100k School Debt to Financial Freedom – Merch by Amazon Update 1
This post is also available in: German
From talking to people all over the world about Merch by Amazon, there seems to be a few common themes. There are those that are just looking to make a little side money, and there are others who are looking to replace their full time job. Almost everyone I have talked to are trying to dig themselves out of debt or pay their mortgage each month with their Merch money!
If you have read any of the interview series we have started doing, you will see that some of these people who have dedicated their time to their merch craft have been successful at getting rid of their debt. Not having all that pressure looming over you really helps to get rid of the stress you might be feeling. The best part? ANYONE can do this and be successful at it.
As I have told people over and over again, there are 2 billion people on Amazon.com each and every month purchasing goods. All you need to do is appeal to a very small percentage of them to be financially free!
What I have not seen many mentions of is another kind of debt. School debt. College or University as all my overseas buddies call it, has gotten a lot more expensive in the past few years. Almost everyone I know who went to school has some sort of debt still hanging around that has not been paid off yet. What we all have the opportunity to do, especially with Merch by Amazon, is get rid of all of this debt within a year or two.
This will be a monthly installment where I tell the story of my girlfriend who went back to get a second bachelors degree at college and the attempt to pay off $100,000 worth of college debt within 1 year through MBA.
The Story Setup
About a year ago now, we decided to pack up our bags and leave the mid-west. I needed a change in scenery and the mountains were the perfect place to hang out and continue working on my projects and building my Merch account. While I was building my account, my girlfriend decided she was going to go back to school to get another degree and switch careers. This was a big switch because after the first bachelors degree, there was not much time to work to save up some money to pay for school.
Loans were taken out, and class started. Loans to the tune of around $100,000 which is a big gamble to take out on yourself.
Months went by where school was the main focus. It took up a good 12-16 hours a day with traveling, studying, and clinicals. So much time spent on school that in order to be in this specific program, realistically there was no way you could hold down a job at the same time.
Now, she had a Merch account at this time, but just would not upload any more designs. The account had 25 designs put up on it as soon as it was accepted but the 60 day rule took around 18 of those down. The account was left with around 7 designs that were making only making pocket change each month as priorities laid elsewhere.
Fast forward to the end of April and we had a MASSIVE hail storm where she was going to school. Golf ball sized hail causing whiteout conditions can be a little bit scary but watching your new car get utterly destroyed when you can do nothing is on another level. All in all, there was thousands and thousands of dollars in damage to the vehicle that had just been purchased 9 months earlier.
Imagine taking out 100k worth of loans for school and now the vehicle that gets you too and from school has just been nearly totaled and is not drive-able. On top of that, you now need to pay for a rental car to get to class which is only going to cost more money.
It was at this point I think my nagging of “just do Merch, you can pay for everything!” started to sink in!
Up to that point, these were the earnings of the account. As you can see, very unimpressive.
I think this is where most people get stuck. They have a few designs up, realize they are not making good money, and just get discouraged and stop trying.
The same thing happened in this situation. Not many people can make the leap from making $20 last month, to thinking this income stream was about to pay for a new car and pay off school loans. It might have helped a bit that we live in the same house and she knew the concept worked because she has seen my account grow over the years but she needed to take the leap of faith herself.
At this point, with nothing left to lose, she agreed to upload her 10 slots a day if I helped with outsourcing (the account is at the 500 tier). I agreed to help and the research process started.
This is where a lot of people just get really hung up on what is a REALLY simple process. With a login for Merch Informer and a quick 5 minute conversation of how BSR works, we were off to the races.
The research process went in two steps. First, we would look at the product search module and find products that were ranked between 100k-300k BSR. When we found designs in this area, we looked at the price. If the price was $15.99 or higher, we would add it to the favorites in our organizational tree.
Then about 3-4 days later, we could go back into this list in the favorites tree and REMOVE everything that was no longer in the 100k-300k BSR range. This means we got rid of everything that had sold but was not selling consistently and was left with only designs that were constantly moving and making money. These are the niches and ideas we know will sell if we come to market with something better so we downloaded these ideas to outsource.
