How to Make Money with POD Websites – Selling Art Online

When it comes to passive income guides, one of the most commonly recommend idea for generating additional income is to use POD websites.

POD stands for print on demand. So, what are POD websites and how can they be used to generate passive income?

In a nutshell, a POD website is a service that handles manufacturing and order fulfillment for creators.

This is how POD websites work:

  • An artist uploads their designs or prints onto a variety of products on a POD website (usually on items like t-shirts, mugs, or pillows).
  • If a customer purchases these prints or products, the POD websites handles the manufacturing and order fulfillment.
  • The POD website then takes a large cut of the profit to cover production cost and also make money, and the artist receives the rest.

I won’t bore you on the different types of POD websites, their commission rates, or the products they offer.

Most POD websites are fairly similar in these aspects, and there are plenty of great guides out there that cover ways you can sell art online and make money with POD websites.

However, I want to take a look at just how passive POD websites are.

I have a slight problem with bloggers recommending blogging, writing e-books, or affiliate marketing as sources of passive income.

All 3 methods of income generation I just mentioned require immense amounts of time, dedication, and skill. While they can certainly develop into passive streams of income, I think it’s misleading to label them as being purely passive.

It’s sort of like saying “getting a job, working 40 hours a week, and investing the money you make from each paycheck into a dividend paying mutual fund” is a great source of passive income.

However, I will give POD websites some credit. They do an incredible amount of the grunt work for content creators, and I suppose they could become completely passive once an artist handled the promotional side of things.

In any case, let’s take a look at POD websites and their earning potential!

Selling Artwork Online – FiendIllustration’s Experience:

After stumbling upon FiendIllustration’s Instagram page, I quickly realized he had a POD-based webshop on Society6.

I reached out to FiendIllustration to see if he would like to share his experiences with selling artwork online and POD websites, and he thankfully agreed to answer some questions!

FiendIllustration specializes is lowbrow inking art and has started his own artwork business.

Lowbrow art contains elements of punk, humor, and sarcasm. FiendIllustration creates high quality Lowbrow prints, and also sells his artwork on Society6 where users can purchase some of his most popular designs on sweaters, t-shirts, stickers, and other items.

An example of FiendIllustration’s Lowbrow artwork.

Let’s take a look at FiendIllustration’s experience with POD websites first hand and ask him some questions!

Question 1: How long have you been creating and marketing artwork online?

Answer:

Those are really two separate questions. I think I really starting getting into being an artist when I was about 15. I started by learning basic techniques like shading and proportions, but was always really into surrealism back then. I guess I tried to teach myself how to draw realistically, but I hated it. Why reproduce something people have already seen? Anyways, I’ve went through a couple different medians since then but i’ve been really into ink based artwork lately.

In terms of actually marketing my artwork. I have some undefined ways of selling in the past but I haven’t really gotten into it until about 5 months ago but I started my Instagram 10 months ago.  Selling online is definitely the way to go.

Question 2: What has been your experience with POD websites like Society 6?

Answer:

This is a tough question. I think if you’re really serious about your art – scrap POD. The return is low and it’s hard to get any sales (especially at the beginning). There are some key benefits though:

  1. It’s easy. So starting up like this can be beneficial.
  2. Its trustworthy. When you first start trying to sell your work without any sales, people are more likely to trust a site like Society6 than a random dude trying to sell art out of his basement.
  3. It’s (fairly) passive. So it’s basically a trade off between making less money but being much easier. I guess I just like doing everything myself.

POD has accounted for like 5% of my sales. Most of which is from people I know. It really doesn’t work for me.

Question 3: What have been some of the best and worst marketing strategies you have used?

Answer:

Honestly, going out and marketing my art at parties and social gatherings is probably the best thing. That and engaging with people on social media. If you like someone’s work, why not tell them? You’d be surprised by the types of relationships you can form that way. Building relationships is probably the most important thing.

I’d say the worst marketing strategy I’ve used is trying to get people onto my society6 account. One thing you’ll learn is that people are really fucking reluctant to leave social media. which makes sense. I’m like that too. I’d have to be really into someones art and enticed enough to end up buying something.

Society6 t-shirt for sale
FiendIllustration’s design on Society6

Question 4: What are your next steps?

Answer:

I literally have so much going on. I’m doing a cross Canada tour and trying to create an inventory of my work now so I’m not forced to draw while traveling. I’m also working on my own site where I can sell my t-shirts, prints and originals – but its not finished yet. Other than that, just doing my best to make some sad art that will f**** you up emotionally. Ya know?

Question 5: Would you recommend POD websites for other artists looking to sell artwork online?

Answer:

I guess I kind of answered this already, but yes and no. If you don’t have a lot of time and want to make some extra cash off of doing what you love – POD sites could be your better option. However, it will still likely be a lot more time and effort than you might expect to make any sales.

If you’re serious about being an artist and want a more fulfilling way to sell your stuff. I suggest building a following (online and offline) and setting up your own local shop (even if that shops your bedroom).

Some Final Thoughts on POD Websites:

From FiendIllustration’s experience, I think one thing is clear about POD websites: they’re easy to get started with but extremely difficult to earn money with.

POD websites can allow artists to earn money, but the work is ultimately far from passive until one becomes a firmly established artist and seller.

Don’t get me wrong, there are thousands of successful POD-based stores or artists, but the POD business model will not work for every business or artist.

I think the main takeaway here is that POD can be great for starting out, but you should also consider additional ways to sell your artwork moving forwards.

If you are looking to make money online and sell your artwork, consider some of the advice from FiendIllustration:

  • Use social media to your advantage, but take time to actually establish meaningful relationships.
  • Get creative with your product promotion: social events or parties can be great to share your recent artwork.
  • Know what to expect. POD websites are easy to start, but you might be able to make more money and enjoy the process a whole lot more if you simply sell on your own website.

I want to give FiendIllustration a massive thank you for answering my questions!

If you want to check out some incredible Lowbrow art, be sure to follow FiendIllustration’s work on his Instagram and website!

Instagram: FiendIllustration.

FiendIllustration’s Website: www.FiendIllustration.com

 

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