100k School Debt to Financial Freedom – Merch by Amazon Update 7

It looks like we all have a bunch of free time on our hands now that the great freeze of 2017 is in full swing (just kidding, upload to more platforms!). I finally have some time to sit down and write this update which I am pretty excited about. We more than DOUBLED the previous months earnings in November, and we are well on our way to double December earnings for next month.
To be honest, I was getting a tad bit worried as Q4 that everyone had hyped up (myself included), just did not seem to be happening for many people. Yes, sales were up last month, but they were not as high as I would have expcted.
However, all of our fears were to put to rest when the account crushed November! This month was focused on uploading, uploading, and uploading some more. Even though submissions were cut, this was still the main focus with no outsourcing done this month. I will explain why below.
In case you missed it, here is last month’s case study:

How To Use Upwork To Outsource And Scale Your Merch Business


While last months earnings were up just a bit from the previous month, November saw a massive jump. This was partially due to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but the average sales per day seemed to have increased a healthy amount as well.
This article marks 7 months since we started writing this case study. If you go back and read all the journey posts up until this point, you will notice that it has been a bit of a bumpy road. The goal is still the same to pay off the $100,000 worth of school debt, and after this post, there is officially 5 more months in order to pay it off. Looking at the numbers, you may be wondering how we will do that. After all, Merch by Amazon just came out and told us all that royalties are about to take a hit.
To that, I have two things to say. One is that the royalty changes sting, but in the long run, I think they will probably help us all as sellers. Before you grab your pitch forks, let me explain. I know that it hurts that we are about to take 30% pay cut from Amazon on what we were already selling. I know it hurts that this will force people to RAISE prices on t-shirts that are already just being bought as funny gifts and impulse buys that they are more than likely getting for under $1 per blank. It may feel all doom and gloom as a seller, but think about it from Amazon’s point of view. They have this Amazon platform that lets content creators like us join it, and they are very clearly having massive issues keeping their promises, both to US (the content creators), but more importantly to their customers. Have you noticed that when you purchase a Merch shirt with prime shipping, it takes a week to get to you? Ya, that is not going to fly with customers expectations around the holidays.
The royalty change is going to actually solve both of these issues. First, even though they are changing the royalty structure and we will be receiving 30% less than we were before, we as content creators should be selling MORE shirts. A lot more!
Why?
Well, with more money, Amazon can actually build more printing facilities which means their capacity goes up. When their capacity goes up, that means…
The throttle will FINALLY be over!
If you have not checked lately, Amazon has been throttling results. This means that your shirt is not going to be searchable for your keywords you may have been ranking for previously. Your shirts could be completely removed from your brand name so eve if you were to link a brand name to a family member or friend, they would still not see your shirts. Sometimes, the only way to see a shirt was if you had the direct link. Other times, shirts were still searchable but missing different colors and or sizes. This all causes less sales for us, and can be extremely frustrating.
I actually went through and audited the account to see how many of the shirts were being throttled the other day. Keep in mind that the throttle seems to come on and off shirts at different parts of the day, but from what I saw, slightly over 65% of the shirts live were either missing colors/sizes or were not even displaying under the brand name. Even though the throttle is so large right now, the account is still making excellent money. Because of this, even when royalties drop, if the throttle disappears and all shirts are searchable with the correct colors and sizes, we should be selling at least double what we are. I will take double sales over slightly lower royalties any day of the week.
Do you guys think Amazon WANTS to be doing all of this? Of course not! The more throttling and issues they have, the less money they make. All we can do is hope for the best and hang on for the ride!
Now that we have that out of the way, this account did $2,581.07 last month. This was up just a bit from the monthly previous total, but November was all sorts of fun. Increased sales, special “holidays”, and Q4 finally kicking into gear.

What Happened In November?

November has been the monthly of daily uploads and no outsourcing. You may remember that last month the account finally went from 1,000 slots to 2,000 slots! Finally, a bit of room to work with. What followed was going from 20 uploads a day to 40 a day, which was now going from hard to fill, to almost impossible with her busy work/school schedule.
Well, Merch much have listened in to some nightly complaints about how hard these slots were to fill and cut everyone’s upload limit pretty much in half! This account went from 40 uploads a day right back to 20 a day. This is clearly because they were getting swamped with designs during Q4, but this was still a bit disappointing.
Here is a quote from last months post:

You need to hit your daily uploads BUT the designs need to be good! You can put up 100 text based designs a day but if they are 100 text based designs in comic sands point 12 font, I can guarantee you will not be selling any.

Keeping this in mind, with lower upload limits and the Q4 swing continuing upward, we revised the plan for the account. Instead of outsourcing more new designs that were unproven, we would go through, and start to upload all the designs that were proven sellers on premium (which we started the previous month), but also on Long Sleeves since this account was finally approved for them.

