This post will teach you how to sell Amazon print on demand products using either Merch By Amazon or a 3rd party print on demand service like Printful. Both methods will be thoroughly compared so you can make an informed decision which to choose.
When it comes to selling print on demand products on Amazon, you basically have 2 choices.
One, you can use Merch By Amazon which is a service owned by Amazon that allows you to sell your own branded apparel that is printed and shipped by Amazon.
Or two, you can use a 3rd party print on demand company like Printful to dropship the POD merchandise that you sell on Amazon.
Both methods have their pros and cons which will be thoroughly evaluated in this article.
But regardless of which method you choose, both Merch By Amazon and Printful allow you to create a side hustle that requires almost no money to start.
And within the first 3 months of launch, they managed to make almost 1000 dollars which is a lot of spending cash for a young kid.
I’ve also had a few guests on my podcast who make 6 figures selling print on demand t-shirts on Amazon and their own website.
Here’s how you can get started.
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What Is Print On Demand?
Print on demand is a form of dropshipping where you design your own custom products to be printed on generic products like t-shirts, mugs, pillows and other apparel.
Once you make a sale, your POD supplier will produce the item, print your design and ship it to your Amazon customer.
Here’s exactly how the process works.
- Customer browses your collection of t-shirts on Amazon and makes a purchase.
- The customer’s order is electronically transmitted to your print on demand company.
- The print on demand company fulfills the order.
- You pocket the difference in the selling price and the wholesale cost from the POD company.
Editor’s Note: There are many print on demand companies to choose from such as Printful, Printify, Custom Cat, Gear Bubble etc… But the reason I chose Printful for this comparison post is because Printful is the most popular POD company of them all. Plus, Printful provides other benefits for selling outside of Amazon which will be discussed below.
What Is Merch By Amazon?
Merch by Amazon was launched in 2015 and is a print on demand (POD) service that is similar to Printful, Printify and other POD companies.
The main difference is that Merch By Amazon only allows you to sell products on the Amazon marketplace and not on your own website. In addition, Amazon imposes strict requirements on what can and can not be sold on the platform. It’s also invite only.
But once you are approved to sell via Merch by Amazon, you can upload your own designs for t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, whatever you want.
Your products will be visible and searchable directly on Amazon which is the largest ecommerce marketplace in the world with over a 50% market share in the US.
Whenever you make a sale, your print on demand product will be produced to order and you’ll get paid a royalty for every product sold. Joining and selling via Merch By Amazon is 100% free.
How To Get Started With Merch By Amazon
Signing up with Merch By Amazon is invitation only. This means that you need to apply and be accepted by Amazon before you can start selling anything.
Right now, the application process can take as little as 3 weeks to over a year to get approved. I have friends who have been waiting for well over a year now and still haven’t heard back.
Due to the popularity of the program, Amazon is purposely limiting the number of sellers. If you want to use Merch By Amazon, you should start the process as soon as you can.
Go to merch.amazon.com. On this screen, click the “Request Invitation” button.
From here, you will be instructed to login to your Amazon account. If you don’t have an account, you’ll have to create one.
After you’ve logged in, you’ll be presented with an application form where you must provide…
- Your business contact information
- Bank account and routing numbers
- Your Tax ID
If you don’t have a business entity, you can simply use your name but anecdotally, you’ll have a much better chance of getting approved if you have your own business entity.
You’ll also be required to fill out a tax questionnaire. Just make sure all of your information is accurate or else you’ll be rejected right away.
Finally, Amazon will ask you questions about your industry, your organization and any “additional information” to support your application and your website address if applicable.
Again, the more business information you can provide, the faster your application will be processed. In general, Amazon is only looking for serious sellers who will follow through and actually make them money.
As a result, if you already have a track record of running successful online businesses, be sure to let Amazon know.
Once your account has been opened, you will be restricted to selling only 10 different designs to start. In the beginning, Amazon is testing you to see if you can actually sell merchandise.
However, once you’ve made at least 10 sales, you’ll be placed on a tier system where you have the privilege of uploading more designs.
