When I first started reading blogs, I kept telling some of my favorite bloggers that they needed some sort of t-shirt store. Now that most bloggers have a shop, I'd like to think I was the trendsetter. Yeah. We'll just say I am. :)
If you don't have a store and want one, one of the first decisions to make is Where to do the store, much like choosing your blogging platform. I have quite a few stores floating around the internets, so here is my review of some of your options...
NOTE: My New Favorite is listed last
Quick Overview of How Stores Work
On the internets, there are various places where you can upload a graphic, and slap it on some product like a t-shirt, or a flask, or shower curtains and purses. Many have their own little "designer" like program where you can use some of their clip arts and fonts so that you don't necessarily have to have any graphic software to design things.
Then the company will print the product on demand per order. They handle the customer service, the order processing, the shipping, and so forth. All you have to do is create a product available for sale and provide information for them to send you a payment.
In most cases, you decide prices. They say to print on this t-shirt, it's 20 bucks, so you can sell it for 22 and make 2, or you can sell it for 30 and make 10.
They generally have 2 stores set up for your one. If you create a store of your own, you design products, put them up for sale. It has it's own web address like a free blog, like www.MAINSTORE.com/yourstore. They also have their main store, what many call a marketplace, at www.MAINSTORE.com where people can buy from all the little stores like your store (if you make it available for it). Some markeplaces choose the prices of sale for you, and some don't. Some offer a thing where you can design specifically for their marketplace without actually making up your own store.
The first store I ever opened was through Cafepress. What I like most about them is their marketplace. Out of all the options, they have the most traffic or sales or something to where without any marketing of my stores, I make the most sales through them. They do a lot of advertising.
The thing I hate about Cafepress is the product set-up. When you design something for a t-shirt, most places offer about 100 different t-shirt styles, for men, women, children and babies. Then they also have other products that work well with the same design size including pajamas, undies, flasks, coffee cups, pint glasses, shot glasses, some of the handbags and totes, some of the cell phone cases... In Cafepress, to put Design X up for sale, you have to choose what products it goes on. They have some things for short cuts, but you still want to go through everything to make sure it fits right and is visible (like black on black doesn't work too well, but black on dark red sometimes does). So you can sit there for 2 hours to post one design up by the time you pick everything, and then go through everything individually to clean up odds and ends. Then you have to do that regularly for each product as they offer new products if you want old designs on new things. The issue is if you don't, in the marketplace, your design might show up in someone's search as black ink on a black shirt unless you went in to all the dark shirt options and unchecked the black shirt option.
Then when people go to your store, if you don't have sections (like bigger folders almost), you got a hundred products to sort through before you get to the next design. If you do have sections, they have too many products to sort through for the one design. Some people like it because it gives you a lot more control, but some people like me,
A big thing about cafepress is their products are a little cheaper than their competition... Some things like the poster prints, that's some of the most inexpensive you'll find on the internet, including places that only operate in bulk.
Cafepress also charges to open a store, but they recently changed it so that you can base it on sales to an extent, so if you don't sell anything, you don't have to pay them. It's an extra fee to the base price of the product, but one that's do-able.
They redesigned their look as I'm writing this, and I love it. Much more simple. And you don't have too much to mess with for store design. But if you want your store to look a certain way, Zazzle is not the best for that. Their redesign has made all the little shops look uniform. You still can do an image on it like a logo or a header... It's actually pretty awesome for those who don't want to waste time designing a store website.
Some people I know were not too happy with the print quality from Zazzle. I myself have never ordered anything from them to know. They are also a little pricier than Cafepress, but they offer some more stylish options in the realm of women's clothes.
The best part about Zazzle is ease of use. You just click, "Create a new product," and you decide a product. Let's say you picked Woman's T-shirt V neck Z style on white. You slap your image on it, some text, whatever. Their designer is what you work with, so right there you can move things, center things, add things... Of all options, their designer loads considerably the fastest. Then you post for sale where you add tags, describe the product, name it, etc. All of this you do in Cafepress too, but just not all on one place, which adds clicking and load wait times to your task.
