In August of 2018 we got to sit down with Zach Knickerbocker for an interview about his growing Merch by Amazon business.
Zach has some great insights about brand-building and cultivating a strong mental game to get your over the challenges of print on demand entrepreneurship. He’s got an infections attitude and a super positive outlook so I wanted to get this transcript out there.
Spencer: [00:27] Welcome everybody to the Merch Lifestyle Podcast episode #31. I am your raspy host Spencer, joined as always by my co-host….
Shannon: [00:37] Shannon is on the line. What’s up, everybody? Welcome to the show. How’re we doing?
Spencer: [00:41] Shannon is on line and locked in. We have got a fantastic guest today, don’t we, Shannon?
Shannon: [00:48] Yes we do. Today, we’re talking to Zach Knickerbocker. We’re really excited to have him because a few reasons. He’s involved with FBA and Merch by Amazon. I believe he’s on the 6k tier but I’m not sure. We’ll ask him. We’ll get some clarification on that in a second.
He’s extremely inspiring, motivating, and open about what he’s doing and how he does it. We know this because we follow him on Instagram and you should, too. He’s always positive and has a hungry for hustling attitude. He’s a super hard worker. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you Zach Knickerbocker. Zach, welcome to the show.
Zach: [01:22] Thanks. Thank you.
Shannon: [01:25] How are you doing?
Zach: [01:27] Oh, I’m good. Thanks.
Shannon: [01:28] Good.
Spencer: [01:32] So Zach, tell us a little bit about where you’re coming to us from and what your background is and we can get into how you got started in online business.
Zach: [01:41] Yeah, sure. I’m living in NYC which is nice. I like to be immersed in the hustle. This place is just crazy. I’m software developer by trait, so I came here for a software job actually. I still do that every day nine to five. I love it. It’s one of those things where most people get into online business. You hear a lot that entrepreneurs come along because they hate their boss and they hate their job. I love it. I love doing stuff on the side as well. I like working.
Ultimately, my ambition is something entrepreneurial. I want to get to a spot where my only limit is myself. That’s how I got into this zone. About a year ago, I got started with FBA, a little over a year, actually. I was super into that. I got into wholesale, outselling stuff on Amazon. It was a lot of fun but in my ramp up to that, listing to everything, I found a podcast that talked about Merch. I don’t remember which podcast it was, unfortunately, but they were talking about Merch and I’m like, “Oh, what’s that?” so I got into it, made some shirts, and it’s just history. That’s there.
Spencer: [02:53] Which would you say is your primary focus right now, FBA or Merch?
Zach: [02:57] A hundred percent Merch. I made the decision January/February time, just to let wholesale die, which is painful but this is not time for both. All on Merch.
Spencer: [03:10] Sure. If you’re comfortable sharing with us, how has your Merch journey been as far as what tier are you on and what kind of sales do you see on average?
Zach: [03:20] I’m at the 6k tier right now. The sales are getting there. I’m building them up. I feel like I’m slowly figuring it out. I’m doing just over 20 a day average right now, which is nice for me. I was previously doing 15, 10 a day. It’s really been building up lately. It comes out to $300 a week right now.
Spencer: [03:44] Nice. Cool. Do you mostly do shirts right now or are you an advocate of all the new products and spreading them out a little bit on different things?
Zach: [03:58] I don’t know. I do everything. Whenever I make a design, I’ll upload it to everything just because I’ve gotten my process to a point where the extra work it takes to do that is really negligible, with the exception of pop sockets which take every design to look good, but I’ve been uploading those, too, when I can. They say it sells really well. I think that’s partly behind why my sales have gone up. I’ll do three of those a day and I have 400, 500 uploaded. It’s not bad. I’m just going for everything.
Spencer: [04:30] What are you looking to achieve or what’s your goal with your Merch by Amazon business? You’re on 6k tier right now but are you just trying to hit a certain number? Where are you headed in the future with it?
Zach: [04:46] I don’t know. That’s the thing that’s really changed a lot for me over time. When I started, the objective is very much just… I think I just wanted to make shirts. I’ve been into the fitness YouTube space for a while and a lot of people in that space have clothing brands. I just wanted to sell something.
The idea of taking physical stuff to the post office and sending it to people and just moving up is just exciting for some reason. Shirts are the same way. I wanted to grow a brand of shirts that people were wearing. Since then, I’ve gotten a little less romantic with it for some reason, I don’t know why. I think I’m just immersed in it now. Around January, February this year and realize the only goal I need to have right now is to just scale up as high as I can and get to the highest tier.
