For the seventeenth episode of the DNQ interview series, I’d like to introduce my friend RJ Mac. I met RJ in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the Digital Nomad Summit where speakers all around the world gave presentations about entrepreneurship and location independence. We kept in touch and actually met up in Austin, Texas!
At 23-years old, he’s grown his Merch by Amazon account to over $20,000 in three months. This interview was actually done in August in which he scaled up to $7,000 profit in Merch alone.
I decided to speak with RJ about doing a DNQ interview, and he helped me discover I had already applied to Merch and was accepted a while back. Thanks for getting me into it, RJ!
Below is our interview, check it out :).
How RJ Mac Made $20,000+ in His First 3 Months on Merch by Amazon
Sharon: Tell us about yourself!
RJ: Hey friends. I’m RJ, a fellow digital nomad from Texas. I started my DN journey about a year ago. Six months later I was partially remote, and as of August I’d say I’m fully location independent. It’s been a fulfilling lifestyle and I hope to give everyone some insight on how to get here.
Sharon: Awesome! I think there are many people who don’t know what Merch by Amazon is. Can you give a basic overview of the platform?
RJ: Merch is one of Amazon’s latest platforms. It was created so app developers can print t-shirts to promote on their apps. However, it grew to be a regular print on demand (POD) service where anyone can upload art to be printed. For the customer, they search for “funny cat shirt” or something and Merch shirts look like any other amazon listing. When they buy the shirt, Amazon prints the shirt in their warehouse, delivers it to the customer, and handles all the customer service. For Merch business owners, all they do is upload artwork, decide five colors of shirts they want to be printed on, fill out the description, and then amazon will send you money when someone buys a shirt. That’s it. You don’t have to pay for any fancy screen printing equipment, heat presses, production teams, warehousing, boxes, etc. It’s absoultely free to create shirts for Amazon and you don’t have to deal with the regular stress of shirt printing or building a customer base. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (this would make a good shirt btw).
Sharon: What got you started on Merch by Amazon?
RJ: I started on Merch by Amazon randomly. I frequently was browsing r/digitalnomad and Chiang Mai nomad groups on Facebook and someone posted about a new program called Merch. Decided to sign up because it’s free and thought it couldn’t hurt. Funny thing is, six months to a year later, I forgot I had done so and received an email saying I got accepted. I actually had to google what Merch was when I got the email. At that time, I was working on a handful of ventures from an app agency, drop shipping, affiliate marketing, and was taking a Shopify ecommerce course. Reading up on Merch led me to the decision to give it a try. Merch is one of the most passive models I have seen and the results can be incredible.
Sharon: What do you think are Amazon Merch’s advantages over other passive income methods?
RJ: Merch feels like you aren’t controlling a massive ship. With my other ventures, I was the captain deciding the direction, the oarsman making sure the boat is moving, the guy plugging the leaks in the bottom to make sure we’re still afloat, and scrubbing the poopdeck because owning a business gets really messy. When people tell me they think it’s great to be your own boss, they have no idea. When you run a traditional business, everyone is your boss. You have clients always giving commands, sometimes toxic partnerships, and other elements like time, money, and the overall market shooting flaming cannonballs at your tiny one-man rowboat. It can be very challenging to drive traffic, fulfill orders, communicate with partners, and deal with general business tasks.
Here’s where merch is different. Imagine that Amazon is a massive party cruise / battleship that gets reinforcements every day. This ship isn’t sinking and it’s a ton of fun. On this boat, you’re a guest in the balcony suite. Your role is to order room service and decide what to eat. Sometimes the Amazon waiter comes back with a cracker, but sometimes you get a 5 star buffet. Over time, your room gets bigger, the bed gets softer, and you gain the freedom to do whatever you want.
Merch is so simple that all I really do is come up with ideas, submit them to amazon, and collect money. I have found that I spend the majority of my time on Merch just checking how my sales are growing.
