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1. Is selling merch profitable?

How to Make Merch for a Profit: 2024 Guide

Updated Jan 15 2024

Looking for a fun way to connect with your audience, promote your business, and increase profit margins all in one? We've got one word for you: merch.

In case you're unfamiliar, merch is short for merchandise, and selling it online has become one of today's hottest promotional strategies. These days, selling merch is all the rage among everyone from podcasters and influencers to bands and beauty brands.

If you or your business enjoys a fanbase of any sort, then selling merch can be a great way to connect with existing fans and attract new ones. Join us as we break down how to create your own custom products to sell them online without having to worry about overhead costs, inventory production, or even product delivery.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Selling custom merchandise is a great way to connect to your online fanbase and foster a sense of community.

  • Becoming an online merch maker can offer a new revenue stream with much lower upfront costs than the average business.

  • To sell your merchandise, use word-of-mouth on social media, integrate your online store with social media accounts, sell on merch marketplaces, and retarget your existing audience. 

  • Tools like Gelato make it easy to start selling custom merch without the hassle of product production or shipping.

Is selling merch profitable?

Sell profitable merch

The art of merch selling can certainly be profitable if executed correctly. Many brands, groups, and social media influencers are now catching onto marketing tactics that major brands have been using for years.

Brands like Nike and Adidas have been making millions for decades selling t-shirts that feature no more than their logo or brand name. Who among us hasn't jumped at the chance to buy a t-shirt featuring our favorite musical artist, gym, or fashion brand?

The truth is, most people love wearing merch because it offers a way to show off their interests and personalities. Great merch gives us a sense of belonging to a fan community and helps us feel connected to our favorite brands.

Creating your own merch can be a great way to give your fans a chance to show their support, all while providing you with great publicity. Read on to discover how to create merch to sell online with low or no overhead start-up costs.

Deciding whether to sell merch under your own brand vs. a sub-brand

As a new merch maker, one of the first things you'll need to decide is whether to sell merch using your established brand or under a sub-brand. A sub-brand is basically an individual brand that's owned by a larger brand.

For example, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athletica are all sub-brands of Gap Inc. While each store caters to its own unique niche, it's still a part of the Gap family.

So, should you sell your own merch under your established brand or a sub-brand all its own? It depends. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of each approach.

Your own existing brand

Opening an online store associated with your current brand has plenty of advantages. For one, you likely already have an existing audience that would be excited to purchase your merch.

Making merch using your brand guidelines, such as your logo and trademark colors, is also likely to be a lot easier than starting from scratch. Then, of course, there's the fact that offering your own custom merchandise can be an incredibly effective way to advertise and promote your brand.

The downside is that if you're selling merch for the first time, you'll want to make sure you really nail it. Offering your fans sub-par products is no way to increase loyalty and can reflect poorly on your image.

Another factor to consider is whether you want to design merch that makes sense within your current branding. For instance, if you are the lead singer in a heavy metal band who wants to start your own line of adorable puppy-themed greeting cards, then the sub-brand may be for you.


Sub-brands are a great way to offer a new type of merch online without having to worry about whether it makes sense within your current brand offerings. Not only does a sub-brand allow you to build a new revenue stream, but also a new audience of potential customers.

While many creators make it clear they are behind their sub-brands, it's simply a way to create merchandise catered to a specific niche.

One of the most obvious downsides of sub-branding is that you'll have to create a whole new identity and fanbase for your new merch store, especially if it varies drastically from your current audience's interests. Otherwise, a sub-brand can run the risk of diluting your existing brand if it's not sufficiently distinct.

How to make your own merch in seven simple steps

So you've decided to sell your own merch online - great! If you're thinking something along the lines of "now what?" then you've come to the right place.

Let's break down how to create merchandise and set up an online store in no time. We'll also touch on several merch strategy fundamentals you'll want to keep in mind along the way.

1. Understand your audience

target audience

Before you can create and sell winning merch, you've got to know who your audience is and what type of products they'd be interested in buying. If you've got a solid fan base already, then it's likely you've already got a few clues based on comments from your social media followers or even the type of content you create.

Say, for instance, you’ve amassed a large following by making YouTube videos where you guide viewers through at-home boxing workouts. It's probably safe to assume that your audience is composed of young people and adults who are interested in fitness.

