Running A Zazzle Business: What Works For Me

by dustytoes

Zazzle has been a wonderful business opportunity for me, and I want to share some ideas for running a successful store at their site.

When I found the Zazzle website in 2007 and discovered I could add my own artwork and photos to products to sell, I found the idea interesting. I really did not think that many people would want to buy what I was selling, but as sales began to build, my thinking changed. With a small markup I wondered how pennies could turn into a real income.

Many years later my income has been up and down. At one time I was able to save up and buy a little house of my own. For years my pay went up and up. The harder I worked the more I made. That is no longer true at the present time, so I don't want to mislead you.

Zazzle is still a place of opportunity, but they have grown incredibly big. They add new products nearly every day, and the number of stores / sellers must be huge by now. The competition is fierce. Also things are always changing, so I will try to keep this page up to date as Zazzle changes.

Print-on-Demand Companies

The POD sites are numerous, but Zazzle is still my favorite place to earn income.

I work from home, at my own pace, for an online company called Zazzle.  They are based in California (and now have expanded to the southwestern United States) and produce print-on-demand products which contain designs created by professional and amateur designers.  No interviews are necessary, and no waiting to be hired, only an agreement to abide by Zazzle's terms of service.   Anyone at all can build a "store" at Zazzle and begin selling products of their own designs to sell. 

Zazzle is just one of the sites where I spend time creating and selling products. I also have stores at Society6 and RedBubble. These places are free to use. All that is needed is to familiarize yourself with how each site operates and create a profile with payment information.

Zazzle's Best New Changes in 2018

How to create more income for yourself.

Zazzle has recently made some very good changes, which I believe will help me (us) sell more.  

Color options for the same design is one change I am very excited about.  Often we make a product and know it would look good in various colors.  Sometimes I would mention in the description of the item that the customer can change the background color themselves.

Now, each color shows up right there next to the item.  All we have to do is create the product in our chosen colors and every one of them will be an option for the customer.  I love it!  And, I have already seen it being used by selling the new colors.  (See the wrapping paper below to see what I mean.)

Secondly, Zazzle now shows more products with that same design listed in a row beneath the original.    Currently, not every product contains a good image, so the idea needs tweaking, but I have also had customers transfer designs to new products.  This means more sales as well.

Tropical Wrapping Paper With Many Color Options

All the offered colors show up right on the product pages - click the image to see.
Starfish and Sand Dollars Wrapping Paper Colors
Starfish and Sand Dollars Wrapping Paper Colors

Do you see great potential for yourself at Zazzle?

Some people do it for fun to see what they can sell. Others run their stores as a serious business.
  Display results
Zazzle has grown since I wrote this, and the competition is fierce now.

Be True to Yourself and Find Your Niche

How to get past feeling overwhelmed and outdone and continue on.

It is easy to become discouraged when sales are down, or nonexistent.  First, remember that different products sell well at different times of the year.  We all experience ups and downs.

If you've been designing like mad, and promoting like crazy, but to no avail, here's what I suggest.

Take a good look at your products.  Are they customizable?  This is very important as Zazzle is a custom site.  It's the reason most people shop there.  Can you add some templates in the form of text and / or photos?  Also ask yourself if they are really good, or do you need to learn more about design and graphics?

If that is not your problem, then ask yourself if your products are unique.  Photography is everywhere - and very good photography.  Clip art is not in itself unique.  What can you do that is different from what everyone else does?  It may take a while for you to be able to answer that question.  It has taken me years to decide what I want to focus on.

I live near the beach.  I collect seashells and write about them on my blog.  Now, seashells and beaches are not unique.  They are everywhere on Zazzle, and all over the internet.  So am I nuts to try to sell this theme?  I've had to think about this for a while but my answer is "no".  I can do this because my things are unique.  I am not simply using beach scenes that everyone has access to through photo sites.  I have my own photos to use.  I've also created my own elements to mix and mingle to create one of a kind designs.  I am taking a popular theme (beaches) and creating my own designs using my own ideas.  And they are selling.

