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Income Report March 2018
It’s time to diversify away from Merch by Amazon.
This month I sold 341 products via Merch By Amazon, earned $1900, and tiered up to 4000 slots. By most means, that’s a good month for me, but I’m concerned that 95% of my print on demand income is coming from Amazon, however passive the income may be. It is scary to think that overnight that income could disappear (for whatever reason Amazon wants) and that I would be left to fend for myself on income streams I haven’t built yet. That’s why going forward I will be focusing much more of my efforts on diversifying my income into Etsy and eventually, other print on demand platforms that have existing traffic such as Redbubble.
March 2018 Income Report
By Spencer Shewbridge | Merch Lifestyle
This month was a good one for learning about what processes will be scalable in this business. The “not sexy” part of print-on-demand is one of the most critical pieces, its the back end uploading and configuration of designs. If I can figure out how to get products set up (with variations, prices, designs, etc) on different platforms at scale (low cost and effort) then it simply becomes a numbers game. I am truly finding that MerchAlong is helping me keep everything organized and is reducing the amount of time I spend messing around in Google drive trying to find specific designs and Photoshop files.
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In regards to scaling up on Etsy, the secret is the integration you’re working with. Right now I configure Teelaunch products via their Shopify integration, and it’s painfully manual. If you want to make a change to your product (i.e. add a color), you have to delete the entire product and start every variation over again. I think I’ll be focusing my Teelaunch efforts on adding mugs for now, because the margins are nice (only $8 to print and ship in the US) and there aren’t any variations to deal with. I’ve found that even though Printful is more expensive for apparel, their integration experience is far better, and that the ease of use is worth it so far.

I’m still finding that my best selling designs are catered very specifically to certain niches. Doing a little research and adding small details that specific audiences can appreciate will really make your design stand out because you’re “one of them”. I will continue to be hyper-targeting niches with designs, as well as doing some broad scaled designs that can apply to a lot of niches in a certain category as well.

I also think it may be time to shut down my Shopify store as I haven’t been putting the time and money into driving traffic. I plan to get a little more feedback on that idea and then shut it down if I continue to focus my efforts on platforms that already have traffic.

Expenses can really start to add up, and a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Sounds a little basic, no? Until now I hadn’t consolidated my accounts and done some basic bookkeeping… the results were eye-opening.  This coming month I plan to deep dive into how my VAs and designers are spending their time, as well as review my subscriptions to get that expense column down.

Speaking of expenses, this is the first month that I have actually tracked income and expenses like a “real business”. Again, as a business major, this is a little embarrassing to admit, but there’s never a better time to start than now if you’re taking your business seriously. I use Quickbooks Online (Referrral link – get 50% off 3 months + $50 gift card) for $10/month and close out my books by hand each month. It really isn’t that complicated, as most PODs pay once per month, and you’ll likely only have varying expenses if you’re hiring VAs and designers. Accounting for real business expenses is especially important for me because I’m trying to compliantly reduce my tax liability as much as possible.

I’ve found that it was a real lifesaver to have the previous months books closed when I sat down to do/allocate my quarterly estimated taxes (state and federal) this week. Yes, if you are self-employed (and a US citizen) then you should probably be paying your taxes on a quarterly basis to avoid potential penalties down the line. Pro-tip (I am not a tax professional and this is in no way tax advice) check out how the new 20% “pass-through” business deduction applies to your business. I was able to get a nice federal deduction by researching how to calculate that when doing my federal taxes.

One realization that I’ve had since I started on my business full-time is that it can be very easy to do “busy work” that isn’t directly driving a result to your bottom line. There are many “shiny objects” in the e-commerce space, and it can be hard to get the technical work done in a niche you’ve already selected. I constantly need to remind myself that the most important things are getting the right designs in the right place, at a high volume. Its how I grew the accounts to where they are today, and it is the most direct path to growing the business another 2-3x. Its easy to waste time working on over-optimizing my Etsy store, working on branding, doing too much research, etc. I’ve started to fight this by listing 5 or less things I want to get done each day and sticking to those before I try anything else.

I also launched a “secret project” this month that is all about driving more traffic to my Merch account. I do believe that there are diminishing returns to uploads on Merch as competition heats up, and I want to grow the account faster than I am right now. Time will tell if Amazon rewards Merch sellers with a BSR boost for driving additional buyers. I’ll provide updates and insights as I can, although they will likely be a little cryptic about the project identity because its still early days and I want to give it a chance to get a proper start. I will share anything that I learn and may be valuable to POD business owners as I can.

In summary, I’m trying to do things differently to get to 3k profit per month as soon as possible, with a year-end goal of a consistent 5k/month profit. Its going to require more hours, more saying no to distractions and “opportunities”, and consistency.
Let us know what you think…are you tracking expenses, are you hiring to scale, do you have similar difficulties?
Let Shannon and I know your comments, questions, or difficulties on our site or shoot us an email. Thanks so much for reading, we’ll catch you same time next month.
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