Now you might be wondering, how did you come up with niche ideas to put into the product search module in the first place? Did you watch a video, did you do something to check the competition? Nope! All she did was sit down, look around the room, and start typing in keywords to search. As we sat on the deck, looked down at the ground and saw grass. Put that in and hit search. See some herbs on the windowsill? Type in Herbs and different names such as basil, parsley. Start building your list based on what is around you.
From there, look at the bullet points of what is actually ranking and looking at the brands. What else are they selling, what other keywords are they using? Turn around and put these back in and hit search.
All we are worried about is finding sellers in the 100k-300k BSR range and that is exactly what she did, nothing else.
Once we had the list of ideas, I had to have her check them over to make sure they were not trademarked.
Making sure the phrases on these shirts were not trademarked before we sent them off to a designer is not hard at all. It barely takes any time at all if you know what you are doing. I quickly explained to her how to check the USPTO website. If you are not familiar with how to do that, please watch this video:
Now, we have a list of shirts that we know the phrases are not trademarked.
The final step before we outsource them is to put them into the Merch Informer Trademark Alerts. This ensures that even though the phrases are not trademarked now, that if they do become trademarked months later, we can take action without Amazon taking action on us. That interface looks pretty awesome and looks like this:
Once we had all the terms in the trademark alerts, it was time to actually outsource these!
I am not a graphic artist, and neither is my girlfriend. What I do have is a few graphic designers on my team that we can outsource to. This costs $4 per design.
There is no secret tip or trick to getting a graphic designer to do designs that are high quality on the cheap. We used Upwork.com and did EXACTLY what I lay out in this outsourcing guide here: https://merchinformer.com/use-upwork-outsource-scale-merch-business/.
Putting The Designs Online
Once she gets the designs back from the designer, she had to put them up. I was insistent that she fill her slots EVERY DAY. With 10 slots available, this usually took about 30 minutes to an hour. As the days went on, she got much faster at this.
When she first started uploading though, she had not uploaded any designs in many months so we had to have a talk about how it all works. If you have not already read the article on Merch SEO that I wrote a long while back, give that a read. That should give you a good idea of how the optimization works.
The title for each of the shirts contained at least 1-2 keywords relating to the designs.
The brand contained a keyword as we have proven that keywords in the brands do in fact help the listing gain some initial rank.
The bullet points were hard at first as she was having a hard time describing these shirts in a marketing sense and getting all the keywords in that she should. I had her take a look at the competition and what was ALREADY selling. Since they are ranked and selling, we know that their keywords should be used in our listings as well. Once she put those keywords in sentence form, she added her own off the top of her head that were synonyms and better explained the niche that the tees were in. Putting this all together, you come up with a good descriptive set of bullet points that are keyword rich but also sound properly put together when you speak them out loud.
I also had her include in the second bullet point that the shirts were printed to be fitted and that if they wanted a more baggy fit, that they should order a size up. I have tested this and it seems to cut down on negative reviews as the anvil shirts never seen to fit right if you do not order a size up.
That was literally all that was done in the month of May. Research, outsourcing, and putting all that work together to upload the designs to Merch by Amazon.
Let’s do a quick recap of April Numbers:
A whole $20.78 in April. You might say not as good as expected. Let’s break those numbers down per shirt…
Low prices were used to get out of the lower tiers. At the time that she started putting actual effort into the account, the low price strat had gotten the account tiered up to the 500 tier.
30 days of effort later…?
20 shirts a day!! On the very last day of the month, she hit 20 shirts a day for the first time. Not only that, hit 100 shirts sold for the week as well.
Summary of totals for May 2017 from downloading the excel spreadsheet:
186 shirts sold and $756.94 from royalties! This is all from a single months effort. The best part is that this all happened with around 30 minutes a day.
I can tell you right now (this is being published about a week after May), that the account is now doing last months total royalties a week.
Since designs can easily be created yourself (and what most people are doing when they start), we are only going to be including the royalties in the math.