This time last year I started a side hustle with my brother designing t shirts and selling them online. To date we haven’t sold more than a handful of shirts. We dropped the ball. With the benefit of hindsight I can say that we did a lot of things a wrong. We built the brand on very rickety foundations. So what did we do wrong?
1: Lack of any real market research
In the beginning, my idea of market research was trailing on insta and seeing what other people were doing. I should have been getting stuck in and asking people directly and networking. Instead I lurked on every other social media platform and skulked about without really contributing. I honestly thought it was enough to see what was popular rather than setting up questionnaires and asking people what they like or don’t like about these popular brands.
2: No back log of content or real plan
When it came time to decide our business plan we literally wrote down “Make and sell dope shit” on paper and thought we were cool as fuck. What wasn’t cool was how our social media hasn’t had a post in months and our sketchbooks are empty and our sales laughable. We had no way of planning stuff out or capitalising on holidays or current events cuts we had fuck all in the works aside from the designs we launched with. It was laughable.
3: Too much useless research
There is such a thing as pointless research. I was researching the most useless stuff thinking it would give me some kind of eureka moment. This included everything from reading books on web design and psychology thinking it would make me better at drawing and books on customer service thinking it would give me mad insta skills. I wasted hundreds of hours I could have been honing my art work or actually doing something constructive.
4: No hustle, No drive
When push came to shove both me and Sam had an excuse to just blow off doing whatever. Posting on social media or having any content strategy was just ignored. We would draw whatever with no real drive to make something we could sell or market. We treated it like a chore and didn’t make it a passion. There was no real drive once we launched and no real upkeep. We just put our feet up and acted like everyone was going to come to us. We could not have been more wrong.
5: Wait and see attitude
We launched and thought that was it. What We thought would happen was that we would get a few sales and shit and then we could put out a new design every now and then. We were two stupid fucks for having that attitude because we sold one shirt in our first 4 months. We were far too passive. Honestly, we should have been cranking out content and posts and hitting the ground running. In hindsight we were just scared of failure but we should have been willing to embrace it.
6: No structure to real business hours
Me and Sam had no real time where we sat down and discussed what we were going to do. I would get an idea and message him. He would get an idea and message me. We would briefly agree to some kind of term or design deadline and neither of us would finish our work. It was a shambles where there was no real communication unless we were both in the right mood for it and we had so set hours where people were free to contact us or mail us. We were far too removed from the face end of things and both too comfortable being behind the scenes operators.
7:No real niche market
Who were we going to market out product to? The answer was that we honestly didn’t know. We didn’t then and we still don’t really know now. We never thought about it in any great depth other than “If they like it enough they’ll buy it”. Our analytics aren’t big enough to show who has an interest in our products and its too spread out to really get an idea of who wants what we have to offer. Not having a good idea of who to market to coupled with no market research meant selling was an uphill battle.
8: No real platform to call our own
When we decided to try out this business we toyed with the idea of a blog separate from everything else where we could voice our thoughts and opinions, show our creative processes and just write and film or whatever. I had thought about documenting how we took the steps towards starting up the brand but it all ultimately fell through when we got into designing the first selection of shirts. In hindsight I wish we had done it and set it up as a sort of central hub. All our social media and products on one site rather than spread out. