Merch by Amazon Month 6 Update

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Originally Posted on Reddit

 

There was the discussion going on regarding [“Merch Potential”]( https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/6sms6w/how_much_money_is_it_possible_to_earn_on_merch/) and there was a lot of disbelief and negativity being thrown around. I thought I would chime in, but by the time I typed it all up I decided that it would make a better standalone thread.

I wanted to give a *REAL* perspective from someone who only knows the gurus from reading their stuff and a couple IM’s we’ve exchanged. I don’t have anything to gain from this other than the hope that someone will read it and keep chugging away.

**TL;DR** – I haven’t loaded any designs since June and am on track to make $800 in August with 213 live designs (but only ~90 unique) and I’ve only been at this since March.

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**The Journey**

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– March 1 2017 – got accepted to Merch and loaded my first 2 designs (EDIT: Because I know it will come up, I waited 9 months for an invite).
– March 22th – 10th shirt sold organically. During this time I rotated out a few designs and kept trying new things… *but no tier 25*.
– April 5th – 25th shirt sold. 15 organic, 10 “seeded”. I realized that I could get a few close friends to buy my shirts so I could “test the quality & process”. I had them buy different designs and in different quantities then I would send them Paypal reimbursements. I spread this out over 5 friends/family in different states. Yes, it is gaming the system but it worked.
– April 9th – **Tiered up to 25**. I already had a backlog of designs so I picked my favorite 15 and loaded them over the next few days.
– April 30th – 47th shirt sold – **Made it to Tier 100**. Goal at this point was to load the maximum shirts daily until I capped or was upgraded. I would *not* chase trends and I would price *most* at $17.99 for Anvil shirts. No premium shirts at this point.
– May 19th – I closed on a house (a fixer upper) so I knew I would have to backburner the designing process or try buying some premade for a few days (until my royalty payouts ran out.)
– May 31st – 94th shirt sold, 77 shirts live. 10 of those purchased ($15/ea.). At this point I had only missed a few days of uploading my maximum but time constraints were making it very hard to meet the 5 designs a day limit. I had to come up with a plan before I made it to…
– June 5th – **Tier 500** – shoot, I sold shirt 100 on 6/4 and was tiered up the next day (with only 87 shirts live). Now I had to meet the 10/day limit but I didn’t have time since we were right in the middle of demo on the house. So I designed a whole bunch of text shirts while at work and then made variations of those. I went back and started creating light & dark versions of each live design. After that was done I had around 110 unique designs, either live or in draft mode, in both light and dark versions. It was at this point that I realized I could take my best sellers (if you can call them that… basically a *best seller* to me was any shirt that had sold twice) and I put them all on premium shirts. I put all of these in draft mode as well. I did this over 2 days at work (mainly using Pixlr, Canva & Merchdesigner). That was it, I was spent and couldn’t focus on it anymore. I haven’t made a single design since June 10th. I released these drafts each morning for the next 13 days. But that was it.
– June 19th – 213 live designs. I decided that in order to maximize my sales, since I wasn’t designing anymore, I had to have as many “sold once” designs available so I repriced all of my shirts. If the shirt was unsold I would price them at 11.99 for Anvil & 14.99 for Premium. Anything that had sold (even just once) I priced them at $18.99 Anvil and $20.99 Premium (I have a few custom shirts that are priced higher than this). Over the next few weeks I watched my sales slow down to a trickle. I figured it must have been the July 4th throttling… but then I noticed something about pricing and I hypothesized that it was something else (more below).
– June 30th – 175th design sold. By this point I was lucky to get 1-2 sales per day. I did have a few unsold shirts suddenly sell, but nothing spectacular. I did have my first 3 bagger and then the next day had a 4 bagger on a different shirt – so I made those into premiums. But there were several 0 sales days.
– July 1st – 220 designs live.
– July 12th – after tons of research, and following many Facebook and Reddit discussions on price I changed my mind about pricing. I realized that the base cost for a shirt is $11.53 but this is on a sliding scale. For each dollar increase in price Amazon takes 15% for their “listing fee”. Now I realize that Amazon has total control of their algorithm and everything is really just speculation, but what does a business do? They try and maximize margin. My guess is there is something in the algorithm that says “return the most relevant products in search… look for the highest rated (BSR + Feedback) + best price BUT on stuff Amazon sells return those results that MAXIMIZE our margin.” At least as a business owner, that’s how I would filter it. I would favor the platform. I would favor the house. The customer may prefer a $12 shirt over a $20 one but if the design & result is right, ceteris paribus, they would display the one that would make them more money. So I raised all my prices. On everything. The next day I had the best sales day ever – 14 sales. I have now averaged 5 sales per day for the rest of July and all of August. And ironically, many of my premium shirts are outselling the cheaper Anvil ones.
– August 1st – 210 designs live. I had a few drop off w/ the 90 day rule. But overall I’ve sold 100 of my 210 designs at least once. And really, I only have ~90 unique designs really since most of those are just duplicates & versions.

