How to Start Selling Merch as
an Instagram/YouTube Influencer

Posted On January 31, 2018

You’re big on the screen – interacting with fans and followers through stories, video tutorials, and raw accounts of your business and life. But have you ever thought about opening up a second stream of revenue by selling merch – short for merchandise – such as mugs, t-shirts, hats, and so on?

Although this seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. As long as you have a firm design in
place and a solid campaign, you can finally take that trip or pay off your car or… you get the gist.

Follow these simple steps to get an idea into a full-fledged online store.

1. Decide on Your Logo / Your Message

What is your logo, message or campaign you’re creating with selling products? Maybe it’s a popular saying you’re known for, your personal brand logo, or something else. Humorous content tends to sell well, as well as deep, meaningful campaigns, such as helping out a cause you’re passionate about. Whatever it is – choose a solid message and spread that across different products. Work with a graphic designer if you need help. To find some great designers, visit resources such as Fiverr or Upwork

2. Do Research

The best place to start alongside an idea is to research what other Instagram or YouTube influencers are doing. What is selling well? What’s not selling so great? Take notes and also bring along your own authenticity to what you’re selling. Start a Pinterest board or Google drive of things that inspire you – and if you’re working with a designer, be sure to send him or her your inspiration board.

3. Find a Good Supplier

Once you’ve decided on your messaging, logo or the content you’re going to be creating, it’s time to find a good supplier to manufacture your items. Get at least five to seven competitive quotes of how much it would be. Then you have to think about domestic vs. non-domestic. Domestic orders are overall a better option: they’re delivered faster, have higher manufacturing and labor standards, ensure a quality work environment, and provide fair wages. Also, domestic manufacturers maintain a strict intellectual property rights protection, ensuring your product cannot be copied and mass-produced. Finally, you can use the ‘Made in the USA’ stamp on your products. And although foreign sourcing can be cheaper, delivery takes longer and you’re not always exactly sure who is working on your products; workers can be severely underpaid for their labor.

SkySportsWear OEM US Manufacturer/Designer
Min. order 7 100 50
Min. pricing $50 $500 $2000
Timeframe 1 week 1-2 mo 2-6 mo
When you begin contacting manufactures, ask some of these questions
  • What is your minimum order quantity?
  • What is your sample pricing?
    Getting a sample when working with a new manufacturer is wise. You’ll save time and
    money and avoid being disappointed after placing a large order.
  • What is your production pricing?
    One of the most important questions to ask!
  • What is your turnaround time?
  • What are your payment terms?
    Many suppliers will require new businesses to pay for the full order upfront. Be sure
    to ask what their payment terms are for future orders.

Source: Shopify – How to Find a Manufacturer or Supplier for Your Product Idea

4. Calculate Your Costs

Once you’ve settled on a design and selected a supplier, it’s time to get your ducks in a row. If you need a website or shopping cart platform, sites such as Shopify can make life easier for you – with an account starting at $29/month. Compile your information – including costs, PayPal info (or whatever payment medium you’re using), mailing information for people not using PayPal, shipping costs, etc. (Helpful hint: USPS will provide you with mailing boxes for FREE which you can order off their website).

If you’re considering filing for a DBA (Doing Business As), which can help you avoid potential legal pitfalls and name confusion, it helps when you want to change your company name or use another one or, if you would like to have a business bank account even if you’re sole proprietor, here are some tips:

-Research what is required in your state. You’ll likely need to fill out paperwork and pay state fees. Visit your county clerk or recorder’s office or you can use sites such as LegalZoom

5. Select a selling platform

Sites such as Amazon, Shopify, eBay and Etsy are ways to sell your products where a larger audience will see it. Once you’ve set up your profile page and online store, it’s time to start selling.

6. Create a Campaign

Now is where the fun begins. As an influencer, it’s much easier to market your product. Team up with a few other Instagram influencers to cross-promote for you. Give out a few free t-shirts for them and ask them to post it and tag you. If you’re a YouTube influencer, create a step-by-step video of how your t-shirts are made, or a funny video. Generating viral content will help your product fly off the shelves. Get other influencers and brands involved, stay engaged with your fans and even do a giveaway to get fans excited. You can also create an entire campaign via social media and email to generate excitement.

7. Establish a tight bond with your vendor, and begin selling

Once a customer has placed an order, consider the timeline. Production can usually take 10 days to 2 weeks with a week for mailing. Having merch already in-house is crucial. Microsoft Excel can be your best friend to track orders, customers, and the quantity of merch that’s in-house. To keep track of your sales, use PayPal (or another medium) to send yourself a CSV file with all names, addresses and contact information regarding each customer transaction.

Selling isn’t always easy – but when you have the right design, marketing and vendor in place, be prepared to generate a serious stream of new revenue for your business. And most importantly, have fun with it!

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