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.

Getting Started Working Online

Making money online seemed like a fantasy to me.

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.   Like many women my age, I spent my time being mom to 4 kids while working to supplement our family income.  Now, with the big bad change in my life, I needed to find a way to support myself, but I saw no way to do that without a degree or experience that could bring in good money.  Also, I lived in one of the more expensive areas of the US - the northeast region.

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 through the site.  They were print-on-demand companies. 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 any money.

 

So how was this going to work?

It was frightening to begin something I knew next to nothing about.

In August of 2007, when I first opened a Zazzle store, the endeavor was fun.  I had hoped of making a couple of dollars, which I thought would be quite awesome.  (By the way, the Zazzle site has changed and grown a LOT since that time!)

But basically it was (and is today) a site full of creative people trying to sell their art and photography and graphic designs to earn an income.

Some people have design degrees, or have been artists for years, with paintings, photographs, and drawings ready to advertise.  These people know what they are doing and have a collection of art and images ready to upload and sell.

Many Zazzlers knew (and still know) a lot more about working online that I did.  But the Zazzle forum was friendly (and much smaller than it is today) and super nice people answered all my stupid questions and gave me some good advice.

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 working 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.

I Began to Make Money at Zazzle

Zazzle is work, but you can choose how much you want to get out of it.

I began with one store at the Zazzle site and put every type of photography and artwork into it.  When I realized that other designers were opening specialty stores (having more than one store), I decided to expand and organize my products by theme.  My second store was related to seashells because I had a lot of seashell photography to share.  I also opened a Christian store and then branched out to do wedding design using my hydrangea photography and seashell images.  I tried to stay true to my interests, which are gardening and beach-combing, and incorporate that into my products.

I had no design skills, so I had to teach myself about isolating images and find places to get elements for designs that I didn't have.  In the beginning I used only my own stuff.  I had no idea how to use image off the internet.  Now I rely on sites like Pixabay quite a bit.

The making money part was slow and steady.  It was encouraging and inspiring to see my sales adding up.  For years it got better and better, and I was so thankful.

Using My Own Photos to Make Products

This is how I started out. Using my own photographs and adding text templates.
Ad Zazzle

Progressing in my Knowledge of Design

I have no formal design training so I had to teach myself.

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 products don't look as good with a rectangular photograph.  I needed to learn how to do design work.

Once I downloaded a free graphics program, and began messing around with it, I was in heaven!  I never realized such a fun thing existed, and I spent many hours teaching myself about layers and effects and other graphic design.

 

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'll, be honest, in the beginning I believed that more products meant more sales. It's what people in the forum were saying.  I had never taken part in a forum, but that is where I went often for information.

As time has passed, I do not believe that more products equal more sales.  Good products, which are promoted and advertised well, bring sales.  This has been my experience.  I was never a fan of Quick Create for exactly that reason.  I think that the Quick Create option at Zazzle brought the site down, because people overloaded the site with lots of junk.  Zazzle has obviously realized that because now they have given us ways to clean up our stores and remove the excess, non-selling items.

When I started out, I had 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.  

These days, 9 years later, I mostly spend my time updating my sites and using social media to promote my products.  I love to create, so my stores are still being updated with new products, but I have to find the balance because if no one sees what I make, what good is that?

Pictures of Food

I used to take pictures of food and desserts I baked before it was popular. All these food photos came from my own kitchen.
Ad Zazzle

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.
Ad Zazzle

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 (html) and how to begin blogging.  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 in order to get to that point.  I had to know what the good designers knew!

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.

My New Home

I had my home, but Zazzle had decided to make some changes that would effect my life longterm.

homeAfter 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 new home.  It's difficult to convey how thankful I was, and still am, for that miracle in my life!

I lived in the northeastern United States and the cost of living was high.  I saved (thanks to my work at Zazzle) for a down-payment and to do some much needed up grades on the place I bought.

