As a freelance photographer, I’ve long been interested in ideas for selling photos – perhaps as prints, or on other items. Traditionally, this might have meant having to create and stock many potential products, such as prints, or even mugs, t-shirts and more: this of course could mean considerable initial outlay, with no guarantee of returns.
Nowadays, though, there is the option for “print on demand” – which means it’s possible to just order one item and get it custom printed for an affordable price. This can be in tandem with dropshipping, ie having a manufacturer/producer handle the shipping of even one product to the customer. Sounds easy, even too good to be true perhaps; well, I’m now trying to find out.
I’ve done some searching online for print on demand companies that also provide dropshipping services; perhaps also tying in with the Woocommerce plugin for WordPress. There are several to choose from; and – as you may have discovered – quite a few pages offering advice and information about them.
However: it’s not so easy to find what looks like unbiased information/ actual, objective reviews. The situation is clouded by an abundance of info that appears slanted in favour of the print on demand companies, perhaps as they offer potential rewards such as monies for affiliate links.
Anyhoo: from what I can tell, there are a few major players. I’ve so far looked at Printful, Yoycol and Inkedjoy; currently got test products on order through the latter.
Printful: major player, impressive operation; but far from Hong Kong
One is Printful, which originated and evidently still headquartered in Latvia; I’ve seen a long review that looked sound, indicating Printful is an excellent company, including as it has heavily invested in printing equipment etc etc. A very good website; seems a well-honed operation, with more products than you can shake a stick at – clothes, home decor and so on.
The Woocommerce plugin seems good; does synchronise products from Printful to Woocommerce store, and evidently fully handles product orders – including shipping, and deducting amount payable to Printful.
However, I’m in Hong Kong; and will mainly focus marketing efforts here. So, shipping from places like Latvia is relatively expensive, especially given there are many manufacturers just north of HK, in mainland China.
Hence, I started looking for a company in Hong Kong or mainland China; found a couple of options.
Yoycol: cheap, yet not ready for prime time
I learned of Yoycol, which gets mentions for being a low cost print on demand company, based in China and shipping worldwide.
Yoycol looks to me like a Printful wannabe (and after all, why not?!). Likewise an extensive product range; but while the prices seem right, my limited experience with the service found it wanting, even woeful. To me, seems half-arsed, aiming to make money from foreigners[chiefly in the US, and Europe?], without putting in what’s required for even half-decent service: may have some good people employed, possibly; About Us info seems impressive; but looks to be serious problem with management.
I’ve had a few odd interactions with Yoycol customer support. In an early one, suggested they might change “mental wall [art/paintings]”, as accidentally comic typo. Seems to have been changed to “Rectangular Tinplate Wall Art”, so I’m glad there’s been a response.
I’ve received a couple of times what seems a standard message re time zones; not seeming appropriate for me as I’m in Hong Kong:
We appreciate your patience as we are in different time zone. …
I tried the Woocommerce plugin, but had major issue with currencies getting scrambled, instantly reducing price of a trial item by factor of 7.8. Tried explaining, including with screenshots:
Price on Yoycol site – $ means US$ I believe [US$18]
Price on Woocommerce: HK$ [HK$18]
Same number but is very wrong!
Replies included this rather mystifying suggestion:
And the screenshot page is your store payment page or yoycol page dear?if your store page, you could set your shipping template for trying dear. …
I pointed out, “The problems are with your plugin darling”; but only this in return:
Our yoycol ‘s currency of the product is dollar at present dear.
Could you kindly please change the price in your store? if you could adjust, please adjust according the dollor.
I again mentioned the problem is that the plugin takes US$ figure, and results in HK$ with exactly the same number; so there is no code specifying the currency from Yoycol is US$. Was told they would check with technical team, but I also got this:
Wouldn’t it be fine if you converted the price on our yoycol website to Hong Kong dollars and then filled in your shop dear.
The point you would like to change is you would not like the $ after HK, is it right?
I tried being as clear as I could: “If it costs US$18 on Yoycol, I want to have same amount imported to Woocommerce. US$18 is not the same as HK$18”.
I figure the same issue would also occur for sites with default currency in Singapore, Taiwan or Australian dollars; and for all I know, other currencies, whether sterling or whatever.
But also, I had looked at Yoycol as it appeared shipping in China is free; and Hong Kong is in China, politically anyway. Yet I looked more, and found it costs more to ship to Hong Kong than it does to Europe or the US. I asked about this, and was told:
Regarding your question about the price of the shipping, it may caused by various factors, it may caused by the Traffic and road conditions dear.
