$1k Per Month Challenge: Merch by Amazon Update #1

I’ve been really busy with projects after projects, and I even added another goal to my 2018 year goals.

Feels like I keep adding more, “shiny object syndrome”, but I think that should be the last to the list of goals.


I wanted to update with what I’ve been doing with Merch By Amazon.

It’s been rough, I’ll admit.

This Merch by Amazon hustle is much more than I thought it would take. It’s definitely not that easy as I thought it would be.

To be honest, I was so close to stopping this whole challenge and just give up.

I’m still nowhere close to $1,000 and I feel overwhelmed because of other projects that are more priority.

The good news, I’m getting into some type of flow and I think I’ve found an easier way to get traffic, test your listing, and get sales.

I’ll get more into this later.

Merch by Amazon Update

Let’s jump in with what I’ve been doing from the first post of this challenge till now.

Hiring 2 Assistance to Help the Process: Research & Design

I’ve mentioned in my first post of this challenge.

Hire two virtual assistance – 1 researcher and 1 designer.

One of them was to research and create my listing and the other was to design t-shirts.

Initially, I went with what I knew about researching on Amazon to find products and used that to research for Merch by Amazon designs.

The entire Amazon algorithm is all the same for physical products and Merch by Amazon, from finding what’s selling to how to get your product to rank higher. However, Merch by Amazon is much more complicated because there are barely any tools out there that can really help and you don’t have full access to the listings.

Both are similar but not the same.

For my first virtual assistance, I created an SOP for this process and hired someone from the Philippines. I made the agreement to pay her $3 per listing, 15 listings per week max.

This person was to search on Amazon using my research method, find selling t-shirt designs in a niche, and write rich SEO Titles and Bullets, then upload it to a spreadsheet.

After each listing she completed, I’ve then sent it to my designer.

The designer I hired was my old designer from Fiverr, he was charging $25 per design. Definitely not cheap.

Two weeks in, I was able to get 10 listings from the researcher, and only 1 design from the research.


This Wasn’t What As I Expected, This was Rough…

For some reason, I stopped.

I started to think… self-doubt kicked in.

Jumping into this new business, my mindset was not there yet.

If my researcher is creating 15 listings per week. How can my designer catch up? How can I afford $25 per design? Will these designs even sell? How can it sell when there’s nobody seeing the design?

A lot of questions and random thoughts.

The time and amount of money invested… I end up letting go of my researcher and didn’t provide my designer the rest of the listings.

I needed to rethink this entire process. I had to figure what I was I was doing and what really makes sense.

Not only that, January was bad for most Merch by Amazon sellers.

Everyone in the Merch by Amazon Facebook Group communities was complaining how Amazon was “throttling” their listing which causes everyone to have fewer sales.

I had no idea what that means, but I was also seeing very low sales:

Merch By Amazon Throttled Month

That build up more negative thoughts. Only a couple of weeks in and already I wanted to give up.

I took a week break from trying and had to recollect thoughts on what to do.

I asked myself, “what do I need to do to reach this goal?”

The answer was clear on the next step… learn from others that already became successful.

Research, Learning, Case Studies, and Courses

In order to do this, I had to learn as much as I can.

I’ve been on YouTube videos and blogs after blogs and case studies of success stories to keep myself motivated.

However, nobody is direct about what they do exactly. Everything they say is broad and no clear how to.

I’ve even downloaded 2 Merch by Amazon courses. I forget the name of the courses, but even so, it was really broad material.

I did pick up a few ideas, but in the end, I think there’s no exact way of doing Merch by Amazon. Yes, there’s a process but when it comes down to research, there’s no exact way.

In my honest opinion, Merch by Amazon to me is not a predictable system. There’s no true analytics you can rely on to see if what you’re doing works.

You find the designs that are selling and copy something similar HOPING it would sell. Not only that you’re making up random SEO titles and bullets HOPING it will sell.

There’s no clear-cut way to research.

I even signed up for 2 software to help with my research – Merch Titans and Merch Informer.

I only signed up for the trial, but end up canceling both. They are great tools to assist in research, but still not an exact way.

And, I know I wasn’t ready for a tool, I needed to understand this entire process first.

One of the most important parts of researching to me is finding the right Keywords.

What makes this entire model even harder, there are no definite tools to help with Amazon Keywords.

You’re blindly making up keywords as you go along and HOPING you will rank for something. Not even knowing if that keyword you chose has any traffic.

I realized, even if you created a great listing and design still NO ONE can find your listing.

Unless you find a low competition keyword, but that keyword probably has a very low volume where nobody is searching for.

