A pretty easy, but often overlooked, way to make some extra money from your food blog is through selling t-shirts, mugs, bags, and other accessories. There are many ways to do this, but this article will look at using Threadless.com to create and sell them.
Threadless is an online system that allows you to upload a design and easily apply it to a wide variety of products. They also handle the product creation, money collection, and shipping, making it a very hands-off system. To get an idea of what you can do, you can check out our products from Threadless in our Amazing Food Made Easy Boutique.
While selling these products hasn't been as lucrative as we hoped, we do receive about $5 to $10 per product sold and it makes us about a hundred dollars a month. This isn't too bad of a start considering it usually only takes a little light work to get it all up and running, and Threadless is free and manages itself once you have it set up. We hope to increase our sales down the road with more marketing efforts and by releasing more products.
The overall process will usually take you about 2 to 3 weeks from start to finish. It can also be done for free if you do the design yourself. If you want a professional design you can get a good one through Fiverr for $5 to $40. You can also go through 99designs if you are planning on using the design for other things, though it can run up to $400 through them.
The first step is to set up a Threadless Artist Shop account and fill in the all the relevant information.
You will then conceive of one or more designs, have them created, then submit them to Threadless. These designs can easily be added to multiple products.
Once you have the designs up on Threadless, you just need to promote them to your audience.
The largest selling point of your shirts will most likely be the design you use. There are several ways you can go about picking one.
First things first, it's a good idea to have a feel for what products you want to create before you create your design. Something on a shirt may be different from what you would put on a mug...or not. But knowing ahead of time can help.
So spend a little time looking through the Threadless admin, and some of the other Artist Shops, to see what your options are and what you are interested in releasing. You may end up releasing the same design on many different products, but having an idea of what you will be doing can help influence your design.
There are a few ways you can try and find your shirt design.
The simplest design to use is just your site logo and branding. For instance, Dad Cooks Dinner went that route (side note, if you don't follow Mike's blog, I highly recommend it!).
This works best when your readers have a large buy-in for your brand. This buy-in can be because they like what your brand represents, such as people who wear a certain brand of clothes like Patagonia or lululemon. It can also occur when they can relate to the meaning or words behind your brand, such as dads who relate to "Dad Cooks Dinner".
However, if your readers don't strongly identify with your brand, it probably won't be very successful. We opted not to use our brand because most of our readers don't identify with "Amazing Food Made Easy" on a personal level.
Another place to look for design ideas is in inside jokes or inside information. This can be a phrase, concept, or image that your readers would get.
This is the route we took with our sous vide products. We took images and phrases that we thought would resonate with our readers and used them as our designs.
We still have our branding on the products, but it isn't the main focus. This method works best when there are concepts that only people in your niche will get, so the designs make them feel like insiders who are "in the know".
Once you have conceived of the design you want, you need to make it a reality. This is done by creating a digital version of your design, either from scratch or using one of the Threadless templates. Threadless has a very good article about exactly what your file should be.
The biggest part of submitting your design is to actually digitize the concept you thought of. In the case of your brand, it should be pretty straight forward. It's also relatively easy if you ended up with a word or phrase as your design.
However, if you are doing something more involved like an illustration or other graphic it can be best to go to an outside source if you don't have the know-how to do it yourself.
For our designs, I did the I *heart* design myself, and we used Fiverr for the cartoon designs of the cow, pig, and chicken. As mentioned above, you can also use 99designs if you are planning on using the design for other things, but it is much more expensive.
If you go with Fiverr or 99designs, you should be specific when you let them know what you are looking for. It also helps to link to images that convey the style or feeling that you want it to have. Here is the request we sent:
Hey there! I'm looking for a character / scene design that I could use on a tshirt or other product.
I write a blog on cooking using a specific machine that looks like this: //s3.amazonaws.com/com.niches.production/item_field_values/images/000/005/042/skinny/anova-precision-circulator-sous-vide-square.jpg?1472917149
I'd like a fun design that shows a cow relaxing in a hot tub shaped like that machine, with the black stick.
Something vaguely along the lines of this //media.istockphoto.com/vectors/happy-crawfish-in-a-big-pot-vector-id163858962 but preferably more stylish. In general, I like the feeling of many of the simplier shirt designs on Threadless (https://www.threadless.com/catalog/type,guys/style,tees).
So just a happy/cool cow, relaxing, as he's being cooked in a hot tub...typing it out definitely makes it sound weird :)
And the design they came up with, followed by our final design with our phrase and logo were:
Because we wanted 3 types of food, and we were unsure who's design would be the best, we also submitted the same request to 2 other designs but for a pig and for a chicken. It only costs $5 to $10 to see the original design, so we felt the small investment was worth having several options.
We decided we liked having the different styles, so we went with all three versions, but if you were just doing one design you could still have multiple designers try it out. Then you can just go with the one you like best, and pay the extra fee for the full-resolution version.
Once you have your design in digital form, the process to create products is quite easy. Just upload your design, name it, and pick your products. Threadless makes this process pretty seamless. For some products like shirts, you can also pick the colors you want to make it available in.
One thing to keep in mind is that often the more options you have in color and types of shirts, the less likely people are to buy from you. In general, limiting the amount of products will lead to higher sales.
You also set the price during this step, and Threadless shows you how much profit you would make off of each item sold at any price point you choose.
Once your designs are created you can click on "Publish Product" and your products will be live on your store.
If you don't tell anyone about your products, it's unlikely anyone will find them. We will go into the process of selling and marketing in more detail in a future article, but here is a quick overview.
We marketed the products both through our general newsletter and through our Exploring Sous Vide email course, both of which use MailChimp (ConvertKit would work as well). We also put up links on many pages that had content related to the products.
In addition we created the "Amazing Food Made Easy Boutique" on our website to showcase all of the products we have available.
We promoted the products both on Facebook and on Instagram to try and maximize our reach.
So that is what goes into creating products to sell to your readers! Have any follow up questions you need answered? Let me know in the comments.