Overwhelmingly, the response to my post on knowing what a POD (print-on-demand like Society6, Fine Art America, or Red Bubble) does and doesn’t do for your art business was, “Well what can I do instead of a POD?”
The good news is, you do have other options!
There are four decent choices if you’d like to leverage your art into reproducible products.
1. Find a Printer
Your first option, which works well if you’re just looking to sell wall art reproductions of your work, is to find a local (or non-local would work too) printer. A professional printer (ie not FedEx or Staples) can work with you to pick paper and ink options that fit the prices you want to charge and profit you want to make.
With some printers, you’ll be able to print one at a time whenever you get an order, but most printers will expect you to order many at once because of the way their printing process works. Ask them what their minimum run is (the smallest number you’ll have to print at once) to help figure out if the costs are feasible for you. Then work with them to get samples before you set prices.
The real downside to this is that you have to pay a fair amount upfront if they have a minimum run and you’ll be stuck with stock that may or may not be selling.
2. Buy Your Own Printer
If you can’t find a printer you like or it’s cost-prohibitive, you could buy your own printer. If you buy a good quality large-format printer you can print all your own reproductions from home. While it’s a large upfront cost, you’ll ultimately save money and be able to offer more options to your customers.
Make sure you thoroughly research the printer before you buy it so you know it works well with the paper and inks you want to use and can accommodate the sizes you’re looking to print.
If you’d like to offer more than just wall art, you can also print your art onto products. This is why most artists look to POD sites, but there is a great alternative. Licensing is when you give a company temporary and limited permission to use your art in a particular way, typically in return for a small percentage of sales.
The difference between that and a POD is that a POD won’t market your creations for you. A licensee will hook up with retailers (if they aren’t one themselves) to stock your products and they will do all the marketing for you.
Finding companies and asking them to work with you can be a longer process, and negotiating contracts can be daunting, but ultimately this is the best way to get products to market and really sell a decent amount of them.
If you’d like to learn how to license your art, I’ve got a very thorough course called Artistic License that you should check out. It’s the easiest way to get started.
4. Hook Up with a Factory
While you’ve got a lot of control with the licensing process, if you want to be completely in charge of the process and to market your products yourself, then you’re actually looking to manufacture yourself.
To do that, you’ll want to find a factory that produces the type of product you’re looking to start with. This will involve a lot of meetings and will take time. But if you’re willing to front the money to do their minimum runs (yep, they’ll have them too) and willing to put in the marketing work, this can be the most lucrative option for getting your art onto products.
Ultimately, you get to choose the direction of your business.
Don’t let anyone bully you into one option or another, even if that means you stick with a typical POD site for now. I’ve told you I’m not a fan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good thing for you if that’s the low-commitment option you need right now.