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.

Still, it's a free and simple way to have an online presence with the opportunity to make money.

Sign up and have your own Zazzle shop.

This is a nice, supplemental income opportunity.

Zazzle Pro-Seller badgeI work full time at an online company called Zazzle.  They are based in California 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 sell their images.  Zazzle sells Brand names such as Disney, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other recognizable names, along with designs created by everyday people like me.

I currently run 10 stores at the site.  All that is needed is to register and provide the information needed to receive payment once your products begin to sell.  (The opportunity is open to people all over the world and Zazzle has international sites as well.)  Open a store and fill it with useful and unique products.  Promote items using social media, blogs, writing sites such as Wizzley (where you are now), Polyvore, Pinterest and any place you'd like.

Find a Niche and Expand on It

Liking what everyone likes is okay, but use it in a new, creative way.

blue hydrangea flowersWhen we enjoy what we do for a living, we tend to be more successful, and of course more happy.

When I began at Zazzle I was not focused.  I was adding pictures of my pets, flowers, artwork and anything else I liked, to the products in my stores.  After looking around at what others were offering, I realized that what I had to offer did not stand out in any way. 

I may have loved my own flower and scenic photos, but what was the incentive for customers to buy from me when these same types of images were everywhere?

My floral photography had potential, but I realized that I had to find ways to be unique with my designs, so customers would buy from me.  I downloaded a free graphics program (there are a lot to choose from, just search online) and began playing with it.  Eventually I learned to isolate images and use layers which allows me to create my own original designs more easily.

Zazzle Pitfalls

Working for a company that never really hired you, is a strange way to work.

There are pitfalls to working for a company where the boss never meets you.  They did not hire me.  They like the income I provide for them by selling their products, but if I went away, I don't think they would even notice.  The company can make changes at the drop of a hat, and we have to adjust accordingly.  Those changes can mean a big cut in royalties.

In 2013 Zazzle gave us about a month's notice that the volume bonus was being changed (aka no more!).  The VB was a big part of my income.  It accrued each month according to the sales I made.  At the time when Zazzle discontinued it, my VB alone was close to $1,000 a month.  Within a month's time my pay was cut by that much.  I now make almost nothing - a few dollars - a month in VB.

Zazzle can make changes as they choose.  Since they owe me nothing, I must deal with those changes and pay-cuts on my own, and hopefully find ways to make up for the loss.  As of yet, I have not been able to.  Along with other changes they've recently made, I am struggling to make even 1/3 of my previous royalties.

Posting Products For Sale

Take your time and make sure your product will be advertised correctly.

Making great products is important, but getting them ready to sell (the posting part) is equally important.  The title, description, categories and tags all work to help search engines pick up on what you are offering.  Also customers searching the Zazzle site will more easily find your products with correct tags.

This area is not my strong point, but I know enough to take my time and write a good description with tag words that represent my products.  Single tags and multiple word tags can be used, but they must be more than two letters.

At the present time, the first ten tags listed at Zazzle will be the primary ones, called "power tags" and are used for searchers within the Zazzle site.  Read more at the tagging and keywords page at the Zazzle site.

Pet Photo Ornament

The snowflake Christmas ornament is a popular holiday item.
Ad Zazzle

Concentrate On What Is Selling Best

If you can decipher what it is that's bringing in the most money, fill a section of your store with products containing that design.  It's impossible to tell what people will buy, so also make things that seem unlikely to sell.  You never know if they might.

Now the minimum royalty percentage is 5%, so our earnings have decreased, if we want to have products showing at the low end of the price range.  Designers will undercut each other to draw customers to cheaper products.  Be aware that not every customer will care about the cheapest price. They will buy a good quality item no matter what, if it's the design they need.

Pricing is up to each individual shop owner.  

Customers Want to Make Personalized Products

Zazzle is known as a custom store, so add temlates to products whenever you can.

make your own ornamentZazzle is well known as a custom design site.  Anyone who wants to make a personalized gift or product can easily do so at Zazzle.  To make this simple for the customer we need to make products with photo templates and text templates.

Adding templates to your Zazzle products is a must to increase your sales.  It is not difficult to do and Zazzle encourages it.  

This photo ornament has a baby picture which will be replaced with the customer's own baby picture.  They can also use both text templates to add his or her name, age and more text as the bottom - such as "First Christmas".

Giving customers the option to make the item look exactly as they want is what sells many products that would otherwise be passed over.

How to Make Templates For Your Zazzle Products

Make products easy for the customer to personalize by adding template text to them.

Time For Customer Contact

Chances are that a customer will contact you at some point, asking for help.

pamdicar at Zazzle Although I always considered Zazzle to be my business, at first it was more like a fun pastime.  I'd make some products and they might sell, so I'd make some more, and so on.  I just sat at my desk creating and posting without much feedback.  I also wasn't making much money.

Once I learned to make text templates for use on invitations, all that changed.  Suddenly customers were contacting me for help.  They liked the invitation, but... something needed to be changed; wording, font style, color, size.  It was wonderfulI finally had interaction with people who wanted to buy what I made! 

