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How to Make and Sell Your Merchandise Online
Posted Mar 14, 2019 by Kristen Pinkman, Ecwid Team

How to Make and Sell Your Merchandise Online

Just 15 years ago, logo T-shirts and branded merchandise were reserved for rockstars and the pop culture elite. Fast-forward to 2019, and all you’ll need is a couple of thousand Instagram followers and a winning attitude to launch your own successful merch line.

With smarter marketing tools and a variety of new ways to sell, e-commerce technologies have made it easier than ever before to reach and monetize your audience, even with little or no investment.

Whether you’re a recognized industry expert, a beauty blogger, or a high school student with a few funny TikTok videos, Ecwid can help you turn your follower base into new revenue streams. Read on to learn how to create and sell your own branded merchandise in minutes, right from your computer or smartphone.

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What You Need to Know About Branded Merchandise

Branded merchandise is a type of product with logos or original lettering that’s connected to or advertises a popular persona, organization, or event.

Merchandise of music bands


Music bands’ apparel is the most popular type of merchandise

Almost every popular musician has their own merchandise — from Metallica to Kanye West. Social media influencers have also been known to sell merch. In fact, according to Sellfy, YouTubers that sell merch can make up to 10 times more revenue than those who profit from ads alone.

YouTubers that sell merch can make up to 10 times more revenue than those who profit off ads only.

Any product suitable for printing can be sold as merchandise. It’s often products people can wear for promotion. For example, if one of your followers wears a cool T-shirt with the name of your YouTube channel on it, someone else may see it, look for your channel, and subscribe to it.

The most popular forms of branded merchandise are:

  • clothes: T-shirts, hoodies, tank tops;
  • accessories: bags, caps, beanies, cases for gadgets, wraps;
  • souvenirs: mugs, pins, notebooks, charms, mouse pads.

Beauty bloggers often partner with famous brands to make their own makeup lines or perfumes. Fitness bloggers sell clothes, accessories, and shoes for exercising.

Kayla Itsines sells accessories for workouts


Kayla Itsines sells accessories for workouts

Others go even further to sell anything from food to furniture. The German magazine 032с sells branded socks, duct tape, laces, and scrunchies.

A roll of duct tape with a logo of 032с magazine


A roll of duct tape with a logo of 032с magazine

Rock musicians are often people with great imagination. Kiss sold wine, knives, coffins, and funeral urns with the band’s logo. NOFX used inflatable sheep to support one of their albums, and Rammstein started selling bicycles in 2016.

A Rammstein bicycle


A Rammstein bicycle

As a matter of law, the rights for merchandise belong to the author, which means your merchandise also can’t be copied.

No one can use your photos or original images and prints — for example, pictures that were especially designed for a piece of merchandise — without your permission as the copyright holder. Your work is protected by copyright from the moment of creation, though you may be required to prove your authorship in order to enforce your copyright.

The name of a band can be registered as a trademark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It will protect your rights in case of a legal argument.

If your products portray commonly used words or phrases, it will be more difficult to protect your right of authorship.

Legally, an author, as well as any other brand that has bought the right to use elements of the author’s brand, is permitted to sell merchandise.

Represent partners with influencers, celebrities and independent artists to sell official merchandise


Represent’s official merchandise

How to Create Merchandise

A lot of things depend on the product you want to sell. Each item is produced differently. For example, you can’t use the same method of printing on T-shirts and mugs, so their prime cost and price will be different.

Step 1. Decide what you’re going to sell

Choose the things that are relevant to your audience. For example, if your band is popular among bikers, think about selling motorcycle apparel.

Or if you’re brave enough, create merch that isn’t relatable to your audience at all. For example, items with unusual sayings, funny illustrations, or anything else that highlights your style and personality. The White Stripes sold sewing kits.

A sewing kit by The White Stripes


A sewing kit by The White Stripes

Any printed product can become merchandise. It can be a commonly used item or something only your fans would understand. Is it something your audience would buy? If the answer’s yes, it’s the right product.

Aphex Twin-faced bears make sense only to his fans


Aphex Twin-faced bears make sense only to his fans

Brainstorm several good ideas, then estimate which would be the most profitable. Review your suppliers’ prices to calculate the prime cost. And if you’re limited on time, money, or ideas, T-shirts are never a bad option.

Step 2. Create the design

You can print a logo, a photo, a catchphrase, or an image on your merchandise.

Ariana Grande’s merchandise with the title of her song on it


Ariana Grande’s merchandise with the title of her song on it

Your prints have to be exclusive. People can buy cheaper mugs and T-shirts anywhere. What is it that makes your merchandise special? Bring your own authenticity and fresh ideas to the table.

The easiest way to evaluate future demand for your merchandise is to offer a pre-order of the products you’re going to sell. This will let you see what appeals to your audience most.

Ecwid E-Commerce is integrated with Printful, a service for selling merch on demand. You don’t have to order a big lot in advance and worry that you won’t be able to sell all of it. A customer places an order in your Ecwid online store, and Printful takes care of the rest: it makes the product and ships it to the customer.

