Merch by Amazon: Launching Your T-Shirt Business Successfully
- 1 Starting A Merch by Amazon Business
- 2 What Is Merch by Amazon?
- 3 How to Sign Up For Merch by Amazon and Get Accepted
- 4 Your Merch Dashboard
- 5 Trademark and Copyright
- 6 Amazon Best Sellers Rank (BSR)
- 7 How To Research Merch by Amazon Niches
- 8 Speed Up Merch by Amazon Research – Stop wasting your precious time!
- 9 How to Create Merch by Amazon Designs by Outsourcing
- 10 How to Optimize your Merch by Amazon Listing Keywords
- 11 Growing your 6 Figure Print on Demand Business
- 12 Merch by Amazon Success Stories
- 13 Wrapping It Up
This all changed when Merch by Amazon was released.
Starting a t-shirt company used to be incredibly difficult unless you had factories, buyers lined up, and lots of blank shirts. With the introduction of POD or print on demand, it became even easier. Merch by Amazon is a type of print on demand, and enabled me to thrive in an industry where most seem to fail. I want to tell you exactly how to navigate the waters and successfully run a 6 figure print on demand business.
Before I get into the details, I want to tell you all a quick story.
A little background:
If anyone is unfamiliar with my story (which most probably are), it all started off at college.
I had just moved to a new school and I desperately needed a job as I was almost out of money. I applied to everywhere that had an online application. In total, I applied to 83 jobs and only received a single phone call.
That phone call was from Target (shopping center) a few miles from my apartment pushing shopping carts from the parking lot into an elevator and up to the second level where the store was located.
After 6 months of this job, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Everyone complained about their job, but no one ever DID anything about it. Day in and day out, all I heard from everyone I worked with was how they wished they could do something else.
One day I was closing up at Target making sure all the carts were collected and put away for the night before I jumped on the bus and headed home. After I was finished, I walked to the bus stop and waited about 45 minutes before the next bus should have shown up. After about an hour, I began to realize something was wrong.
It was a holiday where the buses were not running at all. It was now about 12:30 in the morning, and I was the only person out at this cold little bus stop.
I ended up walking the 5 miles home (which my girlfriend loves to make fun of me for, (why didn’t I just get a cab?)).
That was the last straw. I had to leave that job and get out.
I still remember that night, and when I got home, the first thing I did was Google how to make money online. Through my research I somehow landed on Flippa.com and saw 5 page sites selling for 40k. Surely I could do that! I taught myself how to create simple WordPress sites, and that quickly turned into a full time business for me as an affiliate marketer.
Fast forward a few years and I had graduated college. My plan all along was to attend law school. One day I woke up and realized I did not want to wake up every day of my life and put on a suit. I decided to take a chance on myself.
Worst case scenario? I have to go get a job like everyone else. Best case scenario? I get to live my life on my own terms.
It ended up working out and I made 100s of affiliate sites, ran any kind of paid traffic I could get my hands on. I launched mobile apps, sold click bank products, and start selling on Amazon via private label products from China. All my inventory from China kept getting stuck in customs because I had no idea what I was doing. I jumped hurdle after hurdle but eventually i was ready to move on.
That was when my now business partner sent me this article:
Amazon Introduces Merch By Amazon, A Way For Game Developers – Or Anyone – To Sell Print-On-Demand Tees
I quickly read through this article and it lit a spark in my head. I could immediately sign up and sell print on demand t-shirts ON AMAZON. I didn’t have to front any money, and the risk for me was close to zero. Every time one of my designs sold, I would get paid. I signed up immediately and opened up Photoshop on my computer. Since I have no idea how to use Photoshop, I had to watch a few quick YouTube tutorials on how to begin creating some simple merch designs.
That very first week I saw my very first sale and the royalty showed up in my account. I did not have to drive ANY TRAFFIC or pay for anything. I simply uploaded an image I had made, and Amazon took care of the customer.
- Displayed the product
- Accepted the order
- Picked and printed the t-shirt
- Shipped it
- Amazon PAID me (after doing all the work)
I couldn’t get enough! This was amazing.
Within a few simple months, I took everything I knew about online marketing (and hiring a team of virtual assistants) and started scaling up my opersations as fast as possible. I needed MORE designs, MORE research.
Within half a year I was running a 5 figure a month t-shirt business through Amazon… part time! Sales continue to pour in each and every day for work I did THREE years ago.
CNBC even wrote an article about me:
Let’s get into the details so I can go over everything you might want to know about creating and running a successful t-shirt business on Amazon. You can use these skills to expand this t-shirt business onto other platforms with the SAME resources you create just a single time.
Starting A Merch by Amazon Business
- What is Merch by Amazon?
- How to Sign Up For Merch by Amazon and Get Accepted
- Your Merch Dashboard
- Trademark and Copyright
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank
- How To Research Merch by Amazon Niches
- How to Create Merch by Amazon Designs by Outsourcing
- How to Optimize your Merch by Amazon Listing Keywords
- Growing your Print on Demand Business
- Merch by Amazon Success Stories
What Is Merch by Amazon?
Merch by Amazon is a print on demand platform, or POD for short. They allow anyone and everyone to sell Merch on Amazon by uploading their own artwork to the platform. What started off just as two types of t-shirts has expanded quickly to included Standard T-Shirts, Premium T-Shirts, Long Sleeves, Sweatshirts, Hoodies, and now PopSockets. I am very sure there are more products on the way!
The Merch by Amazon program launched in late 2015 and funny enough, was originally marketed towards App developers. The idea was that app developers who had their app on the Amazon app store would be able to sell t-shirts inside their mobile applications and be able to actually make some money from them. This is likely why you have not heard of the platform.
