How To Make And Sell Your Own Branded Merch: A Complete Guide
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Have you ever wondered how to create your own custom logo t-shirts and other branded merch? Maybe you’re a non-profit that wants to make a more significant impact, or perhaps you’re a content creator who needs a great new way to promote yourself.
You’re not alone. Thousands of YouTubers, bloggers, content creators, artists, and bands want to know the exact same thing. There’s a reason for that: making and selling your own merch is something nearly anyone can do to grow their business significantly.
If you want to get your name out there, make some extra money, or raise awareness for a cause you care about, one of the easiest and most fun ways to do that is through creating custom branded merchandise like apparel and accessories, and we'll show you how.
Why should you make merch?
Whether it's a side gig or a full-fledged enterprise, every business needs to have its own unique branding.
The more time you spend thinking about your brand, the more defined and recognizable it will be. If you've been on social media in the past few years, you've probably seen branded merch in action. Some of the most excellent benefits of creating and selling merch are:
- It helps spread the word about your business and generate buzz around the products or services you offer.
- It can serve as an additional revenue stream for your business.
- It's an opportunity to connect with your audience and show them how much you value their support.
- It makes your existing audience feel more connected to you and builds a stronger sense of loyalty and trust.
And if you're currently offering freebies with your products as a bonus, this is an opportunity to turn that bonus into something that can generate sales for you.
Finally, offering custom merchandise is a fantastic opportunity to provide something new and exciting to your audience while also growing your brand!
How To Make And Sell Your Own Branded Merch
There are many ways to make money online, but creating a brand and selling your own branded merchandise can be one of the most fun and profitable.
But creating your own branded merchandise is not without its challenges.
Creating designs, printing them on apparel, getting them listed for sale across various sites, and shipping to your customers can feel overwhelming.
The good news is you don’t have to do it all on your own.
Some tools can help make things easier, as well as companies that can handle all of the logistics for you.
To get started with your own merch business, we’re going to break down the entire process of how to create and sell merch into five steps:
Step 1: Research Your Audience
The first step is to look at how your fans connect with your brand on a regular basis. You can then create merchandise for this audience depending on their characteristics and purchasing behavior.
For example, if you're a travel brand, do your fans prefer to interact with you through videos or photos? If that's the case, a nice-looking T-shirt with travel destinations might be the best option. A traveling set could also do better if they're more likely to share posts on Instagram. For example, selling an insulated tumbler with an insulated travel bag could be good for travelers.
Use an analytics platform like Sprout Social to learn more about your audience and their preferred products. Look for patterns in their behavior and leverage that information to help you make better product design decisions.
Asking for feedback directly from your audience is another good method to know more about them and what they like. This makes them feel like they're a part of the process and the finished product.
Depending on your target audience, you could ask them directly in a number of ways. Some good choices would be through your videos or stream if you’re a streamer, Youtuber or a TikToker. You could also do quick polls on Instagram and Twitter since most audiences find these the easiest to answer. You can also do polls on Facebook if you have a group with your fans or, you could make a post and redirect them to a survey.
To help you get started, here are some questions to ask:
- What are your favorite colors to wear?
- Is there a cap or t-shirt that you particularly like?
- What kind of design do you think would be cool?
- In your daily life, what item do you use the most?
- How much would you be willing to pay for this product?
Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Make Your Merch
Once you've figured out what your fans want, you can start making merchandise that caters to their preferences. Success in creating merch that people want depends on your ability to think creatively at this stage.
You don't have to make everything at once, so it's best to start with one product type to test the waters. This way, you can see how well your merch sells before investing more time and money into making other types of products.
When creating your own branded merchandise, keep the following in mind:
- If you're planning to get your artwork printed on products, you'll want to be sure it's of high quality. If you don't have any experience with graphic design or illustration, hire someone who does.
- Avoid legal issues by making sure your artwork is original and unique. This is very important. It would be best to avoid using any images or materials protected by copyright in case it causes issues in the future.
- When designing products, keep your target audience in mind and make sure it's something they'd buy.
- If you're a musician, it'll be a good idea to use your album or single cover art in mind when designing merchandising like T-shirts and posters.
- Before you go ahead with production and printing, make sure you receive a sample of the product to ensure it’s of high quality. You may also show it to friends to get their honest opinion on how good it looks and whether or not they would buy it.
Once you have your designs, produce mockup versions of your products using print-on-demand apps like Printful. You can show these mockups to your followers and gather feedback. This can help you validate your merch ideas while also involving your followers.
Step 3: Find a manufacturer or print-on-demand partner
Now is the time to start thinking about how you’re actually going to produce your merch. You can do so by 1) finding a print-on-demand supplier or 2) making it from scratch and finding a manufacturer.
Print on demand
Print on demand is the easiest way to get started because it doesn’t require any up-front costs or manufacturing know-how. A print-on-demand supplier will handle all of the production and shipping for you, in return for a cut of every sale you make.
You’ll want to make sure that you find a reputable company that creates quality products for an affordable price. Make sure to do your research and read their FAQs to check that they meet your needs!
If you select the print-on-demand option, Shopify integrates with several popular print-on-demand services if you go for this option. The best part is most services work on the dropshipping model, meaning they only charge for the products when a customer orders.
Here are a few:
Printful. Printful offers custom branding and a wide range of products including clothing, accessories and even home décor. Printful lets you upload your artwork and create mockups of your designs so you can preview them before finalizing your product listing.
Gooten. Gooten offers custom branding and automatically fulfills orders when they're placed through your store. They have a wide range of products including apparel, phone cases, umbrellas and more.
