I have to put this upfront due to my own mind goblins. This process took me 3 years to accomplish, and this was not $20K in profits, this is $20K in revenue.
I began in my Tumblr account in summer of 2010 and my Etsy store around 2011.
I did around 2.5K in revenue that Winter Season of 2011.
I kept doing and ballooned to around 10K revenue in Winter 2012
Around 5.9K in Winter 2013, then 1.5K in 2014.
This was not some get rich quick scheme and it did take a number of years.
Why am I writing this?
I felt the need to tell my story simply in hopes of helping the next person like me out there on the internet. I didn’t have a job and I needed money to help support myself. If this sounds like you and you want to try to make some money utilizing free platforms then I feel my story my help. This is by no means a gloating story and I am by no means an expert. If you always dreamed of wearing clothing you made/designed yourself then you might find this writing helpful.
- Table of Contents
- What I Used
- My Story
- How You Can Do It Too
- How I Would Improve
- Materials and Resources
1. What I Used (at that time)
- Tumblr – Used to cultivate a social media following that enjoyed the same fandoms and pop culture references used on the shirt prints. Tumblr allowed me to curate my own content based on what others had posted without having to create my own. Eventually creating my own content allowed people to follow me and grow my follower count but reblogs and favorites was my starting point.
- Spreadshirt – The print on demand service I used and still frequent to this day. Along with printing services, Spreadshirt also has a few features which could be leveraged. Features such as their marketplace, both design and product, and their storefront can help the most bootstrapped individual to put together a great store. The design marketplace allows those without artistic ability to find some great artwork to use for their shirts, at a fee of course. This is good for either designers or shirt sellers.
- Etsy – Etsy is where I decided to house my store at that time due to me not liking my design eye when it came to backgrounds/ color composition for my custom Spreadshirt storefront. Etsy allowed me to create a store relatively quick as well as leverage the credibility of Etsy for my own. My shoddy store wasn’t going to convince people to buy products but a bland Etsy store was not as off-putting due to Etsy’s credentials.
2. My Story
(The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)
I began by wanting to make some money before college. Granted this journey took me around 3 years to do so, the humble beginnings are important. The summer before college (2010) I had nothing to do, I had recently found out about Tumblr and decidedly spent my last 3 months at home on the website. I was enamored by the community and while I at first only reblogged and favorited posts that appealed to my likes (anything pop culture, gaming related, other artist?s fan art, photography, etc.), I eventually began to post original text posts and pictures. I began to get into printed graphic designs and coupled this with more fan art.
After this I would use Spreadshirt to create samples of the created art and then post onto my Tumblr page to see if anything garnered attention. At first I wasn?t getting any favorites or reblogs as my designs were too simple but after some feedback I began to gain attention from my posts. This would start to show my Etsy page love as people began to trickle in from my Tumblr posts. The first year seemed to go by both at a snail?s pace and lightning fast. However the second year is where my growth became explosive. The first year was a slow build of growing pains while I was learning both the platforms (All Tumblr, Etsy, and Spreadshirt) as well as getting my designs out in the Tumblr community and getting attention and a following.
It wasn’t until around 2011 that I created my Etsy store. I did around 2.5K in revenue that Winter Season of 2011.
At this stage I was excited, This is working; people are enjoying my designs and buying them. This was my motivation and pushed me to keep doing and come the same time the following year I had ballooned the previous amount to around 10K revenue in winter 2012.
Around 2013 I began to feel the drain of school as well as the constant filling of order in my rudimentary fashion. I wasn’t on Tumblr as much as I would travel. During travel I would bring my laptop with me and sometimes I did not have access to Wi-Fi which meant I had to try and handle all these orders from my phone. IT WAS NOT A FUN TIME. And the statistics show that. Around winter 2013 I had lost around half the revenue of the previous year coming in around 5.9K.
The final straw came when in my ?final? year I had lost all motivation and both my schoolwork and store came to a screeching halt. I had some personal family events occur and while on Spring Break, I tried to fulfill orders and then my Wi-Fi ended. I became so enraged and frustrated that I quit the process. The stats for that year ended around 1.5K in 2014.
3. How You Can Do It Too
- As long as you have access to a computer and internet access, you too can start a clothing line and follow the steps I used to promote it. All of what I used was free of charge and within some time I was able to grow.
- Create an account on Tumblr
- Create an Etsy account
- Create a Spreadshirt account (Or a Printful Account)
- Every day, have reblog some new content to your Tumblr. If you?re not going to be able to do so, you can line up posts within a queue for your blog which will post at a designated time on a designated day, all chosen by yourself.
- Brainstorm some content you would like to wear yourself, create some mockups using Spreadshirt. This will give you both the product to sell as well as a mockup photo you can use for your Etsy store and for your Tumblr posts.
How I Would Improve
“Hindsight is 20/20”
Looking back now I am able to see where I could improve and make better decisions. For one, I would improve my social media game. Only being on Tumblr was great because it allowed me to give focus and attention to one platform but that was also an inhibitor. Once profits started to roll in, I should have begun to automate some processes. From other people to handle other social media accounts (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Etc.) to the order placement and customer service. I stopped my own due to burnout over my clothing line needs as well as college work needing attention. Had I invested in virtual assistants, I believe I would not have had to stop being active with my clothing line.
Currently, Instead of using Spreadshirt I am using Printful. This is due to their Etsy integration which makes orders seamless. A customer places an order on Etsy, I get notified and Printful takes care of the heavy lifting. This is opposed to my experience with Spreadshirt where every time and order was placed on Etsy, I had to go into Spreadshirt and order the shirt to the specifications and take the customers information from Etsy to input it into the order on Spreadshirt. This was very time consuming and frustrating when I was traveling and had orders.
The next point I would bring up would be using Etsy vs creating my own storefront. At the time, Etsy seemed the best way to go but now I believe I should have started on my own webpage. While it may have been a harder route to begin on, in the end it would have been beneficial as I would be able to few more detailed analytics and control where my customers go. In a sense, I refer to marketing. If I were to market and attract buyers, if I am on Etsy there is a chance they could see something they like in Etsy’s “Something Else you might Like” section and I might lose them. Whereas on my own website, it is all my content. So there would not be a loss of funds if I were to spend a marketing budget to send traffic to my website.