18. 5am starts, the 60 day rule and side hustles with Scott from Tampa

Meet Scott Griffin, a marketing manager and part-time Merch Entrepreneur from Tampa Florida. We talk 5am starts, the 60 days rule and side hustles and cover some of the latest changes in Merch by Amazon. Sign up to get my 5 favorite Merch by Amazon tools & resources today at www.merchentrepreneur.com/tools. Building your Merch by Amazon business? Get free case studies and POD tactics delivered to your inbox at www.merchentrepreneur.com/signup. Join our facebook community at www.facebook.com/groups/merchentrepreneurs.

Elaine Heney: Welcome to the Merch Entrepreneur podcast. You’re going to hear the strategies, the tactics, and the stories of people who are making money with Merch by Amazon.
You’re listening to the Merch Entrepreneur podcast. My name is Elaine Heney, and I am joined today by Scott from Tampa in Florida. Scott, you’re very welcome.
Scott: Hey, thank you. Good morning, good morning.
Elaine Heney: It’s great to have you on the show. Scott, I was just curious, what were you doing before Merch by Amazon?
Scott: My current position also, because Merch by Amazon isn’t my full-time gig or anything like that, it’s just a part-time from home whenever I can find time kind of thing, but marketing, online marketing, director of marketing here at a company local to us here. Then even before that my background was design, graphic design, web design, all that kind of thing.
Elaine Heney: Okay, very interesting. When did you start Merch by Amazon?
Scott: April of this year, April of 2016.
Elaine Heney: Okay, right, so actually just after me. That’s really cool. What tier are you on at the minute?
Scott: The 1000 tier.
Elaine Heney: 1000 tier, very cool. You were saying that you still have a full-time job. Is your goal in the future to make Merch by Amazon your main thing or to always do things on the side in internet marketing? Do you actually want to move away from your job, or are you happy combining both full-time job and then the side hustles, as it were, in different areas?
Scott: Right now I’m enjoying the side hustle. I think it would be great at one point to … I don’t know if Merch by Amazon would be my main source just because right now everything is so all over the place with it. I’d had to have that my main source and then lose it for some reason. I do really like the idea of the print-on-demand with shirts and other products and stuff. Maybe branching out to other print-on-demand type websites, that kind of thing, I really do like that idea.
Elaine Heney: Okay. Have you branched out anywhere aside from Merch already, or do you have your eye on a particular print-on-demand site that you want to go to next?
Scott: I have a little bit with TeePublic, SunFrog, Redbubble and stuff. Just basically created the accounts for those, threw up a shirt or two just to get the idea of the feel and stuff.
Elaine Heney: Okay, very cool.
Scott: Nothing major at this point. I think right now with Merch by Amazon, how they’ve frozen allowing me to upload any of the design and stuff, it’s really forced me to look into the other ones sooner than later.
Elaine Heney: Yeah, I’ve been talking to a couple of people and definitely people are trying to explore different options now because uploading has been stopped for, is it nearly two weeks at this stage? It must be nearly two weeks.
Scott: It is, yeah, yep.
Elaine Heney: Yeah, it’s crazy with the run up to Christmas, and everyday you’re going in to check your account to see is it still there.
Scott: Exactly right, that’s exactly right.
Elaine Heney: Which is really nerveracking, particularly coming up to Christmas. I hope they have it sorted by Christmas, even if they just tell us, “Listen, you’re fine. You can upload again in January.” I just don’t want to wake up on Christmas day and have to check my account and go, “Is it there?”
Scott: Exactly.
Elaine Heney: Oh, dear. You were saying you do Merch outside of your main business. Do you spend much time on Merch everyday?
Scott: Roughly an hour a day during the week because like I was telling your earlier, it’s 5:00 in the morning here. This is the time I get up. I have two little kids, a three year-old and a two year-old, so I’ve got to get up before everybody’s up. The early bird gets the worm, so to speak. Get up, work on it for about an hour or so. On the weekends, sometimes I’ll have a little bit of extra time on the weekends, a couple hours here or there.
Elaine Heney: That’s really amazing that you get up so early to make time to spend on Merch. I know I’ve talked to a couple of friends of mine and they’re kind of interested, but they also say, “Oh, Elaine, I don’t have time. I’m too busy.” What would you say to people like that?
Scott: Everybody has time. If it’s something that you want, you have to make time to do it. I get up at 5:00. Like I was saying, I have two kids, full-time job. I also work out everyday. Fitness is a big part of my life also. There are no excuses. If it’s something that you want, you’ll make time for, for sure.
Elaine Heney: Okay, and you said in the past you’ve done some other internet marketing, and I think you have some design skills. What level are your design skills? Are you a pro designer, or are you like me, you could just make your way around Photoshop?
Scott: Professional designer, yeah. I’ve been doing it since about 2002, 2003 or so.
Elaine Heney: Okay, very cool. Do you use Illustrator and Photoshop and that kind of thing?
Scott: Illustrator by far is my program of choice, yeah.
Elaine Heney: Okay, that makes sense.
Scott: The full Creative Suite, Adobe Creative Suite that they have, the full suite.
Elaine Heney: Yeah. Have you ever tried doing any designs using iPhone apps or anything like that, or are you just mainly focused on high quality, nice designs in Illustrator?
Scott: I haven’t used any iPhone apps. I’m so used to my laptop, desktop and stuff. My laptop is portable enough for me. Trying to do something on my phone, I haven’t quite tackled that yet.
Elaine Heney: Okay, okay. Have you ever thought about outsourcing, getting even a virtual assistant to help you or outsourcing work to another designer? At the minute, do you just do everything yourself?
Scott: I have done some outsourcing, not very much. I’d say 98%, 99% of all my designs I’ve done myself, basically just to learn the process of the outsourcing and get my feet wet with it just in case in the future if I did really want to tackle it and double up on my designs and stuff.
Elaine Heney: Okay, that makes sense. I guess maybe one day instead of getting up at 5:00, you could get up at 6:00.