In this instance, offering products like custom sportswear would likely be a great way to go. But the great thing about social media is that there's now no need to guess what types of merch your fans would like to see.

Most will be happy to tell you if you simply ask them. Don't be afraid to use things like surveys and comment sections to ask for advice.

Checking out competitors who sell merch to your target audience is also a great way to get ideas for your own store. A little lowkey spying can give you a good idea of what types of merch they offer and give you a chance to spot any product gaps you could fill to outsell them.

2. Determine your product offerings

determine product

Now it's time to decide what type of custom merchandise you want to offer. This will largely go back to your target audience, their interests, and even their feedback.

Doing a little research to see what's trending at the moment is also a great way to generate more merch ideas. The important thing is to choose merchandise that aligns with your brand and represents what you want to say about it.

If you're an artist who loves to create engaging visuals, then wall art or photo books of your art could prove incredibly profitable. If you're an interior designer, you might even consider offering your own custom wallpaper.

The great thing about custom merch designs is that you can put them on a wide range of different products. Here are some examples of cool merch ideas to help get your creative gears turning:

3. Design your merchandise

merchandise designing

Now comes the hardest part - creating the actual designs that turn a blank t-shirt or mug into custom merch. It's important to create designs that will resonate with your audience, using brand colors and high-quality images and graphics.

Keep in mind that simpler designs are often the way to go, and be sure to choose fonts that are easy to read. When it comes to how to actually create the designs, you have a few options.

The first is to hire a professional graphic designer from a site like Upwork or Fiverr. The other is to use software or tools like t-shirt templates to create your own designs.

If you're a seasoned pro, then Adobe PhotoShop is a great software choice. But if not, rest assured that there are plenty of other options.

Canva offers a free merch maker that comes with all the tools you need to make your own designs, including easy-to-use premade templates.PlaceIt also has a great merch designer with plenty of royalty-free design elements that you can customize without having to worry about copyrights.

4. Validate your merch designs

merch design validation

Before you start selling your brilliant designs on every product under the sun, it never hurts to order samples and get a little feedback. Turn to family, friends, and other creators you trust who will give you honest advice on your merch designing efforts.

You can even watermark your designs and get feedback from your existing audience based on comments, surveys, or questionnaires. While it may be tempting to skip this stage, don't succumb to the temptation.

Feedback can go a long way toward identifying your best merch ideas and finding ways to really perfect them. When you eventually create your merch store, you'll have the confidence of knowing your products look their best.

5. Choose a print on demand partner

Want to sell your merchandise without investing in blank products, printing tools, production, or even shipping? That's where the magic of a print on demand service comes in.

Print on demand services like Gelato make selling your own merchandise as easy as uploading your designs and choosing the products you want to offer. We take care of everything from actually creating your high-quality merch using localized production at over 130 locations and delivering it to customers all over the world.

When searching for a merch maker to partner with, it's essential to do your research, as not all print on demand providers are created equally. Be sure to go with a print provider that offers a great selection of high-quality merchandise and reasonable shipping rates on deliveries to a wide variety of different locations.

6. Create your online merch store

create online store

In order to sell merchandise online, you'll need to set up a place to.... well, sell it. Gelato offers several different ecommerce platform integrations to make connecting your merch to your store a breeze.

Popular ecommerce platform choices include sites like Shopify, Etsy, and WooCommerce. You can also set up a shop on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, which can be a solid choice if that's how you tend to connect to your fans.

You might even choose to create your own merch ecommerce platform on your website. The important thing is to choose an ecommerce platform or marketplace that you can easily manage and customize to align with your brand.

As you create your store, make sure to upload high-quality images of your merch alongside product descriptions that use relevant keywords to make it easier for your customers to find what they're looking for. Last but not least, you'll want to set up your payment processing and shipping options.

7. Promote your merchandise

merchandise promotion

Once your business is up and running, all that's left is to start promoting your new revenue stream! This is the time to tap into your inner marketer and come up with creative ways to get the word out about your merch.

For instance, why not run a presale to thank your audience for their support by giving them first dibs on your merch before it's released to the public? You could even create an email list or newsletter that includes special discounts for subscribers or contests with free merch rewards.

