Merch Lifestyle https://www.merchlifestyle.com Building freedom based businesses in the print on demand industry. Sun, 29 Sep 2019 21:08:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/cropped-Logo-White-Clear-32x32.png Merch Lifestyle https://www.merchlifestyle.com 32 32 Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too) https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/etsy-ads-10-reasons-why-im-slashing-my-etsy-ad-spend-and-you-should-too/ Sat, 28 Sep 2019 21:14:47 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50798 The post Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too) appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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RIP Etsy Promoted Listings (for now).

In August 2019, Etsy announced that promoted listings would be retired and that sellers would be automatically switched over to their new advertising platform, Etsy Ads.

Up until this point, Etsy utilized a popular program called promoted listings, which allowed sellers to pay for specific listings to be shown higher in search results.

Sellers would set a daily budget, set their maximum cost per click (CPC), and adjust campaigns as needed to reach and maintain profitability. Many Etsy sellers (including myself) were able to achieve and sustain profitable advertising campagins with promoted listings, which was a rare win-win scenario for Etsy and Etsy sellers.

Promoted listings were actually so successful that revenue grew 30% annually as algorithms improved and more sellers used the platform:

 

Etsy Ads is a new advertising platform for Etsy sellers that combines promoted listings with Google Shopping. The key objective of this new, consolidated platform is to maximize visits to listings, as you can see from this graphic presented as part of their 2019 Q2 earnings presentation:

 

Etsy’s CEO, Josh Silverman, clarified the reasoning behind consolidating the marketing channels in a Q2 earnings call, stating:

“We know that our sellers are relatively indifferent as to whether the visits they are buying come from on- or off-Etsy, as long as they’re high-quality visits

“We also believe that on average, our sellers’ gross margin is much higher than our 5% transaction fee. In other words, they are able to spend more on a visit from Google than we would and still achieve a strong return on ad spend

“Our sellers have found it confusing and a bit intimidating to try to manage 2 separate ad programs, and as a result, seller adoption of Google Shopping has been limited. We believe that sellers want a single, simple solution with a single budget, where they tell us how much to spend and we invest that on their behalf, on- and off-Etsy.”

“We use less than 50% of our sellers’ aggregated budget. In other words, they have more appetite to invest than we have inventory to offer. By creating 1 streamlined ad offering, we can optimize our sellers’ budgets across both Pro List and Google PLAs”

 

I believe some of these assertions from Etsy to be highly misleading.

1.) Low seller adoption of Google Shopping was driven by a confusing and intimidating process

Setting up a Google Shopping campaign was even easier to set up than promoted listings. The process included selecting a daily budget and listings to advertise, without being given an option to set a max cost per click.

I don’t think that the alleged complexity of managing 2 varibles to “set and forget” drove low utilization of the service. I believe low seller ROI drove low utilization of the service, and that Etsy is misrepresenting the true reasoning (or doesn’t understand) why Google Shopping adoption has been limited.

I would love to show you more data on my own Google Shopping ROI, however, I did not let my own campaigns run for more than a week or two, given the amount of money they lost me while in effect.

2.) Un-utilized promoted listings budgets are likely to be filled by google shopping utilization

Until the very end, my promoted listings budget was maxed out at $100/day. I was willing to spend ~$3,000/month ($36,000/year, and more if I wasn’t capped) on promoted listings because they were profitable for my business.

Although Etsy never utilized my full daily budget, I set the budget at the maximum level so I could take advantage of every opening that was provided for my niche keywords. The only way that I could authorize this level of spend and not be reckless was to meticulously dial in and control CPC on each type of listing.

Etsy is implying that sellers’ high budgets are real dollars that would be eagerly shifted to Google Shopping, however, they neglect to consider that Etsy sellers will adjust budgets downwards when the Google Shopping spend tanks their ad campaign ROI.

 

Alright, Enough Complaining, Show me the Data!

Month (2019)Advertising TypeBudget Spent ($)Revenue ($)Advertising Cost of Sales (ACoS) (%)ImpressionsClicksOrdersAvg Order Value ($)Cost per Click ($)Conversion Rate (%)
July (31 days)Promoted Listings7334795151989043424411170.211.2
August (31 days)Promoted Listings8963737242264623717371010.241.0
September (28 days)Etsy Ads968147566226462300017870.320.57

Source data: July / August / September

As you can see, advertising on Etsy became unprofitable for me once Etsy Ads were activated. A 66% Advertising Cost of Sales (ACoS) would likely only be tenable if you were selling digital downloads, whereas I’m selling a physical product.

I found that most of my impressions were being driven against very broad search terms that were only marginally related to my long tail keywords. The killer keyword for me was “wall art”, which is only marginally related to my product as opposed to my longtail keywords. This term drove over 15,000 impressions and a “high click rate”. This data aligns with Etsy’s stated goal for Etsy Ads, which is to maximize views (not conversions).

I believe this data supports my theory that Google Shopping customers are far less likely to convert than a customer that’s natively on Etsy.

Google Shopping is a comparative search engine. It tries to match products across marketplaces and get shoppers the best deal for a particular item. This approach and deal-seeker mindset doesn’t align with the product offerings on Etsy, where shippers are looking for unique, personalized items. That’s why it’s so expensive (i.e. unprofitable) for Etsy to pay for Google Shopping Ads and why it will be difficult for you to drive high return as well.

 

10 Reasons to Reduce your Etsy Ads Spend

1.) Etsy Ads Assumes Sellers are Stupid

Aside from claims that managing two parallel ad campaigns is too much for the average Etsy seller (i.e. neanderthal), Etsy also thinks that you and I don’t know how to measure the success of our own ad campaigns.

The entire justification for consolidating promoted listings and Google Shopping is that sellers just need a “single, simple solution with a single budget, where they tell us how much to spend and we invest that on their behalf”.

Brands typically don’t stick around for long if they don’t know how to drive positive ROI on several thousand dollars per month of ad spend. Etsy is using the limited confusion of some small and new sellers to represent all Etsy sellers as confused sheep to their investors, which I believe to be a gross misrepresentation of sellers who make up the majority of spend with on-platform advertising.

 

2.) Etsy Used to Pay for Google Ads to Drive Growth, Now the Cost is on You

Etsy has been investing in Google Shopping ads on behalf of sellers for quite some time. They’ve been doing so to drive user growth on Etsy, but they really want to get out of that game as it’s not been super profitable for them.

It’s very clear that Etsy is looking to shift the burden of Google Shopping onto sellers. Here’s what Etsy CEO Josh Silverman had to say, We expect to reduce Etsy spend on performance marketing channels and reallocate those investments to upper and mid-funnel marketing.”

Therefore, when you spend money on Etsy Ads, you have no choice but to pay for Google Shopping, which means paying for the low ROI cross-platform clicks is now on you.

 

3.) You Can’t Control Cost per Click (CPC)

The number one factor in determining my success with promoted listings was the ability to set a maximum cost per click on each listing.

You’re no longer able to do that with Etsy Ads.

My most profitable campaign had the high AOV “winners” at about $0.26-0.30 per click, while long tail items were $0.08 per click to drive 15% ACoS.

Do you trust the algorithm to do any better? (Hint: It hasn’t worked out for me)

 

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

4.) Etsy Ads Clicks are Typically more Expensive

During my highest spend month with promoted listings, my average CPC was $0.24, with a max CPC of $0.30

With a month of Etsy Ads, my CPC was $0.32 (45% higher) and my max CPC was $1.73 (which didn’t convert, by the way)

Because Etsy Ads is now tied to the Google Shopping anchor, cost per click has increased. This is because you’re now competing with the whole world for ad spend on your keywords, whereas before you were just competing with other Etsy sellers.

 

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

5.) Etsy Ads Clicks Typically Convert Worse than Promoted Listings

My data shows that over a month, with the same listings, titles, and keywords, my conversion rate dropped by 43%.

I’m willing to accept that a small part of that 43% may be related to increased competition in my niche, or that buyers were just a bit stingy this month, but I don’t believe a 43% change in one month is random.

My theory is that because Etsy Ads are now tied to Google Shopping, the clicks we pay for convert at a far lower rate. I attribute this to the mismatch between a typical google shopping customer and Etsy’s recurring customers who are more familar with the platform and associated items/pricing.

 

6.) Etsy Ads are Designed to Maximize Views, Not Conversions

Pay attention to the right hand side of this chart, it’s spelled out clearly for us:

 

Etsy is simply interested in driving more traffic to show growth, and wants sellers to pay for 100% of the listing-specific ads.

They’re unwilling to stop partnering with Google Shopping, so the cost is simply pushed to sellers, regardless of traffic quality as measured by ROI.

A better measure of performance that aligns with sellers would be maximizing AOV x conversion rate alongside higher budget utilization.

7.) Etsy Ads May Compete Directly with your Online Store

If you sell on Shopify, WooCommerce, or any other platform that utilizes Google Shopping ads for the same items and keywords, you’ll be bidding against yourself for clicks.

8.) You Don’t Know Where Your Budget is Being Spent

The following data would be helpful to understand your Etsy Ads spend:

  • How many clicks did each search term drive?
  • What % of my budget was used on promoted listings vs. Google Shopping?
  • What is my CPC for promoted listings vs. Google Shopping?

None of this data is available with Etsy Ads, however, as easily confused Etsy sellers we’re just supposed to sit back and trust the algorithm to solve it for us.

(Feel free to let me know how that works out for you)

9.) Exporting and Analyzing Keyword Data is Not Easy

If you like copy/pasting into spreadsheets and refreshing pages, Etsy Ads is for you.

10.) Etsy Ads Makes it Hard to Improve your Marketing Skills

Part of the fun in e-commerce is learning new skills and improving over time. When you test, tweak, adjust, and analyze campaigns over and over, you get better at marketing and you become a better businessperson.

When an algorithm does that for you and doesn’t deliver the same ROI you could get on your own, it’s probably not worth your hard earned time and money.

 

Here’s What to do Next

If you couldn’t tell already, I recommend you review your Etsy Ads performance metrics.

If it’s working for you, get in touch because I’d love to ask you about it.

If it’s not working for you, turn Etsy Ads off or reduce your budget to $1/day.

I think Etsy will reverse course eventually and re-instate promoted listings because they’ll see a decrease in advertising spend across the board. Don’t hold your breath on this one, it’s already time to move on.

Some Etsy sellers are finding value putting their money into Instagram or Youtube Ads, however, I have yet to learn how to master those avenues myself.

I recommend you take time to work on your Etsy organic traffic with keywords, tags, and listing SEO, in addition to looking at Etsy alternatives like Shopify for your brand.

 

Full Transcription

YouTube / Podcast

Hey everybody, welcome back. My name is Spencer from Merchlifestyle.com, and today I’m going to share with you 10 reasons why I’m slashing my spend on Etsy advertising. Over the last three months, I’ve spent thousands of dollars advertising my listings on Etsy’s platform and I’ve done that because it’s been really profitable for me.

However, Etsy has recently changed their ad platform to combine promoted listings with Google shopping into one platform called Etsy. Ads. I have 10 reasons that I’m going to share with you why I think that is a really bad idea for sellers, and why you should really consider slashing your spend on Etsy ads in this video.

I’m going to share with you 3 months of my own data to show you all of the good metrics, ACoS, click-through rate, average order value, impressions, budget, spend, all of that stuff is going to come together for you to make an independent decision based on my data. After I walk through the 10 reasons, I’m also going to share with you a recommendation at the end of where you go from here and what to do next in your marketing journey as you see to grow your own print-on-demand business with that.

Let’s head over to Merchlifestyle.com, I’ve got an article written up with all my thoughts and we’ll walk through it together. Let’s start with a shared understanding of where advertising on Etsy used to be. Sellers used to be able to run promoted listings which were away for sellers to pay more money for particular listings to be shown higher or in search results.

So when somebody would search for a keyword that was in your title or your listing, you would show up higher you would show up closer to the first page which typically would result in higher click-through rate and more orders and more revenue for you as the seller and for Etsy both from getting revenue from sellers who are paying from promoted listings, but also from the increased transaction fees. Many sellers including myself had a lot of success with promoted listings and if you’ve watched my income reports over the last couple months you’ve seen that I’ve driven several hundred dollars of profit specifically from being able to optimize my promoted listings.

This was a rare win win for both Etsy sellers like myself and Etsy because that’s the sellers were paying as a hundreds of dollars a month and just straight cash to have Etsy make a small algorithm change and incur very very little direct cost to put the ads up higher in search. It was really profitable for Etsy.

And they were actually so successful that revenue from promoted listings had grown 30% year over year since Etsy initiated promoted listings as you can see from this screen shot. You’ll find a lot of things in this episode from etsy’s Q2 Financial results and their Q2 earnings call. So these are some of these graphics are are from there and they’re linked in this post so you can see the promoted listings were really successful for Etsy.

Recently Etsy ads is a new platform for Etsy where it’s going to take promoted listings and combine it with Google shopping. As you can see in this graphic to create one platform that maximizes visits across channels. You can see how the two promoted listings and Google shopping being funded by sellers into this one ad platform.

You might ask yourself like I did. Why would Etsy make this change? If promoted listings was so successful then why do we need to combine Google shopping with Etsy ads? Etsy CEO Josh Silverman clarified that reasoning with a couple different quotes. I’ve pulled from his earnings call which you can find in this article.

He said we know that sellers are relatively indifferent as to whether the visits are coming from on or off Etsy as long as they’re high-quality visits. And my impression is that a high-quality visit means it’s someone who’s just as likely to convert on Etsy as they would a native Etsy buyer. And in my opinion Google shopping that isn’t the case because you’re pulling people who are from Google into Etsy, whereas promoted listings you’re already taking people who are on Etsy and showing them more of what they want to see so he’s assuming that correctly that sellers don’t really care as long as they’re high-quality.

But let’s dig in a bit further. He also said that part of the reasoning is that sellers are able to spend more on a visit from Google than Etsy would as a corporation and they can still return achieve a strong return on their advertising. He also said that, I take particular exception to this quote, that sellers have found it confusing and a bit intimidating to try to manage to separate add programs.

And as a result Google shopping adoption has been limited. He said we believe that sellers want a single simple solution with a single budget where they tell us how much to spend and we invest on their behalf both on and off Etsy. Last quote I pulled from as related to Etsy adds that he had to say was that as he sellers have more appetite to invest than Etsy has inventory or promoted listing space has to offer by creating one streamline add offering we can optimize our sellers budgets across promoted listings in Google promote listings advertising.

You can see in this graphic how it’s he’s laying out this before and after where sellers would have this massive unutilized budget, right, which is when you would set your your advertising budget at a hundred, two hundred dollars, whatever Etsy would cap you at and in most cases they would spend less. And in this new unified ad platform called Etsy ads they’re basically saying they’re going to be able to drive so much more revenue once they bundle Google shopping here together.

However, I think some of these assertions are actually highly misleading from my perspective as a seller and I want to call out exactly why that is. One of the things that Josh said was that low seller adoption of Google shopping was driven by a confusing or intimidating process. However, setting up a Google shopping campaign in my experience was even easier than setting up promoted listings.

You would choose what listings you wanted and you would set a daily budget and you didn’t even have the option to select a maximum cost per click. So I don’t understand how that was any more complicated than promoted listings. I think it was actually easier and went from a seller’s perspective having to manage promoted listings and Google shopping where you are just going on there and setting a budget and choosing what listings you want to promote doesn’t really feel like a huge ask as far as complexity goes. As far more difficult to do things like keyword research and choose your tags appropriately and and comply with all of its these rules than it is to manage those two campaigns.

So I think they’re actually masking the reason that Google shopping was underutilized and my impression is that google shopping was underutilized because it simply had a poor ROI return on investment. Sellers were not getting the return that they needed on Google shopping which was likely driven by the fact they couldn’t control their cost per click.

Right?

I really think that saying that the process was too confusing and that sellers were air quotes intimidated is really masking. The anchor that Google Shopping is which is just not as not as profitable for sellers as putting money into promoted listings, and I’d love to show you guys more data on Google shopping my own ROI.

However, when I did try campaigns I would let them run for a week or two with a low budget and they were huge losers for me. I never made a sale through Google Shopping and I that’s why I don’t have any data because it didn’t work for me. I think the second thing I want to challenge with this statement is that there’s an assumption here that the unutilized promoted listings budget if we go back up there and we kind of look at this top bar, which says today’s unutilized budget is this huge amount?

Well, he’s saying that that promoted listings budget was unutilized and it would be likely to be filled up by Google shopping utilization, but I don’t really think that’s correct. If you look at the amount that I set up as my max budget, I told Etsy I was willing to spend about $100 per day and that’s $3,000 a month. That’s thirty six thousand dollars per year. I would have been willing to spend more if they wouldn’t have kept my budget. However, if you look at my actual spend it always came in less than $3,000 a month, even when I was maxing out my budget and that’s because Etsy would never spend my full daily budget.

But if you follow the logic, you know that it was profitable for me. I’ve proven that with my income reports and you have to ask yourself why I wouldn’t set my budget as high as possible because that’s he’s telling me if I’m spending money on promoted listings. I’m making money. So why would I not want to spend as much money on that as possible and as he was never really able to get it there?

What adds he’s assuming however, is that all of that budget that sellers had allocated to promoted listings, which was necessary to get the most value out of promoted listings because Etsy would never fill up your budget at a profitable spend level. Then they’re assuming that Google shopping will just fill that void.

However, they neglect to recognize that people already have the option to spend money on Google shopping and that they just weren’t doing it. What they should have done is taken the Google Shopping budget and added that onto the promoted listings budget to create an actual value of what was there.

However, I really don’t think that Etsy sellers are just going to magically pu all of their allocated budget which was for a profitable promoted listing spend and dump it into Google shopping. The ROI isn’t there. I haven’t seen it in my data and I don’t think sellers will follow that trend. So I think it’s he’s actually off on both of those points.

Okay, next let’s take a look at my actual data from the last three months. You can see in this table. I’m tracking July August and September you can see in July and August. I had promoted listings and then in September I was switched over to Etsy ads you can see the key numbers. I want us to pay attention to here are the key numbers that any marketer should be using to value their advertising spent on e-commerce platform.

There is a key one here. That is your cost per click. Just how much money you’re paying per click your conversion rate, which is how many orders are you getting for? Each of those clicks on a percentage basis.

You should be paying attention to your average order value, which is the art of measuring how valuable those conversions are to you and another key number is. Advertising cost of sales, which is your the amount of your budget spent that contributed to revenue. So that number comes from this 733 / 4795.

So what that means is 15% of my revenue for that month was spent on advertising and you want that number to be as low as possible. So as you can see here., as we move towards Etsy ads there’s a huge jump when we move from promoted listings to at see ads my advertising cost of sales went up to 66 percent which is just totally unsustainable for me.

It’s sustainable if you sell something like a digital download where your overhead is really low. However, spending almost a thousand dollars to earn about 1500 or me. Did that just doesn’t make any sense. I saw my orders plummet, you can see that in my conversion rate. It was down about 43% from August moved from one percent down to .57.

Point five seven percent was my conversion rate and my cost-per-click went up by about 45 percent. I used to be paying twenty four cents a click and now I’m paying 32 cents a click keep in mind and all this data. I didn’t change any of my pricing keywords listings. These were all held, you know completely flat and I didn’t change any of those key variables during this time.

So my average order value really plummeted as just you can see by the amount of impressions and actual orders. The traffic that I was driving through Etsy ads is just lower value traffic to me it converts almost half as well and I attribute a little bit of that to the fact that you know, If some of these clicks are going through Google shopping, which I have to assume they are at those sellers just aren’t as interested in converting and checking out as an Etsy native customer would be.

So one other thing that really bothered me was that I found a lot of my Impressions were being driven by, as far as Impressions from September, when I was on Etsy ads your be driven against really broad search terms, even though those Search terms were very very small part of my description or my tags, or they were partials give you example because I sell posters one keyword that the ranked the highest for me was wall art. However, I never had wall art in my tags or in my title. So this term drove 15 thousand impressions in a high click rate, which means I spent a lot of money on a very broad search term that I wasn’t even targeting.

And this lines up with what has he told us before that there are new unified platform is meant to drive the most views ,not necessarily the most high value conversions, which is what we look for is sellers. So I think that this this data shows me the Google shopping customers, which weren’t coming into my store before and now they are I think they’re far less likely to convert than a customer that’s already on Etsy and I think that’s because Google shopping is a comparative shopping engine.

It’s trying to match up products across marketplaces is trying to find you the best deal on one item that’s common, can be sold in multiple places, but Etsy is completely the opposite where people are looking for Unique or personalized items that they can’t find anywhere else and I think that’s part of the reason that part of the reason there’s a friction there and pulling people from Google shopping into Etsy.

And Etsy trying to show some kind of growth in users or traffic and that’s the reason they want to get out of the Google shopping game because it’s just it’s just unprofitable. It’s not a great channel to pull the kind of customers in that are going to convert. So I want to talk to you guys now about 10 reasons to reduce your Etsy advertising spend.

I love this picture of a skeptical giraffe. And reason number one is that I think at the ads assumes that sellers are stupid. I mean aside from their claims that managing, you know, two parallel ad campaigns promoted listings and Google shopping is just too much and too intimidating for the average Etsy seller.

I also think that they don’t believe that we know how to measure the success of our own ad campaigns the whole justification for comparing our for consolidating rather promoted listings in Google shopping was that oh, sellers are asking for a just a simple solution one budget, Etsy, you know to handle it for me.

But the big brands that are spending lots of money on advertising the people who are at these, you know, most profitable customers are you know, they don’t you don’t stick around for very long if you’re spending thousands of dollars a month. You’re willing to and you don’t know how to measure the success of your advertising campaign.

So I think Etsy is taking what could be the confusion of some smaller sellers or new stores in the forums and they’re representing that confusion and laying it across the entire base of Etsy Sellers and and representing that Etsy sellers are you know are not really bright enough to manage their own metrics and I think from my own experience.

I think that’s a pretty bad misrepresentation of most of us who sell an Etsy. You are not only motivated to improve our business, but are smart enough to understand and learn how to do that better.

Reason number two that I think you should reduce your spent on Etsy ads is because that’s a used to pay for Google ads themselves and they just want to push that cost on to you.

So if you look in my article here, I link to an article that shows Etsy has been investing in Google shopping ads for quite some time now and they’ve been doing so to show a positive growth story and try to grow the Etsy platform. But from the CEOs own words Etsy is looking to shift the burden of that kind of low converting not profitable channel on to sellers.

He said we expect to reduce Etsy spend on performance marketing channels and reallocate those investments to upper and mid funnel marketing. And what that means for the rest of us is performance marketing channels means Google shopping and the only performance marketing channel they were spending money on to my knowledge was Google shopping. And they want to spend more money on TV ads and YouTube ads and partnering with different channels.

Right.

So now when you’re spending money on Etsy ads we are subsidizing what ads they used to pay for and because obviously they don’t want to give up the traffic that they were getting from Google shopping and they want to push that onto sellers. So now that kind of low profitability cross-platform high friction click now that’s on us as sellers.

Reason number three is that you cannot control your cost-per-click anymore or that see ads? I will just be very clear the number one factor for me to be able to determine my success with promoted listings was to be able to control the cost per click my most profitable campaign. I had my high winners my great listings where I was willing to spend typically 26 to 30 cents per click.

As a maximum and then all of my long tail items were more about eight to nine cents per click and in July that drove a 15% ACoS which was fantastic. I made a ton of money that month from promoted listings. And so did I say however as he’s now asking you to trust the algorithm to control that cost per click for you and what I’ve seen and what I’ve shown from my data is that my cost per click is up by 45% That doesn’t really give me a lot of confidence.

Be able to trust that these algorithms going to do better than I was doing before and it hasn’t worked out very well for me.

Reason number four is that Etsy ads clicks are typically more expensive than promoted listings were during my highest spend month with promoted listings. My average cost per click was 24 cents and my Max cost per click was 30 cents, which means it never went over 30 cents.

However in September this month my average cost per click was 32 cents, which was up 45%. And the most amount of money I paid for a click was a dollar seventy three. And that didn’t even convert. How in the world can I expect to trust an algorithm to pay a buck 73 for a click that doesn’t convert on a long tail item that my Max cost-per-click used to be eight cents.

That’s ridiculous.

