Selling Online: Etsy Vs. Redbubble

Last year, I had the very un-me idea to sell my arty stuff online. At that time, I started an Etsy account, but when I realized that they charge money and I’d actually have to mail stuff myself, I decided to wait on that to see if there was even an interest in my ridiculous little critters in the first place.

Instead, I started a shop on Redbubble. They do all the manufacturing and shipping for me. I don’t have to deal with customers or Post Offices at all. All I have to do is draw stuff and post it in their templates. It’s been a really sweet deal for me and I’ve sold over 200 things:

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I have nearly as many views on Redbubble as I do on this blog and FOG has been around since 2009. I’ve gotten 205 “you’ve made a sale!” emails that have entirely made my day. 205 times, people have liked my stuff enough to spend actual money on it. My work has been validated and that’s totally awesome.

Unfortunately, since Redbubble does all the heavy lifting, my percentage is very small. I make about 25 cents per sticker and roughly $5 on a T-shirt. My biggest sale, both in profits and size, was a narwhal duvet cover and I made almost $25 on that alone.

I wish I could afford one.
I wish I could afford one.

Still, even if my sales were to double or triple, it’s not enough to quit my day job. Not by a long shot. Since Redbubble takes the lion’s share, I decided to revisit my Etsy store where I get to keep a much larger percentage of the profits.

In October, I opened shop on Etsy. It has been disappointing at best. I’ve made hardly any sales and my views are abysmal. It feels like starting a blog all over again; sad and lonely.

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I know it takes time to build up a brand, but 381 views in three months is rather sad and it costs me money to list things there. Granted, not a lot of money, but money nonetheless. So far, I haven’t broken even on the printing and shipping supplies I’ve bought, let alone turned a profit.

I’m just not getting any views there. For comparison’s sake, here are the stats for my Animal Alphabet poster, posted on Etsy and Redbubble on the same day about a month ago:

  • Redbubble: 985 views, 1 sale
  • Etsy: 16 views, 0 sales

A lot of that has to do with the fact that I can only sell prints on Etsy, whereas on Redbubble, I can sell everything from T-shirts to coffee cups to tote bags. My best sellers on Redbubble are T-shirts and stickers.

So, now comes the decision part. Do I chock Etsy up as a failed experiment and let my store die? Do I let it go for a while longer hoping to build up an audience? Or do I sink even more money into it in the form of T-shirt blanks, heat transfers and vinyl stickers (which my new fancy printer is capable of printing), knowing that those will probably sell?

This business thing is hard and I’m not very good at it. I don’t have the talent for self promotion, because I’m terrible at people. For the next few months, I think I’ll just maintain the status quo, but if nothing changes, I may be another statistic in the “businesses that fail in the first year” column.

What do you think? Anyone have any experience with Zazzle or any other print on demand sites?