If you’ve been looking for way to earn passive income online then you have probably came across Merch by Amazon at some point. If you are not familiar with the platform, you simply upload shirt designs onto Amazon and Amazon will sell it for you.
I started my Merch by Amazon journey just like everyone else; lost and confused as to where to begin. At first I started listing random designs that I thought would have a chance at selling but was quickly met with disappointment when 2 months would go by without having sold a single design. I then did research and sought help from experienced people within the Merch by Amazon field and quickly rose above my competition.
WHAT IS MERCH BY AMAZON & HOW CAN I START (POD SERVICE)
To put simply, Merch by Amazon is a print on demand (POD) service offered by Amazon.com where you design shirts and upload them – the rest is handled by Amazon. You’ve most likely have heard of other POD services such as Redbubble and Etsy but Merch By Amazon far exceeds any POD service in terms of earnings solely because of how powerful Amazon’s traffic and organic SEO is.
You can sign up here: https://merch.Amazon.com/landing
It is currently an invite only program, so you will need a bit of luck and patience. I signed up back in 2016 and received the invite a year later. Though, this is no longer the case, people typically get a response in a couple weeks time. I’ve seen people get accepted way earlier within a month so it seems purely random at this point. There is no guarantee that you will get the invitation so you will need to keep trying if you get rejected. I will say that getting an invite is the hardest part of this whole process, good luck!
If you are eager to get your hands dirty now, you can upload to Redbubble.com while you wait for your approval. Redbubble is the second highest earning platform after Amazon for us, you can read about signing up here (as well as how to improve your application for signing up): https://www.avocadoinapond.com/how-to-sign-up-and-get-access-to-merch-by-Amazon/
HOW EARNINGS WORK
You are able to list at any price you wish (must be above a certain minimum) and Amazon will take a fixed cut for purchase price in addition to royalties depending on what you decide to price your design. Overall Amazon takes around 75% of my revenue. You are paid on a monthly basis.
To give you an idea on pricing and how much you can earn with a single shirt, if you price a shirt at $19.99 you make around $5.38 and if you price a shirt at $15.99 you make $2.36. These are the royalties Amazon takes currently and I say this because Amazon used to take less royalties meaning you earn more for the same price, however has since increased due to more production costs on their end.
WHY INVITE ONLY IF AMAZON EARNS SO MUCH FROM IT
The short answer is: extremely high demand.
Amazon gets such high demands that they are not able to keep out with the amount of orders they receive so they will need to enforce forms of “control” in order to prevent getting overwhelmed. These forms of control may include but are not limited to, new Merch by Amazon users, not allowing users to upload more designs temporarily and de-listing selling designs from their site temporarily.
These “limiters” will often seem unfair to users and you will see a lot of complaints on this but it makes sense and you will have to accept it. It’s a small price for you to tolerate it if you consider the sheer amount of FREE customers that Amazon is able to bring to your designs.
When you first get your account, you are capped at only being able to sell 10 designs on Amazon.com. You are in Tier 10 (number corresponds to your design cap). In order to be able to sell more than 10 designs you will need to make 10 sales on your account. Once you reach 10 sales, your account will upgrade to Tier 25. You must then have a total of 25 sales on your account in order to reach the next Tier (note that you already made 10 sales so only another 15 to reach that 25 total).
During my time in Merch by Amazon the tier system has changed and this means it could be subjected to change again in the future. Currently, in addition to making those sale goals in order to “tier-up” (to upgrade account cap), you will also need to fill up your allowable design uploads. This means, for example, in Tier 10. If you upload only 1 shirt and it sells 10 times, you won’t get upgraded until you upload another 7-8 shirts making your listing total 8-9. This won’t affect you until you reach later tiers when you sell faster than you can upload.
The tiering system has been inconsistent with the lower tiers where Amazon has randomly decided to tier you up without meeting the design requirement. However, this is more consistent upon reaching Tier 1000.
The tier system starts at 10 then 25, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000 etc. I currently sit at Tier 12000 due for an upgrade for Tier 14000.
WHAT IF MY SHIRTS DON’T SELL
When you upload a design, Amazon will list your shirt on their site for 180 days. If your shirt does not sell within the 180 days then it gets automatically removed off the site. If you do manage to sell it within 180 days then Amazon will keep it on their site forever. Note that this is also subject to change as the take down period used to be 90 days back when I first started.