- Tier 1 10 Designs
- Tier 2 25 Designs
- Tier 3 100 Designs
- Tier 4 500 Designs
- Tier 5 1000 Designs
- Tier 6 2000 Designs
- Tier 7 4000 Designs
- Tier 8 8000 Designs
Through this tier system, Amazon forces you to prove yourself before you are allowed upload more merchandise to their system. It’s also worth mentioning that Amazon will automatically remove any design that has not sold within 365 days after publishing.
Overall, the more designs you have, the more opportunity you have to make money.
Merch By Amazon Rules
When uploading your designs, you MUST follow Amazon’s terms and conditions to the letter.
First off, your artwork must obey the following guidelines.
- 15”W x 18”H with a transparent background
- 300 dpi PNG file (example, 4500 x 5400 pixels)
- Exported as an sRGB
- File size must be less than 25MB
In addition, Amazon is extremely strict about enforcing copyright infringement and it’s a guilty until proven innocent policy.
When you sell clothing that contains a design or a slogan, you MUST check the trademark database to make sure that the design belongs to you and that you have the rights to use the design for commercial purposes.
There are no exceptions!
If you use other people’s intellectual properly on your own POD merchandise, you will get banned from Amazon or even prosecuted.
Finally, you can not create designs that contain objectionable content in the eyes of Amazon. This list includes content with…
- Pornographic imagery
- Child exploitation
- Hate or racist speech
- Content that promotes violence
As mentioned earlier, Amazon takes copyright infringement very seriously and you can lose your entire print on demand business overnight if you violate their policies.
I Can’t Get Accepted Into Merch By Amazon. What Are My Other Options?
Right now, Merch By Amazon only allows you to sell your print on demand merchandise on Amazon. In addition, it’s extremely difficult to get into the program which means you’ll likely need to look elsewhere in the beginning for your Amazon print on demand needs.
Printful is a print on demand company that does all of their own manufacturing and production and they have fulfillment centers all across the US, Mexico and Europe.
Basically, Printful specializes in print on demand products and they offer a much larger variety of products than Amazon Merch. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can connect Printful directly to Amazon and they will fulfill all of your Amazon orders for you.
Here’s how it works.
- Click here to sign up for a Printful account for free.
- Create your t-shirt or merch design using Printful’s mockup generator.
- Connect Amazon to your Printful account and send your designs to Amazon.
- When a sale comes in, Printful will automatically receive and fulfill the order.
- Keep the difference in profit.
Printful also allows you to seamlessly list your products on your own website as well as a variety of other marketplaces like Etsy and Ebay at the push of a button. Ultimately, your goal should be to create your own online store and brand outside of Amazon.
At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, why do I need Merch By Amazon when I can just use Printful?
While the overall process is similar to selling via Merch By Amazon, the Amazon account setup and fee structure is dramatically different.
How To Sell Amazon Print On Demand Products With A 3rd Party POD Company
When you use Merch By Amazon, selling and listing your own t-shirt designs is 100% free.
But when you use a 3rd party print on demand company like Printful, you have to create an Amazon professional seller account which costs $39.99/month.
But once you pay the monthly fee, you can create as many listings as you want and there are no artificial limitations on your account like with Merch By Amazon.
Here are instructions on how to get started selling print on demand products on Amazon with a 3rd party POD service.
Open an Amazon Professional Seller Account
Amazon offers 2 different accounts for sellers, a personal account which is free and a professional seller account which costs $39.99/month.
In order to be successful selling print on demand merchandise on Amazon, you should bite the bullet and pay the $39.99. Having a professional seller account will allow you to have access to Amazon advertising, brand registry and a suite of other selling features.
Create An Account With Printful
Printful is one of the best print on demand companies out there. But the right POD company for you depends on your audience and what you want to sell.
The main reason I like Printful is because you can instantly sell your products on your own website, Amazon, Ebay and a number of other marketplaces at the push of a button.
