This is a really exciting time for 3D Designers because they can sell their designs in multiple ways now, from selling their own products on their own website, or selling their designs to a brand, to selling digital designs to be 3D printed close to the consumer. Below we briefly examine several ways to sell your product designs
First, heere are a few things you need to consider (that are not covered in this post) and keep in mind while going over the options.
- Who is your customer and where are they more likely to buy your product?
- Is your product customizable or personalizable?
- What is the price you want for the design and for the product?
Here are some ways to sell your products/designs and the advantages of each method.
1. Selling on Your Own Website
Selling on your own website gives you a lot of control – what to offer, how, and for how much. This is especially great if your product can be customized or personalized – you can control this process entirely on your website. However, you also have to bring the customers to your website. If they are visiting your website anyway – great. Otherwise, you will have to market to them and potentially pay for leads. We plan a separate post in this series on marketing your designs. There are some other costs you have to take into account: a shopping package that will execute the sales for you is needed in any scenario and additional costs depend on what you are selling: products or digital assets like commercialized design files.
Selling end products requires manufacturing the products, keeping inventory, and taking care of logistics and shipping. These costs should be taken into account and may add significant overhead to the cost of the product and its marketing. You will need an up front investment and an interface from your shopping package to your logistics and shipping (which, in small volumes, can be fulfilled by you manually but in higher volumes need automation).
1b Digital Design Files
Selling digital designs, whether they are LEO files* or unprotected files, means allowing your customer to download files. This means you have to have more storage attached to your website than if you’re just storing pictures of products. Storage is cheap (to a certain size it can be free) and easy to implement, but you need to make sure you choose a shopping cart/e-commerce package that is compatible with downloads, like Magento or Opencart. Both of these packages have free editions for those who are tech savvy (or have friends who are).
2. Selling on a Marketplace
Another common way to sell goods these days are marketplaces. These can include brick and mortar shops and galleries as well as online marketplaces. We will concentrate on the latter. Online marketplaces provide you with the surrounding logistics and occasionally shipping and inventory services as well. Marketplaces can draw customers that designers would be hard-pressed to find, especially if they already serve a wide clientele. It is important to find out how much effort (and money) goes into promoting the marketplace to attract those buyers. In return, the marketplace will take a commission from each sale, ranging from 5-50% (a wide range!!). Sometimes the marketplace is a side business of a player that wants to offer other services, such as 3D printing services or shipping/logistics services. In these cases, there is added income, aside from the sale itself, to the marketplace owner and so commissions on the lower end should be expected. Let’s look at what you can do with 3D printable designs specifically.
2a Specialized – 3D Printing Only Marketplace
A specialized marketplace for only 3D printed items will attract people that are drawn to new technology, designs using new technology, and the opportunities they present. If this is your target audience, these marketplaces are a good choice. They include cults, threeding, and many others selling 3D designs. Several large 3D printing providers offer marketplaces that feed their manufacturing business – they will typically manufacture the items themselves and sell the final item, not the digital design. These include most prominently i.materialise, and their high end marketplace/brand MGX, as well as Shapeways and it’s over 30,000 designer storefronts. Shapeways, take a different approach – they name the price they want for 3D printing and shipping your item and you, the designer, can add a markup to charge the consumer, that goes to you. From this markup Shapeways takes an additional 3.5% commission.
2b General Marketplace
A general marketplace appeals to the general public. If your designs are generally appealing, regardless of how they are made, this might be your best bet. The average Joe and Jane are drawn here, and they would not think to shop in the specialized marketplaces. This is the general public shopping online. General marketplaces might have an additional income stream from providing logistics and shipping services to designers and brands, allowing the marketplace to take more competitive commissions. Not all marketplaces are compatible with selling digital goods and allowing downloading of files. For example, Etsy is not compatible with this. Make sure to check this before committing. Commissions vary by marketplace and even by category of goods. Amazon, for example, takes a 12% commission on 3D printed items but takes a 50% commission on 3D printable design files.
3. Designing by Commission Only
Being commissioned by a design brand, getting paid a fixed design fee, and letting the brand take care of all commercial aspects lowers the selling headache to “just” selling to the brand. It can be hard to get the attention of top brands and they tend to pay relatively little. If you’ve got a hit on your hands, you will likely not benefit or benefit very little. On the flip side, if the product is a failure, the brand is the one putting up the money and taking the financial chance. Lower risk, lower reward.
4. Designing with Royalties
Rather than being commissioned only, you will get paid a percentage of the sales (4-10%, depending on the product category), which makes this lucrative if you have the right manufacturer who can produce and market successful products. But it leaves a lot of financial risk with you, as many designs will never reach the market while you have done lots of design work.
5. Advance Against Royalties
Many high end design brands and designers combine the two above: you get a fixed design fee (or advance), that is lower than under the ‘commission only’ model, but you will also get royalties once the product starts to sell well. Your royalty income will accumulate until it reaches the level of the advance, offsetting it. Thereafter, you get paid monthly or quarterly again but now in royalties. This gives you the security of at least being able to cover your costs, but also allows for potential higher returns if you design a commercially successful product. You can see why this is a popular model with designers.
6. Working for a Brand
Being an employee that designs is the most extreme case of selling your designs. Designers receive a monthly salary, that is assured and on time for the length of their employment, and in return all their designs belong to their employer. There are advantages to a monthly pay check (paying mortgage and bills, for example) but the artistic freedom in this possibility varies widely based on the employer. Several 3D printing companies have bought design firms or hired designers well versed in creating 3D printable designs such as the game below, by Matthijs Kok for 3D Systems.
How do you sell your designs? Please share your favorite mode in the comments.
http://www.shapeways.com/product/V6J8YQSWG/iphone4-iphone4s-shade and http://www.roeldeden.nl/phonelamps.html
LEO stands for Limited Edition Object – LEOs are digital design files wrapped in a way that allows the designer or owner to control what changes can be made to the design and how many 3D printed items can be made from the particular file. For more information on how to make your own LEOs from your 3D printable designs or if you have any questions.