The Merch by Amazon platform is incredibly easy to use. Here is how it works:
- Apply for an account and get accepted
- Upload your design/art
- Pick colors for the product that look best
- Give it a title and set your price
- Publish it on Amazon.com
After those steps, your products are now live, for sale, and searchable on the biggest marketplace in the entire world. When someone buys your product, you earn a royalty and Amazon will do all the work (pick, pack, ship).
When the program first got released and was targeted towards app develops, Merch by Amazon was open to everyone. Since then, the platform has exploded in popularity and they turned it into an invite only system. You now have to apply for an account.
The good news is that these applications are being approved within a weeks time generally so you should apply right now!
Remember, Amazon is still shipping physical goods. This means that they have to build new factories, hire more workers, and get everything up and running in order to offer higher capacity to sellers. This is the reason for the invite only system.
Once you actually sign up and get your account approved, you will notice that the system works on a “tier” level. This means that you will have to many “slots” available for design uploads. Once you fill those slots up, you cannot upload any more until you have proved to Amazon that your designs are selling. Simply put, upload your “tier” level, SELL that many, and then you get an upgrade so more slots are available to you.
Another way to look at it is like a gaming system. There is a level one, where things are generally easy. As long as you play by the rules and complete level 1 successfully, you will advance to the next “tier” so more slots are available. The amount of items you can submit per DAY also increase once you advance in the tiers. In order to make more money through the Merch by Amazon platform, you will want to upload quality designs, but also upload many of them a day We will go over this a bit later int he article.
If this sounds like it might be something you would be good at, go and sign up for Merch by Amazon and request an account. It is literally that easy. You do NOT NEED TO BE a graphic artist to find success in this business. I am not at all, but I know how to do a few things VERY well, which I will be teaching you in the remaining bits of this article.
Click here to apply for a Merch by Amazon account
How to Sign Up For Merch by Amazon and Get Accepted
Signng up for Merch by Amazon is both a quick and easy process and should NOT cause you very much stress at all. In general, it will take you 5-10 minutes to sign up and go through the application process. However, there are a few things you need to get ready before hand, so let’s go over what those are.
Step 1: Gather your information
- Business Contact Info – You want this information with you for your personal business
- Bank Numbers – You will want both your bank account number and routing number for the account you want to receive money in.
- Tax ID – You will wither want your SSN or some other type of tax identification number.
Step 2: Request your Merch Invite
This is probably the quickest part of the entire process. Simply head over to https://merch.amazon.com/landing and you will see a “request invitation button:
Step 3: Login
You need to have a regular buyers Amazon account to finish this process. This can be your sellers account, your typical Amazon buyers account, or just a brand new account you just created just for Merch by Amazon. I would suggest the last one so that you keep everything separate, but that is just me.
Step 4: Start The Application
Once you log in, you will then be able to see the application. You will want to fill our your company profile, banking information and then take the tax survey. These are the 3 sections that you must complete before you get to the application itself.
If you do NOT have a company profile already set up then you will want to use your first and last name. I would suggest setting up an LLC, but using your name for now will suffice. You can always change these things later.
Above you can see we are applying with a company.
It is VERY IMPORTANT that when filling in this information that you enter in your real details. The Merch by Amazon team will check on this and if it is fake information, you will likely be rejected without any other way to apply.
Enter in your payment and banking information, and then take the tax questionnaire that they provide. This is extremely easy. If you find that you are not from the USA, you will want to make sure you avoid the 30% tax withholding that Amazon keeps. This only works if your country has a tax treaty with the USA, but you can read more about that in this article here: https://neillassen.com/how-to-avoid-the-30-tax-withholding-for-non-us-amazon-sellers/.
Step 5: Finish the application form
Now that you have all the rest filled out, this is ALL that is left. The entire “request invitation form” is literally just this single page.
Industry Type: This is pretty straight forward. If you have an LLC and you filled out the form that way, I would suggest that pick a small business from the drop down. However, if you are just using your name, you more than likely will want to select novelty t-shirt business. There are some other options there, but these two should cover 99% of people.
Organization Name: This is going to be the name of your business. If you are using an LLC, then the name goes in this box. If you are using your personal name on the account, then this is your personal name.
Additional Information: This is the part that everyone gets wrong.
Many people will want to simply write a sentence or two here.
This is where you want to make the case to the team reading your application that they should accept you! SELL yourself to them. Why would you make a great addition to the platform?
Think to yourself for a minute…Have you ever done any work in the POD (print on demand) industry before? It is OKAY if you have not, but you might have some work to do. If you have, provide the links to the merch team here! If not, then take some time to actually create some unique designs and get them onto some other platforms. This is probably the number 1 piece of advice I can give you before you sign up. Merch by Amazon is a business at the end of the day and they want to make money. If you can demonstrate that you have something that will make THEM money, you will be accepted. This means that any designs you put up on another platform, do not half-ass them! Make them excellent! You can always resuse these designs on the Merch by Amazon platform once you are accepted.
I have always told people they should have 10 designs ready to go before they even apply. If you do not have 10 designs, we will go into this later, but get 10, and put them up on any of these platforms:
There are a lot of options out there, but I would highly recommend Etsy+Printful. This takes a little bit longer to set up but you can make some REAL MONEY here (I have a buddy clearing 10-15k a month selling POD shirts on Etsy).
After you have put some shirts up on different platforms, you can begin linking these in your application. This shows Merch that you have actually put in some effort and are not there to waste their time.
Make sure you put anything else relevant that you want the team to know. If you own a brand, put that in here! Do you own a trademark? Link it! Have you ever licensed an artist or another product in your business? Link that too!
If you are an artist that has some sort of actual training, make sure to mention it!
NOTE: Most people reading this are actually going to not have ANY OF THESE and that is okay. I would highly recommend putting up the 10 shirts, but in the rest of your application just be honest with the team. Tons of people I have met in this business are not artists, but got accepted and are learning as they go along. As long as you are honest with the MBA team, they should be willing to give you a chance.
