Friday, February 11, 2011

Photography, Money and Love



Funny elephant in a sprinter's crouch in starting blocks about to race down a track.
I love coming up with funny stock photo ideas...like Elephants in starting blocks!
Love, Passion and Photography
A friend of mine, fellow photographer Tanya Constantine, left a message for me on my Facebook page in which she lamented that there is too much emphasis on the money aspect of photography, not enough on the love and passion for the art. I was reflecting on that as I drove home from my studio this evening.

The Enjoyment of Creating Stock Images
I spent the day creating stock images, including the elephant in the starting blocks at the top of this blog. I was doing it for the money. But I do love the work as well. I love coming up with ideas, ideas that will amuse and at the same time deliver a message, a commercial message no less. I love the process of putting my images together, the planning, the photography and the Photoshop work. I love finishing an image and just plain enjoying it.

Money As A Measurement
The money, however, is also important, and in several in a couple of ways. Obviously, I want to maintain a certain standard of living, put some away for when I reach the point where I can’t work as much…or even don’t want to work as much. And the money is important in another way too. It is a measure of my abilities, a yardstick by which I can judge my progress. For better or worse, I take pride in the fact that I can make money at photography, and yes, it makes me feel good about myself.

How Can I Make Money With My Photos?
One often hears, or reads, that this photographer or that photographer would do their work whether they were being paid or not. I often wondered if that were true of me. I really don’t know. I do love creating images, but seldom create ones that won’t earn me money.  Even on vacation or traveling I will find myself reaching for my camera when a potential shot catches my attention, and yet I am always wondering if and how I can make money with the shot. I have foregone some pretty cool shots because I couldn’t see how I could make money with them.

Wasted Images
Part of my thinking goes that if I don’t have a market for the image it will be wasted. No one will see it. I have so many images that know one will ever see, some really great ones too. But I don’t have the time, or I suppose, the inclination, to get them online, to enter shows, to make prints (and where would I hang those prints?), to get them in front of an audience.

Sharing Images, And Making Money
Just thinking out loud here. I am interested in why I take the approach I do, but I certainly am not unduly bothered my how I operate. As I said, I do enjoy what I do. I love making my images. I love sharing my images, be they funny elephant pictures, silly cat photos, or businessmen in odd, funny and precarious situations. I to confess though, I really love making money off of my images too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can I Make Money With Cafepress.com?


Funny pet picture of dogs and cats in a veterinarian's waiting room with various and assorted ills.
My best selling image on Cafepress.com, funny animals in a Veterinarian's waiting room!

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 d├ęcor (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.





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