When I first started this website I was thinking about different ways to try to make money out of my art. In the last few months I’ve been trying out a few different websites that enable you to do this, and now have profiles on Redbubble, Society6 and Threadless. All three websites work on the model that you upload high quality digital photos to the website which can then be printed via good quality digital printing on a range of products, which include wall art, T-shirts, bags, clocks, mugs and stationary. All three sites give clear guidance on the file types and sizes you will need for the different types of product.
I have been thinking about writing this post for a while while I get the hang of using these sites. They all have positive features and drawbacks, which I will probably need to make a few posts on while I continue to get the hang of them. Here are a few early thoughts:
Control over how your design looks products: For me Redbubble have the clear advantage here. Their interface means that you can change the size, and position of your art on the respective product. At the moment Redbubble is also the only site in which you can have your image appear as a repeated pattern on the the product without effectively creating a new design. It is also relatively easy to change the background colour of a number of products, which isn’t that easy on the other two platforms. The other two platforms are much more reliant on the work you do to prepare your files in the first place in ensuring that your image looks good on the products.
Building an Audience: All three platforms operate a kind of internal social media system where you create a profile which is visible to other people who buy or sell art through the sites. In all three platforms you can follow other artists and hope that other people will follow you. The advice appears to be that most sales will be made to other platform users, so collecting likes, followers and comments is a good way of monitoring if your work is being seen, and of eventually generating sales. I have found that so far it has been much easier to build a follower base in Threadless, and Society6.
Threadless runs a regular design competition which enables you to submit a design and invite other Threadless users to vote on your design, which is great fun. Designs with the most votes are likely to be featured on the main website. There appears to be a core group of people who participate in voting in these competitions on a regular basis, so it is a good way of getting your stuff seen. I have a design up at the moment, you can have a look here.
Society6 has an App (unfortunately only on iphones/ iPad at the moment) which functions a bit like instagram, which means that it is relatively easy to scroll through other people’s art and find artists that you like. Commenting and liking other people’s art is a way of drawing attention to your own work, and I have been relatively successful here in a short period of time.
I have found Redbubble less easy to negotiate when trying to build up an audience. While you can participate in challenges, forums, comment on people’s work and follow people in Redbubble I have not been particularly successful in getting my stuff seen there. I don’t find the website particularly easy to use in comparison to the other two platforms for this purpose. I am not quite sure why I am finding it difficult, and this may possibly be a ‘getting the hang of it’ issue. They have a new App which again operates in a similar way to instagram, and which looks good. Unfortunately at the moment you can’t log into it with your profile so it’s not helpful in drawing attention to your own work through interacting with other people (I have been told they are working on a log in feature – personally I think this will really help). That said, I have made sales to people other than my boyfriend, or my boyfriend’s mum, through Redbubble, so it’s not clear to me that gaining lots of followers actually translates into money in the bank.
Getting paid: Both Threadless and Society6 pay through Paypal, and there doesn’t appear to be an option over the currency you are paid in here for either site. As both sites are American, I will be paid in US dollars, while living and designing things in the UK. Redbubble again is the winner here – you can choose to be paid directly into your bank account and you can also choose which currency you want to be paid in, which definitely works better for me.
Tax: For all sites you are responsible for paying income tax in your own country on your earnings. You may also be responsible for paying sales tax in the countries in which your art is sold if you make enough sales to take you over the relevant country’s tax threshold, although they appear to collect VAT so it’s not entirely clear. I am not sure what this mean at the moment, I have some more research to do here.
Those are my thoughts this morning – I am sure that there will be more to follow. I would love to hear about other people’s experiences about using these platforms.