It’s no secret that some artists have a difficult time finding a steady source of income as they can’t solely rely on freelance work coming their way.
As a result, they are becoming more fond of selling on Society6 or RedBubble. But is putting your artwork on platforms like this more profitable than selling it on your own online store?
To answer this question, we’ll be taking a monetary data-based look at the differences in profit margins between using Society6 and Printful.
How does Society6 work?
Society6 is an online marketplace that lets artists sell their artwork on a variety of products.
To start selling on Society6 you need to create and verify your account (there’s a $1 fee), upload your designs, and select the products you want to sell.
Society6 determines how much you can make for the sale of a given item. In most cases, artists earn 10% off the retail price (aka Society6 base price). However, for art prints, framed art, and canvas you can set your own price.
How does Printful work?
Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipper that integrates with multiple ecommerce platforms and marketplaces like Shopify, BigCommerce, Ebay, and more. This means that as an artist, you can launch your own store without having to worry about order fulfillment and shipping.
To start selling your art on printed products, you need to create an account on ecommerce platform of your choice and connect it to Printful. Then, add your designs to products and push them to your store with a price tag you set yourself.
When a customer buys something from your store, Printful charges you a set amount for the printing and the product itself. What’s left is your profit.
Products on Society6 vs Printful
Both platforms have similar product catalog. So, getting a fair and unbiased perspective of the profit opportunities between these two platforms is easy.
I’ve set up virtual stores for an imaginary artist who sells products online. Both stores offer:
- Art print (8”x7” on Society6, 8×10” on Printful – $7)
- Framed print (16”x17” on Society6, 16”x16” on Printful – $35)
- Canvas (18”x16” on Society6, 16”x16” on Printful – $33.95)
- Throw pillow
- All-over print backpack
- Custom phone cases
Making money on Society6 vs Printful
As mentioned before, Society6 lets you set up a markup price only for three products in their catalog: art prints, framed prints, and canvas. In this case the markup you set equals your earnings. However, if you select a $0 markup for these products, you won’t earn anything from those orders. For all the other products, Society6 uses their base prices, and you get a 10% royalty from each sale you make.
If you’re using Printful, you see how much each product and printing costs, and you can set your own retail price for it. So the main difference between Society6 and Printful in terms of pricing is that with Society6 you can’t control how much you earn from your artwork, while with Printful you can sell your art for how much you think it’s worth.
Now, to understand how this affects your earnings, let’s calculate the profit the artist would make by selling the same item on both platforms.
|Price you sell at (Society6 base price)||Profit with Printful||Profit with Society6|
|Art print||$27.99 (w/ $10 markup)||$20.99||$10|
|Framed print||$54.99 (w/ $15 markup)||$19.99||$15|
|Canvas||$119.99 (w/ $20 markup)||$86||$20|
|All-over print backpack||$69.99||$34.04||$7|
|Sublimation tote bag||$24.99||$8.04||$2.50|
|Average profit margin*||56%||16%|
*To calculate the average profit margin, we used the following formula: profit ÷ price the product is sold for = profit margin.
After evaluating the profit margin for both platforms when selling comparable products at the same price, the Society6 margin is always 10% except for art prints, framed prints, and canvases where they let you set your own price (and therefore bring up the average profit margin).
Meanwhile, the Printful profit margin is an average of 56%. The lowest margin being for sublimated tote bag at 32%, and the highest is for framed art prints at 75%.
Monthly store expenses to consider
While running your own online store gives you more freedom and control over the process, it also comes with extra expenses that take a portion of your profit.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible monthly expenses:
- $1.32 (or $15.95/year) – domain name (if you’re using SiteGround)
- $3.95 – hosting (if you’re using SiteGround)
- $29 – ecommerce platform (if you’re using Shopify)
Total monthly expenses: $34.27
So, say you sell 20 t-shirts in a month. With Printful’s profit margins, you’d make $260, while with Society6 you’d make $52. Now subtract your monthly expenses from the $260 profit you make with Printful, and you’re left with the total profit of $225.73.
As you can see, even if you were running your own online store that comes with extra expenses, you’d make 334% more than when selling on Society6 ($52 vs $225.73). That’s a considerable difference.
The artist’s choice: Society6 vs Printful
Not every artist is necessarily a skilled Photoshop user or tech-savvy enough to launch and manage an online store themselves. So, one of the biggest draws to Society6 is the simplicity of setting up your store and all of the different products.
The process is pretty straightforward:
- Create and verify your account on Society6
- Upload your design once
- Select the products you want to sell
- Publish them on your store
Society6 automatically generates product images without you having to adjust your design size and prepare mockups for every product you want to sell. And so the only thing you need to worry about figuring out is how to direct your followers to your store on Society6, or how to get found in Society6 search.
But if you want to have more control over the products you sell and price tag you put on them, you should consider opening an online store with Printful.
Here’s what you have to do:
- Create an account on ecommerce platform of your choice
- Connect it to Printful
- Upload your design on the selected products (one product at a time)
- Push it to your store
It’s up to you to decide which ecommerce platform or marketplace you want to use to sell your products. You also have more say in what products you want to sell — not only product categories, but available variants (sizes, colors, etc.). Finally, you can build a stronger brand presence with white-label branding services.
Monetize your art
Whether you want to sell your art on Society6 or open your own online store is up to you. But if you believe that you deserve to earn more for the art you make, consider taking matters into your own hands. Doing so will also give you more creative freedom which is something you can’t get too much of.
This article was originally published in April 2015; it has since been updated.