I think Google shopping is is really an anchor that doesn’t make sense for Etsy and it drags it down. It’s more competitive now because when you’re competing on these keywords in Google shopping, you’re bidding against the entire world that uses Google shopping. Whereas before your competition was just other Etsy sellers, but that’s the reason that these ads are more expensive and that’s going to be a lot harder to run a profitable campaign for you in its current state.

Reason number 5 is that Etsy ads clicks I see that they typically convert worse than promoted listings did.

My conversion rate dropped by 43 percent this month. And you can attribute as much of that as you’d like to seasonality more competition, but I don’t buy that the entire 43% is attributed to that. My theory is again that the clicks that we pay for that go through the Google Shopping channel.

They just converted a far lower rate and it’s again it’s a mismatch between the kind of customer that’s on Google shopping looking for a deal. Versus the customer that’s familiar with Etsy and is looking for that unique or personalized item and the higher pricing that Etsy typically has.

Reason number 6 out of 10 why you should consider reducing your Etsy ad spend is that Etsy ads are designed to maximize views and not high-value conversions.

If you look at the right-hand side of this chart, we’ve already seen you can see here, I’ve highlighted it, Etsy Ads is a single growth platform that automatically maximizes visits across multiple channels. But we don’t care about visits we care about high-quality conversions. And if you’re getting high quality conversions at a affordable price, then we can maximize visits.

It’s completely backwards. The I think what it’s he’s doing here is they’re trying to drive more traffic there trying everything they can to grow the platform. In theory they don’t want to give up the Google shopping traffic that they’ve already been paying for so it’s time to push that onto sellers.

And I think this is kind of backwards when you look at it from a seller’s perspective. I think a better measure performance would be maximizing some combination of your average order value being high with a conversion rate metric and then tracking kind of those metrics alongside how much of the budget is actually being spent. I think that would be a better metric.

Reason number seven. This is a good one if that’s the ads might complete compete directly with your own online store.

If you run a Shopify store and you’re actually doing Google shopping ads. Well, you better not have the same keywords and product listings because all of a sudden you will be bidding with yourself for the same keywords, and you might as well drive that traffic to your own online store rather than compete with Etsy.

That’s reason number 7 reason number 8 is that you don’t know where this budget is being spent. I had a couple questions when I started running at the ads that I really wanted answers to, but the data just wasn’t there for me. I want to know how many clicks each search term drove when I gave you that example of wall art.

It told me that I had a high click rate. What does that mean? How many clicks were attributed to that broad term? I’d love to know what percent of my budget was used on promoted listings versus Google shopping. I want to know the conversion rate for those two platforms. If you’re going to combine them at least let me look at the data between the two however Etsy doesn’t give us that choice and that’s that’s a lack of transparency that that creates room to cover up actual performance and what drives that performance.

I would love to know my cost per click or promoted listings versus Google shopping. I have a suspicion that it’s much higher than on Google shopping as well. None of this data is available. So without analyses like this one and what some other Etsy sellers have put out, it’s very difficult for us to actually figure out what’s going on.

And that’s part of the reason I wanted to share my data with you to help challenge this change and help you understand why it’s likely not good for you.

Reason number nine why you should consider slashing your essay had spent is that just exporting it analyzing your keyword data. It’s never been easy, and it’s still not easy. So if you like copy and paste spreadsheets and refreshing pages and do it over and over again Etsy ads is the perfect platform for you.

Reason number 10, and this is super important, part of the reason that I run this channel part of the reason I enjoy e-commerce is because it sharpens my skills. I learned new things and then I can test an experiment and grow my own knowledge and become a better marketer and a better business person, but Etsy ads because it treats sellers with such a reductive and simplified perspective, it’s just impossible to improve your marketing skills. You can’t intelligently test tweak and update your strategies. I guess you could just change your budget up and down and turn listings on and off, but that’s not really a lot of strategy and there’s not a lot you can learn from that.

So you’re basically giving all the learning to the algorithm put they’re putting it behind a closed door and your ability to improve your skills is highly limited. So it’s likely not worth your time and money to do this.

Guy’s there’s 10 reasons. I slashed my budget to one dollar per day. I’m only doing that too so I can keep my keywords and see if it performs any differently over the next month.

With one dollar a day, I want to measure that impact against my store and continue to bring more data to you.

But let’s talk about what to do next. Okay, if you couldn’t tell already review your own metrics. Etsy automatically pushed a lot of people over to Etsy Ads. I was one of the people who I didn’t want to opt into it.

They had said that if I wanted to opt into it over the course of a month I could. I held off clicking that button because I didn’t like what was coming but they pushed me into it anyway, so you might have been pushed into it too. And if you’re one of those sellers who had those high budgets because promoted listings with a rock star for you.

Well, I hope you’re not in for a bad surprise this month because all of that budget will certainly be eaten up by that high cost per click that Google shopping loves to deliver. So if Etsy ads is working for you, please get in touch with me and leave me a comment. I’d love to talk to you and set up an interview potentially and ask you about how that’s working and how you manage to optimize, at what kind of listing works well.

If it’s not working for you, turn it off or reduce it to a dollar a day if you turn it off and then you turn it back on to a dollar day, your keywords will still be there. At least they were for me when I turned it on same day so that can be the minimum you can do. I really do think that Etsy will reverse their course on this eventually and reinstate promoted listings.

I think some of these assumptions about Revenue growth with a combined platform are based on a misleading pretense and I think we’re going to see in the Q3 or Q4 earnings report. I project that there will be a little bit of backtracking or at least a little bit of underperforming against the expectations that Etsy has set for this new, combined platform and that’s just because sellers aren’t as stupid as that making us out to be.

I found that some Etsy sellers are finding value putting money into Instagram or YouTube ads. I’m not the expert on those. I have yet to master them myself. So what I’d recommend you do is just take some time to work on your organic traffic with your keywords tags and your listing SEO.

I’m going to be doubling down on how to expand my Etsy organic search footprint and I’ve also been growing my Shopify store managed to get a couple sales on that this month. So it’s a great time, another great reminder why to diversify away from different Platforms. So please let me know how if this resonated with you.

Let me know if it’s working or if it’s not and if enough sellers band together in solidarity and actually adjust their budgets downwards to reflect the low level of performance that you might see on Etsy Ads, then maybe we can just turn this ship around, but I’d like to thank you for watching, head over to merchlifestyle.com and sign up for my email list if you like this content and if you’d like to receive more.

Drop us subscribe whether you’re listening on podcast or YouTube and I’ll be glad to catch you guys next time.

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

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Income Report August 2019

 Income Report:   August 2019Let's dive into the numbers behind my print on demand profits for the month of August. As usual, my main profit driver was Etsy, but I also re-launched Shopify to start the long road to diversifying away from Etsy.Etsy - Premium...

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In January of 2019 I was lucky to host JJ Deakins on the show to talk about how he sold a Merch by Amazon business in 2018. This episode was a lot of fun to make with JJ. He was an open book about the whole process, and his personable nature made for an easy-going...

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 Income Report   January 2019Hey there, welcome back! January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come...

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Income Report June 2018June was a decent month($2k profit), I'm not where I want to be ($5k profit), but the foundation is rock solid. Here's a short summary of what I think the most important insights are from this month: Everyone should be on Etsy.   This month I...

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The post Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too) appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
How to Connect Your Etsy Store to Google Analytics https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/connect-etsy-store-to-google-analytics/ Sun, 22 Sep 2019 22:45:22 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50770 The post How to Connect Your Etsy Store to Google Analytics appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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 How to Connect Your Etsy Store to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an extremely powerful and free tool that you can use to understand traffic to your web properties. You can use Google Analytics with Etsy, Shopify, WordPress, and other sites easily to better understand your traffic.

This article focuses on how to configure Google Analytics for your Etsy store, so you can supplement the data Etsy provides.

If you get stuck, you can also refer to Etsy’s Google Analytics guide or Google Analytics’ help page.

1.) Set up a Google Analytics account

2.) Navigate to “create property

3.) Select “Web” and click continue

4.) Link your Etsy store

In this step you can find the URL of your Etsy store by logging in and clicking your store name. The URL should follow this syntax: www.etsy.com/shop/yourshopname

 

5.) Copy your unique Tracking ID

5.) Navigate to your Etsy store, go to settings, then options

6.) Open “Web Analytics” and paste your Tracking ID

7.) Wait a month, then dig into your data!

Google Analytics is a very powerful tool that can help you understand your audience. At a very high level, you can learn about your audience geography, demographic, age, referral method, and so much more. This information is crucial to being able to understand how to better market to your ideal audience.

Here are a few insights from my Etsy store:

 

Geography

It’s no surprise that most of my visitors are in the US. However, maybe there’s more I can be doing to ensure my UK, Canadian, Australian, and German customers are comfortable checking out. Maybe I need to offer imperial sizing, local fulfillment options, or language transaltion to capture more of theses sales.

 

Age

Most of my customers are young adult to middle aged, so I need to take that into account when looking at trends, product style, and communication methods.

 

Session Stats

Looks like I’m getting more users in the last 90 days, but they’re staying for a shorter time on my site. This may have to do with my keywords as it’s possible I’m targeting too broad of a niche, or that I don’t have enough ancillary products to keep buyers’ attention.

 

Active Users

Uh oh! My active users is on the way down. I suspect this is related to reducing my daily ad spend in reaction to the new Etsy Ads changes. I’ll have to monitor this as I dial in my advertising keywords, in additon to working on my organic traffic process.

Moving Forward with Google Analytics

I recommend you spend some time in the GA dashboard to get comfortable with the different views and types of data being collected. Google Analytics is a complex tool with lots of documentation and industry expertise behind deciphering it.

If you’re curious about learning more, I would start with Analytics Academy. Be open to learning from what the data tells you (not your own pre-conceived notions about your customers) and let me know what you learn along the way!

Best,

Spencer

 

Full Transcription

YouTube Link | Podcast Link

Hey everybody, I’m Spencer from Merchlifestyle.com, and today I’m going to show you how to link your Etsy store with Google analytics.

Google analytics is a completely free platform that you can use to better understand your Ecommerce properties. Whether you’re selling on Shopify woocommerce Etsy or other sites, google analytics can help you better understand your customers. As far as where their location is in the world, why they came to your site, what their interests are, and how they got to your website. All of this information can. be combined to really help you get a better understanding of your customers on the internet and ultimately that will help you sell more on your eCommerce journey.

I’m going to go show you how to do that in six simple steps specifically linking Etsy to Google analytics and we’re going to go over to Merchlifestyle.com and I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

You can follow the link in the description or you can head to merchlifestyle.com where then you can click on the blog link which will link to my article called how to connect your Etsy store to Google analytics.

Navigate to that and then you’ll be brought to a page with step by step process that you can use to set this up. I’ve also provided links to Etsy’s Google analytics guide and Google analytics help page in case you get stuck or this tutorial isn’t in-depth enough for you. I try to keep it broad enough so that in case any of the actual pages change that this won’t be out of date.

So if you do get stuck the overall process should be the same, but you can go get exact specific step by steps using these links. First thing you want to do is set up a Google Analytics account, follow the link I provided here. Their home page will look like this, click on start for free once you get that set up, it’s going to look like just a homepage dashboard.

You’re going to navigate to create property and then at that point you’ll select web, which means it’s just simply the configuration for Etsy that is going to work the easiest. Once you select web and hit continue, this part is where you’re going to link your Etsy store. You’re going to tell Google analytics what you want to measure. I would give so I would give it a website name so that you can keep track of it in case you have multiple Etsy stores you can do this with each of those. So use your Etsy store name and then type in your website URL here. It’s going to look like www.etsy.com/shop slash whatever your store is called. And if you want to double check that you can go into Etsy, sign into your store and then click on your store name. It should bring up the syntax so that you can see the exact name. But I think if you just follow etsy.com shop slash your shop name, you should be just fine.

So set that up choose the industry category shopping and click create. What you’re going to get from there is a unique tracking ID. I’ve used this one here, don’t use that one because it leads to nowhere. It’s a property I’ve already deleted. it’s just there to show an example of what you’ll see you’ll see this multi-digit number. Copy that from Google analytics and then navigate to your Etsy store, sign in, go to settings this little gear on the side and then click on options.

Once you see options, you’re going to navigate over to the middle where it has a tab for Web Analytics. At that point you simply paste in your Google analytics web ID. Use The one that we found right up here after you created your property paste that in and then you should be all set.

It’s going to take a little bit of time for Google analytics to collect this data for your store. It’s not going to be super interesting in the first few days, but I would recommend you waiting a month or so and then that should give you enough time to actually see the beginning of some trends. And I pulled a little bit of data from my Etsy store so that you can see what trends might look like over a 90-day period and what the different kind of data is that even matters.

What’s the point of Google analytics? Why are we even looking at it?

Here are a few insights from my store. The geography of my users over 90 days. No surprise here that over 60% of my Etsy store customers are from the US but I also have a surprising amount from the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany and now these aren’t exactly customers, they’re just visitors and what this might tell me is that I need to maybe do a better job of catering my store to these different locations.

If I’m getting almost 20% of my traffic from the UK, am I offering sizes of my products in imperial units ? do they have an option to check out with a size of centimeters or is the sizing appropriate for that part of the world rather than just inches and having such a US focus.

The same would go for shipping options. Am I offering a local shipping option that is affordable for them?

In the US I offer free shipping, however, in the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany, I charge a flat fee in order to fulfill to those areas. Another thing you can look at to is whether you’re localizing your Etsy store in the language of different countries that are visiting your store. So what you could do is you can set up those language translations and then you could track to see if those countries are visiting your store more and more after you made those changes. This is some of the kind of stuff that you can see in terms of geography and I think it’s super interesting for your store, too.

Age is another huge one. I was a little bit surprised when I looked at these age numbers. I thought my customers were a bit older than this. However, the vast majority of my users and my customers are my visitors come through in our age 25 to 34. So like right in the middle of where I’m at. So what that tells me is I need to be making sure my advertising plays to these different groups. It might not be that useful for me to cater my marketing my messaging towards, you know, 45 and up when the majority of my customers are 44 years and old and under so that’s really interesting. I think sometimes as store owners you can have assumptions about your audience without checking the data and this is really interesting to have it shown right there for you and these are the facts so you can adjust accordingly.

Session stats is another one. You can see how many users are coming , their bounce rates, so how many are directly leaving your page for another page and an interesting one is how long they stay. One thing on Etsy that you can control is how many products you have, the kinds of products you have, whether you encourage customers to click through to other products that you have. Generally the longer that a customer stays on your store, the more likely they are to complete a purchase, the more likely that they’re interested in something that you’re offering.

And then the final point is active users. This is an interesting way to see whether your store is on a growth trajectory or not. Right now mine is actually trending down and I think that has a little bit to do with how I am driving most of my traffic through promoted listings and how promoted listings has just changed with Etsy Ads. And I think there’s a lot of churn going on with how that’s being worked out. This is a metric I need to keep an eye on and think about how do I increase my organic traffic to balance out the heavily weighted traffic I drive with paid listings.

These are all things you can see with Google analytics. It’s easy to understand on the surface, but to master it there’s a ton of education, and certification that you can get. I would recommend you check out Google Analytics Academy if you’re interested in learning more and be sure to be open to what the data tells you instead of relying on any preconceived notions.

Derive the data as you will learn from the academy as you dive deeper and leverage this tool across each of your e-commerce properties. So that way you’re not only relying on what Etsy gives you, it’s another way to drive a competitive advantage in your business.

 

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

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The post How to Connect Your Etsy Store to Google Analytics appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
Income Report August 2019 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/august-2019-income-report/ Sun, 15 Sep 2019 01:38:14 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50736 The post Income Report August 2019 appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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 Income Report:   August 2019

Let’s dive into the numbers behind my print on demand profits for the month of August. As usual, my main profit driver was Etsy, but I also re-launched Shopify to start the long road to diversifying away from Etsy.

Etsy – Premium Brand

Orders: 71

Revenue: $6,223

COGS: $3,509

Gross Profit: $2,714

Gross Margin: 44%

August delivered another strong month of gross profit, however it is curious that visits were up 15% this month with and top level revenue didn’t keep pace. That could be due to more customers preferring a less expensive item, or that Etsy is sending more customers my way that just aren’t looking for what I have to sell.

 

 My AOV (average order value) is roughly $88, which is fairly unique in the POD space. Most are selling items in the $20-30 range, but I’m trying to position my brand as a premium choice against a sea of commoditized items.

I’ve found that overall conversion rates are lower for higher priced items. That should make basic sense, as people tend to spend higher amounts of money less freely than they do for a one-off low dollar purchase.

There are a few things you can do with your online store to help increase average order value & conversion:

Bundle items together

Have great quality mockups

Respond quickly to customers

Provide high quality items (print and item quality both need to be top notch)

Provide fast, free shipping

Here’s an example of how these little changes can make a big difference when it comes to profit.  My conversion rate from views to orders is 0.7%. If I could increase that conversion rate to just 1% (so that only 1/100 people who visit my listings check out), my profit would increase by over $1,000 per month!

My focus going into Q4 will be on several new iterations of my winning products, as well as a heavy focus on conversion factors to try and bump that conversion % up!

Recently I was forced to switch my advertising on Etsy over to Etsy Ads. This is a change that I was highly skeptical about, and will be able to go into more depth on in September’s income report after having let it run for a full month. Here are the numbers for August:

Ad Spend: $896 🔺 $163 MoM

Revenue: $3,737 🔻 $1,058 MoM

ACoS: 26% 🔺 11% MoM

CPC: $0.24 🔺 $0.03 MoM

CTR: 1.5% 🔻 0.2% MoM

All of the metrics went the wrong way this month. Costs were up and revenue was down. I didn’t adjust my key tags, titles, budget, or spend in August, so there must be more competition on my main keywords.

I plan to deep dive my top few listings in the coming weeks to see what can be done to boost my positioning in the rankings. My focus with mockups and conversion should help shore up the revenue erosion from clicks that didn’t convert.

 

Etsy – Random Items Store

Orders: 6

Revenue: $154

COGS: $87

Gross Profit: $54

Gross Margin: 35%

This little store will be here when I need it for launching & testing new items, and it’s still worth keeping around!

 

Expenses

Shopify: $38

Photoshop: $11

Design Assets: $139

Overall I’m happy with how low I’ve kept my expenses. I’m expecting an uptick in the coming months as I complete my move to outsource more of my order fulfillment work, but that’s going to be money very well spent. Shopify is painful to pay for when it’s not making sales, but I’m trying several strategies to pull customers off Etsy and on to my own store, including building an email list.

Overall Pre-Tax Profit: $2,617

Not bad, but I really enjoyed July’s $3,519.  I’m very skeptical about the effect Etsy Ads will have on my September, but then again, I’m competing with everyone else on Etsy, so if I can master it, I’ll be in a better spot then before!

E-commerce is fraught with twists & turns, it’s best to take them in stride and try to master them instead of getting upset or quitting.

 

Photo by Simon Zhu on Unsplash

What’s Up Next?

I’ll be doing some more reviews on POD posters, canvas, and the gildan 64000 t-shirt in the coming weeks. I’m lining up more guest interviews as well and launching more screen-share type walkthrough videos for you as well.

I’d love to hear thoughts, feedback, and suggestions from you anytime!

Best,

Spencer

Podcast Episode Transcription

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Hey everybody, welcome to another episode with Merch lifestyle. I’m your host Spencer from Merchlifestyle.com and today I’m going to share with you my income report for August twenty nineteen.

Another strong month I’m going to share with you what went right what went wrong so you can take lessons from it and use it to grow your own print on demand business.

Before I get started, i wanted to share with you an opportunity. I wanted to highlight a couple of my recent newsletters that I sent out. This is my email newsletter as you can see. I usually hit people up just once a month and I try to give a lot of really high value information. So here’s a couple of examples, last email blast I sent out we’re talking about an actionable, very quick summary type email where you get a link to the video, you get key takeaways , you get some thoughts and then you get to stay on top of what is coming next, right? So you get exclusive discounts potentially and it’s a really easy way for you to stay on track as everything that I’m learning and print on demand, and I share it first with my email list usually before I get a chance to do a video.

So if you’re interested in that head over to Merchlifestyle.com and on the home page there you’ll see my free ebook. So once you sign up right down here with your name and email you’ll be able to get that free ebook and then you’ll be on the sweet email list too. I think that’ll be interesting for you. And if you’re not already on there go ahead and check it out.

Okay, let’s get into what you’re here for with the income report. First of all, I usually start with two different Etsy stores, but I’m not really going to talk about the second one very much, we’re gonna talk about this one my main store which is my premium brand and it’s a little bit different format. I’m going to be walking through my website instead of sharing that slide presentation. I figured if I’m already putting together slides I might as well put it in a blog post format so you can go check this out on merchlifestyle.com as well. So Etsy was interesting this month views and visits were up roughly 15%.

You can see the breakdown here. I had 71 orders, roughly sixty two hundred dollars in revenue cost of goods sold 3,500. Things that go into cost of goods sold is things like transaction fees, listing fees , money that I pay for marketing. Obviously the cost of my product into the store is posters mostly fulfilled through printful . Then the gross profit there is kind of your gross profit before you subtract any expenses that are more broad for your business.

So for example, Shopify subscription is not included in my gross profit and gross margin any fees that I’m paying for design assets that are not really specific to this business. And anything I just spent to run my business in general is not included in here, but we’ll get to that at the end. So the gross profit for this month on this store was about $2,700 in a gross margin of 44 percent.

So what was interesting about this is that visits were up 15 percent but top-level revenue didn’t didn’t follow the same path. So either I’m getting different kind of customer that’s not converting as well. And Etsy is sending them to my store and then my conversion rate is lower or my customers just didn’t want those higher dollar more expensive items I’m selling this month.

Kind curious to see that growth on the visits but not on the revenue. But what kind of keep digging into it as you can see here. Here’s the breakdown of the orders over the month, Etsy rolls up this number here sales and credits, which is my total revenue number that’ll include things like expedite fees that I charge, shipping costs, pretty much everything revenue goes into here, whereas this is just breaking out product product specific. So this is the number of pay attention to. What is interesting about my store is that my average order value is $88 and I think in the print-on-demand space that’s kind of interesting. A lot of folks are selling the 20 to $30 t-shirt package or mugs.

I think this is an interesting point for you because if you’re selling a bundle or a premium product and you have the right branding around it, you can go sell, one, two hundred dollars at a time on print on demand and it’s not really that difficult to do.

Once you find your niche and there’s plenty of people selling these products at these higher price points, and I actually really like the higher price point items. You have to give a higher level of customer service and there’s a little bit more friction and a little bit harder to convince buyers to part with that money, but you’re typically able to drive really high margins on those high dollar products. If you’re bringing the whole brand experience around to the customer. So it’s really nice to be able to make, you know, the other day made a hundred ten dollars in profit on one order that was less than $200 and that feels really good.

And it only happens when you have the systems in place, the reviews, the quality , people who trust your product. That’s where I’m playing is the higher average order value space and that that’s fun too because it unlocks a little bit more you can do with marketing. When average order value is 88 bucks in your gross margin is 44 percent then you have roughly thirty dollars of profit on each order after marketing expenses to play with. And if you want to increase your marketing expenses, like it gives you a budget where you can be creative as far as at the ads or where they want to run Google ads or whether you want to do some different forms of promotion.

I’d recommend if you haven’t considered selling anything other than a t-shirt or a mug take a look at some different stores on Etsy that are selling higher dollar products. One thing that’s interesting for me is that customers are a little bit harder to convert at the those rates. I’ve noticed I’m taking some action on a couple things that you can do pretty easily to increase your conversion and and kind of help those customers through.

To increase your average order value can bundle items together. A good example here might be. For a father-daughter or father-son or just kind of mom and dad kind of gift for grandparents. If you’re doing kind of family things you can bundle one shirt and two shirts together and then your customer can just buy them both at once and it increases their ability to check out.

Or you can do a set, right, if you’re providing some kind of custom item, if someone’s buying one item as a gift, why can’t you offer them a set of three? And that way if you can convert that customer you’re making three times as much but they’re still only having to check out once and it’s just a nicer version of something already considering. So bundling is interesting increasing order value.

One thing I didn’t put it in here is personalization. So that’s a big trend I’m seeing on Etsy. It’s harder on your workflow because it’s just it’s not going to be something you always have in stock and you might have to make it on order, but personalization is a huge way to drive margin and especially on Etsy see people people are looking for that more and more.

