In this post I talk about the design process, the 10 Print On Demand products I have on Merch, what I have sold, what limitations I have seen with merch, and what my plans are moving forward. I also talk a little about where the design came from as I have to give my daughter a lot of the credit!
So this rainbow tree was my daughter’s painting originally. I had been trying to get up the motivation to make something to try print on demand because I love design. Life is busy though and I hadn’t gotten around to it yet when my daughter came home with this beautiful rainbow tree of life painting. I knew it was the perfect design to try out print on demand.
Unfortunately her painting was on an off-white piece of paper and it was a little bit of a nightmare taking her design to a computer graphic. I spent over 11 hours figuring out how to make this into a nice vector image but it was a labor of love!
Some of the time spent was learning how to use the programs, how to make the right file size, getting the design in the correct resolution, and making the image the correct size to place on specific products. The learning curve is pretty steep but there is a lot of helpful information out there and if you’d like to know a little more about the process and what I used check out this blog post “Designing for Print on Demand“.
My 1st Amazon Merch Product
So my 1st merch product had to be a hoodie. It’s so easy to find good t-shirts for cheap around here but finding a good hoodie is a challenge! It gets bitter cold where we live and when corona isn’t an issue we spend a lot of time outdoors with kids sports. We still spend a good bit of time going for walks, riding bikes, and playing at playgrounds even now that group activities aren’t recommended.
In short we are outside a lot and a hoodie is a jacket, a winter hat, and a purse all in one! Eventually the temperature dip so low that you will need a winter coat on top but even then I am wearing my cozy hoodie. When I saw I could make a hoodie with our design on it I was super excited!
The pull-over hoodie was the 1st product I added our design to because I figured it would be the product most likely to sell to my existing customers (and family and friends). I just uploaded the design to the website, and then Merch provides a computer generated image of my design on top of the product to advertise it for sale.
I bought a sweatshirt to see how the design looked on the real product. I bought a navy hoodie and was lucky enough to have 2 friends also buy hoodies in different colors and send me pictures.
I think the fact that all of us ordered hoodies in dark colors says something about how long people expect their hoodies to last here. Also that we expect to play with our kids, work, and drink coffee in our hoodies. I ought to do a poll on twitter and ask how old are your oldest hoodies? Done!
Limitations of Merch
Now the number one limitation of merch is that you don’t see your actual product until you order it, and it arrives in the mail. Since I am uploading a computer graphic it looks different on screen than it does in real life. I think they do a good job with their visual representation but until you get reviewers that show pictures of the actual product, an idea of the product is all you get.
The other limitation is that when I share images from amazon the product is always shown in black. Well black isn’t the best marketing color for all designs and it would be nice to share hoodie options in different colors. For example I want to get the zipper hoodie for my daughter for Christmas but I haven’t ordered it yet.
I want to order it in the purple color and I’d love to share an image of that purple hoodie with you but I can only only share the picture of the black hoodie. I’ll just have to wait until I order our purple hoodie, receive it, photograph it, and share it.
If you want to see this hoodie in purple now you can just click the black hoodie above and, once you are on Amazon’s website, select the purple color under the options. It’s so easy once someone is already on Amazon but if I am trying to market my products, say on Pinterest, having bright colored options would be helpful when I am trying to catch people’s attention.
Color is a strong marketing tool to draw people’s eye when you are competing against thousands of other available products. You can see where my hands are tied marketing the different colors. An expensive option would be to purchase a bunch of sweatshirts in different colors but since I can’t do that I’ll just have to wait for buyers and reviews.
Couldn’t I just screen shot amazon’s generated images and share them? I’m glad you asked. Amazon has pretty strict policies about sharing images other than the specific ones they provide for sharing. I’m not going to risk a good relationship to show a sweatshirt in a few extra colors.
I do however have a plan to say each products’ available colors after catching people’s attention with some other marketing techniques. It’s still more effective to show products in the eye-catching colors people wish to buy them in. So I hope that Amazon makes some changes to their sharing options but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.
I’m just saying that this shirt below would be more likely to sell if I could show it to you in a lovely shade of sapphire, baby blue, or forest green!