I don’t really see the three or five year business outcome of that. I don’t want to have 50,000 shirts in five years but I think there’s some short term benefit to being in a higher tier in terms of getting access to programs. It seems like the higher tier people tend to get access to things. I know there’s rumors about what you might get from being a higher tier. The idea that you could come across a new niche and just pump out 500 shirts at will is exciting. I’m coming to the tail end of this tier-up journey I feel like because I’m at 6k. That’s been my goal so far. It’s just to tier up.
Spencer: [06:26] I think you’re on to something with a couple of benefits of tiering up. It’s different than Seller Central, which you’re used to for FBA where you pay that flat fee and it’s just “Okay, upload as many as you would like.” Maybe we have a little bit of a benefit, too, in being able to flood a niche maybe sooner than other folks if you have more slots to spare or you can have more products. I’m with you, too. I see once you start to hit 4-6k, really, unless you have a process to crank out designs, either your quality’s going to suffer and you’re just going to throw up a bunch of garbage against the wall, which I’ll admit openly that I do.
You mentioned building a brand a little bit. I want to dig into a little bit about how you’re approaching that journey because I know from following you that you really seem to enjoy the designing part and you really seem to get into the making designs and the joy that comes with the creative side of this business. Do you see being on tier 6k that you’re able to develop those brands or are you a little bit more opportunistic in targeting niches that you’re seeing selling? How do you approach it and do you think Merch is a good place to build a brand?
Zach: [07:43] Yeah. I wouldn’t say I’ve made a ton of progress on building a brand yet. I do have all my shirts on one brand. It’s hard because I don’t drive traffic to it, I don’t sell people on the idea of this is buy more shirts, which is partially because with Merch, you can’t re-target people. I know something that everyone’s touched on a lot. I see creating a brand is something I would have to do on Etsy or Shopify et cetera. I haven’t gotten to that yet.
I have an Etsy store but again, it’s minimal effort in terms of brand building. I’m really just getting to that now. One of the things I want to do with my Instagram this month and just personal branding in general is launch a brand and actually care for it and try to build it and whatnot. And then, share that journey with Instagram and everyone that follows my personal brand. Hopefully in doing so, I force myself to actually dedicate the time to building a brand because it’s a slower thing. It’s tempting to just print out shirts.
Spencer: [08:52] Definitely. Go ahead.
Shannon: [08:54] I was just going to say. I like how you mentioned the three to five year horizon because sometimes in Merch and print on demand, it can feel like a bit of a money grab. The money can come and go pretty quickly. I don’t know. It can be challenging to keep that long term mindset.
As you’re building a brand both personally and go on this journey, is your horizon three to five years? Does that longer horizon change how you approach Merch a little bit more or are you just trying to reach that scaling up goal as fast as possible however you can? And then maybe we’ll worry about those strategy stuff later.
Zach: [09:35] For me, until January I think I’m just focused. My goal to do that has very much been create twenty designs a night, which usually works out to ten unique designs. It’s not bad, it’s achievable. This guy I don’t know if you guys know him, he’s huge on RJ’s podcast and he mentioned that if you do a hundred uploads a day, which twenty designs and five types of shirts is a hundred uploads, and you do that for a half a year, six months, that’s 18,000 designs, I believe, if the math works out, or 18,000 products, which is insane.
I think on 18,000 products, you can have a pretty decent monthly income coming in. I’m hoping that just by January or February time, I’ll be at that point and I’ll feel a little bit more comfortable, taking the time to go slower and just focus on brand building. That’s where I’m at. What’s the other component of your question?
Spencer: [10:42] I think that’s good. Let’s dig into that a little bit and Shannon you can help me out here. Recently, I’ve had a little bit of a focus on just getting more products uploaded and I focused a little bit too much on the sexy stuff in e-commerce, like “Ooh, analytics. Ooh, am I driving traffic? How can I chop and screw this numbers up so that they look pretty,” but I wasn’t actually focused on the uploading part.
And then I pushed through and tried to tier up to 6k and that was a big focus for me last month and I’ve seen my income just grow with it. For me, if you get back to that, how did I make money in the first place, how did I get to where I am, at the end of the day, it’s more or less a function of how many designs are you getting up. Shannon, what were you going to say?