I would recommend you look into providing personalization or doing some competitive research on people who offer that. So it can be a great margin driver one other thing that everyone can do is to have great quality mock-ups and there’s this whole ecosystem of free mock-ups if you just start searching t-shirt mock-up and you go on a search engine binge, you’ll find a lot of free stuff. And there’s lots of different ways you can do it.

Actually you can buy great quality mock-ups on Etsy lot of stores will sell digital, that will be good. But just having really solid quality mock-ups filling up your listings as far as 10 pictures, include pictures of the packaging, include pictures of people wearing the product if it’s apparel, if it’s home decor but pictures of it in the home, put it pictures of it in use, don’t misrepresent the product but make sure you bring a really high-quality mock up to the table and that’ll help your conversion rates as well. That’s something everyone can do and there’s there’s no excuse for not doing that.

If you’re doing apparel to include the sizing charts in your listings to one thing that you can do on Etsy to is respond quickly to your customers. I’ve won quite a few sales from being able to just send a quick note to people who are asking a question and they’ve actually told me that.

I said, why did you go with me over this other store? They said, well, that’s because you responded quickly. So I think if you’re offering that level of customer service “, hey, I got your message. Let me let me get back to you tomorrow. I’m if I’m doing a custom order. Hey, I’ve got a scope this out and let me get you a quote soon ” People in that see really appreciate that and you can be you can be pretty personal with your messages and send emojis and smiley faces and just be really polite, people love that on Etsy. I have yet to have a customer who’s been rude with me, sold quite a few items now, so I think that just comes from trying to kill them with kindness I think that pays off pretty well for you on Etsy as far as orders and as far as conversion.

Another thing to do is just provide high-quality items. When you when you’re doing a print on demand product that’s got to be the item quality. So if that’s a shirt you’ve got to pick the right version of shirt. I just did a review on the Bella Canvas 3001 shirts across five print-on-demand providers and that’s a high-quality shirt. you can provide.

But it’s not just about the actual physical product. A lot of times you have to care about the print quality too, so both of those things. I highly encourage you to order test prints. I do a lot of reviews of test prints if you don’t necessarily want to go do it yourself, you can look at the ones I’ve reviewed but the items have to be high quality.

They’ve got to come in decent packaging. People just people don’t want something that’s garbage quality and and especially not on Etsy where they’re expecting something handmade. Some people don’t feel that it’s as authentic as something that someone literally made by hand, but I have a lot of happy customers and a lot of other print-on-demand sellers do so i think there’s a question about what customers really want and what they’re willing to pay for there.

But at the end of the day provide a high-quality item that has high quality print, find a supplier that can do it for you consistently so you don’t have to worry about quality. Otherwise, it’ll tank your store and you’ll have upset customers.

One of the last tips I can give is to provide fast and free shipping. I’ve been an advocate for free shipping long before Etsy tried to force people to offer it by threatening to derate them in search if they didn’t. I think that it increases the perceived value of your product again, if you’re selling a twenty dollar product and you’re charging $5 shipping. People might feel that they’re getting a bad end of that deal. Whereas if you charge $25 and offer free shipping, they automatically perceive the item to be worth $25 and not $20. So you can increase the perceived value and people feel like they can convert easier because you’re not throwing another fee in their way.

I think free shipping is really simple and you should bake that shipping cost into your margin of your pricing and and compete simply there. And then your shipping and fulfillment should be relatively quick. One thing that you could do in print on demand is you can source your print-on-demand items from a low-cost countries outside of the US. If most of your customers are in the u.s. You might save a ton of money. However, your shirts aren’t going to get there for a long time. Your customers gonna be upset. So you want to balance out your cost to fulfill with the ability to fulfill quickly and cheaply. So those are those are a couple tips I think you guys can use to kind of increase just if your store is lacking in any of those areas or you’re looking for ways to kind of boost your conversions or what to work on before Q4. I think I think those are a few easy things that you can do to bump up your average order value and conversion.

One little calculation. Iran is at my current conversion rate is point seven percent. So if I could just increase that by 0.3% to having a conversion rate of 1%, which means only one out of every hundred people that would come to my store would buy something , then my profit would be up over a thousand dollars a month.

So it’s crazy how these little percent changes in conversion can really have big shifts on your on your profit. And that’s where all these little things like mock-ups may feel like it’s a lot of work for no return or you might ask yourself, why would I pay for Etsy plus as it’s just making my story look that little bit nicer?

Well, when you think about how that that little bit of increase might increase your conversion, that’s why we do these things is to try to increase the number of people who are checking out when they actually come to the site. So my focus on Q4 is going to be a lot of these items and then adding a couple new iterations like taking my winners, finding some ways put a new Twist on them and then putting those up there with different keywords and seeing how those sell and trying to move into owning an itch a little bit better.

Alright, so the next thing I wanted to share with you guys is that I gots forced to switch over to Etsy Ads and I will do a separate video on Etsy Ads once I’ve had a month of the platform under my belt so I can bring some numbers to the conversation. I’m very skeptical about it. There’s a there’s many many reasons that I will share with you guys in a future video why I think the move to Etsy Ads is not good for sellers.

Long story short if you haven’t heard about it, Etsy took away the ability to run promoted listings, which you could control your cost per click on Etsy and my cost-per-click in some cases was as low as 7 or 8 cents. And my advertising cost of sales was 15% which was really good.

But now you’re not able to set your own cost per click and they bundle Etsy paid ads with Google shopping ads. So you really don’t have a choice on whether you want to do Google shopping ads or not, and I’ll have some data to bring at the end of September about how that has gone.

So gone is the lovely bar chart used to now you get this lovely advertising stats box where they hide the amount that you spent on ads. It’s like not one of the main metrics up here, which I find funny because every business owner knows that part of measuring the success of your campaign is you need this number. So why would you not want it? It’s like the one of the most important numbers you need, so why would you hide it?

Anyways ad spend, everything went in the wrong direction for me this month on at the ads . ad spend was up $163, revenue was down $1,000 which means my advertising cost of sales was up 11% that’s not 11 percent change. That’s like I used to have it at 15% and now it’s at 26% which is way bigger than an 11% directional. My cost per click is up slightly and my click through rate was down.

It’s just a little bit strange because I didn’t really adjust any titles, budget, or spend ,one thing that might be going on is I have some more competition in the space. Most of my at the ads spend is directed around one particular listing. So I’m actively in the process of reviewing my competition for that listing and then that’s where the variations and the iterations on those products come to play. I might try to win back those keywords with some different listings that have a different style or that are similar product but different enough that to not be a duplicate of listing, and try to really figure out where I’m where I’m losing out and on competition.

So that’s my guess, i don’t really have any information or insight to say, you know Etsy’s ad campaign is really the source of all of but I think after this month, I’ll have a full set of data on ads the ads and I’ll be able to tell you exactly what a month of promoted listings was like versus an entire month of Etsy Ads.

Wrapping up here moving towards the bottom. I have this random small store that has a couple items in it. Hey, it brought in 54 bucks in profit this month so let’s keep it around as it’s not worth shutting it down.

On the expenses. I typically keep the expenses pretty light. I am trying to move some of my Etsy sales and pull customers to Shopify, trying to be compliant with Etsy’s rules about how to do that.

You can apply a pretty light touch. You can’t get very aggressive with it. I’m trying to incentivize customers to sign up to my email list too, I’ve had a little bit of success with that about 10 customers of signed up. So it’s slow growth, but that’s something I really believe in doing.

The Shopify expense here is the nine dollars that I pay on one store to enable Teelaunch to print and fulfill mugs. And then the other 29 or $27 is what I pay for my full sole domain store for that premium brand . Hoping to get my first Shopify sale in the next month, we’ll see. On Photoshop, 11 bucks a month and then design assets, I increased that spend a little bit to enable a few more designs.

Overall expenses were fairly low netting out on a overall pre-tax profit of $2,617 dollars which is which is solid . Definitely a little bit down almost a thousand dollars down from July, but then again in July, I was looking at the numbers and it really just that my promoted listings just popped in July and it was extremely lucrative.

When I think about what I can really control in my business, it’s a my optimizing that promoted listings or that Etsy advertising spend. Am I adding new products. And I’m not really expecting a lot of thousand dollar increases from here to Q4, but I do know that if I spend time working on outsourcing right now so I can spend more of my time on the conversions and marketing and my external website. So I don’t have to actually do a lot of the order fulfillment.

I’m working on conversion factors, I’m working on mock-ups, I’m working on advertising and keywords. So really a lot of the foundational work I’m trying to lay so that I can be successful in Q4 and have the resources in place to be able to handle the big surge in orders. Because last year when Q4 came it was it was a huge month for me ended up making over $7,000 dollars in profit from it, but I was fulfilling orders just everyday and I think with this new outsourcing effort, I’m doing with my virtual assistant, they’re really going to be able to help me out and help me provide faster service to my customers and provide just a better quality overall so I can step back from the configuration and more into the strategy. $2,600 from a print on demand business again didn’t touch the product, you don’t have any inventory. That’s a great model and it’s still successful for me.

So hopefully you’ve taken some ideas from this I wanted to share with you guys quickly, what’s up next . I just put out that Bella canvas review. I have a bunch of Giildan 64000 softstyle shir ts that I’ll be reviewing as well. And then I’ve got a few requests for obviously posters and canvas, so I’m going to be lining those up as well.

The product review videos are a little tough. They’re hard to edit their much harder than a video in this style. So be patient with me and I’ll give you more of the good stuff.

I will catch you guys next time sign up for that email list on merchlifestyle.com, get this ebook, drop your name in there if you’re interested and leave me a comment and a like down below and I will catch you guys next time.

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The post Income Report August 2019 appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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Zach Knickerbocker Interview | Rising Early to Grow Your Merch Account https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/zach-knickerbocker-interview/ Sun, 28 Apr 2019 14:52:16 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50670 The post Zach Knickerbocker Interview | Rising Early to Grow Your Merch Account appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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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.

You can connect with Zach on Instagram and Twitter. The YouTube interview is available here.

Episode Transcript

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.

 

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JJ Deakins Interview | How to Sell a Merch by Amazon Business https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/jj-deakins-how-to-sell-a-merch-by-amazon-business/ Sat, 02 Mar 2019 18:20:29 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50639 The post JJ Deakins Interview | How to Sell a Merch by Amazon Business appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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In January of 2019 I was lucky to host JJ Deakins on the show to talk about how he sold a Merch by Amazon business in 2018.

This episode was a lot of fun to make with JJ. He was an open book about the whole process, and his personable nature made for an easy-going conversation. If you’re interested in what it’s like to sell a Merch by Amazon business, this is the episode for you.

You can connect with JJ on Twitter and Indie Hackers. The YouTube episode is available here.

Episode Transcript

Spencer: [00:01:07] Welcome, everyone to the Merch Lifestyle Podcast. Today I am joined by a very special guest. We are going to have a great conversation today in the context of selling your print on demand business. Episode 45. I’d like to welcome JJ Deakins to the show. JJ, how are you doing?

JJ: [00:01:07] Yeah, great. Thanks. It’s finally great just to be on here. We’ve been talking about it for a while.

Spencer: [00:01:28] We have been kicking around some ideas on the Slack group but I remember when you posted on the group and you said that you were kicking around the idea of selling your business. I think I kind of jumped on you with a DM and I was like, “You have to let me know how this goes for you.”

We will definitely get into that. I’d love to give you the floor and let you talk us through everything that happened there and everything else you’re doing. I guess to get started, go ahead and tell us like where you’re coming from, a little bit about yourself, and then walk us through how you got into e-commerce.

JJ: [00:02:03] Yeah, cool. I’m 25 years old originally from New Zealand. I’ve been in Australia about four years now. I first came over to finish off my business management degree. I was here just temporarily after I go home but coming stuck in Sydney ever since. I have worked a couple of different jobs and discovered Merch  by Amazon at the start of 2017 on the r/JustStart subreddit.

I can answer where I kicked off the whole e-commerce and online business thing from them, but mostly they have a full time job as well on the side as an SEO consultant for a little digital agency and then in Sydney. I’ve been here about a year and that’s kind of where I’m at this point.

Spencer: [00:02:46] Nice. there’s a little bit of crossover with what you know, with SEO and with Merch. If you’re on the r/JustStart subreddit, there’s a lot of different stuff that comes across there. What made you look into Merch and what interested you in a product based business versus more of a software one?

JJ: [00:03:06] Yeah, I think my first jump on r/juststart was looking at all the affiliate websites ’cause that’s the main kind of core content on them. Neil, one of his posts about selling his Merch by Amazon account It was like “Oh my god, that’s such a great opportunity.”

That’s when I first stumbled into that and I applied and I heard nothing. I think they’re accepting people a lot faster now than they were maybe year and a half ago. I jumped on the idea and I started selling on Amazon who was my third party. I was selling mugs on there. I had about 100 different mugs that are selling maybe one or two a week at the time and that’s kind of my foot in the door to the print on demand services. It’s kind of nuts.

Spencer: [00:03:48] Nice. That’s a good product. I saw a lot of mugs. Were you using TeeLaunch or somebody else is…

JJ: [00:03:54] Yeah, that was TeeLaunch. 

Spencer: [00:03:57] Nice. Yeah, man. TeeLaunch is like the mug supplier. Everyone else, I don’t know how they get it so low, but their prices are nice.

JJ: [00:04:02] Yeah. It’s ridiculous.

Spencer: [00:04:04] It’s good. Cool. So you got into Merch and then how long did it take for them to actually give you the account, a couple months?

JJ: [00:04:02] I think applied early February 2017. I got accepted at the start of June.

Spencer: [00:04:19] Okay, nice. Once that opens up, you’ve got your 10 slots. In the beginning before we can get started to the how you’re running it, did you have any, was reaching Neil’s level of success your goal or you’re just curious to learn about it or did you have some kind of goal at the outset or were you just trying?

JJ: [00:04:39] I think I realized the potential when I first started. I didn’t actually know how big it could be. When I first started, I just threw out a few shirts. I do the keyword research, this and that. I didn’t expect too much. I think it took about 10 days for me me that my first sale. That was like that first sale I know you remember the sales which was the like. “Oh my God. I just made four dollars or something”

Spencer: [00:05:04] Decent first taste of blood. 

JJ: [00:05:05] It’s good for me, really. 

Spencer: [00:05:08] Yeah, absolutely. At that time, the royalties were really nice, too. I remember Shanon and I used to live next door together. I remember specifically when we were both getting started, I think it was June of 2017 right around when you were there. I remember we were sitting at the bar and we’re talking about how you could sell a t-shirt. At the time, a royalty for a shirt was like seven, seven fifty, close to eight bucks for selling a normal shirt and we’re like “One shirt buys this pint and more. This is great. We got to scale this thing up.” It was nice times back in the early part of March, for sure.

JJ: [00:05:43] Yeah. I think I think my second month of Merch, because I don’t really know the whole copyright background as well, Game of Thrones was just being released I think in August so I listed of maybe like 10 different Game of Thrones shirts. I absolutely cleaned up that second month so much. I think I had 100 slots I made like almost $1,000 US that second month, about 97% of that was from Game of Thrones shirts. I’ve told them like a few months later.

Spencer: [00:06:09] I say, trademarks be damned. 

JJ: [00:06:11] Yeah, big time. I just had no idea at the start. Just throwing these designs out thinking it was a quick buck.

Spencer: [00:06:16] Yeah, I have to admit I had done that a little bit too in the very early part on Esty with a little bit of stuff that could be considered IP infringing. I made a couple of quick sales. I know the feeling. And then you have this come to Jesus moment where you’re like, “Is this really what I want to do?”

JJ: [00:06:40] The funny thing because I brought these original designs of these Game of Thrones shirts, assuming I will, all the copycats jump on them straight away. This is with my two best sellers, I can still see the copycat’s designs are still out there today. I have still got like a BSR around like 60,000 or something a year and a half. I’m kind of like, “Jesus.”

Spencer: [00:07:00] Oh, man. That’s tough. Have you ever gone after any copycats?

JJ: [00:07:05] Nah, I did not waste my time. There’s always going to be more, that’s the thing.

Spencer: [00:07:11] Yeah, I think the same thing. My one shirt on Merch that does well, 21 reviews and it does well for the niche, five-star shirt but it’s just surrounded by copycats and you can’t. It is like playing whack-a-mole. It’s not worth it.

JJ: [00:07:26] Yeah.

Spencer: [00:07:27] In the beginning of Merch, you’re putting up, you’re seeing the potential of it, and you’re refining your strategy. Were you making the designs yourself and then how are you finding niches to design for?

JJ: [00:07:40] That is a good question. I have used Merch Informer. I think most people use this as well. It’s such a powerful tool. I guess I’ll go through my process as well. I was designing about 10 shirts a day consistently for about six months. I’d research maybe 10 to 20 designs at night, wake up early before I went to work, bang on these designs on Photoshop for a couple of hours, and upload them. That’s kind of my routine. Yeah, back to your question. I design every single shirt myself.

Spencer: [00:08:10] Wow, that’s impressive. Were you doing any scaled designs or was it all unique with graphics?

JJ: [00:08:16] Most of them were unique with graphics, but I’ll do the whole one would be like a dark design, one would be a light of the same design. It’s kind of like a two in one. Half will be going on the light shirts and half will go on the dark just to fill slots, mainly.

Spencer: [00:08:28] Nice. When you when you were at the peak of your business, how many designs did you have live? What level did you reach as far as tier and products?

JJ: [00:08:38] If I’m still consistently uploading, I get the 500 tier threshold. I was just waiting to be tiered up from there.

Spencer: [00:08:46] Nice.

JJ: [00:08:47] So my account, it was at 2k. That’s how many slots are available.

Spencer: [00:08:51] Okay, nice. Did you just go t-shirts the whole way or did you ever diversify that?

JJ: [00:08:57] I think it was about 80-20. So 80% of my listings are t-shirts, all the rest were whatever else was available at the time.

Spencer: [00:09:05] Nice. Cool, man. You’ve got this account. You’re growing it and you’re seeing the potential. At what point do you start to think, because you have to make a decision, you have to figure out if you’re going to double down. In this whole time you were working a full time job. At what point did you start to think that you might want to sell or how did that idea get planted in your head?

JJ: [00:09:26] I think it was Neil from Merch before he posts. I think I came across  his all blog posts about him selling on the accounts. I was like “Oh my god you sell it for that much? I was like, “Oh my god. It is actually possible?” That was kind of like the first little thing that planted the seed that hey, it’s possible to sell these things. I haven’t even considered before then. That was probably about maybe four or five months and I was making a decent amount I could roughly what I could get for it. I don’t actually sell the account. I actually sell the process of selling for another maybe eight months.

Spencer: [00:09:58] Okay, nice. You were playing with the valuation. You had at least almost a year, maybe even more than a year of earnings to support that. Cool . Neil planted the seed and then was there any strategic consideration.

There is a lot of choices you have to make in print on demand. One of the biggest ones is what channels you are going to sell on. Was the strategy of print on demand or wanting to sell through Amazon, or any frustrations of the business, did that play into wanting to sell or was it just kind of like, “Hey, I see this opportunity and I want to go make the most of it.”

JJ: [00:10:35] I think it’s a bit of both. I’ve been consistently uploading for six months at that point and I was burnt out to say the least.

I was spending maybe two and a half hours, maybe close to three  hours every single day, so my nine to five was uploading these shirts day in day out. I think looking back in retrospect, it would have been at that point, I should have started outsourcing. I wasn’t making enough from it. I knew good designer that could have done it but I just never did.

Spencer: [00:11:02] It’s a tough spot to be in when you want to. I remember going to the same thing where not that you weren’t taking it seriously, but having to think about your process and say, like I was doing the same thing, designing myself or hiring a designer, too, on Fiverr and saying “Time out.”

If this is going to grow into the amount of slots that they’re going to give me, I’ve got to revamp the whole thing. I don’t know about you, but I went through a couple painful iterations of not managing my key words correctly and just having to recreate content and. It was rough. It’s hard to make that call.

JJ: [00:11:38] Yeah, you get to that point where you get stuck of how fast you want to scale something. Without a designer tier 1000/2000 you are just not going to grow.

Spencer: [00:11:49] That’s a lot of designs to do yourself, too, especially if they’re all unique.

JJ: [00:11:54] Yeah, for sure. There is only so much you can do in an hour of the day. You got to have value on your own time as well, that’s for sure. If you can pay a guy on Fiverrr or Upwork for like $4 design, that design is essentially making you hundreds. It’s like a no brainer, really.

Spencer: [00:12:12] Yeah, that’s super important to value your own time. I think that is an interesting part of the valuation of an e-commerce business and a Merch business is that sure, you can go have a valuation of maybe $50,000 or whatever but an expense item is never the time that you spend and putting in Photoshop. There’s definitely hidden cost to it. 

Let’s get into that. You made the decision, you were following Neil’s post. I remember reading the same thing and he continues to crush it. he seems to do all the right things at the right times. It’s usually a good idea to follow he is doing. You wanted to sell it and there’s a lot of different ways you can go. You can go private or through a broker. Did you do any research on how that process works? Who did you end up going with?

JJ: [00:13:02] I kind of looked around but there was not a lot of information about people selling Merch by Amazon businesses. Neil’s done it, I’m sure other people have as well but there is not many resources out there at all about who to approach, how to do it, what you need to do, and so on. So I looked at Empire Flippers.

There is other one that I got recommended by. I don’t know who it was but I didn’t end up going through with him. I ended up listing on Flippa but that is an all new deal in itself.

Spencer: [00:13:37] I know a little bit about the brokers and I’ll try to add to the conversation. We can maybe compare them based on what we both know. There is one in there I want to throw in called FE International and they’re are broker, too.

JJ: [00:13:51] That was the other one.

Spencer: [00:13:52] Okay, good. I’ve actually got my business valued from them. I don’t have the paper in front of me but I think it was like a 22-24x monthly profit multiple and I think their fee structure was very similar to Empire Flippers and it was about 15%.

Their service that you’re paying for is that they will handle the escrow, they have this network of buyers, they will handle of due diligence on your behalf and then once you make a sale through, somebody that they connect you with, you are good to go. How does that differ from maybe your experience with Flippa or the fee model in that experience?

JJ: [00:14:31] It is pretty similar. The fee model for Flippa they have two different things. You can either go through I think just generally escrow, it’s 15%. We can go through Flippa’s private escrow for 12%. I went for the latter, I went for 12%. But I think compared to Empire Flippers and was it FE International?

Spencer: [00:14:49] Yeah, that’s it.

JJ: [00:14:50] It was more like a marketplace, so you list it and you do all the communication, everybody and so on. During my time, it took about a month, six weeks, to get my listing actually live through Flippa because the account manager never seen it. They had no idea what Merch by Amazon was, no idea how to value  the business, anything like that. There’s so much back and forth between them trying to explain what that was and how I want them to sell. That was an ordeal, to say the least, just to get the thing live before I even started to talk to anybody.

Then I think throughout before listing actually goes live and you can see a live auction day, so that was the option I chose in between two weeks or something. I had about 50 to 60 people message me, like half the time wasted. So there were heaps and heaps of people messaging me about the business, what it is. 

Spencer: [00:15:44] Oh, man. Sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off with my sigh there. That is a lot of people. What was your price point, what was your target, what was your profit multiple. I’m trying to dial in why so many people were excited.

JJ: [00:16:00] Yeah, of course. I wanted to sell it for at least 2.2 times the amount of the monthly net profit between 2.2 and 2.7. That was quite what I wanted to stick in between. I marketed it in the way that this account has a lot of potential because at the time, it was averaging about $500 net profit a month over that one-year period. I only had 169 slots full of those 2000.

The way you market it was like it’s got all these free slots, all this potential. It’s sitting there waiting to grow for the right buyer who has the mindset. He wants to scale it, outsource, and what not. I lost my passion at that point. I’m done with all Merch by Amazon side of things. I’m ready to move on. That’s kind of how I pitched this business. 

Spencer: [00:16:53] Okay, I got you. At a 500 a month, did you mention it was 20-22x monthly, or like 2.2x annual?

JJ: [00:17:03] Yeah. I ended up selling for 2.4 times a month in and out, so 24.

