How to Make Money on Shopify (Step-by-Step With Examples!)

How to Make Money on Shopify (Step-by-Step With Examples!)

Interested in building a thriving online business that earns thousands of dollars per month or more? One you can work on from anywhere? 

Hey, who wouldn’t love that? (Especially those of us on a website called Niche Pursuits!)

All of us share the goal of a successful business, but it can be hard to know which direction to go when you’re still starting out. 

I’m here to help!

Now, I’m sure you’ve been thinking about building your own online business for a while, so you probably already know about Shopify, an e-commerce platform that gives you the infrastructure you need to make things happen.

But you also know it’s not enough just to have a tool for building your online store, payment processing, and shipping. Does owning a lawnmower automatically mean your lawn is freshly manicured?

To have a real business, you need more than an online storefront – you need something to sell!

In this in-depth post, I want to share how to make money on Shopify. This guide should hopefully get the gears turning and help you figure out the right business for you in Shopify! 


What is Shopify?

If you already know all about Shopify and how it works, just skip to the next section about business ideas! For everyone else, I’ll go ahead and explain what Shopify is all about.

Shopify Store

Basically, Shopify is an all-in-one e-commerce platform that helps streamline all of the logistical stuff that can be intimidating and time-consuming to a small business owner who’s looking to sell online.

Here’s just a quick list of what it helps you do:

  • Build an e-commerce store (includes prebuilt themes)
  • Create product listings
  • Optimize store for SEO
  • Set up a shopping cart
  • Manage credit card transactions
  • Automate emails for cart abandonment
  • Collect sales tax automatically
  • Manage fulfillment
  • Offer discount codes, sales, coupons, and gift cards
  • Measure results with analytics reports
  • Make your store responsive for mobile 

You can create your entire store directly through Shopify with its hosted platform, pointing your domain there and even adding a blog through Shopify’s full-featured content management system. Or with the most basic plan, Shopify Lite, you can simply add embeddable products to a Facebook page or existing website on WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace!

The simplest way to put it is this: Shopify helps you sell stuff online.

On the other hand, you need to understand that Shopify is NOT a marketplace with an existing audience like Etsy, eBay, or Amazon.

The same way a brick-and-mortar business needs local marketing to drive foot traffic, your Shopify store is virtually invisible without all of the online marketing techniques we teach here at Niche Pursuits.

I’ll talk more about traffic generating strategies later in this post.

How to Make Money on Shopify: Business Ideas

Now that you have a sense of what Shopify is, the next thing to think about is which business you want to build with it. In order to make money on Shopify, your most important decision will be to choose a viable business model.

There’s obviously more to it than that, but you’ve got a HUGE head start if you actually pick a strategy that others have successfully used for their online businesses.

So, here are just a few of the approaches people commonly use to make money on Shopify!

Physical Goods

In my experience, physical goods represent Shopify’s sweet spot. It’s hard to do all the legwork to create your own ecommerce store for physical goods from scratch, but fortunately, Shopify lets you just plug in your products and go. It’s seriously fast!

Now, you might be wondering: Why bother with Shopify instead of just selling physical products with something like Amazon FBA

Good question!

Both require a monthly subscription fee if you plan to sell a decent volume of products, and both provide you with an ecommerce solution to hawk your wares.

But here’s the thing about Amazon: while it has huge traffic, it also has huge competition. Amazon also takes away a lot of your control, including everything from how you set up your product listing to your branding.

Worst of all, it’s super easy for a buyer on your Amazon product listing to click over to a competitor’s product without even thinking about it – most sellers on Amazon are invisible to buyers, making brand loyalty a concern.

With Shopify, you can build a strong brand on your own store, plus create an email list and content that draws organic traffic to your website. All of this control gives you a major leg up!

(Of course, like many major brands do, you can always sell your Shopify products on Amazon in addition to your own store, but I’ll get to that later!)

With all of that said, the two most common ways you can use Shopify to sell physical goods online are dropshipping and print on demand. I’ll also touch on flipping retail products, if that’s your cup of tea.

Dropshipping

You’ve no doubt heard about dropshipping plenty of times already in online marketing and ecommerce circles.

The basic business model of dropshipping is just a method of fulfillment for physical products that people have ordered online. There’s nothing inherently magical about dropshipping, except that it lowers the barrier to entry for us mere mortals who don’t have our own warehouse space to store inventory.

As a dropshipper, you’re actually in the marketing business – it’s your job to sell another manufacturer or brand’s products to an audience online, and then the manufacturer will fulfill the order. It’s a symbiotic relationship where you can focus on marketing and sales without thinking about inventory and fulfillment, and the shipper can do the same in reverse.

Your approach to dropshipping on Shopify should be to partner with distributors who are selling high-priced items. As a marketer, you can then use SEO content and Google Ads campaigns to help serve results to people who are actively searching for the type of product you’re selling.

With dropshipping, your primary expenses are fairly minimal: just paid ads and a Shopify subscription is often sufficient. Eventually, you may hire people to help with product uploads and customer service – but at first, if you’re doing the work yourself, that’s pretty much it!

Your margins may not be as good with dropshipping compared to managing all of the inventory yourself, and you’re dependent on the supplier or manufacturer for your brand’s success, but dropshipping is a fairly low-capital way to get into the business of physical products.

Print on Demand

The whole point of print on demand is to eliminate the need for massive upfront costs on inventory for items, and to instead create them only as orders come in. It basically works the same way dropshipping does, but the kinds of products you sell with print on demand are a little more specific.

If you’re ready to try print on demand, you can link up your Shopify store to a print on demand service, typically a third-party print on demand app like Printful within Shopify.

The simple process goes like this:

  1. You add products for sale to your store.
  2. A customer orders the product from your store.
  3. Your store sends the customer’s order to your print on demand service.
  4. The print on demand service ships the order to your customer.
  5. Profit.

You can do this for all kinds of “printed” products, either by creating your own products or adding a custom design or logo to existing products. Some of the items you can sell on demand include:

One great thing about print on demand is how easy it is to get started. Other companies have spread out the risk by buying these physical products in bulk that you can then customize with your own design.

Even better, it’s easy to use Shopify to test out your different ideas. Your only upfront expense is the time and money invested in creating a design for the print on demand company, so you have very little risk in A/B testing different product options and seeing what’s most popular.

And because no one else will have your exact design or brand, you can carve out a niche for yourself in the marketplace!

Flipping Products

There’s inherent value in physical goods, which means there’s always the potential for a little thing called retail arbitrage.

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds: arbitrage is just a fancy word for “flipping,” like those annoying people on HGTV who act like they understand house flipping. But instead of the crazy amount of capital involved in buying and selling an entire house, you can do this on a much smaller scale with everyday items and your very own Shopify store.

Here’s the basic premise: You go to a chain retail store like Target, Staples, Walmart, Home Depot, Ross, or Gamestop – or an online source like eBay or Craigslist – to buy products at a lower price than what they might sell for online. It helps to grab items on clearance or sales, and you’ll typically buy dozens of the same product once you’ve determined it can fetch a higher price on your store.

This arbitrage process is commonly done with Amazon FBA or eBay, but it’s a perfectly legitimate option for your Shopify store as well. (And again, it’s always possible to list your products from Shopify on Amazon or eBay if you want to.)

While there’s nothing wrong with flipping every product you find, I recommend that you pick a handful of categories that your brand will represent, such as baby clothes, electronics, toys, or fishing gear. Whatever areas you focus on, you’ll become intimately familiar with what these things cost over time, so you’ll be able to spot deals immediately – and then you can build a brand that people come to associate with those items as well.

Now, flipping is NOT for the faint of heart. Unlike dropshipping or print on demand, YOU are responsible for pretty much everything: sourcing, inventory management, pricing, and fulfillment.

If you’re good at retail arbitrage, you can make a LOT of money, because you have so much more control over the process – but if you’re not, you might end up with two hundred boxes of fidget spinners sitting in your basement that you thought would always be popular (ahem). 

The bottom line is, a great deal of time, effort, money, and strategizing needs to go into retail arbitrage, but your Shopify store is a perfect place to build your brand, list these products, and make lots of sales! 

Productized Services

Not sure you want to deal with physical products? No worries!

On Shopify, you can also sell all kinds of “productized” services like freelance web design, SEO packages, live events, online classes, and consulting. 

A common way to do it is to treat each separate “level” of service as a different SKU. So as a guitar instructor, for example, you might have options for 30 min, 1 hour, and 2 hour lessons that the buyer can select. Each of these would be sold at different price points and represented as a different “product” in the system.