It does take Zazzle 24 hours to post it to your store and their search. Cafepress takes about 24 hours to get your product to show up in their search, but you can see it immediately in your store generally. But in Zazzle, once it's there, you click on it, and you have the option (if you set it up as such) to pick a different shirt, color, add text... Much more customizable for the customer without the clutter.
Their marketplace is growing with their popularity. Zazzle has also added tools to share, like and things like that, but they really make you want to like products or add things to a wish list. They have a place to leave comments on a product, so there's a social networking aspect between the shops and customers that Cafepress doesn't have (though Cafepress does have some social networking features).
Zazzle also doesn't charge extra to open a store.
I tried this one. Not as famous. In theory though, it would be the best option out there. It has more products to choose from that are considerably cheaper than the other options. If you pay so much a month, you can do your store at yourdomain.com and other people can open up shops under your domain. It also has with the more premium services free shipping, so you can either use that for marketing purposes, or you can charge shipping and pocket that money. In addition, the store design is more customizable for people with beginner level site design and the way their products and sections work.
There were some deal breakers with this one though. First off, everything comes out of China, so you have that guilt where no product is made in America. (At least for Americans). It does help to justify it by reminding yourself places like Cafepress and Zazzle won't tell you where their products come from outside of the ones they label "Made in America." Second, their marketplace brings no money. You are on your own with marketing and traffic. Third, the deal breaker for me, the other designers are just too competitive. With a click of their magic mouse, they can report your image as a copyright violation and will do so for fun, on things that are 100% you. When they do, it's not available for sale until you email some guy in China who has to decide it's okay and lift the red flags. They do this almost daily, so your shop pretty much will always have some products that just are not available. This also occurs even if you choose not to show your products in their marketplace. How or why is beyond my understanding.
Winner Winner for me. While I'll keep my cafepress and zazzle stores, I'm making this place my main store currently. Let me tell you why. Two things had me sold...
1. You have more design space. Cafepress and Zazzle only give you 10 by 10 inch squares in the top of the t-shirt to design. This place gives you much more space than that. The new thing is to have designs that cut off at the bottom of the shirt, something you can do here that you cannot do with Cafepress or Zazzle's main store (Zazzle does have a t-shirt artist place where you can design a whole shirt, but you don't just get into it without working for it).
2. They offer different printing techniques. I could use technical terms, but I'm not. The other places mentioned only offers printing for full process color (all the colors), and it's a flat matte design that is like in the shirt. When you order shirts in bulk locally or go to the store and buy some, most of their designs are 1 to 3 colors where it's like a glossy print on the shirt. You can't get that in Cafepress or Zazzle. You can at Spreadshirt. They not only offer the glossy print like thing, but they also have sparkly glitter print, and some weird fabric print that is supposed to feel velvety. They do have some rules on the graphic requirements for those printing options, but if you keep to their texts in their designer, you can use it on that.
The downside, which I don't mind at this point, they don't offer as many product options, and some of their products cannot fit designs that you could do in cafepress. For instance, my taste the rainbow design I designed specifically for women's panties (get it? taste the rainbow? for lesbians...). That design does not work on Spreadshirt's panties. They also do not have social networking options outside of emailing products to people.
The main thing is, the printing options give me more of what I want. I haven't shopped much at Cafepress or Zazzle because even though I love my designs, I didn't get to do exactly what I wanted with them enough to buy them myself. I'd try to shop at my own stores and couldn't find anything to wear. Just like my closet. This place is different. There's more time involved with the design itself, but less time involved with posting it to a store.
To see some comparisons...
Dribbles and Grits on Cafepress
Dribbles and Grits on Zazzle
Dribbles and Grits on Spreadshirt
*** Spreadshirt offers premium services for free to bloggers who are willing to place a link in their blog. I'm getting that offer by placing their link in Dribbles and Grits blog. I am not receiving anything for blogging about them here. Even if I were, I'd still tell you what I really think because if I couldn't, unless it was saving the lives of children or whales, I wouldn't do it. But if you are a blogger, they have premium services that you can get for free by putting their link on your blog. ***