing so.

Note that this guide is focused on selling your work and that it is not a review of the products!

3. Membership

Society6

Society6 is has a free registration, but once you want to sell prints you have to pay $1.

Registering is otherwise very simple. You fill in the basic information and you are good to go.

RedBubble

RedBubble is basically the same as Society6 but without the $1 cost.

InPrnt
3 photos I uploaded as a part of my application. It took about 10 days before I got accepted.

InPrnt is the odd one when it comes to registering. InPrnt wants to be the POD site by artists for artists. So when you sign up you have to upload 3 pieces of your work and the other members will vote. If enough members give your work a ‘heart’ you will be accepted to open your shop. As soon as you become a member you will get the right to vote.

Of course you always risk to be declined. No worries though, you can always reapply.

4. Shop lay-out

Once you signed up it’s time to open up that shop. The appearance of your shop is very important so you have to decide wisely which site fits you best.

Society6

Society6 has always had a clean looking lay-out. You have a shop logo and a banner (you can leave that blank if you want). You have a small bio where you can write a few words about yourself or about your work.

Society6 offers the biggest freedom to choose how your storefront will look. You can show only one product or all available products. You can show the recent uploads first or you can show the most popular artwork.

You can also group your work into collections which allows your customers to search more effectively. I have made different collections: ‘aviation’; ‘automotive’; ‘travel and landscapes’.

All in all Society6 looks most like a shop compared to the other two sites.

Society6 has had its fair share of bugs and problems in the past because of changes to the lay-out but more recently most of them seem to be solved. 

RedBubble

I never found RedBubbles lay-out very good looking. Where Society6 seems logic and clean to me, RedBubble is a bit all over the place. This is one of the reasons I use Society6 as the primary platform to sell my work. A pro for RedBubble is that your collections are more visible.

InPrnt

InPrnt has a very minimalistic look. Just look at it. If it weren’t for some mayor flaws I would definitely go for InPrnt as my main shop. On the other hand InPrnt doesn’t allow for many changes in your shops appearance. Some people might find these limitations to be a problem.

KISS

5. Available products

Society6

Society6 has a huge number of available products, on the edge of being ridiculous.

Sometimes less is really more and Society6 still seems to not understand this principle. Every other month they add a bunch of new products instead of focussing on making the user experience better or giving the artists more possibilities to promote their work. Seriously, who even goes to Society6 to buy coffee tables or wall paper?

Go to the Society6 homepage to see the full list of available products.

RedBubble

Redbubble has a pretty big assortiment, but focusses on those products that actually get sold in larger numbers.

InPrnt

InPrnt really is a printshop. It completely focusses on selling prints, canvasses and framed prints. Phone covers and cards are the only other available products.

It’s the ideal place for photographers who wish to focus on selling prints.

6. Community

Society6

I always had the feeling of a community when I used Society6, but over the past two years things went downhill with a lot of bots and accounts who simply ripped the artwork of other artists and sold them as their own. I do get likes and comments on my post, but most of them are very generic and feel like begging for a ‘like for like’. It also takes a long time and a lot of effort to get eyes on your shop. I liked and commented on a lot of work I liked, but being active didn’t bring a lot of new visitors to my shop.

The explore page only seems to be showing the work of those users who have a big following (real or fake?). And even the fake accounts and bots seem to get more attention than the artists who have been working for years to get visitors.

There are several Facebook groups for users, but most of them have changed to a place where people come together to complain about those fake users and the many bugs on the site.

RedBubble

Redbubble also has an explore page but brings even less of the visitors than its Society6 counterpart. It really shows that you have to actively share your webshop to your own following on social media in order to get some eyeballs on your work. You can’t expect these POD sites to do it for you…

You can also join groups on RedBubble, but the few I joined didn’t do much. It seemed like a place to just promote your own work, but nobody really cares.

InPrnt

I’ve only been active on InPrnt for about two months, but I have no sense of a community there at all! There is the peer approval system, but that’s basically it.

