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T-Shirt Competition Debrief – Was it Successful?

Quite a few readers have asked how successful the T-Shirt competition has been. How many shirts have we sold? Is it worth it?

I’m not going to go into specifics about which shirt sold how many or even what the total sales have been in the ProBlogger shop – but I will say that overall this venture has not been my most profitable one and I don’t think I’ll be retiring any time soon on my earnings from ProBlogger’s T-Shirt range.

After CafePress takes their cut each item brings in only a few dollars and while there was quite a lot of interest in the competition and quite a few have gone to the shop for a look – sales have been very low. Lets just say that ProBlogger T-Shirts are collectors items due to the limited print runs at this stage – some of the designs are yet to have any sales at all. I don’t think that this is the fault of the designers – rather there are other factors at play (see below).

The cost of having the shop has been covered but the prize ($100 from Amazon) could take quite a few months to earn back from sales.

Why hasn’t this project been a raging success? Let me offer a few suggestions:

• The nature of the topic at ProBlogger – blogging for money isn’t the ‘coolest’ topic in the world and probably doesn’t lend itself too much to T-Shirts, mugs, mousepads etc. I suspect some blog’s topics will be much more suitable for selling T-Shirts than ours.

• Link Positioning – I could have the links to the problogger shop in more prominent positions on my blog. While I like the structure of my blog – one of the costs of only having two columns is that there is less room above the fold for such links.

Poor Briefing of Designers – One thought I’ve had since this competition is that I didn’t give designers a good briefing in terms of both the logistics of what type of image I needed (I gave them the run around – sorry friends) but also in terms of who I thought might buy the end products. If I’d been a little clearer on this I think perhaps we could have produced T-Shirts that MAY have been more appealing to readers who themselves are bloggers seeking to make money from blogging.

• CafePress – I like quite a few things about the host of my shop – – however there are a few limitations. One of these is the limited colors of T-Shirts. I have had a few readers tell me they’d buy a T-Shirt if it wasn’t white or grey. Another limitation is the shipping costs to international readers (a few have mentioned this). Perhaps cost is also another feature. I selected the ‘medium’ mark up price on the T-Shirts. I could have lessened this slightly and reduced my profits to a dollar per sale but if I’d done this I’d need to sell 100 T-Shirts to make my $100 back.

I’m sure there are other reasons.

Overall I’m not too disappointed with the project – I’d do it differently in future (and perhaps in 6 months we’ll try again) but in the process I got about 30 or so people involved in ProBlogger in a tangible way – I learned some lessons – I added a small but interesting revenue stream to this blog – and I got myself a T-Shirt or two (mine are hopefully on the way form CafePress as we speak).

I wouldn’t write off T-Shirts as a way of making money from your blog – in fact I’ve seen some bloggers use it effectively – however you’d want to enter into it with realistic expectations.

If you are one of the people who ordered a ProBlogger product I’d love to get a photo of you wearing/using it. Shoot me an email of your picture and I’ll post it on the blog with a link to your site as a mini thank-you. I’ll do this for the first 10 or so people to send pictures in.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. Tried this myself about 12-18 months ago, they’re not an easy sell. There are a couple of other companies around now but do give a better range of t-shirt colors and dollar returns now then Cafepress, but don’t ask me to recite their names :-)

  2. It also got you some different Adsense advertising on your blog – right now I’m looking at some two Adsense ads for tshirts just above the comments instead of the usual blogging type ads. :)

  3. I thought the cost of the store was zero (0)? What is the cost of setting up a store?

  4. the cost of a store is $0 if you have one design – but if you have more than that (I have 5) you really need to go for the next level up (from memory its $6-$7 per month).

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience. This is one reason I’ve stayed away from selling “site memorabilia”. If I were doing 10,000 visitors a day, I may be able to justify the initial investment of time.

  6. No substantial links gained because of the contest? I thought it was a clever link building initiative. In that regard, I think it was moderately successful ;)

  7. As a finalist (Giving Words Worth) – yeah, in hindsight, you should have asked for something generic. I think that’s one reason I, and others, liked Retz’s entry the most – I can wear it and it’s an ad for what I do, rather than an ad for If I had my time again I would changed my wording to Pro Blogger (instead of I still don’t think I woulda won, but I would have bought my t-shirt (though I did buy a coffee cup).

    I do appreciate the opportunity though, and it gave me extra incentive to get my own blog fully functional. It was also good for the ego! :)

    Thanks Darren

  8. I actually tried to use a free t-shirt giveaway as and aid to build site content (more subscribers = more content = more visitors) and it was moderatly successful.

    However, in terms of actually selling merchandise from my site I have had less than sterling success.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis of the limitations and will be interested in your follow up posts in the future.

    I am currently my own biggest customer.

  9. IMO it’s much on cafepress’ shirt limitations and surcharge on the items is too much for, should I say start-up client? But I like their preview tool, entries emphasized their “kewl factor” on other items with it.
    I’m keeping the shop link on my site as gratitude to Sir Darren and the rest of the contestants.
    @chrisH – thanks for your remarks re: my design, I’ve added a link (qwerytyrash) on my site.

  10. Well your adsense ads have changed from blogging to Tshirts. ;-)

  11. If you look at t-shirts as a promotional item, people are actually paying for wearing a problogger advertisement across their chest. It will only be the die hard problogger fans that will pay for wearing your adverting. You should try to give some away for free in some contest.

  12. Pro,

    Interested reading about the T-shirts maybe you could share some of your advice for blogging, at the site my wife is trying to get links to increase her google page link number?

    Can you please tell me the best way to go increasing your page rank?

    Does the competitions you run build up in numbers exponantially as the competition draws to a close.

    Any other tips or tricks you’re willing to share.

    Thanks for your time


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