This is my very first full-fledged income report and it’s a very special one because it marks the end of an interesting and insightful year during which I worked A LOT on turning around the downward sales trend which I’ve had to witness the past 2 years.
The idea behind these reports is to give you an in-depth view into the inner workings of my t-shirt business finances. I will share with you not only some of the things I’ve been working on, the good and the bad, but also give you a detailed breakdown of my different income streams and expenses.
Ideally, what I am about to share with you is meant to inspire you and motivate you to take action, because without action there cannot be a proper result. Remember, just because my business runs mostly on autopilot, that doesn’t mean I you don’t need to nurture it. And it took a lot of hard work and many hours of creativity to get to the point where I am today. I hope you enjoy this report. I’m always keen to hear what you think and how I can improve them.
As with most retail businesses, Christmas is an important time of year. Many retailers don’t actually turn a serious profit until the holiday season comes along, which says a lot about how dependent they are on all those present we go out to buy every year. And while I don’t really need Christmas to turn a profit (my expenses are so low anyway), it’s always an exciting and fairly lucrative event, where you’re always curious to find out how big the sales will be this year. My most successful Christmas season actually ended up with a monthly sales figure of over 14,000 EUR, so easily over 16,000 US Dollars.
It’s also interesting to see how seasonality works. After being in this business for over 7 years, I can tell you that the general trend is always the same. The year starts out very slow and tends to reach it’s first peak in early summer. Depending on current events (e.g. FIFA World Cup) it can be more pronounced, but this is where it generally peaks first. Sales then always go down until around Halloween time, when things pick up again until they finally culminate in the great shopping spree in December. I’ll be writing a extra article on seasonality soon where I go into detail on and show some of the trend lines I’ve gathered over the years.
Long story short, this Christmas season was very good, particularly given some of the downward trends of the past 2 years. Some of the sales only pay out in January, so it’s hard to really compare the numbers, but this December surpassed my sales from 2014 and even 2013. Overall that’s a good sign, because the sales have been continuously going down since mid 2013 due to major changes on Spreadshirt.
As I just mentioned, sales have been dwindling the past 2 years. It all started in August 2013 when something major happened on Spreadshirt’s platform and nearly all the designers, that I’m regularly in contact with saw the same hit. Some were hit harder than others (like myself), but I guess that also comes with the territory. The higher up you are, the harder to fall.
One of the key issues where changes to keyword regulations as well as products being removed from their product line. Many of my designs ended up without any products being shown on the marketplace or at the very least, very few of them. It took us all a very long time to figure out what the main issue was. For me it was even more difficult because I was in the process of getting ready to be expatriated to South Africa by my employer, so that it became tremendously difficult for me to focus on my business at the time. Over time my sales kept dropping. Designs lost their ranking positions and weren’t found anymore. 2013 saw a drop in sales by 25% and 2014 by another 35%.
In January 2015 I decided it was time to do something about it. I had to make the turnaround happen. It was clear to me that I would have to fix many of the descriptions and keywords of my +5,000 designs and create new products for all of them. It seemed like a huge task, which couldn’t easily be done next to a full-time job without sacrificing a lot of private time. I thought I would try to be realistic and take it slow, but even at a rate of roughly 20 design per day, I knew it would take me around 9 months to complete. In the end it took me about 10 months, including a 1 1/2 month hiatus, which was necessary due to my return to Germany. However, having seen the results for November and December, I am certain that it was the right decision. It will take some times for sales to move back onto the growth path again, but at least now I feel like I’ve stopped the free fall and stabilized my sales. Only time will tell, but rest assured, I will report.
Things I Tried in December
One of things I decided to do in December, was revive my business on Redbubble. The website had deactivated my account about a year ago because I was a bit sloppy with my self-moderation. They’re quite strict with their keywords and mature content filters. Unfortunately I didn’t take it very seriously at the time, which is particularly frustrating because I had a good stream of about 200 EUR/month coming in from Redbubble. Now it’s nothing.
But I contacted their team and told them that I was deleted all my designs and wanted to start all over again. It was more difficult to try to fix the issue that restart from scratch. I got a response fairly quickly and they said it was fine, as long as I stick to the rules now. I’m pretty sure I’m on probation and the slightest slip will kick me out forever. Therefore I’m paying extra attention.
But, as you can imagine, uploading, creating products, adding titles, descriptions and keywords takes a heck of a lot of time. Particularly if all you designs are in vector format and the site wants you to upload in PNG or JPG format. An absolutely horrendous process which will drive anyone insane. But that’s where my little friend “Keyboard Maestro” comes in. For those of you who have read my eBook “Apparel on Autopilot”, this won’t come as a surprise and you’ll know exactly what I mean. I’ve built a macro, which will handle that entire process by itself. And what’s even better, it uses all the hard work I did on Spreadshirt during last year and simply copy and pastes the descriptions and keywords which I carefully selected there. It’s a lengthy process and the macro isn’t perfect yet. But if I manage it have it run while I’m at work and at night, then I should be able to process all +5,000 designs in less than 2 months. I know that sounds like A LOT. But given that I’m not really doing anything and it’s always working when I’m away or sleeping, I think that’s a pretty good deal. I will report on my process next month, when I know more.
Monthly T-Shirt Income Report
I’m looking forward to reading your questions and comments. If there’s any particular position that you would like to know more about, then let me know and I will try to clarify.
|Income Positions||EUR||USD||Last Month|
|Spreadshirt Marketplace EU||3,819.12||4,154.05||2,530.24|
|Spreadshirt Marketplace US||992.48||1,079.52||497.88|
|Expense Positions||EUR €||USD $||Last Month|
|Airmail 2.5 (Software for OSX)||8.39||9.13||–|
|Mouse Position Menu (Software for OSX)||8.40||9.14||–|
|Google API Services (mostly translation)||100.97||109.82||21.17|
|HostGator (Web Hosting Services)||10.99||11.95||11.95|
|Shopify Basic Subscription (for www.gocaptain.com)||26.67||29.00||29.00|
|Namecheap (Domain Name Registration Fees)||21.63||23.53||–|
|The Noun Project (NounPro Subscription)||9.18||9.99||9.99|
|Dropscan (Mail Scanning Service)||10.33||11.24||21.92|
|Xing (Quarterly Subscription)||25.08||27.28||–|
|Net Operating Profit (excl. all taxes)||4,589.96||4.992,49||2,934.09|
|Tax Elements||EUR €||USD $||Last Month|
|VAT on Income||725,63||789.27||480.75|
|VAT on Expenses||9.92||10.79||4.16|
|Net VAT to be paid to the Tax Man||715.71||778.48||476.59|
*EUR/USD Exchange Rate for December 2015: 1.0788