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★ How to Open a Cafepress Shop | Getting Started | Beginner's Guide - Part One ★

Updated on May 14, 2014

How to Design & Sell Your Own T-Shirts

Cafepress is a print-on-demand (POD) business where anybody can upload their own designs to the website, place them onto a wide range of available merchandise, and then earn a commission each time your design sells. When an order is placed, Cafepress prints the item, ships it out and deals with all the customer service aspects; leaving you free to just concentrate on the designing process. This is perfect for creatives who do not necessarily want to carry out all the admin involved in having your own business.

Having tried the two main PODs (Cafepress and Zazzle), I definitely find Cafepress easier to understand, navigate, organise and generally use, so my Cafepress shop is the only one I concentrate on now. However, some people prefer Zazzle instead, so it's really up to you which one you are most comfortable using.

I hope you find this tutorial series helpful :)

So How Does Cafepress Work?

- Cafepress allows you to set up your own online shop(s) where you can add your own designs to a range of products and sell them for commission payments. You are therefore basically paid for your designs, as Cafepress do the printing, packaging and shipping of the products with your design on, on your behalf - so it's as hassle-free as possible for you.

- You can have as many basic shops as you like for free but they are very restricted with very limited tools, functions, product space and freedom to change your shop appearance. These are a good option to get started to see if you like using Cafepress, and great if you only plan on doing few designs. It is a one-page shop and allows 80 products to be displayed.

- The other option is to pay as little as $4.99 a month for a premium shop which allows up to 500 shop sections so you can organise your shops into categories and sub-categories. You can display thousands of products, you can change the HTML (optional) if you'd like to change the shop appearance, and it is aimed at people who are serious about making money. I personally have a premium shop and I've always made the fees back so I've found it very much worth it to have the freedom and control of a premium shop.

- You create the designs yourself, upload them onto Cafepress, pick the products you want to feature the design on, and add these to your shop (see below for the beginner's guide I've written). Your products will then be available in your shop, which will have it's own web address. You need to drive people (traffic) to your shop in order to get shop sales. You can choose the 'mark-up' for your shop products, which is the money you will receive when an item sells. You have the freedom to choose your shop commissions.

- If you 'opt-in' to the marketplace (which is done automatically), your products will be featured in the Cafepress marketplace on it's main website This is in addition to them being displayed in your shop. Your designs in the marketplace can be searched for by Cafepress visitors so basically, it is Cafepress who drives marketplace sales, you who drives shop sales. Because of that, Cafepress choose the mark-up on your products in the marketplace, which is set at 10%. So for each of your products that sells in the marketplace, you get 10% of the sale price, which is dictated by Cafepress. Shop sales often receive a higher commission because the mark-up is dictated by you, and it is therefore very important that you try to promote you shop to get visitors and therefore, hopefully, more shop sales and more money.

At the end of 2013, the commission was reduced to 5% on designs created specifically for fan pages (TV shows and movies).

T-Shirt Printing Books, Transfer Paper & Equipment

If you don't want to outsource the t-shirt printing to Cafepress but want to do it yourself instead, these products will help you out:

Step 1: Opening a Shop

- Go to the Cafepress website. Click on the 'create and sell t-shirts' link in the top right corner (small text).

- Scroll down to the information about basic shops and premium shops. Choose which type of shop you want and press 'Get Started'. It is best choosing a basic shop to start with as it's free and you can always upgrade to a premium shop at any time in the future.

- Click 'Get Started' for your chosen shop.

- If you are already a member of Cafepress, sign in, but if you aren't, follow the instructions and enter your details to become a member.

- A page like the one above will appear.

- When you are choosing your shop name, try and pick a memorable name.

- Use your chosen shop name as your shop ID if you can (it might already be used by someone else) but without spaces. If this is not possible, try adding another word on the end of you shop ID rather than numbers, as words are searchable by potential customers. Try and keep it memorable though, and possibly try and include a keyword such as 't-shirts' or 'environmental' for instance, depending on what style of designs you intend to create.

- Leave the 2 tick-boxes open and press Submit.

Step 2: Finding Your Way Around

- A page will appear showing your shop website URL (www address). Press 'Build Your Shop'.

- Click on the 'Your Shops' tab at the top of the page (1 on the photo above). Here you will see a list of your shops. In the right-hand column there are some blue links. Explore through them:

* 'Cafepress Balance' is the cleared commissions you have earned so far.

* 'Shopkeeper Bio' is where you can add information about yourself to your shop sidebar (optional).

