Zazzle Tips by a ProDesigner: Starting Your Online Store

Let’s talk Zazzle tips! Those of you who’ve been following along with my creative journey for a while will remember that I signed up for Zazzle and started posting products a couple months ago. Since I’m a few days away from receiving my first paycheck and will become a Zazzle ProDesigner once my current earnings clear, I feel like I’ve done pretty well on the platform so far. So I decided to provide an overview of the things I think I’m doing right (and plan to do moving forward). Zazzle tips for starting out, if you will.

What is Zazzle? Why should you choose Zazzle for starting out?

If you don’t already know, Zazzle is a print-on-demand retail site featuring literally millions of designs created by literally millions on literally hundreds of products.

By uploading your designs, you can use Zazzle to print your business cards, order team jerseys, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, sell awesome stuff with no cost and no risk.

That last part is why I chose Zazzle for starting my online t-shirt store, Anthrapologist. I didn’t want to have to worry about spending any money. As you know, I’m already in a sort of precarious financial position. I like that even totally bombing as a designer on Zazzle still means you break even.

What this guide is not

I’m not going to write a screenshot-filled guide to setting up your store. Basically, you register for an account, hit the create a store button, and start adding products. The user interface is kind of clunky and they recently updated it, but I trust you to figure out the basics.

Coincidentally, someone recommended More Products, Less Time – A Zazzle How2 E-Book to me. It covers the more technical aspects, so if you do have trouble navigating the back end of the Zazzle site and need some assistance, it’s an excellent option. (, affiliate link. Please actually click the link rather than deciding to Google it instead and cheat me out of 26 cents.)

Likewise, that advice about making a cool banner and uploading a profile picture and adding links to your social media accounts is fucking obvious. Duh. Do that shit. But that’s not what you need help with and that’s not how you succeed. It’s just basic. And I can’t make any money off of you by holding a gun to your head convincing you to sign up under an affiliate link or something so fuck that.

Zazzle Tips by a ProDesigner: Starting Your Online Store / / The funny and informative guide to starting an online store with Zazzle, selling your first design, getting started with Zazzle, social media, search engine optimization, and making money online.

How to make money on Zazzle if you’re not a designer

As a side note, if you want to try out making money online from t-shirt sales (or whatever), but you find your brain sputtering to a halt every time you fire up PhotoShop, you have other options. If you sign up for an account, you’re automatically assigned an associates ID, which works as a referral code.

If you find some cool shit on Zazzle (like my shit, cough cough), you can share those items with your referral code and make money from each sale. As a matter of fact, you get 15% of the sale, meaning if you do sell my stuff, you make 3x more than I do off of most of the products. Consider it.

Or you can read the brilliant Steal Like An Artist ($10 on Amazon, affiliate link) and learn how to create.

How to make money online: Make shit that people want and help them find it

I know this is that obvious advice I promised not to talk about, but let me say one thing: most designers have no idea what they’re doing.

Heck, most people who try to create for a living have no idea what they’re doing.

If you ask a whole handful of successful designers what their best-selling items are, they’ll tell you a strange mix of pretty napkin prints and a weird apron they designed when they were wine drunk. Now ask them why their best-selling items were best sellers.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You’ll wait, too. And wait. Eventually, they’ll either come back with a generic, vague non-answer along the lines of (“I released it when people were doing their Christmas shopping”) or just a flat out I don’t know.

And that’s the thing: they don’t know. Because very few designers know what the hell they’re doing online. Very few people who do anything online know what they’re doing online.

Social media and SEO experts included.

But it’s really easy to break down.

Step 1: Make shit people want to buy

You know how sometimes you’re sitting there staring at a giant mess of spaghetti in your lap and thinking, “why the fuck did I wear white to an Italian restaurant?” (Also why the hell did you order spaghetti at an Italian restauraunt?) And suddenly your brain goes somewhere and you’re like, “Oh, hey, someone should make a black t-shirt with a funny message for messy eaters?”

Yeah, me neither.

That’s the brain space where ideas come from. It’s cute, quirky, based in reality, relateable, and somewhat functional, even. Great. Awesome.


