How to Make Money Selling Merch

You’ve launched your brand and developed a loyal fanbase. Now you want to create and sell merchandise. But how do you start?

Merchandise like t-shirts, plush toys, phone cases, custom socks, and sweatshirts can turn your customers into brand ambassadors and provide a new revenue stream for your business. The merchandise industry has grown a lot over the last decade, with many brands seeing significant success by offering products that resonate with their audience.

Here, you’ll learn why and how to make and sell merchandise. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right products and designs to finding manufacturers and setting up an online store.

Why Should You Sell Branded Merchandise?

Selling branded merchandise can be a great way to make money.

Many online stores are thriving by selling branded merch. Whether you’re a blogger, a coffee shop owner, an artist, or a game production company, you can sell merchandise too. All you need is to create inspirational designs to print on items like t-shirts, mugs, or phone cases, and sell them for a good profit.

Here’re some reasons why you might consider selling merch:

  • New Revenue Stream: Selling branded merchandise can create an additional revenue stream for your business. Loyal customers are often willing to purchase items that feature your brand, providing a steady source of income.
  • Increased Brand Awareness: Branded merchandise acts as a walking advertisement. When customers use or wear items with your logo, it increases your brand’s visibility and can attract new customers.
  • Encourages Brand Loyalty: Offering branded merchandise can strengthen the loyalty of your existing customers. Promotional products can serve as a thank-you gift, encouraging repeat business and fostering a deeper connection with your brand.
  • Creates a Sense of Community: Merchandise can help build a sense of community among your customers. Items like T-shirts and hats can make customers feel like part of a group, enhancing their emotional connection to your brand.
  • Differentiation from Competitors: Offering unique and high-quality branded merchandise can help your business stand out in a crowded market. It shows that your brand is engaging and dedicated, which can be a significant competitive advantage.

High-quality branded items can provide ongoing advertising. Products that are durable and useful, such as water bottles or notebooks, keep your brand in front of customers for an extended period.

Read more: Best Side Hustle Ideas

How to Make Your Merch

Here are the 4 steps to make merch for your brand:

1. Define your brand identity

Before creating merch, you need to clearly define your brand identity. This includes:

  • Brand name and logo
  • Color palette
  • Typography and font styles
  • Visual styles and graphics
  • Brand voice and personality

Having a strong, consistent brand identity is crucial for creating merch that accurately represents your brand. Develop brand guidelines that you can refer to during the design process.

2. Brainstorm and validate merch ideas

Brainstorm different merch ideas like t-shirts, hats, tote bags, stickers, mugs, etc. Think about items your target audience would find valuable, useful or want to wear/use to show their brand affiliation.

You may validate your top merch ideas by:

  • Surveying your audience on social media
  • Looking at what similar brands are offering
  • Considering potential production costs and profit margins

Narrow it down to your best merch ideas that align with your brand, resonate with your audience, and are feasible to produce.

3. Design and mock up your merch

Work with a graphic designer to apply your brand assets like logos, graphics, patterns to design mockups for each merch item. Make sure the designs adhere to your brand guidelines.

Use online mockup generators like Placeit, Mockey or Smartmockups to visualize how your designs will look on the actual products. This allows you to make adjustments before production.

4. Find a print on demand supplier

Research and partner with a reputable print-on-demand supplier that can produce high-quality merch with your designs. Popular options include:

  • Printful
  • Printify
  • Merchize
  • Gooten

Look at product catalogs, pricing, production times, shipping rates and integrations with your existing online store. Many suppliers integrate with ecommerce platforms like Shopify.

With print-on-demand, you only pay per order with no upfront inventory costs. The supplier prints and ships the merch directly to your customers.

How to Sell Your Merch

Marketing merch is different from selling a traditional product. With merchandise marketing, you’re pitching your products to existing fans first and new customers second. In other words, you already have a fan base that can easily be converted into buyers.

Here are some specific marketing strategies you can use to sell your merch:

1. Social Media

Integrate your digital store with your social media platforms to make it easy for fans to navigate between your site and social profiles. Platforms like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook offer features that allow you to tag products directly in your posts and stories, making it simple for followers to purchase items.