Website: This is the last step that you have to complete. It says that the website is optional. What this is going to show though, is that you have an audience, or at least a public presence somewhere out there on the internet. I would really recommend that you set one up. This should increase your chances of getting accepted and also lets you show off your t-shirts in one convenient spot!
Almost everyone who reads this probably will NOT put in the effort to create a simple website, so if you do, this will put you far ahead of any of the competition.
I actually ended up creating a video on how to do this via our software channel here:
If you are more of a blog reader, here are the steps to create a website step by step that should take no longer than 10 minutes:
Click on “Submit” and you should be good to go! Now it is just a waiting game to be accepted to the program.
They will give you a button to download templates so that you can start designing for Merch by Amazon right away. I would highly suggest that you do this NOW so that by the time you are accepted, you are ready to upload right away!
Your Merch Dashboard
If you are used to making money online or just working your way around different programs, then this section can be skipped.
However, Merch is new to many people and it is their first venture into making any sort of money online. I thought I would go over how to get familiar with the dashboard and exactly where you can find things.
Let’s get to it!
The first thing that you see when you log in to your new merch account is a page that looks like this:
This is the Merch by Amazon dashboard, and will show you a few king things.
First, it will show you how many slots you have available, and how many you can upload per day at the very top. You start out with 10 slots available which means that you can upload 10 designs before the system will tell you that you have reached the limit. The Merch program works on this tier structure so you must upload and sell 10 designs before you can upgrade your tier (to 25 slots).
Once you have actually uploaded 10 designs and made some sales, you will get tiered up. Tiering up lets you upload more designs total, but also more designs each day. The more you upload, the more designs you will have for sale on Amazon.com so this is important.
Merch by Amazon Tier Levels:
- Tier 1 – 10 designs
- Tier 2 – 25 designs
- Tier 3 – 100 designs
- Tier 4 – 500 designs
- Tier 5 – 1000 designs
- Tier 6 – 2000 designs
- Tier 7 – 4000 designs
- Tier 8 – 6000 designs
- Tier 9 – 8000 designs
- Tier 10 – 10000 designs
There are tiers in between, and some that are much higher than these. There are even a few 100k tier accounts out there! Sometimes, people may get tiered up and even skip a tier.
That being said, these are the main tier levels when you first start, so keep that in mind when you are uploading your designs and trying to make even more sales!
When you first sign in, you will be looking at this tab, which is your dashboard page.
This page will show you every product that you have put up on the Merch platform and if it is a live link or not. If this is your first time, this will be blank but once you put some shirts up, you will begin to see them under recent activity on the bottom left hand corner of the screen.
Directly to the right of these products, you will see any updates that the team at Merch by Amazon thinks you should know about. This is where all communication will come from so if you see something new here, READ IT! It might possibly be a Terms of Service update, and it is very important to follow any instructions they give you.
At the top of this page in a little blue box, you will see how many products you have sold in the last 7 days and how much royalty you are owed.
Above the stats you will see how many products you have live on Merch, what your tier level is, and finally how many products you are allowed to upload per day.
The next tab is the create tab. This can be found int he top menu next to dashboard and where you are going to be spending a lot of time in the future. This creating process is very easy, but I will go over it.
Once you click on the create tab, you will be brought to a screen where it allows you to choose your product, upload your images, and choose if the artwork is on the front or the back of the shirt.
If you are a higher tier, you will also be able to pick what marketplace you want to sell your clothing in.
After you have uploaded your artwork and picked what type of clothing you want to put the design on, you simply click save, and move to the next screen. The next few screens ask you to pick colors and a price, and finally you are able to list the product on Amazon for sale!
The manage tab is where you will be keeping track of the shirts you have put up on the platform, making any edits to these shirts in the future, as well as deleting products. This will show you if any of your designs have been taken down by the Merch Team, or any violations you my have.
You also get to know the dates yo uploaded your shirt designs and what price everything is selling at.
As you can see, there is a filter drop down which allows you to see different statuses of shirts.
This will be completely empty if you have not uploaded any shirts before. Once you upload your first design, you will see it show up here with an “Under Review” status. This will eventually go into review, and once it passes, will go live for sale on Amazon.
It will go from “Under Review” to “Started Processing” and then finally to “Processing” before it goes live. If this takes a few hours or even a full day, do not be alarmed! It can sometimes take a while for brand new designs to get approved. Once they go live, anyone can purchase them live on Amazon.com.
NOTE: Currently if you put up a design and it does not get a sale in 6 months time, Amazon will automatically remove that design. You will be able to reupload the design when that happens.
This tab is where you will be spending a LOT of yuor time once you really start get going on MErch. This will allow you see both your products that have sold, what marketplace they have sod, and revenue and royalties that Amazon owes you.
There is also a small sub tab called earnings that will show you exactly how much Amazon will be paying you (after all returns are taken into consideration)
I always hop into the analyze tab multiple times a day to see how the account is doing and what I have sold lately. Click through the products you sold each day and see if someone left a review!
Keep in mind that Amazon will pay on a Net 30 schedule. What this means is that you get paid a month after the sales were made.
Next, we have the resources tab. This is going to be located in the upper right hand menu. Everyone should become very familiar with the resources tab because this is where you can find an overview of the platform, but more importantly access to the FAQ, content policy and documents!
This is also where you can send an email to the Merch Team (although I recommend you only do this when there is a real issue).
Do NOT just skip over all this information because it is a lot of words (it is). READ IT. If you do not, and do not understand it, you are jeopardizing your success in this program.
I would start by reading the content policy here more than a few times: https://merch.amazon.com/resource/201858630.
If you are not willing to read through all these documents, you are not ready to start your own business.
Right next to the resources tab is the my account tab. This is going to show you the information you filled out when applying for Merch by Amazon: profile, tax information, payment/banking info.