Scott: Right.
Elaine Heney: You get an hour more in bed to sleep if you had somebody else working for you, I guess maybe in the future. It seems to be actually a theme from people I’m talking to that next year they’re looking to try and scale things a little more, and outsourcing seems to be a part of that in way or another. Again, it’s hard to find somebody who can do the designs, particularly if you’re a graphic designer and you’re able to produce exactly what you want, to find somebody who can do it for you either to the same quality or nearly to the same quality. Would that worry if you were going to try and find a designer?
Scott: Correct, it does worry me, yes. Then everything with all the copycats going on and stuff too, that’s always in the back of my mind, too.
Elaine Heney: Okay. Copycats are interesting. I know that people have different approaches. Some people, if they find one of their t-shirts used to do well and now isn’t doing as well, they’ll go and they’ll look for copycats and they’ll spend time reporting them. Other people have a different approach. They will just say, “Listen, Amazon will sort it out. I’ll just leave it and just keep doing t-shirts.” Where do you stand on either side of the fence?
Scott: I think I’ve uploaded 700 something designs. I’ve only looked once, and I’ve only found one copycat and I reported it once. I guess you can say I lean towards let Amazon sort it out, except for that one time that I did that.
Elaine Heney: Okay, that’s interesting actually. It’s good to know that you didn’t find a heap of them, which gives us some hope. I know Amazon, they’ve done a lot of clearing up and now there’s the new 60-day rule in. Anything that hasn’t sold once in 60 days gets the chop, which I think has definitely cleaned stuff up as well.
Scott: Yes.
Elaine Heney: Are you optimistic that Amazon will get stuff sorted, or will we all be deleted in the process?
Scott: I am pretty optimistic they will get it sorted. I think these recent changes have really been an eye opener to a lot of people and it’s really pushed a lot of the bad guys out, so to speak, a lot of the copycats and the dead accounts and stuff like that. I really think that they’re going to start cracking down and get things sorted out.
Elaine Heney: Yeah, it would be really good because it was a little like the Wild West this year. A lot of people, we were trying really hard to do everything that we thought Amazon wanted us to do even though sometimes it wasn’t necessary to communicate it that well. Then you have people on the other side of the fence that are just going crazy, and everything spammy and copyrighted, trademarked that they could put up, they literally did. They just didn’t care.
Scott: Yeah.
Elaine Heney: It was a little bit crazy.
Scott: Yeah, it was.
Elaine Heney: What was the one thing that’s helped you the most this year with Merch aside from getting up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning and making time?
Scott: The one thing that’s helped me the most, I’d have to say, just really researching a lot about what other people are doing, what the big boys are doing, the guys that are making $10,000, $20,000 a month, really what they’re doing. A lot of them, speed is the name of the game, getting as many quality shirts as you can uploaded. Also, finding a niche that really nobody else has been involved in that you can tell that it’s a pretty open niche that had a few good sellers and stuff, and really just knowing that niche too, and studying that niche of what people are looking for and stuff, and getting as many shirts up about that, and really just tackling that niche and making it your own, I’ve found that’s helped me out quite a bit.
Elaine Heney: Very good. Would you mainly do your research on Amazon and see what’s there and then go down the rabbit hole until you find something interesting? Would you look in other places like Etsy, or Pinterest, or the news or something and then get an idea there, check if it’s on Amazon, and then if it’s not or if there’s very little competition, then give it a go?
Scott: Really the other places, I started checking out the other places first and then I would go back to Amazon and check out and see how that niche is doing. If I found a good open niche, then I would start creating shirts off that.
Elaine Heney: That’s actually really smart because then you’re coming with something more original into Amazon and then maybe, like you said, there’s nothing there are already or very few and you can put your own twist on it, and then you have less competition so it’s easier. If people are looking for that already, it’s easier for them to find you.
Scott: Yes, exactly.
Elaine Heney: Cool. What are you most excited about for the future with Merch by Amazon?
Scott: I think them introducing other products and new products. There’s always quite a bit of talk about that whether it’s mugs, or iPhone cases, or pillowcases, all that kind of stuff. I’m pretty excited about that, or even hoodies and jackets.
Elaine Heney: Yeah, if they did hoodies, that would be insane because I’ve been reading some blogs and different things, and Facebook groups from people, and on other platforms hoodies are crazy. They actually have a higher profit royalty than t-shirts do.
Scott: Yes, and then even other t-shirt colors, too.
Elaine Heney: Oh, yes. What colors do you want? Probably the same as me.
Scott: So many other print-on-demand sites, they offer so many different colors, even just orange and stuff, really any of them.
Elaine Heney: Yeah, I want pink.
Scott: Be allowed to select more than just five.
Elaine Heney: Yeah, it’s funny because they said, “Okay, you can select five,” but then they said somewhere else, “We recommend three because we don’t want to give people too much choice.” Then the other side of that is we’ve seen coming up to Christmas this year when they’ve run out of colors, if you’ve only had three, you’re kind of snookered because you can’t sell any t-shirts.
Scott: I know, I noticed that, too. I’m like, “Well, that’s kind of a bummer for those people that did that.”
Elaine Heney: Yeah, and they were just doing what was recommended. I think I’m going to stick to five colors for my t-shirts, in the future anyway.
Scott: Yeah, I think that’d be smart.
Elaine Heney: Cool. Listen, it’s been fantastic to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Scott: You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure to speak with you as well.

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