Or, you promote it to social media. I actually tried this and it did not work for me. I have a specific niche fan page with 17k fans, but nobody was buying.

I gave up on this idea.

Doing it First… again.

After research and learning, having a better understanding, I decided to jump back in and do this myself.

This time with more knowledge and some ideas.

This time I wanted to find simple designs so I can design the shirts myself quick and easy.

I didn’t go into any specific niche, this was all random niches.

A week or two in, I’ve designed and listed around 50 more shirts.

And guess what…

They were mostly from my old shirt designs.

February Merch by Amazon Progress

Which I still have no idea how they are selling, other than the design itself?

I did get one new design sold twice but I think because I priced it super low at $12.99 and only profit $0.18.

Oh, and the design I spent $25 that my virtual assistance researched actually sold twice.

Not great, but I was really surprised it sold. Which means the research works, I think.

A big downside of that month. I got one of my old best selling shirts Rejected because of IP issues.

IP Infringes on T-Shirt Design

With barely any sales even after submitting 50 more shirts.

All that hard work and time spent.

It actually wanted me to give up, again.

A/B Testing Ideas with Blind Folds On

I stopped designing and creating more listings.

However, I did come up with another idea.

Test the titles and bullets.

I went through all of my design listings and tried to rewrite the titles and bullets to include any words I saw from my competitor what were repeated.

Maybe my listing will rank for a better keyword and I’ll get sales?

But, there was no real data that came help this test.

No tools, no data, no proof of rankings, no proof of sales increase, and no proof of traffic to the listing.

I was desperate, I tried it anyways.

So did it work?

Nope, nothing changed.

I came to realize, Merch by Amazon is not a great model at all, trying to systemize it’s harder than I thought.


I stopped everything.

Except for this one thing that might actually work…

Using Amazon Marketing Services for Data, Metrics, Sales, and Possibly Help Rankings

From my experience with selling physical products on Amazon, the more sales you get, the more you’ll rank higher for your keywords.

With Merch by Amazon, it’s much harder to get sales when you have so much competition and no traffic.

Adding a brand new listing will just get you on the very last page.

You create a listing and hope for the best.

If you’ve been around the Merch community, you might have heard of AMS or Amazon Marketing Services for Amazon Vendor Express sellers.

Other sellers were using this to advertise their t-shirts with Amazon PPC.

However, in order to get into AMS you have to become a Vendor Express seller.

During my research and learning phase, I submitted my application to get a Vendor Express account which then I was able to get my AMS account within a few weeks.

Although I got approved I didn’t do anything with AMS until recently.

I think Amazon is closing down Vendor Express, so I’m not exactly sure how this would work if you are trying to get an AMS account.

Here’s what so special about AMS…

AMS Dashboard

I am now able to use Amazon sponsored ads to get some traffic and promote my design in front of the first page of my potential keywords.

And it’s cheap.

Doing so, I am able to test my listings and designs to see if they will sell and determine which keyword is best to use.

If they’re not selling with some clicks, I make adjustments or Pause the campaign.

Amazon Marketing Services Data

Amazon also gives a full report of what keywords people are typing in Amazon to see my listing.

How great is that?

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than posting and HOPING it will sell.

After testing this I was able to generate some sales and open my eyes up to new ideas to test my listing with this data.

I was even able to jump on a holiday trend and make some sales.

Sales on Trending Design

Although it wasn’t much because I’ve priced the shirt super low, but I proved myself there’s a way.

This was my “ah-ha” moment.

Use sponsored ads to get traffic, test, and optimize your listing.

Eventually, your shirt will have a higher chance of ranking higher for keywords and while you rank you’ll get organic sales.

To be honest, I did spend around $200 dollars, but I generated back half and honestly, it was worth the risk.

Yes, although I’m in the hole, I’ve learned a lot and what I want to focus on and how I can get people to my listings.

I understand it’s all part of the learning process hit this goal.

What’s Next?

I feel more confident with this process now.

This is what I’m planning to do next…

  • Create more designs or possibly hiring a designer for $5 per design or stick to my $25 per shirt designer.
  • Continue researching and writing the listing myself, just to save money.
  • Optimize the ones that are currently selling and see if I can make more sales from it.
  • Possibly sign back up for Merch Informer to help with more ideas.
  • Submit my selling designs to other platforms like Etsy or Red Bubble.
  • Learn more ideas for marketing t-shirts.

Eventually, I still want to hire a virtual assistant to handle all of this, and possibly systemize this into a passive income of $1000 per month.

I’ll keep this challenge updated when I can.

If you are in the same boat trying to figure this out, let me know hows it going. Do you have any tips and strategies you can mix with mine? Let me know 🙂

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