Note from Rob at PODlify: This guest post from a passive income specialist is brilliant. You’ll find interesting tips for increasing your income on Redbubble.
Looking to automate your Redbubble uploads? Look no further. PODlify is the only cloud-based print-on-demand (POD) uploader in existence, which makes it the most convenient.
You may have seen a lot of chatter among side hustlers about generating passive income from Redbubble.
Is it legit? What is Redbubble, anyway? In this blogpost I’m going to cover these basic questions, and much more.
Can you really make money on Redbubble?
Quite a bit more than what others claim is possible for the average artist.
It’s all possible if you work smart and focus your effort on high-value strategies, and leave manual mechanical work to PODlify’s automation tools.
I’ve been learning a lot about Redbubble and its business using publicly available information. I look in various places, piecing together unique insights about Redbubble.
This allows me to uncover special strategies for maximizing sales on Redbubble.
I will share everything that I know, right here in this post.
We’ll start from the beginning, from the most basic question: what is Redbubble?
The basics - POD and Redbubble 101
What is Redbubble?
There are two different answers to this question, and both are not wrong.
Redbubble was founded in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. For many years, Redbubble only had a single digital property, namely Redbubble.com.
This changed in 2018 when Redbubble acquired TeePublic. So now we have the umbrella RB Group owning both Redubble.com and TeePublic.com.
RB Group is publicly listed on Australia’s ASX stock exchange. RB Group is the first answer to “What is Redbubble?”
The second answer is Redbubble.com, a two-sided (supply and demand) print-on-demand online marketplace.
On the supply side, we have artists who upload their designs to Redbubble. On the demand side, we have buyers who purchase designs printed on physical products, such as t-shirts, stickers, hats, etc.
The term print-on-demand signifies the fact that Redbubble doesn’t pre-make products in bulk. Rather, products are printed individually in response to orders.
From here onwards, whenever I mention ‘Redbubble’, I’m referring to Redbubble.com, not RB Group. Please keep this in mind.
How do you make money on Redbubble?
Redbubble sets a base cost for every physical product available in its marketplace. Its commission is already built into this base cost.
And you, as an artist, get to decide how much markup you want to make on top of it. By default this value is 20%. You can override this value.
Every time someone orders a physical product with one of your designs on it, you get your cut.
Once your earning has reached a certain threshold, Redbubble will pay you out.
What services do you get from Redbubble?
If you have some knowledge of manufacturing, you may find Redbubble’s base cost too steep. Surely it doesn’t cost that much to make and print a physical product?
Is Redbubble’s cut justified?
From an artist’s perspective, Redbubble’s most obvious and most valuable role is that of a facilitator. Bring buyers to the artist.
One could argue that Redbubble deserves all its commission just for this alone. We all know how hard it is to acquire buyers ourselves. More on this later.
Redbubble, despite its commanding position in the POD space, has to pay to acquire buyers (some of them, at least). According to its 2022 Investor Presentation, 60% of Redbubble’s revenue came from free organic channels (in other words, from Google search). The rest were from paid marketing.
This highlights Redbubble’s constant investment of its commission back into artists’ businesses, a fact often overlooked in discussions about Redbubble.
In the same vein, Redbubble tirelessly pursues the expansion of its physical product offering. Year after year, without fail, Redbubble adds at least one new physical product to its already long list of products.
This benefits you enormously. Every year your buyer market grows without having to lift a single finger.
Speaking of unending pursuit, customer satisfaction is yet another one that Redbubble works on continually.
Its latest Investor Presentation reports that shipping time for many products has decreased. We can deduce that Redbubble achieved this by bringing more fulfillment centers online, ensuring that no one is ever too far from one of its fulfillment centers. Shorter distance from manufacturer = quicker shipping.
Other services that Redbubble provides on behalf of artists include:
- Quality assurance
- Providing customer service
- Handling returns
- Taking payments
- Managing fraudulent payments
As you can see, Redbubble does a lot more than just making physical products.
All things considered, its commission is well justified.
What makes Redbubble special?
This is actually two questions in one: “What makes POD a good side hustle?”, and “Why Redbubble, specifically?”
Print-on-demand is a great space for making income on the side.
POD’s strengths become apparent once you put it side-by-side with other types of side-hustle (pardon the pun) marketplaces. For illustration purposes we’ll pick Airbnb and Uber for comparison. You will see how much better the POD space is compared to short-term rentals and ride sharing.