My income was really good back then, and the mistake I made was in thinking it would continue to stay that way.  That didn't happen.  Zazzle made some changes to it's site in 2013.  They also changed our ability to earn Volume Bonus money, which dropped my paychecks by two-thirds.  The worst part was that they gave us designers NO warning.

That scared me into making another big life change.  I had to get out of that expensive area of the country and move back to Florida where living is more affordable.  Also, I can no longer trust in my Zazzle income.  I feel like it could go away completely at the drop of a hat.  I can see a future with Zazzle, but only if they see a future that includes me.  And I don't know what they are thinking about the future.  I have to plan for the worst.

My Advice For Selling at Zazzle

If you are just starting out and know next to nothing, my advice is to visit the Zazzle forum and find your way around the Zazzle site.  Look at what the successful designers are doing as far as setting up a store.  There is a lot to learn.  It's best to know what you are doing before you jump in and begin.  Good designs that fit correctly on products is only half of it.  Titles, descriptions, tags, and promoting go along with that.

Finding my way around Zazzle is easy for me now.   Even with their continuous changes, I'm able to keep up because I've been doing it regularly for nine years.  I don't get crazy designing on every one of the products they now offer.  I stick with what brings sales for me.

Every day I get out of bed, make coffee and sit down at my desk and begin work.  I love the fact that I can earn a living from my home.  The biggest blessing is that I don't have to set my alarm and get out the door and go to a regular job - over which I have little control.  I am doing work that is interesting and rewarding because I get to be creative every day.

Parts of my work at home lifestyle I like better than others.  I can get very distracted making new products using a new design I have created.  And I never know (usually for months) if that design will be something customers want.  

Along with the designing part, I also "pin" products to my Pinterest boards, Tweet about them, add them to my FaceBook store page, and write a blog post on my website.  It all has to work together so that my new design get out there for potential buyers to find.

By the way, don't count on Zazzle to promote you.  If you keep searching the Zazzle front page hoping to see your product there, don't be disappointed if it never happens.  I am a Gold ProSeller and have access to the Elite forum, and truthfully none of that has given me any advantages that I am aware of.  My sales come from my efforts, and from affiliates who choose to promote my items.  (Thank you to any and all affiliates who do!)

In my opinion, it has become much more difficult to earn a living through Zazzle.  They now have lots of big brand names competing with the independent designers.  And there are many, many more people trying to sell on the site, and some are professionals with a lot more knowledge and design education than I have.  In fact, the Internet overall has more people selling things.  You must be unique to stand out.

My income went way up over the years, and then it came back down.  Nothing is guaranteed when you do this type of work, and that is the hard part.  Zazzle can spring changes on us that affect our income, and we can't do anything but suck it up, or quit.  For now I will keep going, and pray that it all continues, and maybe even gets better with time.

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: 09/05/2016, dustytoes
 
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dustytoes 21 days ago

Hi Ryan, thanks for the comment. You have a nice looking store. Best of luck to you with your Zazzle endeavors.

Ryan 21 days ago

This is probably one of the best and most honest blog I have read for Zazzle. ITA it is what you put into and I also do not use quick create ...I feel you should put the quality into every product. That's just me it has worked great for me. I have found if you do what you are passionate about you already won half the battle. I love classic cars. I have one so I'm very passionate about it. I have done pretty darn good also. Find your niche and go with that. Handwork commitment and be proactive. No one is going to promote you better than you...Thank you for most inspirational blog. I've have seen it and it's nice to see someone else make it through through perseverance and hard efforts. Have a great week everyone..
http://www.zazzle.com/starbucksfrapp/...

dustytoes 25 days ago

Thank you. It does take work, but it's absolutely possible to make money at Zazzle. Good luck to you.

Babble360 25 days ago

wow! you are an inspiration. I was so sceptical before, but now I am sure, I am in it.
Thanks and good luck.

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: http://www.zazzle.com/holiday_store
Guess I can't link to my profile / store list from here.


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