UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2017 – The Red Bubble shop has shut. You can read more about the reasons why in this Journal post.
Well, actually, they don’t. Nobody has ever called me that. But if you were looking for a new nickname for me…
I have a new shop I would like to tell you about. You already know about my Etsy shop, where I sell my greeting cards and art prints. I’m excited to tell you that I also have a shop on Red Bubble, which you can find right here (link removed – see update at top of page).
Now, you may be thinking, “why does he need two shops?” and that would be a great question to ask. So, take a pat on the back, well done you. To answer that, we need to match the two up: it’s Etsy versus Red Bubble.
How the design process works
There is little difference between the two shops, when it comes to design. Everything you see was created by me, either from my own photography or as a piece of art that I have created. Rest assured that wherever you look in the Etsy versus Red Bubble debate, it is all my work.
How the manufacturing process works
This is where the differences start to appear.
Everything in my Etsy shop has been made by me, here on the edge of Dartmoor. The greeting cards have been printed on my Epson printer, folded by hand (usually mine) and packaged up. The art prints have, similarly, been printed here at home and mounted, or rolled up and placed in a cardboard tube, by me.
The things you buy from my Etsy shop have all been hand-crafted.
Over at Red Bubble, I am not involved in the manufacturing process. This allows me the opportunity to offer you products that I just don’t have the ability to make myself: canvas prints, notebooks, mobile phone cases, and t-shirts, for example. When you submit your order, the Red Bubble machines whir into life and your chosen item is manufactured by them, using my artwork or photographic design.
I have control over how the design is placed on each product, and over which products I can make available via my shop. But I am not involved in the manufacturing process itself. If you were to ask “what’s the difference between Etsy and Red Bubble?” then, for me, this is the big one.
I care a great deal about the impact that my new business will have on the world. I have done my best to source recycled and sustainable materials wherever I can (you can head over to my Environment page to find out more about the different elements that go into the products that I make). This means that I can say with confidence that I know what has gone into the manufacturing process for the items sold through my Etsy shop. And, let’s be honest, I also know where things could be done better, because you can’t trust anyone who says there are no further improvements that could be made.
At Red Bubble, I cannot know for certain what happens at the manufacturing stage. So I asked them.
I was very impressed by their support staff. They had, at their fingertips, their apparel ethical policy, which reassured me that they care about, and enforce, standards relating to safe working environments, treatment of staff, and minimising their environmental impact. But what is the Red Bubble ethical policy on other items?
This was not readily available, so their support team reached out to their suppliers (the people who actually make the products) to confirm this information. I have been asked not to share the exact details of this with you, for proprietary reasons, however I was reassured by the information I was given that their suppliers comply with the appropriate regulations and are invested in reducing their carbon footprint.
Is this a perfect answer? No, of course it isn’t. We have to take it on trust, and it is far from being 100% transparent. However, they did not have to take the steps they did in order to answer my questions. They could have attempted to fob me off with a quick response. I truly believe that this was properly checked by the Red Bubble support team and I was encouraged by the answers they were able to give me (some of which I can’t pass on to you, I’m afraid).
I will keep an eye on Red Bubble, just as I keep an eye on my own processes and practices. But, based on what I know now, I am happy to place my products through their online shop.
Again, this works differently between the two shops, and reflects the relative amount of manufacturing effort that I put in.
At Etsy, I set the price and choose the postage charges. Etsy charge me a small fee each time I add a new product to my shop, as well as a small percentage when I make a sale. I think this reflects the fact that I am the person putting in the effort to make and send that product.
Red Bubble operates a different model. As discussed, I am not responsible for the physical manufacture of the item, so there are no material or production costs for me. Nor do I post the product; it comes straight out to you from the manufacturer. As such, Red Bubble sets a minimum price for each item and I add a percentage on top, to reflect the work that I have put in through the design process. These two elements make up the cost that you pay.
It means I have less control over the price that is charged on the Red Bubble site, but you – the customer – can benefit from the economies-of-scale that, I hope, help to keep their prices competitive.
So, Etsy versus Red Bubble: who wins?
No one. Or, rather, everyone. It’s not the case that one is better than the other. It is more that they each allow me to offer different things to you. Both allow me to explore my creative side and to produce new photography and art that inspires (hopefully) and is, in turn, inspired by the landscapes around me. I then get to choose where to place that piece, either through my Etsy shop or my Red Bubble shop.
Whichever route I choose, I hope that I am offering something exciting, attractive, or interesting. Something that you would like to hang on your wall, scribble your thoughts in, or pop in the post to your gran.
I have a question…
This is hopefully a good starter for anyone looking to understand the Etsy versus Red Bubble question. But if there is anything else you would like to know, or anything you think I have overlooked, or if you would just like to tell me how awesome you think my shops are (no, really), then please leave a comment below, get in touch via the Contact page, or drop me a message on social media.