Make your own custom merch with Bonfire t-shirts

How to Make Custom Merch You Can Design and Sell Online

Selling custom merch provides three solutions in one: promoting your brand, fostering stronger connections with your followers, and raising funds for your next project! It’s a win, win, win. Your fans will love the chance to support you and get something awesome in return. 

Whether you’re a musician, artist, YouTuber, or any other type of online creator, this guide will help you design and sell premium custom merchandise your fans will love and returns a profit for you.

How to Design Your Merch

When it comes to designing your merch, you want to make sure you know why you want to make merch and who you are making it for. Here’s our advice on streamlining your ideas to create the perfect merch for you and your fans. 

Clarify Your Brand Identity

Do you have a recognizable brand identity? If you’ve been marketing yourself for a while now, you most likely do, but if you’re just starting out, you might still be developing your brand identity. Either way, it’s valuable to spend time thinking about what makes your brand unique. This will help you clarify your vision and overall aesthetic and make sure your merch designs accurately reflect your brand. 

Clarify your brand identity when creating custom merch for your audience.

Understand What Your Audience Wants

Now that you’ve determined your brand identity, it’s time to focus on your audience and get to know them better! Your audience for your custom merch consists of your followers, fans, supporters, or customers. Even though you may feel you have a pretty good understanding of your audience, making merch that they will truly love requires digging a little deeper into who your audience is and what they want. 

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who do you hope will buy your custom merch?
  • Where and how do you typically interact with this audience?
  • What do they value about you and your work?
  • Are there any running motifs, jokes, or catchphrases your audience loves and would enjoy seeing featured on your merch?
Understand What Kind of Merch Your Audience Wants

After you’ve answered these questions for yourself, consider asking your audience questions directly to learn even more! Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Create polls on Instagram that ask your followers to help you make design decisions. Think “this or that” questions that require them to vote on their favorite out of two options at a time. Ex: Which color do you like better? Which font do you prefer? Which shirt style would you wear?
  • Prompt your audience to answer questions in Instagram Stories. Ex: If I were to create custom merch, would you buy it? I’m designing custom merch—what styles would you like to see? What was the last t-shirt you bought? 

Collecting data on what your audience likes and dislikes is helpful for designing custom merch and is also helpful for maintaining audience engagement over time. Your audience will notice the time you spend getting to know them, and they will appreciate it. 

Create Your Design and Select Your Products

Design Your Merch and Select Your Products

Now comes the really fun part! Using what you’ve learned about your audience and your goals for creating custom merchandise, you can brainstorm concepts and create mock-up designs. Follow some best practices to guide your merch designs. You can check out our full guide to designing the perfect t-shirt, but here are some main points to remember:

Have you decided what products you’d like to offer? If you haven’t yet, browse through Bonfire’s product catalog to view our wide range of available products. Depending on the products you choose, the recommended design format and dimensions may change, but don’t worry—this information is readily available for each product!

Take your time to get your custom merch designs just right. Carefully refining your designs will have a huge payoff once you launch your t-shirt campaign!

How to Sell Your Custom Merch

Bonfire's options for selling custom merch includes, print on-demand, timed campaigns, and fundraisers.

Start by picking a merch platform that fits your needs. At Bonfire, we take care of the printing, shipping, and customer service so you can concentrate on connecting with your fans and promoting your merch. We offer four different ways for you to sell your merch – each option is easy to set up, user-friendly, and designed to maximize sales.

  • Launch an online campaign. Set your prices and campaign length, then start promoting your merch! We take care of the printing and shipping, and you keep 100% of the profits.
  • Create a merch fundraiser. Sell your merch and raise funds for charity at the same time with Bonfire Fundraisers. Just connect your campaign to the nonprofit you want to fundraise for, then we’ll send them 100% proceeds you raised once your campaign ends. 
  • Speed things up with print-on-demand. Print-on-demand allows orders from your campaign(s) to be printed and delivered between 8-14 business days after the order is placed and without additional constraints. However, this approach does include a cut to overall profits.
  • Order your custom shirts. Place an order online to sell or distribute on your own. Order as few or as many as you need through Supply by Bonfire.

We also have a growing number of free features and tools to help you sell your merch wherever you go.

With multiple options for selling and ordering your merch, and countless tools and features, Bonfire is the only smart choice for you and all your custom merch needs.

Schedule your merch drop with Bonfire and surprise your fans.

Decide When to Launch Your Merch Campaign

Schedule your Bonfire campaign to launch at a certain date and time in the future.

When it’s time to launch your campaign on Bonfire, you can either launch your campaign now or schedule your campaign to launch at a later date. Both are great options, so just choose the one that works best for you! 

  • Launch now – click the green Launch button and watch your campaign go LIVE!
  • Launch later – click the calendar icon to set your desired launch date.

Whichever option you choose, let your community know the details, so they know when to buy!

