November 15, 2013

Selling What Sells: How to Get People to Buy More of Your Art

If you’re an artist trying to sell art you’re leaving a lot of money on the table if you’re literally just selling prints or originals of your work. This is because home decor is one of the tougher categories to sell in general.

Don’t believe it? Check out this graphic from Target’s 2011 annual report. Target is a brand that works hard to promote their housewares line and yet apparel and consumables like food and laundry detergent outsell housewares both individually and as a whole.


The story is the same at Walmart, where home goods make up a mere 6% of sales while apparel comes in at 13% (more than double). Even health and wellness beats home goods.

JC Penny’s sales tell the same story.  Home goods make up 21% of sales, almost all the other sales are comprised of clothing and accessories.

Macy’s sales mix looks the same. Home goods make up only 16% of sales while clothing and accessories make up the rest.

Why is it that retailer after retailer has less success in housewares than any other category?
All of these retailers certainly sell a lot of home decor products and do plenty to market these products in advertising, wedding registries, etc. The issue is consumer shopping habits. Home decor lasts for a long time and people rarely need to restock. People are in the market for home decor usually after they move or when they have a life changing event like a marriage or a baby. Moves, weddings and babies don’t happen for the average person all the time.

On the other hand, the average person replaces their toiletries, clothing and accessories pretty often. That’s why these are such great products to sell. Once you have a customer who enjoys your brand they’ll keep coming back if you sell products they need to purchase more often.

If that’s not good enough reason to get into selling your art on apparel and accessories, there’s more!
If your customer is buying your art for her home, the number of people who will see that art, comment on it and go seek it out to buy for themselves is a tiny sliver. If your customer is wearing your art out in public she is showing your art to thousands of people every day just by walking around. Your customer basically becomes a walking billboard for your art every place she goes. She’s likely to run into more people who will see your art, notice it, ask her about it and seek it out to buy for themselves.

Do you want to make more money?
If yes, it’s time to look for ways to get your art onto products people consume every day. I know this strategy works because I use it for my own brand. While we do offer our art on prints and in the past we’ve offered a few other home decor items, our t-shirts outsell decor items 100 to 1!  Most of our online sales come from word of mouth. People ask our customers where they got their shirts and our customers send those people our way. Most of our traffic from search engines is people searching for keywords from our designs.

So how do you get your art onto products people want to buy?

  • Consider putting your art on functional items like t-shirts, bags, wallets, belts, pendants, etc. You can customize these products yourself or have them made for you.
  • Look for products with great margins. If you can make something for $2 and sell it for $15 that’s a great margin. If it costs you $5 to make something and you can only sell it for $7 that’s a less attractive margin. Only consider items like this if you think you can do a really substantial amount of volume to make up for the poor margins.
  • Look to other retailers for ideas. Take a stroll through a store like Pier 1, Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, Bed Bath and Beyond, gift shops, etc. Notice what sorts of products they offer that feature graphics — things like candles, t-shirts, soaps, pendants, belts, etc. Take note of what they are retailing these products for and think about whether you could produce a product like it featuring your art.
  • Get creative with sourcing. Sites like Etsy are full of makers, often based in your home country, who might be able to produce bespoke goods for you at a wholesale price if you order in bulk. Also check out sites like and other promotional product websites. They have a huge assortment of items you can have customized to feature your art. Check our suppliers that specialize in custom products like Ink It Labs. They create custom laser-cut accessories featuring your submitted art.
  • Consider private label manufacturing on-demand, such as, which allows you to sell your art on t-shirts without any up front costs. Or check out Art of Where which allows you to sell your art on device cases and leggings.
  • If you’re going to have products made featuring your art be sure to request samples, especially a sample featuring your art if possible, so you know you’ll be happy with the finished result.


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November 13, 2013

Add T-Shirts To Your Product Line With No Upfront Cost

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Meredith @ 2:46 pm


In my last post I mentioned that one of my goals for 2014 is to grow the manufacturing branch of my business. For years now I’ve owned and operated a graphic apparel and accessories business with my partner Matt, and we know all too well how hard it is to start and operate this kind of business.