This is where you can change this information such as your email address, or your business name. If you ever have tax documents (and you will if you sell shirts), you will grab your 1099 here.
Other than that, the last tab is sign out, but I am pretty sure that needs no explanation.
Trademark and Copyright
Before I can get into the fun part of running this business, I first have to go over some impotant information about trademark and copyright. Without the basics here, you are putting yourself at risk of getting kicked out of the program without knowing why.
Let me just be blunt: Trademark and Copyright are KING!
If you have heard of these words before but are not really sure what they are, let me go over that. Simply put, trademark and copyright are intellectual property protection for assets. Each of them protects a different type of asset, but they are ways for people to protect their work.
If you hear the word copyright, you can generally think of artistic or literary materials and works. A beautiful painting, or a book would be eligible for copyright protection. Trademark on the other hand, ould protect things such as names, slogans, company brands, and logos.
Think of this. If you took a phrase and some text, and arranged it into a design, you would be able to copyright that shirt design. This means that no one else out there would be able to sell that exact design, or otherwise you could go after them for damages legally.
Now, if you wanted to use a brand name, that brand name would have to NOT be trademarked. If a name gets trademarked, it is protected.
When it comes to the Merch by Amazon business, as long as you are being unique and not copying other sellers, then you will not need to worry about copyright. Do not use characters you do not own the rights to or anything like that. IF you copy other peoples work on Merch, this is a copyright violation and you will get kicked off of Merch. Amazon does not want bad actors selling on their platforms and they will give you the boot without any further chances. Do NOT risk your account over something like this.
Trademark is something you will probably interact with every single day of your life if you become a Merch seller. These are expressions that are generally recognizable and that some people may have protected for their brand. If this is the case, you will not be able to use them on Amazon Merch.
Some common phrases are already trademarked and you would have zero idea. An example I like to use a lot of the time is “Aged to Perfection”. This is a general phrase but if you try to put it on a shirt on Amazon, you will get a rejection because it has a live trademark.
You need to make sure that ALL text you both put in your design, but also your title and bullet points when listing a design have been checked through the USPTO database. This stands for the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
You can watch a video going over exactly how to use this here:
Do NOT skip watching the above video. You will need to check the USPTO every time you list a new shirt for sale.
Amazon Best Sellers Rank (BSR)
There is just one more thing I need to talk about before we jump into the good stuff here.
Amazon BSR, or best sellers rank. This is a metric that every single product on Amazon will show. This is a number given to a category on Amazon.
This number will go down when something is purchased, and go up the longer an item has not sold. This number is related to sales in the same category so it will flucuate based on how everything else is selling too!
While it can be hard to do, you can use this number to determine sales volume. While most of the products in Merch are in the clothing category, this is what we will base our sales volume estimates on. The longer you sell on the platform, the easier it becomes to guesstimate how something is selling.
Generally, you can expect a 100k BSR in clothing to equate to around 1 sale a day. This does NOT mean that a 100k BSR in tools is going to be the same. Remember, everything is relative.
If you scroll down the page of any product, you will get to the product description and it will tell you the BSR or Best Sellers Rank. This particular shirt has a BSR of 64,643 in clothing. From this information, I would estimate that this is selling 2 or 3 a day (100k is around 1 per day). You will notice that the main BSR is in Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry. This is the top level BSR and what you want to look at. They will also give you some sub numbers, but this does not really help in determining how well a product is selling.
You NEED to understand this because this is how you find customer demand.
This is the name of the game!
Finding where customers are spending their money (demand), and then bringing them a better product (supply).
How To Research Merch by Amazon Niches
By now, the Merch platform is 3 years old and there are a lot of sellers on the platform. If you want to see success on Merch, listen to me when I say this is by far the most important step (research). If you do not take the time to properly research what you are selling, you are going to be doing nothing but wasting your time. This is going to take a bit of practice, and is in no way a quick process. If you are willing to follow it though, put in the work, eventually this will be the best part of the business (as you can outsource mostly everything else).
You HAVE to do your research properly, or you will fail.
Let that sink in before you keep reading…
Alright, still with me? Great! After multiple years of successful selling on the Merch platform, the strategy I have landed on has been easy and can be replicated time and time again. That strategy is 3 simple steps.
- Find where customers are spending their money
- Look at your competition
- Provide the market a better product
If that sounds like a no brainer, it’s because it is!
Clothing is so easy to sell when you are offering exactly what the market wants. Yiouy just need to see where these customers are buying (what platform, what type of merch, and at what price point). Once you figure out what they are actually buying, you can see how many other people are selling to them. Once you have that, all you have to do is come out with a better product (in this case a design), and then give it to the target audience at a fair price. We will talk about fair price a bit later!
You can accomplish this entire process on Amazon, looking at keywords and BSR (best sellers rank).
Niche by Keyword
This is my favorite way to do research and you will see why right now.
Head over to Amazon and enter the first thing that pops into your mind in the search bar and follow that up by typing “t-shirt”.
Click on search and see what comes up. When looking at keywords in the Amazon search results, remember that anything that really provokes feelings or are inspired by passion are going to be some of the hottest sellers. People buy what they are passionate about time and time again.
The biggest lesson you can learn before you jump into this is that you are NOT your target audience.
You are NOT your target audience!
You need to give the customer, or the niche what they want, not what you want. If you do it backwards, you are not very likely to make any sales at all.
Let’s take a keyword and step through an example. Let’s use “Farming”.
Enter “Farming T-Shirt” into Amazon and click on search.
You should notice right away that there are lots of results (page after page of them). Lots of different designs rank on the first page, and some are pretty funny! If you notice, in the upper right hand corner there are more than 1000 results out there for this niche. This is pretty typical for most niches you will type into the search bar.
