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Beginner's handbook Ecommerce platform guide

How to know when you should leave Society6 and Redbubble to start your own online store

By Reading Time: 2 minutes

A graphic designer has a ton of options to sell their stuff online these days. With print-on-demand becoming an easy choice for anyone who isn’t lazy enough to put together a few designs, services are cropping up to help out budding business people with generating some extra income (or an outright business, for that matter).

Some designers choose to go with setting up their own stores with one of the many ecommerce platforms that are now available, such as Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and more. Others choose to go with an already existing third-party site, that’s already set up and sells their stuff. Some examples are InktaleRedbubble, Society6, and Zazzle.

These sites take one design and make them available on everything.

These sites take one design and make them available on everything.

Many artists go with these ready-to-go third party sales platforms because they have an existing user base of loyal customers that buy from their range of designs. That means tonnes of exposure and takes care of marketing. Right? Well, not really. These sites have hundreds of thousands of artists vying for attention (seriously, that’s not an overstatement) and hoping to get that visitor’s purchase. To be one of the 10 artists to be featured, then, is near impossible. General consensus on the web says that uploading your designs simply isn’t enough.

Let’s face it, if you want to get noticed, you have to work on promoting yourself.

So if you’re going to have to do the marketing yourself, then why not make your own store? Here are the reasons for going with one or the other option. See where you stand based on what’s most important to you:

The benefits of going with an already-existing third-party sales platform like Redbubble and Society6:

  • quick setup since you don’t have to create your own online store and everything that goes with it (accepting payments, design, branding, product descriptions, etc.)
  • access to the existing user base of clients with the chance (though very small) to be featured
  • you don’t have to deal with the customer service – the platform takes care of that

This is a good option for you if you don’t have much time, or don’t want to deal with things like setting up a domain, optimizing your store, developing a brand.

Benefits of creating your own online on-demand drop-shipping store:

  • instant payment – since you manage the payments, you have access to the money as soon as the customer makes the order
  • everything’s under your brand – the domain is yours, the logo, the communication. This all works to strengthen your brand and make the experience more memorable
  • your customer information belongs only to you – then you can use it how you want for future marketing purposes (because email marketing is the #1 ecommerce driver)

This is an excellent option for people who are serious about starting a brand, but don’t have years of experience in retail, ecommerce and programming. It will take some time to set up, and it’ll be up to you to create an awesome buying experience.

Depending on how invested you are in maintaining and developing your brand and creating your own community, you might want to consider moving away from the comfort blanket of Society6 and Redbubble type platforms to make your own online store.


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  1. alex

    You seem to be ignoring the most obvious benefit of going with on-demand printing, which is that you don’t have to print any of the stuff yourself, therefore you don’t have to invest large sums of money in the large print runs that go with printing almost anything and you then don’t make a loss on the items that didn’t sell. Not having to take care of shipping yourself is also a bonus if you work full-time.

    Why people complain or are surprised that they have to promote their products on these websites is beyond face-palm worthy.

    1. Julia Gifford Post author

      Well put, Alex! The reason we haven’t mentioned the benefit of not printing anything, is because it would be true for both platforms – the POD sites like Redbubble and Society6, as well as using Printful to dropship from your own store. But of course, it’s undeniable – dropshipping rules!

    2. Sara P Gomez

      EXACTLY. I work full time and go to school online half time, so how am I gonna find the money and time to print and ship all my merch? On-demand is ftw.

  2. Tim

    I would like to start an e-commerce store but don’t know which one would best fit my needs and most important easy enough to set up cause I am not that great with computers. Also one that works well with printful. Thank you

    1. Scott Larsen

      I started with Printful a couple of years ago and the learning curve was pretty high, so I didn’t integrate it with my website until recently. I had no real opinion as to what e-commerce platform to use, so I basically just chose one. WooCommerce works well, but adding products is difficult, with so many options, and I felt like getting one item per week added to the store and working well was a decent goal. I quickly learned that I also needed to set up credit card processing (easy)(many people don’t like PayPal) and I used the WooCommerce Theme for WordPress to make sure the whole thing works smoothly. But still, it’s slow to add products. I’m not sure if other platforms are easier.

      ***BUT*** Printful’s new Add Product Generator is awesome. Worked perfectly the first time, and I’ll be able to add many products per hour to my store (so now I need to get to work creating the print files!) So be sure you select a platform that works with the Add Product feature.

  3. Yasmine

    I totally agree! I recently opened a Society6 page but after reviewing the artist profits and price control (or lack of) more closely, I’m going to close my account. Printful sounds fantastic. I’d like to start selling leggings with my designs. My only hesitation after looking at Printful’s leggings vs Society6 is the design and sizing options. Printful offers 2 adult sizes where S6 offers 5. Also, the leggings on Printful are a much simpler cut and appear less versatile than the ones S6 uses, which I think are a more preferred style. The 6-panel cut of the ones S6 has are more of a sure bet for fitting various body types and the wide waist-band makes a big difference when doing activities like yoga. What are the chances Printful might switch to a different legging style or offer a second style?