Here are some tips for great customer service:

  • Reply to them ASAP.  They almost always mention, after my fist contact with them, that they appreciate my quick response.
  • Be helpful no matter what they are asking for.  If I can't answer their question, I either find the answer through the forum or direct them (with a link) to the support area at Zazzle.
  • Know as much as possible about the products Zazzle sells.   I can't discus card sizes and paper types with a customer if I don't know anything about them myself.
  • One more time.  Be ready to answer the same questions over and over, with patience.   Many people who shop at Zazzle don't understand that the designer doesn't have the product and won't be doing the shipping. 
  • Say Thank You.  This may sound silly to mention, but no matter how small the custom job was, always tell your customer how much you appreciate their business.  You should appreciate them - there are lots of other places they could have shopped!

Think about what you expect from a business when shopping, and provide it for your customers. 

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
It's more difficult now than ever to earn at Zazzle.

Learn How to Promote Your Zazzle Shops

Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook can help get your products seen.

promote your store

By 2015, promoting yourself is more important than ever.  Fewer affiliates are choosing to promote us (so I've read), Zazzle has become huge, and getting big sales is difficult.  

What if you have a beautiful store, full of products, on the Zazzle site but no one knows it exists?  That can happen if you sit back and wait for customers to find you.

Zazzle is a huge place, with loads of individual shops and zillions of products.  It's hit and miss at best that somebody will "walk in Zazzle's front door" and find your store.

Every day I spend much of my time promoting and being social.  That way I can find people with similar interests and customers who are looking for exactly what I make.

This is how:

  • 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.
  • Use Twitter and Twitterfeed.  This a fast and easy way to tell everyone who follows you what is new, what has sold, and advertise sales.  Include photos.
  • 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.
  • Pin to Pinterest.  This is a great way to promote.  Create themed "boards" and intersperse items you sell with other related things found at Pinterest and elsewhere online.

There are lots of online places to write.  Not every post has to be about selling - people will get tired of that.  Try to include useful information about something that interests you, and build a following.

The Zazzle Forum

In the forum there are sections to find help with creating and help with your store, among other things. I honestly don't visit the forum all that much these days, but it's the only place to find updates.  If Zazzle is making an announcement, you'll find it there.  It's also the place to find the newest products available to customize.  Bookmark the page  http://www.zazzle.com/zazzleblanks as it will be an updated place to find all products we can customize.

More Zazzle Help

Everyone, who has art or photography to sell, can easily set up a basic online store at the Zazzle site.
Once you have opened a store at Zazzle and filled it with great products, the next step is promoting your work.

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.  (Squidoo anyone?)  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.   Because I have learned a lot over the years, I now use my website to promote products more.  I am concentrating on building that because it's something I have control over.

 

 

It's Been A Great Ride

But, I fear it's coming to an end.

Finding Zazzle, and learning to make money online has been a great experience.  It always seemed too good to be true, and you know what they say about that.  Over the past year and a half I have seen things change, and not for the better of the Zazzle seller.  My own pay has decreased by 2/3 and now I struggle to earn enough to live on.

After almost seven years, I am a Gold ProSeller.   It is a title only, and comes with no perks that I have seen.  I make much less money now.

I was able to work from home during some very tumultuous years, and Zazzle gave me the ability to be home with my young son.  I was able to save enough to buy a house and create a good life for us, but that was short lived.  Now I am planning to move again.

I'll continue to plug away at Zazzle, for now.  Without seeing my ability to earn grow, I am not interested in struggling to get by, and hope for the best.  I no longer see it being part of my distant future.

 

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: 01/29/2016, dustytoes
 
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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.

dustytoes on 07/19/2016

@blackspaniel The VB at Z was a huge loss in income for me. I did drop some items down to the 5%, but recently I have been raising my minimum to 10% at least. Not everyone will buy the cheapest item. If your design is worth a markup - it's unique, original and well done - you can get much more than 5 or 10 percent. I know this from watching my own sales.

blackspanielgallery on 07/18/2016

In addition to losing volume bonuses we also lost income when Zazzle dropped the minimum markup from 10% to 5%. It is a small part of the total, but a large part of my profit. And not reducing to 5% would cause lost sales. People will buy the lowest priced item.

dustytoes on 05/04/2016

@Snurre, I believe it's more difficult to be really successful at Zazzle these days, but it is possible to still make money. You can't sit back, you have to work at it often. Thanks for the nice comment, and best wishes for many sales!

Snurre on 05/04/2016

Thank you for this article (and your other Zazzle articles), Pam! I've been on Zazzle for a while without much success, but recently I've decided to invest some time and thought to promote my paintings there. Your insights are very useful.

Larraine on 01/29/2016

Thank you for a great article. I'm just starting at Zazzle. So much to learn.

Wendy on 01/20/2016

Pam,

I do hope you can get back to drawing since you love it so much, & you do it well. All the best to you too!

Wendy


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