Shannon: [11:35] Go ahead, Zach. Were you going to say something?
Zach: [11:37] No. I have a little point to make as going up in terms of getting more designs up. The thing I learned, too, was I was very much in the February/March time frame. Making the mistake of just cranking out designs without enough attention to who the target audience was, which I think has been a real realization to me. I’m used to research buttons pulling up all the phrases and figuring out which ones were not profitable enough or they have their design improved or whatever.
Now, I’ve certainly been thinking more of the approach of what is the audience gap for this niche, like what audience isn’t being served right now on Merch for this niche. I haven’t necessarily seen the direct sales correlation as the results of that, but the two things about it is it feels a little bit more legitimate and it feels a little more exciting to have a target audience in mind when you’re creating the design.
You can see much easier how that can evolve into a brand because you can actually build a brand around a certain cluster. The other thing is, I don’t want to do too much but one thing I realized with designs on Merch is that I used to think designs were the commodity. Obviously they are commodity, but if you’re a good designer, that would be what makes you good about Merch.
I realized, somewhat recently, that it’s not really the case that there’s always going to be good designs out there. I think the key distinction between someone that’s successful t-shirts and someone who isn’t is marketing, particularly driving traffic. Basically, all this is coming together in such a way that I need to be creating shirts for a specific audience so that I can drive traffic effectively.
That’s all really separate from having a brand. I don’t know how to bring it all together. I think driving traffic is number one for me right now. I’m thinking of designs, I want to build a brand, but I don’t see myself being successful in the future without learning to drive traffic. That’s where I need to be.
Spencer: [13:59] I agree. I think driving traffic is probably part of building a brand. If you’re creating designs for a specific audience and you’re finding that audience and driving them to your design for them, yet you might not be able to re-target them but maybe you have a Facebook page that’s for cat lovers and you’re driving them to your cat shirts. In a sense, I guess that would be building a brand or building an audience for that specific niche. Is that what you’re leading to?
Zach: [14:36] Exactly. It all comes together super organically. You don’t have to set out and be like, “I’m going to build a brand. This is the name of my brand. This is the customer.” By evolving your Merch research process and designing process to be targeted at an audience, you put yourself in the spot where once you start having traffic or once you start building a brand, it all just becomes super naturally.
Spencer: [15:00] Now, how do you build? Is that like you’re building a customer profile? I think I’ve seen a little bit of this on your Instagram. How does that work for you? How I would approach that is I would go on Etsy, I would look at the profiles of people who buy my products or things similar to what I’m selling and then just go on a journey to see what they like and what they prefer to do. How do you approach?
Because Amazon, you’re right, it doesn’t give us very much context about the buyer. “This person bought a blue shirt, large, in this design and this is how much money you get.” How do you find out that information and maybe make some assumptions about who’s buying your shirt and figure out what that audience is?
Zach: [15:42] I wish I was more data-driven on this. One thing, I’ve always been obsessed with Disney. I don’t know how that happened but I’ve been obsessed with Disney. I’ve liked the designs that are a little bit more targeted at women and the designs that are a little bit more fun and cursive.
I’ve always had this audience in mind. I find, too, that when I target that audience, that general audience, my stuff performs a little bit better. That makes Etsy a really good research spot actually, I think, but I don’t dive into the data as much as I probably should. I think following customers is a really interesting idea.
Spencer: [16:31] I like how we’re talking about maybe how to pull all the things we’re talking about together is doing the hard stuff in print on demand because with Merch by Amazon, your only barrier to entry is getting excited to the program and your tier. Other than that, anybody can play, anybody can put it up there. You’re right, designs are a commodity and anyone can put out SEO optimized key word research.
At some point, how do you step it to the next level? I think we’ve covered Etsy quite a bit as being that place and just because there’s so much information about the kind of person that buys your product. I think with a seller like yourself who’s a little bit more thoughtful about who that buyer is, Etsy offers you the chance to even engage one on one with people and you can solicit feedback and really ask what people are looking for and offer coupons for similar items.
I think if you are in that prospecting phase, that might be a good place for you to find people because they’ll tell you everything. You can even go and see your competitors and look at what’s sold on their stores, depending on their settings. From the customer and the competitor side, you can learn quite a bit from there.
