One of the most important financial steps freelancers can take is to create multiple streams of income. Because different projects and clients ebb and flow, and often payment comes late, it’s advisable to always have alternative sources or passive income streams to supplement your main work.
Freelance journalist Natasha Tynes outlines some of the ways that independent journalists can supplement their income here, such as by selling online courses and digital products, memberships, and coaching.
I do hope to utilize some of those methods as I gain more experience as a freelance writer and journalist. In the meantime, I’m trying out a different income stream, completely unrelated to writing.
It’s called Redbubble.
In case you haven’t heard of it, Redbubble is an online platform where artists can upload their artwork to be positioned on products like t-shirts, coasters, stickers, tote bags, hats, even shower curtains and duvets. Redbubble manufactures and prints the products, which are shipped directly to customers. The artist receives a commission on the sales.
I uploaded some designs to Redbubble, and as of now, I have no idea how successful it will be. For now, here’s how the process went.
Redbubble in particular is known as a place to buy fan art, such as for anime shows, but recently I came across a shop on Redbubble that looked like it had uploaded pictures from a random jaunt in the woods, without any editing. I figured if I had somehow found their shop, maybe I could try this out too.
Like most dog owners, I’m very partial to my own 10-pound long-hair chihuahua mix. He looks like a little fox, has the sweetest temperament, yada, yada, yada … I’ll spare you. The main point is that I have quite a few pictures of him.
While the images looked nice on my iPhone, they were definitely not worthy of being bought. I decided to try to make them look somewhat “artsy.”
I downloaded the app, Prisma, and used its free trial to render different effects on to the photos.
But Redbubble suggests the image resolution to be at least 7632×6480 pixels, and my Prisma-rendered iPhone photos were nowhere near that size.
I’m no Photoshop fiend, so I paid a graphic designer on Fiverr (about $67 USD) to increase the resolution and optimize the clarity of three photos.
That done, I got to work uploading the images and positioning them on products. As you can imagine, some products will simply not work for certain photos. For example, a square coaster may result in a rectangular photo being cut off.
Redbubble makes it very easy to select which products work best and to position the photo best on each product you do keep.
As with any search-engine driven platform, choosing the correct titles and tags is very important and will likely take some trial and error.
I used insightfactory.app to help figure out the right tags I needed to use.
Because my designs aren’t from a popular movie or show that will be driving traffic, getting the tagging right is crucial, and I definitely still need to improve it.
After finishing uploading and creating the products, you must fill out financial information in order to open your shop. Of course, that’s a good thing so you can eventually get paid.
Redbubble also offers the ability to integrate your shop with Google Analytics, so you can see more statistics about buyer activity. I tried to set this up, but Redbubble currently only supports Universal analytics accounts, which Google recently discontinued.
I reached out to Redbubble to ask when G4 Google Analytics accounts will be compatible with Redbubble but have not yet received a response.
Overall though, I was impressed with how many articles Redbubble has detailing the steps to open and optimize your shop.
After all my products were uploaded, I decided to order one product of each design to ensure that the quality was good enough ($69 USD). (Plus, then I would have gear with my dog’s face on it! I promise, I’m not that crazy of a dog person.)
In the end, I was very satisfied with the resolution, and I’m glad I paid for them to be edited. I don’t want others who order the products to be unsatisfied and return them.
As for how much money I will make, that remains to be determined.
Redbubble gives each product a base price, which includes their fees and the actual cost of manufacturing the product. The artist can set a markup as a percentage of the base price, which will go completely to the artist. The markup percentage defaults to 20% but can be changed.
For example, a sleeveless top costs a base price of $31.67. A 20% markup means that the artist will be receive $5.28, and the customer will pay $36.95 plus taxes and potentially shipping.
Because my dog has no fan base or wasn’t featured in a movie or film, I suspect that sales will be slow for a while.
I do intend to post and share about the products on an Instagram page I own that has about 900 followers, but I don’t expect it to that to drive too much traffic.
However, Redbubble is not going anywhere and will likely only increase in popularity. Overtime, as I improve the products’ SEO and share about it in small ways, I hope it will eventually grow into some extra cash every month as a way to offset some of my small business expenses.
Plus, I’m working on some other original designs to upload to Redbubble, which I anticipate will fill a market niche. (As they say, the riches are in the niches!) In the meantime, that project is under wraps.
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