At the start of the Covid-19 emergency I wasn’t able to get into Double Elephant Print Workshop to do any printmaking. Then gradually I was able to get in now and then for short bursts of printmaking activity if I had another legitimate reason to be there (all to do with the workshop being positioned in a public building). Now we are increasingly able to be open for printmaking and I can book time in the workshop the same as all our Full Members. But teaching is unfortunately going to be restricted for some time. However, I plan to be able to deliver courses to small groups quite soon, but in the light of the probability that teaching might not be a reliable income for quite a while, I have been focusing on what might be other potential income streams.
For many years people have been suggesting that I apply my artwork to more products such as tea-towels and tote-bags. But while I enjoy hand printing small batches for special events like Open Studios and craft fairs, this hasn’t been cost effective for me. And would take my time away from the limited windows of printmaking I can fit in between teaching and workshop management. But this is a different world now… So I made a commitment during lockdown to really explore the option of Print-on-Demand (POD).
I have been making progress – slowly but definitely progress.
While I was doing my research regarding which Print-on-Demand platform(s) I would like to use to process my POD products it quickly became apparent that most (or probably all) POD providers were struggling under the Covid-19 environment. Not only were the POD businesses in great demand while having to adapt their workplaces and printing facilities with socially distanced workers etc., but delivery services were/are also experiencing record demand. The result being companies who were getting glowing reviews before March were suddenly overwhelmed with angry and disappointed customers. So rather than diving straight in, I’ve been biding my time and looking at how well (or otherwise) companies deal with this situation. Then, from the beginning of July, things seemed to have picked up and there were more happy customers, but still with some areas of difficulty.
I’m choosing (at this stage at least) to go with platforms that integrate with my Etsy shop, have good customer support and also have a good user interface where I can work on my designs. Being a non-photoshop person it helps if the POD platform has intuitive and flexible templates for manipulating my designs. (Thank you to George for processing my images through photoshop so that I can manipulate layers freely in the POD templates). I now have a number of draft listings in a specifically Print-on-Demand shop section in my Etsy shop. When I make this live, the way it works is that if you purchase a POD item from my Etsy shop the message goes out to the POD platform, the order gets printed and sent to you – and I eventually get paid my small portion.
Friends on FaceBook and Instagram have been very helpful as willing guinea-pigs to help me think through the look and range of products I’m now planning to launch. Interestingly, I found that I got the most meaningful responses when I (quite deliberately) posted some not very good designs amongst the better designs. It seemed to give people the confidence to say why they thought that ‘a’ worked better than ‘b’. Reassuringly, these comments mostly chimed with my own opinions, but I wanted to make sure that I tried out options that weren’t necessarily my obvious first thoughts. Plus, it is interesting to see the range of preferences…
Early in July I ordered just one item from each of the two main platforms I will be using. Just to test the systems and feel the quality. And I have now sent off for samples of most of the products I’ve designed. When they arrive, I can photograph these in real-life settings rather than just relying on the mockups provided by the platform to illustrate the listings in my shop. But this has raised another issue I hadn’t thought through properly – postage. Printful, for example, have their own printing facilities in many countries, so the one nearer to the customer is chosen to keep the postage down. But as I’m not interested in T-shirts the range of other products is a bit limited for me. Whereas Printify let you select which from a stable of printers to use for your chosen product. Unfortunately, I discovered rather late in the day that the aprons I like from that site are only printed in the USA and the postage has been hiked up sooo much for Europe that UK buyers would find the resulting price prohibitive. But as 40% of my Etsy customers are from the US, they are still worth having available. I am currently trying out a third platform that though less flexible has more items printed in UK or other parts of Europe. Glad I’ve not rushed – things get complicated… If you are thinking about exploring print-on-demand and would like to have a chat, please feel free to get in contact.
*News Flash* I now have a referral link for Printify! If you choose to start up your on POD business with Printify using my link, I might earn some commissions. Link
So long as the postage comes through on time, I will be in a position to reveal actual product samples for people to see during Devon Open Studios. The NEW POD shop section in my Etsy shop will be made live then -12th September!!
The choice of listings that go live immediately will be ones that I’m confident have reasonable fulfilment and delivery times – bearing in mind that we will still be in Covid-19 conditions for some time. Other products would be added as time goes on.