If you have graphic design skills or great creativity, you may have considered starting a print-on-demand business or selling digital downloads like printables. However, one of the trickiest aspects of this industry is knowing which platform you should use.
Should you use an online marketplace like Etsy that allows you to sell physical products or digital products, or use a print-on-demand marketplace like Redbubble.
Here we’ll compare Redbubble vs. Etsy in a head-to-head comparison to help you decide which is best for you.
Redbubble vs. Etsy Summary
The main difference between Redbubble and Etsy is that Redbubble is a print-on-demand marketplace that handles all of the order fulfillment and shipping. Etsy is a marketplace that allows third-party sellers to set up a shop and sell physical products or digital downloads. It’s possible to sell print-on-demand products on Etsy, but you’ll need to find a separate supplier as Etsy does not offer this service.
With Redbubble, all you need to do is upload your designs or artwork and visitors can buy merchandise that features your design. It’s a mostly hands-off business. Running an Etsy shop requires more activity from the seller, but also presents higher income potential.
The Redbubble Basics
Redbubble is a POD (Print-on-Demand) marketplace that makes it easy to sell your photography or digital art online. It’s an platform that allows independent designers to upload their artwork and have it printed on Redbubble custom products when a customer submits an order. Redbubble will handle all the printing and shipping aspects of the customer relationship.
Redbubble has been around since 2006 and over 700,000 designers and artists have connected with millions of customers looking for t-shirts, posters, vinyl stickers, and more. While the profit margins may be lower than with a traditional online marketplace, Redbubble can handle all of your printing, shipping, and customer support, which makes it a fairly passive business. You can also select the retail prices and profit margins per POD product according to the base set.
You can create a Redbubble account for free, but you must be at least 16 years old. It’s free to upload designs, so you can upload as many or as few designs as you like. You can also check that your artwork does not infringe on other content when you upload.
The percentage you earn is smaller than with other types of marketplaces, as Redbubble automatically deducts its fees, shipping costs, manufacturing costs, and other expenses. You’ll receive your share from sales to your bank account once a month.
To learn more, please see Sell a TON of Art on Redbubble.
The Etsy Basics
Etsy is an online marketplace for creative goods, including crafts and handmade goods (similar to Amazon Handmade), but you can also use the platform to sell vintage goods, as well as digital products. Etsy makes it easy for sellers and buyers to directly connect.
As a seller, you can create and customize your Etsy shop, including your shop banner and profile image, to stand out from the crowd. You can also use marketing and promotional tools to promote your products and manage your customer orders.
Etsy is quite affordable to use with minimal seller restrictions. However, this does mean that there’s almost no quality control on the platform and you need to work hard to stand out from the stiff competition of other platform users.
It’s free to set up an account on Etsy and open your storefront. However, when you create a product listing, there’s a per-listing fee and when the item sells, there’s a 5% transaction fee. If you want to sell print-on-demand items, you can use Etsy as a way to promote your products, but you will need to find a supplier.
To learn more, see Sell on Etsy – How to Open a Successful Etsy Shop.
How the Platforms Work
Redbubble allows you to put your artwork on over 70 different types of products including t-shirts, stickers, mugs, masks, posters, art prints (including framed prints), and more. It’s one of the leading platforms, along with Fine Art America, for easily monetizing your artwork.
The platform works with third-party producers to create high-quality products from hobbyists and fans to pros. Redbubble allows you to have full control over your potential earnings with flexible pricing, but you can also benefit from anti-piracy and watermark features to protect your original designs. The platform also has 24/7 support, so if you do have any issues or questions, you can expect a speedy response.
It is free and easy to open a Redbubble shop. All you need to do is upload your designs and Redbubble will organize the printing and shipping. Once you click on the account creation button, you just need to double-check your profile and account details and verify your payment information. Just be sure to select the correct currency at sign-up, as you cannot change it later. You will then need to confirm your account via an email link, then you’re good to start uploading.
After you have your designs uploaded, you’ll get an email to let you know when you make a sale. The email will detail what you’ve sold, the price, and your earnings. However, the sale is not final until the items have been made and shipped. When the order has been shipped, a manufacturing invoice email is sent to you. You can also check your Sales History page to see all sales except self-purchases.
Redbubble works on a pay cycle and you’ll get paid commission on your sales each month, provided you’ve hit the minimum payment threshold of $20. If sales are not shipped before the 15th or you fall below the minimum threshold, these amounts will be carried over to the next pay cycle.
While the pay cycle begins on the 15th, it does take a couple of business days for payments to be processed. If you use PayPal, you can expect your payment within 5 additional business days, but for bank accounts, it is an extra 7 business days.
To open an Etsy shop, you’ll need to create an Etsy account. You can use the same account to operate your shop and also buy items from other Etsy sellers. When you create your account, you can add a bio and profile photo, which can help you to connect with other members of the Etsy community.
Once your account is open, click on “Sell on Etsy” on the top right side of the screen. You’ll need to select your country, language, and currency, along with a name for your Etsy shop before clicking “save and continue.”
When you have your shop set up, you can manage your store using the desktop platform or the ‘Sell on Etsy” app. You can add elements such as shop logos and banners. You can also post shop announcements, an about section, and details of your shop policies.
When you post listings on your store, you’ll need to ensure that they’re optimized for the Etsy search (by including keywords that people will be searching for), with tags and locations so they’ll also appear in local searches. You can also link your Etsy shop to your social media accounts and pages to promote your products and store.
Want more options? See our list of Etsy alternatives.
Since Redbubble and Etsy are geared towards different sellers, the platforms have some quite different features.