7. Upload process

Society6

Society6 has an easy working uploading system. If you upload photos you will soon find out you can’t sell every available product because most of the files you’re uploading are not big enough. For some of the products you need file sizes of at least 6500px on its smallest side.

Once the file is uploaded and you gave it a title and description, you can choose the products you wish to sell. The biggest disadvantage of Society6 is that you then have to add your markup to the art prints, canvasses and framed prints. Instead of choosing it once and applying it to all future uploads, you have to do this every time you upload a new piece of art. Users have been asking Society6 for years now to change this, but they never do…

Every now and then the uploader has a bug so your image will not load. Most of these are fixed fast and I never had any big issues.

RedBubble

Redbubble is much easier than Society6 because you can choose your markup once and then it is automatically applied to every new work you upload. It makes the proces of uploading artwork a lot easier and a lot faster!

InPrnt

InPrnt also has some file requirements, but due to the small number of available products, the proces of uploading is pretty fast. You also have to choose your markups for every print you upload and you have to upload a separate file for the phone cover.

8. Markup

Society6

On Society6 you can only choose the markup of the art prints, canvas prints and framed prints. Everything else has a fixed markup and these are really small. I wanted to post the list below, but it seems to have disappeared from their website or at least they made it more difficult to find it. I can say that most products will only make you a couple of USD.

RedBubble

RedBubble allows you to choose your markup for every available products, which makes it better than Society6. It is also easier to find how much your profit will be and to change it. RedBubble just seems to be more open about it than Society6.

InPrnt

InPrnt lets you choose your own pricing for your prints and gives you 50% of that sale price; 40% for canvas prints. Frames and cases will make you 5 USD and cards 1 USD.

9. Promos

Society6

If you want to give a lot of promotions on your work than Society6 really is your site. Every week there seems to be some promo. These promos do not affect your markup so that makes it extra interesting. As a seller you will get a heads up email with all the upcoming promos and overlays for your social media marketing.

The big promos is when I sell most of my products so it’s really important to act and promote your work when there’s a 30 or 40% off! Free shipping is another big one.

Society6 heads up email allows you to act on the upcoming promotions.
RedBubble

RedBubble also has several promos, but it never seems to have made me any more sales.

InPrnt

Same as RedBubble, but InPrnt allows you to make your own promotions. The downside to this is that you will make less money per sold item.

10. Sales

Society6

And now the big question. How much money can you make?

First off all: there are artists who make a living with these websites, but they really are a minority! I learned from several Society6 Facebook groups that most make between 0 and 100$ a month. My earnings aren’t that big either. The first couple of months I didn’t make a cent. Then after a couple of months I started selling some prints and other merch which made me a couple of bucks. I noticed that you really have to promote your work in order to get anything sold. Also making your profit margin large enough is important. I recently doubled it and now I only have to sell half of what I used to to make the same amount of money. I had ‘good’ months where I sold 5 to 10 items but it doesn’t always translate in your earnings. Other months I don’t sell anything…

The main idea is that you don’t have to get in this for the money. It’s more about offering people the opportunity to buy your work and it’s always great to see that people are willing to pay for your products. Making a living of it is a bit of a dream scenario I guess.

Also, don’t bet on one horse. Try several sites and see what works best for you and which make you the most sales or money. If you make 100$ a month on one site you might make 300$ if you sell on three. It’s not the case for me, but you don’t lose anything if you try.

Society6 earnings.
RedBubble

A lot of people are really happy with RedBubble and the amount of money they make on it, but for me it just doesn’t seem to work. I barely sell anything there and I actually start to wonder why I still upload photos to it.

InPrnt

I can’t really speak for InPrnt as I’m only on there for a while and haven’t even sold anything yet.

11. Payout

Payout is good for all three. It doesn’t matter how much you made, by the end of the month your money gets cleared and by the end of the next month they pay, no matter the amount. It’s a great motivation to continue doing this.

In the end every single POD has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s a matter of trying and picking out those that work for you. Start this for the right reasons as well. Don’t do it just for the money.

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Links to my Society6, Redbubble and Inprnt shop.

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