Long Sleeve Uploads

With the newly available slots and the decision to not outsource any more designs this month, we had to figure out what designs were the best selling, and then go and find them all throughout the numerous amount of folders split between 3-4 computers and multiple dropbox accounts. Let me tell you, this is a huge pain! Once we found them all and got them slightly organized, it was time to upload them all with premium shirts taking priority FIRST, then long sleeves. From research, t-shirts are still going to sell more than long sleeves, or hoodies (when they become widely available).
The results have been super promising. We only have a few hundred of them up now, but they are selling daily.
At first, we put them up with a price of $27.99, but after some testing, they seem to sell the best for the account at $25.99 giving a $4.59 royalty which is pretty nice (even though some may complain about the low price).
The strategy for long sleeves has been the following:

  1. Take the best sellers, upload them to premium shirts first, then long sleeves.
  2. All designs must be up on Anvil first. Until an Anvil shirt has sold, it does not go on a long sleeve.
  3. All Long Sleeves are priced at $25.99 and stay there even after they sell.
  4. All Long Sleeves have new brands, bullet points, and descriptions (this helps the algo).

This has been working really well for the account and they are selling quiet a lot for the amount of Long Sleeves up.
Now, the research for these long sleeves was done on normal anvil MBA shirts through Merch Informer. As of writing this, Long Sleeves are now searchable in the product search!

Did I mention we added hoodies, and sweatshirts too as well as just plain old FBA t-shirts to the product search? Oh yes! If you have never tried out Merch Informer, please use coupon code: girlfriend30 for 30% off your first THREE months of Merch Informer. This is her idea, so this will be removed in the near future.

Black Friday / Cyber Monday – New Records!

It just so happened that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday both landed in November. Now, I am not the biggest shopper, but other people sure are. Cyber Monday ended up being the biggest day of the year for Amazon surpassing prime day! Pretty crazy to think about and the numbers showed it!
Here are the Black Friday numbers:

This was a new record for this account and the girlfriends first $300 dollar day on Merch! This is actually a lot more than most people make in a day at a day job. Seeing that first $300 dollar day sure was special. We expected Cyber Monday to be a bit less in volume. We were very very wrong!
Here are the Cyber Monday numbers:

Not only was this the first 100 shirt DAY, but the account almost doubled Black Friday sales with $611 dollars in royalties for the day.
November was really only the start though. The account is doing Black Friday numbers daily, so December should be a good one.

It took 7 months to go from nothing, to selling 100 shirts in a single day, over $600 for a single day, and over 600 shirts for the trailing 7 day total. That is GREAT progress! In fact, she is outselling many of the people I talk to on a daily basis all while working and going to school full time.
Now yes, she has access to my VA’s but all the research for this entire account was done by her and it is just so easy. Anyone can replicate the exact same thing this account has done if they follow the same strategy laid out time and time again here on the blog.
Research Strategy
Step 1: Use Merch Informer to quickly find niches in the 100k-300k BSR ranges with the Merch Hunter Module
Step 2: Niche down in the niches you find where the shirts are still in the same BSR range but have smaller amounts of competition. (Make use of the BSR history to make sure it is a consistent seller)
Step 3: Get better products created in those niches (no copying!), upload them with similar keywords in your own sentence form.
Step 4: Price competitively
Step 5: Rinse and repeat over and over again.
So many people get caught up in heading over to Amazon and going through thousands of pages and spreadsheets and using BSR plugins (been there done that). This can work sure, but wastes an incredible amount of time. For someone like my girlfriend who is rarely home with a busy schedule, getting things done and saving time is a priority. I basically taught her exactly what I have done to build up my own account as you can see, 7 months later, the exact same strategy is very easy to replicate. In fact, I do not think she has ever done research directly on Amazon.com as nothing is actually ranked in order. I tell people over and over again. You could be doing research and something on the 12th page could be selling BETTER than something on the first page because it is optimized for a better keyword. You would probably never have discovered that though because of the time it would take you to get through 12 pages of content. Merch Informer does it in 1 click. If you want to replicate the process, you can use the coupon code above.

The Results For November

Before we get to it, here is a quick recap of the October numbers:

You will notice that October earnings are actually a little bit higher than was reported in the case study. This is because Amazon pays based on when the shirt ships out to the customer and not when it is sold. The extra is brought over from the month previous. This month was actually MUCH better than October numbers!
Almost all of the anvil shirts are priced at $16.99 while the premium versions are priced at $19.99. The long sleeves on the account are priced higher at $25.99 but give about the same royalty as the other shirts on the account.
For the month of November, there was a massive spread of t-shirts sold. Lots of things that have never sold before and were re-uploaded sold through as well. Here is what the current uploads look like (keep in mind that this might be a tad bit more than at the end of the month since I am writing this a few days later, and the freeze just hit!):

Here is a summary of the totals for November 2017 from downloading the excel spreadsheet:

1186 Asins with $5399.15 in royalties!
If this month is anything to go by, with the current numbers and if the throttle does not hurt too bad, this account should do around $10k next month.
A few sales were made using the Etsy integration but have not been included here as work has not been focused here.

The Math

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.

Comments
  • Thanks for the update Neil.
    Do you have a pricing strategy for January when Amazon raises costs?
    I have had quite a few Long Sleeve sales at 26.99 in Royal Blue
    Thanks Again

    • I have been thinking about this. Nothing set in stone yet, but I may end up dropping prices in order to sell more (get more reviews) and make more in the long term. We shall see!