Zach: [17:48] Yeah, it’s crazy. One of my bestsellers right now actually is a shirt I didn’t even plan on being successful. I went into the taco niche. I’ve heard of like 60 taco shirts but one was targeted at a pregnancy announcement. Of course, I uploaded them all to Etsy because this was a while ago before I really had planned. I had 60 taco shirts on Etsy but this one pregnancy shirt took off. It’s on Merch as well. It took off there.
I realized that you just discover niches through the process of blasting stuff out there, especially on Etsy. Another example is teacher shirts the other day. This person contacted me and they’re like, “Hey, I’d like to buy this for my kinder team,” as in kindergarten teachers. I’m like, “Kinder team, what is that?” I’m not a teacher, I don’t really know too many teachers, but through talking teachers on Etsy, I’ve learned about this little term that only teachers would know so I could go blast out shirts for that. You come across them organically, too.
Spencer: [19:03] Shannon, didn’t you give a pretty funny anecdote about a similar niche with tacos in the past?
Shannon: [19:09] Yeah. I have a taco shirt that was the bump one’s tacos was my phrase and I had a taco and it was for moms that are newly pregnant. The problem with it was that moms are pregnant that were buying it, but they were like eight months pregnant or six months pregnant, so the shirt wasn’t necessarily meant for when they were eight months pregnant.
It was meant for them when they first got pregnant, I don’t know, earlier on in the pregnancy. I was getting a lot of complaints that the shirt wasn’t a big enough shirt for them and size up for a looser fit just didn’t apply. It just wasn’t big enough. It just didn’t work out the way I had expected to. Oh, well. That’s the way it goes, I guess.
Spencer: [20:03] Zach, I was curious. You’re on 6k tier and you’re just growing. You’re doing 20, trying to get at least 100 a day uploaded by doing ten to twenty unique designs a day. How do you go about organizing all your data and how do you keep everything in one place and how do you keep your sanity when figuring out all your key words and all your content and everything that you’re going through, I think that’s a problem with people especially as they grow up in tiers. I’m just curious what you do there.
Zach: [20:42] I use AirTable, have you guys heard? That’s really convenient just because I like the design right there in the table. I tried Merch along when it came out. I should get back to it because I think it’s super useful in the future. I ended up just going with air table and I’ve been doing that. I think when I started Merch, I didn’t use spreadsheets for some reason.
I didn’t use them until the 500 tier. I could only assume there’s a lot of people out there that also aren’t using spreadsheets that’s got to be the biggest mistake. Spreadsheets are so useful. Whenever I make a design, all I do is I put down the phrase because having a phrase is useful data. And then I have the title of the shirt next to it and then I follow it up with the two bullets: the description and then [inaudible 21:34] text. I figured with that on the data, that’s enough to put the shirt you’ll launch, anyway.
Spencer: [21:43] I think that’s helpful, too, of you were initially putting something like order a size up for a looser fit in your listings. There’s no way to really pull that data down from Amazon after you’ve put it up, so if you ever want to do some analytics on your listings or what kind of categories you have, really dig in further than what is my ASIN and what is the title of my shirt.
Having that locally is a good hack to get around the limitations, to put it lightly, that we have on the short term with Amazon. I think we all look for a little bit more. That’s why there’s so many great extensions. That’s why there’s things like Pretty Merch, Simple Beautiful Dashboard we use to organize the data and upload quicker. Do you use any tools to help other than AirTable, while we’re on the topic?
Zach: [22:36] I use Pretty Merch but that’s not helpful outside of looking pretty. I’ve tried Merch Informer. I really want to be good at it, but I’m better at just looking at Amazon Search Results for some reason. I might just go back to the fact that designs are a commodity and there’s a million designs that will sell but how to do targeting. You don’t necessarily need Merch Informer for it. I don’t know how I would exist without that because checking trademarks on USPTO is a chore.
Shannon: [23:18] Yes, that’s for sure. Pages and pages.
Spencer: [23:22] So frustrating.
Shannon: [23:26] Are there any other tools, other than that?
Zach: [23:33] I don’t think so.
Spencer: [23:33] Can I ask how you do your keywords? You mentioned phrases. Are you using the auto-complete box in search to find phrases or do you just look at the BSR?
Zach: [23:44] This is actually new for me. I never really used autocomplete a whole lot outside of finding niches but for research, one thing I clued into recently, and I’m not sure how it’s going to play out yet, but I start my research just by looking at everything that’s available and I try and look for phrases that I like or that somebody repeated. I’ll plug those phrases into the auto-suggest box and see if they auto-complete.
