I’ve been on CafePress since 2001. Originally, I only used them for items with the Ninth Circle logo, but one day a friend mentioned that he’d really like to find a tshirt that said “RiotNrrd”. A little bit of work with Fireworks and BAMPF, I had one posted for him to buy.
Next up was “Anyone who thinks ‘the customer is always right’ has never worked in tech support” and “My zombie boyfriend loves me for my brains”. At that point, it was pretty much just a hobby – making one-offs for myself or for friends – and local printshops just aren’t cost effective for one-offs.
Over the years, CafePress has sometimes lagged behind other POD sites (it took them years to add black shirts, for example), but there are still a number of reasons to use them:
- They’re still popular
For someone who wants to consume rather than design, CafePress is really convenient. Just go to the site, put in search terms and buy from their Marketplace.
For someone who wants to sell, that Marketplace works for you, even if you aren’t driving traffic from your own website. This can work well if you’re working with popular topics, but specialized niches have their buyers as well.
- Quality items and printing
Some folks got turned off of CafePress ten years ago because of the quality of the printing or their items; however, they upgraded and improved both several years ago, and their stuff is the equal of any other POD site.
- Common file formats
Some sites (*cough*Spreadshirt*cough*) only accept images in vector formats, which require software that most folks don’t have, often costs a lot of money, and/or has a very steep learning curve. CafePress accepts JPGs, GIFs, and PNGs, which you can create with simple programs or take straight off of your digital camera. Easy peasy.
- Easy product creation
Want to put one image on any or all of their items? One tool does it all, and all at once. Some sites make you add the products one at a time, or only have certain items in their quick creation tools (*cough*Zazzle*cough*) – CafePress has them all.
- Flexible paid account plans
Their basic stores are … really basic and very limited. Other than one-offs, a premium store is really necessary. The good news is that CafePress has finally (August 2011) added a pay-as-you-go payment plan for premium stores. Unlike their prepaid plans ($7-5/mo, depending on how long you pay up), this payment plan is a straight 10% cut of your royalties (up to $10/mo). For someone just starting out, this is a good thing.
If you’re looking to tap into causes, older demographics, or sentimental traditions, CafePress may be a good match for you. Its widespread popularity amongst the general population and active Marketplace can put you in a buyer-rich environment.