Spencer: [00:17:11] Okay, nice. The unit up to and well, that was around $12,000 US.

JJ: [00:17:15] Yeah $12,000 US.

Spencer: [00:17:18] Nice. Now I am starting to see there is a totally passive business that is new, that is within a price range. There’s a lot of highly valued businesses on Flippa. People are chomping at the bit to get into this new thing. Merch has a lot of buzz at this point, too. People have probably heard a little bit about it, there’s probably a little bit of scarcity because people haven’t been able to get an account.

JJ: [00:17:45] Yeah, for sure. One of my actual buyer, he had the most [inaudible  17:47] on account, Lory, which I found very interesting. I was only in tier 10 it it’s just been accepted. The way he was thinking about it was you can either take it in six months to grow this business to where mine was right now.

Spencer: [00:18:03] Yeah.

 

JJ: [00:18:05] At the same point, mine was, or you can jump into mine, which is already there and scale it straight away.

 

Spencer: [00:18:11] Nice. I think that’s a fair point. It takes a long time to get into Amazon’s good graces to figure it out and to get the tiers. At this point, I just crossed 8000 sales. If you don’t have those kind of viral shirts that really take off or you’re not just completely filling up all of your slots, then it is totally a lot of time and it is really hard to break that free. I think there’s definitely value for people to buy your account, too, for people who are willing to set up a better process or who have the time or who wanted to the outsourcing. I think burnout’s totally valid, too, in Merch.

JJ: [00:18:48] Yeah, for sure. It is definitely a grind you process to say the least, isn’t it? 

Spencer: [00:18:53] That’s a great way to put it. Oh my god. Everything that comes with some of the uncertainty and dealing with Amazon. There can be some risk in it, too. You have 50 or 60 people messaging you. That’s crazy. You said half of them were time wasters and half were valid? Give me some examples of what you had to talk through and what people wanted to know.

JJ: [00:19:17] Most of them on the know my design straight away. “Oh, can you share your designs with me?” I was like, “Do I really have to?” Is it just some other Merch by Amazon big boy wants to know my designs that selling well. I picked out three designs out of my life on Sunday and shared them. I wasn’t showing them all 500 designs I’ve had in the past. I just picked out a couple. This is roughly what they are, they are all designed by myself. This is what you can expect if you buy the account.

Spencer: [00:19:47] Were people happy with that? I think that’s a happy medium.

JJ: [00:19:51] Yeah, there’s a few that I can you share a couple more.

Spencer: [00:19:55] Get out of here. Can you share a couple more thousand dollars?

JJ: [00:20:00] That was one of the many questions. A lot of them just did not understand what the business was. They just had had no idea. They’ve never seen it before. “Oh, it’s making this amount of money. Can you explain it?” So there was a lot of explaining. I had this copy and paste I would send back every single time rather than typing it out.

The way I got recommended by my Flippa agent to put an NDA on it because the whole selling process isn’t exactly okay in Amazon’s eyes. We had to view my little profile and then have to send a request to me after and you have to sign an NDA, a nondisclosure agreement, to actually view the details of the account and what it was.

Spencer: [00:20:50] Okay.

JJ: [00:20:51] At least 100 of income through just accept them so they can see the profile themselves.

Spencer: [00:20:57] Wow, interesting. The NDA is a one-way, or is it a two-way NDA where you can’t discuss or they just can’t discuss your account?

JJ: [00:21:08] Exactly. It’s kind of like to cover me and me selling the account itself because in my eyes, I’m sure Amazon doesn’t mind the selling of accounts. More like a specific thing of the terms and conditions. “You can’t sell accounts.” That was always a big thing. I think that’s more to stop people from farming the tier 10 accounts so I don’t think we’ll just compile email addresses and maybe acceptance of 10 a month, they don’t sell these things. That’s where the real issue lies with Amazon. That’s where they got the issue.

Spencer: [00:21:41] Okay, this was a big point when I met with my broker from FE, too. I asked, “What are we actually selling? Are you selling a password? A design portfolio.” I think the way you would put it before was you’re selling a business asset that includes Merch by Amazon. Walk me through. If you’re going into escrow and somebody’s buying, what are you putting into escrow and how is that structured?

JJ: [00:22:12] I definitely pitch to the selling business rather than account. All my 500 designs I upload to Google Drive for the bi-access. I have all my logins for the actual account itself. I think I had my research method as well written out for the buyer to use. Those are the three pieces that were included in the business ad.

Spencer: [00:22:42] Okay, that makes sense. Were you providing any support? Ongoing, I think some people might ask for a little bit of ongoing Skype calls or some email support. Did you offer that or was it a clean cut?

JJ: [00:22:55] Yeah. I had it in the bottom of my listing, like I’m happy to help out the buyer in the coming months during transition and what not. I jumped on a Skype call once the auction was finished for the buyer. I’ve been talking with this guy back and forth throughout the whole two weeks litter. I jumped on Skype with him and told him from our research process. He was still fairly new so I was going through the basics. I let him know that in the future like just reach out to me on Skype or whatever. I’m happy to like do some advice here and there.

Spencer: [00:23:31] Nice. That is awesome that you support it. I am impressed and also a little surprised that people were willing to throw down and just really get into it without knowing some of the basics of SEO, how to evaluate a listing that is selling.

 

JJ: [00:23:45] Yeah, for sure. He took a little bit of a gamble for that. I think we covered in the conversation on our discussion, but the actual process from the buyer buying the account and need receiving the funds from them was almost two months. There is a reason for that as well because once you bought the account, we’re discussing before. He wass like, “Yeah. I will put through like a bit to the minimum reserve if you can get it approved by Amazon to sell this thing.” I was like “Yeah, don’t worry. I’m sure I can get that from Amazon” Oh my, how wrong was I.

Spencer: [00:24:20] This is the meat. Let’s get right into it. Just Amazon in general is so hard to understand. The internal workings, it’s very difficult to get feedback, accountability, and any kind of transparency. Please tell us how that went for you.

JJ: [00:24:40] I said “I was happy to do it for you because it’s peace of mind for you, peace of mind for me as well.” I lnow people who sold like Fulfillment by Amazon businesses in the past, that happens all the time. I mentioned Amazon’s not that different. How hard can it be?

I initially decided to stay away from the Merch Amazon Customer Support and go straight to the legal team. It seemed like the obvious thing to do, get in contact with legal team. All I knew is yes, you can sell your Merch by Amazon business. That’s all I need from them. I think I ended up sending four or five emails back and forth the legal team. They had nothing. I called them. I faxed them. Nothing

Spencer: [00:25:25] You faxed them! That’s old school. You were really trying.

JJ: [00:25:27] That was just the style as well. It says, “All right, who else is my contact?”

Spencer: [00:25:32] There is no response on that?

JJ: [00:25:34] Nothing at all. Even if you try to find the Merch by Amazon, just the Amazon legal team contact details on Google, it’s near impossible to find. It doesn’t exist almost.

Spencer: [00:25:44] I was going to say. I bet that’s buried so deep. I have to go super deep on Amazon just to get to the help chat.

JJ: [00:25:53] It is ridiculously tough. They’re not there for their sellers, that’s for sure. There’s no way. Anyway, from there I ended up contacting customer support, not even Merch by Amazon support, just general customer support on Amazon. Didn’t get anywhere again.

Alright, I’ll contact Merch by Amazon’s support and just see what they say. I was like, “Oh, this is a bit risky. I sold my account.” I thought they’ll just ban my account, which they did not luckily. The first guy that I said that I got in contact with he is like, “Oh, yeah. It’s directly against our terms and services.” I was like, “I’m not selling the account and selling it as a business today. It just happens to include the Merch by Amazon logins that are included in the sale.”

There was maybe four or five back and forth with them and just went nowhere. He escalated it to his managers, managers escalated it. It just went nowhere. That six weeks of a back and forth communication just was a waste of time. I ended up doing an agreement with a buyer. “Alright, I understand you have similar email trail going back and forth. There has been no kind of resolution.”

What we ended up doing was I gave him a little bit of assets to escrow, he put the money in escrow, and I gave them access to the account. He changed all those details on them to his, all the bank details, so on. Split the accounts for month. Once he accounts it for a month, release the money in escrow to you so we’ve both taken a bit of a risk in that scenario. That ended up working out fine. Nothing happened to the account and just sat there after monthly, released the funds.

Spencer: [00:27:45] Okay, interesting. He changed the password, changed the account, his email, his bank account, so it’s pretty much out of your hands but then the money’s in escrow and then for those of us like myself who don’t know how online escrow works, you have to provide some kind of proof that you’re satisfied with the transaction for the escrow to release the assets.

JJ: [00:28:10] Yeah, that’s correct. I upload mine and he uploads his assets. And then, I can release mine and he can release his. That’s what comes into it if there’s any disputes in the matter.

Spencer: [00:28:23] Sure, that makes sense. And then you just let it sit there so there was no activity. The only time that he logged on from a different IP to your account was once.

JJ: [00:28:31] Yeah, that was it. I was like, “Don’t upload any designs becauseI told him about copyright, but don’t touch the account for a month and let it sit” because I don’t want him uploading designs and getting copyright infringement and whatnot, just before the money was released. I back myself in that sense.

Spencer: [00:28:50] Yeah, I think that’s super smart to do. It sounds like it was successful. Even though that process took a while and you probably could have avoided the six weeks, but you didn’t know that the time because there’s no clear guidance. It seems like you figured out escrow and it was pretty it was fairly painless after that. You had a good buyer.

JJ: [00:29:10] I wish I had someone guiding me throughout the  that four-month period on selling this account because it was stressful, to say the least, I give my account away on a whim almost. I have talked to the guy like a fair amount so I trusted him in that sense, but there was no guide how to do it or what to do if this happens. It’s kind of like going into it blind.

Spencer: [00:29:33] That’s the thing about evaluating whether you want to sell through a broker or not. One thing I think we can get into, we don’t have to get into me now but if I were to sell, I noticed that Empire Flippers now has a Merch section that you can sort their marketplace by. I have a spreadsheet here on my desktop that has a couple multiples and of ones that helps sold already. You can look through on EmpireFlippers.com and you guys can go sort by Merch.

You can see a couple examples. It seemed like on there, if they have a Merch category, they’ve done it before, they’ve proven it seven or eight times and the multiples there looked pretty good. Similarly, to FE international, they seemed confident that they could navigate that like craziness that you just had to go do yourself is wild to me that you actually got that done.

JJ: [00:30:27] It was such a relief. All the merch, like actual, the amount sitting my  back. I had biggest relief like Ooh my god, I did it. Thank God”.

Spencer: [00:30:36] Dang, that’s awesome. Did you just rely on the marketplace? I want to learn a little bit more about how the auction works if you were promoting or if it was strictly Flippas organic traffic, maybe their email list that was going on? Did you think that was enough traffic? What was the auction activity like for you up until the sale?

JJ: [00:30:57] Yeah, I think there’s two options on foot for memory. You can make a listing and it’s live straight away and people can bid on it and what not or you can put it live, let it sit for a few weeks, and then make it go to auction for 24 hours. I did the second option. I sat there for two weeks. It was on featured in Flippers. It’s in a daily email, the top blah blah blah. It was featured in that one day and I got a whole, maybe, 20 to 50 responses just from that and just from the sheer number of people looking at it, I didn’t think I should or need to advertise it anywhere else. Flippa is enough traffic and enough attention for that just to be all you need.

Spencer: [00:31:38] Absolutely. If you had to do it again, given the choice between your 12% flip of private escrow experience and, let’s say, one of these guys like Empire Flippers who has a Merch section wants to charge you 15% plus, I don’t know if it’s $297 or $397 listing fee, but they take that pain process of navigating the actual sale of a merchant account off your hands. Which one do you think you would choose?

JJ: [00:32:07] I think I’d pick Empire Flippers at 15, to be honest. 

Spencer: [00:32:11] Okay, just because of the uncertainty with that process?

JJ: [00:32:14] Yeah. Hopefully I can provide enough information during this podcast like if I was someone else watching this now, I hope I give you the confidence to go to Flipper and be able to sell it yourself. That’s my goal from this podcast for all the people.

Spencer: [00:32:33] My goal for this podcast is to learn how private escrow works and then to tell everyone I’m selling a Merch account on the show and to pay no brokers and have people come direct to me.

JJ: [00:32:43] Yeah, for sure. That’s the best possible outcome.

Spencer: [00:32:46] Yeah, I think I’m overestimating my reach just a little there. So it sounds like if you have an account, let’s think about maybe the criteria for why it would make sense for people to sell. I certainly believe there’s still a lot of opportunity there but let me talk about who is the right person to buy or to grow an existing business and who’s the right person to sell. I think the right person to buy a Merch business is somebody who is totally into setting up a process and outsourcing and can do something repeatedly over and over again. I think if you’re just doing the one off or you’re doing it for yourself, it might not even be worth your time. What do you think about that?

JJ: [00:33:34] Yeah, I think in terms of buys, it depends what your end goal is. From this point when I first started I just want to make a bit of money on the side to help out my everyday expenses, whereas you can really treat it like a business and you can make a lot from it. I think if you’re a buyer looking to buy a Merch by Amazon account, make sure you want to treat it like a business and you want to scale it like a business. Don’t come in there and just buy it and expect it to keep making X amount a month. You’ve got to put the work in. 

Spencer: [00:34:04] Yeah, for sure. If you were just to let it sit for a year, the money would not increase month over month. It would just slowly go down. You have to account for competition. Another thing to add is that if you’re looking to build a brand that you want to sell on multiple channels, Merch is probably not the place to launch. Maybe it’s a place to launch and test, but I don’t think that’s where you want to grow your brand because you’re not going to get any meaningful customer feedback other than like, wrong size, one star.

JJ: [00:34:35] Yeah. “It smelled funny.” That was it. 

Spencer: [00:00:34:37] Oh, I have a perfect one. I had one that was like, “Great shirt. Fits awesome.” Three stars. That’s not unique.

It’s not really the best place to build brand. You’re not getting the customer data, you don’t control any analytics, can’t build an email list. The list goes on. Not to mention Amazon controls your margins. But to your point, if you’re willing to take it seriously and scale it either with how many you upload or the amount of designs you’re making, for sure, big opportunity still especially with the royalty change and Merch kind of encouraging us to go more into hoodies and long sleeves that there’s a lot left on the table. They haven’t even expanded beyond Germany in the UK yet so I can see both sides.

JJ: [00:35:23] For sure. I sold the IP that all the designs, 500 designs as well. I think the big selling point in that sense is that they could go and list it on Etsy, Prinful, all the other print on demand services as well. You’re not exactly stuck on Amazon. If you buy an MBA account, you can take all these designs and let’s just spead them on all these other services.

Spencer: [00:35:46] Yeah. In preparing for this conversation, you’ve got me thinking a lot about selling my business and then what I would include. When I engaged with the broker initially, it was Merch account and then Redbubble, too. I’ve been mulling over how to pitch it and I think it’s exactly what you said, you’re selling designs. They just happen to be on skus, they just happen to be SEO optimized.

You’re essentially selling pre-made designs, content if you’ve got descriptions loaded, and then just the fact that you’ve done the work and put the content and the design in the right place at the right time. I think a huge selling point for me or whoever else is if you’re looking to expand into multi-channel or even take the designs and you could resell them whatever you want to do. It’s not just Merch that’s your sandbox.

JJ: [00:36:37] Yeah, exactly. There’s opportunity there. You’re not just buying that $500 a month. You’re getting everything included in the business. I guess the money is more that the proof of concept’s working and let your designs down more than anything else because the other 2000 designs up there with your crap, they’re all optimized and you’re making $10 a month.

Spencer: [00:37:00] That’s a good point. The income proves the concept. I couldn’t have said it any better. I don’t know. I think there’s arguments for both sides. If you care about the process and you want to scale it and you’re excited about the new products, if you if you have faith in Amazon to not treat you like garbage, which I don’t, it might be good for you. Even if you wanted to diversify into a second account like your buyer, which is really interesting to me. If you ran them on two different computers and two different IP addresses to diversify your risk. The other way is that you can’t build a brand and then your margins are going to get squeezed over time.

I’ll give you an example. Yesterday I made $2.50 cents on Merch. I have over 2000 products up and then today, so far, I made like five bucks. Meanwhile on my Etsy store, I made one sale which is $100 profit. I know it’s going to shake out the end of the month for Merch to still perform better than Etsy. I see a lot of potential in a platform that’s way more seller-friendly that you can push higher margin products. You probably even saw some better margins when you were doing Seller Central. I would argue that’s a brand that you can control more than Merch, anyway.

JJ: [00:38:19] Yeah. I think all these other print on demands, they’re more about quality rather than quantity where Amazon’s all about getting as many shirts and saturated market and what not. Whereas, Etsy is more about unique designs specific to like a certain niche. 

Spencer: [00:38:36] Yeah. They charge you per listing so it’s harder to flood with your scaled designs like I do. 

JJ: [00:38:40] You can absolutely flood a niche in a day if you wanted to.

Spencer: [00:38:52] Oh, it’s unreal, man. I don’t want to log in at the moment. I think it’s something ridiculous like 800 products. To me, Amazon’s not encouraging a marketplace of quality. When you’re encouraging people to do like best acts in the world. I’ve been very transparent, I take advantage of the scale designs. My portfolio is mostly scaled into different niches, but they don’t work and I don’t try to put those on the other platforms, especially not in Redbubble. That doesn’t fly there.

JJ: [00:39:26] No, not at all. 

Spencer: [00:38:28] At the end of the day, you made your sale and then you got your money a long time later. Once the money was in the account, your list was 12,000 and then after it comes out to around 10,000 USD or close to that?

JJ: [00:39:44] Yeah, I reckon that’s what it was. I sent my reserve price for 1350. That was 27 times the monthly value. As soon as the auction opened, I got all the 12,000 just like that. I was kind of like that. That was what I want the account go for, so I was watching the whole day, refreshing and at every five minutes. There’s about an hour left to go and I dropped the reserve price to $12,001. As soon as I did that a bid came through for $12,002.

Spencer: [00:40:19] Get the bidding war going again, come on. Stir it up for me. 

JJ: [00:40:25] Yeah, I was like, “C’mon. Is there going more people bidding out or not.” I was a happy little guy for that. The whole lengthy process to lead up to it and what not, “Oh my God, that’s done. I’m happy with that.”

Spencer: [00:40:32] Very good. The reserve price is essentially the minimum you’re going to let it go for and if someone’s going to take this and list their own account or their own business, the strategy is to set your reserve price above what you’re willing to let it go for like you did because you don’t want to give up that upside immediately.

JJ: [00:40:54] Yeah, a hundred percent. What else happened on the day?

Spencer: [00:40:56] You popped some champagne and celebrated a little bit?

JJ: [00:40:58] Yeah, it didn’t really hit me because I didn’t have the money. I knew I still had, I guess… I’m like, “Sure, it’s great.” I haven’t seen any money yet or when I’d see money or if I even would see money. There’s no popping champagne or anything at the time then. I was kind of “Woah. I did it. Yay.” 

Spencer: [00:41:20] When I finally reached a good goal for Merch in December and cleared more than I ever had, but then I look at my earnings and it’s about, 75, 70% of what I earned and I’m like, “Okay. I guess I’m on that 30/45 days to pay schedule. Okay, we’ll celebrate then.”

JJ: [00:41:41] You never make it to the next month, right now? 

Spencer: [00:41:41] Yeah, they just found a way to sneak it in there. Oh, man. So good. It sounds like overall it was a crazy process but you made it through. Now you’ve got a little war chest to do what you want with. Are you thinking about moving, are you doing anything else in print on demand or do you have other skills and aspirations that you want to follow?

JJ: [00:42:05] Yeah. I still stay up to date with the whole print on demand community. I see all the updates. We’re in the Slack group together so I follow along with that still. But in terms of what I want to do next? Or were talking about before prior to the whole podcast, but I’ve been teaching myself to code for last year. I think in terms of what I’ll move to next, I’m very interested in software as a service.

SaaS businesses. If anybody who’s listening hasn’t heard of the Indie Hackers website, go there and have a read of the few articles. Learn about what SaaS is, it’s an online product they sell for a monthly subscription. I think there’s a lot of potential there and that’s where I see myself moving into the future.

Spencer: [00:42:52] Think Merch informer from Neil, think merchant long from Shannon. Those are just print on demand specific but yeah. So many different SaaS businesses that you can do. What interests you about it? Is it that you want to find another passive income business? Do you think that it’s more defensible, you can build a better competitive advantage? what makes that interesting to you?

JJ: [00:43:16] I think the most attractive thing about a technical or an online software as a services is the scalability of it. If you go to the product, there’s no reason you can’t sell it to 100,000 people. There’s no reason. It’s just a product. Just host an online service. In that sense, I think the scalability is really attractive. I was very burnt out with Merch. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

It’s time to move on. Whereas, this is more of a passion project. That’s how I see it. It’s something I enjoy doing. I want to do it full time in the future. That’s kind of where I’m at. I haven’t actually pressed the go button. I’ve done all of the reading and research and taught myself to code and how to build these other things. I haven’t pressed the go button. That’s kind of where I’m at with the whole software as a service.

Spencer: [00:44:04] You got to just start, man. That’s where this whole thing started from, it’s the r/JustStart.

JJ: [00:44:10] Back in the Subreddit r/JustStart, yeah, for sure. 

Spencer: [00:44:13] I think it’s cool. I love that you’re teaching yourself new skills and that you’re going in that route because if you’re building a product, regardless of whether or not it’s financially successful, you’re building your own skills. You’re learning something, you can change it. Merch at some point gets very static.

I think you and I both felt burnout to a point where it’s like, “What are my variables? What niche is hot this month? Am I going to play the seasonal holiday game? Are my designers cranking stuff out? Am I doing scale designs? Am I just hitting uploads, whether I do it myself or I automate it?” There’s not a lot of room for skill development other than feeling like you’re pushing your creativity or maybe you’re improving your SEO. I think if you’re building something yourself, that can be way more attractive for yourself and then for future employer. You mentioned you want to do that full time.

JJ: [00:45:05] Yeah, definitely. I think the other thing about software as a service, I work as an SEO consultant now day to day. I’ve tossed out there of maybe freelancing them around so I’m out of agency moving forward. I keep coming back to the thing like if you’re providing a service, you’re trading your time for a dollar amount, whereas, if you’re building a product, you’re selling that product and not your time. Sure you got the time in building this thing and maintaining it, but you’re selling the product itself not your time.

Spencer: [00:45:35] Interesting. Help me through that a little but. Software as a service can be either active or passive, depending on how you set it up. I think they’re both kind of similar, where if we take a Merch shirt for example or a software as a service business, both take time to build and optimize and put it in the right place and but both can sell passively. What are you looking for with the time aspect?

JJ: [00:46:01] Once you go products, you can sell it over and over again. Let’s say every single t-shirt. Sure, I put in all this effort. I designed the t-shirt and they can sell a hundred times.

Spencer: [00:46:18] Oh, I think we lost you there a little bit. JJ.

JJ: [00:46:22] Only in that in that make sense?

Spencer: [00:46:24] Sorry. You just cut out for a little bit. Would you mind going over the last like 15 seconds?

JJ: [00:46:29] Yeah, of course. If I was to do consulting in the future, I will put a value on my time and they almost only in that sense. Whereas, the product, I’m selling it to them and they’re buying it.

Spencer: [00:46:24] Yes, okay. I’m following you now. I’m following you. Yes. Because I do a little of consulting, too, and there’s definitely a reason it costs money because your time is valuable. To your point about wanting to do something you can do over and over again, software as a service is beautiful for that because you’re coding something. The beauty of software is it’s not tied down by a physical supply chain. It’s really about distribution, marketing, and your ability to make something that people love.

JJ: [00:47:10] Yeah definitely. If you’re passionate about something and you really want it, there’s a lot of people that will say, “Oh yeah. I want to do this and that” but there’s not a lot of people actually go out and build something. I’m after being successful.

Spencer: [00:47:25] Yeah. You can make a killer product but if nobody buys it, it’s almost like if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it. It depends on your goals, I guess. The nice thing about your goals is that you’re going to win either way because they’re going to learn something or you’re going to be financially successful or both, hopefully.