  • I’m a merchinformer user for many months. Is there any way we could get a video or set of videos of the process from finding a niche to actually listing a shirt? I’ve watched your videos and read your posts but there doesn’t seem to be a clear step by step process. A case study if you will.

  • Neil, I love this article, and I have a few questions:
    1. What did you do differently in April that you didn’t do in January – March to explain such a huge increase in sales?
    2. In one section, you show your November earnings to be $2729.81 and in another, you show the earnings to be $5399.14. Can you explain why these two are so different?
    3. Assuming this is all you are using to pay down your student loan debt, and that November is possibly an outlier, it will take you two years to pay off the debt. That is FREAKING AWESOME!! Are you prepared to stay the course and continue to scale? Because if so, I think you could pay oft this debt MUCH faster. And I would love to connect with you and learn, because my goal is also to pay off student loan debt.
    Keep up the great work!

    • If you are talking about the numbers from earlier this year, that is when she started putting effort into uploading and filling her design slots everyday. Once the slots started getting filled with well research designs (instead of doing NOTHING with the account previously), earnings went up.
      The earnings at $2729.81 are the earnings from the previous month (October 2017) whereas the $5399.14 are the earnings from November.
      If all goes well, December should be around double the amount of November so we shall see how fast we get to it.

  • Hey Neil, how do you Use Merch Informer to quickly find niches in the 100k-300k BSR ranges with the Merch Hunter Module?
    When I use MerchInformer, I can only search up to about 130k BSR.

    • Head over to the Merch Hunter, click on 100k+, and then type in a keyword and hit search. You will see shirts come up above 100k, but the real trick here is to take the keywords they are using in their listing, and use those to niche down (enter them back into the Merch Hunter), until you see shirts showing up in the 100k-300k BSR range you are looking for.

        • Niching down is taking a broad niche, and making it more specific. An example could be “hunting”. Niching down, you may go to “Bow hunting” and then finally “Women Bow Hunters” to get really specific.

  • Hi Neil, thanks for the report. Could you start including the number of designs that sold? I’d find that useful.

    • Do you know of an easy way to do this? Currently the CSV is split between ASINS, so if 1 shirt sold 5 times, but all different colors and sizes, it would be hard to quickly calculate. Any ideas I would love to include that.

      • Not sure exactly what you’re looking to do. If you want the number of sales by design, you can use a pivot table with the Name & ASIN fields as rows, then summary by total number of units.

  • Hi Neil,
    Do you know how many different niches are being targeted by this account? Some people go after hundreds of different niches and some stick to just a few primary ones. Thanks.

    • I would say we probably have around 100-150 niches in there. What the general plan has always been is to target as many different niches as possible and see what sells. Once we know what niches are performing for the account, go back and take a look. Generally if they are selling well, we will then get more designs created in that niche to “fatten” them up.

  • Great article series but here’s my question. You outsource your designson Upwork, etc for $4 a design and have 20 uploads a day so you’re paying $80 a day/$2,400 a month in designs? How does the math work out if you’re only taking in $2k or so in royalties per month? Maybe you’ve answered this already. Keep up the good work.

    • Two things actually. The first is that lately, the account has been using those slots to upload designs we ALREADY have to put on premium and long sleeve. Second is that the designer doing these essentially works for me full time, so it gets subsidized since she is in school and does not have the time to find a designer. So what does that mean? Well, you can easily spend time yourself and do those designs (which is what the vast majority of people do anyway, which is why I am not counting it in this case study), or you could outsource them yourself. Many people in Merch and that read this blog are willing to sink their time into learning to design so as long as you have the time, you will not have the extra expense.

      • Thanks for the reply Neil. I figured that was the case but never got confirmation from your posts. Btw, as someone who also paying $5 per design via Upwork do you have a good resource for learning graphic design as it relates to t-shirts?

        • I would just go and find some youtube channels. I am so bad at designing I just leave that to people who know what they are doing!

  • Damnnn so when I was throttle and couldn’t upload any live design in Nov-Dec my live shirts were unsearchable?
    My sales sucked BIG TIME in December and I couldn’t figure out why, if the above is true now I know and now that I’m unthrottled I hope my sales pick up.

  • You say that all long sleeves have new brands and bullet points. What about premium tees? Are you using different copy for them too? Also, how were you keeping track of what sold so you know what to go back and list as premiums and long sleeve?

    • Correct. Keeping track is kind of a pain, but just pulling the excel files from Merch and looking through them to see numbers.

  • When you do descriptions for your long sleeve and premium shirts, are you using the same bullet points and titles or do you completely rewrite them?

    • Rewriting them for “unique” content. This gives Amazon incentive to rank them both for the same query as Amazon is just a big search engine.

  • hi neil,
    may you elaborate more on step 2 please as I’m a bit confuse. thanks.
    Step 2: Niche down in the niches you find where the shirts are still in the same BSR range but have smaller amounts of competition. (Make use of the BSR history to make sure it is a consistent seller)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *