Passive Income: How to Design & Sell Merchandise without Spending Anything

You know those time when you come up with the world’s funniest pun and wish you could put it on a t-shirt? What if you could? Without any upfront cost or risk involved on your part what so ever!

Or do you draw, create digital art or take photos that would look good on merch? What if the more designs you came up with or photos you took, the more you were earning? No extra work, no post office runs, no dealing with returns, you can start a new range risk-free and not only earn a passive income but maybe even start a new successful side business on the way. All you have to do is upload your designs to a site following the simple templates provided for different types of merchandise and wait for the money to start flowing.

By flowing I kind of mean dripping, at least to start off with.The amount you earn on these sites will vary depending on how many designs you upload, the quality of those designs, the amount of competition in your chosen field and whether or not you choose to put extra effort into promoting those designs on your personal social media profiles or website too. Basically, the amount of work you put in is completely up to you and will directly impact your success rate.

The beauty of this is that the more designs you upload the more chance you have of making sales, meaning that over time you could be making a nice passive income from very little effort, especially, if you’re going to be drawing or creating digital art regardless.

From left to right: Cat Design by Liz Harry, Troll Print by Jade Boylan, Parks & Recreation Leslie Design by RoseCat

And if you don’t have much experience getting your ideas ready to go on merch or have never done anything like it before, it’s OK, most of these sites have great blogs to help you learn. Here are three of my favourite sites to get you started:

1. Redbubble

In my humble opinion there are two juggernauts in the game, Redbubble being one of them, this will obviously vary for each individual depending on which sites your designs are best suited, however, I’m also taking into account how user friendly the sites are to use, the quality of the actual merch they sell and how good a community the site has, which will inevitably result in how many sales you make, especially if you won’t have much time to self-promote your designs.

Redbubble wins on most of those accounts, I find it easy to use, it has great tools and blogs to help you develop your designs and it’s got a great marketplace. The also printed merch in the most convenient location for your delivery address, which is super useful when it comes to keeping customers happy. By default you get 20% of the items sale price, you can adapt that and make the profit margin higher or lower too, but that will raise the cost of the item, so I would probably keep it standard until you see how  your designs are selling. To top it all off all their T-shirts are ethically sourced, which is pretty awesome!

The only con for Redbubble in my opinion, is that it’s pretty saturated with sellers, meaning you have to stand out and be on top of your game when it comes to selecting hashtags and titles for your merch. However, if you’ve already got an audience via social or a website you will probably have less problems getting noticed.

2. Teepublic

The other big player in the game and also worth checking out. If you tried Redbubble and thought it was easy to use, you’re in for an absolute treat with Teepublic, hands down the easiest and most user-friendly way of uploading designs, so if your looking for something that won’t take up much time, this is definitely a good place to start. Teepublic also have a huge mailing list and a very good marketplace, which means your design will be reaching more people, especially if your design makes it onto the emailer. Teepublic is especially suitable for anyone creating art with a geek or pop culture twist, be topical and increase your chances of being seen!

The main issue I have with this site is the measly $2 you get for selling a T-shirt; and; although this does mean their merch is priced lower for customers, it might be so low that it starts devaluing your work.

If you’re just looking to make a bit of extra money, this would be a great place to start, but if your designs start selling, it might be worth trying out one of the other contenders or changing your gameplan, using what you’re learnt from Teepublic to the next level.

3. Society6

Then there’s Society6, it often gets missed in a sea of giants, but I’ve got a soft spot for the site as it tends to attract higher quality and more “artistic” designs. It’s an absolutely fabulous marketplace to search through, they have a great selection of amazing designs that will definitely inspire you to progress with your own work, however, this does mean that if your designs aren’t suited to their audience you might have a hard time making sales.

In terms of payment, it kind of sits between the other two at $2.40 profit per tee shirt sold, this isn’t ideal, but, if you find your niche on the site, or use it as an additional income once you have your primary site going, it can be an incredibly valuable asset.

I find Society6 an incredibly user-friendly site to navigate and add your products to, however, this does come at the cost of customisation. If you’re starting out and want to save time this can be a good thing, but I would recommend comparing your options, each sites marketplace and which ones will create you the most profit, before settling down with your decision.

If you’ve always wanted to start your own range or to see your designs printed on products, but haven’t had the time or money to put into it, then this is a great way to go about it and start earning some extra pennies in just a day.

How much money you make will depend completely on you on, but as always, the idea of a passive income is not to get rich quick, rather, to have small amounts of money dripping in regularly with little effort needed on your part. Over time, the small amounts of work you’ve put in will result in that income growing exponentially, meaning that something that’s making you £5 a month now, could be making you £200 per month in a year’s time, and wouldn’t that be nice?

Misael Trujillo

Events Manager, Graphic Design, Photography, Social Media @Kitschinc. Punk Rock Shows as @PSDead. Co-Creator of @WeAreFoodScouts. Songs for @LarkhillUK.

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