JJ: [00:47:42] Yeah, it’s more about consistency. I know we talked about this. In any kind of online business, it’s more as long as you can consistently do something and not give up and stay up day in day out, sooner or later, you will be successful. You will see some kind of return on your time investment.

Spencer: [00:48:00] I think that’s definitely true, especially if you’re willing to learn and change what you do, test, and even lose a little bit of time and money. You have to be willing to do that because there’s no free lunches. Nobody’s just going to give you a formula that works. If I were to go even just give out my top five selling shirts, you would still have to go do work. If people wanted to copy them and do it themselves and take that shortcut, you would still have to market, do it, post it, and make it different than competitors. Nothing can be handed to you.

JJ: [00:48:32] Nothing will ever be 100% of passive as well. Everybody’s chasing passive income. Make sure that you go to a point where it’s almost passive you’re taken to the account at the time that you got producing that and then maintaining as well.

Spencer: [00:48:46] For sure, yeah. Passive income is such a misnomer because it’s 100% active up until the point you stop. I would argue at the point you stop, it starts to decline in value.


JJ: [00:48:58] I agree 100%. 

Spencer: [00:49:01] So if you had any advice to give to our audience, our audiences is in a lot of different stages of print on demand. Some people love Merch. Some people love Etsy. Some people are just starting out. What would you say to people haven’t gone through the entire process just maybe two years ahead of time for some other folks, what would you say to help them get to a successful point where they want to exit and do well for themselves?

JJ: [00:49:27] That’s a good question. I think I’ve got a different answer but I think going back again, consistency. Refine your processes. Keep doing it day in, day out, you will see results. That can be applied to anything in life, not just online businesses.

Spencer: [00:49:43] love it. I’m reminded of the Shia LaBeouf video, “just do it”. That one always gets me ready to go when I have to go grind and upload Merch shirts. Based on what you told me today, I think I’m going to go forward with a broker. I don’t know which one yet but I think you’ve convinced me or maybe I’ve convinced myself and you’ve put the nail in the coffin. I’m feeling a little burned out on Merch.

I’m looking at the empty slots and it’s looking way up at this wall I have to climb. I’m like, “Do I really want to go do that again?” I should be a process guy. I should have this stuff scaled and set up but also my heart’s really in more of the brand building and the higher margin products. I’m head over heels with Etsy. Everybody knows that. It’s on the show. I think I might do it, man. I’ll either go call up my FE broker again or I might go through Empire Flippers, but I’m probably going to try to go with somebody who’s handled the process before. I admire your bravado and your willingness to forge a new path man, but it terrifies me

JJ: [00:50:54] Definitely wasn’t easy. Just a little one other that kind of pushed me to sell my account in the first place. I always had my personal email account, I’m guessing like most people do as well, attach their Merch by Amazon account. It might be on the Slack group told or drop that bit of info that can change. That was kind of like “Oh, I can actually sell it without giving up my personal details to my email” so they actually change your email associated with your Merch by Amazon account. You can go to Amazon and you can change your email on there and it has a knock on effect.

Spencer: [00:51:24] That’s a good point. You know what? You reminded me of another thing. When I initially talked to my broker about evaluating it, I was selling on Seller Central and actually I don’t think that Merch or Amazon can separate the two if you’re running both at the same time. That’s part of the reason I wanted to shut down the momentum on Seller Central is because I think if you have two accounts, they don’t have a way to separate that that login or that password. If you do sell on FBA, maybe keep in mind that that might be a complication.

JJ: [00:52:00] For sure. Anybody that doesn’t have a Merch account, set it up with a different email than your personal email.That’s just one thing. Keep it all separate.

Spencer: [00:52:10] Yeah. If you’re doing it the right way, you’re running it through an LLC, then keeping your expenses and your everything separate. I think in the future, if I had to imagine the best way to do it, it would be here in the US LLC with your Merch account, your expenses, and income underneath that so then your sale would be the LLC and then you’re hands free on that.

JJ: [00:52:36] Yeah, definitely. I think of it as a business from the start rather than when you want to sell it because then you come into complications for sure.

Spencer: [00:52:41] Oh, yeah. I’m going through that now Especially when I go to list it, too. It’ll be like “Gey, go grab your portfolio of 2000 designs.” It will be like, “Ugh.” Most are on Merch along but they’re scattered. Cool, man, this has been awesome. You mentioned to me before the show that 2019, you’ve got a couple goals related to getting out there and building a presence. Help me expand on that and show people where they can find you.

JJ: [00:53:09] Sorry. You just cut out slightly. 

Spencer: [00:53:11] I was just going to say tell people where they can where they can find you.

JJ: [00:53:15] Yeah, of course. I am pretty active on Indie Hackers and you can find me on Twitter. I’m kind of new on the air, but it’s DEAKINS_JJ.

Spencer: [00:53:26] Absolutely. I’ve got you covered. JJ, thank you so much for coming on, man. You and I are totally going to be talking. I’ll definitely keep you informed of how I stumbled through this process. I really, really appreciate your time and I can’t wait to see what you do with SaaS going forward. It’s going to be really exciting to see what you settle on.

JJ: [00:53:47] Yeah, thanks for having me. If anybody has any questions, if you’re watching this video in three months’ time, drop some comments down below. I’ll reply you there.

Spencer: [00:53:54] Oh, fantastic. Cool, man. Well, let you get in to your, is it Saturday night?

JJ: [00:53:58] Yes, Saturday night here in Australia.

Spencer: [00:54:00] Oh, I shouldn’t stand between you and that so I’ll let you go. Thanks to everyone for watching and we’ll catch you guys on Monday with another interview. Thanks.

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The post JJ Deakins Interview | How to Sell a Merch by Amazon Business appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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RJ Martinez Interview: Episode 46 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/rj-martinez-interview-episode-46/ Tue, 26 Feb 2019 15:03:13 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50629 The post RJ Martinez Interview: Episode 46 appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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RJ Martinez Interview: Episode 46

In January of 2019 I was lucky to host RJ Martinez on the show to talk about his print on demand businesses and income streams. For those of you who don’t know RJ, he’s an excellent teacher and full-time entrepreneur that’s grown a sizeable following by showing other people what works for him in POD. I’m a big fan and have learned a ton from him myself, I wanted to have him on the show so that you could learn from him too!

In this episode we talked about his strategies for 2019, how he builds & gives back to his community, and where you should focus your efforts this year to grow your business faster. You can find out more about RJ on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and his podcast “Real Talk”.

Episode Transcript

Spencer: [00:00:05] Welcome, everyone. This is Spencer from MerchLifestyle.com and you’re listening to the Merch Lifestyle Podcast.

Merch Lifestyle is supported in part by Bench Bookkeeping. Closing out my books by hand used to take hours of stressful research and tedious spreadsheet work. Every time I did my own books, I felt like it was a massive distraction from actually working on my business. Since I started using bench to manage that for me, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Bench gives you a team of real human bookkeepers to do your books every month and they have really nice software that connects with e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Shopify.

Bench is helping me understand my print on demand business better and gives me back a ton more time that I can use to grow my business faster. If you want to get a free month of bookkeeping for your business, sign up today using the special link in the show notes and if you do become a client with bench, they’ll even throw on an additional month of bookkeeping for free so you’ve got nothing to lose. Check it out using the link in the description.

Boom. Hey everybody. Welcome to Merch Lifestyle Podcast. This is episode 46. I’m your host, Spencer, as always, and I am joined today by a super special guest. You’ve seen him, you’ve heard him. If you don’t know his name, you will after today. Today, RJ Martinez joining us. RJ, how are you doing?

RJ: [00:01:24] What’s going on, man? Thanks for having me on. Doing actually really well. A very productive day. I’m writing all my stuff down. I’m a big fan about writing everything down, guys. If you guys are not, I had to actually look it. I went to Target and I have this pretty daily planer, but it was too small. I couldn’t write all my stuff that I wanted to do down, like all my stuff that you’re doing daily, I can write it down. So, I had to go get a bigger one. I’m a big fan on that. If I think of something, I write it down because I’ll forget it 30 minutes later. And I’m just like, man, what am I doing. I’m all over the place, all these tabs are open like, “Damn.”

Spencer: [00:02:05] I’m with you. There’s a big folder on my desk. You can’t see it, but it’s like, I’ll write stuff down in different notebooks and consolidate it and I’ll go look at it and write some stuff down again. The process of writing helps, that’s what I tell myself.

RJ: [00:02:16] Yeah, for sure. It does. And I can see that it does help a lot. I try to have stuff I’ve written down right here that I’m going to accomplish throughout the week and it does help a lot for sure.

Spencer: [00:02:32] Well, I mean, you’ve got a lot going on for those who are listening and watching who don’t know you. Tell us a little about yourself and then your background in e-commerce.

RJ: [00:02:42] Okay. Merch by Amazon is one of the big, I put a lot of content out about that. So that’s how a lot of people started noticing me. I was doing a little bit of FBA, going to like there’s doors and stuff like that, trying to figure out how to do stuff. I’m just like, “Man, how am I going to do this?” Trying to find myself, you know? And I was like, “Dang.” And I started doing FBA. I started doing a lot of shoot flipping before it actually got big. I was doing that and I showed a lot of people how to do certain things with gift cards and stuff like that. I was doing that and I was shipping out like a hundred shoes a day sometimes. It’s like, “Man. I can’t be doing this.”

My buddy was making fun of me. He’s like, “Dude, you’re supposed to be focusing more on your time and stuff like that. It seems like you’re working more than when you had a job. You’re breaking your back more than when you had a job.” And I was like, “What? It’s going to pay off.” He’s like, “Really think about what you’re doing with your time management and rethinking what you’re doing.” And I was like, “Man.” I’ve thought about it and then I started messing around with the Merch by Amazon.

I uploaded a few designs and then made a few sales. I was like, “Wow, okay, there we go. This is something I can actually do” because I love being on the computer. But I hate putting rubber bands on shoes and cover it, hold the box of clothes and stuff like that, so I started doing merch by Amazon and I outsourced that out right away. And because I suck at designing, and the whole concept of… I’m good at understanding the design and the idea, but I suck at designing, like being creative and putting stuff together. I’ll sit there for like a whole two days trying to figure out one design. So that’s not me.

I do a lot of a print on demand. It went from Merch by Amazon to now of print on demand. I do Etsy. I do Merch by Amazon. Now, I’m creating content for the community. What else am I doing? I’m on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), messing around with KDP. I squeeze this into my weekly stuff. I try to squeeze it in there and kind of give it a couple of hours of the day a week and try upload the maybe 20, 30 journals a week or something like that. I’m trying to fit that into there, too, as well.

I actually have two Etsy stores now. I have a general store and then I have a niche store. We’re competing with each other. I’m just trying to grow the niche store. I have about like 73 listings live. I actually see it growing a little bit. It’s consistent traffic now. Before, I used to get like one to two people in the store. Now, it’s about 10 to 12 a day. Just screwing everything and seen a lot of success.

Spencer: [00:05:36] Nice. You’ve got a pretty wide scope. You’re full time entrepreneur, right?

RJ: [00:05:43] Yeah.

Spencer: [00:05:44] Okay, cool. To ground everybody on these different platforms, what would you say you bring in profit wise as a bucket every month.

RJ: [00:05:54] My merch account, it can be anywhere between like three to five, three to six a month. It’s crazy because we usually have to beginning of the year of January and February do really well. I’m not in black history month. Okay. I really got into it.

I see a lot of people that come into Merch by Amazon and they do really well in February. I’m like, “Why are you doing so well in February?” And then I kind of do research and it’s like, “Oh, okay. So, you’re in black history month and you’re crushing it. That’s what you’re doing.” But I average, it all depends. They average anywhere between, I want to say right now because I’ve been scaling and growing everything, putting out more content and stuff like that. That’s been helping me out a lot, too. I average anywhere between six to nine (thousand).

Spencer: [00:06:45] Nice.

RJ: [00:06:46] 9k a month, but all depends, Like I said. Last month, I probably did close to 10k last month.

Spencer: [00:06:53] Yeah, man. Eventually you cleaned up that last one.

RJ: [00:06:55] Yeah, that’s normal. Now it’s going back down, you’re like, “Oh, time to work your butt off.”

Spencer: [00:07:00] January is painful.

RJ: [00:07:01] Right now, I do have a shirt right now from last year. I made a video on this on YouTube. I do have a shirt from last year and that was doing really well for me. It’s ranking number one for a key term and it’s a trending holiday. Last time I checked, it was ranking number one, ranking on the front page, like number one, number two. It fluctuates. Last week it was ranking number eight, but now it’s up on number one because of the sales volume that’s been given.

That’s been, I have one shirt that does really well for me and it’s does anywhere between five to ten sales a day. But right now, today for some reason there’s no sales. It’s weird. I’m just like, “Okay. Hmm. Monday.” Everybody’s going back to work, I guess.

Spencer: [00:07:45] Today’s been low. And then I had a day this month, too, where I lost money on Merch. Had more return than sales. It’s up and down, man. You’ve got all these things and then to ground everyone, so that’s where you were last year. That’s where you’re at.

Now let’s talk a little bit about where you want to take your businesses in 2019. Just broadly, do you want to grow one particular business? Do you want to diversify? What’s filling up your note pad these days?

RJ: [00:08:12] Right now, Etsy, it’s been pretty fun on there. I have a few things that I always have. I don’t know with my goals and stuff like that. I’ve been intending to have more fun with them, but I’m very like a chip on my shoulder. If I can’t accomplish that, you get pissed off at yourself.

And, sometimes I’m like, “Dang, man. Try to take it easy on yourself” because I’m pretty sure you’re the same way. If you can’t accomplish something, then you get mad. You’re like, “Damn it.” With me, for example, my Merch by Amazon account, I just got the invoice or the royalty thing. I did 47,000 last year.

Spencer: [00:08:53] Well done.

RJ: [00:08:53] That’s pretty cool. That’s consistent of at $4,000 a month.

Spencer: [00:08:59] That’s about it.

RJ: [00:09:00] That’s pretty cool, but that’s not to my standards.

Spencer: [00:09:04] That’s an understatement. That’s pretty cool, but I’m following you.

RJ: [00:09:07] Yeah. But you know, you get what I’m saying, it’s not to my standard. You make $4,000 a month. You’re like, “Oh, cool, cool. That’s awesome.” But you’d be like, “Okay, but what can I do to take it to that next level? What am I doing wrong? I’ve been doing this for almost two years. What am I doing wrong? Now you question yourself. I’ve been focusing more on issues.

One of the most important things I’ve been focusing on is I have two illustrators. This third one I’m interviewing right now, but these two illustrators I have right now, they’re only focusing on four niches each. Each one of them have different issues they are focusing on. I’m going to have my topography guy, but not only that, I’m on there, too, as well, uploading and stuff like that and seeing what we’re doing and seeing the sales ratio between uploads and sells. I’ve been focusing more on that, kind of like a data information, running AMS ads right away to them. As soon as I upload them, they’re live. AMS ads. I’ve been seeing a big difference.

Spencer: [00:10:06] Nice. Let’s go into that. Merch is your focus. Merch is your bread and butter for last year. Sounds like you’ve got your team, you’re running the show, you’ve outsourced the key stuff. In the beginning when you were doing FBA and hustling shoes, it sounds like you’re working smarter and you’re working harder, too, but you’re also working smarter.

With Merch and AMS, you’ve got your designs picked out, you’ve done the research, you’re focusing on the niches. What does that flow look like? How many are you getting up a day? Are you going broad? What kind of products are you putting them on or you do you believe in shirts? Are you going to focus more on the heavier stuff?

RJ: [00:10:44] That’s another thing, too, like kind of just throughout the week. That’s another thing. I need to write down something like, say, Saturday. Go back to the products that I’ve sold on shirts to upload them to other products. I messed around and uploaded to pop sockets and I’ve made a couple of them. A couple of them made sales.

That’s something to think about, too, as well just for everybody in general. I think that if you upload stuff and you see that it’s making sales on a certain product, it doesn’t hurt to come back later on that week and upload them to different products. That’s kind of like a time management thing, too, as well because you don’t want to be all over the place when it comes to that. That right there I did upload to a few pop sockets and they’ve made sales. But I think in my mind I’m like, “You know what? Use the Amazon search bar and see what other cuts, see what other products in that niche people are looking for” or look in that niche.

See, it makes it more simple this way, too, as well. Look in that niche and see what other gifts or long sleeve selling, premium shirts selling or sweatshirts or hoodies. That’s more simple because then you’re not going back, you’re uploading stuff like throwing it up against the wall and see if it’s making sales. That’s something to think about, too, as well. I’m actually going to write that down.

Spencer: [00:11:56] Glad I could help. No, that’s good. I think some people might get boxed into thinking that we just sell t-shirts on the internet, but it’s really you create a digital asset and then it’s about how you’re going to SEO optimize it and how you’re going to distribute it. Putting it out on a Merch product is just one way to distribute and sell. But that product, you could sell that design, you could sell it on a poster or a mug, you could sell it on Etsy, et cetera, right?

RJ: [00:12:23] Yeah, yeah, for sure. No, you can do stuff like that. I should have actually shared this, I didn’t even think about that now.

One second. I’m sorry about that. Like in the middle of the month, usually, like last year, I started like the first week.

Spencer: [00:12:43] Yeah. Usually, right after New Year’s it’ll kick off a little bit. I think that the silver lining on this one is I might actually make more from Etsy, if I can sneak in a couple of orders than I will from Merch, which is super cool. That’s like a big milestone. I’ve been trying to diversify away from that a little bit.

RJ: [00:13:01] Yeah, for sure. I shared the episode in the Merch by Amazon Mastermind and then I shared it in the big group, too, as well.

My sales, too. Today I’m at a 21 sold. For this month I’m at 633 sold.1131 and royalties. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s slow, for sure.

Spencer: [00:13:31] You’ve got your niche picked out, you’re grinding, and you’ve got your team. Tell me more about AMS because I think a big opportunity that I missed last year was not running AMS ads consistently.

What I did, I had an accost that was under 10%, which is fantastic. But then I really dropped the ball on not educating myself and learning it, especially as they’ve put out new resources. AMS as a platform is really growing at a much bigger level. It’s taking market share away from Facebook ads. It’s taking market share away from Google AdWords.

Tell me about your strategy there, because you mentioned before the show how you’re working on that and how it’s been actually going pretty well for you to drive some traffic.

RJ: [00:14:16] Right now with AMS, I’m testing a lot of it out right now. I’m starting real low, but first I was starting like real high. At the end of the day, I spent like $72 in one day and only maybe like two sales. I was like, “Oh no. What did I do wrong?” I just said, “Yeah, 75 cents.” I was like, “Man, that’s cool.” Then I started adjusting it. The next day was like only 40. I was like, “No, that’s still way too high and my sales are not up there like they should be.” And then I adjusted all the way down to 15 cents and I ended up just still making sales.

With AMS, you do have to mess with it a little bit. There’s some days, if you mess with that, you’ll spin easy over $50 if you mess with it enough. They have this new feature in the back. I’m trying to look at it right now. The portfolio so you can create. I have niches in their creative and I’m running for one niche, I’ll actually run all amp. I’ll put all my shirts and stuff, our products in that one niche and I’ll have it all organized that way, too, as well. I’m trying. I’m keeping everything organized. I think that’s kind of keep focused and stuff like that. You want to keep everything organized in that low portfolio part. What else is there? There’s that top search.

Spencer: [00:15:40] Well, if you’re selling in a niche and let’s say you’ve got your niche picked out and then you pull all those ASINS and you plug them in to that portfolio and then automatically, if you want to run a new campaign against all those skus, then Amazon lets you do that really easily. Is that how it works?

RJ: [00:15:59] I’m not sure how, I don’t think that’s how it works. What do you mean? Like you want to run a…

Spencer: [00:16:08] I mean tell me how the portfolio works. How does that help? Does that help you organize what designs you run ads against?

RJ: [00:16:14] Well, it just helps me organize it for each niche. So if I’m running the ads to, let’s say a hundred days, a hundred days of school, every single design in there that I designed that actual for that niche. And it’ll kind of give me the impressions, and, of course, the sales, and how much I spent in that niche. That’s how I’ve been keeping it organized. That way, you can also go back. I haven’t messed with it all the way yet, but I will later on this week towards the weekend and kind of see like what might keywords are, what I’m making for.

That’s a whole other topic right there. You kind of have to be more in detailed and show the screen, but yeah. Of course, I won’t do that because you’ll see all my…

Spencer: [00:17:01] No, we don’t want that at all. And I believe, even if I were to show my, everyone was doing reveal their bestselling shirts on here. That information, one, is already public if you search. And then two, it just creates a bunch of copy cats. It doesn’t help anybody.

There’s so much to dig into on AMS. I guess just generally, do you do headline search or product display?

RJ: [00:17:25] With AMS, I’ve been doing just sponsored ads. I just keep it very simple with that. I haven’t messed around too much with it. I think last year I did that with the sponsor, product display. Is that when you’re like under the “add to cart,” right?

And that’s what it is. I was messing with that when I first found that out and I started messing with it because I’ve seen somebody during the Halloween last year. All his shirts are all under a 100k and this just crushed me. I see him in all of my top selling designs. This guy right here. This guy’s crushing it. I launched one and I actually spent like 100 bucks for like over $3,000 in sales or something stupid like that. It was crazy.

Spencer: [00:18:12] And there’s a knock on benefit, too, which is kind of what we were talking about before the show, which is even if you were to spend 100 bucks and then just make a hundred bucks in royalties, it’s still worth it because you’re driving more sales to your accounts so you can tier out faster. You’re getting that lower BSR and in theory, you’re boosting up where your shirts sit on the search page, right?

RJ: [00:18:32] Yeah. For real. That’s one way because one of the most important thing is getting that organic reach. You want that in an organic reach. It’s very important because once you get that up right there, the sales has come in and then everything else just boosts.

You got the sales coming in from the ad, you’ve got the organic sales coming in from the customer just searching on Amazon and then you just start crushing it. It’s pretty important actually.

Actually, I’m going to run a few of those after this. I forgot about that. I have a top selling design that’s doing really well. Let me see what it does in this niche and often you get to pay attention, because you can run the ad to, I forgot what you can… In that category or against another shirt in that category. Or something like that. You just have to be careful how you’re targeting that and you just want to test that out for sure.

Spencer: [00:19:24] Yeah. There’s all kinds of ways you can do it, too. You can do your manual search terms. You can do the Amazon suggested ones, I think to your point, Amazon, it’s really a battleground because everybody’s fighting for that front page. Even if you’ve got your niche down completely all the way, you’re fighting with the people who are spending ad money. That top row is a battlefield, right? If you’re not spending on ads, you’re not in that space.

What we saw late, late last year, which affected a bunch of my designs I uploaded in 2017 that were doing well is that whatever Amazon did on the backend, it just took a bunch of those products that were doing super well out of that front page. I had one that had like 22 five-star reviews. It even had like the Amazon Choice badge. I don’t even know what that means, but I think it’s good. It just recently clawed its way back. That listing is a freaking warrior, but it took forever. Did that affect you?

RJ: [00:20:20] Well, what was it one more time? What was it?

Spencer: [00:20:23] There was this day where Amazon did some kind of backend change and the ASINs. I know Blake who runs Merch Campus covered it in detail and I saw a bunch of my listings I had uploaded in 2017 kind of fall in the organic traffic then and it’s taken a long time for them to recover and a bunch of them never did.

RJ: [00:20:39] Those are the reasoning behind that right there, I believe. Really not too sure, but I know that it seems like there’s a few different reasons. There’s a reason why, why would they elsewhere, they just switch the ASIN around. From what I heard, it’s supposed to be easy and make it easier for us and I’m thinking a few things.

There could be a few things. Maybe you can just upload one design to one market and then it goes to all the other markets for you. That would be pretty cool. I did have that one design that was in a very competitive niche and it had over 11 reviews on it and I’ve been running AMS ads to it. That previous day probably do like about seven or eight sales at 19.09 and then the next day it was gone. I looked in the morning and like, “No. You gotta be kidding me. They wouldn’t do this.”

Spencer: [00:21:28] Without a trace.

RJ: [00:21:29] And then I have one buddy that I communicate with them pretty much every single day and we’re working together. He was pissed, too, because he, I’m pretty sure everybody knows who he is, but he has probably the best designs on Amazon. He was expecting to do over 100k that month. He ended up only doing 87,000, so he was kind of mad.