Do I have to market my Womens Rainbow Tree of Life V-Neck T-Shirt? Doesn’t Amazon do that for me? Well Amazon likes to make a profit so they advertise the most popular designs. If you post a design for sale and it doesn’t sell right away it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad design. It’s just as likely it hasn’t found it’s audience yet.
If you market your own designs and show the Amazon algorithm that your design is popular Amazon will then help you advertise your design. Yes at the end of the day it would be great if you could just throw designs up on the internet and they would fly off the shelf but that isn’t usually how it works.
If you build an audience, and gain trust with your customers, your future designs will find sales more quickly! It’s tough to grow an audience at first but the more relationships you build the faster your growth will be.
Is Merch all Clothing Items?
No merch isn’t all clothing items, there are a few cell phone accessories a little further down. Many of the items are clothing though and I put my 1st design on all of them for the time being to see what sells.
I suspect this tank will sell in white and neon pink but so far I have only sold hoodies. I imagine this is because I shared the hoodie design directly to all of my facebook friends but I chose not to spam my friends and family with every product I put up over the following weeks. Plus we are moving into the cold season and while you can find cheap tanks around, comfy hoodies are still harder to come by!
When you start with Merch you are able to upload 10 products to start but you only get 1 submission per day. It did take me a little longer then the 10 days to upload all of my products though. After submission your design goes through an approval process that generally takes less than 24 hours. When the staff in charge of approving designs gets overwhelmed the website won’t allow you to submit any new designs until they get caught up.
I waited a little longer for my raglan design to get approved one weekend. I was nervous I did something wrong and that my account was frozen. I couldn’t upload any designs and I was still waiting on approval for my raglan tee that comes in 6 different colors! Less than 2 days later though everything was moving right along again and I was able to submit my last clothing design.
My Rainbow Tree of Life Long Sleeve T-Shirt comes in 5 colors and will help you keep warm in the cold season ahead. Personally I am tall and buy all my cotton clothes a size up because they shrink in the dryer. The fabric material is listed in the description of all the items.
For this shirt the heather gray color specifically is 90% cotton and 10% polyester (at the time of the post). Since polyester doesn’t shrink the heather gray may not shrink as much as the solid color – 100% cotton shirts do, but chances are it will react similarly since it is still mostly cotton.
The reason I mention this is because I want you do get the longest life out of the clothes you order and I want you to be happy with your purchase. A little information and some planning goes far when you are purchasing your clothes, especially when you are purchasing online and can’t try those clothes on.
So I ordered a Large hoodie in the color navy and I have washed it twice and dried it on regular heat, though care instructions say dry on low heat. It has done it’s shrinking and it still fits and my sleeves are still long enough!
I will probably order another in the future in an XL because I am tall (5′ 9″). I’d like to see if the XL is a little longer in the torso because I like sweatshirts that cover my bum when I wear leggings. A tall order for me (pun intended) but seriously hoodies that are that long on me are hard to find.
I vote for Amazon to add a sweatshirt dress with super long sleeves just so I can make my dream wardrobe! Is that selfish? Maybe but I bet there is a lot of people out there that have the same problem!
Amazon Merch Mobile Phone Accessories
So whether you have a Galaxy…
or an iphone…
or something different…
…there is an accessory for that!
So I actually think this pop socket would sell better with a white background but I can’t be sure without some trial and error. Since the default is black I just went with that for now. If it doesn’t sell in a month or so of marketing it I might add the white background later and see if the sales improve.
It’s hard to know whether to work on new designs versus optimizing old designs. I figure it’s better to put in some marketing work though before you try tweaking. While I develop new designs it’s worth it to me to write some blog posts and pin some pinterest pins and see if anything sells.
If I sell enough products I will move up to the next tier on Amazon merch and be able to upload more designs!
At the time of this post after tier 10 you move to tier 25 and can upload 25 designs, and the tier after that is 100, and so on.
I figured I’d upload my one ready design to all the products in hopes that I will move to the next tier while I work on new designs. It also gives me time to order a few of my products, check them out in person, and make design decisions to improve my future products.