You can use various content formats to showcase your merch, including

  • Videos: Create short, engaging videos that highlight your products. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram are particularly effective for video content.
  • User-Generated Content: Encourage your fans to share photos and videos of themselves using your products. Repost this content to your own profile to build social proof and community engagement.
  • Collaborations: Partner with influencers or other brands to expand your reach. Collaborations can include joint giveaways, co-branded products, or influencer reviews.

To keep your audience engaged, maintain a consistent posting schedule. Different platforms have optimal posting times, such as 8:00 am to 12:00 pm on Tuesday and Thursday for Facebook, and 11:00 am on Wednesday for Instagram.

You can also use features like Instagram Stories and Highlights to keep your merch visible. Stories can be used for temporary promotions, while Highlights can keep important content accessible for longer periods.

2. Email Marketing

You can collect email addresses from your website visitors and social media followers. Segment your list based on customer behavior, such as past purchases or engagement levels, to send more personalized and relevant emails.

Your regular newsletters may include:

  • Product Announcements: Inform your subscribers about new product launches or restocks.
  • Exclusive Offers: Provide special discounts or early access to new items for your email subscribers.

You may also share stories about the creation process of your merch, upcoming events, or other exclusive content to keep your audience engaged.

To save time, set up automated email campaigns to nurture your leads and convert them into customers. Here’re some examples:

  • Welcome Series: Introduce new subscribers to your brand and products.
  • Abandoned Cart Emails: Remind customers of items left in their cart and encourage them to complete their purchase.
  • Post-Purchase Follow-Ups: Thank customers for their purchase and suggest related products they might be interested in.

You can monitor the performance of your email campaigns using metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Use this data to optimize your content and strategy for better results.

3. Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads are a powerful tool to re-engage potential customers who have previously interacted with your brand but did not complete a purchase. Retargeting allows you to create personalized ads based on the specific actions users took on your website, such as visiting a product page or adding items to their cart. This increases the relevance of the ads and the likelihood of conversion.

You can run retargeting ads on various platforms, including Google, Facebook, Instagram, and more. This ensures that your ads reach users wherever they spend their time online.

Types of retargeting include:

  • Homepage and Collection Page Retargeting: These ads remind visitors of your brand and build trust by showcasing social proof and customer testimonials.
  • Cart Abandonment Retargeting: Target users who added items to their cart but did not complete the purchase. Offering incentives like discounts or free shipping can help recover these lost sales.
  • Product Page Retargeting: Focus on users who viewed specific products. These ads should be shown within a short window after the visit to maximize conversion chances.

Effective retargeting ads should have a compelling headline, relevant and visually appealing media, a clear call-to-action (CTA), and concise, actionable copy.

4. Running a presale

Running a presale is an effective way to build hype and gauge demand for your merchandise before it officially launches. It provides you with an early influx of cash, which can be reinvested into production and marketing efforts. Here’s how to execute a successful presale:

  1. Create Exclusive Items: Design a few exclusive merch items specifically for the presale. This creates a sense of exclusivity and urgency among your audience.
  2. Set Up a Dedicated Webpage: List the presale items on a separate webpage. Make sure the page is visually appealing and provides all necessary information about the products.
  3. Limited Time Offer: Run the presale for a limited period, such as 48 or 72 hours. This encourages quick action from your audience and creates a sense of urgency.

Remember to keep your presale customers informed about the status of their orders through regular email updates. Be transparent about delivery times and production status to build trust.

You can use preorders apps from platforms such as Shopify to help you track orders, manage inventory, and communicate with customers.

Final Words

Selling merchandise, particularly through print-on-demand platforms, is an excellent side hustle.

Platforms like Merch by Amazon, Printful, and Teespring allow you to start without holding any inventory. You only pay for the products once they are sold, which means you can launch your business with virtually zero capital. This eliminates the financial risk associated with traditional retail models where you need to invest heavily in stock.

After the initial effort of creating and uploading designs, the ongoing maintenance is minimal. Your products can continue to sell without additional work, providing a steady stream of royalties. For instance, some sellers report making thousands of dollars per month from designs they uploaded years ago.

This business model offers immense flexibility. You can work on your merch business from anywhere, at any time, making it perfect for those with busy schedules or other commitments.

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