When I wrote about how to make money from blogs, I heard from people who earn cash by creating merchandise through companies like CaféPress. The company enables people to sell T-shirts and other products for a cut of the profit. According to the company's website, some users earn more than $100,000 a year.
Jen Goode of JGoode Designs, who says she earns enough through CaféPress to pay her mortgage each month, found success after plugging away for a year and half, often putting in 16-hour days. She has uploaded about 2,500 designs, many of them cartoon-oriented, such as her popular penguin series. For her, she says, the secret has been to make many different images that are steady sellers, as opposed to creating one or two megahits. Now, she says she doesn't need to put as much time into her shop because she has such a large inventory of designs.
I asked Amy Maniatis, vice president of marketing at CaféPress, how to become one of those success stories. She says that while there's a huge variety in what kind of T-shirts sell well, there have been a few standout hits over the years, and many of them came from witty takes on the day's news. For example:
• Just after the 2000 election, "Sore Loserman" became a hot motto.
• This month, Sarah Palin T-shirts have taken off, both to express support and skepticism. (Even pro-Palin shirts can get a bit saucy, with references to spanking and her looks.) Experienced sellers move fast: Within 24 hours of Palin's joke about a hockey mom being a pit bull with lipstick, a shirt bearing her quote was for sale.
Political shirts in an election year are often a good bet; Maniatis says they make up about 20 to 30 percent of the company's income in those years. As for sellers' own income, they can decide how much their products should cost. CaféPress takes a cut, typically around $15 per shirt. The markup is often about 30 percent, says Maniatis.
If you've had success with CaféPress—or are trying to—let us know below. And post a link to your design so we can check it out.