Helpful Tip
Sellers have the most success when they spread their campaign launches out – we recommend waiting 90 days between campaigns. If you plan to launch multiple campaigns, use the Schedule Campaign feature to schedule your merch drops in advance!

How to Promote Your Merch

Once you’ve finalized the design for your merch, chosen your products, and decided on the best way to offer your t-shirts, it’s time to launch and promote your campaign! Try to promote your merch in a way that gets your followers engaged with your content and generates a lot of interest and excitement about your merch. To do this, we recommend doing the following:

Make It Easy to Find

Using simple links that prioritize the user experience will make it easy for your followers to directly access your merch store.

We recommend using a link-in bio tool like Linktree so you can link to your profile across all of your platforms. Then, you can use our free Linktree integration to display and sell your merch directly from your profile.

Use Bonfire's free Linktree integration to display and sell your merch directly from your profile.

If you don’t have a Linktree profile yet, just create a free account, then connect your Bonfire store to your profile once it’s published.

Once you’ve enabled the Linktree integration, add your unique Linktree URL to all of your bios and be sure to tell your community to visit your “link in bio” to check out your Bonfire store!

Helpful tip:
Learn how to manage your Linktree integration.

Use Scheduled Posts

Create scheduled posts on different social media platforms following a distinct beginning, middle, and end pattern.

For example, if you plan on selling your merch for a limited time only, plan to promote it before it launches to build anticipation, again around the middle of the run to keep the excitement going, and finally towards the end to encourage last-minute sales. Also, thank all of your buyers for supporting you and purchasing merch. 

Create Engaging Visuals

Use engaging visuals and mockups to promote your merch. Include photos of yourself (your friends, family, etc.) wearing the merch after ordering a few through Bonfire Supply. If your store offers different apparel styles, showcase those different looks. In this age of constant scrolling, you want to make sure your visuals are strong enough to catch someone’s eye—think bold colors, clear imagery, and text that’s super easy to read (if you include text). Remember to always stick to your established brand aesthetic.

Vary the Content 

Be sure to vary how you promote your merch to avoid becoming too repetitive or pushy. Find ways to incorporate your merch into your usual content and posts. This approach will feel authentic and natural. Wear your merch in your YouTube videos, share customer photos in your Instagram Stories or on your main feed, create a TikTok that shows how to style your merch, etc. 

Use Merch Shelf to sell more products
Sell merch below your YouTube videos with our Merch Shelf integration. It’s free to use and makes it easy for viewers to buy your merch with a button click.

Setup Merch Shelf

Have fun and play around with creative ways to promote your shirts! Your unique content, voice, and audience guided your design process; let them guide your promotions, too.

Remember that your custom merch should serve multiple purposes: to make money, engage your followers, and promote your brand. Following best practices like these will ensure your promotional strategy is as effective as possible.

Launch Targeted Ads

Launch Targeted Ads to promote your custom merch.

If you are a creator (or organization) with a significant budget, consider investing in targeted ads to help get your merchandise in front of more of your audience. 

Make sure to use targeted ads strategically to get the most out of your investment. When deciding which platforms to partner with for your ads, focus on the platforms your followers use regularly, as well as the platforms where you interact with your followers the most often. 

After an initial push of targeted ads, many creators can rely on other effective marketing strategies, such as word-of-mouth and ongoing audience engagement. 

Encourage Engagement from Your Followers

The biggest strength of social media as a promotional tool is that your audience can visibly and directly engage with your campaign in real time. Getting your followers involved with your merch promotion is an essential element of any successful t-shirt campaign. There are two easy ways to do this:

  • Ask for shares. Ask your followers to spread the word about your merch on their profiles, especially if they made a purchase. This is an effective strategy when your merch is raising money for a cause or if your work is highly socially or politically motivated.
  • Ask for pictures. Choose a special hashtag, then ask your fans who ordered a shirt to post a photo of themselves wearing it. Ask for permission, then repost their photo and publicly thank them. This is a fantastic way to promote your apparel because people love to see merchandise in action, being worn by real people out in the world. 

By asking your community to get directly involved in your promotions, you’ll increase interest in your merch and increase sales. Seeing others participate is a powerful way to encourage your other followers to join the fun or participate in their own way.

These kinds of promotional strategies are often referred to as circles of engagement. By generating a cycle of interest, participation, and purchases that continually attracts new customers, promotional engagement strategies allow your followers to get directly involved ( and stay involved) with your campaign.

Designing and selling custom merch is an excellent idea for all creative individuals. From garage bands to local businesses, YouTubers to writers, designing a custom mech is a smart way to connect with your fans, promote your brand, and earn some money while you’re at it.

Start selling custom merch the easy way with Bonfire.

Written by: Hayden Ireland / Content Specialist
Illustrated by: Madison Summers / Lead Marketing Designer

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