Spencer: [00:21:49] I shed a tear for him.

RJ: [00:21:53] He was like, “What the heck?” And then everybody will worry in the little Slack channel and then we’re all messaging each other like, “What’s going on, man, what is going on?” And we’re trying to figure out what happened. All of a sudden, the ranks started coming back like around noon and Ken [Reil], he kind of knew, he knows what’s going on but he can’t say too much because that’ll be his inside, his inside scoop that he has will no longer tell him what’s going on.

Spencer: [00:22:18] It could be another thing, too. It could be that they… I would love to see them go the red bubble route. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to do it with the way their catalog’s structured, but you upload one design on the multiple products, too. I have confidence they’re making positive changes. How did you do on the UK and Germany markets? Because that was a nice boost for me last year and that was a nice change they made.

RJ: [00:22:39] It had me bring in like an extra hundred bucks, like a month. I’m like negative over there this month, I believe.

Someone there returned their pizza shirt or something and they didn’t want it. I think last month they brought it in, each one of them brought 100 bucks, so that’s pretty cool. Just to not even touch it and then just “Here’s $100,” I go “Cool.” That’s dinner for the night or for the week.

Spencer: [00:23:10] That’s a nice dinner. Yeah, man. Are you overall on Merch? I want to definitely talk about a couple of other platforms and strategy stuff, too.

Overall on Merch, are you optimistic about 2019? Do you have any predictions? I know you’re focusing on growing it, but as we know with Amazon, anything can change with a moment’s notice. Are you optimistic about where they’re taking it? Do you think they’ve opened the flood gates? What’s your general take on Merch in 2019?

RJ: [00:23:42] Like I said, with me, I’m more focused on having the best design. I don’t mind spending a little bit more money. I try to do that at the very beginning. I think that’s a very big thing. But don’t get me wrong, I see some people just put up a basic design. I don’t really crush it. There’s a few designs that I made. I made it myself, just a few like statement designs on a shirt and just basic text only. This is making sales. This is stupid. I’m like “Yeah, this is dumb man.”

Spencer: [00:24:12] It feels like easy money. It doesn’t feel right.

RJ: [00:24:15] Yeah, for sure. No, for sure. I’m more focused on taking over niches. I think having the best design in a niche is very important long-term because think about it. If you have one niche and see it making sales for you, why not? Even Ken Reil says, “Why not fatten the niche, make it bigger?” Because I’m more focused.

I’d rather have one niche than 20,000. I’m focused on one niche. I want that one niche to do 20,000 or $10,000 for the year. Now, imagine we have eight of them doing 10,000 or $20,000, that’s big. You put it like that. I’m thinking more long-term, focusing on one niche and getting those reviews, ranking them, having them ranked on the front page.

Then like I said, time management is very important because then the next day, you want to work on your other niche. And then we had her on Sunday, you want to come back and check up on that one niche that’s doing well this week. I think having one niche doing 10 to 20 sales a day is really important because when you put it that way, it seems so much easier compared to being all over the place and not understanding your niche.

That’s something to think about. I never really put that out there to anyone like that. I’ve been talking about it in the, like I said, in the Mastermind little chat that we have, but this is the first time putting it out there. I think if that clicks you, hopefully it does and understand it and it’s pretty important.

Spencer: [00:25:54] I think you’re thinking more long-term and if you are focusing more on your quality and then focusing on one niche, you can start to build a brand that doesn’t have to just live on Amazon, right? Because I’m guilty of kind of being maybe too diversified in my designs where it chased a scatter shot of different niches.

If I wanted to go take those designs and build a brand, I got nothing to work with because it’s all just pieces, a little opportunistic stuff, and it’s diversified, right? It’s not all in one seasonal thing. It’s not all Saint Patty’s day stuff and I just live and die with that. But to your point, if you’re upping the quality, then that opens up other channels, too.

You like red bubble, right? Where the quality’s higher. It opens up cross-selling on Etsy potentially. Hey, you could even build a social following if you want to start to build an audience and a community. You’ll have to understand the niche, too. You can’t fake a niche.

One of my bestselling shirts is in a niche where I was really passionate about for a long time and I just kind of understood like the little jokes and stuff. The more you doubled down on one, the more you start to understand that the more you research you do, it’s almost got this multiplier effect that stops you from feeling so scatter-brained. I really think your point was, super, super smart.

RJ: [00:27:10] Yeah. That’s another thing, too. A lot of people, they don’t understand that until they started doing it. When you started doing that, you see it like I said. I uploaded like about 60 really, really strong designs . Half of them are already making sales. I’m just like, “Okay Dude, I’ll upload 300, 400 designs.” Now, I’m actually taking my time, looking at the quality of the design, making sure the detail work is there. That’s a big thing, too, as well, making sure that detail work is there.

I think honestly, when a customer buys a shirt from Amazon, they see it, they buy it, they see the detail work on the shirt, like the coloring and all that stuff. It makes them feel like they have to go back and redo it for some reason. I don’t know why. It makes me smile. They’re like “Their shirt’s amazing. I’m going to go back and leave a review.”

I think that’s one of the ways, too, to actually help boost your reviews, too. Not only that, too, is just, I don’t know. I’ve seen that. I upload to Redbubbles red shirt in Etsy but actually, the spreadsheet I was looking at it right now, this is like yesterday, I made 6 sales. Two days ago, I did six sales. Yesterday, I did five. Today, I did two.

Spencer: [00:28:30] How many products do you have live there?

RJ: [00:28:33] Uh, probably about 2000.

Spencer: [00:28:34] Oh, okay. That’s a pretty big portfolio.

RJ: [00:28:38] This is the thing though. When I was doing that, I really wasn’t… Now, Mark, the designee, understanding the design is like a whole ‘nother level. That’s a whole ‘nother level. It’s not like tech space.

Spencer: [00:28:53] Hopefully the market will agree with you, right? Because that’s the big argument. Is the tech space stuff just works? At what point do you draw the line? It’s so subjective, but at what point do you draw the line between over creating and, and versus just scaling. That’s something everyone has to decide, but it sounds like you’re shifting more towards the quality.

RJ: [00:29:13] That’s another thing because I know somebody that’s crushing it and I’m like, “Dude, look at my design and judge it. I want you to judge it. I want to be better.” Like he’s like, “Well, there’s a space here and there’s space here. You want your illustration to fit. You want it to fit in what the typography and the text you wanted to fit in there.” I’m just like, “Interesting.”

So I got my whole team on a Skype chat. We’re doing weekly calls now and I’m just like, “Okay. Can you see this illustration? The text has to look good so we have to make it fit. Make this illustration like more to the side.” They were like, “Oh, okay, cool.”

And I suck. I suck at this, too, as well. That’s the crazy thing about it. It’s pretty cool. [inaudible 00:30:02] made a sale. It was like five bucks or six bucks, I think it was a sticker? I have it up to 300% on that.

And then I sold the clock the other day. That was like a $10.

 

Spencer: [00:30:16] Hey, nice. You can sell a scarf, a tapestry, acrylic block.

RJ: [00:30:23] Yeah. I was like, “Dude, what the heck.” That’s the cool thing about Redbubble, too. I don’t know. People buying weird stuff on there, I don’t know.

Spencer: [00:30:29] Redbubble’s great man. They actually market on your behalf. I think you can link up your Google Analytics account and they’ll run Google shopping ads for you. It’s beautiful.

RJ: [00:30:39] Yeah, they do that?

Spencer: [00:30:40] Yeah. I dug into their investor presentation as part of a different video and read more about all the technology they’re investing in and it’s pretty comprehensive.

They’re trying to make the platform easier to use. They’ve got a pretty significant amount of people that go on there, particularly internationally. I get a lot of sales from Australia and all over markets that are open for Merch and I think they are a pretty well-run company. They’re going to make some big changes, so it’s cool.

RJ: [00:31:07] I think I was watching a video, did you go over that or you’re the one that went over that?

Spencer: [00:31:11] I went over. I reviewed them versus Printful, yeah.

RJ: [00:31:14] But you can plug in the analytics in the back and it would give you more information, correct?

Spencer: [00:31:18] Yeah. Who was talking about that?

RJ: [00:31:22] I forgot who said that, but yeah.

Spencer: [00:31:24] We’ll remember to link it, but somebody was talking about linking up your analytics and then also using the URL to pull down some keywords and stuff. If I can find that, I’ll link to it.

RJ: [00:31:36] Interesting. Yeah, no. And then I’ll also look at it today because that’s one of my goals, too, is I want to actually grow that. Now that I have really good quality designs and I’m pretty sure that they would do really well on there, too, because that’s what Redbubble’s about, like more like artsy kind of, look at the detail work on this, you know? If you could do that, you can pull that off doing over a thousand dollars a month.

Spencer: [00:32:05] Yeah, I think people can do well on Redbubble with high quality designs. It’s not the space for scale designs. I’ve been open about it. I do a lot of scaled stuff, either text based or simple graphic. I’ll even use some automation and some Photoshop scripts to just hang out a list of stuff, but I don’t put that on Redbubble. That’s just spammy. Merch is like, “Hey, here’s a thousand, you have 800 uploads a day. Go for it, kid.”

RJ: [00:32:31] Also, too, like I said, I have been paying attention to the people who deal my stuff because you can do that on Redbubble and one of my designs, when I just uploaded, it has like over eight likes or eight hearts or something like that, but it has no sales. Those hearts really didn’t do much, but they may help. I don’t know. They rank better, so you never know. But we’ll see. We’ll see though. You know. So, another thing, too, was like Etsy. I’ve been doing really well on Etsy.

Spencer: [00:33:00] Tell me about your strategy. Because I love Etsy. I have so much good things to say about it, but I want to hear about your strategy and how it’s been for you.

RJ: [00:33:09] What I do on Etsy, Monday is Etsy. My general store day today. Actually, my store name. But what I do is I look at the stats. I’m just seeing what shirt is doing well and I go on in on my niche and take over. Another thing, too, I do is I message all the customers today and tell him if the shirt was okay, is that what they expected. If so, leave a review. Let me check that right now.

Spencer: [00:33:44] On a side note, if anybody knows about a chrome plugin or a third-party extension that I can use to just, after an order ships, wait five days and then send that predetermined note to a customer. That would be beautiful because I used to do that in the beginning, but I’ve fallen off the train and it really helps getting reviews when you follow up with people.

RJ: [00:34:06] Yeah, for sure. It does. It really does. So, I followed up and I’ve got one, two, three, four reviews today.

Spencer: [00:34:17] Dang. Five stars?

RJ: [00:34:19] Yeah. And then check it out, guys. This is one of the most important things. This is what I’ve been noticing and I’ve been testing this with my niche store.

After, when you get those reviews, when they started coming in like that, out of nowhere, I’ll start getting the hearts, people liking my stuff. I’m not sure what Etsy does, but I’m pretty sure they do something that has to do with something with their algorithm. I get in a lot of hearts, like literally, probably got, one, two, three, four, five. So, five hearts within an hour and then here’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, seven. Seven within another hour. And then here comes an order. An order came in just right before we started the show.

Spencer: [00:34:58] My main store has 300 sales and 30 reviews. I’m at a 10% rate without reaching out. That’s massive to get that many.

RJ: [00:35:08] Yeah. See, that’s another thing, too. I do run a… was it Etsy…

Spencer: [00:35:13] Promoted listings?

RJ: [00:35:14] Promoted listings. I do run on that, too, as well. Just paying attention, paying attention to the customer, messaging them, following up with them.

I have a have this one customer today. Here’s a perfect example. I have one customer that came in today. She ordered a Saint Patrick’s Day shirt already. See that’s another thing, too. You see how far away Saint Patrick’s Day is.

Had a customer come in and order and it was too small and she got it within a certain amount, a certain time period. I think she ordered this shirt probably about maybe about four days ago, two days ago, and then she got it today. That’s another topic right there, too.

Spencer: [00:35:54] For you, are you doing Teelaunch, Printful, at somebody else?

RJ: [00:35:57] I have a buddy that’s been doing all my stuff for me, so that’s another topic right there. We get along to that right now. I would only accept returns or exchanges on my store. With that right there, she’s like, “It’s too small. It fits like a medium.”

That’s another thing, too. See the Bella Canvas, the women’s, so she ordered an extra large, but it fitted like a medium. It’s very tapered, like the manufacturer. Yeah, they fit like a medium. It’s like almost you have to order two sizes up. But what happens if I don’t offer two sizes up? She was kind of mad. She’s like, “So what am I supposed to do with the shirt? I can’t wear it and I can’t afford another one.” To make her happy, I told her that I’ll send her another one, a unisex shirt. The unisex one is more fitted. It’s more like a regular fit, like a normal human being.

Spencer: [00:36:53] A vision of what a real person should look like.

RJ: [00:36:57] Again, I’m a 44DD and I was like, “this is no way I can put this. Oh, God. Okay.”

Spencer: [00:37:08] We need that to be accustomed more. I like what you’re saying with taking care of them, right?

 When people have a bad experience, you can turn a one star into a five star, no problem. I think a specifically on Etsy, the beauty of it is that it’s not completely hands free.

You can outsource it with a team, sure, but you have to be talking to people, you have to put a little smiley emoji in there, you’ve got to show some personality, you’ve got to not be a robot, and you have to have a transaction with people, especially if you’re doing custom work. I think if you put the little bit of extra effort in to do that, one, it feels good because you’re not dealing with the generic Amazon customer who’s just going to return the first thing and they’re probably going to give it as a Christmas gift and then the prison’s going to get it and then send it back and they’ll like stick you with all the fees.

On Etsy, I think people are more real. They’re just willing to work with you. You’re a small seller and they’re more understanding. Do you agree with that?

RJ: [00:38:07] Yeah, for sure. It’s more of like one-on-one.

Another thing, too, is you got to treat it like a business and show them that you care. That takes it a long way. “No, come back. Leave a review.” I have repeat buyers. I have a woman that bought a shirt for her mother and literally I seen her purchase something two days ago and I messaged her like, “Hey, I’ve seen you come back. Thank you. I appreciate that. It means a lot.” She sent a picture of her mom on my store. I was like, “Oh, thank you for coming back.” and” she’s like, I’m sneaking the shirt that I just ordered it today. I’m sneaking in my mom’s suitcase because she’s going on vacation.” “That’s cool. That’s awesome.” I was like, “Can you send a picture when she gets it. She’s like, “Of course I will. I’m having so much fun with this. Thank you. It means a lot. You have a good quality shirt, too. Thank you.” That’s a very important thing.

Also, too, right now I am working to have a buddy. He actually found me on Instagram. He’s doing all my printing. He’s doing all my printing. He’s like my processing time. It’s crazy. My processing time, sometimes, it would get everything printed and labels. I mean like the shipping label, everything done in one day sometimes.

Spencer: [00:39:29] Is he U.S. based? Is he based in the U.S?

RJ: [00:39:31] He’s in L.A. He’s like right around the corner from the Bella and Canvas warehouse. He’s like, “Anything you need, man. Just let me know.”

I had a buddy he’s fighting at a Bellator. He’s fighting at Bellator, it’s an MMA fighting, like a UFC kind of. He’s fighting on Saturday and I needed 15 shirts, so I give him a call. This is another thing, too, the important thing. You build that relationship, you learn. You don’t know who you’re going to meet. You never know who you’re going to meet.

He actually found some content on me, I think it was on Instagram and he went to YouTube and then he just reached out to me like, “Hey, I want to help you. You helped me and my dad build our business up and I want to return the favor to you, so I want to help build your Etsy store up and help you grow or whatever you need, whatever, you just let me know.” I called him, I was like, “I need 15 shirts and I need front and back printed.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I’ll get it out and I’ll get everything out today, printed, everything.” I’m just like, “Damn. Okay, cool.”

Spencer: [00:40:34] Does he have access to your Etsy store or does he have like an API that pulls your orders or a manual pull?

RJ: [00:40:42] Shipstation. Just the PNG.

That part right there, I’ve been uploading manually or have my VA, like I’ll be out and about and I get an order and the guy’s like, “Hey, I need this PNG file” and I’ll just message my VA on my phone if I’m out and about. I’m asking him, “Hey, can you do this? Because you’re my VA.”

That’s another thing, too, guys. It’s very important to have a VA that you trust. That’s very important because he could do anything. He could do anything for you. Just trust him and work with him. I work with him on a daily basis. I got off with a call at 12 o’clock with him and just just touch base and just give him that motivation, what we’re working on today. He’ll literally move the design for me within 30 seconds. He works like eight hours of the day and he’ll do it. That’s pretty important, too. He enjoys doing it. He likes working with me and stuff like that. I actually found this guy and the quality of the shirts are really good. The printing’s really good. I’ve been testing it.

 he color is amazing. Nice and thick graphics. Real nice. The print comes out really good, which in return, when it comes to that in return, Etsy reviews go up, everything goes up. He has a little ticket that he puts in the package to leave a review, how to wash.

Spencer: [00:42:05] Can you do any custom packaging with him because that could really help your Etsy business stand out?

RJ: [00:42:11] I haven’t really got that far yet. I’m about that.

Spencer: [00:42:14] If you can get some, even if it’s just a sticker or a decal or something more than the ticket, one thing that I’ve been trying to think about for my premium brand is every time, I got this box of chocolates the other day at work. Just a little gift. You see this with an iPhone, too. You open it up and it’s like an experience. If people are paying premium price, you almost expect that special thing, especially if they’re giving it as a gift, the chance to be seen by a lot of people, I think packaging is underrated as a way to make a premium product stand out. Since he’s your custom guy, he might be able to help you with that.

RJ: [00:42:49] I think I watched your video that you did with the Redbubble. Sticker in the packaging was really good, but the printing was okay. I watched the whole thing. I was watching the whole thing.

Spencer: [00:43:02] Dang, you stayed for the whole thing? I make those videos too long, I think. It’s like an hour.

RJ: [00:43:06] That video does really well. I was like, “This is a really good one.”

Spencer: [00:43:10] You were looking at my SEO, you’re like, “Dang, I got to get on this guy’s YouTube.”

RJ: [00:43:17] I was going to make a video this December. With this right here, actually, I went over to Printify. I have actually some shirts in there that look horrible. I was reaching and I was like, “Who’s doing the shirts?” And I came across you.

I have these shirts and they came out, like the printing is bad, you can see the ink is kind of going over the lettering. It’s pretty bad. Printify uses, I forgot who they use. MyLocker. MyLocker, which is custom cat. Horrible. In December, the beginning of it, I was doing some crazy 20, 30 sales a day on Etsy. I was crushing it and I was like, “Damn, dude.” But then there was like two days I was doing that. But then the next day, I had over 50 overdue orders. I was late on over 50 orders. I was like, “No, dude. They’re going to shut down my Etsy store.”

Spencer: [00:44:23] I thought I rushed it in Q4 on Etsy, but 50 orders backing up. I think the most I had was 20.

RJ: [00:44:30] And I have 50. I was like, “Wow. No.” People were messaging me, “Where’s my order at?” And literally some of the orders are two weeks behind. I was like, “You know, I’m cancelling this order. Refund.” It was horrible. I was like, “I don’t know what to do.” I was kind of talking about it in the show.

Actually, one of my buddy, he reached out to me. He’s like, “You know, I can do all your printing for you.” And I was like, “Dude, I never even thought about you. I forgot.” And then I was like, “I need you.” And then he’s like, “I got you man. Don’t worry about it. You’ve done so much for me.” And I was like, “Man.” So that happened. This type of case like that, I got to have over 50 late orders.

Now, I’m just smart. I’m more focused on the customer service part now because I already know that’s taken care of. The most important thing with Etsy, I think, is making sure that you have a good quality printed design on a t-shirt. That’s the first most important thing because if you don’t have that, you’re going to have that and it’s printed on time, too, as well. Make sure you have your shipping times down. Because if you don’t have that, it’s going to mess up everything. It will. You don’t want to get a message from a customer saying that. The sizing, that’s normal. That’s an everyday thing, but I think having a shirt and the printings horrible, that just makes everything, that experience, bad.

Spencer: [00:45:51] Yeah. It’s a ticket to play especially in a world of such transparent views. People expect two-day shipping with Amazon. If you’re selling a lot of Merch, it’s nice to not have to worry about the shipping, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. The product has to be produced and shipped. Amazon’s just best in the world probably at managing that big of a supply chain.

When you have to do it yourself on Etsy, it might seem like, “Oh, the margins are great on Etsy,” but you really have to pick a good supplier that takes care of you. One, you got to think about, “Am I going to be able to ship internationally? Is the quality up to date? What’s my price point going to be? If I have a bad design?”

I’ve had a couple of times where my customers got the wrong design or the print got cut-off a poster. “Am I going to be able to go back to my supplier or my display of the shirt and say like, ‘Yo, here’s a picture of the customer shirt. They had a bad experience. Are you going to give me a refund? Or what are you going to do to make it right?'”

All those things come together. Integrations, how easy is it to upload. You’ve got to think about those things if you’re going to be selling on Etsy. It sounds like the guy that takes care of you helps you take care of your customer and that’s a ticket for you reaching out and getting five, six, seven, five-star reviews. That doesn’t happen overnight without putting in the work. You’ve got to have someone watching your back on the supply side.

RJ: [00:47:06] Yeah, for sure. It’s pretty big. I have another buddy. He messaged me, too, and showed me his numbers. He’s crushing it. Doing what? He did over 100k in pay-outs by, I think it was October. He’s just crushing it, man. And I was just like, “Dude.” And he’s all, “I started in April. Thank you.” And I was like, “What?”

Spencer: [00:47:27] Wait, April to October, 100k?

RJ: [00:47:31] He’s crushing it. He’s doing 15. You know when we first started off at 15k in revenue for the month and then 20k in revenue for the month. You’ve got to remember too, with Etsy, the profit margins are way higher because we’re talking about like seven, eight-dollar shirts. I mean profit margins.

Of course, with me, once you start building the social proof in the reviews and the ranking on your store, that’s when you can start increasing the profits. Right now, I average between 10 to $12 profit per shirt sold.

Spencer: [00:48:02] That’s pretty good. You do free shipping in like 25 bucks a shirt done?

RJ: [00:48:09] Yes, I’m at like around 22. It all depends. $20 to $24 a shirt.

Spencer: [00:48:18] Free shipping or no?

RJ: [00:48:19] Yeah, free shipping. I offer the free shipping. It seems like right now, Etsy’s pushing that right now a lot. Now, because customers are spoiled. Amazon spoiled them. I see free shipping. But that’s the crazy thing though, too, when they start to push it, I still had it at a $5 for shipping and the customers still buy it and I’m still ranking really well.

I was like, “I wonder if this even really matters.” And then another thing I tested out, too, at the beginning was if you purchase two or more shirts, you get 20% off or something like that.

Spencer: [00:48:55] Okay. I run that, too. I would consider, if you’re looking to expand in 2019, my main brand is posters and digital downloads. That store after ads, it’s like a 50 plus percent margin business on Etsy. T-shirts have good margins. I think mugs do really well.

I would challenge you to think about some other products too, if you can get them from this guy or just the standard one, I use Printful mostly with some Teelaunch. The products do well.

RJ: [00:49:24] I was talking about that today, too. Going to niches with less competition with the products. That’s really big because it will increase everything. I noticed that, too, as well. Instead of going over the quality of the design, but not only that, just going to a niche with less competition on that product will boost everything.

And then the pricing. He can play with the pricing a little bit more instead of being in what the apparel or shirts or anything like that. Or shirts, 20 bucks, $19. It’s between $19 to $22. That’s what you might think you’ll pay for a shirt.

Spencer: [00:50:01] Are you doing the Bella 3001?

RJ: [00:50:04] Yeah.

Spencer: [00:50:04] Okay, nice. That’s a good shirt. If you’re doing custom work, I don’t know about you, but I struggled with this in 2018. I under-priced really hard doing custom work. I’d be like, “Sure, I can do your personalized order for you.” And then I would hate myself because I would come home and I would just have this backlog of custom orders. I was like, “I would dread doing that.” Now, I just price pretty high on those and people still convert in that way. It feels better value exchange.

RJ: [00:50:30] Yeah. of course. That’s what I’m thinking. The customer, when they want a custom order, they’ll pay like 30 bucks. I have my custom orders at 25 and it takes my VA, my designer, it takes him 30 seconds and he’s done.