So what we are left with is that the Farming niche on Amazon has a lot of shirts on the platform. However, we are not really sure if anyone is buying these shirts, if they are actively spending their hard earned money here, or if there is just a lot of shirts up for no reason.
Even if you see a lot of products up for a certain keyword/niche, this does not really mean that they are big sellers, or there is much money in this niche right now.
Sometimes, sellers will flood the platform with designs for something they THINK is going to be a trend, but never really takes off. If you were checking a niche like that, you might notice a lot of shirts, but if there were no customers, you would be wasting your time.
The process of going through all of these results is going to take a LONG time. For the most part, it is going to be pretty boring, but if you do not get a full view of a niche, you are not doing this properly. You want to get a full scope of the field before you decide to enter!
Try following these easy steps in order to find a winning niche:”
Steps To Niche Research on Merch by Amazon
- Decide on 10-20 different niches. These can be really broad, something you like to do, or things that other people are interested in.
- Search these categories or keywords on Amazon followed by “t-shirt”.
- Go through EVERY listing on the first 10 pages for each niche. You want to navigate to the product description in each one of these listings and look for the BSR. This will tell you exactly how well the product is selling. (This tells you if there is demand here).
- Ask yourself if you think you can offer this niche a BETTER product.
- If you can offer the market something better, add it to an excel sheet (the idea, or the URL). You will pass this off later on, or use it to create your designs after the research phrase.
- Repeat this process hundreds of time.
Note: Remember the goal here is to find niches that have a lot of products that are actively selling. This is going to show you that there is customer demand here, and they are buying in that niche. If you can come to market with better designs, and multiple at that, you can take some of this FREE traffic that will look at your products, and end up making sales.
I typically look from 100k-800k BSR. This best sellers rank tells us that every day to a week or so, the product is selling. That means the customers are spending money in this niche, and they are doing it time and time again (remember to check all the products).
Giving the customer something unique and different really isn’t that hard, and if you can add some humor to it, you can easily take some market share from this niche.
The reason that I look at the higher BSR ranges is because there is less competition there. If something has a best sellers rank of 1, everyone will go into that niche. If the best sellers rank in above 100k, there is less competition there, but ALSO customer demand. If you sell just 1 shirt a week per design, and have thousands of designs up, you can easily make a 5 figure income over time. These royalties add up very quickly!
…Now, once you have a spread sheet going, keep adding to it. You want to make sure you can add your own unique flair to a niche in order to make sales.
YES, you will need to go through tens of thousands of Amazon listings. This is just the price to entry if you want to be a successful Merch seller. The entire time, you will be building out your spreadsheet of niches you want to go into yourself.
If you put enough time into this, you eventually have a catalog of designs that sell every once in a while and they keep doing that year of after. This build up makes the royalties start pouring in, which you can then use to invest back into the business.
Niche by Brand
Searching by keywords is great and all, but sometimes you simply run out of ideas, or just do not have that initial keyword to start your Amazon search.
This is where I like to change directions and start looking directly at brands.
What this means is that you are going to use someone else’s research, to show you what is selling well, and where they decided to go (niches with demand). This means you can then again, come to market with a better product, and make money!
Let’s go back to the example I showed above about the farmer t-shirts. You can see it here in this Farming Amazon listing:
Right above the review stars and title, you will see the brand up there. It looks a little spammy, but it says “Farmers Tractor t shirts tshirts tees t-shirts”… okay this is incredibly spammy looking. However, that is the brand.
This is the brand name that this seller decided to list this design. If you click that brand, you will be taken to other products that were listed under this same brand within the Merch by Amazon program. You can see if this niche is in any different niches, OR if they have different sayings and phrases in the farming niche.
It turns out, they have multiple shirts listed under this brand (64 shirts as of writing this). You can scroll through these results and see what else the market might have, or might be missing (again making sure to check the sellers rank to see if customers are actually purchasing).
You might come across some brands that only have a single design listed, or some brands that have 10s of thousands of products. Triple G Mavs has over 20,000 products listed under their brand and counting. Mid sized brands are a great place to do your research and let someone else take over the hard lifting for you. Remember though, you want to be giving the market something different and unique. You still need an edge!
These research methods that I have laid out above (both the niche by brand, and the niche by keyword) are the two research methods that I have used since the beginning of the program. You will want to go through each page of the designs until you have a foundation of niches. I call it a foundation, because that is what you will build your account off of. I would recommend 50-10 amazing niches where you think you can give the market something better than currently exists. Do this process over and over again, until you have looked at tens of thousands of different Amazon listings. Once you master this technique, you will easily cross the 5 figures a month market. Just make sure the designs are good, and you know the market wants what you have!
Speed Up Merch by Amazon Research – Stop wasting your precious time!
When I first started on the Merch by Amazon platform, what I just typed out above are the exact steps that I followed. However, things are a little different now.
I wanted to scale up faster, and build out more products but the research was taking so much time!
This is actually when we created our own software that would take the exact steps that Ilisted out above, and automate the longest part of the process. We worked for a LONG time on the MVP, and finally decided to release Merch Informer in October 2016 to the public.
- Merch Informer pulls up the best selling shirts in order of the keywords you search without having to go through hundreds if not thousands of listings. Merch Informer actually lists them IN ORDER of best selling designs.
- Allows you to save, download, and pull images, descriptions and prices from a list of favorites. You can also use this to design off of, or send to a designer.
- Grab detailed statistics about the competition and see who you will be competing with.
- Allow you to spot trends before they are “hot” or “taking off” allowing you to impliment your own designs for search visibility.
- The Merch Hunter allows you to see the best selling shirts on Amazon currently in order from best selling.
- A full web based designer
- multiple research plugins
- Complete trademark database to keep you safe from infractions.
And a LOT more that you can probably get by clicking on the link above.