The best feeling is when I’m doing something I love, watching movies, taking flights, and then checking my Merch account to have sales rolling in simultaneously. I’m guessing Merch is paying me while I’m being interviewed. (Yep, just made 2 sales). Merch has been a powerfully passive source of income with minimal active work.
Sharon: How long was the approval process for you to get in the program?
RJ: On the Facebook groups, people have found that 6 months to a year is the average time for someone to get approved. The shortest I’ve heard is two months, and that person kept emailing Amazon elaborate designs that they would like to put online. You have to hustle to get what you want.
Sharon: Can you explain the tier system Merch by Amazon has? What tier are you on + how many designs do you have up right now?
RJ: When Merch first started, people had an unlimited amount of designs they could upload a day. That quickly forced Amazon to make a stricter process as you can imagine. They implemented a tier system. 10/25/100/500/1,000/2,000/3,000…9,000, etc. When you first start out, you are allowed 10 designs live, and 2 uploads a day. Meaning it will take you 5 days to Maximize on your slots if you upload your 2 each day. Once you sell the amount of shirts that your tier is and have around 80% of maximum designs up, you are eligible for a promotion to the next tier. When you tier up, you keep the current sales number for the next tier and your shirt designs stay live. For example, if you just got promoted to tier 500 from 100, you can only upload 400 more designs. If you sold 200 shirts while in tier 100 then you only need to sell 300 more shirts when you’re in tier 500. The system is always changing though. When I started 2 months ago, tier 10-100 could upload 5 designs a day. It got changed to 2 recently. Ultimately, you want to focus at maximizing your designs because the more you have up, the more potential sales you have.
RJ: I don’t usually step in the spotlight, but I do believe that this is an amazing model that everyone should use so I do want to share how well it can get
For royalties, I started my first month with $60 in royalties (what you take home). The next month I made $400. The past 10 days I made $1,600 and growing. (let’s check again…1 more sale). My best day was yesterday with 51 sales, my 2nd best day was the day before that with 45. This whole week has been an exponential rocket ship. In short, if you took my best day and repeated it for every day of the year, I would be making 6 figures. Not bad for around 2 months in.
For tiers, I started with 10 designs and got promoted to 25 in my first month. I was so close to getting 100 sales in that month but failed to do so by around 14 shirts. I actually promised myself that the only way I would go on a fishing trip with my friends is if I sold those extra 14. Thinking back on that now at 50 sales a day, I’m glad I had the discipline to work on merch hardcore. The next month I started seeing consistent sales in the 10-15 shirts a day range and knew tiering up to 500 would be easy. By the end of the month, I got it. Going into August I was a bit worried about selling 500 shirts. It is such a big number from 100 to 500, but then something happened. A shirt I made last month started trending. It went from 15 a day, to 20 a day, to 25, 30, 40, and it keeps on growing daily. Soon I had a Best Selling Rank (BSR) in the 100s for the Novelty category. This means that my shirt was in the top 200 of all millions of novelty shirts on Amazon. Currently, it has not peaked yet and I am really excited to be on this tidal wave. Yesterday, I reached 400+ sales in my 68th day live on Amazon. I have no doubt I’ll hit 500 in a day or two. See you soon tier 1,000.
Sharon: Do you do any outside marketing for your shirts?
RJ: Most of my sales are organic, meaning amazon drives all the traffic for me. I am currently experimenting with Amazon Marketing Services AMS to run ads on the listings, but it has not given me substantial results. I also ran a Facebook ad and lost money. Other than that, I used to post on my Facebook wall hoping some of my friends would help me tier up in the low levels. Got decent amount of likes but not too many results.
Sharon: What are some external tools you use for Merch?
- MerchInformer – This allows you to scan Amazon for the best selling shirts to give you inspiration or an idea of what is trending.
- Uspto.gov – I check my trademarks to make sure that I am compliant with all the rules. You can lose your account if you violate them.
- Merch Analyze – This is a chrome extension that lets you check your sales metrics for a time period you select. It allows an easy way to see how many total sales you’ve made. Very helpful when itching to tier up.