Spencer: [00:50:46] But you had to build the template. It’s beautiful.

RJ: [00:50:49] Yeah. but he’s really good at Photoshop and all that stuff. He’s really good at doing all that stuff and like zooming in real fast and pressing them little shortcut keys. I was like, “What are you doing dude?” He’s like, “I’ve been doing this for 10 years. You don’t understand.”

That’s another thing, too. I want to raise my prices to the custom orders. I have to write that down. With the custom listings, you can raise the prices to like 30 bucks. I know some people charge 50.

Spencer: [00:51:17] Yeah. For a custom poster, I double the margin on it because some people just want it and they don’t really have a budget.

For some people they want to ask for a bunch of stuff. You can kind of tell from the initial conversation how easy they’re going to be to work with. When you throw people a quote, I had a custom order, 16 posters. I threw out this big number because I’m like, “I don’t want to do 16 posters.” I threw out a big way bigger number and then maybe took like 5% off so I could call it a discounted rate. She’s like, “No questions. Just do it.” And I’m like, “Okay, sweet. Custom listing, biggest order ever. Let’s go.” Now I have to do the posters, but at least you feel like you got a good price.

RJ: [00:51:59] Yeah. That’s interesting. I have to pick your mind more on that right there for sure.

Spencer: [00:52:02] Etsy’s beautiful. The last thing I’ll say on it is that it sounds like you’re doing promoted listings. I did it a short video on how to do it because I had a pretty awesome December where I spent under a hundred bucks to drive. I felt like over 1000 bucks in revenue.

It’s a super easy platform to come on to. I don’t think there’s a lot of competition. When I was digging through Etsy, their public filings and stuff, I think one thing they noted was only 15% of the sellers on Etsy used promoted those things, which kind of blows my mind. That feels like a ton of opportunity.

RJ: [00:52:38] Interesting. It’s really big because they rarely convert the promoted listings. That’s another thing, too, guys. With the reviews, you’ll rank organically. Not only will you rank organically, when you’re running promoted listings, you might rent twice to sell the customer who’s seen your product twice.

When you’re running promoted listings, you’ll see at the top of the page and then you’ll be right there, too, as well. Not only that, with that niche, that niche is very important because let’s say you have, in that niche, you have a reason for the stretch. You’re ranking on that first page for that product because you have reviews.

Spencer: [00:53:14] Every space you think of is another space your competitor doesn’t take out.

RJ: [00:53:19] That’s important. They rank you for the reviews. That’s why when I got those three or four reviews that came in, all of a sudden, I started getting hearts in all this other stuff because I started ranking better.

Customers are probably clicking on my listing, looking on my other stuff like, “Oh, this is cool. This is cool. This is cool. This is cool.” That’s pretty big.

Spencer: [00:53:38] That’s awesome, man. Don’t hate the player, hate the algorithm. You got to figure it out.

Etsy’s brilliant, man. I’m going to focus a lot on Etsy next year. Actually, I’m putting my merch business up for sale right now. I’m kind of done with that game and I’ll have separate episodes of stuff about how that process goes, but I’m doubling down on Etsy, man. I really see a lot of opportunity there. You can build an email list, you can pull people off into a Shopify store, you can jack the margins up and get reviews. Etsy is super still way underrated. I liked that you’re on there. I think it’s smart.

RJ: [00:54:17] Yeah, it is. I really didn’t start paying attention to Etsy until the end of October. When I started paying attention to it, I’ve seen the increase in everything. Sales started increasing. I start averaging, after October, 7k in revenue. It was 7-9K revenue a month.

Not only that, when I really started coming in, like, oh, my main store has over 200 reviews. I’m trying to get average over a hundred reviews a month. If I can do that, that would be spectacular. That’d be really good because this is going to rank everything.

Spencer: [00:54:52] The beautiful thing is you can swap it. My general store, I might have a completely new products set next year in the general store, but that’s okay because the store has the reviews and these people will trust the store. That’s one of the nice things about building a brand that you can do on Etsy you can’t do an Amazon.

The review is listing-specific and it’s pretty hard to drive people to an Amazon store from Amazon. You have to drive cold traffic into a predetermined store. On Etsy, once you bring them in that shop, you can push into a new category, you can show them a carousel of listings, you can hook them up, you can message them. It’s beautiful. People should definitely get on there. I almost recommend Etsy first for people new to print on demand. If you’re willing to go set up a supplier and there’s ones that make that really easy, then I think that’s where I’m going to be in 2019, I think.

RJ: [00:55:42] Yeah, for sure. That also, too, if you think about. It scares away the copycats. There’s not that many copycats on Etsy, too.

I forgot to go over that on the last show we had. It does because they get scared because of the 20 cent listing fee. You’re scared because then you want to Etsy plus this $10 a month. They can’t do none of that for free. They get scared right away. They don’t want to pay the $10 a month, which is nothing because they often stuff with it.

Spencer: [00:56:10] Yeah. It is like for eight bucks worth of stuff. And if you can convert a quarter of a customer with your carousel and your nice store, it pays for itself, so why not?

RJ: [00:56:23] Yeah, it’s really nice. Your poster store is like a niche store?

Spencer: [00:56:31] Yeah, it’s a niche store. It does posters and digital downloads be which are brilliant cause it’s essentially a hundred percent margin considering the work that you did to put it up there and the 20-cent listing fee. Those sell pretty well between $5 and $9. Then you just set it up.

I have this template in Photoshop. I was trying to learn Adobe IIlustrator so I can use art boards, but basically, you have a design and then you preset your design sizes because if you’re someone who wants to print out a poster at home, which a lot of people want to do to save money, they’re like, “Okay. Well, are there going to print it out at Walgreens or something?” You hook them up with a two by three size of three by four or four by five A4 international size and you put those all in your templates so when you drop your design and Illustrator, it spits out the jpegs or PDFs, whatever you want, and then you just pop that into Etsy.

Once they hit that pay button, they automatically get all those files. You don’t have to do any post-sale service and they’re just taken care of. Digital downloads are actually pretty enticing. I use a lot of commercial use packs from creative market to help me supplement my designs there because creative market is super, super fun to play around in to get design inspiration. They have a lot of good commercial use stuff there.

RJ: [00:57:50] Nice, nice. Digital, it’s almost like music. Anything digital, it’s actually just trending right now. It’s going out. It’s pretty great.

Spencer: [00:58:00] As close as you can get to 100% profit. If there was a customer service problem, you didn’t have any cost. It’s just like, “Sure, have your money back. It’s a file. What do I care?”

RJ: [00:58:12] I think that’s a really good topic, that digital downloads. Honestly, I should probably look up some content on that. You probably have people on there starting business over digital donloads?

Spencer: [00:58:23] For sure, man. People sell to other Etsy creators, people will sell, download packs, do the whole, whole market there. A lot of my competitors in the in the printed product space, my store does more print and ship, but a lot of my competitors will undercut my listings because they’re offering digital. I’m trying to figure out my blend of where I want to do physical versus downloads.

I want to be mindful of your time tonight. We’ve had people stick with us for about an hour. You’ve got this portfolio businesses, you’re off to an amazing start for just two years in. You walked from FBA to working smarter and you’ve outsourced the team. You’ve built this big foundation and you’re doing, I would say, very well for yourself with print on demand.

Where do you see your business going three years from now and where does the content mix fall in with the businesses you’re running?

RJ: [00:59:27] This is going to be a real good one. Good question

Spencer: [00:59:29] I think I gave you the questions ahead of time.

RJ: [00:59:32] No, that’s going to be real good because I think building a personal brand is like one of my main goals. Honestly, I enjoy learning new things. I see me growing from other people. It’s weird. People that I used to hang out with and stuff like that, I’m outgrowing that. I’m outgrowing that and I’m learning more things on my own. I enjoy running stuff by myself. I enjoy researching stuff. That’s something that I enjoy.

From three years from now, building a brand and that’s what I’m doing right now on Etsy. I want to be able to build that brand, grill everything, just consistently work at it every single day. I just want to grow. I want to grow but I’m still confused. What do you want to accomplish, though?

Spencer: [01:00:30] You’re talking about the freedom. Is it about this class? What is it?

RJ: [01:00:34] See the freedom part I enjoy because it feels good to get up. See, that’s another thing, too. A lot of people say it’s about the freedom, but in order for you to have freedom, you have to have money in a way so you can get up and do what you want when you want. That’s pretty fun. I’ve been miniature golfing. I’ve been going with a friend at miniature golfing and we go. We just go. It’s not expensive. Of course, it’s not expensive. The point is, I can just get up and go when I want when I want and go have fun doing it at the same time and not have to worry about nothing. That’s the cool thing for me.

That’s a very good question. I think just building that brand. Building that brand and building who I am as an individual, making me better every single day. Actually, I enjoy helping people, too, as well. That’s a big thing for me. I enjoy helping people and people putting extra, like for Christmas, putting Christmas gifts for the kids because they watched the video and understood what I said about a year ago. That’s a pretty good feeling, too, as well, to help people out.

Spencer: [01:01:47] Absolutely. I think for everyone listening and watching, RJ has been given out a real transparent, step-by-step value for a long time now. I would argue that you’re a print on demand OG for sure.

Tell everyone where they can find you and a little bit about what you’re doing with real talk and just to help them get connected.

RJ: [01:02:08] Basically, what me and my buddy, he’s my buddy now Matt, with Real Talk. He’s the co-host Real Talk, too. Me and him are taking Real Talk more into an online e-commerce or like an entrepreneur, more open. Trying to get new people on the show better, don’t have to do with print on demand. They can do with anything from Amazon FBA to private label. I see a lot of people doing like candy machines.  That’s big right now. I don’t know why, but a lot of people like watching that stuff. It kind of turns into a TV series on YouTube, so that’s pretty cool.

Anything like that. I’m just bringing people on the show and just explaining to them, explaining their story and stuff and how they got here to where they’re at and stuff like that and trying to show other people if you can kill it on the print on demand platform, you could pretty much do any business that you can be successful at. You can be successful anywhere else with the mindset that you have. It’s very important for that.

You can find me on YouTube, RJ Martinez. You can search me and I’ll pop up. Instagram, @RJHustles, you can find me on there, too, as well. I have a big Facebook group, Merch by Amazon Masterminds. I plan on changing that pretty soon, too because we want to just go all e-commerce, merch e-commerce online or something like that. Just more of like a general a topic instead of more of a niche topic because we’re to venturing out now.

We’re trying to expand everything and grow everything more. Honestly, what got me here is Merch by Amazon. If it wasn’t for Merch by Amazon, I wouldn’t be, doing Etsy, I wouldn’t be doing Redbubble. I want to be doing any creating content for every one. You got to respect that. That’s pretty much it.

Spencer: [01:04:04] Fantastic, man. Well, thank you so much for coming on. I’ll make sure to put everything in the show notes in the description. You’re YouTube, Facebook Mastermind, Instagram, et cetera. I’m really excited to see where you go, honestly, in 2019.

I love that you have this cool mindset about experimenting and trying things and I think a lot of people, and myself included, can get caught up in just tweaking things when actually, you just have to go do and try and you can only watch so many videos, you can only read so many e-books. you can only buy so many courses. But sometimes, the best teacher is just doing. I think you do a good job of that.

Continue trying stuff and then keep opening it up so we can watch you succeed and fail because I know when you fail, you pick yourself up and you do better next time. Thanks again, man. I appreciate you having me on.

RJ: [01:04:48] Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

Spencer: [01:04:50] Hey, if you enjoyed this episode and are looking for a super easy way to support the show for free, please head over to iTunes or whatever platform you get your podcasts from and leave a quick rating or even a review. I read every review that you guys leave and your support helps other entrepreneurs find out about the show, so it’s very appreciated.

You can find links to all of my income reports, blog posts, email newsletter, my contact info, et cetera, all in one place over at MerchLifestyle.com. As always, thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you guys next time.

 

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 Income Report   January 2019

Hey there, welcome back!

January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come off a seasonal high, only to see numbers plummet come the new year.

However, January is a great time to re-frame your priorities for 2019 and to do the hard, foundational work that sets your business up for success in the coming months. You don’t get to huge profit in Q4 without doing the work to set yourself up earlier in the year.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and see how January shook out for me:

 

Merch by Amazon – $1,222 Profit

As expected, this month was lower than my typical return on Merch. Instead of making excuses, I’m going to list all of the things that I could be doing to improve these numbers:

– Upload new products.

I haven’t uploaded new designs since the fall of 2018. It should be no surprise then that my sales aren’t skyrocketing magically after Q4. The number one factor for growing your POD income is consistently getting more quality designs uploaded.

Run AMS ads.

There’s no excuse not to be experimenting with AMS ads. AMS is a quickly growing platform, and those that choose to learn and understand the platform have a huge advantage over those that rely strictly on organic traffic. Amazon recently created a free AMS certification course as well, so your ability to understand the system is limited by your willingness to put in the time!

– Focus more on higher margin products. 

I believe most of the competition on Merch by Amazon is for t-shirts. There’s certainly good money to be made in shirts, but when you assess the royalty increases that recently went into effect for long-sleeve products, there are plenty of reasons to diversify what you’re offering. I’ve already seen royalties of $10.77+ per hoodie sold in February, which goes a long way to helping boost the bottom line.

– Research and blast designs into new niches.

New niches are always being created, and by combining the strategies above, you can carve out your own part of those niches. I continue to believe in the power of scaled designs on Merch by Amazon, and if you have the slots, increasing the diversity of product types in that niche will help you grab more of the pie.

 

These strategies aren’t necessarily new to Merch by Amazon, and that’s part of the beauty of the platform. If you’re willing to learn Amazon’s rules and set up processes to scale rapidly, Merch is a great spot to drive additional passive income over the next few years. The Merch platform rewards a very specific kind of business process, which isn’t necessarily lined up with a strategy of long-term brand building or customer interaction.

 

Etsy Store #1 – $139 Profit

This Etsy store could really use a refresh in 2019.

It continutes to run on autopilot, get mostly good reviews, and is very little work to maintain, however the products are all over the place.

I’m happy that the store has a good base of reviews, but I’ll likely look to get a couple hundred products up here in the next couple months to re-test what this store wants to be.

I find on Etsy it’s really nice to have a store that is a testing ground for new types of products, alongside any established niches you may have.

I’m also looking forward to the new “Push to Etsy” feature in Teelaunch that will make publishing these products way easier going forward.

Etsy Store #2 – $981 Profit

This store continues to do well, however, I have a few areas I want to expand into/change over the next few months:

 – Custom work is now more expensive for my customers

I realized over the past 2 months that custom work can be really disruptive to my business process and that I needed to raise prices to make it worth my time.

You can’t predict what kind of customers you’ll get, and over time you’ll get customers that are picky, indecisive, slow to respond, etc.

It’s best to price any custom work at a high price that makes it more than worth your time and sanity to respond to. In the long term, I should be hiring more help to handle the custom work for me.

– More products & styles are needed to grow the store/brand

In order to grow this business, I need to actively stay on top of new products in the market, and be hiring designers that help get new designs in my store. It’s a priority for me to get my designers back in the game, and to have more automation help to scale up designs that I can use for this storefront.

Etsy is full of ideas for you to do competitive research, and the only limitation at this point is my own process to hire more help to grow the product catalog. Expect this to change soon!

– Shopify & direct traffic needs to be a priority for Q1.

One goal I have for 2019 is to have more than 50% of my premium brand revenue come from Shopify instead of Etsy. This is going to require a ton of investment in my brand, direct traffic, promotion, and marketing to get people to move over to my own website.

However, that kind of move will pay off in the long term because I’ll be able to grow an email list, market to consumers on other platforms, cut out Etsy fees, and increase margins without worrying about platform rules/changes.

 

Other Platforms  – $56 Profit | Direct Expenses – $269

Redbubble was reliable as usual, but I’m also packaging that account in with my business sale so I can focus on Etsy/Shopify/content creation.

Expenses grew this month as I brought on bookkeeping firm Bench, however a huge weight is off my shoulders as I no longer have to worry about running my numbers, guessing how much I owe at tax time, or worrying about tax compliance in general.

Overall, my pre-tax profit for January was $2,219, which is pretty good for working on it for less than 5 hours last month 🙂

 

Keep the bigger picture in perspective…hard work pays off!

Photo by Peter Jan Rijpkema on Unsplash

What’s up next?

I hosted RJ Martinez for a great interview (Podcast/YouTube) about his 2019 strategy in January, and I’m lining up more guests to come on the podcast in the coming months.

 Expect more product reviews to come, as I tackle a few poster suppliers, mug suppliers, and a few new POD platforms & software tools. I’ll also be updating you on the status of my business sale, as that’s a really exciting development this quarter.

Until next time,

Spencer

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Zach Knickerbocker Interview | Rising Early to Grow Your Merch Account

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In January of 2019 I was lucky to host JJ Deakins on the show to talk about how he sold a Merch by Amazon business in 2018. This episode was a lot of fun to make with JJ. He was an open book about the whole process, and his personable nature made for an easy-going...

RJ Martinez Interview: Episode 46

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 Income Report   January 2019Hey there, welcome back! January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come...

Income Report December 2018

 Income Report   December 2018Welcome back everyone, and happy 2019! You're in for a treat this time around because I've got a new record profit month to share with you as well as a couple new analytics views to give you better insight. I'm now pulling directly...

Income Report November 2018 – Spencer

Income Report November 2018 Hey, welcome back! I'm super glad you're here because this month was the most profitable month I have ever had and I can't wait to share with you how it happened. Before I get into the details, I want to share some big news with you....

Income Report October 2018 – Spencer

Income Report October 2018 Welcome back everyone! October was a decent month sales-wise and there's been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can't wait to share with you. I hope that you're starting to see your own POD stores kick up...

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Income Report September 2018 August 2018 Income ReportBy Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million

Australian-based print on demand company, Redbubble expanded it's international reach recently by snapping up competitor TeePublic for $41 million USD. Redbubble announced the acquisition of TeePublic on October 24th, 2018 and clarified how the businesses will be...

Income Report September 2018 – Spencer

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...

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Income Report August 2018 August 2018 Income ReportBy Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

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Income Report August 2018 Hey, it's a new all-time record! August was a wild month, I set a new personal best with net income and got to spend most of the month either traveling or hosting friends. That's my kind of month! I'll be honest, this month I didn't achieve...

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Income Report July2018 Hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, near Black Balsam, is one of the most beautiful hikes outside of Asheville, North Carolina. My girlfriend and I, along with some friends, enjoyed doing a 6-mile loop the second weekend in July. Looking...

Income Report July 2018 – Spencer

Income Report July 2018 Look Mom, I'm almost ramen profitable! July was an excellent month of learning, experimenting, and business growth. I also got to do a little exploring in California's beautiful Sequoia National park, which features gorgeous Redwood trees....

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Income Report June 2018This is still the greatest business ever to be in at this second. We're having fun creating designs, lots and lots of designs, now we need to create content for those designs and then upload them. Our 3 designers are working hard. Our content...

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Income Report June 2018June was a decent month($2k profit), I'm not where I want to be ($5k profit), but the foundation is rock solid. Here's a short summary of what I think the most important insights are from this month: Everyone should be on Etsy.   This month I...

Income Report May 2018 – Shannon

Income Report May 2018 This is the greatest business ever to be in at this second. It's so much fun because we never have to touch a single product when it's sold. Last weekend a lady asked me (via Etsy messenger) if she could order 14 shirts. I said, of course! She...

The post Income Report January 2019 appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
Income Report December 2018 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/december-2018-income-report/ Sat, 05 Jan 2019 20:31:27 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50531 The post Income Report December 2018 appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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 Income Report   December 2018

Welcome back everyone, and happy 2019!

You’re in for a treat this time around because I’ve got a new record profit month to share with you as well as a couple new analytics views to give you better insight. I’m now pulling directly from Etsy analytics and PrettyMerch Pro to show you more insight as to what’s working and what isn’t.

As always the goal here is to do a few things:

  • Help you set realistic expectations for your business
  • Show you how I earn income from POD (so you can do it too)
  • Honestly share success alongside failure

I plan to keep cracking open the books in 2019 so you guys can keep following along and learning too. With that, let’s get into the numbers!

Merch by Amazon – $4,200 Profit

This month has been my best ever on Merch, and it really demonstrated the pure power that Amazon’s reach can have for an e-commerce business. The concerns about “building your house on another’s land” is still front of mind for me, and diversifying away from Amazon remains a big goal for me in 2019.

On one hand I’m excited about this and it makes me want to invest in the platform for 2019, but on the other hand I’m more motivated to work towards a potential sale…still torn on whether or not that makes sense!

Regardless, the money is there for the taking, here are a few tips based on what worked for me this year:

  • Scaled designs work, watch my tutorial to show you how to make/automate them in Photoshop
  • Pricing low to grab a sale, then raising prices has worked well to keep designs on the platform
  • Profit is mostly determined by the # of products you have live. I scaled well this year by leveraging MerchAlong
  • Most popular colors in order: Black, Heather Gray, Navy, Heather Blue, Pink
  • If you have the slots, you should be selling hoodies, longsleeves, and sweatshirts (especially with the new royalty structure)

A final item I’ll be delving into on merch is learning AMS and working towards Amazon Advertising accreditation so I can confidently get back into the advertising game (and teach you as well!)

Etsy Store #1 – $762 Profit

This Etsy store is really interesting in that it isn’t at all a cohesive brand and has lots of random niches thrown together. As of right now there’s only about 40 products live, so I see this store as a good testing ground for new designs.

Mugs (via teelaunch), tank tops (via Printful/Teelaunch) led the way for this store, and I think I’ll use it to test new types of products going forward as well.

If you haven’t started an Etsy store, this should be encouraging to you because it shows how much opportunity is out there (for relatively little effort!)

Promoted listings were huge for this store as well, with $50 driving $500 in sales…not bad! If you want to learn how to do promoted listings, check out my tutorial here.

Etsy Store #2 – $1,953 Profit

This Etsy store performed super well this month (selling posters via Printful and digital downloads), and is encouraging as I launch my “premium brand” in 2019.

Although the profit was super strong this month, I will admit that it was a lot more work than I was hoping for. I took on some lucrative custom orders and had to deal with a lot of shipping timing questions for the Christmas holiday. Going forward I am repricing my custom work higher and increasing prices across the board.

Overall it was definitely worth it, and I’ll likely be hiring some VA customer service help in 2019 to take care of the crazy seasons. I also want to use team members to do outreach on my behalf to ask for reviews, follow up with customers, etc.

Seeing a 53% margin on a no-inventory model business is really excellent, and I’ll definitely be investing in more designs to scale this up beyond 1,000 unique products live in 2019.

Promoted listings were also key here, with $83 spent translating to $1,334 in revenue. That’s a 6.2% ACOS on a 53% margin product…I have to scale this up ASAP!

Other Platforms  – $1,953 Profit | Direct Expenses – $124

Redbubble, Spreadshirt, and TeePublic rounded out the month for me with a bit of hands-off income that more than covered the December expenses.

Expenses were predictable and low, with the only real potential to trim them coming from my premium Shopify store that I’m not effectively driving traffic to yet ($29/mo). I’ll keep that up as I build my store, it will be an incredible feeling to get that first sale on my own domain!

One thing I’m changing in a big way is how I run my books in 2019. My bookeeping in 2018 was a huge mess, and it’s a hassle that I am not going to do again in 2019. I went out and hired a bookkeeping firm called Bench that’s going to run my books for about $145/mo. I’m really excited to bring them on because offloading administrative tasks is more necessary than ever for me.

A goal of mine this year is to get a lot smarter about my tax deductions, keeping my expenses in check, and maximizing my profit from all income sources (POD, Merch Lifestyle, career, etc.), so this should lay a strong foundation for the year.

More to come in 2019! Stay tuned 🙂

Photo by Samuel Chenard on Unsplash

What’s coming up in 2019?

On Friday, January 18th I’ll be hosting JJ Deakins for an interview at 6:00PM PST. I’m excited to have JJ on because he successfully sold a Merch by Amazon account in 2019 and I’m super curious about his experience.

I’ll also be working towards Amazon Advertising accreditation so I can make a tutorial on those to share with you guys in the coming months.

