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#Merch is ded.
Year 2 of my Merch Journey was a wild ride. My account was terminated, I got it back and I went *all in* on POD for Q3 & Q4 uploading over 6000 products on Merch alone. That lead to the best 6 months I’ve ever had with a side hustle and the best yearly revenue ever for an online venture. There are many things to improve but my overall outlook on Merch remains **positive**. My goals for 2019 have already been adjusted – but not because I’m doing great – but because life got in the way. I tell you all about it below.
It has been a few months since I gave an actual Merch Journey update, I just passed my 2 year mark (March 1st) and I thought it was time to share what has been going on. I don’t frequent Reddit or the Discord groups anymore because time has become even more precious to me as of late (more about that below)… and because the perceived value isn’t really there any longer.
As I’ve said before it’s good practice to take some time to reflect and *document* lessons learned and review progress on goals. For the most part, this write-up is for me but I like to share because I think everyone can learn something from my successes and failures. It’s a way for me to check the pulse of my business and articulate ideas that have been formulating in my head and put them into writing as well as measure progress on my goals for 2019. As they say, **an unwritten goal is just a hope**.
If you’ve read any of my prior posts (listed below) then a lot of what I’m about to share will sound very familiar. The same basic tenets that I’ve preached this whole time have continued to pay dividends. I control what I can, focus on stuff I like, price at a point where it shows I value my time, work hard (not always on Merch however), grind it out and measure using data. I like to hope, wish & dream but none of those things are actionable, although they are motivational, so I don’t focus too much on what I can’t control. It seems to be working – maybe not to the level I dreamed it would but the reality is still better than I could have hoped.
– [first few months]( https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/6sv6lu/merch_does_have_potential_heres_my_journey/)
– [milestone update 1]( https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/7acnp1/another_milestone_a_little_eye_candy_a_gift/)
– [milestone update 2]( https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/78xcc2/a_quick_journey_update_a_day_of_milestones/)
– [Year One](https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/81glei/one_year_anniversary_data_is_beautiful_edition/)
– [Q1 2018 Update](https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/8b3bca/q12018_update_spreadsheet_link_with_instructions/) *Note, the spreadsheet linked here is old and hasn’t been updated to include new products, returns or new markets.*
– [Q2 & Q3 2018]( https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/9rqi1n/merch_still_has_potential_q2_q3_journey_update/)
Here are the DEETS:
#Merch Numbers for Year 2 (Mar 2018 – Feb 2019):
**Total Live Designs:** 4402 (down from a high of 6100)
**Total Sales Y2:** 6053 (231 returns)
**Total Sales All Time:** [8154 (through Feb 2019)](https://imgur.com/pKgGLuR)
**Selling Designs:** 993
**What Worked: (in no particular order)**
– *Q4 Was Unfrozen:* – If you were wondering what sales would look like without being throttled or frozen during December, then we got to see a glimpse of that in Q4 of 2018. [I’ve already given credit to the Merch team for the fact that they did a great job at exceeding expectations]( https://www.reddit.com/r/AmazonMerch/comments/a5w507/giving_credit_where_credit_is_due_great_job_with/) and I hope the trend continues as they improve the platform. 1483 of my products were sold in December 2018 – that resulted in almost $7K in royalties. That’s spectacular (and frankly much needed because I said I was going to quit Merch if I didn’t make at least $5K in the month so I’m glad it hit like it did!). Let’s hope it continues and maybe we get a few surprises in 2019 – like bulk uploads, edits, reloads & maybe new products. Those would all be nice additions.
– *Focus on things you can control:* – I’ve harped on this from the beginning. I try really hard to not worry too much about things that are out of my control – focus on what you can control & hold yourself accountable. With POD, those things are research, niche selection, designs, keywords, uploads, compliance and price. In late 2018 I figured out how to track a few of these things and use that data to hold myself accountable. [You can see my new upload graphs here](https://imgur.com/TPmaeCi) this lead to an interesting observation about how effective my designs are in a given period (what sells vs. what was loaded). But, most importantly, it shows that I wasn’t very consistent in my uploads. I would go in fits and starts. My goal for 2019 would be to level that out by uploading a consistent number of quality designs each day… which has the added benefit of metering the designs that fall off on the backside – which is equally important as it’s hard to reload 200 designs if they all fall off at once.
– *AMS & Advertising:* – It’s becoming more and more clear that Merch has become more of a pay-to-play situation. If you advertise you’ll see more sales (whether or not those are profitable depends on the limits you set). Be wise with your money and work to find a strategy that will optimize your ACOS. I personally set low budgets, low bids and run my campaigns without end dates. I only have 20 campaigns running currently but should have around 100. I might work on this later this year.
– *Selling on other POD platforms:* – It’s worth mentioning again that branching out to other platforms has been awesome. I currently use Orbitkit to help me get my existing designs on more platforms. As you can see from [these graphs](https://imgur.com/czeoKtD) I’ve gotten my Merch revenue down to almost 80% of my total – my target is 30%. As I refine how to sell on each of these platforms this will hopefully come down much more. The good news is that I more than pay for OrbitKit with the additional sales the other platforms generate – if that ever changes, I’ll drop the software.