I do a little drawing and have been lucky enough to sell some of my art as well.  You don't have to be a great artist to sell, but you do need a creative mind.  You must find a way to stand out.

If you don't know how to use a graphics program, you should learn.  I taught myself and it opened the door to a whole new creative world!  Currently I use Pixelmator on my Mac, but there are free programs out there.  It pays to learn them.

Mailbox Art

My illustration done in colored pencil and ink is for sale on various products at Zazzle.
Mailbox Art
Mailbox Art

Become Good at Not Wasting Time

Store rank, product views, and other stats that may worry you.

For many years now I have been in regular contact with a fellow designer at Zazzle.  I can't remember how we got to e-mailing so often, but talking with him has become a regular thing.  He is always mentioning things like page rank (which is a number Zazzle gives us for each store to tell us where we stand) and product views, keywords, and tagging.  He is trying to get his sales up, like all of us.

I am just not that interested in stats.  I work and I do my best and viewing stats really doesn't help me accomplish anything.  However, I do sell products regularly and I do pay attention to what is selling.  So maybe, in a way, I do pay attention to stats.

Some designers become too obsessed with numbers.  I wonder how much more good they could be doing if they were focused more on designing and promoting instead of trying to figure out how to raise their page rank.

What I am trying to say is to not waste too much time on worrying about things that really don't matter all that much.  If you are serious about making money, do what you need to to get there.  The numbers will rise when you find a way to make sales.

Spend Lots of Time Promoting Your Products Online

Get away from depending on other Zazzlers to promote you.

I've been designing products at Zazzle for over 11 years now.  Most of my time is spent promoting these days.  I've changed my product focus, but the need to promote myself never goes away.  I do have a lot of 3rd Party sales, which means someone else is selling my things - somewhere.

Here's what you can do to get your products seen:

  • Write at Wizzley (where you are now!).  This is a friendly site with a great forum and although good written content is most important, showing off what you sell is allowed too.
  • Create a Blog or Website about something you like.  Chances are it relates to what you are selling.
  • Use Facebook and set up a FaceBook Store page.  I personally don't have much luck with FB, but it's easy enough to post there directly from Zazzle.
  • Pin to Pinterest.  This is a great way to promote and it's easy.  Pinterest now offers sub-categories which keep things nice and tidy.  I am very sure that some of my sales come from pinning products.
  • Twitter is also easy enough.  Personally I don't think it does me a lot of good.

Often I will see groups of Zazzle designers promoting each other.  I know we all want to help each other out, but I don't think that is the best way to find customers.  People get tired of seeing page after page of products.  From what I gather, this type of promoting does not work well.

We all have hobbies and favorite activities, so build off of that to create a following.  I love to knit, and I have incorporated that into my Pins.  Fellow knitters may come to my Pinterest pages and decide they love my Christmas cards and buy some.  That type of promoting works.

Zazzle Related Pages Here at Wizzley

A destination wedding promises fun and excitement and requires a special invitation to portray that theme.
Custom Christmas greeting cards with photo and text templates.
Photo Christmas cards are continuously popular to send at the holidays.

Relying on Income From a Company That Never Really Hired Me

There are pitfalls to working for a company where the boss never meets you.  This job is like no other I've ever had.  It's wonderful to make my own hours and work from home.  But there are downsides to having it all left up to me to bring in the money.  Mainly because I don't have full control.  I must work according to the Zazzle company and what they decide to do.

This is what happened in 2013.  Zazzle made big site changes and I believe Google made changes as well which affected selling in some way.  I'm clueless about this stuff, but I do know that my Zazzle income dropped by two-thirds!  That is a huge pay cut.  I did nothing personally to cause this.  Zazzle made changes and I lost out.  I'm not the only one, as these changes seemed to affect every designer.

I learned a hard lesson, but I was determined to bring my sales back up.  To date, that has not happened, but I still make enough to be worthwhile, so I continue to design, promote and sell.  I have no hope of getting back to making that really good money again.

