Yes, more changes in the POD world are coming...
SOCIETY 6 CHANGES: NEW ARTIST PLANS
Back in the Spring, Society6 announced that it would start deducting shipping fees from an artist’s earnings. You can remind yourself about these fees HERE.
But on October 19, Society6 announced something MUCH more dramatic: the launch of its new Artist Plans: Free, Basic and Pro. The Free Plan is free, of course, but only allows an artist to upload 10 (yes, TEN) designs to their Shop and does not allow an artist to set their own prices (rather, artist royalties are set at 10%). The Basic Plan costs $4.99/month and allows 100 designs. The Pro Plan costs $12.99/month and allows up to 10000 designs. With the Basic and Pro Plans, artists can set their own prices. The Pro Plan also comes with a sales analytics dashboard.
See below for Society6’s chart of the features offered by each Plan.
As of November 30, all current Society6 artists (and new artists that create an account) will be required to opt into a Plan, and make sure the number of designs in their Shop conforms to their chosen Plan. Those who don’t will be automatically enrolled in the Free Plan, and all designs in excess of the ten-design limit will be removed. Society6 says it will remove all but the 10 best-selling designs or, if no sales data is available, the most recently uploaded designs will remain. As of this writing, all removals will be permanent. You can read more detail about these changes at the Society6 Blog HERE.
My Goodness. So What Now?
If you’re wondering what to do with your Society6 Shop, or are considering opening one, here are some things to consider. I’ll let you know how they’ve played out in my own decision-making, and what I ultimately have decided to do.
1. SO Much Time Spent
Any designer who has POD shops on multiple sites, such as Redbubble and TeePublic (who have recently announced changes of their own), will tell you that the uploading process on Society6 is probably one of the most difficult and time-consuming. It requires you to create multiple files to ensure that a design looks good on each of its products, and upload speeds can be slo-ow.
For me with my 262 designs, unless I opt for the Pro Plan, this means that all those HOURS (and I mean HOURS and HOURS) of work uploading designs will have been wasted. Even further, if I go ahead now and delete designs under the Free or Basic Plans (which itself would take a lot of time to do), then I would have to spend more hours again in the future if I ever decided to re-upload those designs.
2. How Have Sales Been?
If you’ve had a Society6 Shop for awhile, how have your sales been? If they’re enough to cover the Plan pricing, then it would be an easier choice to go for a paid Plan. But if not or you would barely break even, or if you’re new to the site, what then? This is perhaps where the most soul-searching will happen. For me, I do have fairly steady sales on Society6 and I can see that sales are trending slowly upwards. But it’s important to note that I’ve been working on this site steadily, if intermittently, for 5 years, and some months have definitely been better than others.
3. POD Sites Are So Satured
POD sites are now extremely saturated. Opting for a Plan with a lower design limit may just mean that your art never gets seen. This being said, Society6 notes that there has been tons of non-selling or low-quality designs being uploaded to its marketplace in recent years, impacting the visibility of high-quality content (like yours and I hope, mine!) They believe that having this tiered Plan structure will lead to a more curated marketplace and drive sales of high-quality designs by independent artists, presumably by discouraging spammers and design thieves from maintaining or creating accounts. Hmm, only time will tell.
4. Think Beyond the Money: Visibiilty Is Something To Think About
I have worked with several licensees and collaborators who have found my work on POD sites, and then get in touch with me directly to discuss their projects. So perhaps paying a fee to keep more visibility online can be considered a form of marketing, can lead to other income streams, and can thus be considered just a cost of doing business.
So What's A Surface Pattern Designer To Do?
My Society6 Shop which I opened in November 2018 currently has 262 designs. I sell fairly regularly and I do see a slow upward sales trend over the last 5 years. I know that I have gotten other projects as a direct result of the online visibility that my POD shops provide (though it's unclear how much Society6 has contributed to this).
Given these facts, here’s what I’ve decided to do: I am going to opt in for the Pro Plan for now. It would just be too stomach-wrenching for me to delete up to 252 designs (!) at this time after all the hours I’ve spent. I’m going to keep an eye on my sales to see if the Plan changes do in fact result in improved sales. And to give myself enough time to see which way the wind is blowing, I’ll revisit my decision in 6 months or a year!
If you're curious, I invite you to check out my SOCIETY6 SHOP HERE!
SPOONFLOWER CHANGES: NEW ROYALTY STRUCTURE
Given the dramatic changes happening over at Society6, Spoonflower’s upcoming changes to its royalty structure just announced today, certainly doesn’t inspire in me the same kind of soul-searching.
Spoonflower was one of the few POD sites that paid its artists a full 10% commission (up to 15% under their bonus structure based on monthly sales) on the FULL retail price of an item, even if that item sold for less during a promotion. But starting January 2024, Spoonflower royalties will now be based on the price a customer actually pays for an item, taking into account any sale discounts (but will never reflect a discount of more than 50%).
In addition, Spoonflower also announced that royalties paid out on their finished home décor items (such as pillows, sheet sets and duvets) will be based on the price paid for the finished product, and not just on the amount of fabric used to make that item, as has been the case. Spoonflower notes that in most cases, artists will earn more on sales of these finished home décor products.
You can read more about Spoonflower's changes to its royalty structure at the Spoonflower Help Center HERE.
It remains to be seen how these royalty changes will affect how much a designer earns from Spoonflower. Since many of my own sales occur during promotions, and the fact that I sell much more fabric and wallpaper than finished home décor products, I am anticipating that I may see less royalty income going forward.
BUT, I’m still happy being a Spoonflower designer and their royalty changes cause me no worries. Why? I love their thoughtful community-building; active support and promotion of designers and makers, both on social media and through organizing fun events throughout the year; participating in their inspiring weekly Design Challenges; and the fantastic visibility I get from having a Spoonflower Shop. And the ability to interact directly with, and respond to special requests from, small business owners, interior designers, makers and DIYers has been invaluable and so satisfying to me.
You can check out my SPOONFLOWER SHOP HERE.
I would dearly like to know what you think of my thought processes regarding these upcoming changes to Society6 and Spoonflower for designers. And if you have anything to add, do let me know. As they say, the only constant is change. So true for all of us surface pattern designers, right?!
Jackie Tahara of UnBlink Studio