Productized services make sense in the Shopify model because they’re standardized and easy to sell in an online transaction right away. Both the buyer and seller understand exactly what’s being offered.

By contrast, any custom services that would require a quote are still doable, but kind of a weird fit for Shopify. Unless you’re selling these services alongside actual products in the same online store, it’s pretty easy to just sell custom services using a traditional website.

For example, if you sell graphic design and always need to give a custom quote, you may just want to set up a call to action for buyers to schedule a call. You don’t need Shopify for this – slap a button on your WordPress website (any visual builder will do) and link it to a scheduling service like Calendly for an automatic process to get these leads scheduled for a call.

If you ARE determined to use Shopify to generate leads, here’s one more interesting possibility: Rather than selling a product, you can choose to “sell” a totally free class or live event. Shopify doesn’t require you to charge in order to use its ecommerce functionality, so you can use it for lead generation by charging $0 and advertising a FREE training, webinar, coaching call, etc. 

Regardless, you’ll want to make sure you disable the shipping for this type of purchase at the product level, because the transaction doesn’t involve shipping a physical good.

Digital Products

In this day and age, most people are pretty comfortable making 100% digital purchases.

Using Shopify, you can easily sell digital products – either your own or somebody else’s. This is great because there’s no inventory to worry about or cost of goods sold. With your expenses pretty much fixed, every unit sold is basically 100% profit. 

Here are just a few possible digital products to sell:

  • Video courses
  • EBooks
  • Apps
  • Licensable assets (stock photos, music, video)
  • Digital tools (WordPress templates, spreadsheets, After Effects templates)
  • Access to membership sites
  • Digital downloads (music, art, wallpapers, ringtones)

The fact is, you have all kind of possibilities here, and you can offer different types of products on the same store. You can even mix and match physical and digital products, as well as services!

And as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to come up with your own products unless you’re ready to. If all you want to do is set up shop selling affiliate products, you can absolutely do that in Shopify. Most affiliates provide you with some creative like banner ads or descriptions that you can use in your store, whether in Shopify or on your own website.

Setting Up Your Shopify Store

Now that you’ve had a chance to think about your business model, are you ready to get started for real with your own Shopify store?

If you’ve never signed up before, don’t forget to grab this nice 14-day free trial!

Get Started on Shopify for FREE here!

Now, the first thing you do when you sign up is enter your name and the name of your store. For mine, I chose the ultra-clever “Thrasher’s Store” (yes, Thrasher is my real last name).

Next, you can tell Shopify where you’re at in your ecommerce journey. 

Shopify sign-up

Once you’re all the way in, you’re sort of dropped off the deep end. Yes, there’s some training, but it’s a little overwhelming at first.

To orient you, notice the sidebar on the left side of your screen. This is where you’ll manage everything on the back end, including your orders, products, and marketing. 

Shopify sidebar

You’ll also have sales channels where you can manage what your customers see on the front end.

Okay, so there’s a lot to do now that you’ve started your Shopify store, but what steps should you take?

Well, on the home page, they suggest you add a product, customize your theme, and add your domain. Here’s what I recommend.

Step 1: Establish Your Business

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but you should REALLY think through what your business model is going to be. Especially when you’re starting out, you can’t do everything at once and expect to do well.

Consider what makes sense for your brand, what you like to do, and what area you’re most knowledgeable about. What would you realistically be able to start making sales in pretty quickly?

For a lot of us, that might be a service – and that’s okay! Countless businesses start with services and develop information products or physical products based around that core offering later.

Or maybe you want to take this opportunity to learn something brand-new, such as dropshipping. Do it!

My advice is to pick ONE thing and commit to it for a good 3-6 months before you think about switching. Resist shiny object syndrome. It’s not easy, but it’s important!

Lastly, once you have a sense of what kind of product or service you’re going to sell, you need to finalize your business name.

Once you have a business model and a name, you’re ready to start building an ecommerce store!

Step 2: Customize Your Theme

Got your business name and a strategy in mind? Great, back to Shopify!

Under “SALES CHANNELS,” this is where you customize what the customers see on the front end. To start, your only channel is the Online Store that comes with Shopify – and it’s pretty bland before you start adding products and customizing the visuals. 

How bland? Well…

Shopify Default Store

Can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Like with the default WordPress theme, the theme you start with in Shopify (fittingly called “Debut”) really NEEDS to go – if for no other reason than the fact that thousands of other people probably never bother to change theirs from Debut.

The kind of business model you decided on may impact which theme makes sense for you. Now that you have the business in mind, let’s get a better theme for your store!

Right under your Online Store in the sidebar, you’ll see a tab for “Themes.” Click it and choose either free or paid themes to browse.

If you’re willing to pony up some cash, the paid themes give you a lot more features and flexibility – and they can be searched for by industry!

For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to spend $180 on a premium Shopify theme, but just know that this one-time expense can dramatically open up your options with your store. 

I went with the free theme Brooklyn, which is theoretically intended for an apparel store. Let’s see what products I can find!

Step 3: Add Your Products to Shopify Store

Okay, now the real magic happens! You’re going to actually put some real products in the store that can be sold.

This isn’t too difficult. Just go to the “Products” tab in the sidebar and click “Add Product.” 

Shopify Add Products

Once you’re on the Products page, you can fill out all of the details for your own product and upload your product image. 

If you don’t have any products to sell yet, you have another option: Next to “Add Product” is a little link called “Find Products.”

This takes you to a Shopify blog post full of third-party apps that offer physical products you can sell on your store. Here are just a few of them:

  • Oberlo
  • Shapeways
  • MXED
  • Printful
  • Printify
  • Creative Hub

These include both free and paid options, and give you a helpful starting point when you don’t know what you want to sell.

We can get started with basically any of them – but let’s see what Oberlo has to offer.

Add Oberlo

Once I installed Oberlo, I saw that there are literally millions of items you can import wholesale via AliExpress (a China-based retail service owned by Alibaba) and sell on your store. 

I chose a hammock and clicked import to bring it to my store. Then, I selected the option to edit the product… and voila!

Shopify Hammock Product

It filled in a lot of the details for me, but I would definitely customize the product title, images, and so on.

You can also set up collections (either manual or automatic) that group together certain types of products in your store.

A manual collection is one that you curate yourself on an individual basis, while automatic collections are based on conditions that products meet.

Now, this was just a demonstration – I would recommend being a little more strategic than that in picking your products. But there’s nothing wrong with adding different apps to Shopify and exploring all of the items you can sell!

Getting Traffic to Your Shopify Store

Great! We have a theme and some products ready to go.

Now, let’s get some sales!

As with any online business, there are all kinds of ways to get traffic to your Shopify store. Of course, Shopify is a little different than a content website, so I’m going to help you focus on the best choices for an ecommerce store.

I’ll start off by saying you should ALWAYS look into PPC ads for marketing your Shopify store.

Why?

Well, the problem with straight SEO is that it usually takes months to rank, and even then, you have to be lucky enough to find a bunch of low-competition buyer-intent keywords that work for what you’re selling.

Shopify does have a blog function included, and I definitely recommend you use it – just don’t RELY on your original blog content to supply all of your incoming traffic.

Lastly, keep in mind that every vertical is different, so you may have to experiment to see which marketing approach gets you the best results.

PPC Ads

Google Shopping Ads

If you try PPC ads, you want to make sure you’re putting the odds on your side that your ad is the right fit for your buyer and your products.

Text ads can be effective, but consider starting with Google Shopping Ads – these will display actual images of your product. For physical products, images ads can be a lot stronger.

You also need to think about the landing page you’re going to use for your PPC ads. This is a common mistake – if someone searches for a specific type of shoe like crocs and clicks your ad, don’t just drop them on your generic store page!

Social Media Ads

Social media ads can be tricky when you’re trying to get people to buy something right away. Unlike with Google search, people on social media generally aren’t on there looking to make a purchase – so you need to keep this in mind as you create your ads for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Done right, social ads can work very well! You just need to think like your buyer, and use demographic and psychographic data to pinpoint who your target audience really is and what they want. 

Alternatively, you might think about social media ads as a great way to build your email list. These users may not be ready to make a purchase yet, but could be perfectly willing to join your list in exchange for some kind of freebie. That’s one of the best things about having your own ecommerce store – you have the ability to build a following and a long-term relationship with your customers. 

Influencer Marketing

I’m not as experienced with influencer marketing, but it’s definitely worth looking into, especially if your product has a “cool factor.” After all, there’s a reason why people are scrambling to become “Insta famous” – you can cash in!