If they do auto-complete, I figure “Okay, this is popular,” I pull up the search results and then I phrase specifically if it has a good opportunity, like average BSR is pretty good and it’s only 100-200 shirts. Then I’ll start designing a couple shirts for that phrase. Hopefully that makes sense. That’s my one two three step process for finding stuff.
Spencer: [24:34] No, that makes a lot of sense. I think if you’re combining that with an eye for going into a niche, like a very specific market, clearly you have that focus on finding an ideal customer. I think that’s one of the better ways to stand out, is just using an intelligence strategy to find the phrases. In my opinion, the weirder the niche you go into, the better shot you might have at standing out and succeeding with some new products.
Zach: [25:04] Yeah. It’s always worrying, isn’t it though? People won’t look at weird niche and it’s like “Are people really buying this?”
Spencer: [25:09] I mean, shoot man. Even before I started taking this business seriously, my first big and only probably trending shirt was one that said “Just a girl who loves horses” and I don’t know anything about horses, rider, that niche, but it just came up. Now, I do all kinds of ridiculous crossovers where I’m like, “This girl loves Jesus and cheerleading.” You just throw them up against the wall. The other day, I sold one that says “This girl loves Jesus and unicorns.” Okay. Talk about a hyper-targeted, sure. Maybe I just need to find that very specific one Jesus and unicorn girl and really speak to her with a shirt.
Zach: [25:54] A lot of people coaching about marketing talk about how you need to find an audience that is irrationally passionate something. If you happen to find that person that loves Jesus and unicorns, there you go.
Shannon: [26:11] Oak trees.
Spencer: [26:12] This girl loves oak trees and unicorns. Oh my gosh. As far as Amazon goes, I know you’re focused there, so do you have things that would be on your… If we could come up with a wish list of things that you’d like to see Merch by Amazon do, do you have any things that come to mind as far as what might be a limitation now and what you think would really help us grow a little bit faster?
Zach: [26:43] For one thing, I’d love better support for advertising. That looks great on Etsy so I assume it would work right on Amazon as well.
Spencer: [26:53] Yeah, and it did for a while. We tested it through AMS and mine was fairly profitable. It just completely disappeared. I think that would be huge. For Seller Central, that’s essential. I’m confused as to why they took it away from Merch.
Zach: [27:10] Yeah, I’d love to see that. I’m waiting for a tool that integrates really well with Amazon or Amazon can just come out with it that makes managing your designs really easy. It’s an everyday frustration. If you need to go and edit a design, I almost always do at PrettyMerch, like a shirt that just sold, I’ll pull it up and change the price or whatever. If I needed to go back and find a shirt that’s already posted, it’s a pain in the butt. I wish that was a little bit of an easier process. Same with any bulk changes.
Spencer: [27:43] Definitely. It’s such a pain in the butt. Your mindset is something that I really appreciate about what you talk about on your Instagram. You’re living in New York where there’s distractions on every corner of the street, there’s something to do every single night at any hour of the day. It’s like the city that never sleeps or whatever.
At the same time, you’re waking up at, at least you’re talking about waking up, at like 5:30 every single morning. I’m just like, “Oh, man. This is insanely awesome.” You’re driven and focused. Very focused on waking up at a certain time but at night, you’re making sure that you’re trying your best to upload every single day. What keeps you so driven and why are you even waking up at 5:30 in the morning? How does that impact your day? How does that go on?
Zach: [28:49] The 5:30 thing just started last week. I really like it. One interesting thing is that two years ago, I was living in Seattle. I was getting up at like 9 o’clock. I identify through the things in my life that depressed me a little bit and one of those things at that time was gaming at night for an hour or two even. I found that really depressed me a little bit. Same with getting up late.
Feeling like I was getting up after so many other people already had, I don’t know if it ignited some sort of natural competitive thing. I don’t know what it is but I don’t like it. I slowly brought my wake up time down over the years. I’m down to 5:30 as of two weeks ago and it’s going well. It feels really good. At the crack of dawn, you know not many other people are up and it’s like you beat everyone.
When I go to the gym, that’s a great way to start and I find that if I can start my day right, it makes all the difference in everything. If I don’t start my day right, then I don’t get my goals done at night, everything spirals out of control, I have a bad mindset.