Working online can be a blessing and a struggle at the same time.

If you paint, draw, or create art in any form, opening a free store online can only help with getting the word out.  The amount of artists trying to sell their work is overwhelming, but with the option to set up a store for free it could be worth the effort.  There is nothing to lose, or is there?

If you spend any time online trying to earn some income, you already know how quickly things can change.  Sites that were great for promoting one day could be gone, or useless, the next.  Depending on income from a company that has not officially "hired" you, means the income can easily go away.  It's an odd thing to work like that.

I saw my earnings increase consistently and quickly for the first 4 years, but since 2011 my income has steadily gone down.  I am doing nothing different.  In fact I am working harder and have many more products for sale.  It is due to changes Zazzle has made, which I have no control over.

I only mention this to warn you.  Many high earning designers have suffered big losses and I know some have depended on that money to live and pay bills.  I didn't have an outside job that I quit, Zazzle was, and is, my one and only job.   My warning is to not depend too much on money that may go away.

One thing about working for a company who never sees you or gets to know you, is that you are basically on your own.

Read About My Zazzle Success Story

A personal look at how I have built my life around opportunities at Zazzle.
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.
Updated: 12/13/2018, dustytoes
 
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How are you doing at Zazzle?

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Mira on 05/25/2019

Sorry, I didn't see Highton Ridley's comment :)

Mira on 05/25/2019

I wonder if the problem with pulling products from Z. to an Wordpress.org blog has been solved. I have an Wordpress.com blog where I was able to do that a long time ago (using the code listed next to a product in its product page) but I was warned not to use that blog to sell things. So now I'm about to set up an Wordpress.org blog, and wonder whether I'll be able to show Z. products easily.

Afzal Alam on 10/03/2017

You may see an expansion again now that Zazzle is escaping seeks items which are not offering. On the off chance that you get those outcomes pages loaded with less fruitful plans, the motivation to continue hunting down items is less capable than if you continue getting page after page of awesome outcomes.

HightonRidley on 09/17/2017

Thanks, dustytoes :)
It's here: http://niftytoolz.com/the-niftygridz-...

dustytoes on 09/17/2017

@HightonRidley, I know you do a lot as far as creating helpful tools for Zazzlers. Feel free to leave your site link here.

HightonRidley on 09/17/2017

T Angelone: , have a look in the Z tools forum for the NiftyGridZPro WordPress Plugin - it sounds like everything you're looking for

dustytoes on 08/17/2016

Okay. I don't know much about this, because I have never been able to understand how to pull products to my website. This post in the forum is old, but may help. It's about setting up API https://forum.zazzle.com/tools/api_te...

Maybe search the Zazzle blog: https://blog.zazzle.com to find some answers? Or the forum? I know you said you have searched it. I found this discussion which may give you some info: https://forum.zazzle.com/feedback/all...
Sorry I can't be of much help. There are Zazzlers who do this with success so your best bet is to find one who will share their know how.

T Angelone on 08/17/2016

I am finding Zazzle to be infuriating in terms of the lack of information for designers/sellers who want to integrate their Zazzle marketplace store into their own WORDPRESS/ECOMMERCE website.

Zazzle gives no information whatsoever.

I have exhaustively searched the Zazzle forums, various websites, articles, YouTube etc.

There is literally no information and it is infuriating for those who are new to Zazzle.

Zazzle is a terrific company don't get me wrong.

However the information they give is limited or just doesn't exist..

Any suggestions, input would be greatly appreciated.

Am I missing something here?!

dustytoes on 07/20/2016

I agree Mira. I like that Z is requiring us to weed out the old, non-selling items. One reason I dislike Quick Create is that the few times I did use it, I never sold anything made that way. So many people opt for quantity over quality and the junk needs to be gone from the site if any true designers hope to be found.

Mira on 07/20/2016

You may see an increase again now that Zazzle is hiding from searches products which are not selling. If you get those results pages filled with less successful designs, the incentive to keep searching for products is less powerful than if you keep getting page after page of great results.


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