My Zazzle Success Story

by dustytoes

I've been selling products on the Zazzle site since 2007, and my earnings continued to increase to the point that I was able to buy a home in 2011.

Most people don't lose everything in life and have to start over, but that is what happened to me in 2007. I was living a normal life one day, and was in a dark pit the next. I'm not going to get into that except to tell you how I climbed out of that pit by starting my own business in associaltion with the print-on-demand company, Zazzle.

Because of the this unfortunate turn of events in my life, I was put on a surprising path that led me to a job that I love doing. I now earn a paycheck that is larger than any I had ever previously earned. I work from home, using my God-given artistic abilities, and I am my own boss. This is absolutely miraculous considering that when I began, I knew next to nothing about the internet, except that I could send e-mail to my friends!

I'm guessing that many people who read this page are already far more tech savvy to begin with, which puts you ahead of where I started. No matter how clueless you may think you are, if you want something bad enough, you can learn how to make it happen.

Working From Home 101

The beginning was the toughest.

business computer workAll my life I had worked at jobs that paid very little.  I've been a cashier, bank teller, teacher's assistant, flower arranger, and produce clerk.  My ex-husband was the one who earned the big bucks and I brought up our 4 kids while working to supplement our income.  Now I needed to support myself, but I saw no way to do that without a degree or experience that could bring in good money.

Then one morning I was watching Good Morning America and a segment came on about working from home.  The woman speaking mentioned some sites that allowed anyone to add photography and / or artwork to products which would bring a small commission once they sold.  The only two sites I wrote down to check out were CafePress and Zazzle.

To be honest, I looked at CafePress first but I couldn't figure it out.  So I hopped over to the Zazzle site and with my teenage daughter beside me, we figured out how to add pictures and open a store - for FREE!  I had nothing to lose. Once I knew what I was doing, I kept adding pictures and posting products to fill my virtual store.  It was fun, but I was very skeptical about making actual money.

I don't remember which product sold first, or how long it took, but my first paycheck was small.  After three months, I finally got a payout of $43.42.   I was stunned!   I had made money online.  I kept at it, working ten-hour days, seven days a week, to pay my bills.  Eventually I made enough to begin saving substantial amounts.  My goal was to buy a house, which I did in 2011, four years after I first uploaded an image to Zazzle.

How to make money online.

Working from home, and making enough to live on, seemed like an unattainable dream.

Zazzle is a site full of people trying to sell their art and photography and graphic designs for a variety of reasons.

I doubt that there are many who began doing it as a full time job.  It usually takes quite a while to make enough money to live on, so most designers do it in their spare time, or as a hobby with a "lets see what happens" attitude.

Some people just want to earn some "extra" money for a trip, vacation or home improvements or a new television.

I needed the earnings to live on and rebuild my life.

I was all alone except for my nine year old, living in a new area without family or friends around to help out.  When my son wasn't in school, he had to be somewhere, and the only place was with me.  That limited my choices for jobs.

I worked as a substitute teacher for a while, but I hated it.  Working at home would have been the perfect solution, but it seemed like an unattainable dream.  The only experience I had on a computer was checking my e-mail. 

I could not fathom how anyone could make money sitting in front of a computer, but I had to give it a try.  I was out of options. 

How I Got Started at Zazzle

It's free to open a store, so there was nothing to lose but time.

My name is Pam, but at Zazzle I began working as pamdicar.  I had no idea what I was doing, when in the summer of 2007 I signed up and opened an online store.  Zazzle was (and still is) free to join. I had nothing to lose, and a much needed additional income to gain.

Any amount of extra income would have been helpful at that point in my life.  I wish I had known then, what I know now - don't we all!  I made many mistakes, and it was a huge learning curve for someone who had little computer experience.  Fortunately there were helpful people posting in the Zazzle forum, and they kindly answered my questions.  Zazzle was much smaller than it is these days, and I'm grateful I got in when I did, although the forum is still a good place to get helpful advice.

Once I began to feel a bit confident, and had a few sales under my belt, I opened my second store.  From there I decided to continue with new stores to divide up my themes.  I still believe that is the easiest way for me to organize my interests and related items.

From Photography to Graphic Design

I've always taken too many photos.  I had scenic photos of Florida and photos of my new location in New England.  It was logical for me to begin by using photography to create Zazzle products.