* 'Payee Information' is where you must enter your Paypal address and sign up for Paypal payment if you want to be paid that way, or select the 'By Check' tick box to be paid your earnings by check. Enter your name under 'Commission Payable to' and select the amount of money you want to earn before you get your money sent to you.

Fill in your contact information further down the page, and then your tax details if you are a U.S. resident.

* 'Payment Options' is where you put your credit/debit card details to pay for premium shop fees (only used when fees are due).

* 'Email Notifications' lets you sign up or unsubscribe to various newsletters.

* 'Bulk Buying Discounts' is purely information on the discount prices of bulk buys (obviously!)

- Go back to the 'Your Shops' page and click on your shop name (number 2 on photo above).

Step 3: Edit Shop Profile

- Here you have options to upgrade to a premium shop, buy your own products (without paying mark-up), plus 3 other options.

- Click on 'Edit Shop Profile'. Here you can change your shop name and Shop ID (website address), plus add a title, description and meta-tag description to your shop. The title is a short description of your shop which will be shown as the title in Google search results. Therefore try and put in keywords relevant to your shop, and try and write a title that will entice people to visit your shop.

The keywords/phrases section is where you simply list all of the keywords relevant to your shop, with commas in between each word or phrase. As 'Cafepress' says: "Think about what keywords you would enter to search for your products from Google or other external search engines. Brainstorm by listing all the possible keywords/phrases your target customer would enter to search for your products."

The meta-tag description is where you can write about the style of your designs and what you sell, using keywords a-plenty.

- Come back to amend these text sections after you have added some designs, to check that what you have written is still relevant to your shop designs.

Step 4: Customizing

- Go back to the previous page and click on 'Edit Shop Appearance'. Here you can upload a logo if you like (optional) and write a shop description. The description is optional but it may help your shop to be found via search engines.

- Go back to the previous page again and click 'Manage Products'. Your shop front will appear. Click on the 'Storefront Info' tab. I usually leave it all blank on this page, but you can fill in the 'default' settings if you like, and these settings will be automatically added to all products you add to your shop. You can change your mark-up on your product prices too. It's probably a good idea to select 'marketplace pricing' so that your shop prices are the same as those in the Cafepress marketplace. But obviously, you can choose whichever option you like here.

- That's the basic set-up done now, so the next stage is to add the products.

Step 5: Premium Shop Extras

- If you have opened a premium shop or upgraded your basic shop to premium, then you will notice more options and different functions to those described in steps 1-4.

- Under the 'Your Shops' tab (as shown above) again, click on your shop name (in my case, my shop is called applepip).

- In the bottom section, titled 'Advanced Features', click on 'Update Tracking Information'. This may look complicated but it's very easy and allows you to use Google Analytics (once you've signed up) to see how many visitors you have, where they've come from etc. which is very useful. This page is self-explanatory and it even provides video help.

- Go back to the previous page. I will talk about the other advanced features in part 4 of my beginner's guide because these are only used after you've added some products.

- As with the basic shop, there is an option to buy your own products without paying the mark-up. There is also 'Payment Plan' which lets you choose how you would like to pay your premium shop fees in the future. The 'Edit Shop Profile' section is the same as the basic shop (as described in steps above).

Step 6: Premium Shop Appearance

- Click 'Customize Shop Appearance'. You will get a choice of 3 links. Click 'Custom Templates'. Browse through the templates in the left-hand column until you find a colour scheme/style you like. Click 'see sample store' underneath the template you like to see it in use, and if you want to use it for your shop front, click 'use template'

- Notice that there are 3 tabs at the top, all of which were the options on the previous page. When you've chosen your template, click on the 'Colors and Fonts' tab.

- You can select the font combination used on your site here (I just keep it on the default option), plus the colours of every type of text on your shop website and background/border colours. This is optional so you don't need to change them - they'll just be the default colours.

Step 7: Custom HTML Code

- Click the 'Custom HMTL' tab next to view the HTML code for your shop. It is imperative that you backup the code here because if you lost it you're in big trouble! I copied all of the code into a Word document, and I update it whenever I change the HTML for my shop. You do not have to change the HTML at all, but it does give you the opportunity to give your shop a unique look and style. Click here for amazing resources on learning about HMTL code.

- You can add a description/welcome message in the 'Store Description' section, and this text will be displayed at the top of your shop front.

- If you have signed up for a visitor tracking website like Statcounter, enter the tracking code in the 'Store Decription' section after your written description - if you've added one.