Hope you could understand.
No, I cannot understand
Hong Kong is in China, next to mainland China
UK is half a world away
Traffic conditions, are you joking dear darling love?
I was told this issue was passed to technical department, which would confirm with me.
But anyway, I became utterly unimpressed with Yoycol. Can also note that it seemed that in transferring product prices from Yoycol to Woocommerce, limited to having prices including shipping – not useful if might want to charge differently based on where a product is shipped to. Yes, can then change the prices manually, but that’s not
Had also joined a customer support group on Yoycol; seems odd to be in a group for this, but anyway…. Latest message seems rather plaintive query from someone wondering what’s happened to their order, why not arrived yet?
Inkedjoy: seems on the ball but let’s see what some test products are like
Inkedjoy is the rebranded print on demand section of Eprolo, which is evidently a large, well established dropshipping company.
Like Printful and Yoycol, there are many products to choose from, with an emphasis on clothing.
There’s also a Woocommerce plugin, though evidently relatively little used – WordPress reporting 200 downloads, compared to 500 downloads for Yoycol plugin, and over 60,000 downloads for the Printful plugin.
I’ve installed this plugin, and it seems to work ok: imported products and their images to the store.
Also, does note that the currency used on Inkedjoy store should be the same as the default used on Wooocommerce store; so I could switch to HK$ on Inkedjoy, and get intended prices imported to Woocommerce.
Also, there are multiple shipping options; these include one for Hong Kong (SF Express, which many people in HK must be familiar with), at a reasonable price rather than more expensive than to distant lands as per Yoycol.
Unlike Printful, there are no options for “automatically” enabling the Inkedjoy shipping options within Woocommerce store; nor are any monies transferred from Woocommerce to Inkedjoy – meaning orders are not seamless, Woocommerce store owners have to make payments for individual orders. I did ask to check this, and received sensible answer as confirmation:
This is the order fulfillment step for Inkedjoy-POD ：
1. When your customer pay order at your store, order will be sychronized to Inkedjoy-POD.
2. You need to go to Inkedjoy-POD order page to choose the shipping method and pay cost of the product and shipping.
3. We will send the package to your customer after receiving your order.
4. After done, the tracking number will be updated on the Inkedjoy-POD and sync to your store.
In addition, shipping methods for Inkedjoy-POD or Eprolo will not sync to your store, but you can use them to set up various shipping methods for your store.
So it’s not as slick as Printful; but for Hong Kong the shipping fees/ time needed are better with Inkedjoy.
As I write, an email just in from Inkedjoy, about a t-shirt order I’d made:
Regarding order#9900777352, we found in the background that the pattern you uploaded has a black background, and the edge of the picture is very rough, as the attachment shows, it result in poor print quality.
Please reprocess the picture and send me the pattern with transparent background. Thanks for understanding.
Please send me the pattern in png format.
To me, also a plus: quality control here, rather than just slapdash printing and sending. Issue arising from me, thinking black background on black shirt would be fine. But that’s with my zero experience of doing this! Expert advice welcome.
Anyhoo, now awaiting results of a few sample orders….
Update: sample orders arrived: canvas prints, mug, bag: all good/very good, and very well packaged.
But the Woocommerce plugin seems unloved; just done review on WP site:
Well, even tho not updated for over a year and not tested with most recent WordPress versions, the plugin does work, to a fair extent: can Push a product to Woocommerce store, with things like product name, various images created by Inkedjoy, SKU[s], price.
Not every product, maybe; just having trouble Pushing a t-shirt; not sure if there’s a glitch due to all the sizes or something. Had success with some other products, like mugs, canvas prints, bags.
Only simple pricing choice possible; basic price including shipping.
– so not at all as sophisticated as Printful plugin, which allows for various shipping choices to multiple countries; and even transfers money to Printful for smoother order fulfilment. [With Inkedjoy, you get the money, then head to Inkedjoy to make the payment.]
Inkedjoy gets strong reviews for customer support; has been my experience till this issue with t-shirt. Sample products I’ve received are good, and well packaged.
Overall user friendliness/customer understanding could be boosted, however; including re “design another SKU” when no one is really designing and selling SKUs, but products/variants that have SKUs.
Just wonder if there’s enthusiasm for such improvements; also whether this plugin is becoming abandonware… …