From the example earlier with the farming t-shirts, we can see what it would look like inside of Merch Informer. You can take all of this information that you see, and create huge spreadsheets with the click of a single button. You will never again need to actually copy and paste anything. If you want to, be my guest, but this basically took the 8-10 hours a day that I was spending doing Merch Research, and turned it into 30 minutes to an hour every day.
I use these spreadsheets to actually send to my designer with a single click of a button. We will go over virtual assistants and designer ssoon, but this is by far the easiest way to grow a Merch by Amazon business. There was a need in the market, and our software fills it.
If you want to check it out, it has a 3 day trial, of you can enter the coupon code: founder21 for 21% off for the life of the account.
All of this data in one place is pretty powerful (which is why we created the company). If you can use this data to find easy to rank keywords, then making money in the clothing market is incredibly simple.
How to Create Merch by Amazon Designs by Outsourcing
Once you understand how the entire research process works (which you should after reading thr previous section), then the rest is actually pretty easy. All you need now is some designs to upload to the platform and then some titles/bullets. When it comes to creating designs, you have two pretty simply options. You can either do them yourself, or outsource them.
Starting off, I always recommend that you create a few designs by yourself. This might just show you exactly WHY you should eventually turn to outsourcing. You do not need to be a designer, you just need access to a design program. When I started out, I had access to Photoshop (but am no designer myself). Now days, you can use the Merch Informer designer (inside the MI software), if you do not have any design software on your computer. Simply having access to some software was enough to allow me to get my first 100 or so designs online. Tjhese started selling even though they were not the greatest looking designs out there. However, they made people laugh, and that meant that customers were buying them. If I was not sure how to create something (curved text) all I had to do was search YouTube for some tutorials. This is the easiest way to learn, and it is free.
I you want to create your own designs, you can use one of the following:
GIMP is a free design program (although a bit harder to use) that you can use to get your teeth wet. If you are already signed up for MI, the designer is free to you as well. However, I would not go out to purchase Photoshop or Illustrator unless you have some time to actually learn the basics of design. When you are doing your designs, make sure they are 4500X5400 pixels and 300 DPI in order to be upload ready.
Now that we are done with talking about doing designs yourself, we can get to the fun part!
Outsourcing is king, and how to build a real business.
My go to place for hiring people is currently: Onlinejobs.ph.
Previously, I used Upwork a lot, but lately have been getting a LOT better candidates from Online Jobs.
No matter which one you go with, you fill find VAs (virtual assistants) who are willing to create amazing work for around $4-$5 per design. I will be showing you my EXACT script that I use in order to post a job and get candidates to apply.
I am looking to hire a graphic designer for my online clothing business. Workload would be around 100 unique designs per month (up to 400 designs/month for the right candidate).
Workflow will be as follows: I will send you design ideas/links. I need you to create your own unique design using your own creativity and artistic talent. The creativity will be up to you, however, the design must be original.
you will need to have an understanding of Creative Commons licenses and trademarks in general to not infringe on the work of others.
In exchange for high quality work, I am willing to write 5 star reviews o UpWork.
The first batch of designs will be small as we learn to work together. I will require links to any artwork used to make sure that the designs are available for commercial use.
I look forward to doing business with you!
This script should get a lot of interest for your job. I would highly recommend changing it up just a little bit because a LOT of people have copied my script over the years.
Each person that applies will get decent chance with me as long as they give me a good portfolio that I like. If I like their quality of work, I will give them a chance and ask them to provide some sample designs. If the quality is great, in it’s own unique style, and has not been copied from anywhere else, i will hire them for a longer term job.
I personally train my graphic artists to be creative in their own right. I will provide them links to Amazon, but they are responsible for coming up with a completely new and unique design. The end goal is always to get something created that is the best in the market and currently not available on Amazon I want to provide that new perfect product!
If you are worried about outsourcing on OnlineJobs or Upwork, just know that everyone starts somewhere. It is okay to hire people and fire people. THIS is the way that businesses scale up quickly: they hire staff!
How to Optimize your Merch by Amazon Listing Keywords
If you have found the perfect niche to go into, and have done the proper research to get a great design created, you just have a single hurdle to conquer. You need to optimize your listing (or put your first listing online!). This part is really not that bad at all. There are just a few simple steps in order to get your product the search visibility that you want: aka, making your product show up in front of hundreds of millions of Amazon customers.
The uploading process for Merch is really not that complicated. There are just a few simple pages:
- Upload your design image
- Select the colors of the shirt you want to sell on
- Pick a price
- Give it a title, brand, price, bullet points and a description.
After those few pieces, your listing is live on Amazon!
Optimizing these is a bit of an art though:
Price is very important. To get this right though, you need to think like an economist and be laser focused on supply and demand.
Price will determine if your customer buys your product, or passes it up in the search results. The shoppers will look at your product (the design) and they will make a decision if they want to buy it or not. The first goal you should have is to make sure that your design is AMAZING and the best on the market. You want this to grab their attention and get them to click on your listing. If you cannot do this part properly, the price will never matter.
Once the customer finally click son your listing though, that is when they are considering buying your piece of clothing (design). The thing they will look at right after the design is over to the right at the price. They are shopping on Amazon because they know that they are going to get the BEST possible price! Keep this in mind when you are pricing your products.
What I like to do is price right in the middle of the niche. The easiest way to do this is simply take all the result sin the first page, add the prices together, and then divide that number by the amount of listings on the page. This is going to be the median price point. This is also REALLY easy using Merch Informer:
If you are someone who is looking to build a following (or maybe you even have one), then this is the brand that you want to put in your brand slot. This little brand slot is really up to you, but can have a bit of an effect on how well the product ranks.
Currently, I opperate my business under multiple Merch by Amazon brands that are all related to sub niches. I might have one brand for BBQ shirts, another brand for Farming shirts, and then yet another brand for entrepreneur designs. If you were doing a shirt about entrepreneurship, I might name it “Be your own boss designs” or something similar.
