Redbubble from an Artist's Perspective: Is There Something Better Out There?

Freelancing

The list of ways to sell artwork is HUGE.

I’ve found myself constantly researching, trying to work out what the best options are - which websites should I be using, what products should I be providing, how much time and effort will I have to invest?

Redbubble, on the surface, looks like it would simplify all of that for me: I just upload my art, Redbubble handles everything else, and I get a regular monthly cheque! Sounds like a great deal!

So, I’ve dug into it to figure out if Redbubble is too good to be true.

In my opinion, Redbubble is an easy way to reduce the number of steps it takes to sell artwork, but at a big cost and you will still have to actively send people to your shop to make any money.  

Getting customers is the hardest part of selling artwork, so ultimately I think Redbubble should only be considered by a small percentage of artists. Let’s dig deeper into Redbubble and the various factors that will affect your success on the platform, and whether you should even consider using it.

What is Redbubble?

Redbubble.com is an online print-on-demand store, designed to help artists sell their work on products and merchandise including T-shirts, stickers, device cases and posters. Redbubble handles all of the manufacture, printing, shipping and customer service as well as giving each artist their own personal store on the platform. All the artist has to do is upload their work, choose which products their work will be sold on, and get a payment from Redbubble once a month!

Redbubble has a fairly extensive product catalogue:

Clothing, including T-shirts, Hoodies and sweatshirts, Tank tops, Dresses, Leggings, Skirts, Socks, Scarves, and Kids and Babies clothes

Stickers including car stickers, helmet stickers, and laptop stickers

Device cases, including wallets and skins for laptops, iPads, iPhones and Samsung galaxy phones

Wall art including Paper Prints, Art Board Prints, Framed Prints, Canvas, Metal, Mounted Prints, Photographic prints, Posters and Tapestries.

Home & living including Acrylic blocks, Bath mats, Bedding, Coasters, Clocks, Floor pillows, Mugs, Shower curtains, Pillows and Blankets

Accessories including Drawstring bags, tote bags, travel mugs, water bottles, zipper pouches, pins and buttons and cloth face masks.

Stationery including greetings cards, spiral notebooks, hardcover journals, postcards and pencil cases.

Basically, Redbubble will print your art on a lot of different stuff.

Why do artists use Redbubble

Making money from art is a lot of work. Making the art is just step 1; next you have to turn it into a product, then you have to find customers, and THEN you have to sell and ship it!  Most of us aren’t able or willing to make printed T-shirts at home, and most of us don’t have the money to open a high street store and employ staff to sell those T-shirts.

More importantly, a lot of us want to spend our time making art, NOT on all that other stuff.

I think most artists that turn to Redbubble are using it because they are short on time and energy.  Redbubble offers to take care of all the other stuff, so the artist can concentrate on making art.

What Redbubble isn't making clear, is that the artist has to take care of the hardest parts, while Redbubble does the easy stuff and keeps the lion’s share of the profits.

Pros of Redbubble

Despite being a little down on Redbubble, I do recognise there are upsides to using it:

Redbubble will host your store and gallery for you - setting up your own site with a store would generally cost around $20+ a month, so it’s a reasonable monthly saving.

You only need to upload one jpg for each piece of art you want to sell, and Redbubble will quickly put that art on all of their products with only a small amount of tweaking needed to make the art fit properly. Setting up the same amount of products on your own website would take a lot more work and time.

Redbubble will handle payment processing, printing and manufacture, quality control, worldwide delivery, and customer service, so you don't have to and instead can concentrate on making the art (this might sound like a big deal, and it is, but I’ll explain later in the article why Redbubble doesn't deserve much props for this).

Redbubble let’s you completely control your products and your profit margin - you decide your prices, you pay a flat fee to Redbubble for every product sold, and what’s left is yours to keep.

Once products are up, any sales you make on Redbubble are passive income, requiring no further time from you.

Cons of Redbubble

Sales you make on Redbubble may be passive, but you’ve still got to take care of the two hardest, most time consuming and most valuable steps yourself: making the art, and finding the customers.

You are competing with all the other artists on Redbubble marketplace; once you send your customer to Redbubble, you are also sending that customer to every single other artist on Redbubble! There is every chance that they end up distracted by someone else’s work.

When a customer makes a purchase, you don’t get their contact information, but Redbubble does.

This is a HUGE deal, as now that person is Redbubble’s customer. Let me explain:

The people most likely to purchase your latest work are those who have bought from you before. If you use Redbubble and create a new product for sale, you have no reliable way to contact people who have bought from you before, unless you know them all personally.

Redbubble however, because they have the contact information, can market other artists work to your customers whenever they want to.  Customers that YOU worked hard for and then sent over to Redbubble!

It just isn’t a fair system at all.

There will be Redbubble branding on the product, on the the packaging and on the email receipt, not your own branding. Your customer will be building brand loyalty with Redbubble, and not with you.  

Redbubble controls the product quality, so you don’t know what is being tied to your name. This is a con of using any print on demand fulfilment company.

The profits are small, even for print-on-demand.  Read the next section for some alternative print-on-demand companies that offer better margins.

Is there something better than Redbubble out there?

There are many platforms that offer the same deal as Redbubble; hands-off print-on-demand services that will print and fulfil merchandise for you, like Zazzle and Society 6, but honestly the differences between these platforms are very small and they are all, in my opinion, a bad deal for most artists.

There are some other alternatives to Redbubble that provide many of the pros and a higher profit margin, with fewer of the cons.

Printful, Printify and Prodigi are all print-on-demand companies like Redbubble, but they are what is known as ‘white-label’; instead of hosting your work in a store on their marketplace, you host the merchandise on your own website and it is shipped with your own branding.

The profit margins are around double, you have better control over the product quality, the branding is all your own and you get to keep the customer’s contact information, which on it’s own is well worth the work and expense of having your own site.

How to use Redbubble most effectively

If you have no audience of your own, Redbubble does have it's own customers that browse the site. If you can figure out what those customer's might buy and then make it for them, you stand a chance of making some money.

On the other hand, if you already make art for yourself, already have an audience of your own or plan on building one, want to try selling your art on products and merchandise...

Only view Redbubble and sites like it as a way to get your feet wet with minimal time investment.  

You can test the waters and see if merchandise is something that you want to pursue, and if you have an audience that will buy it.

However, once you are making $30 a month from Redbubble and if you would like products and merchandise to become a bigger part of your business, I strongly recommend moving to a white-label company so you can keep the customers that you've put so much time into nurturing.

Conclusion

Ultimately, if you choose to use Redbubble, go into it understanding that you’re doing 80% of the work for 20% of the profits.  Companies like Redbubble are just about the least profitable way of selling merchandise.

Making your own products and merch yourself is obviously going to have the highest profit margins.

Since most of us aren't going to do that route, I only recommend using Redbubble if you want to test out selling merchandise, without having to put in a lot of work or money up front.

If you want to get serious about selling merchandise, I recommend using a white-label print on demand company like Printful instead.

If you want to sign up with them, head over here.

If you’d like to set up a Redbubble account to test out selling merch, you can sign up here https://www.redbubble.com/about/selling

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