Printify. Printify offers over 250 products to choose from and they integrate with several ecommerce platforms like Etsy, eBay, Storenvy and more in addition to Shopify.
On the other hand, if you have some money to invest and want to be more involved in the production process, you can manufacture your own merch and sell it directly through your website.
If you want to be more involved in the manufacturing process, then you can go down the route of finding a manufacturer yourself. This means:
- Choosing the fabric (e.g., cotton or polyester)
- Creating a design and getting it screen printed on the fabric
- Cutting and sewing the fabric into the clothing (or other product) shape
- And more!
Step 4: Create Your Online Store with Shopify
Not surprisingly, we love Shopify as an ecommerce platform and there's a reason why it's #1. Setting up an ecommerce site used to take a lot of time and expertise. Today, however, it can take you just 15 minutes to set up an online store. All it takes is a few mouse clicks and typing to create your own digital storefront.
Creating a Shopify store to sell branded merchandise is easy. Follow these steps, and you'll be up and running in no time:
- Create an account
You can easily set up a Shopify store in less than an hour using Shopify. At the time of writing this post, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial so you can try out their platform before making a commitment.
- Choose a plan
If you are new to ecommerce or if you have never had an online store before, then we would recommend that you try out the 14-day free trial of Shopify. You will learn how everything works and you can see if it makes sense for your business. Once the 14-day trial is over, you will be asked to pay $29 per month for the basic Shopify plan which is more than enough when you are just starting out. You will also be able to upgrade your plan or add additional features as your business grows.
- Choose a theme
You'll be able to customize the look of your store and add new sales channels using one of their free themes. There are over 100 free themes to choose from, ranging from clothing and fashion to food and beverages.
- Add products
Next, you upload your products and add titles, some amazing descriptions and of course, photos to help people find them in searches.
- Set up your payment methods
You can set up your shipping methods, like flat rate, weight-based shipping, or even real-time carrier calculated shipping! After that you can set up your payment methods (Stripe, PayPal, etc.) and start selling products online.
Step 5: Sell Your Merch
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a huge social media following, then you need to find ways to get your merch in front of potential customers.
One way is to partner up with influencers or people who have a significant following and like your products. You can even offer them a commission for every sale. This can be an effective way to reach new audiences and get your merch in front of potential buyers.
Another way is to set up an affiliate marketing program with bloggers or other websites that are related to your niche or target audience, where they promote your merch in exchange for a commission.
Ideally, you should develop creative ways to promote your merch on social media. For example:
Run a contest or giveaway where one lucky follower will win a free t-shirt, hoodie, or other branded merchandise
Get an influencer or celebrity to wear or feature some of your merchandise in an image that they post on their own Instagram or similar social media account.
Ask followers to share images of them wearing, using, or enjoying the product that they’ve purchased from the store (this is called user-generated content).
Best branded merch to sell
Branded merchandise can also be one of the most powerful tools for increasing customer loyalty and brand awareness.
Why? Well, when people wear your branded merchandise, they are literally walking around with a billboard that promotes your business.
For example, think about how many people wear a Nike t-shirt or hat every day just because they like the brand. Think about how many people have stickers for the streaming services they use on their laptops. Or how many people have Starbucks mugs or tumblers with their favorite coffee drink in it.
People do this because they want others to know what brands they like and associate with. That’s why branded merchandise is so effective!
So, now that you understand why branded merchandise is so powerful, let’s get into a detailed list of the best branded merch to sell online for all business owners and professionals out there.
Youtube sensation, Emma Chamberlain’s merch for her Chamberlain Coffee line
When it comes to developing branded products with your company logo, a tote is one of the greatest and most practical eco-friendly promo things available. Your customers can take your branded totes anywhere — from the office to the grocery store and everywhere in between. This means that wherever they go, they're carrying around your logo and sharing it with others wherever they go.
Model, Salem Mitchell’s phone case merch for her collab with Wildflower
Due to the widespread use of cell phones, phone cases are excellent marketing products. Customizing a phone case with a company's logo with custom designs is now a breeze. It's also lightweight and durable, making it easier to sell it online and send it across the world.
This is an excellent choice if your target demographic is under the age of thirty. A lot of phone users, particularly iPhone users like to replace their cases every now and then. One of those cases could be yours! Make sure that yours has an awesome design that they'd want to take selfies with and post on social media for extra promotion.
T-shirt design from Youtubers, Rett and Link of Good Mythical Morning
T-shirts are a classic merch item for a reason. They're affordable, they're functional, and they allow your customers to advertise to their friends and family without feeling like they're promoting you in an annoying or overly pushy way. Fans of your brand will feel more connected to you or your brand with a well-created, stylish, customized t-shirt with a creative logo, quote or design.
Kpop stars, BTS’ tumbler designs for their collaboration with Gong Cha
Water bottles specifically insulated tumblers have gained popularity as more and more people avoid buying plastic bottles and also because the new, updated designs today are nice to carry everywhere. If you can get your water bottles to look nice while also promoting your brand, there’s no doubt your fans will eat it up!
Hopefully you’re now feeling more inspired to actually start making your own branded merchandise. When you do, make sure that you choose the right product for your brand and don’t forget to always offer your customers a variety of merchandise options. Experimenting with different styles and colors is an easy way to get creative and come up with unique customs but don’t overdo it either! By following the steps we’ve outlined in this post and following your own creative instincts too, you should be able to create your own swag in no time, get some cool designs out there, and hopefully sell some of it too. Woohoo!