The only thing you need to make sure when entering your brand name is that it is not trademarked, and that someone else is not already using your brand to put their shirts under (you want that search space to yourself!).
I can pretty much say without a doubt that the title is going to be the most important piece when it comes to ranking your Merch by Amazon products within Amazon search. This is where keywords are going to matter. However, before we get into that, we need to talk about the art of “niching down” and why this matters for your sales.
The example I always like to go back to is designing something around the keyword “cats” around Halloween. When you upload this design, you want to look at everything else that is selling in that niche and then price your product around the middle of the pack, or even a bit lower in order to get the search visibility.
When you get to the title piece though, you might be inclined to call it a ” black cat t-shirt” and move on. This is going to be a huge mistake and something that can be avoided.
When you see the amount of results on Amazon.com you will see that if you were to name your shirt “black cat t-shirt” that your shirt would be one among 10,000 other results. This is going to make it damn near impossible to rank, and you will mostly likely be hidden among all the other results. This means that you will probably not sell anything.
Your chance to make sales comes from niching down!
Take a few seconds here and just think.
What would a costumer search for?
If they wanted to find YOUR design, what exactly would they search for? I used “black cats” as an example, so maybe that design has some big scary looking ears on it.
Just by adding another keyword in there, the results change up.
The more targeted keywords that you add to your title, the LESS competition you will be facing as it niches down your product. Instead of competing with 10,000 other possible products/people, you are now only going to be competing with 1,000+ listings.
If you keep niching down and adding keywords to your title, you will notice that you start to rank for more terms.
If you rank for lower searched keywords, you WILL rank higher for the bigger niche (cats). It really is that simple. Just remember to only add keywords to your title when it makes sense, not just for the sake of adding keywords. This would be a waste. You only want to add keywords to your title when it makes sense.
Let’s finish up this example by adding a few more keywords. Remember this is a cat design for Halloween. Adding a few more keywords changes the game:
Just by adding a few keywords, the competition jumps from over 1,000 results to just 414.
I have been using this example for 3 years now (it used to be only 42 results). This just goes to show you exactly how easy it is to niche down though. You can lower the competition that you face simply by giving your product a better title. This will give your products a better chance at ranking (and thus visibility), and this is what makes you money!
If you want to put product sup on Merch, this is EXACTLY what you want to do. It will take time to fill out all your product properly, but long time, it is more than worth it.
The second most important part of any listing is the bullet points. This is going to help you rank your listing, right after your title is properly optimized for the Amazon algorithm. You want your bullet points to be keyword rich but you do NOT want to be keyword stuffing. This is a delicate balance sometimes.
Always make sure that the keywords you use in your bullet points are related to the design you have uploaded and make sure to write full sentences.
I always read my bullet points out loud to myself. If they do not sound natural, then they are sounding spammy. Once the sentences sound good by saying them out loud, you are ready to continue.
Lots of people will take these two slots to describe their product.
THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME!
Describing your product is not going to actually help sell and close the customer into a sale. This is just simply a waste of your time. If you are willing to take your two bullet points and work with them, this will give you a great shot at actually marketing to your customer while at the same time ranking within the Amazon algorithm. You want to take this space to tell the customer exactly why they have to have this t-shirt design RIGHT NOW and why they should NOT WAIT!
This is your chance to be a salesman/woman. Make it count!
Here is a sample bullet point that I like to use for the example above:
Bullet Point 1: Staying home on Halloween this season and just want to snuggle up with your kitty in the covers? It sounds like you need to purchase this cute kitten tee for your Halloween Costume Today. Purchase it as a gift for that lonely friend who is always home with their black cat.
Bullet Point 2: This Cute Black Cat Ears Halloween T-Shirt makes a great gift for friends and family.
These bullets do not just say WHAT is on the shirt, but tell the ,WHY they want to take the time to actually purchase it. You can see the keywords that were added here (halloween costume, gift, kitten tee, kitty, cute kitten), but that they also fit into a complete sentence that was used to SELL the customer on purchasing the design.
The one thing you need to know about the description is that it actually does not matter much at all when it comes to ranking within Amazon. That being said, they ARE taken into account when it comes to ranking in Google search, and the product description is what is shown on Mobile. I used to completely ignore this section until I figured out it was what was shown on mobile (and not your bullets) so I started including my first bullet point as every description.
While it says that this slot is optional, I would highly recommend filling it out. In the long run, Amazon traffic is great, but if you can get additional traffic just from ranking in Google, you have basically assured yourself a great income into the future.
Growing your 6 Figure Print on Demand Business
If I am being honest, I do not know an easier method to make money on the internet. Merch by Amazon is easy, but it is a numbers game. The more great designs you have up on the Merch platform that are both optimized but also researched, the more money your business will make. However, almost everyone I tell about Merch is NOT willing to give it a try. That just makes it a great opportunity for those who do try it.
If you want to scale this business up quickly, you need to be able to designate people’s time with your own money. This means that you you need to have some money in order to outsource the different aspects of the business (such as design). I would recommend that you outsource abuot 2-5 designs per day and over the course of the months, put those up. This will equate to 60-150 designs per month that are brand new! These are basically your inventory of product and what you will build your portfolio off of!
If you have just been accepted to Merch by Amazon, you might be wondering why I recommend 60-150 designs right off the bat when you only have 10 slots available (as a brand new MBA account)? Well, this is because Merch is just the tip of the iceburg.
There are so many different other platforms out there that have their own traffic as well.
We got into this because Merch by Amazon does not require you to drive traffic, but there is also lots of other platforms where your target audience is spending their time. Amazon is going to bring the most customers (generally), but the other platforms are more than worth it.