More supplier reviews are coming up, and anything else I figure to get my hands on! My real challenge is finding time to teach and work on my business too (can’t forget about that 😉 )

 

Until next time,

Spencer

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

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The post Income Report December 2018 appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
Income Report November 2018 – Spencer https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/november-2018-income-report-spencer/ Fri, 07 Dec 2018 05:00:30 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50510 The post Income Report November 2018 – Spencer appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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Income Report November 2018 

Hey, welcome back! I’m super glad you’re here because this month was the most profitable month I have ever had and I can’t wait to share with you how it happened.

Before I get into the details, I want to share some big news with you.

Going forward, I will be running Merch Lifestyle independently, with my great friend Shannon deciding to double down on his amazing Merch Along software and growing portfolio of POD businesses. We decided to do this amicably, together, and for a variety of reasons that made a lot of sense for us both. Shannon will be popping in from time to time and help interview, share updates on his POD business and software, so no need to worry!

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s get into the numbers for November:

September 2018 Income Report

By Spencer Shewbridge | Merch Lifestyle

Is this the beginning of something special?

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

Insights

A Brand Is Born? To Etsy and Beyond…

 

This month I earned $1,277 in profit on Etsy, with a healthy 43% margin. Instead of breaking down each and every part of the platform, let’s look at the three key factors that I see enabling my success on the platform:
 
1.) Run Promoted Listings
Let’s start with my ACOS number that you see in the green column above. That stands for Advertising Cost of Sales, which a fancy way to say, “advertising represented x% of my revenue”. The important item here is that if your ACOS is less than your total profit margin, your advertising is profitable and you should consider expanding your advertising strategy.
The last time I reasearched this on Etsy’s financial statments, I found that only 15% of sellers were taking advantage of promoted listings. There’s huge opportunity here for you to test out promoted listings and see if they work for you…here’s my easy strategy:
– Set your max CPC at something reasonable for your niche (mine works out to about .18-.20/click
– Set your budget to $5/day
– Make sure your 13 tags are filled out with relevant keywords
– Let it run for a month and review the results
Not only are you likely to drive sales, but you will get valuable information about what tags are driving traffic and how to refine your listings in the future.
 
2.) Sell Something Different
Think beyond selling t-shirts on the internet.
More and more products become candidates for print on demand every year…when you just box yourself in to apparel, you lose out on an opportunity to differentiate your brand and increase your margins.
I fulfill most products on Etsy via Printful (wall art) and/or Teelaunch (mugs/tanks), and I didn’t sell a single t-shirt this month. T-shirts are a crowded space and there’s a ton of opportunity in other products…look at what is selling on Etsy and test for yourself!
 
3.) The long tail works
This month I had put up many more products that were “niched down” into very specific audiences and did very well. Products that I thought would never sell due to having a small audience actually outperformed the more popular and competitive products.
Etsy is extremely powerful for using long-tail keywords in your tags to find buyers who are looking for that perfect gift. Again, more products live = more profit opportunity.
Next Steps in Brand Building
Once I have all of my long-tail products live on Etsy (and that will be done before year-end), then I’ll be able to do a few key tasks:
 
  •  Revamp all of my pricing (it’s going up!)
  •  Work on my branding (logo, aesthetic, customer profile)
  •  Hire a social media manager
  •  Fully configure my Shopify store
  •  Re-hire designers for new products

I really think I have something special here but it needs love and attention to grow…I’ll definitely be hiring help to give it the boost it needs.

Let’s see what happens next month. Got to keep trying!

Photo by Tobias Bjerknes on Unsplash

Marketing Strategy Update

My influencer product hasn’t been delivered yet (thanks Canada Post), and Mailfold drove exactly zero sales.

…Yeah. Not a huge update for you this week on how “alternative marketing” is going, but I hope to have more substantial numbers next week. 

For now, I need to learn to master platform advertising (think Etsy promoted listings & Amazon AMS) because they seem to give the best “bang for the buck” at the moment.

Stick around for a while and you’ll be in for the good stuff…

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Where does Merch Lifestyle go from here?

There’s so much opportunity that it’s hard to explain!

My vision for Merch Lifestyle is evolving, but there are a few key goals that I have in mind:

1.) Increase the frequency, quality, and depth of content

  • More interviews, especially with guests with new backrounds and experiences
  • More POD reviews & tutorials (although my videos need to be a bit shorter…)
  • More consistency on blog/podcast/email/social presence

2.) Help my audience learn, experiment, and earn real money

  • Provide real, transparent insight into my POD business
  • Give actionable, tailored advice
  • Set reasonable expectations and encourage action

I hope you’re encouraged to stick around and see the transformation that Merch Lifestyle is growing into. I promise it will be a fun ride 🙂

Until next time,

Spencer

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

RIP Etsy Promoted Listings (for now). In August 2019, Etsy announced that promoted listings would be retired and that sellers would be automatically switched over to their new advertising platform, Etsy Ads. Up until this point, Etsy utilized a popular program called...

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 Income Report   January 2019Hey there, welcome back! January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come...

Income Report December 2018

 Income Report   December 2018Welcome back everyone, and happy 2019! You're in for a treat this time around because I've got a new record profit month to share with you as well as a couple new analytics views to give you better insight. I'm now pulling directly...

Income Report November 2018 – Spencer

Income Report November 2018 Hey, welcome back! I'm super glad you're here because this month was the most profitable month I have ever had and I can't wait to share with you how it happened. Before I get into the details, I want to share some big news with you....

Income Report October 2018 – Spencer

Income Report October 2018 Welcome back everyone! October was a decent month sales-wise and there's been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can't wait to share with you. I hope that you're starting to see your own POD stores kick up...

Income Report September 2018 – Shannon

Income Report September 2018 August 2018 Income ReportBy Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million

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Income Report September 2018 – Spencer

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...

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Income Report August 2018 August 2018 Income ReportBy Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

Income Report August 2018 – Spencer

Income Report August 2018 Hey, it's a new all-time record! August was a wild month, I set a new personal best with net income and got to spend most of the month either traveling or hosting friends. That's my kind of month! I'll be honest, this month I didn't achieve...

Income Report July 2018 – Shannon

Income Report July2018 Hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, near Black Balsam, is one of the most beautiful hikes outside of Asheville, North Carolina. My girlfriend and I, along with some friends, enjoyed doing a 6-mile loop the second weekend in July. Looking...

Income Report July 2018 – Spencer

Income Report July 2018 Look Mom, I'm almost ramen profitable! July was an excellent month of learning, experimenting, and business growth. I also got to do a little exploring in California's beautiful Sequoia National park, which features gorgeous Redwood trees....

Income Report June 2018 – Shannon

Income Report June 2018This is still the greatest business ever to be in at this second. We're having fun creating designs, lots and lots of designs, now we need to create content for those designs and then upload them. Our 3 designers are working hard. Our content...

Income Report June 2018 – Spencer

Income Report June 2018June was a decent month($2k profit), I'm not where I want to be ($5k profit), but the foundation is rock solid. Here's a short summary of what I think the most important insights are from this month: Everyone should be on Etsy.   This month I...

Income Report May 2018 – Shannon

Income Report May 2018 This is the greatest business ever to be in at this second. It's so much fun because we never have to touch a single product when it's sold. Last weekend a lady asked me (via Etsy messenger) if she could order 14 shirts. I said, of course! She...

The post Income Report November 2018 – Spencer appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
Income Report October 2018 – Spencer https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/october-2018-income-report-spencer/ Thu, 15 Nov 2018 15:03:43 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50491 The post Income Report October 2018 – Spencer appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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Income Report October 2018 

Welcome back everyone!

October was a decent month sales-wise and there’s been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can’t wait to share with you. I hope that you’re starting to see your own POD stores kick up with some additional sales now that we’re in the middle of Q4.

I’m starting to get deeper into brand building, influencer marketing, and having to make some hard decisions about what path I follow next year. I’ll have to make a choice whether I want to double down on growing my main brand, or go more into the merchandising services side of POD, which I dig into later in this post.

For now, let’s get in to the lovely numbers, they never lie (but sometimes they are painful…), my October 2018 income report is below:

September 2018 Income Report

By Spencer Shewbridge | Merch Lifestyle

To sell, or not to sell?

Photo by Jimi Filipovski on Unsplash

Insights

What to do with my Merch by Amazon Account?

 

My Merch by Amazon account delivered another consistent month, topping off at about $1,500 in profit (considering UK + DE + US).  It’s the steady driver on my POD portfolio and has been picking up well so far in November (we might end up at $1700-$1800 in Nov). I’m not complaining by any means, as it’s the most passive income I could reasonably ask for, given that I don’t deal with customization, returns, production, or customer service. However, I feel like the good times won’t last forever on Merch and that I’m at a crossroads in my business.
 
Strategically, I’m concerned to invest (long-term) into building my POD business off Amazon’s platform & customers. Amazon is already building huge private-label brands to compete with fashion sellers on the platform, and as highlighted in our recent Money Magazine feature, Wharton Professor Partick Fitzgerald reminds us, “If you build on somebody else’s land, they always own that land. I don’t care how nice that house is you built. They can tear it down.”
 
I believe that I need to define my competitive advantage and set my business up to double down on those strengths while reducing the risk that a third party could disrupt my profits. To that effect, I see my business and premium brand (which I currently sell mostly on Etsy) having the following strengths:
 
  • Excellent customer feedback (only 5 star ratings)
  • Strong margins (over 50%)
  • Fairly difficult to copycat due to design quality
  • Access to customer data (emails + e-com analytics)
  • Relatively simple to produce, multiple suppliers available globally

I think it’s about time to get out of the Merch game (sell my business while it’s good), focus those profits on expanding my premium brand, and expand my “advanced” e-commerce skillset (paid advertising, multi-channel selling, email marketing, social media marketing, etc).

It might be time to shut off the merchandising service light…for now.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

Rethinking Merchandising

This month my merchandising business took a big hit.

My flagship client decided to take merchandising into his own hands and left my influencer merchandising service. This one hurts because I invested quite a bit of time to get the service set up, and was actually paying out several hundred dollars a month in royalties (while earning several hundred as well). I thought that the “do nothing and get checks for it” selling point was going well, but when the barriers to entry in POD are relatively low, these things will happen.

It forced me to rethink whether Youtube-specific influencer merchandising is really the right path, given that I don’t really have a huge competitive advantage over the myriad of established players in that market. When YouTube starts cutting deals directly with POD companies like TeeSpring and integrating them into the platform, it might be time to switch gears.

I’m mulling over whether I want to expand into the business/corporate niche and offer a select portfolio of high quality embroidered products. I feel like there’s space to build a service around opening a “company store” for a business (both internal/external) and providing merchandising alongside drop-shipping items that can be given as gifts and welcome packages in the company. Landing corporate clients would be harder, but more consistent in terms of revenue from ongoing purchases. There would likely be some contractual obligations on both sides which would raise the table stakes regarding risk and profit. This path would take a re-vamping of my current site and offering, but I think there’s room to expand on the idea in 2019, and that it’s a more strategic and defensible approach to merchandising services.

 

Let’s see how far we can push the limits of Shopify!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Expanding into Shopify

I’m trying out Shopify for my premium brand e-commerce store.

Woocommerce has been good to me in the past, but there are a few solid reasons why I’m curious about switching over:

– Woocommerce restricts the ability of it’s platform and makes money via paid plugins. When you’re just testing out a store, it doesn’t make sense to spend $99+ to get premium features that should, frankly, just be features. I’d rather pay as I go and get the full suite instead of having a limited product.

– Shopify seems to have the first-mover advantage and critical mass of plugin developers, tutorials, and talent. It seems like everything POD starts with a Shopify integration, and expands from there….I want to be able to take advantage of the strong development community.

I’ve already launched my store and am in the process of loading it with hundreds of SKUs. In the future I’ll be working to pull customers that I find from sales channels and advertising directly to my website instead of to Etsy, Amazon, etc.

Tryin’ some funky new strategies to see what works!

Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

Trying New Marketing Strategies

I’m determined to find a marketing strategy that works for my premium brand.  

I’m not interested in running Facebook ads or Google search ads for POD at the moment, I’m much more excited about trying an  influencer marketing + direct mail approach. Let’s break both of those down:

Influencer marketing is where you find a person or group (typically on Instagram or YouTube) and offer them some form of compensation (a free product, payment, or both) for them to advertise your product. Right now I’m using a website called MuseFind to connect with people that will advertise my product in exchange for getting it for free. So far I’ve found a great influencer with about 30k followers to accept a product in exchange for a post highlighting the product and linking to my Etsy store. I then linked this with a special coupon code so that if/when people visit my store and complete a purchase, I’ll know that it was due to my spend on advertising. If it’s profitable, we’ll scale this thing up!

Direct Mail Marketing is something that everyone has experienced (on the receiving end) but it isn’t something everyone loves. When you get a coupon/flyer in the mail for some local service, that’s direct mail marketing. I was surprised to see that Etsy had linked up with a new service called Mailfold to integrate US customer addresses with a simple way to ship out custom postcards. I decided to give it a shot, and designed/sent out 6″ x 11″ postcards with a 20% off, Cyber Monday offer to 100+ previous customers, urging them to buy my premium products as gifts for this holiday season. I spent about $95 on the campaign, and again, I’ll be able to track this strategy’s profit based on a special coupon code that I included on the flyer. Only time will tell whether this will make my customers mad that I’m sending them mail spam, or whether it works!

Until next time,

Spencer

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

RIP Etsy Promoted Listings (for now). In August 2019, Etsy announced that promoted listings would be retired and that sellers would be automatically switched over to their new advertising platform, Etsy Ads. Up until this point, Etsy utilized a popular program called...

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In January of 2019 I was lucky to host JJ Deakins on the show to talk about how he sold a Merch by Amazon business in 2018. This episode was a lot of fun to make with JJ. He was an open book about the whole process, and his personable nature made for an easy-going...

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 Income Report   January 2019Hey there, welcome back! January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come...

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 Income Report   December 2018Welcome back everyone, and happy 2019! You're in for a treat this time around because I've got a new record profit month to share with you as well as a couple new analytics views to give you better insight. I'm now pulling directly...

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Income Report November 2018 Hey, welcome back! I'm super glad you're here because this month was the most profitable month I have ever had and I can't wait to share with you how it happened. Before I get into the details, I want to share some big news with you....

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Income Report October 2018 Welcome back everyone! October was a decent month sales-wise and there's been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can't wait to share with you. I hope that you're starting to see your own POD stores kick up...

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Income Report September 2018 August 2018 Income ReportBy Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

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Income Report September 2018 – Spencer

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...

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Income Report August 2018 Hey, it's a new all-time record! August was a wild month, I set a new personal best with net income and got to spend most of the month either traveling or hosting friends. That's my kind of month! I'll be honest, this month I didn't achieve...

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Income Report July2018 Hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, near Black Balsam, is one of the most beautiful hikes outside of Asheville, North Carolina. My girlfriend and I, along with some friends, enjoyed doing a 6-mile loop the second weekend in July. Looking...

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Income Report June 2018This is still the greatest business ever to be in at this second. We're having fun creating designs, lots and lots of designs, now we need to create content for those designs and then upload them. Our 3 designers are working hard. Our content...

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The post Income Report October 2018 – Spencer appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
Income Report September 2018 – Shannon https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/september-2018-income-report-shannon/ Mon, 29 Oct 2018 14:19:10 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50483 The post Income Report September 2018 – Shannon appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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Income Report September 2018 

August 2018 Income Report

By Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

RIP Etsy Promoted Listings (for now). In August 2019, Etsy announced that promoted listings would be retired and that sellers would be automatically switched over to their new advertising platform, Etsy Ads. Up until this point, Etsy utilized a popular program called...

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 Income Report:   August 2019Let's dive into the numbers behind my print on demand profits for the month of August. As usual, my main profit driver was Etsy, but I also re-launched Shopify to start the long road to diversifying away from Etsy.Etsy - Premium...

Zach Knickerbocker Interview | Rising Early to Grow Your Merch Account

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...

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In January of 2019 I was lucky to host JJ Deakins on the show to talk about how he sold a Merch by Amazon business in 2018. This episode was a lot of fun to make with JJ. He was an open book about the whole process, and his personable nature made for an easy-going...

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 Income Report   January 2019Hey there, welcome back! January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come...

Income Report December 2018

 Income Report   December 2018Welcome back everyone, and happy 2019! You're in for a treat this time around because I've got a new record profit month to share with you as well as a couple new analytics views to give you better insight. I'm now pulling directly...

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Income Report November 2018 Hey, welcome back! I'm super glad you're here because this month was the most profitable month I have ever had and I can't wait to share with you how it happened. Before I get into the details, I want to share some big news with you....

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Income Report October 2018 Welcome back everyone! October was a decent month sales-wise and there's been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can't wait to share with you. I hope that you're starting to see your own POD stores kick up...

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Income Report September 2018 August 2018 Income ReportBy Shannon Kempenich | Merch Lifestyle

RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million

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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...

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Income Report July2018 Hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, near Black Balsam, is one of the most beautiful hikes outside of Asheville, North Carolina. My girlfriend and I, along with some friends, enjoyed doing a 6-mile loop the second weekend in July. Looking...

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Income Report July 2018 Look Mom, I'm almost ramen profitable! July was an excellent month of learning, experimenting, and business growth. I also got to do a little exploring in California's beautiful Sequoia National park, which features gorgeous Redwood trees....

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Income Report June 2018This is still the greatest business ever to be in at this second. We're having fun creating designs, lots and lots of designs, now we need to create content for those designs and then upload them. Our 3 designers are working hard. Our content...

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Income Report June 2018June was a decent month($2k profit), I'm not where I want to be ($5k profit), but the foundation is rock solid. Here's a short summary of what I think the most important insights are from this month: Everyone should be on Etsy.   This month I...

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Income Report May 2018 This is the greatest business ever to be in at this second. It's so much fun because we never have to touch a single product when it's sold. Last weekend a lady asked me (via Etsy messenger) if she could order 14 shirts. I said, of course! She...

The post Income Report September 2018 – Shannon appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

]]>
RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/redbubble-buys-teepublic-for-41-million/ Sun, 28 Oct 2018 22:06:23 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50472 The post RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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Australian-based print on demand company, Redbubble expanded it’s international reach recently by snapping up competitor TeePublic for $41 million USD. Redbubble announced the acquisition of TeePublic on October 24th, 2018 and clarified how the businesses will be run going forward in a blog post.

In summary, here are the important things you should know about the acquisition:

  • TeePublic and Redbubble will continue to operate independently, with their own staff, websites, and platforms.
  • Redbubble will be streamline the upload process to make the experience “super simple”, and enabling artists to “get exposure to larger audiences”.
  • Redbubble and TeePublic will share data to create an “art crime database” to help separate original artists from thieves.
  • More collaboration with larger brands is likely on the way. Redbubble is “seeking to create opportunities for passionate fan artists to connect with brands they love”…think Merch Collab for Redbubble.

Overall this looks like good news for POD sellers. For those who sell on Redbubble already, it feels like there will be opportunities to expand easily into TeePublic’s US market without many hiccups.

Shannon and I have been fans of RedBubble for a while now, and they’ve detailed quite the roadmap for where they want to take their network of POD services and customer experience. It seems like Redbubble will also be able to feed more volume from TeePublic into their network of third party POD factories, which will allow them to achieve lower unit costs and benefit from scaled volume. We’re also hoping that TeePublic can bring some SEO/marketing know-how to teh table and help Redbubble grow their customer base and market smarter.

Going forward, loading up more products to Redbubble seems like a smart move alongside larger channels like Merch by Amazon and Etsy. They’re growing the ecosystem and investing in the technology and experience for buyers and sellers…now let’s hope they pass some of those margins along to sellers, otherwise TeePublic will remain too low on the cost-benefit totem pole for many to put effort into uploading there.

The post RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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Income Report September 2018 – Spencer https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/september-2018-income-report-spencer/ Sat, 13 Oct 2018 18:23:40 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50450 The post Income Report September 2018 – Spencer appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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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

 

Etsy Ads – 10 Reasons Why I’m Slashing my Etsy Ad Spend (and you should too)

RIP Etsy Promoted Listings (for now). In August 2019, Etsy announced that promoted listings would be retired and that sellers would be automatically switched over to their new advertising platform, Etsy Ads. Up until this point, Etsy utilized a popular program called...

How to Connect Your Etsy Store to Google Analytics

 How to Connect Your Etsy Store to Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is an extremely powerful and free tool that you can use to understand traffic to your web properties. You can use Google Analytics with Etsy, Shopify, Wordpress, and other sites easily to better...

Income Report August 2019

 Income Report:   August 2019Let's dive into the numbers behind my print on demand profits for the month of August. As usual, my main profit driver was Etsy, but I also re-launched Shopify to start the long road to diversifying away from Etsy.Etsy - Premium...

Zach Knickerbocker Interview | Rising Early to Grow Your Merch Account

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...

JJ Deakins Interview | How to Sell a Merch by Amazon Business

In January of 2019 I was lucky to host JJ Deakins on the show to talk about how he sold a Merch by Amazon business in 2018. This episode was a lot of fun to make with JJ. He was an open book about the whole process, and his personable nature made for an easy-going...

RJ Martinez Interview: Episode 46

RJ Martinez Interview: Episode 46In January of 2019 I was lucky to host RJ Martinez on the show to talk about his print on demand businesses and income streams. For those of you who don't know RJ, he's an excellent teacher and full-time entrepreneur that's grown a...

Income Report January 2019

 Income Report   January 2019Hey there, welcome back! January is always an interesting month for e-commerce & print on demand. The holiday rush is over, people are spending less, and sales inevitably dip drastically after Q4 ends. It can feel deflating to come...

Income Report December 2018

 Income Report   December 2018Welcome back everyone, and happy 2019! You're in for a treat this time around because I've got a new record profit month to share with you as well as a couple new analytics views to give you better insight. I'm now pulling directly...

Income Report November 2018 – Spencer

Income Report November 2018 Hey, welcome back! I'm super glad you're here because this month was the most profitable month I have ever had and I can't wait to share with you how it happened. Before I get into the details, I want to share some big news with you....

Income Report October 2018 – Spencer

Income Report October 2018 Welcome back everyone! October was a decent month sales-wise and there's been lots of experimenting in POD and change for me personally that I can't wait to share with you. I hope that you're starting to see your own POD stores kick up...

Income Report September 2018 – Shannon

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RedBubble Buys TeePublic for $41 Million

Australian-based print on demand company, Redbubble expanded it's international reach recently by snapping up competitor TeePublic for $41 million USD. Redbubble announced the acquisition of TeePublic on October 24th, 2018 and clarified how the businesses will be...

Income Report September 2018 – Spencer

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...

Income Report August 2018 – Shannon

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Income Report August 2018 – Spencer

Income Report August 2018 Hey, it's a new all-time record! August was a wild month, I set a new personal best with net income and got to spend most of the month either traveling or hosting friends. That's my kind of month! I'll be honest, this month I didn't achieve...

Income Report July 2018 – Shannon

Income Report July2018 Hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, near Black Balsam, is one of the most beautiful hikes outside of Asheville, North Carolina. My girlfriend and I, along with some friends, enjoyed doing a 6-mile loop the second weekend in July. Looking...

Income Report July 2018 – Spencer

Income Report July 2018 Look Mom, I'm almost ramen profitable! July was an excellent month of learning, experimenting, and business growth. I also got to do a little exploring in California's beautiful Sequoia National park, which features gorgeous Redwood trees....

Income Report June 2018 – Shannon

Income Report June 2018This is still the greatest business ever to be in at this second. We're having fun creating designs, lots and lots of designs, now we need to create content for those designs and then upload them. Our 3 designers are working hard. Our content...

Income Report June 2018 – Spencer

Income Report June 2018June was a decent month($2k profit), I'm not where I want to be ($5k profit), but the foundation is rock solid. Here's a short summary of what I think the most important insights are from this month: Everyone should be on Etsy.   This month I...

Income Report May 2018 – Shannon

Income Report May 2018 This is the greatest business ever to be in at this second. It's so much fun because we never have to touch a single product when it's sold. Last weekend a lady asked me (via Etsy messenger) if she could order 14 shirts. I said, of course! She...

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Income Report August 2018 – Shannon https://www.merchlifestyle.com/blog/august-2018-income-report-spencer-2/ Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:28:00 +0000 https://www.merchlifestyle.com/?p=50407 The post Income Report August 2018 – Shannon appeared first on Merch Lifestyle.

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