I had to learn to resize my images to 300dpi for good printing quality.  Personal photography is what many Zazzlers use to sell products, but certain items don't look as good with a photograph attached. Having a square or rectangular image on clothing is frowned upon, and larger items, like blankets will need a very large size picture uploaded.

I am not a professional photography, and many Zazzlers are.  I had to branch out and learn some graphic design.

Once I could isolate an image, I still used my own pictures, but removed the background to make images more versatile.  I could then use them on t-shirts and other items where photography didn't work.

From there I learned to combine layers to create more intricate images which were useful for elegant paper such as wedding stationery.

I have many stores now with a variety of themes and I use photos, artwork and public domain images to create unique designs for my Zazzle products.

Nature Photography Postcards

A Growing Paycheck From Zazzle

Patience and perseverance paid off as my paycheck began to grow.

I figured that if I could make $40 selling products I could make $400.  I needed more products, because I had read in the Zazzle forum that more products bring more sales.  I visited the forum, which was scarey because I didn't understand what a forum was.  But it was where I found out what others were doing to succeed, and it was where I asked really clueless questions that were (thankfully) answered by very kind and helpful people. 

I read that it was possible to make thousands of dollars a month, and I couldn't for the life of me imagine how.  But that gave me hope, because I thought that if it was possible for some, then it was possible for me.  (And yes, I am now at that point and have been for many years.)  So I kept working and reading and learning.  I realized that my photos could only take me so far.  I needed to learn how to make graphic designs, and when I downloaded a free Paint program, I began a new and wonderful phase in creating.

Photos for Foodies

I baked and cooked all the food you see on these items!

Finding Images to Use for Zazzle

I have always loved taking pictures.  When I began working at Zazzle, I used all of my own photography.  I didn't even know how to use stock photos, or something from the public domain.  I knew nothing about any of that.  

Every time I baked a pie, or made cookies, or knit a scarf, I'd get out the camera and take some shots in hopes that they would be good enough to use in some way on products in my Zazzle store.  (All the products above contain pictures of food I baked!)  Before I'd eat that burger, pizza or pie, I'd take pictures, wondering if I would be able to use the images to sell in my store. 

I learned from other online people, who were willing to share advice, how to size the images for use.  Eventually I downloaded a free graphics program to play with so I would do more with my images.   Once I understood that I could use certain images made by others, I began to include those.  I have never liked using the image only, without tweaking it in some way.

Free Images Sources

Be careful when using images to sell, not all free images can be used that way.
An exhaustive list of the best online resources for copyright free cliparts and photos for commercial online and offline usage.
Kozzi Review - Are Kozzi images free to use or are there restrictions? Read on to learn all that there is to know about this new image resource! They do videos and clip-art also...
High-quality images, no royalties or attributions required, totally free for personal and commercial use. No sign-up necessary!

Zazzle is a Wonderful Site for Artists

floral artThose who paint and draw can use Zazzle to gain exposure to their artwork.  I do a little drawing myself, and recently opened a new store "Clara's Desk" where I upload my own drawings.

It doesn't matter that I am far from being a fabulous artist.  If I draw something that someone else needs, they will buy it.  Maybe the color is exactly what they were looking for.  Maybe they think my artwork is cute.  Whatever the reason, I have been making sales.  More than anything else I sell, the sale of any of my art touches my heart.  

If you are an artist, don't let thoughts of "I'm not good enough" stop you from tying to sell at Zazzle, and elsewhere.  Any POD site provides a great opportunity to become seen.

Clara's Desk is my newest store at Zazzle.

It contains my original drawings, mostly done in pen and colored pencil.

My Zazzle Paychecks Kept Increasing

It took three years before I was earning what I would call "good money"

My first paycheck at Zazzle was $43.42 and it was issued in December 2007.

In 2008 my pay for the year was measly, but I spent most of 2008 learning the basics.   I've never taken any type of computer or design class, so I had a lot to learn.  I studied how to make links and how to navigate a blog.  I learned to isolate images and then layer them to make a unique design.  Everything was new to me.  I had to earn money, but I had to know what I was doing to get there.

The year 2009 was better, earnings wise, and by May 2010, I became a Silver ProSeller (qualifying is different now, but at the time it meant earning at least $1,000 a month.)

Guess what?  It's now many years after I uploaded my first picture to the Zazzle site.   I am still working from home and making a pretty good living by sitting at my computer!  No one is more surprised than I am.

Financial Stability and a Home of My Own

This has been my prayer for nearly four years.

