Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cafepress vs Printfection vs Zazzle

Print On Demand Companies. Is this a great idea or not?

I have had a Cafepress shop for a few years. In those few years, I have managed to sell enough to actually cover my shop fees a few times, and once, last Christmas, I actually earned enough to receive a $28 check. So as a way to make a living, it hasn't exactly happened.

The Cafepress site says that they have shop owners who make 6 figure incomes from this stuff. I have tried to figure it out. I believe it is a numbers game. If you have 2 million products out there, you're bound to sell something, right? Another aspect of making Cafepress, or any of these sites work, is to write A LOT of keyword rich copy so the pages get indexed by the major search engines. This is the most boring part of it. Having to come up with all this copy can really stress one's imagination. Quite frankly, I hope no one reads all this stuff.

If you compare the three sites on Google Trends you will see that Cafepress is getting the most traffic, followed by Zazzle, and then Printfection. However, Printfection and Zazzle are showing increases in search volume while Cafepress is decreasing somewhat.

It seems to me that Cafepress has so many designs on it that it is hard to get seen just in their Marketplace. It's pretty much the same on Printfection and Zazzle. I somehow doubt many people search beyond the first 5 or 6 pages of designs, so your only options are to write obnoxiously keyword saturated copy for your designs so they will appear in natural search, or heavily promote your shops via blogs and outside websites.

I have had my shops on Printfection for a couple of weeks now, and opened a shop on Zazzle a couple of days ago. From examining my stats, I can conclude one of two things; either:

A. No one is going to these sites
B. My designs suck.

Of course, hardly anyone has visited my Cafepress sites either, despite the use of Google Adwords [a topic for another day]. So it might be option B.

I have 2 shops that have Biblical designs; Biblical T Shirts on Cafepress and Biblical T Shirts on Printfection. Half of my sales on Cafepress in the last 3 months came from the Biblical T Shirts shop there, and the other half came from the ottoblotto shop. The Printfection shops have had no sales.

My ottoblotto shop has a number of the items I have shown here on my blog, including numerous Library drawings.

I also have 2 shops that feature bird designs, Happy Nest Site on Cafepress and Birds of Paradise on Printfection. I have made only one sale on Cafepress from the site there, and nothing from Printfection. I am working on the creative copy stuff.

The good thing about Printfection and Zazzle is that their shops don't cost anything to have. You can upload a bazillion things there, and if nothing sells, you aren't out anything but your time. It only costs like $6 per month per premium shop on Cafepress, but you can only have 500 sections per shop. Of course, it will take you awhile to fill that up. Apparently, there are no limits with Printfection and Zazzle.

All these companies offer similar items for you to customize to your heart's content, and each offers a few unique items as well. Cafepress offers Print on Demand books, Printfection has glass cutting boards, and on Zazzle you can get skateboards and tennis shoes. All of which is time consuming. So maybe it will work out eventually, but I'm not holding my breath.

I have made an order from Cafepress. I can't say I was wowed by it. The printing was good, but the colors were not as vivid as they were on my monitor, specifically the aqua. I thought the printing on black was pretty good, though. I haven't tried Printfection or Zazzle yet. When I sell something and have some cash built up, I'll probably give them a try, too.

Maybe I'll be there next year...

See Cafepress vs Printfection vs Zazzle Part 2


Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

Thanks Otto for being so insightful, frank, and funny in your review of these T-Shirt sites. My Uncle John Jung just turned me onto them yesterday, and I m knee deep and overwhelmed on information overload. After reading your review, I feel more likely to take the plunge and open an account at CafePress for starters. Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these very helpful articles about your experiences. I just noticed the date on these entries. I would love to see you write an update. After two years, which site are you making the best profit from?

Liora said...

Thanks for these very helpful articles about your experiences. I just noticed the date on these entries. I would love to see you write an update. After two years, which site are you making the best profit from?

ottoblotto said...

Liora, a new review is now in.

Drew said...


When it comes to selling product, it isn't just product design, but how you market it. I have found that cafe press and zazzle do not allow you to customize your stores enough to create a brand identity or advertise your own products to the customer. I use printfection and have created a highly customized store front that is far more convincing than most cafepress and zazzle stores. If you have any questions please let me know my site is