Designer Makes $700k in Revenue in His First Year of Business, Shares His Hard-Won Lessons
Nothing makes you learn faster than getting out there, trying stuff and seeing the results for yourself, tells us Mike Pasley. As someone who’s made $700k in revenue during his first year in business, Mike is the kind of guy you’d trust with business savvy advice.
His shop, famousinreal.life, has grown from an unknown online store to a reputable apparel brand backed by a passionate community in less than two years, but it took Mike a fair amount of experimentation to unlock the secret sauce of running a profitable eCommerce business.
And now he’s ready to share those hard-won lessons with us.
Wise Advice: What Does It Take To Build a Successful Print-On-Demand Business?
Always Be Ideating. Mike believes that anyone can start a print on demand business and find success in eCommerce, but only under one condition. To be successful in this industry, one must be constantly learning, experimenting and keeping their eyes peeled for exciting (and profitable) ideas. Mike insists that the success of a print-on-demand business truly rests on the power of innovation and unique ideas. His journey in eCommerce started with eBay when he was only 12, listing anything that would sell from clothing and antiques to lawn mower parts. Ever since discovering the potential of side hustles and the opportunity to make extra cash, keeping the ideas reservoir topped up at all times has become the norm. He’s always ideating, no matter how well the business is doing.
Another factor Mike highlights is the importance of finding a niche that both excites you and has mass audience appeal. “For anyone who’s in the tshirt business,” Mike explains, “it is as important to not become limited by your own passions as it is to understand what’s considered to be cool and what has crowd appeal.” Whether you’re into dogs, cycling or books, combining popular ideas with your own unique twist and monitoring your target audience’s response can be the secret ingredient that your strategy needs.
Create Your Own Print on Demand Success!
Upskilling Is Key
Whether you’re planning to run a side gig or want to launch a full-time serious eCommerce business, having the right skill set in place will be critical to your ability to scale and to do it fast. Although Mike says he’s a fan of outsourcing and advocates for task-based hiring, he’s also big on upskilling, which is another word for improving one’s skills through training.
“I haven’t found eCommerce by chance,” explains the founder of Famous in Real Life, “but rather built up the skills over a long period of time. Starting something that I already had the skills for was very important.”
With a professional background in graphic design and marketing, Mike is involved in every aspect of his business and doesn’t need to outsource much. However, he remembers having to pick up quite a few new skills through the good old trial and error process when he started out. It took Mike a bit of time, money and patience to experiment and wrap his head around the concept of social media and Google ads. But that certainly paid off. He believes that putting the effort and time into learning valuable skills, such as Google AdWords or copywriting, can turn out to be a huge advantage. Rather than relying on someone else’s expertise and hoping for the best, you can take control of the core tasks and ensure that your store gets the best chance at succeeding. At the same time, he tells us he’d definitely advise entrepreneurs to outsource design work instead of trying their hand at it if the skill set isn’t there.
Picking up Ideas Anywhere
One brilliant design idea that goes viral could be enough to bring your store the attention of thousands of online shoppers. Being an ‘ideas man’ himself, Mike explains that the success formula of a profitable apparel business is very simple: the faster you iterate and the more ideas you put out, the sooner you might stumble upon your golden-ticket design.
The Best T-Shirt Designs Are Often Those That Tap Into Human Emotions:
Whether it’s making people smile (or laugh if you’re that good), indulge in nostalgia or gasp in surprise, leveraging emotions is the best way to prompt online shoppers to take action. What this means is that the best ideas can really be hiding in plain sight: in conversations with friends or family, group chats, your daily routines and even your pet peeves. As an entrepreneur, you should be able to pick up on ideas anywhere as well as be receptive to others’ suggestions and input.
“Having a long-term mindset and seriously thinking about your brand is very important,” Mike explains. While trying to scale his own operations, he put a lot of importance and effort into building a community around his products, hoping that he could eventually turn it into a brand. An authentic brand usually attracts like-minded people and lays the foundation for an organically growing online community. And once you have a strong fan base, you will start seeing the impressive impact that word-of-mouth advertising can have on your bottom line.
One of the most important pieces of advice that Mike shares is the significance of being in tune with your target audience. “If you can look at data and see the human behavior behind it, then that’s really how you’re going to find success in eCommerce,” suggests Mike. “Are people finding your products? Do you have the right keywords in your product descriptions? Are your prices effective? Have you done your research? If you can look beyond clicks and see the user experience and why people are behaving that way, then it is really the key piece in finding success in eCommerce.”
Mike Palsey, founder of Famous In Real Life
Bringing It All Together
Don’t make the mistake thinking that, coming from graphic design, Mike had it easy. When his store was just a side hustle, he used to put in 20 to 25 hours a week on top of his full-time job commitments. That often meant sacrificing his weekends and outings with friends, but he knew what he was hustling for. Mike insists that if you’re willing to put in enough time and energy into the project and continue to learn and experiment throughout your journey, you’re bound to find success with a print-on-demand business. Considering that over two billion t-shirts are sold worldwide every year, the potential to succeed is immense.