Hold the phone.

Because now you have to go through step two.

Step 2: Find the people who want to buy the fuck out it

How the hell do I target an audience for this design?

What phrase is somebody going to type into Google when he or she is looking for this shirt and only this shit to satisfy an urge?

How do I tag something like this and write a compelling description using rich, high volume, low competition keywords to help guide this person to give me his money?

Zazzle Tips

Keeping this process in mind, here’s how you can start up a successful Zazzle store.

  1. Do use tags and descriptions wisely. When you create a new product, you’re asked to write a description and choose tags. I like to make my description snarky and sort of branded, but a lot of designers will find a lot more success with focusing on the technical, search engine oriented side. Use a minimum of 10 tags (“power tags” on Zazzle) and ideally use up to the 500 character or 40-tag limit. As an example, mine are usually something like, “sarcastic mens tshirt,” “funny mens tshirt,” “simple mens tshirt,” etc. I like to do the ‘YouTube tagging’ method and type potential tags into the Zazzle search box and use auto-complete tags.
  2. Do take the time to do your keyword research. This is more like step 0. Your first 10 tags will be used as power tags and factor heavily into Zazzle’s search. Everything else you type into the tag box will be used for your rankings on Google, Yahoo, etc. I can’t stress the importance of keyword research enough.
  3. Don’t make things just for yourself. I know that this is contrary to all that, ‘follow your passion, just make videos you would want to watch, this is supposed to be enjoyable’ bullshit, but fuck that. If you want to make money, make shit that people actually want to buy. Real people. Not that one Facebook friend who totally promises to buy that bumper sticker about banjos if you make it.
  4. Do use the fuck out of social media. Find your customers. Figure out where they hang out. Put it in front of them. Also, if you’re making stuff that’s actually interesting and unique, brand your shit. Teal table runners don’t need a brand to support its sales, but a t-shirt of a weird cat that says “non sequitur” on it does.
  5. Do take the time to do off-site SEO. Tags and descriptions are great. They are. But you’re doing retail online. That means you’re competing with literally the entire population of planet earth. 7.5 billion people are trying to get time, attention, and money from everybody else. Put in the work to give yourself every competitive edge you can.

Did you think I was kidding about the cat t-shirt?

Want more Zazzle tips?

In general, creating good things that people want to buy and then ensuring that you’re doing everything in your power to put it in front of the people who want to buy it will get the job done.

That said, there are a few things that have helped me figure out exactly how to go about doing that.

The Zazzle designer blog has a nice entry with 10 questions to help you improve your zRank. Zazzle zRank isn’t currently a factor in search rankings, but does do a good idea of showing you how well you’re doing. For the record, my Zazzle zRank is 8 (out of 10).

I also highly recommend checking out other designs for inspiration. You can also use this as a networking opportunity by leaving comments on designs. I haven’t done this (and don’t plan to), but it’s food for thought and could potentially help with building links to your store.

Finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of building up an online presence outside of Zazzle to help drive sales. Hell, even if you never read any other Zazzle tips, take that one to heart. Build an audience, build links, and leave little breadcrumbs all across the internet leading to your products. I need to do more of this.

Also make sure you subscribe to this blog because I’ll have way more Zazzle tips to come as I get even more of a handle on this. Finally, if you’re also a designer, leave your best Zazzle tips in the comments so that I can steal them new designers can learn from your mistakes and successes!

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4 comments on “Zazzle Tips by a ProDesigner: Starting Your Online Store”

  1. Chloe Reply

    I feel like my mind has been be…zazzled by reading this. I’m sorry, the pun sounded funnier in my head haha. Seriously though, I had no idea this even existed! I feel like a night on the wine and design is now in order. Chloe

  2. Pingback: Waiting for Superman: Why Internet Creators Fail - Michael Noker

  3. Juliet Parrott-Merrell Reply

    Really appreciate the tips and links offered here. I’m currently putting together another Zazzle store the right way after building two the wrong way. Also love the pasta shirt. 🙂

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