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Lessons I've Learned by Selling DTC Merch (part 1)

I'm fortunate to say that for years, people have asked me about having T-shirts. Fortunate because they didn't have to care about wanting to support me as an artist, but they always did. It made me so embarrassed each time to have to answer them that I didn't yet carry any apparel. I did have quite a few low-ticket items to sell like stickers, magnets, and buttons galore, but never apparel. That finally changed when I officially launched my merch store this month.

The two reasons I hadn't carried apparel in the past was 1. Initial costs and 2. Having to store merch in my home. So when I found DTC (Direct to Customer or Consumer) options like Printify and Printful, I figured that it was finally time to make some moves. I linked up with an incredible designer named Jason Randle of The Clear Media after meeting in a Clubhouse room I frequent. I had always dreamed of printing my lyrics on apparel, so I decided on three songs, "It's Over", "Complicated", and my most recent release, "Crumbs".

Jason met with me several times and presented me with options that helped me decide on an aesthetic that would exude 90's grunge. I practically jumped out of my chair when I saw the design he came up with for "Complicated" that included 3 different font weights, each resembling a show from the 90's such as "My So-Called Life". The lyrics I went with from "It's Over" were from the pre-chorus of the song which has always been my favorite part, and it looked AMAZING stacked in the arrangement he came up with. "Crumbs" was the last design to get my stamp of approval, and the winning touch was the Thanos-style disappearing - glitch at the bottom of the image.

Once Jason sent me the image files, I figured I was good to go. I'd decided to go with Printify and figured I'd launch my store the very next day. But first... samples.

I ordered 1 transaction of several items I'd be selling to see how the fits were, which is particularly important to me as a very short but very busty woman. One by one, my items arrived from different fulfillment centers and at different times. Uh oh. Now, let me preface this by saying that there may be plenty of people that would expect this, but I naively hadn't considered that while I'd done my best to consolidate suppliers in the US, they'd still be sent off individually.

The second issue arose when I tried on the women's tee. "Complicated" stretched across my bosom until it was almost unrecognizable to read. The fit of the shirt, a Large, which is usually my go-to size, was instead an athletic slim fit with the bottom hem reaching almost mid-thigh. Quickly I saw my dreams fall apart of one day being able to sell merch that was as soft and comfy as your favorite baby blanket. Each of the samples felt stiff, thick, and gross. F*&%.

I reached out to Printify with my concerns but with little that they could do to help, I considered Printful instead. Except that Printful carried softer shirts with none of the color options that I wanted. Double f*&%.

I asked myself, "How would this look if it were simple?"

As a musician, no one was expecting me to get this 1000% perfect the first time. So I eased up and finally decided months later to launch my store. I removed the problematic women's tee, and chose to go live with the other items.

I'm so proud of my merch. The designs are so on point with my brand and I love that as new songs come out, I can add more lyrics. In retrospect, I do wish I had gone the manual route because DTC is more suitable for someone who will be fulfilling numerous orders each month. While I hope for that to be the case some day for me, I could have definitely fulfilled these orders myself. Lessons learned, and I'll continue to learn as time goes on.

As a thank you for reading this blog, here's free shipping on all items in my store! Use coupon code SHIPALLTHATSHT at checkout, and thank you for your support!

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