A newsletter option and Limited edition products

A newsletter option and Limited edition products

Yesterday I was poking around Cafepress and decided to upload some of images in order to create a store that houses a few limited edition products.

The reasons for doing this? Apart from the obvious of selling some things, as I have mentioned before next year I will be teaching a course to visual art students which goes under the title of Working the Web. Apart from students designing their own site and examining online practices that will assist them in their professional life, this course introduces ecommerce for visual artists. So I am in the process of exploring a number of easy options that are available. Options that are easy to set up, manage and are suitable for visual artists to use as part of their professional life. So this cafepress store is an experiment.

Another key reason is that it looked to be particularly easy way to set up a newsletter. I know this sounds a bit odd but one of the benefits of a having a store with cafepress is that you can also run a newsletter. Now it’s up to you what you fill the newsletter with, so you can use it announce anything you want. Since I signed up for the free account I thought this was not a bad deal at all.

Cafepress will host the newsletter for you so I set a subscription service up thinking that I can use it as a general newsletter. Often I have thought that it would be a good idea if I ran one and a good few readers have asked for one. I have been just a little lazy but if you think about it a newsletter makes sense. I have run a number of challenges such as the Bags of Fun challenge and Katrina survivor fundraisers like the All that Jazz Quilts and next year I will run the Take a stitch Tuesday Challenge so a newsletter would be handy to spread the word.

I am not going to bombard people’s email box I plan on writing one about once a month. I have checked out their privacy policy and am happy with it so if you want to subscribe I will use the newsletter not just for Cafepress news, but general news about interesting fun things like challenges. So if you are interested in keeping in touch with what happens on the site without having to swing by regularly please sign up for the newsletter in the side bar. Lets hope it works!

For those who are interested in CaféPress within minutes I had opened a store. The time consuming aspect was preparing images at a suitable resolution to be printed on various products. Within a couple of hours I had a basic store front up with something to sell. I spent more time reading things like user agreements and privacy policies than I did setting up the store.

Since this is an experiment I chose a free account. The upside of this is that I can try this way of working out without having to pay out anything. This is ideal for students and anyone on a tight income and lets face it most people in the visual arts are. The downside is that I can only have one product type at any one time.

I started off with spiral bound journals thinking that the size would be ideal for stitchers either as a visual journal or a notebook. They are 5×8 with 80 sheets of paper, which makes them not too heavy to carry around. Since I have found the best way to catch ideas is to carry a notebook of sorts around with me I thought others would find this size note book appealing too. The pages are unlined so it makes it ideal to quickly sketch out an idea. The glossy cover has an image of my stitching on it. I could have developed a whole range of reasonably priced journals but since I am on the free account I could only put up one.

Then I thought that people might like some postcards and greeting cards. They come in multiples of the same image. I am not sure how these will go because to Australian eyes they look expensive but they are an obvious product to try out.

Finally I saw the coffee cups and since I write this blog every morning to sound of slurping coffee for fun I loaded an image that was the right size to wrap around a mug. You never know I might earn enough to buy myself one!

My café press store is here These products are going to be limited edition products I am going to trial something for a month then change the images. So next month on the 5th there will be a different journal, postcards, and mug available and so on every month. I want to see if things sell, what sort of things sell and if sales come from blog related traffic or via other sources. I would also be interested in hearing about the successes and failures from anyone else in the crafting/quilting world that has used this service

Anyway that’s the news for the morning I am off to have a second cuppa!


  1. Hi Nicky – thanks for your input and clarification
    I wasn’t thinking of getting products produced and then selling them myself. roduction as such is not what attracts me to Cafepress. If I was going to get cards etc printed I would take them to a local printer I think the whole point to services like cafepress is that the stores can tick over while you are off creating/doing something else. Production, ordering, shipping is all taken care of so you don’t have to worry about it. The service is designed to do that – not be a print on demand service. The profit margins are small but they are worry free and for some artists being adminstration free is a real plus. I have now run 3 businesses and anything that cuts down on admin is worth it. It is really easy to fall into the trap of doing everything yourself and that can take away time from what you really want to achieve.

