I make some really cool clothes for avatars in Second Life. Some of those designs I also have used for real world graphic tees. It would be lovely if I had the time, space, and funds to set up a screen printing shop at home, but I don’t. Fortunately, this isn’t necessary. I can still make and sell really awesome graphic tees and other items using a print-on-demand service.
I initially worried about this. Would using POD for my graphic tees make my brand, LoPo, look unprofessional? While I would love it if LoPo apparel and accessories had the same appeal major designer labels do, the reality is – LoPo isn’t a department store brand, it’s a small yet growing line of graphic designs by a solo artist on a shoestring budget working out of her 9′ x 10′ home office.
Print-on-demand companies give artists like me a free way to sell their designs without having to worry about the hassles and expense of purchasing supplies, equipment, etc. They handle all the printing, shipping, and credit card processing, leaving us the time to focus on making cool designs.
There are some drawbacks, of course. POD companies don’t offer the option of designing on sleeves or anywhere outside the standard rectangular areas on the front and back. This is a huge frustration for me, to be honest. I can’t count how many times I’ve thought of an amazing design for a shirt, but couldn’t bring it to market because of this limitation. Using POD also means having to co-brand LoPo with my supplier.
I have experience with three of the dozen or so main contenders in the POD field – CafePress, Zazzle, and Printfection. I didn’t stay with CafePress very long. They got a bit greedy for my tastes. Zazzle amazed me with their speed, customizable product selection, and quality. Yet, I still worried about how co-branding would affect LoPo as a brand, so I recently tried Printfection, which allows shop owners to brand their stores, shipping labels, etc., however they wish without Printfection’s name being plastered in several locations.
I made the switch because I loved having the ability to set up a shop that fully integrated with my website so that customers never felt like they left my site. I loved the idea of my customers seeing LoPo on the shipping label and other correspondence instead of my supplier’s. So, after much frustration and time wasted, I finally got my Printfection store set up, and ordered a sample to ensure their print quality was up to my standards. Within 48 hours, they had printed and shipped my tee and the print quality was excellent. Printfection’s packaging is great, too – I received my tee in a box instead of the typical plastic bag. So, you’d think given the great quality, better packaging, and no need for co-branding, I’d stay with Printfection – but I’m not.
The reason? Their website and method of product management is truly awful. For customers, product images are too small and they can’t view the design in question on a variety of shirt colors. For shop owners, the archaic folder tree system Printfection is using for product creation and inventory management is horrifically tedious, unnecessarily time-consuming, and makes the stores themselves look clunky and redundant. This is not exactly the professional image I had in mind. So, I decided to stick with Zazzle for selling my graphic tee designs.