The reality is, micro-influencers get high engagement from their followers, especially on sites like Instagram and YouTube. By getting free or paid mentions from influencers in your space, you can get a flood of new traffic to your site – and these are people motivated to buy, because you’re essentially getting a word-of-mouth recommendation.

Like with social ads, the value of influencer marketing goes beyond immediate sales. This strategy can help you reach new audiences and build awareness of your brand. It also helps you build connections with people in your space, which opens up future opportunities!

Content Marketing

With blog content on your Shopify site, you can attract buyers organically through Google search. You can do the same with videos on YouTube. You can create a podcast that mentions your store. You can do guest posts on industry blogs. You can also manage social media accounts or pages centered around a topic related to your store and link to it there.

However you go about it, creating original and valuable content is a time-tested way to get traffic to your website. But the key is to produce content for people at EVERY stage in the buyer’s journey.

While it’s tempting to just write content about what you sell (product or service), most people aren’t looking for that – but they ARE looking for something that explains what their problem is and gives them solutions.

It’s a little harder if your brand is more artistic and less about providing solutions to problems, but even art is essentially a solution to a problem – people look to art for entertainment, inspiration, status, comfort, etc.

Get to know what your potential audience likes and where they are online, then post to channels where you can show off what you do. This could include Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram, Imgur, DeviantArt… the list goes on!

If you want to figure out how to make money on Shopify, sometimes you have to get creative.  

Shopify Apps and Third-Party Integrations

One of the most useful features of Shopify is that it connects with other platforms and third-party apps to extend its functionality. Similar to WordPress plugins, these are sometimes free and sometimes paid, but they can dramatically improve the way you sell. 

In the sidebar, you’ll see a tab for Apps. From there, you can visit the Shopify App Store, which will extend the functionality of your store with apps for everything from dropshipping to live chat to marketing automation.

Shopify App Store

Like with themes, you can easily find free or paid versions of almost any function you’re looking for. Here are some of the main categories:

  • Inventory management
  • Customer support
  • SEO
  • In-house fulfillment
  • Email marketing

You can even work with a developer to make a private app for your Shopify, if you have the resources to make that happen!

As far as third-party integrations, if you click the little plus button next to “SALES CHANNELS” in the sidebar, you can easily add new channels with other platforms, including Facebook Shop, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, and the universal “Buy Button” that applies to any website or blog you manage.

Of course, any of these options may require additional fees associated with selling on another platform.

Shopify Plans and Pricing

Obviously, you can try Shopify for free to get a handle on it, but eventually, you’ll want to settle on the right plan for your business. The good news is, Shopify plans are actually pretty straightforward!

While their main plans are listed prominently, you technically have five options:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/mo
  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo
  • Shopify: $79/mo
  • Advanced Shopify: $299/mo
  • Shopify Plus: $????/mo

Shopify Lite

Shopify Lite isn’t heavily emphasized on the pricing page, partly because it doesn’t really give you the full ecommerce store I’ve been talking about throughout this post. Instead, the Lite version just lets you sell on your website, social, or offline for an affordable $9/mo using an embeddable buy button.

This may be the perfect fit for you if you’ve already built your own blog or Facebook page!

Basic Shopify

At $29/mo, Basic Shopify is a solid starting point for your own fully-hosted ecommerce store. If you have products or services being sold at a decent price point, you’ll make this subscription fee back quickly.

Basic Shopify comes with most of the features we’ve talked about, so it might be easier to point out what Basic Shopify doesn’t have: gift cards, professional reports, or the biggest discounts on credit card rates and shipping fees. It also gives you just two staff accounts, compared to 5 or 15 with the more advanced plans.

Shopify

The regular Shopify plan costs $79/mo, and it adds a few perks like gift cards, 5 staff accounts, professional reports, a better shipping discount, advanced reporting, and more features for Point of Sale.

It also gives you a significant drop in fees for non-Shopify Payments providers.

Advanced Shopify

The most expensive standard plan, Advanced Shopify costs $299/mo. This one makes sense if you’re doing a LOT of volume, because it gives you substantial discounts on all shipping and payment processing fees for each unit sold. 

It also comes with advanced report building so you can customize your reports and track what’s most important to you. This plan also includes real-time carrier shipping.

Shopify Plus

This is Shopify’s scalable enterprise-level solution, and it requires a custom quote, but expect to pay multiple thousands of dollars per month for Shopify Plus. It includes a dedicated support team and 24/7 support.

This is for large companies, so most of us won’t need to look at it, but I wanted to make sure you knew it was an option, just in case!

How to Make Money on Shopify Wrap-Up

There’s SO much that goes into building a successful online business – I couldn’t possibly cover everything in a single post!

However, I hope this gave you a really good starting point for creating an online business with Shopify. By picking a business model, choosing your products, defining your brand, customizing your theme, and getting traffic to your store, you have the foundation of a thriving online business.

Lastly, I want to remind you that this is all an evolving process. Paid ads that are working for you today may not work tomorrow. Algorithms will change. New marketing opportunities will open up – products will ebb and flow in popularity.

As long as you keep an open mind and test your ideas, you should go far! 

By Daniel Thrasher

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How to Make Money With Ecommerce: Get Started for $200 or Less!

How to Make Money With Ecommerce: Get Started for $200 or Less!

The world of ecommerce may seem pretty complex, but at its core, ecommerce isn’t that different from the way business has always been done.

All “ecommerce” really means is buying and selling through the internet. Over time, this definition has extended beyond the computer to include transactions made through a mobile device, tablet, and even a virtual assistant like Amazon Echo.

While ecommerce may seem like a brave new world, the same basic functions of business – sourcing a product, branding, pricing, inventory management, marketing, collecting payment, customer support – are the same as they’ve always been, just applied to the web. 

 

So, why is ecommerce so powerful? Well, if you wanted to buy a pair of designer jeans in 1982, you would have just gone to the shopping mall, or you might have looked up local retailers in the Yellow Pages (for those readers born after the year 2000, the Yellow Pages was this giant book where you could look up the names, addresses, and phone numbers of people and companies). 😉

But today, if you want new jeans, you’ll probably start by searching Google, social media, online marketplaces like Amazon, or your favorite retailer to find them – at any time of the day or night! Even if you do end up buying your clothes in person at a local store, I’m betting you do at least some of your research on the web first.

My point?

Most consumers have adjusted their shopping habits to the web, which is why your business needs to be there as well.

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to get started. Let’s discover how to make money with ecommerce without breaking the bank!


We recommend Shopify for building your own online store. You can get a free 14-day trial right here!

Try out Shopify FREE for 14 Days!


Why Ecommerce?

Did you know that ecommerce is one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. economy today? According to this Statista forecast, we’ll see more than 2.14 billion people buying online in 2021. That’s up from 1.66 billion in 2016, a huge jump – and a clear sign that the shift toward ecommerce is only accelerating!

That means if you set yourself up to do business online, you can tap into a market that’s only going to continue growing.

What else makes ecommerce such a good way to build your business? Well, a HUGE advantage of ecommerce is the remarkably low barrier to entry. I’m not going to say that you can succeed without any financial investment, but the upfront costs are substantially lower than with a brick-and-mortar store. I’m talking hundreds of dollars versus tens of thousands, easily!

Here’s one more benefit of ecommerce: it expands your reach. Most physical stores serve a local crowd and close their doors each night, but a restless buyer could very well purchase your online video course about intermittent fasting at 3 AM on a Tuesday using his phone or computer. Even more impressive, that insomniac health nut doesn’t have to be in your town, or even in the same country as you!

Yes, this does lead to more competition, but it also leads to much greater opportunity for a savvy business owner. How cool is it to be able to sell something to a customer across the world, 24/7? 

Getting Started With Ecommerce

Etsy store home page

By now, you’re probably saying, “Okay, I get it… Ecommerce is great! But how do I do it? I’m here to learn how to make money with ecommerce!”

Well, it’s actually pretty simple: figure out what people want to buy, and then sell it to them.

I know that isn’t necessarily easy, but that right there is business in a nutshell. For an ecommerce business, we’re just going to take this principle and apply it online.

Your first step is figuring out a niche or angle where you can enjoy a competitive advantage. It’s easier than ever to sell your own product or find a fantastic existing product to sell, but it’ll take time.

Fortunately, you can do your own research online and find all kinds of opportunities! As an example, Spencer developed a method for uncovering profitable niches using keyword searches.

 

Spencer relies on an SEO tool like Long Tail Pro to discover the competitiveness and volume of different keywords in the space he’s interested in. This work is invaluable for virtually ANY ecommerce business model, from an authority site to a dropshipping brand, because organic search is still one of the biggest drivers of traffic online.

