Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Demand Printing: Selling Mugs, T-Shirts and Mouse Pads!

For most of my career I was so focused on advertising, corporate and editorial markets that it never occurred to me that there was money to be made in what is called the paper products industry. Paper products include greeting cards, calendars, coffee mugs, puzzles and so forth; when your photo is part of the product.

It wasn’t until I established a line of greeting cards that I realized that this whole vast other category existed. Shortly after getting the John Lund’s Animal Antics® line of cards established we began to license the images for coffee mugs, jigsaw puzzles, figurines, checks, even Christmas ornaments! The problem with this market his how incredibly difficult it is to penetrate. But that has changed now. For little or no money you can open a storefront with CafePress or one its numerous competitors. I mention CafePress specifically because that is where I have started my little enterprise, but there are numerous online businesses now that offer on demand imprinting of a huge variety of merchandise.

It takes a little work. You have to choose which of your images to feature, size them, go through the process of uploading them and so forth. The hard part is driving traffic to your store. But again, that is simply a matter of SEO and elbow grease. All of us who are passionate about our photography have first hand experience that there are people out there who are willing, eager even, to purchase our work. Think of search engine optimization as helping them find what they want.

Of course, it helps to have the kind of images that people want to buy as refrigerator magnets, mouse pads, and aprons. It is also important to make sure your images are available for such licensing. My funny animal and pet pictures are for the most part not handled by stock agencies such as Getty and Corbis. Many of the images are licensed through Kimball Stock whom I chose for their niche of animal pictures and also because they license for non-exclusive use. That way I can still offer these images on the products and merchandise that I want to.

Well, I guess I will wrap this up because I have a lot more uploading to do for CafePress!