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Are you a YouTube content creator? Do you have a fan base, or are you just starting out?
Either way, you’re on the right track.
Digital video has finally outpaced TV in 2023, with US adults spending more than 3 hours every day watching videos online. YouTube is one of the most popular platforms for creators to showcase their talents, share their stories, and engage with their audience.
But you can also use YouTube to sell merch and turn your passion into a profitable business.
Want to learn more about selling custom merch on YouTube?
YouTube creators with any audience size choose to sell merch for a variety of reasons, but there are 5 most popular ones. See if any apply to you!
YouTube isn’t always consistent with monetization policies, so creators shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket. Selling merchandise is a more predictable revenue stream, allowing you to monetize your channel without having to rely on ad revenue alone.
Having branded merchandise worn by your subscribers can help promote your channel and brand to a wider audience. When fans wear t-shirts made by YouTubers, they turn into walking billboards (ones that also love talking about their favorite creators).
When someone buys and wears your merch, they’re more likely to develop a strong connection with you and your brand. Merch is tangible and feels valuable, which helps create a more loyal and dedicated audience for YouTubers.
Seeing another person wearing a t-shirt of a YouTube creator you love can spark an instant friendship. Merch can create offline connections for an online community, strengthening it in the process.
While YouTubers and fans can make donations, merchandise sales are an easy way to direct funds to specific causes. You can create merch that supports a specific cause or charity, allowing your audience to consciously choose to support it.
So you have a YouTube channel and have decided to sell merchandise. But where do you even start?
The first thing you should do is figure out what design direction you want to take. Designing merch might seem hard, but you can take inspiration from other YouTube creators.
Take a look at some examples and consider who your audience is and what style might best fit your brand.
The most straightforward design idea is incorporating your branding in your merch. Whether you use your logo or other channel art, it’s an approach that centers around your brand and will help make it more recognizable.
Another way to showcase your brand is by incorporating it into some fun artwork that fits your brand identity. If you’re not much of a designer yourself, take the opportunity to commission a piece from a smaller artist whose style you like.
If your community has a running joke or niche reference, consider creating a YouTube merch collection around that. It can be a quote, a frame, or even a thumbnail from one of your videos. The more unique, the better!
Often the best kind of merch is something that looks great on its own. If you have the means to create a cool design that can appeal to a wider audience, it’ll significantly benefit your brand and attract more viewers to your videos.
Print-on-demand is a fulfillment method where items are only printed once an order is placed. By working with an on-demand supplier, you can avoid big upfront costs, inventory management, as well as packing and shipping your own merch.
On-demand production is especially helpful if you’re not sure how well your merch will sell. Relying on an on-demand provider means you won’t run out or be left with unsold items.
Many creators often tend to stick with simple t-shirts or hoodies, but there are many other custom products to choose from.
If you’re using on-demand fulfillment, you can experiment with different product categories without worrying about inventory issues.
Here are some less conventional product ideas:
Wall art: From posters to canvas prints, it’s a versatile and popular product choice. You can repurpose your apparel designs as wall art and expand your merch shop.
Accessories: Not everyone wants to wear merch as part of their outfit, so pieces like hats and bags can be an easy way for fans to show off their favorite YouTube channel.
Embroidered apparel: Printed t-shirt designs aren’t your only apparel option. Try adding embroidery to products like denim jackets and tie-dye hoodies.
Tech products: If your YouTube channel is all about video games or tech reviews, consider offering custom mouse pads, phone cases, and laptop sleeves.
Another aspect to consider is what products are trending at the moment. If you’re not sure, take a look at our blog post detailing the 16 top trending products for 2023.
Once you’ve settled on some merch options, you’ll need to make some more decisions. From setting a fair price to exploring fulfillment methods, it can feel overwhelming at first.
For a more detailed explanation of the product selection process, we suggest going through this A to Z guide. It’ll help you navigate the Printful Product Catalog and choose items that you’ll be proud to sell to your fans.
When you’ve refined your custom merchandise collection, it’s time to bring your design ideas to life. The products you’ve picked out can be customized using Printful’s Design Maker.
It’s a free all-in-one design tool that allows you to create designs from scratch, upload your own graphics, or use one of the 20K+ pre-made design assets. You can also preview and download life-like mockups to use in your merch store.
If you want to make sure that your custom merch turned out exactly the way you wanted, you have the option to order samples with a 20% discount. It’s a great way to get a feel for the quality and check that you’re happy with the final product before you sell it.
With all your custom products ready to go, you need to create a place to start selling merchandise. There are many merch platform options, depending on what you’ve used before or are looking for now.
