Custom Merch 101

You built your audience and your online brand. Now it’s time to design and produce your own custom merchandise! Selling a t-shirt with your face on it to someone other than your dad means you’ve really made it, right? Custom merchandise also offers your fans a chance to directly support your work by promoting your image, fostering stronger engagement with your supporters, and raising some funds for your next project. With these simple steps, you can start designing and selling your own custom merch online.

Make A Design

Seems pretty self-explanatory, but making the most of your merch requires thinking a little harder about who your audience is and what they want. Who will order your custom merch? Are there any running motifs, jokes, or catchphrases your audience loves? Do you need to promote a specific album, web series, or project? Better yet, just ask the people what they want. Put out a survey to get an idea of the kind of merch your fans would actually enjoy, or create a design contest to get them involved. They’ll love being part of the process of choosing, creating and maybe even designing your new merchandise. T-shirts are the most common, but think outside the box. You can customize pretty much anything — tote bags, key chains, paper clips, and even selfie lights. You’ll also want to explore some current design trends and see what other influencers are offering to help you brainstorm concepts. Using your existing branded materials is a great starting point, but if you don’t have branded materials or a logo yet, try a website like Fiverr to connect with graphic designers who can make you one.

Consider Your Budget

If you’re going the more traditional route of ordering and distributing the merch yourself, you’ll have pay for the products upfront and have a plan for inventory management. Offer pre-orders, so you’re not stuck with boxes and boxes of merchandise that didn’t get purchased. Also, look for price breaks. Most manufacturers offer price breaks at certain quantities. For example, if you want to order 100 shirts, but there’s a price break at 120, then it might make sense to order those extra 20 shirts. 

Host Your Store

You can try a dedicated ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce where you can sell your products in an online store, on social media and online marketplaces, and using other online sales channels. Shopify plan includes a Shopify-hosted domain at a address, or you can use your own domain. If you already have a website or blog (including WordPress and Squarespace), you can embed a Buy Button that connects with your Shopify checkout. You can even post and sell products directly from the “Shop” tab on your Facebook page or sell your products on Instagram by tagging them when they appear in your Instagram posts. If you don’t want to use a dedicated ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, Wix is the best website builder with ecommerce functionality on the market. Wix easily allows you to add ecommerce functions to your website. 

Find the Right Platform

There are plenty of online store platforms out there that let you open shop without investing a dime. You’ll receive a commission on sales, and that number will usually increase the more sales you make. Platforms like Bonfire and Spreadshop have no minimum sale requirements and will also handle all the orders and shipping for you. Simply register, upload your designs to their customizable products, promote your brand and watch the sales roll in! You will be limited to the products that they offer, but this is a great option if you don’t want to worry about the details of production, packaging, and shipping. They also allow you to easily link social media accounts with your shop and make it fast and simple to integrate your store into your own website. Make sure you understand and are happy with all the terms and pick a platform with the most flexible options that work for you. If you do a lot of live streams, Streamlabs OBS also offers an integrated merchandise store option. Similar to Bonfire and Spreadshop, Streamlabs offers a variety of merch you can customize with a graphic you upload, but one of the coolest features in the Streamlabs shop is that you can create a special alert message on your live streams. Any time a viewer purchases an item while you’re streaming, a custom message (for example, [name] bought a [product]) will pop up.

Set Up Your Store

Make sure your online store is organized and easy to navigate. Each item should have a professional looking photo as well as a description. If you’re taking the pictures yourself, get an inexpensive table top light box Amazon or set up a tripod and models the goods yourself. Go one step further by adding a backstory or the inspiration for an item and why you think your fans will enjoy it. 

Price Your Items

If you’re ordering and distributing the merchandise yourself, figure out how much each item costs you to make and how much profit you want. Add those two number together to figure out how much you should charge for each item. It’s also important to be realistic. You want to make a profit, but you don’t want your customers doing a complete 180 once they look at your prices. Do your homework and see how much other influencers are selling their merch for. If you’re using an online shop platform, you’ll still be able to adjust the price, but they will give you a price minimum for each item.

Promote Your Merch

The best way to engage your audience and generate a lot of interest for your merch is to use a blend of different promotional tactics across all your social platforms. Announce your merch ahead of time to get your fans excited. Collaborate with other influencers to rep each other’s merch, and incorporate it seamlessly in your social posts or videos. You can even send it out as a thank you for your Patrons or create a giveaway. Don’t forget to ask for shares and pictures of your fans wearing the merch!

As you can see, it’s easier than ever to start your own merch store, and it’s another great way to market yourself to your fans.