Want to make money off your passion? Then follow the path of Chris Petty, who’s seen plenty of success with his Spreadshop, “The High Frontier.” The space enthusiast has found a clever way to monetize his blog, proving that it doesn’t take crazy designs or a gimmick theme to be successful on our platform. Petty recently joined the MerchCast Podcast to discuss his Spreadshop experience with hosts D.J. Coffman, Mark “Moose” Coletti, and Nathan Sam. Take a look at some of his most notable answers below.
What made you want to monetize your passion for outer space? How have you been enjoying your new business venture?
I really like space… it’s been with me all my life. Even when I was three years old, I bugged my folks about wanting books on space. Years later, I hadn’t lost that interest. Last year, I got made redundant from the graphic design job I had been doing, and I kind of thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could combine my love for space and my skills as a graphic designer?’
— The High Frontier (@thehighfrontier) August 6, 2018
I’d been to some of the shops at NASA Center, and I didn’t really like any of the t-shirts they had. I just thought, ‘let’s give this a go.’ I had been doing a space blog for three or four years, so I already had a bit of a following on social media. I thought I’d give Spreadshirt a go, and I’d see if I could not only do something that I liked better than the other shirts I was seeing, but something that other people liked, as well.
It’s a nice thing to do, to be able to work with something you really, really enjoy. I mean, being a graphic designer, sometimes you have to work with stuff you really don’t enjoy.
How did you end up landing on Spreadshop? What has it been about the platform that you’ve particularly liked?
I had done about eight months with Redbubble, and it was going okay. They did a big reorganization of the site at the end of last year. If people went to look at a shirt I’d done, it would put up 40 related shirts at the bottom of the page. A lot of those designs had been chopped up from the internet. I got sick of that, so I started looking around [for an alternative]. The thing that attracted me to Spreadshirt was I could have a Shop, and I could have a link on my blog where people would be guided right to my designs.
I find in the Spreadshop, someone will be surprised by the variety of options. Everything’s there, you’re one click away from seeing the whole range, and it’s easy to navigate. The feedback I’ve been getting on print quality has also been excellent. The product that comes back is exactly how you’d want it to look. That’s really reassuring to know that I’m putting my name on this these products. Ultimately, Spreadshop takes all the problems out of trying to sell merchandise. It’s a very quick process and it’s fairly painless.
How much time do you spend maintaining your Shop?
Generally, I try to get at least one design up a month. If I have more time, I may get a couple of designs up. I tend to go and check in on the Shop and see how things are going. I spend at least an hour a day doing marketing, or I may spend time making custom materials. I’ll change the tags on some of the t-shirts if I think something’s trending. There’s a little bit of effort that goes in every single day.
It’s nice that once you’ve got the designs uploaded, you can kind of concentrate on the marketing side. The rest of it is all set because it’s taken care of by [Spreadshop].
Do you have any specific brainstorming practices that will help generate design ideas?
You really only need to put two or three words on a shirt. If it resonates with people, you can do very well. I’ve always got various notebooks kicking around on my desk. Pencils everywhere. Whenever I think of something, I’ll quickly sketch it. You don’t have to do any perfect rendering of anything; just a few lines so you can look at it again and think ‘yea, maybe.’
You have a solid social following. Do you have advice for someone looking to monetize their passion? How would you suggest they continue building their brand?
The golden rule is to try and find gathering spots for people with similar interests. When I first started my blog, I went on Twitter and followed a lot of people. Some of them followed me back and would retweet my work, and [my brand] slowly grew. There are also groups on Facebook, and I think that’s common for most self-interests.
I try to ask customers (especially if I meet people out at events), “what would you like to see that I’m not currently doing.” Sometimes there are suggestions I can use. I seem to get the ideas somehow. Some don’t work, but most of them kind of do.
How do you go about promoting your designs and products? Do you mostly use organic marketing, or have you dabbled with paid advertising?
Twitter. I can promote on there at any time, and it’s easy to post several images. Facebook comes after that. [It’s a place where you can] build up this group of people who you can bounce ideas off of. [You can] show them a work in progress and go “what do you think.” You’ll be surprised… people have some great ideas.
[When it comes to creating designs], if there’s a particular event or anniversary, I’ll try to create something. I’ll pick a couple of shirts that I think are appropriate. I also keep an eye on analytics to see if it’s actually making a difference. That’s the cool thing with Spreadshop… it’s all linked up with Google Analytics. This means I can see where all my customers are coming from.
[When it comes to paid advertising], I’m off to a big space event in Arizona. I’ve purchased advertising for my Spreadshop in the event’s program. I know pretty much everybody who reads it likes space and probably has a few t-shirts. So, for me, that’s really good targeted advertising. I can justify that spend.
If you’re looking for even more insight from Petty, make sure you check out the MerchCast Podcast (that’s right… Spreadshop has its own podcast). If you have any more questions for the guest, we’ll pass them along!