NOTHING TO LOSE
I will elaborate more here on how you can run this business with zero cost personally. As I have mentioned previously, all you need to do is design the print that goes on the shirt and upload that design with the titles, descriptions and price you want with that shirt. Amazon will handle everything from then onwards.
This is good because you have nothing to lose besides the time you spent making the design. If the design doesn’t sell, then you just make many more designs. If the design sells, then congratulations you’ve just made money and that shirt now stays on Amazon.com for more people to buy. This is a lot better compared to managing inventory and making sure you have enough stock if someone were to order your shirt.
Making ~$5 per shirt may seem like a waste of your time but do not underestimate Amazon’s traffic. Amazon is one of the most trafficked sites on the internet so it gives you the most chances to have your shirt be seen by buyers organically without you having to market your shirts even once.
HOW I MAKE SALES WITH NO MARKETING
So how did I manage to make any sales without marketing my shirts?
I simply base my design ideas off of shirts that have been selling well. This is allowed by the Merch by Amazon content policy. As long as you are only taking the idea/concept of a design and applying it to your design WITHOUT stealing the design itself. This saves you even more work from having to think about shirts people might like to buy. The biggest and most obvious advantage to this is that your already know there are people looking to buy this shirt niche/design. So what do you think happens when a customer goes to look for a design and are offered multiple different designs of the SAME concept niche? They will buy the design they like best, so as long as you design a better idea than what your competition is offering, then you will get sales.
This has by far been the best method of making sales. In my earlier days of Merch by Amazon I tried marketing through ads and even Amazons promotion feature to direct traffic to specific shirt designs however all attempts were met with failure. I can confidently say that will most likely be the outcome if you try to market your own shirts and have seen very few people actually gain anything from marketing themselves. So I quickly learnt this and stopped any or all attempts to apply marketing techniques.
HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW WELL A SHIRT IS SELLING?
Amazon has a ranking system for their products called the Best Sellers Rank (BSR). The BSR is a numeric value given to an item when it has sold and represents how well that particular item is selling on Amazon. The lower the BSR, the better an item is selling. For clothing, a good rule of thumb is that if a shirt has BSR of less than 1,000,000 then it has sold at least 3 times within the past month. The more time you spend working with BSR the more you will understand about how it works but for now I will hint that the BSR shown on Amazon may not be entirely reliable from my experiences (more on this later).
HOW DO YOU FIND THESE BEST SELLERS?
Just knowing how BSR works is not enough and you’ll need to know how to spot good selling shirts from Amazon’s entire shirt catalogue. Ultimately you will want shirts with LOW BSR and LOW COMPETITION OF THE SAME DESIGN CONCEPT. This will mean that if you design a better shirt for this design niche and upload it; buyers will have an easier time spotting the best design (in this case, hopefully yours) from a lower selection.
As for the process, you would start by going onto Amazon.com and searching random niche keywords. Once you searched for a niche keyword a big list of shirts would show up for that niche and you would need to select a niche you would like to enter. Once you clicked the shirt you would then need to check for good BSR and the amount of other similar designs. If the shirt does not meet these requirements then you would need to repeat this process again until you’ve hit a good niche shirt.
This of course is very tedious and is unrealistic if you were planning on seriously growing your account. The solution I used to bypass this process was various research tools available to me at the time. This greatly helped with my initial growth and instead of wasting hours manually searching through Amazon, I was presented with top sellers using these tools.
These tools would prove valuable to me initially, however as I became more experienced I started to see some flaws with these tools; specifically around the use of BSR. See, the flaw with BSR on Amazon’s end is that a shirt only needed to sell once to gain a big boost to BSR. This leads to the illusion that a shirt sells multiple times due to its low BSR just for that one instance.
So I went and developed my own tool that I could use that would more accurately reflect the true BSR of shirts and tell me very accurately how many times a shirt would sell. Not only that, I also included some other features that I personally desired but were not made available such as brand searching.
THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOUR
And after 14 months of work we have earned over 50k USD in the first year on Amazon with over 15k of that from the month of December. But this is not all, because these designs can be uploaded to other platforms, we have made additional earnings from there too. Combined altogether we have made well over 65k USD on Amazon, Redbubble, Etsy and Spreadshirt.