  2. Hi Sharon,
    Just to clarify. I meant that when you order stuff from Cafepress – from your own shop to sell at say craftfairs etc – it’s not really worth it because of the import tax on bulk orders. If individual people are ordering directly from my cafepress shop from various places of the world it’s probably not a problem because they probably aren’t going to order a lot at any one time to incurr large import taxes. My point was really that at present Cafepress is very American centred. The other issue I found was that if you have a webshop running from your own domain name and a cafepress shop you are running two systems at once (extra admin and time to spend). My solution to this was to add all my Cafepress items to the webshop and if anyone orders a cafepress item then I would order it myself and have the delivery address set as their address instead of mine. This works well because they have already paid for the goods, so there isn’t a cash flow problem. I agree completely with the business model – that any image can be duplicated on almost any object and if you can sell the same image over and over again while you are off doing something else then it’s got to be good. I have found though that for me Cafepress items just don’t have a large enough profit margin to make it worth while. I mean that because of the expense of production and transportation, the amount of profit I can add on top is very very small otherwise the products would be just too expensive. However, I really think that print-on-demand services are the way forward and I haven’t given up on the idea at all – I am just looking for a more viable alternative in this country. I think also that for artists, who want to sell prints and greeting cards – going to a professional printer where you can get preproduction colour proofs and discuss your individual requirements is a better option. Even though it’s a greater financial outlay intially, the profit margins to be yielded are far greater and the quality of the product likely to be better with more choice of product design. In conclusion I think Cafepress is a good start but it’s not (yet!) the answer for serious print production.

  3. Thanks Sharon! I was curious – my Mum is studying Visual Arts through OUA, she did start her Uni degree through Adelaide Central School of Art. 🙂 I’m coming over to Canberra late 2007 for Congress, I sure hope we can meet – I’d love to meet Annie too!

  4. Nicky and Rissa – thanks for your feedback on Cafepress – one positive and one negative a good balance.

    I agree with prices for people who live outside the States but for anyone who shops internationally this is always an issue. I see these ventures as not being a large source of income but a small income source. a case of watch the pennies and the pounds stack up. The good part about this is that the artist concerned is not selling the original object but an image of the object can generate income of sorts. I will expand on this idea in a blog post later on in the week but it means you can have something ticking over in the back ground while you ae in the studio making something else. Its the marketing model I am interested in.
    As to the gap in the market – in the future I can see some Chineese firm stepping in and undercutting on the price of the original product and printing – then the cost of shipping would not hurt so much.

  5. Hi Sharon
    I’ve had a Cafepress store for ages and never sold anything from it directly. I have sold stuff when I ordered them myself and then shown them to people in “real” life and through my own webshop. The products are good quality and it is certainly very easy to set up a shop and start designing products. However, there is a big BUT. One of the big downsides of Cafepress for people outside the States is that it’s really expensive when you start adding in the postage and shipping costs not to mention import tax. I am in the UK and the import tax on large orders was phenomenal and just not worth it if you are trying to sell to make any kind of reasonable profit. I wrote to Cafepress about this and they said they were going to do a European version but it hasn’t yet materialised and that was well over a year ago now. I have been hunting around for alternatives but not really found viable ones. There is a gap in the market there for someone in Europe and probably for other parts of the world too. I imagine it would be the same story for Australia. I would be interested to know your thoughts on this.

  6. Sandie I am not doing the visual arts – I am teaching the course – I have been teaching at the art school here in Canberra for a good few years it is part of the Australia National University
    here is the URL
    this is the degree that students take
    the course I am writing now is aimed at visual artists – and helping them to earn a living from their work
    the link in the post gives a description of the course

    I am going to be testing various things like cafepress as the course starts next year – and I want to be able to draw on real world experience rather than just theory. Some things you just have to try to see if they work – so that is what I am doing

  7. Morning Sharon, really enjoyed reading this. Can I ask what University you will be doing the Visual Arts through? Or is this just a class on it’s own? The post cards are my favorite, would be even better if the store had AUD as well as USD … much the same as an Etsy shop really, do you see more advantages with Cafepress?

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