Spencer: [30:02] It’s funny how the way you start your day can be the priorities you’re setting for your day, too. Getting in a workout in the morning instead of in the evening, you’re telling everyone else and yourself that “Hey, working out’s important so I’m going to make sure it gets done.” When you get up that early, it’s like a cheat code in a way. I used to be the same way.
Now the mornings are the most valuable time of the day because you’re focused, you’re not beaten down, you’re working a full time job in the city, and there’s so much going on. If you have something you want to get done during the day, it’s got the best shot at getting done early. How low is it going to go? Is it going to go past 5:30? I think it keeps coming down.
Zach: [30:44] My inspiration is The Rock. He gets up, when he’s really in the zone and making movies and stuff, he talks about getting up at 4 I think, or at least that was before. I don’t see myself getting up that early because my gym doesn’t open until 6.
Spencer: [31:00] I like how that’s your limitation.
Zach: [31:04] The earliest I can get up is 5. That’s certainly my goal.
Shannon: [31:09] That’s funny. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of people that will hold you to it. Can you tell us a little bit about… You’re so active on doing some different competitions and things on Instagram. What are some fun things that you’ve been doing on there and connecting with other people in the community and how is that personal brand journey going for you? Is that helping push you and keep you motivated?
Zach: [31:32] Yes. Initially, my personal brand was everything for keeping me motivated because you can’t just flip the switch and become motivated and working really hard every day. It’s hard. The thing that got me into it originally was like, “Okay. I’m going to dedicate to making one post everyday on Instagram that says ‘here’s something I accomplished today.'” It was all document, don’t create, the whole thing.
Just really boring “I bought this thing, put it in the box, checked at the post office, time to make five bucks.” That was my post for the day. The nice thing about that is if you don’t do something, you have no thing to post. It’s the self-reinforcing thing that if you want to have content, you have to do stuff and the more you do, the more content you have and it grows and grows. Since then, the personal brand has been everything for being able to connect easily with people. Being out in the content creation side of things just makes it easy to connect with other leaders in the space in hopes of networking.
In general, I like creating stuff and being on the creation side rather than on the consumption side. Creating content, especially visual content, it’s something else to spend half an hour on and just enjoy doing. It’s a side thing that I want to keep going. I see personal branding being really powerful, too, especially as eventually, you’ve been to being a full time entrepreneur, whatever. It’s just a good backing to have.
Spencer: [33:08] Absolutely. You have this audience of people watching you and you have your new tiers that you’re hitting, and then these goals to wake up every day at certain times. Do you have any rewards that help the feedback loop that keep you going? I think I saw you eating ice cream the other day. Are there any other things that you set in place where you say, “Okay. If I do this thing, if I hit this number, if I do whatever it is, I get this.” Are there anything there that you do to help you keep up?
Zach: [33:46] I’m really bad at rewards. In a sense like if I come up with a reward, it’s so much that it becomes a habit and then I’ll rationalize having it no matter what happens. It’s dumb. The two things I do right now are every day, I write down my goals in a notebook and put it on the box at the top. This came from Andy Frisella. It’s basically if I completed all the goals for the day, I put a W on the box. If I don’t complete them, I put an L on the box. It just feels bad to put the L in there and it feels great to put the W in there. That’s something where I’m working hard because I really want to put that W in there. It genuinely feels bad if I can’t. The other thing on more of the rewards side is I’ve started going to a movie every Saturday. It’s just really fun. I love movies. I love Disney. I like movies that have that magical, larger than life experience. Particularly with the wake up early thing. If I wake up at 5:30 throughout the week and then get up early on a Saturday, my contract with myself is like, “It’s the end of it. That’s nice.”
Spencer: [34:56] That’s awesome. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Zach: [35:00] Mission Impossible, by far.
Spencer: [35:01] Really? I haven’t seen it.
Zach: [35:03] It’s so good.
Spencer: [35:06] I’ll have to see that.
Shannon: [35:08] If you were building on your rewards and goals, a lot of people that we’ve talked to who are building their own business, they don’t necessarily have an end point. They want to grow their business but there’s never a point where it’s like, “Oh, I want to build this business to this number and then I want to sit on my butt on the beach and just relax.”
Do you ever see yourself growing into… Beyond three or five years, you mentioned being a full time entrepreneur. Is that the end goal for you, is to work for yourself or is there more of a balance you’re seeking? What is the ideal state for your business, and that can be like your location independent, you’re reaching a certain amount of income? When you think about that, what does an ideal business look like for you?
