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GUEST OPINION Turning your creative side-hustle into a sustainable business

Spreadshirt – an example of how to get creative and use ecommerce

Philip Rooke, CEO, Spreadshirt offers smaller retailers and anyone with a creative bent some tips on how using ecommerce can help monetize your ideas

As the hoopla of London Fashion Week fades, fashionistas will go back to their desks, their paid work and probably their side hustle too. In the design world, having a creative gig on the side is commonplace, but could it ever become a sustainable business?

Over at ecommerce platform, Spreadshirt,something interesting is happening on this front. Designers are successfully using the platform to drive revenue from their creativity. For two years in a row Spreadshirt has created commission millionaires, and many more designers and shop owners are making a living selling their designs online.

So how can you turn your side hustle into a business? How are these designers turning their creativity into revenue? By using established marketplaces, learning from their customers and tapping into trends.

Use established marketplaces

On an established marketplace you can grow at your own pace; many creators begin with just one design, adding more as their ideas develop. At this stage of internet retailing there are some big ecommerce players offering access to global markets through their platforms. Creators of different stripes can opt for marketing, fulfilment and other services at companies like Amazon, eBay, Etsy and us, Spreadshirt; the largest self-expression ecommerce company to come out of Europe.

In addition, by using someone else’s technology, these designers have cut out the arduous and expensive process of creating their own. They can invest their time working on inspiration, rather than spending money in building ecommerce technology.

So how do we recommend designers go about monetizing their creativity on an ecommerce platform?

Learn from your customers

With little or no initial outlay, designers can post their creations and see what works. Which designs sell best? Which t-shirts, hoodies or mugs do people like most? Creators can monitor their sales and see how followers respond to different ideas. They can develop their brand in real time with feedback from customers. Successful designs will be spotted and  generate income for the creator. Designers who earn high commission usually do so by understanding which ideas will speak to their followers.

Tap into trends

This doesn’t mean jumping on the bandwagon of already-viral memes, but there are plenty of other trends that successful designers spot and respond to. One is personalisation. Forbes is predicting that this key trend will grow in the next few years. On a marketplace or shop hosted and fulfilled by someone else, even small brands can offer a little personalisation to their followers; a choice of colour, a range of sizes which actually fit (especially important in women’s t-shirts) or an entirely new product. Your followers can add your design to something else; a mug, or a new-style hoody, if they choose. Offering personalised products can help to build customer trust and loyalty. They will be more emotionally invested in a t-shirt they’ve had a hand in creating, for example. Plus it’s yet another way of getting feedback on your buyers’ preferences.

There’s probably one other key lesson from the success of the designers on the Spreadshirt site; time & talent. Savvy designers are investing their time and talent in design and marketing, not in business admin and raising funds. Clever creators can see that this approach gives them more time to design and less on the boring stuff. Piggybacking on others’ technology gives access to back-end services like warehousing, deliveries, returns and payments. Shopify has just begun this shift, combining internet retailing with real world fulfilment. A platform like Spreadshirt already offers all the necessary back-end functionality, leaving designers to concentrate on what they do best.

So is this the holy grail? Monetising design and turning your side gig into a scaling, profitable business? The designers at Spreadshirt certainly think so. And particularly the women! Between 2013 and 2018 the commission women earn at Spreadshirt rose 157%, whereas growth at shops owned by men  only rose by 19%.

So fashionistas can turn their side hustles into thriving businesses using others’ marketplaces, but at a pace they can manage. The low cost-of-entry means that they can try it out with little financial risk. It gives creative people the ability to grow and develop their ideas whilst bring revenue into the business.  At Spreadshirt it’s possible to turn a creative side-hustle into a sustainable business; turning creativity into profitability.

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