Differentiating Your Brand

Differentiating your brand for ecommerce

Let’s dig a little deeper into this idea of finding an angle for a competitive advantage.

You can often tell from the beginning whether an idea will succeed or not simply by considering its unique selling proposition (USP). Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer – when they have a universe of choices out there, what will make them buy YOUR product? 

If this is your first ecommerce business, try to stick with a niche that you’re familiar with. It’s a lot easier to succeed if you ARE your ideal buyer, because you’ll intuitively know what they want and how to speak to them.

Next, it’s important that you think about what’s already available in the market, and what kind of buyers are out there, so that you know where there’s an opening for your business.

In a nutshell, there has to be SOMETHING unique about your brand and/or your product in order to stand out in a crowded marketplace. There are a ton of ways to differentiate yourself, and you may end up with more than one, but here are some of the most powerful differentiators to consider.

Product Quality

Duh… If your product or service offers something that competitors don’t, or that does the same thing better than the competition does, you’ve got a differentiator that can help you make sales! Maybe you’re a web developer whose claim to fame is responsive sites that ACTUALLY work on mobile, or a portable umbrella that dries really fast.

Quality can be less about an individual product in your store and more about your overall brand as well. A brand USP might include 24/7 customer service, an extended warranty for your products, free returns, or a fantastic loyalty program.

And these days, “quality” doesn’t just refer to functionality. People are so busy that convenience and ease of use are sometimes more attractive than the “best” option – DoorDash and Uber, anyone? 

You also need to remember that your product images, videos, and listings are a huge part of whether people make a purchase. Sometimes, these are more important than the quality of the actual product. Great marketing is key, especially online!

Price

How you price your products will be a MAJOR factor in your success!

If you’re generally targeting the mass market, you’ll want to set your prices lower and make up for it in volume. With physical products, you may have to focus on sourcing and distribution to keep costs low.

Alternatively, you can focus on a higher price point with goods that are either much higher quality, or that offer some kind of “cool” factor. Apple is arguably a master of offering a solid product with some unique features, but also successfully charging a premium price for the “coolness.” 

Personalization

There are businesses that succeed because they make it easy for consumers to get exactly what they’re looking for.

A great example of this is Etsy, where your handmade goods can be personalized with a design based on what the customer asks for. When it comes to physical goods, aesthetics are a huge reason why customers pay a premium. 

Personalization can extend to services as well! See if you can think of a way to customize your service to more closely match what each customer is looking for. That personal factor can be a powerful differentiator. 

Scarcity

Yes, exclusivity can be a USP too! There are entire business models based on this, such as eBay, where you’re bidding for a product that is about to get bought and get taken off the market. With exclusive or limited-edition products, there’s an element of fun and a feeling of superiority for customers who make the purchase – after all, not just anyone can have this product! 

How does this work in YOUR ecommerce business? Well, if you’re selling information, you could offer your consulting services just once per year to keep the experience exclusive. A membership site could open its doors to new members only periodically. And if you’re in software, you could make lifetime access available for a one-time fee for a limited time – otherwise, the software is only available as a monthly subscription.

As you define your ecommerce business, don’t forget about the power of scarcity, both as a USP and for more effective promotions.

Mission

Some buyers are very conscious of WHERE they’re buying from. You can make headway with a certain segment of the population by embracing a unique mission, such as only using renewable energy, keeping a small carbon footprint, or giving 10% of your proceeds to a certain charitable cause.

This may turn off some potential customers, but you can’t target everyone anyway!

Methods of Making Money with Ecommerce

Now that we’ve thought about a unique selling proposition for ecommerce, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of different ways you can actually make money online.

Unfortunately, the old phrase “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t usually work as a business model in ecommerce. Simply setting up an online store and expecting sales to magically come in is a recipe for frustration.

Your initial research phase is key, because you need to think carefully about how you want to make your money. I’m going to share several different ideas for how to make money with ecommerce – and any of these approaches can work, but it’ll most likely take you a fair amount of time and effort to get profitable!

With that said, here are 10 general business models you can follow to start making money online.

Content sites and social media

It’s a model nearly as old as the internet itself: build your own website and publish a bunch (at least somewhere between 20 to 50 articles’ worth) of search engine optimized content on it. This will help you attract consistent traffic, which you can then monetize via digital ads, affiliate products, and even your own products or services. This is a business model that works – in fact, it’s pretty much the whole idea behind Niche Pursuits!

I included “social media” here because social is more popular than ever. These days, you can mimic the monetization model of a content site directly on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram with sponsors, posts about affiliates, and posts pitching your own products.

Of course, you can always use social sites as an intermediate step to funnel traffic to your content site, where all of the monetization strategies we just mentioned will apply.

Informational ebooks and courses

People will always pay good money for knowledge, especially in the evergreen topics of health, finance, dating, careers, and hobbies. You can package information into ebooks, audio courses, and video courses – then sell them on a third-party platform like Amazon and Udemy, offer them on your own site, or both!

The content format that works best will depend on your audience, your topic, and your overall business model. And don’t forget, many people will use ebooks or videos as the entry point into their sales funnel, with premium services like mastermind groups or consulting at the very tip. There’s always a way to extract value from quality information.

Membership sites

If you’re in the information business, a membership site is a great way to secure recurring revenue and build a sustainable business.

Rather than selling a single course or ebook as a one-time transaction, the membership site model provides customers with ongoing access to a growing repository of resources, including ebooks, videos, audio recordings, and more. It’s also a great way to build an exclusive community. You can charge a one-time fee for lifetime access, but many membership sites thrive by charging for monthly or yearly access.

ah pro home page

For a great example of a membership site – and a place where you can learn a LOT about ecommerce – check out Authority Hacker Pro!

Check out Authority Hacker Pro

Software

Got an idea for a software product? Spencer started Long Tail Pro as an SEO tool and turned it into a profitable business on its own. He’s done this again with Link Whisper, a great internal linking plugin.

The beauty of software is that it actually solves problems for people. This means the value proposition can be really clear, and you can usually set a decent price for it as well.

Once you have software to sell, you can offer it via your website, third-party marketplaces like Envato, app stores, and more!

Digital assets

You can make a great living by selling media assets to

businesses. I’m talking about selling photos, video, music,

motion graphics, spreadsheets, and so on.

You can decide whether you embrace more of an entertainment model – such as trying to make and sell your own music tracks to listeners as an artist – or whether you’re providing the building blocks for other content creators or business owners who are selling something.

For example, if you can get good at creating or sourcing great content assets, you can sell them to bloggers or businesses online! Depending on the format, you might sell stock assets through third-party marketplaces like Adobe Stock, or directly on your own website. 

Check Out Adobe Stock Here

Dropshipping

Most of what we’ve covered so far is on the digital side, but what if you want to sell a physical good?

Well, the concept of dropshipping is simple: you list someone else’s physical product for sale on your ecommerce store, and that brand or manufacturer fulfills and ships the order for you. Whether you go with a self-hosted Shopify store or Amazon FBA, dropshipping is a HUGE opportunity!

If you’re not inclined to purchase warehouse space or manage an inventory, dropshipping is an affordable way to get involved with selling physical products. As with many ways to make money online, dropshipping can be done through a website you own, through a marketplace like Amazon, or both.

Print on demand

There are countless companies out there that will make it easy for you to sell physical goods via print on demand. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: you’ve created a design that gets “printed” on a physical product, but only when there’s an order. You might do this with books, T shirts, mugs, hats… anything that can be printed on.

In a way, print on demand is just a more niche form of dropshipping. Rather than selling any physical product  under the sun, print on demand is focused around promotional items and merchandise, which means your print on demand business is heavily dependent on branding and design. After all, most people don’t REALLY need a new mug or T shirt – what they want is a mug or T shirt with a visual look or a funny saying.

One great example of a print on demand service is Printful, which you can easily connect with on your own Shopify store!

Retail arbitrage

While we’re on the topic of physical goods, consider the possibility of “flipping” products for profit. The technical term is “retail arbitrage,” which just means taking advantage of the difference in pricing between a local retail store and what someone will pay for a product online.

We see this every year during the holidays. Someone buys a hundred units of the same popular toy or game console, knowing it’ll be sold out, and then he can turn around and sell it online for a significant profit – because supply and demand. 

But you can implement this exact process year-round, as long as you do your research on different types of products and use your own Shopify store, eBay, or Amazon to sell them. 

Inventory Lab

For an authoritative way to sell on Amazon and source profitable inventory, check out the suite at Inventory Lab.

Check out Inventory Lab

Freelancing

Some people choose to sell their own labor online. You can be a freelancer in all kinds of skills, such as writing, design, coding, SEO, and more.

