Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Webmaster Wear T-Shirt Store

Today's title explains why I haven't posted anything here since the 6th. I've been working feverishly to open, populate, and market the Webmaster Wear t-shirt (and other merchandise) store. At the moment, I'm very excited about it and quite optimistic about the whole thing.

In the spirit of business transparency, I will give you the background of my store and how it works. The store is a Cafepress Premium Shop, which means that I have a fully automated and mostly customizable e-commerce system to start with. In fact, Cafepress handles the ordering, payment, production, and fulfillment (shipping, returns, etc.). All I had to do was make and upload my designs.

So I spent a day or two coming up with a hefty list of shirt ideas, and turning them into usable graphics with my really-old version of photoshop. I like to think that I'm pretty good at that sorta thing (i.e. coming up with funny phrases). The templates and tutorials made things pretty simple. I did run into some problems when I uploaded an image that was too thin to print (or something like that) and I didn't know why it wouldn't let me use it. It took me about half an hour of fiddling around to figure out what the problem was, but once I did I had no further trouble.

Cafepress says that your site could be ready in minutes, and I suppose that's possible, but mine took pretty much all day Monday to set up (and I'm still doing little tweaks). My problem was that I was setting up a full-on store, and not just a one-item shop that is fairly common on the site. Not only that, but I wasn't really sure about product organization, nor how I wanted the store to look (I ended up going with a somewhat ugly template which I still need to customize a bit more). However, I must say that the Cafepress system makes things very easy and it would have taken me a lot longer to do everything without it.

The coolest thing about Cafepress is that, like I mentioned before, they take care of all the backend stuff (the difficult for me to do stuff). They have printing processes that allow them to cheaply make products one at a time, and that means that my store holds no inventory. Everything is made to order. Accordingly, each item has a base price that Cafepress charges to cover its production and operating costs. Above that base price is my retail markup which will be the money I make off of any orders I get. (In case you're wondering, my markup is in the low-mid range.)

Essentially, Cafepress has contracted me out, on a commission basis, to do the creative work that sells their merchandise. That's fine with me because I get to play designer, and hopefully make some money if the web thinks I'm good enough.

Oh, and that reminds me of the other job that comes along with designer: internet marketer. That's the most difficult part of the whole thing. Though Cafepress offers a simple selling solution, don't expect instant profits. Fortunately, all of their shops can be listed within the shopping half of their site. That way, people who are looking for shirts there might stumble onto yours. But that's not going to get me the level of sales that I want, so I've got my work cut out for me. I will say more about this later.

In the mean time, go buy a shirt.


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