As you can tell color is important to me so I wanted to see the printed colors on different colored backgrounds and see what I could make better in the future. Also I took pictures in different lighting just to see how the design would display in bright light vs low light. This is the same navy sweatshirt displayed earlier in the post.
Now if I don’t move up to the next Amazon tier once I have some more of my designs ready to go, I can always upload my new designs to my zazzle store.
Zazzle doesn’t have a design upload limit at the time of this post, and the products are customizable, but they do tend to be more expensive then those products offered on Amazon Merch.
After my new designs are up on Zazzle I will also consider taking down a few of my existing Amazon merch products to upload the new designs. If I haven’t sold enough Rainbow Tree products to move to the next tier by that point, it’s worth looking at new designs to see if they sell well enough to get me to that next level. This article had some smart strategies for moving up to the next tier in Merch.
Maximizing Earnings & Getting the Most From Designs
I have so much fun designing different products and seeing our art on so many things! If you are interested, this is my daughter’s original design and the Zazzle Print On Demand product that started our POD Journey!
If you love design and enjoy sharing your art, I absolutely recommend joining both Amazon Merch and Zazzle. I feel like these programs really compliment each other in terms of keeping things exciting and maximizing your motivation.
You don’t have to apply to Zazzle to become a designer, you just sign up here. There is a short application process to apply for Amazon Merch and a little bit of a wait for the approval process. You can find the Merch application here.
Make sure to educate yourself on copyright and trademark infringements because both Amazon Merch and Zazzle shut down accounts for stealing others’ intellectual property.
Zazzle seems a bit harder to learn the platform but then it’s easier to upload designs. With Merch you need to do a little extra in terms of getting your design the correct size but once you have a little experience it’s easy. The best part about Print on Demand is that it is a business that requires very little in start-up costs. Unless you don’t have a decent computer.
You could actually create a lot on Zazzle with a decent smartphone and just go to the public library to use the computer for the tasks that require a larger screen size. I don’t think you could manage Amazon merch with just a smartphone because of file sizes and re-sizing of images. If someone has figured out how to run a merch business from a smart phone, please correct me and I invite you to tell us how you managed it!
Designing print on demand products is super fun but does require commitment to make the designs, learn how to optimize them, and then figure out how to market and sell those designs. Honestly though these are skills you could use for a million different things in the future, so in my opinion they are worth the time it takes to learn.
I went to sleep many nights reading other blogs and watching youtube to learn how to do the different tasks it takes to run a successful Print on Demand business. Do I have a successful POD business? Well not this year!
Of course my goal is to increase sales and make them consistent as possible, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I also have my commission rate fairly low so that my products aren’t too expensive. I could raise my rate later once I have some reviews but my plan is to keep this product inexpensive and add different products at a higher price point later.
I almost forgot to mention that many people also sign up to be amazon affiliates and “double dip” on their own Amazon Merch. They post the affiliate links to their own merch and when someone uses their link to purchase they earn the referral fee and their designer commission as well.
A word of caution! I saw many posts saying that you can use affiliate links to boost your commissions on your own merch but I couldn’t find anything in Amazon’s policy that said they encourage it or discourage it. Most of the posts I saw regarding this were from 2017 so I’d really like newer info supporting this technique.
I decided to try out affiliate links to my own merch in this article because I am on my trial period as an Amazon Associate. Until I know that it works I don’t want to recommend it without a warning. So basically use the strategy at your own risk and I’ll update you with whether it works or not.
I am just at the beginning and throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what will stick. I am having a blast doing art and considering what will be good for my POD stores! I highly recommend trying out Amazon Merch. It has been super fun and I have seen more POD sales from Amazon then I have from Zazzle so far. I’ll keep you updated on how my adventure progresses!
Thank you for reading with me today! If this article helped you out please share to like-minded friends! Pinning to your design, art, and business boards helps me more than you know!
If you would like to support me and don’t want a sweatshirt or coffee mug with a tree on it… Feel free to buy me a coffee (or Cab Sav if it’s after 7pm lol).
Thanks for the Drink!
Any and all contributions are appreciated. No donation is too small and if you aren’t in a place to contribute, no worries. I just really appreciate your motivation to learn new skills and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for spending time with me today.