Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Cafepress.com: Potential and Disappointment
To date one of my biggest disappointments with my whole Internet monetization strategy is my Cafepress.com shop. The potential seems so enormous that I feel I must not give up on it just yet. In this blog post I will share some of my experience, thoughts and strategy in regards to cafepress.com and to print-on-demand opportunities in general.
A Cafepress.com Experiment
I started the Cafepress.com experiment about three years ago, but I have only put a couple of hundred hours into it. It seems like a lot more time because of the drudgery factor! By the time all is said and done it really takes somewhere between 2 and 3 hours per image to get everything sized, cropped, entered, key worded and so forth. But that is the easy part.
My Best Selling Cafepress.com Image
Without actually counting, I think I have about fifty of my funny animal pictures up on my Cafepress.com storefront (I have a “premium” store). My best selling Cafepress.com image is one of various pets sitting in a veterinarian’s waiting room. Now why a scene featuring a group of miserable animals waiting to see a vet is popular…well, you got me! It sells as greeting cards, on clocks, wall décor (framed prints), T-shirts, mouse pads, clocks (clocks)?)…all kinds of things. Maybe veterinarians are the ones buying these products. But for my best selling, Cafepress.com image to have brought in, what, maybe two hundred and fifty dollars over the last three years? It hardly seems worth the effort!
Cafepress.com Success Stories
Another troubling aspect is that when I search for things like “Cafepress.com Success Stories”, or “How I Made A Fortune With Cafepress.com”, or any other similar phrase I can think of, nothing of substance comes up. Sure, Cafepress.com claims that there are people who make $100,000.00 a year…but as far as I can tell they don’t give any concrete examples. I can find people who share that they made $17.56 last month, or that they are making enough to go out for drinks once-in-a-while, but I cannot find people who are sharing what I consider to be success through their print-on-demand experiences. To me, less than $1,000,00 per month just doesn’t cut it, but I guess success is in the eye of the beholder. Disclaimer: I have spent very little time in Cafepress.com chat rooms or forums. Maybe I am missing something here?
How Much Money Can I Make With Cafepress?
Well, last year I made $802.00 on 469 sales with Cafepress.com. Not a whole lot of return, but to be honest, not a whole lot of effort either. The real effort for Cafepress.com is in driving traffic to your storefront. A lot of people believe they can build a home-based business that will support them using Cafepress.com. I think that the examples of people succeeding at creating a viable business that will support them on Cafepress.com, or I suppose Zazzle or any of the print-on-demand business models, must be extremely rare. Building the quantity of traffic needed to generate significant revenue from a print-on-demand business is extremely difficult and will take years, many years. If any of you reading this know of any examples of people have succeeded at that task in any significant way, please share it with us!
Is Cafepress.com Worth It?
So is cafepress.com worth it? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can speculate. I believe it is a mistake to think that simply putting products up on cafepress.com can bring in any significant money. To be successful on cafepress.com, and I have seen this mentioned time and again in the numerous online articles and forums about how to succeed with Cafepress.com, you have to drive the traffic to your shop. Without a commitment to driving traffic to your storefront, you just won’t make much money. On the other hand, if I am correct about my theories, if I can drive substantial traffic to my cafepress.com storefront, then the income will definitely be worth the few hundred hours invested in putting the images up. The huge potential audience of people who might buy a coffee mug, a print, or an apron from Cafepress.com tantalizes me. On the other hand, I am beginning to question whether I can ever really tap into that market. But as I already have a good number of products online, and I am building web traffic anyway, perhaps, in time I will reach the kind of sales that I consider successful. Again, the key to making print on demand work is in building traffic, and the dirty little secret of building traffic is the enormous amount of time it takes.