Sharon: Do you outsource your designs? Where did you find your designers and how many solid designers have you found?
RJ: Yes, I outsource about 95% of my designs. Anything that has an image I’ve outsourced. Text is easy enough to make on my own. I found my designers through upwork. They’re from the states, Philippines, and India. I’m rotating between four designers right now.
Sharon: What does your day-to-day look like?
RJ: In the beginning, I was all about making as many designs as possible, finding quality designers, getting used to uploading every day, and learning as much as I could about Merch. It’s transitioned slowly to 1-2 hours a day just uploading shirts. Late July I went on vacation and did not have the wifi power to upload shirts. Oddly enough, one of my shirts was taking off and selling 10-15 a day consistently. This helped to tier up to 500. Once in 500, I got a bit overwhelmed because I had to now think of 10 new designs each day and 5 was already enough. I’m still at this stage with 103 designs live. I think I’ve gotten into a bit of a travel comfort zone with my businesses. However, August has been incredible for Merch. Another one of my designs took off and started doing 20,30,40,50, and up for sales each day. Last time I checked today in my connecting flight, I went from 30 sales to 50+. Selling 20 shirts while in the air is a pretty cool feeling.
What I’m trying to get at is… I haven’t seriously uploaded anything for around 20 days and I’m making $200-400 a day. Merch is the passive king y’all.
Sharon: What do you find are the most important factors for getting your shirts ranked on Amazon?
RJ: So many factors. It all boils down to keywords though. You have to make sure your brand, title, bullets, and description all make sense for the buyer that is looking for your shirt. After that, if you get a review, your shirt ranks pretty well. BSR is also fuel to your fire since Amazon likes to promote shirts that are already selling.
Sharon: How do you find good opportunities for shirts?
RJ: There are shirt designs everywhere. Malls, department stores, theme parks, museums, class, memes, videos, social media. Everyone wears shirts. I also check Merch Hunter and Amazon for trending ideas.
Sharon: Have you found a pricing strategy that seems to work?
RJ: I’ve found pretty good success in the 16.99 range. In the beginning I just wanted to tier up so I set my prices from 11.54 to 12.99. I imagine a buyer that clicks “sort by low to high” will find your shirt easier this way. Now that I have more room to play with pricing, I started my best seller at 12.99 and it sold 20 shirts daily consistently. Little by little I bumped up the price a dollar a day and then experimented with 19.99. These $20 shirts are so great. You make around $7.50 for each sale and having it on my best seller has really brought the money in. I have heard of people selling shirts at the $27 range, but I’m more than happy with 50 shirts daily at $7.50 profit each.
Sharon: Do you plan to expand on any other platforms?
RJ: There’s Redbubble, Teespring, Fanprint, and many other POD forms. However, I believe Amazon is the place to shop. I would rather focus 100% of my energy on Amazon than spread myself out too thin.
Sharon: What are some mistakes you may have made before that you have learned to avoid? Do you have any tips for beginners
RJ: I have made the common trademark mistake in tier 10. I was being too careless with my descriptions and not searching trademarks. I got rejected 3 times for using words like “retro” “stars and stripes” or something related to those words that Amazon flagged me for. You definitely do not want rejections because once you get too many on your account, you’re done. Amazon has little patience for mistakes so you need to be very diligent.
One of the biggest tips I can give is…master the upload. Fill your slots every day in the low tiers because this is definitely a numbers game.
Sharon: What are your next steps? Any last words?
RJ: I have tried multiple sources of income and firmly believe that Merch is the best platform for passive income (if you know a better one, send me a message 😉 ) . I want to help others that have the passion and dreams as I do to achieve both financial and location independence. If you’d like to keep in touch please join us here. Looking forward to growing together!
Wow! This was such a great, informative interview with RJ. I love that he opened up a lot about his strategies and resources to get to where he’s at. Thanks RJ! If you want to get in touch with RJ Mac, please join his Facebook group here.