Airbnb and Uber are “time-exclusive” marketplaces, in that a product can only be sold once at any given time. Contrast this to Airbnbl. Once a room (or house) is rented out, no one else can rent it, limiting the host’s income.
Uber suffers from the same problem.
But not a POD marketplace.
Your design on Redbubble can be purchased by many buyers at the same time, increasing your earning potential.
You can sell to anyone in the world through your POD store. An Uber driver can’t. An Airbnb host can, but in a much more limited way.
Once you upload a design, it’s available for purchase, forever. There’s no such thing as logging off, pausing a listing, or retiring from a POD marketplace.
Word of mouth
Well-made designs market themselves.
Imagine seeing your friend wearing a really unique and clever hoodie. You’ll ask where they bought it. Good POD products spread through word of mouth.
The same thing cannot be said about Airbnb and Uber “products”.
Every year POD marketplaces add more physical products to their platform, automatically broadening your target market.
This doesn’t happen on Uber or Airbnb.
You can get going on a POD marketplace immediately without massive financial outlay. You can’t do the same on Airbnb or Uber without having to purchase or rent a major asset.
OK. We’ve established that print-on-demand is a worthwhile side business. But why Redbubble specifically, out of the many POD marketplaces?
Gleaning from the buzz it generates, Redbubble seems to be the biggest marketplace in terms of buyers, which makes it great for artists. (Disclaimer: This is purely based on my own observation. I don’t have hard data for this.)
We can find indirect, anecdotal signals that support this. For example, look at how insanely good Redbubble’s SEO is. Redbubble.com’s domain rating of 91 is very high. This lines up with Redbubble’s claim that 60% of its buyers come from Google search.
Nothing is perfect.
Redbubble has problems too, probably the most noteworthy one being trademark infringement.
There’s a reason why this occurs. It’s a lot less nefarious than most people think. I will explain more further down.
So far I’ve covered a lot of basic stuff.
I did promise deeper discussions. Don’t worry, it’s coming right up!
Can you earn decent money on Redbubble?
On the surface, it appears the answer is no. After all, in 2021, 728,000 artists only earned AUD $104M between them. That’s a measly average of AUD $143 or USD $100 per artist.
I wouldn’t let this number deter you, because this average does not paint the picture accurately.
Most creator platforms are top heavy. For example, 50% of income on Twitch is earned by the top 1% streamers. TikTok follows a similar pattern.
I’m confident Redbubble does too, albeit a less extreme one.
The top artists earn a decent income on Redbubble. The key for you is figuring out how to join the club.
How do you become a top earner on Redbubble?
That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? Many want to crack this, but only relatively few have.
You’re probably thinking that the solution is going to be super deep or complicated, but it’s not.
Most people miss a very basic secret that’s been hiding in plain sight.
The secret is this:
When you boil it right down, Redbubble is a very text- and search-oriented business. If you want to optimize your income, you need to build your strategies based on this premise.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I’m going to offer a couple of very evident clues to back the claim, one of which you’ve seen earlier in this blogpost.
Proof 1 - Redbubble openly said that the majority of its revenue came from organic channels. This means search engines.
Proof 2 - Look at Redbubble’s homepage (or any page, for that matter). What does Redbubble display prominently at the top with attention-grabbing colors? The search bar.
Simply put, Search (Google search and Redbubble search) is how most buyers find Redbubble products to buy.
Figure out what people search for, and you’ve figured out POD demand.
From there all you need to do is create appropriate designs to satisfy this demand, and tag them with relevant keywords. Use PODlify’s keyword synonym tool to help you come up with great keywords that wouldn’t have crossed your mind otherwise.
Let’s dissect this demand a little.
Let’s figure out what people search for. What do people type on Google?
I can tell you what people don’t type on Google. Abstract and vague search terms.
The vast majority of POD search terms are concrete and specific.
“I want to show off my favorite web technology (eg HTML5, CSS3, etc) as a sticker on my laptop.”
Or my favorite band. Or a Netflix show. Or a blockbuster movie. Or celebrities. Or my favorite car.
In other words, brand names, famous people’s names, TV or movie names. Names. All kinds of names.
The whole content discovery mechanism, being search-based, lends itself to names. That’s just the nature of search. This is why Redbubble keeps running into trademark issues.
