Income Report September 2018 

Hey there,

I have a confession to make.

I’m no longer working full-time in print on demand. Yes, that’s right, I went out, interviewed, accepted a job offer and am working (in the traditional sense) again. 

I’d like to share with you some thoughts on the transition and why I made it later in this post. Before we get into that, I’d like to clarify a few things:

– Shannon and I are planning to bring a lot more to Merch Lifestyle! Part of our goal in POD is to have a business that can fluctuate with our lifestyles…and over the past month we’ve each needed more time to spend on the lifestyle front.

I will still be growing my own POD business and making it a high priority. Just because I have a full-time work commitment again, doesn’t mean we’ll fall of the face of the earth.

I’ll dig into the emotional and structural stuff near the bottom of this post. For now, let’s get in to the numbers stuff. September was a bit of a down month for me, but I learned a lot. See the chart below for my September 2018 POD income report:

September 2018 Income Report

By Spencer Shewbridge | Merch Lifestyle

Merch is as passive as can be these days…

Photo by Mohamed Ajufaan on Unsplash

Insights

 

Merch is Holding Steady

My Merch by Amazon store performed consistently in September, earning $1,428. Merch continues to be an excellent, truly passive part of my POD business portfolio. I haven’t uploaded new products in several months, and I spend about 20 minutes per week repricing products.
 
I’m happy with leaving Merch to be hands-free this Q4 while I focus more on building out the SKU count on other platforms. Here are a few tips and strategy insights on Merch:
Royalties were strong on hoodies ($257), long sleeves ($95), and sweatshirts ($67). Since achieving tier 8,000 I’ve loaded a lot of designs on multiple products to fill slots…it’s working!
I’m still pricing low until I get the sale, then bumping prices up. Typically that means making less than $1 on the first sale, then bumping up to make between $3.50 – $5 depending on the product.
 
There’s a lot of opportunity still with AMS + brand stores to drive additional sales. If you’re not using AMS on certain niches, I would encourage you to earmark $100 and give it a shot. Before AMS was turned off this summer, I was driving a ~15% ACOS without a ton of optimization. I’ll be working on getting this up and running again for myself shortly.
 
Germany sales grew to contribute $85 of profit. I’m happy to see that Merch’s international expansion seems to be paying off. Expanding into new markets is a rare win-win for Amazon and Amazon sellers, so let’s hope to see more of this going forward.

Pretty much the only path at this point.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

My Etsy Stores Need More Love

This month was surprisingly low profit for Etsy after a strong August. I’m learning that Etsy stores need consistent love to grow...it’s certainly not “set it and forget it” like Merch is. I think the introduction of some new products is much needed for a strong Q4, as well as a revamp of my listings and keywords. Here are a few things I’m working on in Etsy-land:

– My ACOS % jumped up to 48%, meaning that I likely lost a little money on advertising this month (a first on the platform). This tells me that it’s about time work on store conversion and tweaking my promoted listings criteria. I plan to incorporate some of the key search phrases that I am seeing customers search for into my listings.

I’ve decided to raise prices a bit and try to position my main brand as a premium product. Now that I have excellent reviews and a solid 5-star rating, it’s time to bump up prices a bit to remain competitive, yet drive more profit per sale.

You should be offering free shipping if possible. Not only does it bump you up in search, but you’ll be more likely to convince the Etsy customers that said they are “at least 50% less likely to complete a purchase when shipping costs are expensive”.

 

Mega fist-bump with me and my team (except the fist bumps are communicated via slack emojis…)

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Outsourcing

I’ve experienced a bit of a catch-22 in the last few months in regards to outsourcing. I know it’s needed to grow my business faster (and smarter), by outsourcing repeatable tasks and focusing my own efforts to leverage strengths in marketing, R&D, pricing, etc. However, at the same time I’ve needed to pour all of my profits back in to rent and living expenses, leaving me with no profit to re-invest in my business!

Now that I’m working full-time again (and have profit to re-invest), I’m ready to unleash my team on a subset of super important tasks that I haven’t been able to get out of my own way on:

– Configuring products on Merch Along. This allows me to have content creation, file storage, and access ready to go for any platform that I would choose to expand into.

– Social media management. Building up a brand story on instagram is something I should have started a long time ago. It’s time for me to hire someone that can curate content that matches my brand and start engaging new customers. Right now I’m solely focused on Instagram because it’s a platform I’ve seen the most success on.

– Creating new designs. I haven’t hired out for new designs in what seems like forever! I’t’s time to kick up the design engine again and get more products in the pipeline.

If something isn’t working for you, change it.

Photo by Serrah Galos on Unsplash

Here’s the Deal: Why I’m Working Again

I’ve realized a lot of things about myself since going full-time into entrepreneurship. The most important realization has been that I’m at my professional best when I’m working within a team and building relationships, not when I’m isolated and feeling like I have to take on the world.

Starting up an e-commerce business solo is a long and lonely road. Despite the unlimited freedom of working “wherever and whenever I wanted”, I found myself in my office, just me and the dog, every weekday, during normal business hours. At the time it worked for me, because I could end work and spend time with people I care about, but what I didn’t appreciate was how tough of a road that can be mentally.

There are a few things that you should be ready to fight & face when you go full-time into your own business. A few big ones are self doubt, financial anxiety, discipline to work everyday without any oversight, and the lack of any clear predetermined structure/path. Sure, I had a plan, amazing support from loved ones, and enough bravado to start working for myself, I didn’t have a full appreciation for those challenges until I threw myself into it this year.

In the end I had to address those challenges directly as I started to see them affect my mental health and decision making. I had to ask, “What am I missing here?” to diagnose if full-time solopreneurship was truly the right balanced path for me.

I took a step back and looked at my business goals…and they’re still focused on enabling financial and time freedom now and in the future. What I realized is that the “how” I was going about achieving my goals needed to change. I needed to balance out the missing human element and take a hard look at how I could address my own health + long term goals.

I can confidently say that my decision to change directions and continue to pursue a career in parallel has been excellent for me.

I found a challenging supply chain role with excellent startup company with a strong team. My skills are sharpened there, and it gives me the financial cushion to have less anxiety and more motivation to outsource + grow my business. I interact with great people every day and am building relationships that I can tell will be meaningful over time. It will certainly be a challenge to manage my time effectively as my business and career progresses, but I feel much better about the mix.

Everyone is different. In this grand experiment called life, you have to change your situation if it’s not working for you. I have been so fortunate to have the support of loved ones and friends as I’ve gone through this transformation, and will continue to change, grow, and get better. I’m not going to waste time dwelling on the good and the bad of my past beyond what I need to take from it to improve. This decision isn’t about rationalizing past decisions, It’s about being mature enough to take responsibility for my own happiness and future.

I’m still in this thing for the long haul, and I hope you are too. Please let me know if any of this post resonates with you so we can connect.

Best,

Spencer

 

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