- If you have a banner you'd like to put at the top of your shop website pages (e.g. with your shop name on), then upload your banner to an image sharing website such as or When you've done that, find the direct link to your uploaded banner image, highlight the link, right-click and copy.

If you don't know how to find the direct link, click here and have a look at steps 4 and 7.

When you have copied the direct link, paste it into the code shown in the image above (you'll have to type it out).

Also insert the rest of the details indicated into the code above i.e. shopID, shop description and shop title. The title and description will help with being found by search engines. Copy the whole of the updated code and paste it into the top of the 'Header' HTML section. Save and then go to your shop website to see how the banner looks.

Click here for help on making your own banner.

Step 8: Finished

- The image above shows my shop's front page, where you can see my banner. The arrow points to the text entered in the 'Store Description' section. You can also see I've got a custom background (brown stripes), and I've also coded my sidebar myself. These things are all possible using custom HTML, although it did take me some time to get my head around it. Searching for guides and information on the Internet has proved useful for helping me change the code how I wanted.

- There are various tick boxes on the Custom HTML page. They are all self explanatory. I have chosen to tick the 1st and third tick boxes, then unchecked the sidebar boxes because I've coded my own - although you might want to keep yours. Then at the bottom of the page you can choose to have a search box in your shop - I've chosen to add one in my sidebar.

- Go back to the 'Shop Management' page and click on 'Manage Sections & Products' to go to your shop front.

- When you click on the 'Storefront Info' tab, there are the same options as with the basic shops.

- Your premium shop is now ready to add products to. The instructions for this can be found in my beginner's guide part 2 and my beginner's guide part 3. I hope this has been useful :-)

Do You Have a Cafepress Shop?

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Please Leave a Comment!

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    • wellingtonboot profile image


      6 years ago from U.K.

      @anonymous: Exactly - it's definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme! Keep it up :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ive been with Cafepress for just over a year, I have gained quite a decent following through my Home Website CP stores and Social Networks. Patience and Dedication it would seem is the key. I have designed uploaded to my stores over 500 designs in my first year, its been so much hard work, as I am more of an artist and illustrator, and don't give over to creating text on tees that much, so yeah its been tough, but from what Ive learned it can take anything from 2 to 3 years to really make a success of it, I haven't seen much in the way eanings last year, but sold a great deal of Apparel within that time, I did notice a steady increase with earnings, so hoping to break into the market this year given the seo and marketing Ive been putting in. Cafepress is legitamite, but I also feel is a lot of painstaking work , i it worth it, well that's a personal choice. I believe in my creativity and imagination to keep on with it, only time will tell wether I become successful.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @anonymous: Nice topics Good work. click here visit here

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. Been on Cafepress for a while now. I like your non-hype, realistic approach to describing what one can get out of Cafepresss.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I started two different CafePress shops for two different kinds of art. But, I got lost trying to set them up. I had trouble setting the art up to display on one shop and the other I mostly just got worn out trying to figure out how to get it right. Glad to find your guides today. I will get back to work on them later this week - with your help now.

    • lunagaze profile image


      7 years ago

      thanks for this lens it is very helpful to me

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'd like to insert my cafepress site into my google site. What is the html I need to use to do this? I don't want a banner, I just want to have the shop page all sitting there.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you so much i found it useful

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wicked lens! I have just opened a cafe press shop and I am doing tons of research. Do you know if I can or should meta tag each of my pages individually? To increase traffic? Check out my lens to see my store - I would absolutely love to have an expert opinion on it! :)

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Very informative and helpful. Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thankyou for explaining how to open a cafepress shop in a simple and easy to understand way. I am on my way there now to open my first shop.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 

      8 years ago from Houston

      Nice lens. Very helpful and informative.

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 

      8 years ago

      Thanks! I'm in the no-but-I-want-one category. Great to hear there's a free, if limited, option. I'm in a learnin' mood an' gonna ride this wave before it splashes! lens-rolling you to my how do you do that.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have to get serious with this as part of my multiple streams of income goal.

      This lens has inspired me. Thanks

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Hi! Thanks for your series on Cafe Press. I started with a few small things last summer, but was confused on how to continue. Your advice will help me through some things I had questions on. =D

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great info! I've had a shop for a year and decided this is the year to take it seriously and make some much needed $$$. I've added this to my lensroll!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      8 years ago from UK

      thanks for the info, I hope to be getting myself a presence on either Cafe shop or zazzle soon and your information will help me to make a choice


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