Navigating the machine of Merch by Amazon to try to sell t-shirts

I had been hearing on podcasts that Merch by Amazon is a great side hustle but that’s it’s hard to get approved by Amazon and the wait is long.  That is why I tested the water on Teespring before jumping into the big leagues of Merch by Amazon with my https://teespring.com/stores/the-ordinary-mom site.

After learning how to create on demand print t-shirts on Teespring, I decided I would attempt the big league of Merch by Amazon but I didn’t know how so I once again utilized podcasts for advice.  Here are two podcasts that resonated with me:

Everyone said it takes ~3 months to get approved so in early December 2018, I applied at www.merch.amazon.com

Here is what the application entailed:

You need a business name, business email, business account routing number and I had to fill out a W9.  I had already gone through the process of getting an EIN # and a bank account and an LLC so I had all of that information already.  The W9 was pretty easy to fill out. I had to fill in my business name, what type of business it was (the options are Individual/Sole Proprietor/Single-Member LLC, Partnership, Limited liability company, C Corporation, Trust/estate or S Corporation.  

I choose the first one- Individual/Sole Proprietor/Single-Member LLC.  I had to fill out my address (used my home address) and my social security number or EIN. NOTE- I filled this out incorrectly at first by putting my EIN number I got fro from setting up my business but I got an email 2 days later telling me that was not correct so I switched from EIN number to my personal social security number.  My application was accepted that same day.

I then got an email to go to https://merch.amazon.com/ and submit artwork to get started.  I tried to upload some of the designs that I had already created by outsourcing to Fivver 15x18in, 3000DPI, transparent background, PMG, and no more than 25MB but they wouldn’t load.  

The design specifications said, “the design should be a 300 dpi PNG. Though the image size should be 15 x 18 inches (the printable area of the product), we recommend a design that fits comfortably within that area rather than taking up all of it. For downloadable templates and many more design tips, see our Best Practices page.”

I didn’t know what to do but remember I had heard about several Facebook pages around Merch by Amazon. The one I had heard about several times was The Merch Life Facebook page (see below) and so I joined it and was accepted.  
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MerchLife/

I looked at posts on the site and noticed that the leader, Chris Green, had created a collaborative community so I thought maybe I should ask for help.

I decided I would throw my filing sizing issue out to the Merch Life Facebook Community and see what happened.  I got 16 comments back and all were really helpful. One person, Scott S., offered to look at my designs and resize them.  

This happened to be a night that I was in a hotel for work so I could stay up late with no kid responsibilities and work on this.  I sent my designs to him and he sent them back about ~1 hour later. For no charge- just because he was being a helpful member of a Facebook community.  I was so impressed.

After getting back my new files from Scott S., I was able to upload my first shirt.  Yeah! It said I can upload 1 a day.

Here is my timeline of how I spent the next month:

Another one of my comments was from Julie G. who said she uses this free site to help her resize her images— https://resizeimage.net.   Once I got a little better a this, I took all of my images to that site and resized them to Amazon size of 4500×5400

  • 12/19/18 got my first design approved and I ordered 1 to see what it looks like.
  • 12/20/18 Got my 2nd design approved and ordered it to see what it looks like.
  • 12/20/18 I researched and watched some YouTube videos and decided to work with Pic Monkey to design my t-shirts and then import them into www.resizeimage.net to convert them to 4500×5400. (the resize site is an amazing free resource- check it out)
  • 12/27/18 Ordered a 3rd shirt for me.
  • 12/29/18 I had loaded 10 designs and got an error that I couldn’t load any more.  After reading some posts about leveling up. I ordered 8 more shirts for my kids to get to the 10 purchases mark.
  • 12/31/18 It was still saying I can’t upload any more shirts.  Since it was the holidays and I was assuming the Merch folks aren’t working, I decided to wait a few days and see if it changes.
  • 1/2/19 Success!  I got a message that I could upload 3 designs that day.
  • 1/2/19 Still hadn’t received the shirts I ordered ~12/19
  • 1/5/19 Shirts were there when I returned from vacation
  • 1/7/19  I entered my shirts today and got the message “You have reached the maximum number of live products.  You currently have 25 products live on Amazon.com through Merch by Amazon.”

Sticking with my The Ordinary Mom theme, most of my designs are around the following sayings, “Ordinary is the new awesome”, “Proud to be an ordinary kid”, “Embrace ordinary”, “Tomorrow is going to be awesome”.  

I did some fun dog shirts featuring avatars I had ordered from Fivver in the fall of my two dogs, a labrador and golden retriever, that say things like, “Love me some labrador” and “I’m feeling golden today”.  To find my merch, go to www.amazon.com and search “The Ordinary Mom t-shirts” and you’ll see the t-shirts I mentioned above and a few more.

In full disclosure, I’ve only sold a few shirts on Amazon so it hasn’t become the money maker that it is for some people but the process was a huge learning experience  I think that if I stepped back and watched more YouTube videos, reached out to folks on the www.merch.amazon.com Facebook page for advice, promote on social media or paid for some google ad words etc. I might be able to turn it into something.  

I have so many things I want to do with my ~2 hours a week I am devoting to my side hustles that it’s been hard to prioritize this one and my www.ordinaryisthenewawesome.com site is still sending folks to my teespring sites for t-shirts and other merchandize so I’m not sure how much time I’m going to spend on the Merch by Amazon venture.  I was hoping that if I was accepted and uploaded some shirts, it would take off the “if you build it, they will come” naive philosophy of sales (and I’m a career sales person so I know how crazy that sounds!) just because it was Amazon but I was wrong.

If I do decide to focus on this in the future and have any progress, I’ll be sure to write a new post to share how it is going.  I’d still recommend this as a possible side hustle even though it hasn’t taken off (yet) for me.

There are many reasons that it might not have worked for me– my designs are not resonating with folks, I need to buy more t-shirts to get to the 25 sold mark to get more attention and better placement from Amazon, I just didn’t put enough focus on it after I uploaded my designs i.e. organic and/or paig marketing etc. but I think there are a lot of people making good money doing this so it’s worth exploring.  If you do end up doing this and are successful, please let me know how you did it so I can share with the Side Hustle Journey community.

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