Part of what I do as Dr Mo the Shirt Guy is perform store audits for folks. I recently did a round of free audits from a TikTok post, and I was — shook — by what I found. Out of 30 or so people who asked for audits, probably half had stores that were 100% made up of designs they’d bought on Etsy and reused with no edits or alterations.
People … friends … dear readers … you cannot do this and expect to be successful. Success in Print on Demand absolutely hinges on uniqueness and the ability to stand out in a crowd. Doing well in organic search (i.e. Google) and Platform Search (Etsy, Teepublic, Amazon, etc) are critical in this business; using designs that dozens of others are also using isn’t the path to positive SEO.
As an example, here’s a popular SVG for sale on Etsy, one of the top-returned results for “pumpkin spice.” It’s a cute graphic, with some fun fall and Halloween-themed elements. At $5.99 for a scaleable SVG file with no license restrictions, it’s a good deal, no doubt about it. If you’re a Print on Demand seller looking for quick fall designs, I can understand why it’s tempting to buy this and a slap it on a POD listing. However, an Etsy search for “Pumpkin Spice Shirt” returns at least 6 existing listings for shirts with this exact design, plus dozens more with designs that look suspiciously similar. Right away, you’ve got a design that’s incredibly diluted, with little hope of showing up in search results, and even less hope of standing out from the crowd if you do.
I saw this over and over again. Not just one or two designs, but entire stores made up of these designs. And in most cases, these stores had made zero sales. It’s a hard audit to deliver, but my verdict was the same in every case: ditch the generic non-unique designs, and start making something original.
Don’t get me wrong. SVGs and Design bundles aren’t all bad! They’re great if you want to make products for yourself or friends, or already have a customer lined up. They’re also great to extract elements from (if the license allows) to use in reimagined, unique designs. And with many hovering around the $5 mark, they can be cost effective in the right situations.
The important thing is to use these tools for the right purpose, like you’d use any tools. Basing a Print on Demand store around purchased designs is decidedly not the right purpose.
If you want more tips on making making unique designs, stick around my site a while and you’ll get some tips. Also check out my TikTok, which has dozens of good ideas and hacks.
As always, thanks for reading, and good luck out there!