POD search terms are also dominated by current events. FIFA World Cup, politician gaffes, tax time, election time, etc.
People are drawn to recent news. They buy content about them. Unfortunately this includes adverse events like celebrity death or terrorist attack. Personally I wouldn’t monetize this kind of content, but people have done so. This is another thing that has landed Redbubble in hot water.
All of this feels cruddy…
You may be questioning the ethics of earning money this way.
Search-friendly content is what sells, that’s true, but you don’t have to do unethical things. It is possible to play it super safe and keep it 100% above board.
You can steer clear of pop culture (music, TV, movies) and only work with current events. If you make witty Brexit designs for stickers and apparels, you’re not going to infringe any trademark.
Another alternative is targeting niche keywords that people Google for. I already mentioned web technologies (yes, there are real people who love that sort of stuff). Some people love certain dog breeds, others like gothic content, and so on.
Or if you want to keep your options open and dabble in pop culture, there are ways to do it legitimately.
Redbubble has a fan art program that allows you to officially create designs for partner brands like Back to the Future, Jurassic World, etc.
You could also target older works that are no longer protected by copyright. For example, Sherlock Holmes stories are now in the public domain.
It still feels cruddy…
What if you’re a purist artist who just wants to make genuine art? Perhaps you don’t want to chase “search money” at the expense of your art.
Can you monetize?
But it’s going to be more challenging.
Google’s and Redbubble’s search feature is going to be less effective in bringing you buyers. You’ll have to try and blunt that effect.
If you make abstract content, you’ll need to work harder in unearthing the most likely-to-be-searched keywords for your abstract designs. They’re going to be a lot less obvious than pop culture or current-affair designs.
The good news is people appreciate real art, even if they don’t proactively Google it. So you can (and should) cultivate a following for your brand of art.
Don’t rely on only Google and Redbubble search for getting buyers. You need to build your own audience and direct them to your Redbubble store.
People will follow genuine artists who make genuine art.
If you’re really really good at what you do, you can outearn designers who optimize for demand from Google.
How much can you expect to earn?
All these tips are great and all, but how much can you earn on Redbubble, realistically?
There’s only one correct response to this, which is “it depends”, unfortunately.
It’s impossible for me to make any predictions about your earning. There are just so many variables. What niches do you want to target? How good are you at making appealing designs? How much time and effort are you willing to put into this?
Having said that, “it depends” doesn’t really help you, does it? So I’m going to make a broad prediction (a risky move, I know): if you work hard and work smart, earning 4 figures a year is achievable. Some artists are able to reach 5 figures.
This may not sound much, but it’s not bad for a side-hustle that only requires non full-time commitment.
Besides, you can upload the same designs to multiple marketplaces, to increase your income.
Isn’t Redbubble too saturated now?
In the 2022 financial year alone, a staggering 34M designs were uploaded to Redbubble.
You may feel that your designs are going to drown in this sea of content, but earning decent income even with this level of competition is still possible.
I’ve already shared with you the idea of producing content based on “Search demand”. This strategy, as powerful as it is, is only half the battle.
You’ll eliminate millions of competitors, sure, but you’ll still be left with dozens or hundreds. You’ll need to outrank most of them in Redbubble search results, otherwise you risk earning too little. Better ranking = more sales.
This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in. SEO refers to techniques to get your “items” rank high in search results.
Many marketplaces give top positions to items that have generated sales. The rationale is clear: anything that sells must be at least half-decent, so the search algorithm ranks it high.
Redbubble’s search algorithm likely follows the same design principle.
Therefore if you want your design to rank well, you need to go and find buyers yourself, and direct them to buy your design on Redbubble. After these purchases, the design will start to rise in ranking. The aim is to kickstart a virtuous cycle that keeps the design at or near the top of search results.
I know this is easier said than done. You’re probably on Redbubble because you can’t find your own buyers in the first place.
This is why you need to work smart. Don’t waste your time on low-value tedious tasks, such as manually uploading designs to POD marketplaces. Let PODlify’s automated uploader handle that for you.
You should focus on high-value activities.
Research the demand landscape. Target the right search keywords.
Devise tactics to find buyers yourself. Build your followers.
Work on your SEO on Redbubble. Kickstart that virtuous cycle that generates sales for you over and over.
That’s how you join the elite high earners club.