Yes, you can use a bidding site like UpWork, but you can also turn your venture into a bona fide business by creating your own website or store and marketing your freelance services to others directly.

And of course, don’t forget that freelancing may be only one facet of your business – you can also sell information products or digital assets within your area of expertise on your store!

Services

Want to sell some other kind of service? Many people in the ecommerce space make money selling “productized services,” such as a music lesson or an hour of consulting. Content Refined is a good example – they write content for people, but they’ve created packages for content writing, keyword research, and so on. 

Productized services are easy to sell online because you’ve defined a deliverable, making a consistent “product” that can be purchased right on your online store. From there, you can treat it like any other product and focus on inbound marketing and paid advertising to generate sales!


That’s a lot of different options, but it’s good for you to really think about what you’re going to sell, because this decision will dictate a lot of your ecommerce strategy from here. 

That’s also why I recommend you start with just ONE business model and stick with it for 3 to 6 months. Unless you already have experience in several areas, you can’t be an expert at all of them right away, and it’s easy to sap your business’s momentum if you bounce around from one idea to the next all the time!

Where to Sell Online

Once you’ve decided which method you want to focus on for making money – and ideally, the specific products or services you want to sell – then you have to figure out how to reach your potential customers.

As you probably know, there are a LOT of different ways to sell to customers online. I’m going to focus on just four primary channels for reaching an audience, but there are certainly others you can explore as well.

Keep in mind, these are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, I very much recommend that you eventually have all four: a blog, an account with different online marketplaces, your own ecommerce store, and an email list. Let’s take a quick look at each one.

A Website (With a Blog)

Website with blog for ecommerce

The most obvious option for selling online is just to build your own website. The website is still pretty much essential for almost any business – even if you’re a brick-and-mortar store – and I suggest you make the website a key part of yours!

A big reason for having a website, of course, is hosting a blog that can attract organic traffic in your niche. You’ll use this blog as a hub for your inbound marketing strategy and to build your brand.

The good news is, it’s nowhere near as difficult or expensive to get started with your own blog as it used to be. We recommend building your site with WordPress and a premium WordPress theme. We really like Thrive Themes, which streamlines the process of turning your site into a money-making machine!

Check out Thrive Themes Here

An Online Marketplace

It’s possible to get started in ecommerce without even having a website! All you have to do is establish an account with a prominent third-party marketplace.

Basically, if you list products for sale on an online marketplace such as eBay, Amazon, Etsy, or even Craigslist, you can start selling immediately. Most marketplaces support sellers just like you.

The best thing about a solution like Amazon is that it already has potential buyers for you on day one. You get access to people who quite literally have their wallets out, and you get to piggyback off of the trust people have built up with a prominent ecommerce retailer.

On the other hand, competition is fierce, and you’ll have a much more difficult time differentiating your brand from all of your fellow vendors clamoring for attention on the same platform. 

Ultimately, a marketplace like Amazon is very likely to play a role in your ecommerce business, even if it’s not the primary place you sell, because it helps you build your brand where buyers already are. If you want to figure out how to sell on Amazon – the king of ecommerce marketplaces – then we recommend Jungle Scout for product research. 

Learn More About Jungle Scout

An All-in-One Ecommerce Store

BigCommerce Essentials

There’s a third option: building your own store with an all-in-one ecommerce platform like BigCommerce or Shopify. This is a quick way to launch your very own online store, where you can build your own brand and list products and services as well. It’s similar to a website, but you pay for these services on a monthly subscription basis, anywhere from $29 to literally thousands as a big enterprise customer.

Now, don’t get me wrong – you can be very successful with a store through one of these platforms. Just don’t be under any illusion that your store will be a direct competitor with Amazon, eBay, Jet, Etsy, Walmart, Overstock, or Target. According to BigCommerce, nearly 50 percent of all online shoppers will go straight to a large ecommerce marketplace when they’re looking to make a purchase.

Instead, if you have an online store of your own, you can use third-party sales channels as great marketing opportunities to build brand awareness and maybe drive some additional traffic back to your store. Even big brands like Microsoft don’t turn down the chance to be found on a massive marketplace like Amazon – so why would you?

An all-in-one store is also useful for local businesses and any business owner who has a way to reach customers, but needs a way to actually process payments and fulfill orders. We recommend Shopify for building your own online store. You can get a free 14-day trial right here!

An Email List

“The money is in the list.”

There’s really nothing like an email list to help your ecommerce business hit new highs.

Obviously, your best bet for building an email list is with an opt-in box on your own website. You’ll want to sell people on signing up with a “lead magnet” – some kind of really enticing giveaway like a guide, checklist, or worksheet. This offer needs to be good enough that you COULD sell it, but you’re choosing to give it away instead.

You’ll also need to have useful content to share in your emails regularly, so that it’s not off-putting whenever you do try to sell something to your list.

The reason an email list is so important is that you’re collecting a group of people who have raised their hand and said, “I’m interested in what you have to say.” These are ALL potential customers – they’ve demonstrated that they trust you and will be predisposed to purchase from you, especially compared to cold traffic online.

An email list will never replace other sales channels, but it’s a fantastic asset and can lead to a lot of additional revenue. We really like Constant Contact as an email provider.

Try Constant Contact FREE for 60 Days!

Making Sales in Your Ecommerce Business

Make sales in ecommerce

Even after you’ve picked a method of making money, figured out a product or service to offer, and decided on the channel(s) for selling, your work is only JUST beginning.

You might have a shiny, brand-spanking-new online store on your website or Amazon, but now, it’s time to get some sales!

First things first… Are your product listings optimized for SEO and complete with professional images and irresistible copy? That’s an important start, but the bigger part of this equation is going to be TRAFFIC.

On your own ecommerce website, the two primary ways of getting traffic are SEO and paid ads. 

Search Engine Optimization

Getting comfortable with search engine optimization and keyword research is key for any online business. You aren’t going to succeed unless you reach buyers who are interested in what you have to sell.

That means you need to think like your ideal customer and ask yourself: what topics would I be interested in? Then, use an SEO tool to conduct keyword research and uncover some suggested keywords you can target with quality content.

Whenever possible, focus on buyer-intent keywords for users who are ready to make a purchase: For example, instead of the keyword “who invented shoes,” you’d want to rank for “best shoes for Christmas gift,” because the second term sounds like someone who would actually buy the right pair of shoes if they found them!

Ultimately, SEO is a longer-term strategy, but it’s essential for your business, because your ROI from organic traffic is much better than continually investing in paid ads. You won’t really see significant results for six months to a year, but it’s a much stronger foundation for your business compared to alternative traffic sources.

To do thorough keyword research, we recommend the SEO tool Long Tail Pro.

Try Long Tail Pro Today!

Paid Ads

If you’d rather not wait for SEO to start bringing decent organic traffic to your website, then paid ads through Facebook or Google might be on the table for you! 

One of the best things about this approach is your ability to split test and optimize everything. In effect, you can use the copy and creative on your paid ads to help you test your assumptions and discover what works.

Some ad gurus even optimize to a point where the money they spend on their ads leads to a consistent positive ROI. I’m not a paid ads guru, but I believe there’s still value in conducting some paid ads to help jumpstart sales and learn real data points about your audience.

An Online Marketplace

If you’re selling on a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy, it’s a little different than with your website or Shopify store. You’ll set up your own product listings there, and they’ll take a percentage of your profits, as well as a monthly subscription fee or an upfront payment for listings. These costs can be significant, so you shouldn’t list anything you’re not committed to selling!

But you should recognize that these third-party marketplaces are great marketing channels for you. Just like you might try to pull visitors to your website from social sites like YouTube or Facebook, you can do the same with these online marketplaces. Amazon is a huge search engine in its own right… Selling products on Amazon with SEO in mind could help you raise your overall business profile fast!

When Will You Make a Profit?

The reality is, ecommerce isn’t easy! Our fellow internet users are inundated with opportunities to buy online, and until you and your business have built a trustworthy reputation, your potential customers may not be inclined to pay a stranger like you for any product or service. 

Fortunately, you can put the odds on your side through social proof: a high numbers of followers, an actively engaged community, positive product reviews, and plenty of authoritative content. But still, you should expect that your ecommerce business isn’t likely to make a profit immediately. Like with most businesses, there will be an initial investment upfront – but you should hopefully see a break-even point within a handful of months.

It’s obviously faster to turn a profit if you sell a service as opposed to products, because you’re just capturing a profit margin rather than trading your labor for dollars. On the other hand, products can sell without you, which makes them a lot more scalable. You’ll have to decide which balance of products and services is right for you – but don’t worry!

