What is Merch By Amazon?

What if I told you that there is a business model that can generate five figures per year passively and has no need for any upfront cash investment?

And what if I told you that this same business model requires zero marketing to be successful, customers will just be there in their millions, buying products that you haven’t spent much time on?

Sold? Say hello to the first side-hustle that I started that was successful enough to incorporate. The only side-hustle that has still generated a sufficient sum over the past 12 months without me having to lift a finger – Merch By Amazon.


Merch By Amazon is a POD (print on demand) branch of Amazon. Amazon started this operation in 2015 when they invested in printers across the USA and it’s currently still in a beta phase with invite-only participation. There are a few other companies that run in a similar vein such as RedBubble and TeeSpring but none have the behemoth of a customer base that Amazon has.

The way POD services like this work is by offering users the ability to upload a finished merchandise design, they then create a product from that design like seen on the SavingNinja store page. The POD service then deals with everything; the shipping, returns, hosting, rating; all of the stuff that you don’t want to be dealing with. If someone buys that product, the POD will take the manufacturing costs and a small margin, and you’ll get the rest. You’ll get this payment in the form of royalties by the POD. You’re basically employed by them.

POD services are part of the growing list of companies that you can start with absolutely zero cash investment (Stock images, Kindle publishing). You don’t have to find investors, buy stock or a commercial property. It’s completely free to try out, you can literally only make money. Removing the risk also removes the barrier to entry into business for a lot of people. It allows entrepreneurs to ‘try before they buy’ without investing £1000s of their personal savings.

What Makes Amazon Special?

In 2016 Amazon had 310 million active customers. They have 100 million prime subscribers; that’s what makes Amazon special. With Amazon, you’ll be selling your merchandise in the worlds biggest store. You’ll have millions of eyes on your products every single day.

Due to Amazons gargantuan customer base, you don’t have to be a world class designer to sell. In-fact, most of Merch By Amazon’s earnings are via text designs like this and this. A good business model promotes quantity over quality, and it works!

How Easy is it to Think of Designs?

In many ways Merch By Amazon is more about research than design. You want to think of a design idea that not many people have already done, you don’t want to be on page 20 of Amazon’s search results. A lot of the work is also about your product keywords. You need to ensure that customers can find what you’ve made.

As always, like with Matched Betting, this is incredibly easy due to software. With Merch Informer it will basically tell you the exact designs that will perform poorly (due to saturation) or whether there is money to be made. Even though there is a small monthly cost, I definitely recommend this the software as it will pay dividends in time and money down the line.

How Long Does it Take to Make Designs?

When you’ve got a design idea that you’re sure will sell, the next step is to actually make the design. Due to the novelty nature of the designs this is a lot easier than it first may seem. This is due to the designs consisting of mainly font and a simple silhouette image. The less artwork you have on the design, the less risk there is for someone not to like it. A lot of merch customers will mainly be looking for a certain quote or phrase; not a fancy design.

Amazon offers templates for Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator and GIMP. You can use these templates to easily mock up your designs and see what they’ll look like.

Another approach if you’re not very artsy is to use an application like WordSwag or Fontee to do the designing for you, remember, the research and phrasing is more important than the design.

When you’ve made a bit of profit, a lot of people decide to delegate the design work to people on freelancing sites like Upwork for $5 – $10 per design. Only one product needs to sell to make up for this cost, you can expand your business very quickly using this method.

Conclusion

I’ll be writing a full guide to Merch By Amazon in the future. But if you think that you’d like to give this side-hustle a go, make sure you head over to the Merch By Amazon website and request an invitation. It can take some people over 12 months to be accepted.1

If you’ve already been accepted; here are some useful resources to get you started:

Merch Informer – Research is key to be successful – They offer a free trial through this link!
AmazonMerch Reddit – There is a wealth of knowledge available on Reddit
Michael Essek Blog – Very successful Merch seller

  1. They’ve aparantly started accepting people a lot quicker recently.

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12 thoughts on “What is Merch By Amazon?

  1. Thanks, Ninja – your post has actually spurred me to double-down my efforts on Merch. I was approved in March of last year and dived into it initially, yielding some very good sales over the following 4-5 months. Then, when I started my blog, each way betting and a few other side ventures Merch took a back-seat somewhat. I’m still getting some residual sales, but I found trying to fill all the slots at the higher tier’s quite a time-consuming task. I guess this is the point at which many people start to outsource aspects of Merch (whether it design or uploading). But undeniably an amazing hustle. I recall, a mere 24-hours after uploading my very first t-shirt, getting a sale and it was an incredible feeling knowing that all I did was type a few letters – Amazon did the rest! As Merch widens to outside the US consumer, it remains a big growth area. Cheers

    1. Awesome pursue FIRE 🙂 I’m glad this post inspired you!

      I ended up incorporating and outsourcing quite a few designs, but like you, got a bit side-lined with blogging and matched betting. For me, I got a bit fed up researching/finding designs even though I was outsourcing the actual designing. I had a few designers all set up on Trello boards 🙂

      My next pursuit is Kindle publishing!