Have you been sitting on a brilliant idea for a while? There will be no better time to see whether it has legs.
Make It Happen Today!
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I needed this, thank you. And I had to laugh at the title because there was 15 plus years of hard work of preparation. NOTHING is overnight except overnight.
Thank you for your feedback, we are glad to hear you enjoyed this article!
Thank you for freely giving advice for those looking for inspiration to start an online business! I truly appreciate Printify’s commitment to helping the e-commerce community.
Why is Printify promoting this guy who clearly has a ton of copyright infringements?
I want to start up my own printed shirts to raise money, would this be a good way to start?
Am I right in assuming that in a PoD business, your brand, and therefore your design is basically your only differentiator?
Therefore if the skillset isn’t there, outsourcing design work is probably the most important thing you can do! I flip-flopped for weeks between creating something myself and outsourcing it.
Neither worked for me – I’m not artistic but I didn’t want to hire anyone either, because I didn’t really know what I wanted, just that it had to be original.
I’m creating a middle ground between self-design and professional designer if anyone’s in the same conundrum I was; basically, a market professional-quality designs specifically for printing on products.
If it can help just one person I’d be happy: printable.wunksert.com/merchants
Gonna be funny when the big companies send their attorneys after him for royalties on all those “inspired” designs.
This is encouraging! I haven’t tested your shirts yet, my question is- as I understand, you can’t brand with Printify? How do you grow a business like this without labelling or adding something distinctive to your brand? Also I would be curious to know, which print provider is he using as i believe they will be the best from the selection you have then ?.
I’d like to know how Mike created such a full and vivid Instagram page within two years! Did he work with so many people to do the photo-shooting or are these all mockups?
Great work either way 🙂
A lot of merchants use “Place it” for mockups and social media. You can check it out here – https://bit.ly/2vyxlMe
Thank you for the inspiration. I’ve been seriously looking into opening my own fashion and novelties store, along with the various POD services. I’m also digging into web development (famousinreal.life is kickazz!), aiming to combine the two. From what I’ve seen so far, Prinitify appears to stand out as the best overall solution for my purposes. I’m going to take a peek at the API now. I do believe I have found my platform. 😉
Ted, thank you! We really wish you the best – let’s make this print on demand journey awesome.
can I use woo commerce on my website with Printify?
What site service does famous in real life use for the actual sales? Thanks
hey, my question is how to promote and market these products online…is it through a shopify or a google funnel or which ways to get impulse buyers to have the product directly on their emails, computers and phones?
Still waiting to hear the legality of stealing quotes from movies…
For those that don’t have a law degree, many items are not protected, such as movie quotes, etc. Your attorney should be able to assist you to answer these type of questions.
I notice that Mike from Famous IRL has a lot of shirts with movies, quotes, and etc. Did Mike ask these companies for the commercial use licenses or that he just sells these shirts without asking these companies? Your response would be greatly appreciated.
I’d like to know this as well
Great article and guessing it is not intentional, but a paragraph is repeated in this article!
This is the one….
The best t-shirt designs are often those that tap into human emotions: whether it’s making people smile (or laugh if you’re that good), indulge in nostalgia or gasp in surprise, leveraging emotions is the best way to prompt online shoppers to take action. What this means is that the best ideas can really be hiding in plain sight: in conversations with friends or family, group chats, your daily routines and even your pet peeves. As an entrepreneur, you should be able to pick up on ideas anywhere as well as be receptive to others’ suggestions and input.
Thank u, Martha! We fixed it – so nice that you told us. 😉 Elina
I am curious about Famous IRL and how Mike is able to sell so many shirts with quotes and images from television and movies. I know there is a lot of grey area. Does he contact these companies etc or does he simply just make the shirts and sell them, knowing something we don’t know?
Does he though? Hmmm
Does he really though?
I saw an article on Facebook about starting your printing business.This article have really get me going to do another store solely for t-shirt.Keep it up and an in depth article is worthwhile to do deeper.
Hi, Stanley! Thanks for the response. Yes, we will try to keep up – we love in-depth articles. – Elina
Thank you for the article I really do appreciate it. As I’m at the beginning of my e-commerce store I have quite a bit of time to really Dive In.
Hi Elina Stafecka. Do I need a website of my own to start selling on Printify? Need help on this. Please contact me asap. [email protected] or 505-261-3839
Confused how this works…
I have T-Shirts Designs I want to sell. But not sure how to set this all up. Please help. Thanks.
Hi, Jason! I would recommend contacting our Customer Care Agents – they will be fast & very helpful: [email protected]
Hi, Jason! No, you can use Etsy as your marketplace channel. If you need more information please contact our Support Agents: [email protected]