Sell Your Art Online: Drop Shipping Part 2 (Make Passive Income)

One of the more difficult things a full-time artist will do is create consistent income that they can rely on for their day-to-day needs. Even if you are working at a non-art related job, creating passive income with your art is the dream. But is it really possible?

Absolutely. Creating passive income with your art is possible in many ways, most notably by using drop ship companies that will create a product with your art and send it directly to your customer without any effort on your part. That’s not to say that there is no upfront work involved. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using dropship companies to fulfill your art orders.

What is drop shipping?

If you shop online, you have likely already participated in a drop shipping transaction without even knowing it. In a dropship transaction, the following steps occur:

1. An online shopper heads over to a website store front and places an order.

2. The order is automatically forwarded to a supplier who creates and ships the product on behalf of the online store front. Even though the shipment is coming straight from the supplier, the supplier will use the storefront return address and even include the store friends enclosures and invoice. This creates the appearance that the storefront actually shipped the order. This process is called “white labeling.”

3. The online shopper receives the ordered product as though it came directly from the website store front.

In part one of this series, we talk about how artists can act as a dropship supplier to sell their art on behalf of a store front. But this is hardly passive income. In this scenario, the artist must make, package, and ship the work on behalf of the vendor.

How do artists create passive income?

Artists who have their own online store front can have their artwork printed on products and available for sale. The artist only has to “create“ the product one time and list it for sale. Once it’s listed, if a customer orders the product, the supplier will take the order, create it, and ship it on behalf of the artist vendor.

The term “passive income“ has been coined because once the product listing has been created, there is not much else the artist must do other than promote their online shop. The rest of the work is handled by the supplier. The truth is, the process is not passive at all. The artist must still create a desirable design, digitize and upload it to an online supplier service to create the product, and connect that product to their website.

The term “passive income“ has been coined because once the product listing has been created, there is not much else the artist must do other than promote their online shop.

What types of products can artists create?

The types of products available for printed design is fairly extensive and depends upon the supplier you choose. Most of the suppliers that offer a white label Service use a print on demand technology. This means that the product will not be created until it is ordered. Most artists are familiar with companies that create art prints in this fashion. But many companies offer a wide variety of products. Examples of available products include clothing such as T-shirts, leggings, hats, mini skirts, yoga pants, and even tennis shoes. Houseware examples include coffee mugs, shower curtains, pillows, blankets,towels, and bathmats. Accessory examples include phone cases, pencil cases, clutch bags, purses and scarves. Paper goods include stationary, invitations, stickers and magnets.If you can think of it, there is quite probably a supplier that can print your design on a product on your behalf. It’s endless.

Benefits of creating passive income products:

As an artist, you might be thinking you are already creating artwork, why create products with your artwork on them? 

1. Creating print on demand products helps to fill out your online inventory. If you have an online web store, you might have anywhere from 5 to 10 original paintings available at any one time. However, if you are also offering your artwork on print on demand products, you can have many more listings available for sale in your store, which feels in the visual gaps.

2. Having additional types of products available helps to lower the barrier of entry for new collectors to support your artwork. Another words, a new or aspiring collector may not be able to afford an original artwork, but we might be very proud to wear a T-shirt with your artwork on it. The same is true for a collector who is not yet ready to purchase a large piece or does not have the space to display it.

3. It can help your SEO. If you have an artist website with only a few things for sale, adding additional product listings creates more opportunities for search engines to index. If you think of each listing as a website page, it is another opportunity for you to include more of your art story to be discovered. You will create additional tags and keywords which will help improve your site’s visibility overall. The same is true even if you are only selling your work on a site like Etsy. Etsy search optimization favors store fronts with a wide variety of products and price points.

The most important benefit of creating print on demand products is that you continue to get paid for original artworks that have already sold.

4. Creating print on demand products is low risk. Although it does require your time and effort to create the product and listing, you will not be charged unless you actually sell the product.

5. Many drop shipping suppliers take much of the work out of creating products and listings for you. Their sophisticated programs create mock up images of the products with your artwork already shown on them. They also create product listings that are easy to customize to your specific needs.

