These days, there are plenty of options for artists to monetize their work. Some join online marketplaces like Society6 and Redbubble that have a great number of existing and loyal shoppers. Others choose to run their own stores using popular ecommerce platforms and third-party fulfillment partners.
Both options are great, but have their benefits and drawbacks. And that’s exactly what we’ll be looking into today.
Selling on Society6 and Redbubble
Society6 and Redbubble are online marketplaces where artists upload their artwork and sell it on a variety of printed products. To get started, you create an account on the platform of your choice, upload your design, and select the products on which you want your designs to be printed—it’s that easy.
The main difference between Society6 and Redbubble is the pricing system.
While Society6 determines how much you can make for the sale of a given item (usually it’s 10% off the retail price), Redbubble lets you decide how much you want to sell the product for, or in other words, how much you want to make for it. A suggested profit margin on Redbubble is 20%, but you can do 5% or 50%—it’s up to you.
Benefits of using platforms like Society6 and Redbubble
- Quick store setup. With Society6 and Redbubble you don’t need any technical know-how to start selling online. These platforms come with full setup, from storefront to payment processing, product descriptions, and more.
- Easy design upload. You can bulk upload your design on several different products at the time. This is especially helpful if you’re planning on selling a huge variety of products with the same design.
- Access to the existing customer base. Society6 and Redbubble have thousands of shoppers who are on the lookout for products with unique designs.
Drawbacks of using platforms like Society6 and Redbubble
- Limited branding options. If you’re selling on Society6 and Redbubble, your work is partially under their brand. While you can personalize your storefront, you can’t have branded URL or product packaging. And that means there’s very little you can do to provide a branded experience for your customers.
- Stiff competition. While these platforms have a lot of incoming traffic, there are also hundreds of thousands of artists competing for the visitors’ attention.
- You have less control over what you earn. As mentioned before, pricing your products can be tricky on these marketplaces. With Society6 you make 10% off the retail price—the margin is set, so you can’t make it bigger. Redbubble has a base price and lets the artists add the markup themselves.
- You only receive your money on payout days. Both Society6 and Redbubble have payout days once a month which means that you won’t be able to access your earnings whenever a sale is made. Redbubble also has payment threshold—$20.
Is Redbubble and Society6 worth it? Marketplaces like these are good options if you don’t have much time, or don’t want to deal with the technical side of things that come with selling online.
Running your own online store
If monetizing your art by selling it on printed products is something you’d like to pursue seriously, creating your online store is the right place to start.
Today launching a store is simpler than ever thanks to easy-to-use tools available at your fingertips. Here’s how this process looks like in a nutshell.
- Pick your ecommerce platform
- Connect it to a white label third-party printer like Printful
- Upload your design on the products
- Push them to the storefront
- Start selling
Of course, just like with selling on Society6 and Redbubble, selling through your own store has its benefits and drawbacks.
Benefits of running your own online store
- Everything is under your brand. Since you’re running a store independently, you’re in control of how your brand is perceived by your existing and potential customers. The best part, you look more professional because you have a branded domain name and email address, website design, product photos, etc.
- Instant income. Since it’s your store, you get the money as soon as the customer makes the order. This can be extremely helpful if you want to invest some of your income in marketing or new product development.
- Your customers are yours. Selling on Society6 or Redbubble means that people who purchase products aren’t really your customers, but rather the customers of the marketplace. You don’t get to directly communicate with people who buy your art and that can make it harder to retain customers in the future.
- You have more freedom to experiment. Since you’re not working under another brand, you get to do things your way, let it be adding new products or creating and updating your website as you think best.
Drawbacks of running your own online store
- It can take longer to set up. Even though the process of setting up your store and connecting it with a third-party printer like Printful is quite easy, it can take a little longer than setting up with marketplaces like Society6 and Redbubble.
- It requires time. Running an online store requires time, whether it’s responding to customer questions, or making sure the store is functioning as it should.
- It comes with extra expenses. To make your store looks professional and keep it up and running, you’ll have to invest in a domain name, hosting, and ecommerce platform services. This can cost you around $35 a month.
Now that you know what marketplaces and independent websites have in store for you, let’s take a look at the profit you can make with each.
Making money on Society6 vs Redbubble vs your own online store
We have already compared the artist profit on Society6 and Printful. This time, let’s add Redbubble to the equation.
Since Society6 has pre-set margins for their products, we’ll base calculations on Society6 prices.
To make the comparison accurate, we’ll be looking at products offered by all three platforms:
- Framed print (16”x17” on Society6, 16”x16” on RedBubble, 16”x16” on Printful)
- Canvas (18”x16” on Society6, 20.7”x16” on Redbubble, 16”x16” on Printfu)
- Throw pillow
- Sublimation tote bag
- Phone case
Please note that these products aren’t identical, but are comparable.
|Price you sell at (pre-set price on Society6)||Profit with Society6||Profit with Redbubble||Profit with Printful|
|Framed print||$54.99 (w/ $15 margin)||$15||-$55.49|
(set base price $110.48)
|Canvas||$119.99 (w/ $20 margin)||$20||$24.96||$86|
|Sublimation tote bag||$24.99||$2.50||$9.76||$8.22|
|Phone case||$35.99||$3.60||$20.16 (iPhone), $11.75 (Samsung)||$25.33|
|Average profit margin*||15.40%||7.40%*||57%|
*To calculate the average profit margin, we used the following formula: profit ÷ price the product is sold for = profit margin.
** Calculated with profit margin when iPhone phone case is sold.
How much you make depends on the products you sell. But overall selling on your website with the help of a printing partner such as Printful is more profitable than selling on Redbubble or Society6.
Redbubble has higher profit margins than Society6 on most products. The only instance when Redbubble shouldn’t be your choice is when selling framed prints. The base price for this product (16”x16”) is $110.48, so if you’d like to earn $20, customers would have to pay more than $130 for your art. And that can be quite a lot to ask from someone who has never heard of you or your art before.
It comes down to you
How to know when you should leave Society6 and Redbubble to open your own online store? It comes down to your business goals.
Platforms like Society6 and Redbubble are great for artists who are looking for another way to monetize their work, but don’t have the skills to set up a store or time to maintain it. But if creating and growing a brand is your long-term goal, you should launch your own store instead. This option will give you more creative freedom and let you be in control of your business and the money you make.
This article was originally published in February 2015; it has since been updated.