I even know a few people that are matching or even BEATING their Amazon income by listing on Etsy and the other platforms. Here are a few other options to upload your Merch to:
There are a lot more POD or print on demand company outs there, but the top 3 recommendations I would make are Printful + Etsy first, then Redbubble and finally Teespring. The Printful + Etsy Integration is bar far the most lucrative if you are willing to put in the work though. My friend Joel personally cleared over $17,000 last December alone on Etsy. That is on TOP of his Merch by Amazon earnings.
Remember, any designs that you get created can be re-purposed for ANY print on demand platform and put on multiple different products.
Merch by Amazon Success Stories
At this point, we are 10,000 words into the article so I am seriously impressed if you have made it this far!
A lot of what I am talking about might seem foreign and you may not believe me if you are new to the entire world of print on demand. That, I understand!
I am a firm believer in trying, but if you are a stranger on the internet, I know why you might want to see proof of what I claiming! I want to go over 3 people that I knew personally and have sound success on the Merch by Amazon platform over the time that I have been selling.
The first person that I want to mention is my own girlfriend who originally thought Merch by Amazon was nothing by a waste of time! Since she ended up going to Nursing School, her upload time was completely cut short, and on top of that, we experienced a hailstorm in Colorado that ended up totalling her car.
Not only did she have ZERO car to drive, but she had about $100,000 worth of student debt on top of that. I finally convinced her to get uploading on Merch by Amazon and she now earns near a full time income on Merch in her spare time off as a Nurse.
Here are her earnings to date:
The second is someone who I have become pretty good friends with over the years. His name is Scott and I met him when I was really deep into the affiliate marketing space. I started telling him about this Merch opportunity but he really was not interested. After a few months of me talking constantly about it in Skype, he was finally convinced to give Merch a try. He started out very similar to me (using Photoshop to create text based designs), and then eventually hiring out a designer after getting a few sales.
The business that owned this account was eventually sold by Scott and all together, he cleared over $200,000. Not bad for me talking him into starting!
Pulling up the rear is someone who I also met during my Merch journey named Greg.
I have always told people that if they want to hit huge numbers, they need to put in the effort and outsourcing in order to upload lots of unique designs.
However, there is still room for people who want to put in a bit of minimal effort. If you want to just learn what you are doing, and get a few extra dollars per month for another project (or beer money!), then that is a possibility as well!
When I asked Greg about a year ago if I could use his screenshots, he said this:
“This is what you can achieve on just 3 hours a week”‘
Wrapping It Up
This is one of the longest articles that I have ever written so congrats for making it to the end. I really appreciate you reading the entire steps of how I was able to start a business selling t-shirts over the internet.
If you use this post as your guide, you should be able to dedicate your time, and leverage the millions of buyers that Amazon has to offer. This can easily be used to build a 6 figure clothing company within the first year if you play your cards right. It will take work, but using the template that I have provided, I know you can do it.
Using print on demand technology is certainly not new, but NOW is the time that you should be taking advantage of it. There ix zero cost to start up, and even zero cost to acquire customers (Amazon does this for you). Since you do not need to spend any money to start, you can spend that extra trim and energy in learning the tools of the trade, how to run ads, and how to design.
Designs are really going to be the majority of your cost if you do not want to run ads. There is ZERO customer service and ZERO inventory that you need to have on hand. This is really just as easy as it can be. All you do is create designs, and earn royalties on each sale on the biggest marketplace in the world.
This is your opportunity to start your own brand with the force of the biggest E-commerce brand EVER backing you up. A damn good deal if you ask me!
I’m writing this before i read the whole thing through, i already read few of your articles very interested in getting my merch to – Merch on amazon! -. It was warming to see that news article because you “looked like someone like me” when based on how you write i imagined someone more “corporate” type, which is kind of vague of me to say but it’s hard to describe what i mean. I’m just saying that you are a guy with dreadlocks who felt like society treats them crappy, and i’m a guy with long hair who has similar motivations/feelings. Clearly you are more familiar with “the business mindset” even though i have been trying to learn it too, but because of personality differences i’m doubtful that it would fit me to use same tactics as you do. Being spontaneous, going with the flow, and using as little “shortcuts” (that make more hassle) is what i like. (Hiring people to do work for me from abroad sounds very complicated and risky IMO)
I have registered business ID as “a sole propietor” in Finland, the goal is to sell art in general whether handcrafts or designs, i don’t have a huge list of designs yet but i’m using teespring storefront with my personal domain to test out ideas, but the problem is there is no organic traffic, i promote them on pinterest, i can get people to click my links but seemingly not enough since i struggle to sell the product, if they open the pin and click the link that indicates me that they have interest in the product, but what keeps them from buying? maybe it could be a trust issue that amazon could perhaps solve, people are more likely to buy from amazon than somewhere more “unknown”.
I’m quite freaked out however about applying yet, as when i do i want to get approved.
So earlier i said that “i feel like the world is treating me the same way” well i guess that means i’m tired of not having a proper income that would make life easier for me and my spouse (we do the graphics together, do i have to mention to amazon if my spouse helps with the designs?) i’m tired of not being able to have more variety to choose where we live (location, size of the apartment etc). I think with money it’s easier to respect yourself, and then perhaps get more respected by the society around.
I hope this “print on demand” could be the answer to my worries on money, even though its hard to start making sales, and i don’t intend to do it in same way you do, i will be more niche specific the goal after all is to build a brand out of my art, maybe that sounds a little boastful but hey, there are brands, why not my brand too?.
You stated earlier that you made 3k month with your first amazon shop, that would be my goal to make from POD, if the goal exceeds that of course that’s even better. If only when i had more money i had been swift to put it on bitcoin, lol, but maybe it’s good to see i can earn from my work… but i’m not gonna pretend as if extra money did not help in general.
They say money doesn’t make you happy, but indirectly it does, it buys freedom, it buys life.
– Pauli, male, 28, Finland.