When my life fell apart in 2007, no one was going to come to my rescue.  I had no home and barely enough money to pay rent and buy food.  I did not have parents to live with while I got back on my feet and I had two kids to provide for.  Talk about a mid-life crisis!

I prayed, and still pray, for financial stability.  And what I wanted more than anything was a home.  I found that I never really appreciated the fact that I had my own home for so many years.  It's tough to go from being a home-owner to being a renter.  For me it has been like being in prison.   I wanted to know that I could take care of myself financially and I wanted the freedom to live in a home that belonged to me, instead of paying the way for someone else to live well on my earnings.

Once my Zazzle paycheck allowed me to save money, I began to seriously consider buying a house.

At Last, I Was a Home Owner!

I am so grateful to have a home of my own once again.

After four years of paying rent, and wondering if I'd ever see the day I would be approved to buy a house, I finally signed the papers on my home.  It's difficult to convey how thankful I was, and still am, for that miracle in my life!

I live in the northeastern United States and the cost of living is high.  Even with the housing crisis in full swing, I knew it would be hard to find a decent home that I could afford.  Sure enough, there were affordable houses out there, but they all needed a lot of work and the house I purchased was no exception. 

I moved in and began replacing the broken garage doors, putting on new siding, adding gutters, and fixing the roof and leaking basement.  I've been in my home for a number of years now and it's still a work in progress, but I am thankful for it every day.

I worked 10 hour days learning how to build my Zazzle business while I was renting in various places.  A home of my own was what I focused on.  My son and I needed a stable place to live.  Now I have that home, and I'm still plugging away at my keyboard in this ever-changing online earning landscape.

Help and Ideas for Growing Your Zazzle Business

Zazzle has been a wonderful business opportunity for me, and I want to share some ideas for running a successful store at their site.
Make products easy for the customer to personalize by adding template text to them.
Pixabay is an online site that offers high quality photos and clipart images that can be used as you please - even to sell in your Zazzle store.
Updated: 10/10/2015, dustytoes
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Are you a Zazzler?

dustytoes on 07/19/2016

This article was written quite a while ago, and it's tough to keep updating every time things change at Zazzle, but now I do use Pinterest, Twitter, blogging, and a FB store page to advertise.

blackspanielgallery on 07/18/2016

I did not see a mention of using Pinterest, but it is a good place to show products.

jarodhk on 01/20/2016

very inspiring and motivating. thanks for the post

dustytoes on 10/10/2015

@Cyn, Well, that's nice.. I've left 2 links to Zazzle, but not to anything of mine. When I tried the link it worked, as did the first one I left. I can't explain it, but thank you for making the effort to visit my store.
Wizzley and Zazzle don't seem to be very compatible.

Cyn on 10/10/2015

It must be any sort of link to a store or profile because the second one you posted did the same thing. I was able type in the URL and got to your store that way. Weird. Or maybe it's my browser acting up.

dustytoes on 10/10/2015

Thanks Cyn.
This is one store:
Guess I can't link to my profile / store list from here.

Cyn on 10/09/2015

Dusty - I think that link is broken; it just takes me straight to Zazzle. :/

dustytoes on 10/09/2015

Carolyn, I began by using (search "getpaint(dot)net") and now use Pixelmator on a Mac. I learned slowly what I could do with each of the programs, and it was enough for me. I found information I needed in the Z forum, and by searching for help online. It was a lot of trial and error, really.
This is my public profile at Zazzle, which lists my stores:
I wish you luck!

Carolyn on 10/08/2015

Thank you for writing this inspiring post and congratulations that it is going really well for you.
I don't have any graphic design skills myself and I was wondering if you could tell me what software you used at first, and what you use now for graphic design. Also, how did you learn the skills you have acquired at this point - youtube? books? any particular online site? I have just opened a zazzle account and am just feeling my way around it right now. Need to get my skates on though :) Also, which are your Zazzle stores? It would be really interesting to have a look! Thanks again.

dustytoes on 09/18/2015

Thanks Nick, it's an honest story and although Zazzle has been full of ups and downs for me, it's still making me more money than a "regular" job could. And I still mostly enjoy it.

I took a look at your shop and I personally think you have a winner there. It's unique, and that is very good. I laughed out loud at some of your stuff! And your about page is charming and funny. Your idea of being 'amusingly creepy' will win hearts, and hopefully sell lots of products. Best of luck to you...!!

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