After setting up your preferred sales channel, you’ll be able to connect it to your print-on-demand provider. This allows you to add products directly to your shop and make order fulfillment completely automatic. Printful has the largest number of store integrations, giving you more sales channel options than any other provider.
But should you choose a platform or a marketplace? And what’s the difference?
A platform lets you create your own space for selling merch, so buyers won’t see other products when browsing the website. Platforms usually have a lot of customization options, but you’ll need to pay for hosting your shop. The most well-known examples include Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace.
A marketplace is a more accessible but less customizable option. You can create your own storefront, but it’ll need to stand out among other creators and their stores. Marketplace stores tend to be free to set up, but you’ll likely need to pay commission or listing fees, just like on Etsy or eBay.
To see and evaluate all your options, you can visit Printful’s list of integrations.
No matter how good your designs are, you’ll need to promote your merch to fans and beyond, or else it won’t sell. With so many different marketing channels available, it can be tough to stay on top of them all or decide which ones are most effective.
Here are a few suggestions:
It’s a great idea to plug your merch during most videos and wear it on your channel often.
The best spot to promote your merch in the video will depend on the content density, video length, and topic. For longer and more free-form content, promote your merch between segments. If your video is short or more serious, be careful about interrupting it and add a store link to your end screens through YouTube Studio instead.
You can also create your own YouTube Merch Shelf. If you’ve never heard about it, the merch shelf is a digital carousel that allows eligible creators to get merch sales on YouTube. There are some requirements your channel needs to fulfill to have a merch shelf:
The YouTube Partner Program is available in your region
Your channel follows YouTube guidelines
Your channel isn’t set as “Made for Kids”
Your channel has over 1,000 subscribers
Your channel is approved for monetization
Your channel hasn’t received any Hate Speech Community Guidelines Strikes
Having a merch shelf will drive traffic to your store and make selling merch much easier. If your channel meets the requirements above, you can set up your own merch shelf. We’ve created a detailed explanation of the process, but here are the key steps:
Create a Shopify store and add your merchandise
Get the Google channel app
Connect your YouTube account
Set up your merch shelf
Address your fans on social media and let them know you’re now selling merch. Use posts and stories as your opportunity to showcase the new merchandise and get additional sales. Make sure to also tease the launch and create anticipation before you start selling merch. Post behind-the-scenes footage of the design process, set a specific launch date, and ask for input and opinions from fans.
Remember to continue promotions over time and always announce new products and collections before you start selling them. Create polls to hear from your fans—it makes them feel included, raises your engagement, creates more interest, and gives you valuable insights into what your audience wants.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ensures that search engine users get the most relevant information possible. To make sure that your product listings are working in your favor, make them as specific as possible. Name exactly what the products are and what makes them special. Your fans need to be able to find your merch when looking up your name. If you’re an SEO beginner, we suggest going through our SEO guide.
In case you’re willing to spend some money to get more sales, you can also promote your merch by running paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. Set them up to target the core demographics of your audience and you might even be able to get more fans along the way. For more information on running paid ads, you can read our blog post about Facebook advertising.
While setting up your own shop takes some time, it can pay off in the long run if your audience is big enough. But the exact amount you could make from selling merch depends on a variety of factors. How engaged is your audience? What is their average age and income level? How much are you selling your merch for? Do your designs appeal to your fans?
For an example from a medium-sized YouTuber, we can look to Cathrin Manning, who made a video about her first time selling her own products and how much she made from it. She has just under 500K subscribers and launched 5 pieces of merch with minimalist designs. During the first weekend, she sold 159 units. As a result, she made $6,401.55 in revenue and ended up with $1,341.07 in profits after paying for fulfillment and various fees.
This number will vary a lot based on the number of subscribers you have when you first start selling merch, as well as how well you design it and promote it in your videos. To get a rough estimate of how much you could make, head over to our profit calculator and determine how much you should charge and if selling merch is the right decision for you.
If you make YouTube videos, have a dedicated audience, and want to create an additional revenue stream for yourself, it probably makes sense for you to sell custom merch. If your videos often get demonetized, or you struggle to get consistent sponsors, merch can become an added layer of security.
With print-on-demand, you won’t have to worry about investing a lot upfront or worrying about inventory. If you don’t go all out with paid ads and a completely custom website at first, trying it out isn’t very risky.
If you’re still not sure, try asking your fans if they’d be interested in buying merch in one of your videos. Share your ideas and worries and see if people are excited. Good luck!
Elizabete is a Content Writer with an affinity for brand building and strategic communication. She's an eager communicator with a mindful approach to adapting content for a diverse range of audiences and platforms.
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