How Even Non-Designers Can Run a Successful T-Shirt Business with Merch by Amazon
Jessica Heston is a writer for the MerchReadyDesigns blog where she writes about best practices and provides tips and resources for Merch by Amazon sellers. MerchReadyDesigns provides premade & custom designs and copywriting for Merch by Amazon.

It seems like everyone has a side hustle these days. From the Uber driver to the TaskRabbit dog walker, more people are searching for unique ways to earn extra money. But, for the creative type who doesn’t want to drive or assemble furniture, there is one side hustle that allows you to run an ecommerce retail business: Merch by Amazon. With no initial up-front costs or need for inventory, Merch by Amazon makes it possible to run your own t-shirt business and access the millions of customers who shop on Amazon every single day.

What Exactly Is Merch by Amazon?

Merch by Amazon is a print on demand t-shirt service that allows you to run an apparel business without ever having to purchase inventory, ship packages, or deal with customer service. Started in 2015, Merch by Amazon is perfect for designers, artists, and entrepreneurs looking for a way to make money without having to pay for inventory or overhead.

The process is simple: upload your designs and pick the colors and type of t-shirts to print them on. Once you get an order for a design, Merch by Amazon will print, ship, and handle the customer service. Merch charges a standard cost to print each shirt and includes a 15% listing fee for each item, but you don’t have to pay any of those costs until an item is sold.

Once the item is sold (at a price that you determine), Merch will deduct their costs and fees and provide you with a royalty for each piece. Unlike running a traditional ecommerce business or retail store, you’ll never have to worry about being stuck with inventory or discounting prices to move goods. You don’t have to pack and ship product. And, you don’t have to worry about handling customer complaints or customer returns. You’re simply selling your artwork – the actual shirt will never exist until an order is placed for one.

Tips and Tricks for Your Merch by Amazon Side Hustle

There are two main things that you need to be successful on Merch by Amazon: great designs and SEO-optimized copy. First, do research to see what items are selling and determine what niches are underserved. Once you know the niche you want to target, you’ll need great copy to go along with the unique design. This includes the proper product title and SEO-friendly bullet points that appeal to your audience. Check out apps such as MerchInformer to find untapped niches, track keywords to use in your title and bullets, and optimize listings.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a fantastic artist, graphic designer, or writer to enjoy success on Merch by Amazon. It’s an ideal platform for artists who want their own designs recognized, but artwork (and the copy that goes with it) can also be purchased through professional services or outsourced through freelance platforms such as Upwork. If you plan to create your own designs and write your own product listing copy, there are a variety of helpful tools to make it a little bit easier. MerchPursuits is a great source of information and includes handy tips such as Photoshop tutorials and ways to research t-shirt ideas. MerchantWords is a great place to research and find keywords to use in the title, bullet points, and throughout your listings.

Related: Top 10 Ecommerce Trend Publications and Blogs for Niche Sellers

How Much Money Can I Really Make?

One of the biggest success stories of any Merch by Amazon seller is that of Elaine Heney. Host of the popular Merch Entrepreneur podcast, Elaine started on Merch by Amazon in February 2016 and made just $49.84 in profit in her first month. By offering more designs, adjusting her prices, and changing up her product offerings, her business grew at a steady pace. By December of 2016, she saw profits of $17,629. In her first 10 months of business, Elaine Heney reached a total of $128,925 in sales, equating to $53,000 in profits. Of course, not everyone has found the level of success that Elaine Heney has, but she’s an example of how Merch by Amazon can start out as a side hustle and turn into a real business.

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re ready to make Merch by Amazon your next (or only) side hustle, you’ll need to request an invitation. Simply log onto Amazon and request an invitation to the platform. It can take a few months to receive your invite. During that time, research products, design products, and learn how to make Merch by Amazon a profitable side business. There’s no guarantee to success, but with the right tools (and the zero risk of no upfront cost) it’s a great option for anyone looking to supplement their income and create their own t-shirt business online.

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