In other words, Printful allows you to create an onmichannel presence online with your merchandise.
Upload Your Design
Next, you must create the artwork for your print on demand product.
Use a tool like Photoshop, Gimp or Canva to create your design. Then, upload it to Printful’s website and layout your product. Printful’s mockup generator is powerful, easy to use and you can see exactly what your product will look like after it’s been printed.
List Your Product On Amazon
Connect your Amazon seller account with Printful. Before you can fully connect Printful to your Amazon account, you must first file for a GTIN exemption so you don’t need to purchase barcodes.
After your GTIN exemption is approved, Printful will automatically add and sync your products with your Amazon store.
Merch By Amazon Vs Printful
While Merch By Amazon and Printful allow you to sell print on demand products on Amazon, there are many pros and cons for each method.
For example, Merch By Amazon will not allow you to advertise on the Amazon platform until you’ve reached the 3rd tier (100 listings) whereas you can advertise right away with an Amazon professional sellers account and Printful.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of using Merch By Amazon vs Printful.
Advantages Of Merch By Amazon
- Organic Visibility Is Higher For Your Products – Your organic merch sales will generally be higher by selling through Merch By Amazon vs Printful. Amazon tends to favor their own merch listings over 3rd party sellers.
- Cost – Merch By Amazon is free which means that you can create your own unique products without any upfront cost.
- Ease Of Use – There’s very little setup involved when selling on Amazon through Amazon Merch. Once your account is approved, you can list a product almost instantly.
Disadvantages Of Merch By Amazon
- Less Pricing Flexibility – Amazon forces you to price your merchandise within a specific range that they specify and control.
- Royalties Are Low – Amazon takes a decent cut of the sale for the privilege of selling on their platform. For example, a T-Shirt sold for $16 will generate a profit of less than $2.50 for the seller.
- Small Selection – Merch By Amazon doesn’t offer much selection and you are limited to selling t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. Printful on the other hand offers hundreds of different products including, shirts, mugs, pillowcases, bags, hats and more!
- Quality – Because Amazon’s product selection is small, you don’t have much say in the quality of the fabric or craftsmanship.
- Infrequent Payout – With Merch By Amazon, you are paid on monthly basis.
- Poor International Shipping – Right now, Merch By Amazon only ships to US, UK, Europe and Japan.
Advantages Of Printful
- More Control – You can price your products however you want and use any brand of shirt that Printful offers.
- Large Selection – Printful has one of the largest product selections of any print on demand company on the Internet. You can print your designs on shirts, pants, mugs, jackets, underwear, leggings, hats and home products!
- Profits Can Be Higher – Because you have access to a much larger selection of merchandise, you can make a larger profit by choosing a lower cost item.
- Quality – Printful offers the best print quality out of all of the print on demand companies. POD is the only thing they do and they do it well.
- Access To Amazon Advertising – You can start running Amazon PPC ads as soon as your account is active for additional visibility for your products.
- Omnichannel Marketing – With a push of a button, you can sell your merch on your own website as well as other marketplaces like Etsy and Ebay.
- More Frequent Payouts – As an Amazon professional seller, you are paid out every 2 weeks.
- International Shipping – Printful ships to most countries worldwide.
Disdvantages Of Printful
- More Expensive – Selling on Amazon with a 3rd party print on demand provider will cost you $39.99 for a professional seller account.
- More Complicated Setup – In order to sell on Amazon, you either need a UPC barcode or a GTIN exemption to list your products.
- Amazon Fees Are High – As a professional seller, Amazon takes 15% of your revenue for a completed sale on top of your cost of goods from Printful.
Overall, it’s better to sell Amazon print on demand products through a 3rd party POD company like Printful for maximum flexibility. However, if you are on a major budget, you can’t beat Merch By Amazon which is free.
How To Find Profitable Print On Demand Products To Sell on Amazon
Once you understand how to sell print on demand products on Amazon, the hard part is coming up with eye catching designs and deciding what to sell.