Artist Ketnipz merchandise


Artist Ketnipz made this hoodie because the majority of his followers voted for it on Instagram Stories

Step 3. Order a mockup

First, you need to find a designer that will prepare a mockup of your image for the print. You can look for freelancers at websites like Upwork and DesignCrowd or art communities as Behance or Dribbble. The cost of the work depends on the intricacy of the image and a designer’s expertise.

If you use Printful and Ecwid, you can just upload the picture to the app and see how it looks on different products.

Step 4. Order a pilot batch

It’s better to start with a small batch. Some companies can do the whole job for you: buy products, print your image, and deliver the merch to you (or directly to your customers). In the case of Printful, you can make a sample order.

Awesome Merchandise


Awesome Merchandise is one of the sites where you can order custom printed products

Step 5. Calculate the prime cost

The prime cost is the price you’re going to sell your products at. It consists of a first cost and a retail margin.

A first cost of merchandise is a cost of production, advertising, and delivery. It depends on many factors: quality of the product, the complexity of the print, a number of copies printed.
The bigger your order, the cheaper the production and the printing. However, you need to pace yourself. For example, it’s cheaper to order 1,000 mugs than 100 mugs, but if you can’t guarantee that you can sell all of them, you might want to order fewer.

When calculating the first cost, keep in mind how much you want to earn and how solvent your audience is.

If you are not sure of your idea, run a crowdfunding campaign before you make the first lot of your merch. If you’ve calculated everything right, you won’t lose anything (don’t forget to add the fee of a crowdfunding platform to the price). In case of a failure, if the audience is indifferent to your sweatshirts and T-shirts, you won’t lose money on the production of the merchandise.

Launching merchandise on Kickstarter


An example of a pre-order campaign for launching merchandise on Kickstarter

If you use Printful, you don’t have to worry about pre-orders. Add products to your store, set a mark-up, and that’s it.

Step 6. Expand your business

If everything goes like clockwork and the first lot is sold out, you can think about selling merchandise on a regular basis or even about running your own merch production, like making your own clothes.
In this case, you need to find a supplier so that you buy a lot of simple same-type items for a price lower than a retail one. There are foreign and domestic suppliers; the cheapest option is to order items from China.

Check out our guides:

It’s easier to make a limited lot of merchandise, for instance, 500 items only. Tell your audience it’s a limited edition — that trick can even grow your sales. Next time you can change the prints or products to keep the interest up. You can also sell several basic products and offer limited collections from time to time, when it’s a holiday or concert season. Print-on-demand services are a win here as well, as you don’t have to deal with manufacturing and inventory.

How to Sell Merchandise and Where to Do It

Now that you’ve decided what you’re going to sell, it’s time to think about how to do it. Social media helps to promote your merchandise, and an online store makes the order process easier for customers.

Social media and blog pages

You can sell a small lot of products (20-30 items) on your social media pages like Facebook and Instagram, and your blog. Make posts about your products, upload pictures of you wearing the merch, post user-generated content, collect reviews.

Colleen Ballinger posts a photo with her merchandise on her Instagram account


Colleen Ballinger posts a photo with her merchandise on her Instagram account

Throw contests with your merch as a prize. For example, run a repost giveaway on social media. This way you’ll make your audience more active and introduce other people to your product.

Try selling through influencers — partner with bloggers or famous people you know to make ad posts. If you don’t know any bloggers personally, order advertising from the influencers you can find in your niche.

Promote your products on social media as the majority of your customers are your followers. Ads on search engines aren’t so effective if you’re not a celebrity. So try to wear your own merch more often, and offer it on all platforms.

Online store

Get an online store if you sell more than one product and want to have a permanent income from your merch. A store helps to get more traffic, helps to run promotions, and strengthens your brand.

If you’re new to creating online stores, one of the easiest options is to use Ecwid. There are two ways to do that. You can make a free Ecwid E-Commerce website with a built-in store.

If you already have a site or a blog, add an online store to it. Ecwid works with websites on WordPress, Wix, Tilda, Adobe Muse, and more. For example, Molotov Jukebox sell CDs on their site.

An Ecwid store of the rock band American Bombshell


An Ecwid store of the rock band American Bombshell

Marketplaces

There are online marketplaces that sell other people’s products, like Represent, MerchNOW, or Hello Merch. Selling your products on marketplaces helps to access a bigger audience. Keep in mind that these platforms have their own rules. Some of them take a commission on every sale they bring you, while others charge you a listing fee.

***

So you’ve chosen the products you’re going to sell, come up with a print, and ordered a pilot batch. You’ve made an online store and prepared social media posts. Congrats, it looks like you’re ready to launch your merchandise. What’s your next step? You need to learn how to promote your products and attract your first customers. Check out our guides that can help you with that:

Try to keep up the interest to the merchandise so that your sales remain high. Offer different new products, experiment with prints, expand the assortment, be creative. Give it a try! Hopefully, our guide will help you to start.

About the author
Kristen is a сontent creator at Ecwid. She finds inspiration in sci-fi books, jazz music, and home-cooked food.