Zach: [35:57] 100% my long term goal, hopefully shorter than long term, is financial independence. Being able to do whatever I want in terms of business opportunities and not having to worry about it necessarily fumbling my life. Sorry, I just want to add one in investments that just allows me to keep going and having fun, and that’s really all there is to it.
I think when it comes to working versus not working, I think I would go pretty depressed if I didn’t work at this point. I really enjoy being productive. It’s always going to have something but at least for short term, having the money to just not have to worry about it.
Spencer: [36:38] I think that gives you a lot of power of choice when you start building an additional income stream. I think it’s really smart when people start, and most people do, start with having a job like you do and building something on the side. In my experience, when I left my job to do this full time, it was a lot more powerful to say, “Hey, I know I can do this because I’ve got other income coming in” and it gives you a little bit more confidence and ability to choose what you go after.
It’s a risk. You’re taking some risk off the table when you do an online business and you grow both at the same time. You’re like, “Eh, I don’t need this job anyway.” You can walk with a little bit more swagger.
Zach: [37:21] I think the idea of having enough confidence about your ability to build income streams outside of work that, at work you can have the confidence to have opinions and just not have to ramp up calls. There’s a certain comfort there. Not that it’s a big deal but if you’re going to work everyday to your nine to five and you just feel “Oh, man. If I lost this I don’t know what I would do.” That’s not a great way to live so being able to get rid of that was just like going to work because you want to be there. It’s nice.
Spencer: [37:56] I think that’s super powerful, too. Shannon, do you have any more questions we want to hit on business?
Shannon: [38:03] I wanted to ask if you’ve read any good books lately or if you’ve read any good content that you’d want to share with the audience for them to check out?
Zach: [38:19] I’ve definitely read some good books. I just don’t read books that often. If I do, it’s all Audible and I try to get halfway through and then move on. It seemed great. I listen to a ton of podcasts. I listen to an hour or two everyday. One podcast I really enjoyed recently is Tom Bilyeu’s podcast. Have you guys heard of him?
Spencer: [38:41] I haven’t. What’s he all about?
Zach: [38:44] He’s an entrepreneur. He founded quest nutrition, a big protein company. They’re unique in the whole space. He talks a lot about how to overcome anxiety and any mental issue that’s holding you back. He talks a lot to people that are in nine to five’s and trying to figure out how to process things like the motivation to do side hustles. All these mental stuff. He’s all about the mental form habits and mechanics for combating negative mental states. It’s not just “hustle, hustle, grind.”
It’s a lot of stuff that really speaks to you. When you listen, you’re like, “Holy crap. There’s other people out there that feels this way about whatever this situation is?” And then it gives you mechanics for dealing with it and it all really works. It’s really interesting. Everyone should give it a shot because the tools you pick up for just becoming mentally strong and resilient and valuable.
Spencer: [39:52] I can totally, totally use that especially in this space. Do you know how to spell his last name? Bellick you said?
Zach: [40:00] It’s Tom Bilyeu. B-I-L-Y-E-U, I believe?
Spencer: [40:06] Oh, okay. Cool. We’ll throw that in the show description. I think that’s something I want to pick up on because if we take print on demand as an example, like I mentioned the barrier to entry is so low, but what separates people like you who are moving it forward and growing it from folks who are looking for a little bit more growth and are maybe a little frustrated with how the sales are.
It’s really easy to discount the mental strength to just continue to push and to do things, to upload when you’re not seeing returns, to try new things and have them fail, to keep hitting it over and over again. Shannon and I have helped each other over this journey in the last year when we really started to double down on the content and print on demand. I think the mental strength just can’t be understated as far as what’s going to separate you from the competitor who’s going to get you to your goals.
It’s a huge struggle especially if you do it full time. There can be a bit of an impostor syndrome, too, where like, “Is this real? Can I make money online? There are so many people who will tell you it’s possible but is this real?” It can be a lot different than the normal, traditional path. I guess that’s my point. Building that mental strength is important. Shannon, do you have any resources or people who help you with that?
Shannon: [41:34] Other than Spencer yourself. I listen to a lot of podcasts, too. I try to listen to people like Tom, although I haven’t listened to his specific podcasts. I have heard of him and Quest Nutrition and what an amazing thing he’s done. Specifically, I really do enjoy… Freedom Fast Lane anymore. Yeah, I think it is Freedom Fast Lane.