Ultimately, you'll also want to take advantage of the fact that social media makes it easy to market your merch in just a few clicks. Announce the news on your Facebook page, and if you haven't already, consider uploading your products to an Instagram shop.

If you're willing to put some money into your campaign, it's worth learning how to promote your merch with tools like Google Ads. Other platforms like Hootsuite and SproutSocial feature built-in marketing tools that can get your ads in front of the right audiences on social media platforms.

Paid marketing tools make it possible to use powerful strategies, such as targeting your current audience or people who have previously interacted with your site but who haven't yet made a purchase. It's also worth looking into partnerships with other influencers who can help promote your merch.

How to sell your custom merch?

Now that you've learned how to create your own merch, let's explore ways to sell it!

1. Spread the word through social media marketing

Encourage your audience to promote your brand by sharing photos of themselves using your products. You can also run a social media contest where people try your products and tag you for a chance to win a prize. Create a branded hashtag for them to use in their stories and pictures.

2. Use your existing platforms

Take advantage of the platforms you already use to sell merchandise to more customers. If you have an online store, integrate it with your social media channels to make it easy for your followers to buy your merchandise. Share links to your merch on YouTube and tag your products on Instagram to direct your followers to your online store.

3. Sell on marketplaces

Amplify your efforts by listing your products on popular merch marketplaces. These sites showcase products from different creators and help them reach a larger audience. You can explore sites like Hello Merch and MerchNow to showcase your products.

4. Retarget your existing audience

Use retargeting strategies to promote your merchandise to your followers. You can create ads based on specific criteria, such as past purchases or social media engagement. Platforms like Google, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook offer retargeting options to help you reach your audience effectively.

Gelato makes it simple to create and sell custom merch

As you can see, becoming a merch maker comes down to a few simple steps. From getting to know your audience and creating your merch designs to finding a great print on demand partner, creating your own catalog of custom products requires a bit of upfront effort.

The good news is that it's definitely doable for anyone willing to put in the time to get started. If you're ready to take the first steps toward becoming a merch maker, then check out Gelato's product catalog and start selling merch in no time.

From t-shirts and tote bags to wall art and other merch, Gelato offers plenty of high-quality popular merchandise options, complete with localized production in over 100 areas. We also offer a variety of great print on demand API and ecommerce integrations to make it easy for anyone to start selling merchandise in no time.

Frequently asked questions

Why do people buy merch?

People mostly buy branded merch for three reasons: 

1) They are brand loyalists and want to show their support for their favorite artist/creator.

2) They really like the merch and want to own it.

3) They see the merchandise as a way to express their personality in a tangible way.

What is the best merchandise to sell?

Different types of products become best-selling merchandise depending on what’s trending. That said, there is a high demand for custom t-shirts, hoodies, hats, phone cases, posters, stickers, and items printed with popular culture references. Lately, tote bags have also gained traction among merch lovers. These items can easily be printed with logos, slogans, and designs specific to brands.

Can I create my own merch online?

Yes, you can. Use an online platform like Gelato that offers the flexibility to create custom merchandise with cutting-edge design features and quick dispatch. That way, you will have your creations in your hand in no time!

What do I need to sell merch online?

To sell merch online, you must have a clear idea of what message you want your brand to convey. Next, select a product that best aligns with this message. For instance, choose custom hoodies as your merch if you are into rap music. Once you've decided on the product, choose a print on demand supplier like Gelato. The final step is to promote your merch on your social media platforms, but if you have an online shop, that'd be a plus!

Where do YouTubers make their merch?

Most YouTubers create their merchandise using POD services like Gelato, and it's really effortless with tools like the platform's built-in merch maker. With a POD service, creators can focus on making their videos and growing their channels while their chosen supplier takes care of creating, shipping, and delivering their merchandise to their fans.

How much does it cost to make merch with Gelato?

Gelato's merch maker is an excellent tool for creating custom merch in a cost-effective manner. You do not have to pay any money upfront, and it's also easy to use. You can design, sell, and create stunning branded merch with just a few clicks. You can operate a free forever account or sign up for one of the three subscription tiers at affordable prices. Check out the pricing here.


Next steps

Start selling custom merch with Gelato