All of the money and effort you put in now will help you see which products perform best, raise awareness about your brand, help you build an email list, and collect data about who your ideal customers are. You have to start somewhere!

Advanced Tactics for Ecommerce Success

Ecommerce success

You don’t always get all of the fanciest tools and techniques when you’re new to ecommerce, because you need a solid foundation for your business first.

But as you grow and start to bring in some revenue, you’ll want to invest in some additional tactics that can really help you optimize your business! Here are a few advanced techniques to be thinking about.

Analytics

At first, you just won’t have a lot of numbers to work with. But as you start to build an online presence and make sales, you’ll collect data on a lot of different metrics:

  • Total monthly sessions
  • Bounce rate
  • Clickthrough rate
  • Time on page
  • Revenue per thousand (RPM) visitors
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)

The list goes on and on, trust me! Every business is unique, so the key performance indicators (KPIs) that YOU find important will probably differ from those of other businesses.

However, it’s important that you do follow the numbers using Google Analytics and Google Search Console for your website. You’ll also want to have a solid tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs to track your SEO.

If you have an online store with Shopify, you’ll be able to follow all of your metrics there. Any social media site or online marketplace will have analytics as well, particularly if you’re running paid ads.

Lastly, if you opt for a landing page builder like Instapage, you’ll get plenty of data to work with there as well.

Conversion rate optimization

The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who land on your page and complete a desired action (in ecommerce, that’s usually making a purchase).

According to BigCommerce, the average ecommerce conversion rate is between 1 and 2 percent. Regardless of the average, your goal should be to have the highest possible conversion rate you can get, because that equates to more sales and returns more money for every marketing dollar you spend.

You can use tools like HotJar with heat maps to help you see what a typical user does on your site, including clicks, cursor movement, and scrolling. In conjunction with Google Analytics, HotJar lets you pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.

Good conversion rate optimization starts with making sure that you’re providing the best possible user experience, including quality images and videos, scannable text, and fast page loading speeds. From there, you can conduct A/B tests of designs, layouts, colors, headlines, and more to continue improving your conversions!

Abandoned cart recovery

Abandoned cart recovery is built-in to popular all-in-one ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.

The way it works is pretty simple: when a user adds an item to their cart, but doesn’t fully check out, the software sends them an email reminding them to finish their purchase.

This simple reminder can boost conversion by 30 percent! I can’t stress enough how important it is to implement abandoned cart recovery for ANY ecommerce store you run. This one feature could mean the difference between profitability and closing up shop.

Retargeting

Similar to abandoned cart recovery, many site visitors will quit their session before they make a purchase, but they’ll still have an interest in your products or your content. If only there were a way to get in front of them again…

Well, that’s exactly why retargeting is such a great tactic to invest in! Both Google and Facebook offer their own retargeting options, allowing you to place targeted ads on other websites based on certain triggers from your own.

With an ecommerce site, for example, you could retarget someone who visited your store page or a specific blog post, but didn’t make a purchase. This is incredibly valuable, because it lets you sell to people who are ALREADY warm leads.

Retargeting may not be something you do right away, but the better you get to know your audience and their particular buyer’s journey, the more effective you’ll be when it’s time to retarget them!

How to Make Money With Ecommerce Wrap-up

Well, that’s probably plenty of information on how to make money with ecommerce for one post. There are almost as many ways to make money online as there are online users… Okay, maybe not QUITE that many, but there definitely are a LOT of options out there!

What this means is, you need to be very deliberate about which approach you take. It’s a delicate balance of avoiding shiny object syndrome, but not being SO single-minded that you refuse to pivot when a better opportunity presents itself!

My recommendation is to start with a fairly solid plan and stick to it, but be flexible enough that you can take some risks and test your strategy over time.

Remember the four components you need for a successful ecommerce business:

  1. Decide on your unique selling proposition.
  2. Pick a business model (ie products and services to sell).
  3. Set up your sales channels.
  4. Execute tactics for getting traffic.

By employing these key steps, you’ll be on track to get your business going and make money with ecommerce. Please let me know if you have any questions – just comment below!

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The Best Way to Sell T-Shirts Online: Marketplaces, Tools, and Strategies

The Best Way to Sell T-Shirts Online: Marketplaces, Tools, and Strategies

If you are looking for the best way to sell t-shirts online, I think starting and running a merch business online is by far the EASIEST money that you can make on the internet. This is coming from someone who ran extensive websites for years.

Not only can you get set up and selling without any money out of pocket, but you can set all of this up RIGHT NOW.

That is not my favorite part about this business though. Coming from a background of running affiliate sites, running ads, building products, and jumping from thing to thing (does this sound familiar?)…I know that one of the hardest things to do once you actually finding the best way to sell t-shirts online and getting in front of the right audience.

With affiliate websites, Amazon affiliate websites included, this means building up traffic, getting backlinks, networking, and really putting in a ton of work before you can see the fruits from your labor.

With print on demand, this is pretty much taken care of because you are putting your products in front of an audience that is ALREADY on Amazon. You can test, sell, test, sell, and test again in a matter of days to know if your ideas are worth-while.

So, while starting a t-shirt business is easier, a more complicated topic is GROWING a t-shirt business online. For this reason, I want to go over some of the ins and outs of what it takes, and how I think you can make money at a faster rate by adding this type of business to your online portfolio.

Let’s get started!

Best Way to Sell T Shirts Online and Grow That Business

where we are going to go over 3 ways to skyrocket your earnings past relying on Organic Amazon Traffic which I like to refer to as the 3 M’s.

  • Marketplaces
  • Marketing
  • Money

Each of these topics could be a resource guide in itself, but let’s break it down in order. Remember, you need no money up front to get started except for a little time!

Best Place to Sell Shirts Online

Amazon is the grand daddy of online traffic and is the best place to sell shirts online.

Each month they have 100’s of millions of people visiting their pages, buying their products, and leaving great reviews. There is a reason so many people have started Amazon affiliate websites that turned into their full-time income.

However, in order to build up to that point, they have to build a site, get the content, rank the content, and convert the visitors.

With print on demand, you can get a Merch by Amazon account for free and start uploading designs (which could be simple text as a png file) and have a product selling in front of the Amazon audience in 5-10 minutes.

That right there skips out on almost ALL of the work people go through to build Amazon affiliate sites.

So once you get set up with a Merch by Amazon account (which I go over in detail in the article above), you start creating some designs. These designs need to be 4500X5400 pixels large and can be created in ANY design program out there.

As long as they are in those dimensions, you can upload them to Amazon and on many different clothing products. In fact, as of the current date of writing this, you can publish a single design on 3 different marketplaces and 20 products!

So, setting up your little “design” studio, let’s say that you set aside an hour or two and create 100 unique t-shirt designs that feature a funny phrase on them (or have a little bit of clip art under your phrase).

You spend the time uploading those to Amazon giving them a title, description, and some bullet points. You set a price and BAM, you have 100 products up on Amazon.

You give it some time and you start to see some sales coming through, leading Amazon to pay you a royalty for each product you sell.

You are getting paid to sell products on THEIR platform while not spending a dime on advertising or dealing with customers, or chasing pesky backlinks all day.

All of this is great!

You sit back and realize you now have 100 designs in your portfolio. You are selling them on Amazon and everything seems to be working.

However, those designs that you created?

You are only selling them in ONE place, Amazon. Since you are only selling them on Amazon, you are basically leaving an entire pile of money on the table.

You see, there are TONS of other places that people buy besides Amazon. There are some people that just straight up refuse to shop on Amazon for one reason or another but there are other marketplaces out there that you can actually sell the same goods at a HIGHER price!

Marketplaces Are Only As Good As Their Traffic.

Before you rush out and start uploading your designs to every platform under the sun, remember that uploading those designs is going to take something very precious from you…

Your time!

If you are going to spend your time uploading those same designs to other platforms, you need to make sure that they have traffic. If they do not have traffic and a bunch of hungry buyers, then you may end up wasting your time.

So, to save you a lot of time and headache, let’s go over some of my favorite platforms.

Etsy

One of the ways that I love to judge websites is to quickly run them through similarweb.com. This will give you an IDEA of the traffic a website is getting.

It is certainly not perfect, but the numbers give you something to go off of.

One of my favorite platforms to upload your designs to, is a little site called Etsy.

Etsy is actually far from a small website and is one of the best ways to sell t shirts online.

They get hundreds of millions of visitors every month and they have the PERFECT buyer.

In fact, you can take those same designs you are uploading to Amazon, and put them on Etsy for about 2-3 times the price and they will sell all day long!