The biggest challenge with selling your illustrations on t-shirts is cost. Let’s say you have a design that’s selling like crazy on posters and you’d love to print it on a t-shirt. You’ve got two options:

1. You can screen print your design onto shirts
If you do that you have to:

• pay up front for the inventory

• guess what size breakdown to order

• stock the inventory yourself

Just to start with 1 t-shirt you’ll probably spend around $400 getting that first design printed. So if you wanted to go all-out with a full line and print 10 designs you’d need $4,000.00! You’re also going to have to sell hundreds of those t-shirts before you recoup that initial outlay and break even. And if you decided to print a design that ends up not selling well you might never break even on that particular design.

2. You can have your shirts printed to order on a POD basis
With sites like Cafe Press you’ll only make a dollar or two per order and when those shirts ship to your customer the packing slip won’t have your branding on it. So customers will remember the shirt came from Cafe Press, not you. Even during the checkout process, your customer will be asked to join the Cafe Press mailing list, not your mailing list, so you won’t be able to re-market to them later if they liked your art.

Neither of these options is ideal. You can either take on a lot of risk, spend a lot of money up front, and allocate a lot of storage space to warehouse your inventory, or you can make peanuts from the sale of your art and have little control over your branding. The good news is, I’ve just created a new alternative to both of those options: Meet DropShipDTG, my new one-stop service for t-shirt printing and fulfillment.

Why I’m Offering This Service
Although my t-shirt line has been around for a few years and at this point we have lots of best sellers that we regularly screen print, even we aren’t immune to the problems with screen printing. Sometimes I run out of larges long before I run out of every other size, and I don’t necessarily want to spend another chunk of cash just to re-stock one size right away. Sometimes I release a new design and it turns out to be a dud. If I screen printed that new design without any sales history I might end up with a bunch of slow moving inventory I can’t get my money back from.

I solved this problem by purchasing a DTG printer. A DTG printer is a special printer designed to print on cotton. So it can print on t-shirts, tote bags, sweatshirts, etc. The big difference between DTG and screen printing is that screen printing relies on screens. You create screens specific to one design and once they are set up you can create hundreds or thousands of copies of that design, but if you need to print another design you have to set up new screens. DTG doesn’t use screens — it’s entirely digital — so you can print 1 copy of 100 different designs with just about the same amount of effort that it takes to print 100 copies of 1 design.

I use my DTG printer to fill in inventory gaps if I run out of a size or test new designs to make sure they’re going to sell well before I invest in 100’s or 1000’s of screen printed pieces. The thing is, I only use my DTG printer for a couple of hours each day. The rest of the time it sits idle.

I decided to start printing for other artists to keep my printer occupied and generating income even when I’m not using it. It also means I can do something I believe in and enjoy, which is helping other creatives grow their businesses.

How The Service Works
If you’re interested in using DropShipDTG, you can create an account with us. Once your account is active you’ll be able to start taking orders. You can take orders for shirts the same way you take orders now. You can accept orders via your website, Etsy, Big Cartel, etc. When you have shirt orders you can log into your account and provide us with the order details. We accept your order data via our web form or via a spreadsheet.

We’ll print the shirts your customers ordered and mail them off using YOUR packing slip and YOUR return address. This means your customers will never know you didn’t ship the order yourself. We can even include your promotional materials if you’d like (stickers, postcards, flyers, coupons, buttons, etc.). We’ll bill you weekly for your orders once we’ve shipped them.

How much can I make from selling t-shirts?
That’s up to you. DropShipDTG offers pricing tiers based on volume and you decide what you want to sell the shirts for. If you just sell one shirt per day your cost would be $15.00 per shirt. If you sold the shirts for $25.00 you’d make $10 on every sale — a much better return than what you’d get from the leading print-on-demand services. You’d also get to control your customer’s experience. They will place their orders with you just like they do now and when their order arrives it will have your branding so your customer will remember you, the designer.

You can learn more about DropShipDTG by visiting the website. We’ve addressed the most common questions on our FAQ and pricing pages. If you have additional questions not covered by the DropShipDTG website feel free to give us a call or send an email and we’ll be glad to help you out.

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