Should I sell t-shirts or hoodies? What designs sell well? Do some designs work better on a shirt vs a mug? The best place to start is by checking the Amazon best sellers
As of this writing, this is one of the top selling t-shirts on all of Amazon.
In general, the most successful designs speak to a very specific individual.
The shirt in the example above has a very catchy slogan and the artwork is clean. But most importantly, the message speaks or represents the owner well.
People will buy it for themselves, or for an avid fisherman they love.
With a little research, it’s very straightforward to find profitable niches to sell into. And the key is to go as narrow as possible.
For example, the simplest way to come up with a design is to think about what you do for a living. I’m a blogger and I can think of many quirky slogans that only a blogger would understand.
Similarly, I used to be an engineering director in corporate America and there are tons of inside jokes I could publish on a shirt or mug.
A girl I recently had on my podcast sells opossum merchandise. How random is that? But her merchandise sells well because opossum lovers resonate with her designs.
To be successful with print on demand, you want to list as many products as possible on Amazon, see what sticks and then scale your winners.
How To Find Print On Demand Products Through Keyword Research
When shopping on Amazon, most people go straight to the search bar and type in what they want to buy.
And if you can rank for the exact keywords that customers are typing into the Amazon search bar, you can make a lot of money!
The key is understanding and analyzing which keywords to target. This is where an Amazon keyword tool is invaluable.
Right now, I’m using the Jungle Scout keyword tool to conduct keyword research for every single Amazon product I sell.
In the example below, I did a search for “opossum” to see whether there’s demand for opossum products on Amazon.
According to Jungle Scout, the word “possum shirt” gets 384 searches per month and is very easy to rank.
If you assume a conversion rate of 5%, you can potentially sell 384 *.05 = ~19 possum shirts per month on Amazon from just this one keyword phrase alone!
You can also use Jungle Scout to see how well any product is selling on Amazon by using their chrome plugin.
According to Jungle Scout, the following possum shirt sold 28 units last month.
Overall, by analyzing Amazon with Jungle Scout, you can figure out which designs work and which do not.
Amazon Print On Demand Tips For Success
Which it comes to running a successful print on demand business on Amazon, research and quantity is what matters.
Use Google Trends to see what keywords are trending on the web. Use Jungle Scout to see what customers are searching for. Keep an eye on current events for potential ideas.
Then, pump out as many designs as quickly as you can. Because it doesn’t cost you any money to put up a listing, you should be as prolific as possible in order to give yourself the best chance of finding a design that sells.
Selling print on demand products successfully is like panning for gold. You’ll have a ton of losers but once you find a winner, you need to ride that winner for as long as you can.
If you have a unique design that is selling well, you may want to register the copyright or file for a trademark to make sure that nobody else can use your design.
Use Paid Advertising To Promote Your Amazon Print On Demand Products
With Merch By Amazon, you need to be in the 3rd tier (100 listings) in order to run Amazon Sponsored Products ads. But when you sell on Amazon using Printful, you can run ads right away.
Amazon Sponsored Products ads are easily the most profitable ads that you can run and doing the proper keyword research is essential.
Using the earlier opossum shirt example, you can bid on the keyword “possum shirt” and Amazon will display your product whenever anyone performs that specific search.
For more information about your Amazon advertising options, please consult my post on Amazon PPC
How Much Can You Make With Amazon Print On Demand
In general, your royalty rate will be fairly low depending on how you price your products. For example, a typical POD t-shirt on Printful will cost you around $12. So even if you can sell it for $16, that’s only a $4 profit.
And once you factor in Amazon’s 15% cut, that leaves you with around $3 and some change.
The royalties with Merch By Amazon are even worse. A t-shirt that sells for $15.99 will only yield a $2.21 royalty.
In general, your profitability will depend on your selling price but realistically, it’s going to be difficult to charge more than $25 for a t-shirt.
As a result, you’ll need to sell a lot of merchandise to make life changing money with Amazon print on demand. However, because the Amazon marketplace is so large, you can definitely make 6 figures per year selling your own designs. Good luck!
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.