I am not sure why exactly this is, but their buyer demographic does not seem to expect 2 day shipping and is willing to pay $25 plus per t-shirt. I have seen people on Etsy spend over $30+ on a t-shirt and never once mention the price. This is an incredible profit margin.

In order to start uploading to Etsy, you will first need to do a little more leg work by setting up a print fulfillment partner which can connect to the Etsy platform. Once you have that set up, uploading is a breeze.

One thing to keep in mind is that on Etsy, you WILL need to deal with some of that annoying customer service. If you are willing to put up with a small headache there, you will be rewarded with a much much higher ROI.

RedBubble

Redbubble at first glance does not look as large as Etsy is.

The reasoning for that is pretty simple. Etsy is a full marketplace with sellers selling everything from jewelry, to animal collars, to print on demand goods such as t-shirts and mugs.

Redbubble is STRICTLY for print on demand goods, and is a perfect fit for growing our t-shirt business.

In fact, t-shirts are not the best-selling product on RedBubble (from my experience). This would be reserved for stickers!

You see, when you are selling on Amazon, you are stuck with the products that they give you.

By expanding the marketplaces which you sell on, you can sell MANY more products from companies who have been doing POD since before Amazon got into the game. Redbubble fits this criteria and is actually a publicly traded company.

Many of the other marketplaces that we have discussed, including Amazon, will give you a royalty based on a price you set.

Redbubble works a little bit differently. You actually set up a “markup percent” for the products that you upload. So, you can upload your 1 image that you created in the beginning of this article, and upload it to over 30 products with different mark-up percentages for everything.

Remember how I said stickers are one of the best sellers? You can set your mark-up percentage on stickers at 100-200% and still sell them each and every day. My guess is that if you are from the USA, you know at least someone who has purchased a sticker from a Redbubble seller.

There is someone on the other side of that transaction making very good money!

Teespring

Teespring was one of the very first print on demand companies that I heard of when I got into internet marketing.

In fact, I remember signing up and giving it a try and not making any sales. That was then, THIS is now.

Teespring has come a LONG way since I last tried their platform. In fact, they are the ones behind many of the YouTubers selling merch integrated into their YouTube accounts.

They also have something called the “boosted” network which will advertise your t-shirts for you… with THEIR money.

So essentially, you cannot lose by uploading to Teespring because it’s a great way to sell t-shirts. If your designs get into the boosted network, Teespring will spend their money to bring more eyeballs on to your products and they will pay you your royalty each time it sells. That is a no brainer.

They also offer WAY more products than Merch by Amazon with over 30 products and many of these are much more unique than just simple t-shirts and clothing.

Uploading to this platform is well worth your time if you have the hours to put in.

Spreadshirt

Spreadshirt is the last platform we are going to talk about because these 4 best places to sell shirts online and basically round out the marketplaces that you should be spending your time if you want follow the best ways to sell t shirts online.

They get traffic and know how to make it convert.

They also offer a TON of different products because these guys have been in the game for many many years!

They also offer multiple geo-locations you can sell on including the USA, Germany, and Europe.

While they may not have as much traffic as some of the other marketplaces, many people I know are making just as much money on this market as they are on Redbubble. This is a testament to how good this marketplace is.

Oh, and I almost forgot. While Redbubble and Teespring both offer over 30 products, and Spreadshirt is crushing all sorts of records by offering over 200 products.

If you started reading this and had 100 designs, and you uploaded them to all the products on Spreadshirt, you would have 20,000 different products for sale on a marketplace that has buyers.

This is where your mind needs to be at!

Best T Shirt Tool to Increase Sales

Designing 100 designs is hard enough (not really, but it does take some time). If you just sit back and think about uploading to all of the above mentioned platforms, you could be spending WEEKS and thousands of hours just sitting there uploading your designs over and over again.

You know that they have buyers, and that they could add 100’s if not 1,000’s of dollars to your bottom line every month, but we all know time is money. Should you actually upload to those platforms?

Yep, you certainly should.

And it does not need to take you 100’s of hours. In fact, it does not even need to take you ONE hour.

Since the last time I wrote something for Niche Pursuits, we had plenty of customers come to us and ask if we had a solution to take their existing business assets (in this business, these would be designs), and get them creating more revenue for their businesses on other platforms.

We took this request to heart and got to work to do it the right way!

We reached out for 5 months, went through phone calls, conference calls, legal departments, the whole thing until we got everything approved and just last week released a tool called the Single Upload Interface by Merch Informer.

This tool will upload your designs to ALL of these platforms in the click of a button and has been greenlighted from the companies listed above.

You don’t HAVE to use it at all, but if you value your time at ALL, this will save you hundreds if not thousands of hours and get your products up just like we talked about with very little effort on your part.

Single Upload Interface – Make More With Less Time

Since uploading all of your designs on multiple platforms is by far the easiest and quickest way to grow a t-shirt business, we are going to go over EXACTLY how to set this up via the Single Upload Interface by Merch Informer.

You can grab a 3 day free trial of Merch Informer here. You will need the PRO level account to be able to access the SUI.

Make sure to use coupon code nichepursuits for 20% off. Once you click the link above and grab the trial, let’s get started.

First, we need to download the software. Login to Merch Informer and go to the top menu. The Single Upload Interface will be highlighted in green.

This is the desktop software that you will want to download. So once you click the button, download either the MAC or PC version.

Once downloaded, unpack the ZIP file and install the software. The software comes bundled with the Chromium browser. It will prompt you for some updates, and then ask you to log in with your Merch Informer credentials:

Once you log in, you are presented with the actual software that has a few tabs going across the top: CSV Table, Images Table, Services, and Uploader.

NOTE: Before you begin, PLEASE click on the help menu, and read the quick setup guides for each of these platforms. You will want to sign up for accounts on Redbubble, Teespring, Spreadshirt and Printful and those guides will tell you exactly what you need to do to make sure the uploader works properly.

Now that you are logged in, there are just a few more steps before you can begin uploading to all of these platforms easily.

Try Merch Informer Right Here!

Step 1: Create Your Design File

Remember at the beginning we talked about those 100 t shirt designs you have? They have titles, descriptions, bullet points, prices, and graphics on your computer.

This is what we want to put into a CSV file so that the software knows exactly what to upload! Start by either opening up Excel on your computer OR Google Sheets (if you do not have Excel).

Since Google Sheets is free and online, we are going to use that.

Once you have a new Google Sheets tab open, we simply need to fill it out with our design information. For this example, we are going to use the Title of the design, the description of the design, a price, some tags, and an image path.

So go ahead and add some columns to your file to include those. It will look like this:

It does not matter what columns that you put the headers in, but they must be in their own separate columns.

Now, under each column, let’s start filling it out with our design information.

As you can see, I am putting in 2 designs (your file would contain all 100 of your design titles. I put the 2 titles of each design in the list, and the description. Keep filling out the columns in the CSV.

Here, I am filled out the title, the description, the tags, and the price I want to sell the products at. There is just one last step, the image path!

For the image path, you want to find the folder where your designs are on your computer. They must be on your local computer for this to work. Simply highlight the designs in the folder:

Once they are highlighted, click on the SHIFT key on your keyboard, and then right click with your mouse and select “Copy as Path”. Then you can simply go back into your CSV we are making with Google Sheets, and paste it in there.

NOTE: You will want to remove the quotation marks around the image paths in your CSV.

All this step is doing is it will be telling the software WHERE the designs are located on your computer so it knows what to upload.

Now that our CSV is filled out, the rest of the process is VERY easy.

Simply go to file inside of Google Sheets, and DOWNLOAD. Make sure to save it as a CSV file (Comma-separated values):

Then, head back over to the Single Upload Interface, and upload the CSV file you just downloaded!

Just like that, 98% of the work is done for you!

Step 2: Set Up Marketplaces To Upload

Since we went ahead and put the image paths of our designs into the file we just created, we can go ahead and skip the images table tab at the top and head straight to services.

All we are going to do on the services tab, is pick where we want to upload, and then map the options to our CSV file.

So, since these all work the same, let’s go and set up Redbubble.

Simple select Redbubble from the services drop down. It will look like this:

We simply need to use the drop downs for each option, and tell it what to match up with our CSV file.

So for the first “picture” option, we want to map this to our image path in the CSV file:

If something is NOT in your CSV file (such as a background color), you can simply enter in a value. I have gone ahead and entered in a value for the background color and our markup percentage. If you make a column in your file that you upload to the software, you could use that instead.

I went ahead and mapped the title, tags and descriptions to the right columns in the file as well!

All we are doing here is matching things up, pretty easy!

