Stop Trading Your Time For Money! Scale Your Merch Business

I recently got back from a conference in sunny California talking to people about Merch by Amazon and how (in my opinion and many others), it is the best online opportunity to make extra money or simply replace your day job. So many of the people I talked to where trying to figure out what designs worked best, the best way to get their products in front of customers, how to market, how to use keywords, and the list went on and on. MOST people I know in this business are not designers themselves but are still trying to learn how to design and get things to sell.

The day started off talking about “being good”. The simply fact is that when it comes to Merch by Amazon, and really any business, that you need to be good in order to make money. Sure, you might be able to put up some simple text based designs and sell a few. You might even get lucky and have one of your text based designs go viral. Unless you are a graphic artist though, you either need to spend a LOT of time learning how to design, be stuck uploading simplistic designs such as text based, or actually outsource.

Now I know you have all heard the phrase “Time is money”. Chris Green actually gave a talk about different ways to make money and one of the lines that was brought up is that if you do X and Y you could be making 350 dollars an hour. This plays into the mentality that a lot of people have with anything business related and especially with merch. I think it really gets people hung up and discouraged at first and thus leads to people burning out or outright failing.

Stop Trading Time For Money!

Think about it. The majority of the community is spending their time building out designs (if they are a designer or not).

This is where most people start, myself included, but I never put a value on that time. Why? Because it does not matter! This should be thought of as a start up cost with the goal of getting out of that role as quickly as possible.

Your Income Is Limited By Your Time

If you are trading your time for money, there is a ceiling that you will hit. If you really sit down and run the numbers, you see there are 24 hours a day and if you need 8 hours of sleep and spend a few hours each day to cook food, eat, relax, do things with friends and family, you are only left with around 14 hours to trade for income. 14 hours a day to trade for income IF you work from home and have no daily commute. Every little bit adds up and chips down on the time you have available to make something happen.

It will not matter how much you are “earning” per hour, the limiting factor is always the same… time.

Stop Trading Time For Money!

There are actually a few people I had in mind when I wrote this post. They spend their days designing for Merch by Amazon and create these amazing designs but they have a money goal they are slowly inching towards. Once you have figured out what works, it is time to remove yourself as much from the situation as possible and scale. There are others who really do enjoy the journey of creating the designs and they are perfectly happy where they are at. That is perfectly fine! Not everyone needs to make a million dollars to feel fulfilled. For the rest of us who want to skyrocket our income, it is time to speed up the process.

Making Time Work For You

Take a step back from your Merch business and think about what is slowing you down.

Is it research?

Is it designing?

Is it uploading?

Once you know what is causing the slow down in your business, you can work to fix it.

When I first started Merch by Amazon, I was spending 5-6 hours a day searching random keywords within Amazon trying to figure out what sells so I could get designs up and running to those customers. 5-6 hours a day was nothing but a time sink that I DID NOT need to be doing.

We created Merch Informer to cut those 5-6 hours a day down as much as possible and I now spend about 1-2 hours a MONTH with research. With all those extra hours in my day, I can focus on scaling my business in other ways and make that time work for me. Have I mentioned we have a 3 day free trial?

Even if you love designing, there is room for growth! Learn to outsource and scale up your business. If you have 14 hours a day and all you do is design, how many designs can you crank out? One? Two? Ten?

You only have 14 hours a day. So does everyone else.


Why would I spend my 14 hours a day designing when I can leverage other people’s time that they are glad to trade for money? I can hire 10 VAs and all of a sudden I have 140 hours a day at my disposal.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Leverage other people’s time in order to grow your business. I wrote a lot about outsourcing here:

How To Use Upwork To Outsource And Scale Your Merch Business

There was even a guy I spoke with this weekend who has outsourced his ENTIRE Merch by Amazon business, including outsourcing.

He stopped trading his time for money!

Work on Your Business, Not in Your Business

When you first start, you will most likely have to do everything yourself. This is bootstrapping at its core, but for most of us, it is a necessity.

The difference is that when you first find out what works, you have to scale it. Take your little bit of profit and just drive it right back in to your business. This has been the best way to scale from my personal experience and will keep you growing to new heights as you remove yourself from the day to day tasks and get involved in building your business to new heights. Work on your business, and stop spending your time in your business!

  • Very much agree. However the single barrier I cannot seem to get passed is that VAing my MBA account means someone else has access to it and could possibly take it over for themselves at any time. Any tips on this? Have you had the same fears?

    • Right now this is my own personal bottleneck since I still upload myself. I guess once you build a relationship with your VA they could do that as well, but what is the worst that could happen? You could always get it back if something happened.

      • Yeah I mean aside from that one issue, totally agree with VA’ing whatever you can. It’s too beneficial not to.
        As far as getting an account back, I’m not aware of any way to do it. I know I’ve heard horror stories of people having them stolen, but I’ve never heard a story of someone getting it back. 🙁
        Have you?

        • The only thing a rogue VA could do was change the login maybe, or change the banking credentials. If you are keeping an eye on the account, I would not think any of those could not be fixed.

          • Changing the login is exactly what I’m afraid of, and then they change the bank account. I don’t know of any way to recover it after that.

  • Nice article Neil…however. my only problem is the fact that your shirt is never guaranteed to sell. I see some people spending $20 per design, then hoping the shirt sells. that’s ludicrous to me.
    I used to sell on other POD sites before merch, & i sometimes get flashbacks & nightmares about using PPC and losing so much money.

      • Sucks cause I’ve paid for about $70 worth of different designs, and only 3 of them have sold. I’m choosing the wrong niches and I hate it

  • Neil great post. You provide valuable content at the event in California. I’ve used outsourcing in the past, however, I realized I could really do a lot more to help me maximize my time.

  • Hello Neil, so is it really possible to get a month’s (500) worth of t-shirt ideas in under two hours? That is awesome.

    • If you are dedicated, sure. Not always 500, maybe half that, but really depends on how you are doing your research.

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