    1. Julia Gifford Post author

      Socks might be in the pipeline, unfortunately hoodies aren’t a feasible sublimation product, since it has so many nooks and doesn’t lie straight. I’ll definitely add the home decor elements to our list of requests 🙂

  4. Mark Twain

    Went back to college at age 55 and studied Internet Technology. There is not one good thing about regular PODs. NOT ONE. You may make a few sheckles on your product line, but the POD is really just a store with extra bandwidth that they “lease for free” out to you (and me) as an afterthought, and, if you look carefully at their hyperlink, EVERYTHING is geared toward luring people to THEIR stores. You are their “slaves” (really) to do their free marketing. I call them “Brandpires” and I am so glad my wife and I are finally learning what they really are. Unless you put your name BOLDLY on the product, the customer feels he/she is buying a product from Red Bubble, Society 6 et al.
    Even the sticker on the package is there’s as is the shipping slip. They get the email info (which is everything in building a brand); especially if you ever sell it or have it valued. Thank you for creating this firm. It is the first to even look after the creator. I had been tinkering with the PODs for 7 years before you opened. It’s a little legwork to open but I think it will be worth it. My wife is already open. Good. Life is good.

  5. Adam Vaughan

    Thanks for the insightful article Julia, if someone was to leave society6 or red bubble or both, what are their options then for having things printed and shipped so that they won’t have to stock a bunch of inventory and handle all the shipping.

  6. Michael Ferreira

    Hi, I am an illustrator and I have created a line of both B&W and color illustrations that I feel would make great T-shirts. I have decided to create my own web site and market my own brand. In the past, I have wasted valuable time trying to sell prints on Etsy and Fine Art America, competing with 1000s of other artist. I am totally new to print on demand. I understand that it keeps me from paying for and stockpiling merchandise, but to be honest, I’m in my late fifties – I know my way around Adobe Illustrator, but most of the double speak and buzz words about POD go over my head. Is there any material I can get that explains the process in simple terms. Do I send the POD printer artwork each time it is ordered, does the POD printer keep a file of my art work on file, do I down load software? Who gets paid when? Please advise

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Michael,

      I highly suggest checking out Printful’s YouTube channel. Here’s our basic “How it works” video:

      Basically, with a POD dropshipper, you don’t have to buy or stock merchandise – we print everything on-demand when you get an order from a customer. You don’t have to upload your artwork every time; you can upload and sync it to products so it’s saved in your Printful account. And here’s a video on how payment works:

      Hope this helps and good luck with your store!

  7. Eric

    Is there a way to import price lists from British/European fulfilment providers? Other competitors have options to select price lists from other photo laps which is great… but they don’t offer the wonderful integration of Printful.

    The big problem is that as I’m based in London, delivery for even the smallest product is HUGE as it’s printed in America… and therefore, customers will be put off and I won’t make any money.

    Any ideas?



    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Eric,

      Printful is planning on opening a fulfillment center in Europe. No exact ETA, but we’re hoping it’ll be up and running within the year.

  8. Frederick Kinski

    I don’t understand the difference between Printful and Redbubble, except that you can sell them through your website.
    Because they both take care of everything; Charge, Print, Mail, Pay.

    Am I wrong? I really want to know.
    Also, can anybody tell me where Redbubble, Society6 and Printful print their products.

    1. Frederick Kinski

      Sorry I do understand some of the differences, those explained above, but where I don’t see a difference is in the prices.

      Thank you

    2. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Frederick!

      You’re right about the main differences! Redbubble is a third-party site, so you don’t own a store. One plus is that it’s easy to set up and you get good discoverability. But a downside is that you don’t get access to your customer information and the store isn’t under your brand.
      With Printful, you can create your own online store, under your brand, and you know who your customers are.
      I don’t know about Redbubble or Society6, but Printful prints its products in-house at their fulfillment centers in LA and Charlotte.
      Hope this answers your questions!

  9. nick

    I’ limited to selling ten items in my subscription with weebly. Which product skews wouuld you recommend i sell. which ones sell the most or highest profit potential? t-shirts? leggings? sweatshirts? greeting cards? mugs? etc.

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Nick!

      I think that really depends on your design and your audience. What do they want to buy?

      T-shirts are a classic option, and they’re the most popular product category at Printful. They also range in prices, so you can choose between selling more premium brands, or go for a more wallet-friendly option.

      Leggings are great, but they’re more expensive to manufacture. So you really need to know your audience and make sure they’d be willing to buy at a price that would give you the profit you want. Mugs are also great – they’re another popular category at Printful.

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