Merch by Amazon is free to join (do it today! – maybe when you get accepted in a year you’ll want to!). The catch here is that you have to wait for approval. The time until approval is completely arbitrary. There are reports of people waiting between 4-13 months to get an invite. Also, sometimes they don’t even send you an email and your account is approved and then terminated for inactivity before you even know what happened. To combat this, just try to log in on the Merch website about once a month. If you can get in and see a dashboard, you’ve been approved. You now have 120 days to upload your first design.
Once you’re approved, you get 10 t-shirt design slots to fill. They don’t want you to just fill Amazon immediately with dumb shirts. They make you test the waters. Once you sell 10 shirts, you get to move on to the next tier with 25 total slots. When you sell a total of 25 shirts, you get to move up to 100 slots. 100 sales leads to 500 slots and 500 sales leads to 1000 slots. It goes up from there. The first two tiers are by far the hardest to get out of. It’s hard to get 10 sales when you just have 10 shirts. Some argue it’s worth buying yourself out of 25 shirts. We made a shirt for a small event and offered the shirts for sale at cost plus $1. Those 10 sales got us out of the first tier. The eclipse got us out of the 25 tier. There’s also a theory that you have to have 85% of your slots filled in order to tier up (for example: to get out of the 100 tier, you need 100 sales and at least 85 designs uploaded).
Tips for Beginners:
- Check Your Trademarks: If you use ANY trademarked phrase in your title, on your shirt, or in your descriptions, it will be rejected. Too many rejections lead to account termination. This isn’t just stuff like “Lord of the Rings.” This means all the random phrases people have trademarked as well. Just spend a lot of time on USPTO.com. If it’s trademarked for clothing, it’s completely off limits.
- Stay Away From Intellectual Property: Anything that is popular because of a TV show, book, concert, band, song, etc. is off limits. That doesn’t mean you can’t find these shirts on Merch… but those people get shut down often. Don’t risk it.
- Do Your Research: Look at what’s available before you jump in with your shirt. Don’t just copy what’s already there. Find a niche that is selling well and then try to come up with something completely new to put in there. Merch Informer offers the easiest way to look at the current Merch shirts for free (their tool for purchase is much more comprehensive and also helpful, but costs $19.99/month – and that’s our affiliate link).
- Max Out Your Uploads: The greatest potential comes from having the most amount of shirts up on Amazon. Merch limits you to daily uploads. Currently in the 10-100 tiers, you are limited to 2 uploads a day. That means it will take 5 days to fill 10 slots and 50 to fill 100. Do it.
- People Are Weird: Some of our favorite shirts we’ve designed haven’t sold a single one. Ones that we thought were dumb have sold a handful. It’s hard to guess what people will like. It’s better to test it out and see (again, hard to do when you only have 10 or 25 slots).
Your earning potential on Amazon is literally limitless. If you are earning $5/shirt, selling just 1 shirt per day is $150/month. 7 shirts per day gives you $1,050 in a month. And selling 55 shirts per day gives you over $100,000 in a year. There are dozens of people online that have achieved this with their Merch accounts. We’ve only been on Merch since the end of June, so we haven’t even broken $1000 in total sales, but we’re close. And with the holidays just around the corner, we’re trying to quickly fill our 500 current slots before the shoppers go crazy. Lots of Merch Sellers outsource designs as outsourcing is also a way to scale quickly if you tier up fast. Mr. T and I both enjoy design, so we do them all ourselves. Many people also think that Merch by Amazon will soon open up to European buyers (currently only open to US purchasers) and they may eventually add things like mugs and sweatshirts and those things will unlock even larger earning potential. But no one really knows anything which leads to…
The Risk Involved
As mentioned, there are no start-up costs assuming you have a basic understanding of design and some software with which to do it (though several people use Gimp). Merch is, however, still the complete wild west. It started in October 2015 and after 2 years, they still have hardly anything figured out. Tier-ups sometimes take a month once you hit your sales. Accounts are frequently terminated after manual reviews if they find any trademark infringements or parodies or intellectual property being used. Rejections often happen without any explanation. There is also a copycat problem. As soon as a design starts selling well, copycats swoop in and make very similar ones for cheaper. It’s annoying and lame, but true. There’s also no real way to deal with it, though high quality designs will still sell well despite copycats, which are often inferior. You just have to keep designing and being creative and moving on. There are also major growing pains and Amazon is often out of some colors and sizes or they will stop showing some results to limit sales until they can catch up. The program could also end overnight. No one knows.
The Banks on Merch
We don’t plan for Mr. T to quit his job to do Merch full time. There’s too much risk counting on it at all as the gravy train might end tomorrow. We also haven’t even hit a $1000 month in sales, but we’re taking full advantage while we can. Mr. T and I are having a really good time working together on something that we both enjoy doing. In fact, we’ll share our experience and family Merch challenge in the next post!