- Product Catalog: There’s a wide variety of products in the Redbubble catalog and each product undergoes quality control checks. This ensures that the print quality is far better compared to Redbubble’s competitors. You can select multiple variants for your art including wall art, stationery, bags, home decor items, gifts, and more. You can also pick different sizes for the images according to the product size.
- Analytics: The Redbubble analytics dashboard allows you to see key metrics at a glance. This includes your popular and top-selling products, traffic sources, earnings over time, and more. This is great for not only monitoring your business’s growth but also optimizing your store and setting goals.
- Affiliate Program: Redbubble has an affiliate program managed through Impact that has real-time click tracking, commissions, and program sales. You can use the program to connect with affiliate partners. Affiliates can post Redbubble links on blogs, sites, and other different channels. When someone buys using your affiliate link, you’ll earn an affiliate commission. To sign up for the program, the Redbubble team will review your application and determine if you’re a good fit.
- The Etsy App: Sell on Etsy is the platform’s mobile app that makes it easy to manage your business on the go. You can use the app to manage customer orders, update items and even respond to customer queries and feedback.
- Promo Tools: Etsy has various promotional tools that you can use for free to help you to reach more Etsy buyers. You can also share your items on social media, so they gain even greater exposure.
- Analytics: Etsy has detailed analytics that can help you to improve your sales. You can see statistics that show performance trends and traffic sources to help you move your business in the right direction.
- Payment Processor: Etsy provides seamless PayPal payment process management, in addition to Etsy payments. This makes it easier for buyers to make their payments for your items without worrying about sharing their financial details.
- Etsy Plus: This is an advanced package that provides sellers further customization options for their Etsy shop, send customers to your own website, get bonus listings, and email interested shoppers.
- Affiliate Program: Like Redbubble, Etsy has an affiliate program that allows you to earn commission on unique pieces that you find and share. You’ll need to sign up as an Etsy affiliate, but this will provide access to the Affiliate Community with exclusive content and rewards. The affiliate program allows you to earn a percentage on qualifying sales less returns, shipping, tax, and cancellations within a 30-day cookie period.
One of the standout features of Redbubble is its superb customer support. You can access support via the help center, online contact form or contact request 24/7 and you can expect a reply within 24 hours.
The Etsy customer support is obtained via specialists in the Etsy Seller Handbook, who provide tips on how to run a successful shop. There’s also email support and you can request a call. Etsy also provides a seller newsletter that’s packed with tips and advice to improve your store and a forum to discuss issuers with other platform users.
Fees and Pricing
Another stand out of Redbubble is that there are no charges to use the platform. However, before you start selling, you should evaluate the base prices for items, so you can determine what artist margins to add.
Redbubble has artist base prices that you can see when you log into your account. You can add designs to your cart to see specific product base prices. The payment cycle for Redbubble runs from the 15th of the month, with a minimum payment threshold of $20, £20, or €20.
Etsy’s pricing structure is a little more transparent and simple. There is a $0.20 listing fee per item and the listing will remain active until it sells or for up to four months. After four months, you’ll need to renew the listing and this will incur another $0.20 listing fee. There’s also a 5% transaction fee when you sell an item and you’ll incur a standard PayPal payment processing fee.
The Etsy Standard plan has no additional charges and offers sufficient resources for new Etsy businesses. However, if you want to expand your toolset, the Etsy Plus plan adds $10 per month to the standard listing fees and expenses detailed above. Etsy Plus also provides a free web address for a year, bonus listing credits, and $5 advertising credits for Etsy Ads.
As we’ve demonstrated, Redbubble and Etsy are likely to appeal to different types of users. Redbubble has more of a “set and forget” strategy. You can upload your designs, set your margins and Redbubble will deal with everything else. You are likely to see lower profits since Redbubble will deduct costs for production, shipping, and other expenses. However, they will also deal with the customer shipping and questions, so you can concentrate on making great new designs.
On the other hand, Etsy is a traditional online store. You’ll not only deal with producing your items, shipping, and any customer service issues. While this has more upfront costs, there is more potential profit in the long run.
In this comparison, which one is best for you will depend on your preferences and requirements. The two platforms are different. Redbubble is an all-in-one POD platform where you can upload your designs, descriptions and tags, choose your products, and sell them directly on the website. From this point, you don’t need to worry about sales, shipping, or customer issues, as Redbubble will handle these aspects of the process.
If you want to establish a POD business on Etsy, you’ll need to connect with a supplier, and upload your designs one product at a time and integrate them into your shop. You will then need to add tags to your listings, verify the shopping details and publish the listing, incurring a listing fee.
If you don’t have funds to start your sales business, Redbubble is likely to be more appealing. You can concentrate on making new designs and leave most of the business management to the platform. However, the potential profits will be far higher on Etsy, where you’ll be able to keep the majority of the money generated from your sales.
If you like the idea of connecting with your customers and building a more traditional style of crafty business, Etsy is likely to be a better choice for you. The listing process will take longer, as each listing needs to be done individually, but you can customize your store and link your social media pages to promote your products and your store.
Both platforms have positives and potential negatives, so you will need to think about what you are looking for and which one will work best for you. Both platforms are free to set up and you’ll only incur fees for listing on Etsy or when you make a sale. So, why not give both a try?
Alternatively, you could build up some sales on Redbubble and use the income you generate to develop your Etsy store, transferring popular designs to the more lucrative platform.
Either platform will allow you to harness your creativity as an artist and build a great side hustle that could turn into a new career.
We hope this Redbubble vs Etsy comparison has helped to show the unique aspects of each platform so you can make the best choice.