At the bottom of the screen, you can pick what products you want your designs to go on:

Remember how you have 100 designs?

Each of those 100 designs can create 33 different products on Redbubble alone.

So by using the Single Upload Interface, we are about to turn those 100 designs into 3300 products!

That is how easy it is to set up the services. Simply go through all of the marketplaces that you want to upload to and map all the different options. Once you have all your selections mapped out, head on over to the uploader tab!

Step 3: Upload Your Designs With One Click

On this tab, simply select what services that you filled out previously. Since I only did Redbubble, I just check the Redbubble Box!

If you wanted to do all of this at once, you would select them all.

Now, all you want to do is click on show details and double check that you filled everything out correctly.

Since it looks good, you are ready to go!

Simply click on the START UPLOADING button at the top of the screen. This will prompt you to log in to a Chromium window (where the software controls the uploading). Once you manually log in, the software will then begin ripping through your list and uploading your designs to all of the products!

Once a product is finished uploading, the software will give you a link to click so you can go see your new products online!

Just using the Teespring, Redbubble and Spreadshirt uploader, if you took your 100 designs and uploaded them to all products, you would be taking your 100 designs and turning them into….

26,000+ products!

That is how powerful this is!

Since each of these platforms has their own organic traffic, as long as you gave them good titles and tags you should start seeing organic sales flowing into your business; thus growing your T-shirt business with very little effort.

Marketing To Grow Your T-Shirt Business Online

Now that you have tens of thousands of products online in different marketplaces, chances are you are already making some pretty decent sales and your royalties are starting to stack up…this really is the best way to sell t-shirts online.

It is now time to bring it to the next level, so we are going to invest some time in marketing.

You can always spend money running ads, but since we are doing POD, your margins will not be as large as physical products or products that you are creating yourself.

For this reason, I like to use free methods to market your merch. We are going to focus on 2 here, Facebook and Pinterest.

Facebook for T-shirts

The easiest way to market through Facebook is through Facebook Groups. These are groups of people that congregate around general niches and interact with each other.

Now, in order to successfully advertise in these groups, something you should NOT do, is join a group, and immediately make a post. This is your one way ticket to getting kicked and wasting your time.

What you will want to do is join a group related to your niche, find the admin/admins, message them, and make a deal!

This is the easiest way to advertise for FREE because if you offer the admins a kickback on any sale you make, and they don’t have to do a thing… who would say no to that?

So first, log in to your Facebook account, go to the top search bar, and type in your niche of some of the designs you have. For this example, let’s use dogs and specifically dog training.

Click on search. You will then want to click on the groups tab at the top:

This is going to show you all of the relevant groups to your niche.

Go through these groups until you find a good fit for your shirt, or has an audience that seems engaged. If the group is public at all, you can see how many people are commenting or liking a post.

If it is a closed group, you will want to join it first. Before you join, you can click on the group and gauge how active it is by seeing how many members and new posts they are getting. Something like this shows that this group is very active:

Now, once you are inside of the group, you have 2 options. You can either make a post that is RELEVANT to the group and ask for t-shirt IDEAS (this is a great way to come up with more design ideas that people actually want to buy), OR, you can message the owner of the group and ask if it would be okay to post.

I prefer doing the second option if you are new.

Once you are in a group, go to the right side of a Facebook group until you see the members section:

Click on the amount of members the group has as this is a link. This will then show you the owner and the admins of the group!

Bingo!

Now, send them a message and negotiate a deal. It is simple as that.

This process can take some time, but once you get a post that is a hit and the admins of the group are okay with it, you can make hundreds of sales in a matter of a few hours. This is essentially influencer marketing, without using Instagram.

Pinterest for T-shirts

My other favorite free way to get sales through marketing is through Pinterest.

Pinterest has the PERFECT buyer demographics. They are mostly women, who make a good income each and every year and they are BUYERS. So many people go to Pinterest to find products they like, and then purchase them.

Think of Pinterest like a massive image search engine that people actually interact with.

So how are we going to get free sales from this?

Easy, by building a Pinterest Profile.

Here is the gist of it.

You will want to get a Pinterest account. I would highly recommend that you sign-up for a business account (business accounts show analytics which is important).

Once you have an account, fill out all of the details, profile picture, link to your store… you name it!

Once you have your general account set up, you will want to start building out “boards”. Think of boards as the different niches that you are in for your t-shirt designs.

I would start with 20-30 different “boards” and each day, pin 5 or so images to each board. Do NOT post your t-shirts right away! Instead, find interesting images that are related to your niche and pin those to your boards.

Think of this as giving value before you ask for the sale. Simply put up 20-30 “value” pins for each time you post a t-shirt design that you are selling.

If you do this long enough, you will start to get organic traffic!

The second thing you can do on Pinterest is follow other people who share the same interests that you do with your boards. If you follow them, they will check out your profile. If they check out your profile and follow you back, each time you post, your pins will show up on THEIR feed.

This can act as a “snowball” effect which will lead to more traffic, more repins on your images, and a growing account which leads to more organic sales through your free marketing method.

There are so many other marketing methods you can use to make more sales, but both Pinterest and Facebook are free, easy to use, and can lead to sales.

Let’s get to the final way to grow your t-shirt business online which is Money!

Using Money To Grow Your Online T-shirt and Merch Business

Chances are, if you got this far in the guide, you have been creating these designs yourself.

There are a ton of ways that you can use money to grow your business but hands down I would recommend that you start yourself, create your own designs, and do the work required before the business can support itself.

If you have been following along, you now have a general idea of how to market your products and you should have a LOT of them from uploading to all of these different platforms. This should begin to produce income in your print on demand business.

So now that you have some money, it is time to use that money to increase your sales.

The easiest way to do this is…

NOT ads!

Nope, running ads is going to take a long time to learn, and you will most likely lose money when you start.

The easiest way to spend money to make more money is simply by investing in your business and growing your pool of “assets” which in this case are designs.

If you have created 100 designs that are selling and these are text based designs with maybe a few clipart images, imagine how much money you could make if you actually had a real graphic artist bring your ideas to life.

Not only can hiring an artist explode your sales, but they are much more efficient than we are, and not at all expensive either.

You can generally get illustrations for under 10 dollars. I personally get my designs and drawings from $4-$6 each and these are hand-drawn!

I like to use Upwork.com as they have a ton of designers that will apply to your jobs and you can be picky to find the right person to work with you.

So, if you do not already, go grab an upwork.com account.

Once you have an account, fill out all your information, attach a payment source, and begin to post your first job!

Here is the EXACT script that I like to change up each time that leads to 20-30 people applying each and every time I post it:

Hello!

I am in need of 100 t-shirt designs over the time period of 1 month.

Your task will be simple. I will send you a list of ideas for t-shirts that I would like created and I would like you to be artistic and creative to recreate the idea in your own style. For example, I may send you a link or image and I would like your unique spin on the idea to create a more visually appealing design.

I am willing to leave a lot of 5 star reviews so that you will be able to land jobs easier in the future if you stick with our deadlines. I would like to hire for a long term position. Once you have completed the first batch of 100 designs, 4-5 per day, then we could continue the work if everything looks good.

I will require links to any artwork used to make sure that the artwork used in the designs is available to use for commercial use.

I look forward to doing business with you!

If you started with 100 designs in your portfolio, this will boost your designs by 100%, adding another 100, and if you are using the Single Upload Interface, another 26,000 products!

Before you start hiring the first person that applies, make sure to look through their portfolio. One of the reasons I suggest you start on your own FIRST is so you know what kind of designs sell. If you pick an artist that has a style that does not work on these platforms, chances of making a sale are slim. However, if you have an eye for good design, you can find artists that will take direction and lead to a lot of extra money.

At $4-$6 per design, it only takes a sale or two to make your money back. Everything on top of that is just pure profit.

Invest in your business to grow it once you know what you are doing, and you can leverage the money you are making to buy more “time” and thus more design assets. Once you are making a few hundred a month, you can use this method to explode your income into the thousands every month by just leveraging other platform’s traffic.

Wrapping It Up

This has been a LONG guide and we have covered a lot of topics to help you figure out the best way to sell t-shirts online, so congratulations if you made it this far!

I still believe that affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online but print on demand is an easier method because you can leverage traffic of other free platforms without spending a ton of time up front.

Growing a t-shirt business really only requires 2 things. It requires some designs (which you can create yourself, just funny text based sayings/phrases), and uploading them to places that already have BUYERS. It allows you to test the market, make changes, and adapt at a speed that other businesses just do not allow.

At the end of the day, this can equal another income stream for you, or turn into your full-time income. The choice is yours, but you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

By Neil Lassen

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