Side Hustle Chronicles : Merch by Amazon

Back in 2017, I had decided to finally take the leap and go fully remote.  The prior 2 years, I was living in Japan working as an English Teacher while working on a couple different side hustles.  

One of these side hustles was Merch by Amazon.  

This was a new branch of business that Amazon had started whereby you could upload designs to have t-shirts printed on demand. 

Pros of Merch by Amazon

One of the good things about this model of business was the ease of operations.  I would hire a designer through Upwork, have them design one of my ideas, then I would upload that design along with a description and keywords and that’s it! All I had to do was wait patiently for someone to buy one of my shirts!  Sounds easy right?

Kinda, but not quite..

With Merch by Amazon, having not to deal with inventory or shipping was a huge bonus, because that meant that I wasn’t locked down having to stay in one place. 

I could still travel around and let Amazon take care of my business.  All I had to do was come up with the designs.  This was for sure the most appealing part of this business model.

Making My First Sale

I tried uploading some of the most random designs that just didn’t sell.  I think I had a limit of 20-25 designs as an entry seller, so I had to figure out how I could get my first 20 sales before I could get pushed up into a higher threshold.

But I still needed to make that first sale to break the ice.

I had a design done related to an old childhood Nintendo game called Contra.  There was a code you used to be able to do in order to get more lives – up, up, down, down, left, right, left right, b, a, b, a, select, start.  So this is exactly put on the shirt. 

This code not only sold one, but pushed me beyond my 20 sale threshold.  At that point, I was ready to add more shirt designs.

My First $100 Month

By November 2016, I had finally made my first $100 ($134.21 to be exact) in earnings before tax.

I knew that if I could just scale this, I could probably make $1000 in a month.  

So I continued to upload more and more until I maxed out my design threshold and double downed on the ideas that worked.

Do What Works

One thing that I learned through this journey of selling on Merch was that niches were really important.  So I decided to follow certain niches like Yoga, Health, Veganism and politics to help me scale.

My First $1000 Month

By February 2017, I made my first $1000+ month. 

At that point, I was on top of the world.  I was thinking that I could live comfortably in a place like Thailand while building my hustles and continue traveling, which is what I did for at least a good year.

Nothing Lasts Forever. Don’t Rely on Amazon.

One very important lesson I’ve learned throughout these past couple years is that it is very risky to rely on Amazon as a business.  Because, if Amazon were to flick a switch, they could shut down my shirt business just like that.  This went for all other related businesses like FBA, Kindle and Amazon Associates.

The short story was that I managed to make $2516.45 in December of 2017, but it went downhill from there.

Competition was getting fierce.  People were trademarking slogans.  It was a dog eat dog world that I didn’t think would be sustainable.

By late 2018, I decided to sell my business.

Selling an Amazon Business with Empire Flippers

It was less than a week of having my business listed on a broker called Empire Flippers before it sold.  

They basically made a valuation based off of the prior 12 months in royalties, listed it on a Monday and I had a slew of interested buyers within days.

After paying their 15% commission, I managed to get roughly 25K for the sale of my business.  Considering that I had also made royalties up to that point, I’d say that it was a fun side hustle experience!

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