I really enjoy that because not only Ryan Daniel Moran talks about his strengths and weaknesses as he’s going through his own businesses but the people he has on the show. I think even Tom, I don’t know if he’s been on there, but he talks about Tom on the show. It’s amazing to see where a lot of these people just started out at tier zero in our world. They were where we were a year ago when we started out, too. It’s just inspiring to watch those people, to listen to their stories.
Spencer: [42:55] Zach, it’s working for you. I’m going to read a couple of comments from our livestream real quick. MerchOrca says “Zach, I love this guy. He’s always inspiring me to push hard and reach further.” HustlerGirlYT says “Awesome. I love his Instagram. Does he have a YouTube channel now?” I guess do you?
Zach: [43:15] Everyone says that. No. I need to get one, right? Because everyone keeps telling me. There’s no time. I don’t have time. I don’t know if I just need to sit in front of a camera and just post the rawest thing ever. Editing a video takes hours.
Spencer: [43:32] Yeah. We just do the raw thing to try to keep it easy. I think the point is I love how you hold yourself accountable with a community and bring them along on this journey. Like, “I’m going to try this. I’m going to open everything up. Come along with me. If it fails, you’ll see it, too.” It’s a good way to not only keep yourself motivated but to learn faster, too. People response super well with that. Personally, I want to see more content from you, man. We need more people with your positive attitude.
Zach: [44:04] Thanks.
Spencer: [44:05] You’re a go-getter. Just the way you are grinding. Not just hustle and grind the meme of the entrepreneur world but really be thoughtful about it.
Zach: [44:16] Thanks.
Shannon: [44:16] Exactly. I think I appreciate the highs just as much as the lows because not that I want you to go through low times, but you know what I mean. I’d go through these things and I know everyone else is watching you and following you. They’re going through those highs and lows as well so just to know that there’s someone else out there going through them, they’re going through those things, it helps to continue forward and just keep moving forward. I definitely thank you so much for everything you’re doing for the community. I know I appreciate it and Spencer appreciates it and so many other people do, too.
Zach: [44:57] That’s great. Thanks.
Shannon: [45:00] Absolutely. If there’s anybody that doesn’t know what your Instagram account is, what is it and how can they reach out to you if they want to say hi?
Zach: [45:12] You can find me on Instagram just by my name. Hopefully it’s posted on the podcast somewhere because it’s hard to spell out. Zach Knickerbocker, Z-A-C-H and then Knickerbocker like the New York Knicks, who I am not affiliated with.
Spencer: [45:27] TM Hunt. Trademark check that.
Zach: [45:33] Hit me up. You can just send me a friend request, send me a DM, whatever. I answer all my DMs.
Spencer: [45:40] Cool. We’ll definitely link that. I saw you had a little competition this past week. You put up a design and you were competing with another designer to see which one would resonate better. What kind of things can people look forward to on there? What kind of content do you post?
Zach: [45:57] That was super fun. That was the first time I tried anything collaborative with the community. I’d love to do it again. It was a competition post with this guy name Detour Shirts. He’s on Instagram as well. Each creator designed for a specific niche, in this case it was first grade rocks like back to school stuff. It so happened that we both approached the design completely differently. We have completely different target audiences.
Everyone got to vote on which one they thought was their favorite. It was really cool to see people say “I like this design because it would speak better to my first graders” or “I like this design because it’s cool.” People started following in one audience with the other. It really shows you how much the audience matters when you’re deigning. I’d love to do more of that. I think there will be more of that in the future.
As far as my overall account, I post once a day. That’s my goal. It’s always something about some specific action I’ve taken, super hardcore technical documentation or if I’m feeling a certain way that night, it will be more motivational side. Just super raw, vulnerable as I can be, just sharing it. It’s a journal, basically, once a day. This is what happened today. Hopefully people get some value out of it.
Spencer: [47:14] Fantastic. We’ll make sure people can easily find that for sure. Shannon, any final questions for Zach?
Shannon: [47:21] That’s it for me. I appreciate you being on, Zach. Thanks for coming and hanging out with us.
Zach: [47:26] Thanks, guys. It was a lot of fun.
Spencer: [47:28] Yeah, it’s been awesome. We’ll catch you later, Zach. Thanks, everybody for tuning in this week. We will catch you soon with a couple more interviews and we’ll catch you later.