6. The most important benefit of creating print on demand products is that you continue to get paid for original artworks that have already sold. As an artist, you retain the original copyright for sold artworks and you can recycle your sold designs onto new products if you archived digital images before you sold the art.

What’s the downside?

1. Creating print on demand products and having them shipped to your customers is not a high profit margin. Using print on demand requires the supplier to print and shipped one product at a time. Higher profit margins can be reached by ordering in bulk meaning the supplier would create and ship a large amount of product at one time. Even though you would get a higher profit for ordering in bulk, you would be required to warehouse the product and manage the orders. Because print on demand takes all of this risk out for you, you pay more of a premium for the product and therefore earn less profit.

2. Creating passive income in this way is not totally passive. You will still need to develop an audience, just as you would for selling your original artworks. You will still need to connect with that audience and introduce them to your product line. The only thing passive about this type of income is once you set up your product offerings, you’re good to go.

3. Print on demand products are generally not returnable and less they are defective. This makes sense because the supplier will have no other way to sell a returned item since it already bears your artwork.This can be a downside if your audience expects to be able to make returns for any reason. You will need to account for this in your product listings by making it clear under what conditions returns are available.

Creating passive income in this way is not totally passive. You will still need to develop an audience, just as you would for selling your original artworks.

4. Some artists may not want their brand diluted with products that they perceive as trinkets. Essence, they may feel that the dropship offers dilute they are fine art offers. If this is a concern for you, consider separating your dropship offers in a “gift shop“ section of your website. Alternatively, you could have a “gift shop“ component to your offerings on a separate platform. For example, your fine art could be represented on your .com website with a link to an Etsy  “gift shop“ where are your drop ship products are offered.

Ready to get started?

There are a couple of ways to find good print on demand companies with a solid reputation. Firstly, look for a supplier that already partners with your platform of choice. Wherever you are already selling your artwork online, they likely have a partnership with a dropship company that will link to your website. Online web friends such as Shopify, WordPress (via Woo Commerce), Big cartel, Wix and Etsy have all partnered with drop ship companies so that shop owners can link print on demand products directly to their store front. 

In addition to checking out the resource section of your current platform of choice, you can also Google “print on demand suppliers” and come up with an extensive list of options.

On a similar note, avoid dropship companies that do not partner with your current platform of choice. There are several drop ship supply companies that encourage artists to upload their artwork and sell their designs on products but limit the product sales to only the website of the drop ship supplier. This does not offer much benefit to the artist. There is very little profit and high competition that makes it very difficult for your artwork to stand out. The only way to drive traffic to your products is to send your hard earned followers to the supplier’s website where that traffic is converted into someone else’s customer. 

Resources

The following is a list of drops ship suppliers that work with artists to create products that you can sell on your own website. These resources are just the beginning of what is available. Not only are several print-on-demand services becoming more popular, they are adding additional products and integrations all the time. If you have (or find) a great print on demand site, please leave your review in the comments below.

ArtofWhere.com

Products Offered: Apparel, Accessories, Bags, Wall Art, Home Goods and Paper Goods & Materials

Integrates with: Shopify, Etsy, Big Cartel, Woo Commerce, Big Commerce, SquareSpace

Printify.com

Products Offered: Apparel, Accessories, Mugs, Phone Cases

Connects to: Shopify, Etsy, Woo Commerce, Ebay, PrestaShop, Wix. (Also offers Printify API.)

Printful.com

Products Offered: Clothing, Accessories, Home & Living Products, Collections, Gifts

Connects to: Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, Ecwid, Big Commerce, Prestashop, Weebly, Amazon, eBay, BigCartel, Wish, Magento, StoreEnvy, Gumroad, Ship Station, Inktale, Bonanza, 3dcart, Launch Cart. (Also offers Printful API.)

Gooten.com

Products Offered: Accessories, Home & Living, Paper Products, Wall Art, Apparel, Kids, Pets

Connects to: Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, Mobile App. (Also offers Gooten API.)

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