  2. Hmm is this just a way to get affiliate income from Merch Informer? 😉

    In all seriousness I am buzzing about this… it ticks all the boxes for a good side hustle, practically zero barriers to entry and no costs… And I like (attempting) being creative as well so it scratches that itch as well! I’ve had ideas for funny T-shirt slogans in the past so it would be really cool to see if other people actually bought them. Having said that… I can’t remember any of those right now so I will have to get my thinking cap on again! 🙂

    Have already signed up for an account, they said average wait time for a review reply is 14 days so hopefully I can get a few in there for the Christmas rush… haha!

    Cheers for this post!

    1. Hah, awesome. Might be a bit late for the Christmas rush as it’s mainly around now and it seems to take Amazon a while to get your product ranking (after it’s been approved). I’d focus on some evergreen designs to fill up your first 10 slots.

      Yes MI is an affiliate link (I’ve yet to put up one of those fancy warning banners). I whole-heartedly recommend it though. It’s basically the only software you can buy to help you research. Without it, you’re basically pissing in the wind 🙂 It’s almost like trying to matched bet without software.

      With merch, it seems to be mainly about the research, I’ve heard it’s a similar thing for Kindle publishing, but I think it’s more so with merch. There are so many listings, what you think is cool may have been done 100s of times before, or may not have anyone searching for it. The best approach (especially when you’re on tier 1 and only have 10 slots) is to find a niche that has some shirts available which are selling but doesn’t have pages and pages of results (so your product doesn’t get buried).

      MI helps you find those shirts, it gives you a rating of A to C for if your keywords, like “Baking baseball Mom T-Shirt” is worth doing or not based on the current shirts and their BSR (Best Selling Rank). It also helps you find good keywords that will help your product get found, amongst loads of other stuff. It’s so hard to research without this. Without it, most people will just have their 10 slots filled and never sell anything.

      All my shirts other than the SN ones are currently on the American store. When I was actively adding products, there wasn’t a UK option, merch has only recently come to Amazon UK. I’d still recommend focusing mainly on the US Amazon as they seem to like this type of stuff more and it’s a bigger customer base.

      Let me know how it goes! 🙂 14 days is really awesome, it used to take forever! I’d imagine a lot more people are going to start using merch.

      1. That’s awesome, thanks for the extra tips!
        Was kidding about the aff link of course, I will sign up via your link when they’ve (hopefully!) approved my Merch account!

        Watch out for theFIREstarter branded shirts coming your way soon haha (surely there must be a massive demand for that by now?!)

        Cheers again

  3. Thanks for this, SN – very interesting.

    This seems to have a bit more appeal to me than Kindle Publishing but still, there’s legwork to be done and I’m not sure I will find the time to do it. What kind of profits would a newbie hope to make, to cover the $10 a month Merch Informer fees?

    Worth me reading up more about it anyway and if I do sign up, I’ll use your aff link!

    1. Hi Weenie,

      Thanks 😀 When you first start out, Amazon only gives you 10 slots, so you can only have 10 products live at any one time. Once you sell 10, they’ll tier you up to 25 and so on.

      I think if you spent a solid day researching and doing some basic designs (but most importantly the research), you’ll be able to get 10 products and fill all of your slots (although it will take you 10 days to fill them as at tier 10 you can only upload 1 per day). I’m pretty confident that at least one of those shirts will sell at least once a week, hopefully, more if you researched correctly. That alone should cover your MI subscription. That one shirt should hopefully sell for years to come too!

  4. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. One of us is about to be made redundant and I see this as a great project to investigate for the next 3 weeks before our holiday and the job market (hopefully) picking up in the new year.

    That’ll leave me to concentrate on MBing 🙂

    I’ve looked briefly at a few other Amazon Merch blogs and I understand we might be liable for 30% tax unless you get the right tax number from the IRS, is that correct? If it is is it easy to get the tax number?

    1. Hey Pom!

      We don’t have to pay anything to the IRS as we’re trading from the UK. I’ve forgot the exact option that you select in the set up process, but it’s something like “We don’t have to pay taxes.” Or “We’re UK residents so we’re paying taxes to our own government.” Basically, the option that states that you’ll deal with tax.

      We are of course required to declare to HRMC that we’re earning and you’ll be required to add profits/expenses onto your self-assessment each year. Or file your company accounts if you incorporate. Amazon makes this pretty easy due to keeping all of your payment dates filed. You just have to basically enter a figure onto the HMRC web filing website once a year (no need for an accountant).

  5. Fascinating post! Tempted to give all this a go after reading through this. Unlikely I’ll make a start before Christmas though, December is always a busy month. Thankfully January and February are usually empty, so I should have more time to look into it all.

    With Merch Informer, can you cancel whenever you want?

    1. Hey Dr!

      Yeah, you can cancel whenever if you choose the monthly plan. Q1 is the worst time of the year for merchandise sales, but if you get your first 10 slots filled up as soon as possible, the more chance you’ll unlock more slots before the second half of the year when the sales start ramping up again 🙂

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