**Commentary**

I’m confident that there is plenty of money still to be made in Merch and I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t replace my wife’s monthly income by the end of the year – which has been our goal from the beginning (I say my wife’s income because I would have to make more than what u/thepartners makes each month to be able to replace my income). In order to buy our house my wife had to get a job… neither of us like it as we would rather she stayed home with our kids. So our goal is to have a consistent $2500/month coming in so she can quit.

I don’t know what happened to u/nimitz34 to make him so jaded (maybe cynical is a better word) but I remember him from r/juststart and he seemed so positive and optimistic during that time. I wanted to share my merch journey with everyone because, frankly, I really don’t believe the results myself. I’m not a designer. But, I do think I’m funny and just a little bit creative (totally biased but honest) so I can put a funny spin on things.

As mentioned above, I don’t chase trends and almost all of my designs are evergreen. I have some seasonal shirts that have sold well past the season so I still count them as evergreen. I’ve purchased about 10 shirts myself but most of those were to “save them from the 90” and they have gone on to sell a few more. 5 times I’ve had family buy a shirt to try and jumpstart it (again, trying to game/test the algorithm) and it has only worked twice because I really can’t pick what people will like. It’s a weird marketplace and it seems to come in waves. I’ve been surprised MANY MANY times on shirts that have actually sold. Once I get settled in the house I’m going to resume the shotgun approach (or shit on wall if you prefer) and just make MBA a volume game.

I’ve purchased designs – in fact one of my top 10 sellers is one that I paid $18 for. But that’s hit or miss. I have 20 purchased designs and only 4-5 have ever sold. I don’t “outsource”… yet. I’m working on a deal with a designer I used a few times that I found on 99 Designs years ago. He’s expensive so we’re working out a “Design Pickle” sort of deal where I pay him a flat monthly fee and I’ll get XX to XX designs from him each month depending on complexity. But we’ll see if that pans out.

I’ve done a few FB ads and haven’t sold anything directly from those but they got a bit of traffic and from that I think they were favored in Amazon’s algo so they sold a few from that… but that’s speculation. I was directing them to my website then to Amazon (with aff link of course) so I could see what converted. But I think that just the uptick in eyeballs made them appear in more searches and from that they sold more.

I’ve had some designs stop selling. Not sure why and only a couple have copycats (or “duplicats” which I’m trying to coin & sounds so much better than “improvecats”) but I haven’t reported them because they aren’t P4P and they don’t have a BSR so they can’t really be siphoning anything. (we’re talking about going from 15/month to 0 so it’s significant but can’t seem to see why.) I have a subscription to MerchInformer and I check it anytime I’m entering a new niche but I don’t use more than 10% of the functionality I’m sure. I just get the idea, check the niche, make a list of keywords and then *attempt* to design the shirt. It seems to be working.

I’ve made more from MBA than I ever have from any of my several affiliate websites (although one of them just suddenly started doing $100/month with only 3 articles so that might get some focus after the house is done and we move). So I know that it works. I do everything I can to protect my account because I see so much potential in this platform. I want to get to T1000 by Q4 but part of that is out of my control… so I’ll just max my 500 slots and see what happens.

I do have a couple secrets that I keep to myself but it’s really only because I haven’t proven that they work consistently… other than that I consider myself to be just some average guy with a job, wife, kids, hobbies and a burning desire to make more money & control my own destiny. Hopefully this was helpful to a few folks.

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**THE REAL MEAT:**

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Financial Journey:

[table id=1 /]

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**EDIT:** Before I get blasted for this, yes, the $800 number for August is pure speculation. The *magical well* could dry up tomorrow and I would be left with the $275 I’ve earned in the first 10 days… but if it stays on track I will be pushing that and maybe more.