– *Improvecat Yourself:* – This is something I mentioned before but I had some great results with it in Q4. I had a design that was selling well so I made 10 variations of the design. Most of those sold so I did a little creative thought experiment and came up with 40 totally unique designs for the same niche. They weren’t variations of the one design, they were all completely different and original. Almost 50% of those all sold during Q4. I’ve started doing this with all of my top 100 selling designs. It takes time but it’s a fun creative exercise that forces you to give your brain a workout. I’ve had good success with it so far.
**What Didn’t Work:**
– *Outsourcing Issues:* – I continue to have issues with my one designer. He went silent for almost 6 weeks. I found another designer but the new guy isn’t quite as good. He still pumped out over 400 designs for me but they were only *meh*. My old designer came back from the dead but now I don’t really have the time, or the desire to send him work. There are reasons behind this and I’ll explain more below. I hope to continue working with designers as it’s a fast way to get more products out and test concepts. If something takes off I can improve myself or do variations and it’s faster to have a designer do them than find the time to do them myself.
– *I Quit my Job:* – I didn’t quit because I made millions off of POD… I quit because it wasn’t a stable place to work and I wanted something closer to my house. I was commuting almost 75 minutes each way to work – that eats up a lot of time I could have been designing, uploading or working on my side business. I listened to a lot of podcasts, but that’s self-serving and doesn’t really help me make progress on any of my goals. Obviously because of this I have been doing the job hunt stuff and not really working on my side gigs. I think I uploaded 6 designs in January and 200 in February. One thing I will miss about my current job is that I had/have a lot of time to mess around at work. I probably won’t have that at the new place which is why I will have to cut out a lot of the things that aren’t absolutely necessary (like participation with other Merchers on Reddit). I’ll have limited time and will only focus on those things that have proven to make me more money. This will be challenging for me because I have shiny object syndrome really bad! **To Clarify, I quit my job so I could take a new one that is closer to home, pays more and provides more stability & future career growth. But, it also means my revenue target I have to hit to be able to actually quit my job for good just got harder/higher to reach**
– *I got into the Leadville 100:* – I hit a milestone year in 2019 with my age. Because of this I’m trying to knock off a few things that are on my bucket list. I was fortunate enough to get picked in the lottery entry of the [Leadville 100 mountain bike race](https://www.leadvilleraceseries.com/) – this is a 100 mile+ race that takes place at over 10K feet in elevation. So, if my schedule wasn’t already packed, I now have to train 6-10 hours each week… so I don’t die. I’m pretty fond of living, more so than being a Merch Mogul, so I’ve conceded that I’ll have less time to do Merch this year. I’m excited to be in the race and I’ll be glad it’s over in August… the good news is that I’ll have plenty of time afterwards to load like crazy. It’ll be like college all over again – cram for the finals!!
**2019 Goals:** For the most part my goals for 2019 haven’t changed. I’m still making great progress on them and plan on most of them for the year. I also tried to inject some “fun” into the grind in the form of my [Merch Bucket List](https://www.reddit.com/r/MerchPrintOnDemand/comments/994ng8/i_thought_it_would_be_fun_to_have_a_bucket_list/) which consists of a lot of things that make it entertaining. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
– *10000 live designs on Merch by Q4 2019:* To do this I need to average around 500-600 uploads each month. I’ve crossed the 8K sales mark so now I just have to fill my slots and I’ll probably get tiered up. Once that happens I’ll max out and let it ride.
– *Uploads to Other Platforms:* 1K live on Etsy (I’ll just load most of my best sellers), 3K live on KDP and 3K live on all other platforms.
– *Marketing:* I have a few ideas I want to try in 2019 to help me market my products. I’ve found some success with Reddit and I want to explore more Influencer marketing. I’ll do some write-ups when I feel there’s something to share. I may dig into Pinterest.
Really the focus will be to clean up what I have and sell more of my current assets. Given my lack of time in the first ¾ of the year, I really have to optimize my efforts and piggyback where I can. If I can sell on more platforms (easily) then I’ll do that. I have to be smart about what I do and how I can make more using what I already have… maybe I’ll look at getting a real VA
#THE REAL MEAT
[table id=5 /]
P&L | 2017 | 2018 | 2019* | Total
Royalties | $9,058 | $31,433 | $4,042 | $44,533
Outsourcing | -$5,419 | -$3,880 | -$0.00 | -$9,299
Purchased Clothing | -$996 | -$856 | -$0.00 | -$1,853
Advertising | -$318 | -$2,111 | -$415 | -$2,845
Platforms & Tools | -$0 | -$1,183 | -$220 | -$1,403
NET Profit/(Loss) | $2,325 | $23,403 | $3,407 | $29,135
\* Through Feb 2019
**EYE CANDY** *Data is beautiful*
[Product Mix Data](https://imgur.com/czeoKtD)
[Sales by Platform/Platform Mix](https://imgur.com/n1h7bRh)
[Uploads vs. Live vs. Sales](https://imgur.com/TPmaeCi) – this is how I can manage my productivity & hold myself accountable
That’s it… congrats if you made it this far. I tried to condense quite a bit into one post and do it in less than an hour & a half. Let me know if you have any questions. While this isn’t an AMA, I will try and answer anything I can – within reason.
EDIT: Formatting & clarification.
EDIT 2: Merch isn’t really dead, I just like saying that. 🙂