8 Lessons For Print On Demand Success
My print on demand business on Merch By Amazon recently crossed 2,000 total products sold during it’s 2 years of existence. The learning curve with any new venture is steep and mine was no exception.
In the first year I spent the majority of my time floundering. In fact I only sold 330 print on demand t-shirts during that time and made far less than I had expected.
Momentum didn’t start building until I finally made the commitment to the business and started investing my time and money. In June of 2018 I decided to focus solely on Merch By Amazon to see what I could accomplish. That is really when my print on demand business started to take off. You can check out my 30 day ‘Merch Focus 30’ on my YouTube channel where I documented this process.
That single decision to focus my efforts created a whirlwind of success for my budding business. From October 2018 to September 2019 my sales volume jumped from 330 products sold up to 1,682 converted sales.
The results speak for themselves. In just two years I have now generated more than $31,000 in product sales and $3,700 + in royalties. This has taken me significant amounts of time and money but my efforts have culminated in the creation of a nice form of semi-passive income.
These are the 8 lessons I have learned and wish I had a better sense of when I got my start on the Merch By Amazon platform. I hope they help you if you are just getting started or well on your way to building your e-commerce business.
1. Buy Yourself Out of the Early Tiers
When sellers begin selling products on Merch By Amazon they are limited to just 10 slots for products. This is known as tier 10. The next stage is tier 25, then tier 100, 500 and so on.
In the early stages there isn’t much wiggle room to experiment and play around. To win it is imperative that you get out of these early tiers as soon as possible. Merch By Amazon generally reviews your account to ‘tier up’ when your sales match or surpass your tier level. For example, to get tiered up from tier 10 to tier 25 sellers will need to sell 10 products. While Amazon doesn’t specifically state this, it has been a consistent rule of thumb for Merch By Amazon sellers since the platforms’ inception.
One of the easiest and most advantageous ways to get tiered up is to pony up and buy your own products. In this case, you want to get high on your own supply. Buying your own products to get tiered up has a number of benefits. First, it counts towards your sales volume accelerating your path to tiering up and unlocking new slots. Second, it is a great way to experience the buying process from the customers’ point of view.
Receiving your own product in the mail will help you get a better feel for shipping and production times, quality of the product, quality of the design, and an understanding of how Merch By Amazon fulfillment works as a whole.
2. Learn From Others
Consume good quality content from the right sources. This can come in the form of blog posts (like this one), Facebook communities, and YouTube channels. Learning from others is the number one way to accelerate the education process and learning how to sell more products online.
Finding the right people to learn from is easier than ever. If anything, the tough part is controlling how much content you are consuming. I like to break down my content consumption into three levels:
- People At My Level
- Those Just Above My Level
- People At An Aspirational Level
People at the same level as you serve as a great baseline to mark your performance. They will also spark that competitive drive to keep growing at the same pace. When I finally started implementing this strategy I was watching people like Greg Preece of Start Starting Up & The Mikkelsen Twins. At the time I was selling roughly the same number of products as these guys were so they set a great baseline for me to match up to.
People just above your level are the ones there to show you what is possible. These are your real motivators because they show you that growing a successful business on Merch By Amazon is possible. This could be someone who is making just a bit more than you or maybe someone who is just one or two tiers beyond your current level.
People at an aspirational level are those ones who are crushing it. This is someone whose business you look at and say ‘Wow, if I were at that level I would be ecstatic.’ Finding these big players is imperative to fueling your fire. For me I follow people like RJ Martinez and Merch Campus on YouTube.
The final caveat here is to know when to stop. Don’t get so caught up in consuming content that you forget to build your own business. Find an actionable lesson you can take away from one of these people and take immediate action to grow your business.
3. Invest In Your Business
Every business venture requires investment. It takes time or money and often requires both. I started my business by putting in time and no money. I didn’t have any money to really invest in the business and so bootstrapping became my only asset.
If you are ready to take your business seriously then be prepared to make the investment in your tools and team. Tools like Merch Informer, Pretty Merch, and Photoshop will save countless hours for a small fee.
4. Get a Great Designer
Getting a designer and building out a team is a huge milestone in creating a profitable online business. For me it was clear that I needed someone with design experience to help me create winning designs. But even if you are a designer, finding the right team members is a huge help.
Building a team helps alleviate your workload so you can focus on mission critical tasks. By outsourcing you can not only become more effective but you will also be able to take advantage of geo-arbitrage by finding an hiring a designer in a country where the cost of living is much less. I wrote an article that will walk you through this process step-by-step: How to Find and Hire Designers for Your Print On Demand Business.
The other main benefit in hiring someone to grow your business is that it will change your mindset. Often times when running a one man show it can be easy to feel less serious about growing the business. Having a team also holds you to a higher standard. It forces you to improve your prioritization and delegation skills which will be crucial for any other ventures you decide to undertake.
5. Research, Research, Research
Spending time researching is baked into any good business model. Yes, there is a time to just throw as much against the wall to see what sticks, but if you want consistent long term success you’ll need to get good at going the extra mile.
Research will save you time in the long run and ultimately prove much more profitable than a spray and pray approach. In reality, a very small portion of your designs will carry the majority of your sales. I recently broke down my top selling products and found that my top 4 products out of 1700+ print on demand products carried 40% of total monthly sales. This was the eye opener I needed to realize that it is really about quality over quantity.
6. Stay Consistent
Create a schedule and stick to it. If you are like me, you have a lot on your plate. Whether it is working a full time job, supporting a family, or trying to keep up with friends, life can get busy. That is why creating a schedule is so important for success.
Everyone Has 24 Hours In A Day
Spend a few hours to map out the next month and create a plan to grow your business. No one knows your schedule better than you do and no one else is going to force you to stick to it. Ultimately, it is up to you to build out a schedule that works for you.
Be consistent! Even when sales are looking a little slow or it’s an off day. Consistency and commitment will be the most important factors for long term success.
7. Price Higher to Increase Royalties
Knowing when to start raising prices and making more money was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. It was something that I neglected until it was brought to my attention by viewers of my YouTube channel.
When your products begin selling consistently, it is time to reassess and reprice. If people are buying and the rest of the products in your niche are priced higher then it is time to increase your prices. This will allow you to get the cash flow up and reinvest in the business to accelerate and scale.
8. Cultivate a Long Term Mindset
Everyone walks this journey at a different speed. While some people may seemingly find instant success, it often takes much longer than expected to achieve your goals. Cultivating a long term mindset will help you look beyond your short term results.
It took me one full year to sell 300+ products. I made almost no money that first year. If I had stopped I never would have created the business I have today. My second year on the platform I was able to sell more than 5 times as many products.
Merch By Amazon may not be the ultimate business that helps you reach your definition of success. It may the first of many business ventures you start along the way. While Merch may just be a stepping stone it is almost certain that your experience building this business will help you in countless ways down the road.
I hope this article was helpful for you in growing your print on demand business. Let me know in the comments below what lessons you have learned from growing your very own e-commerce business.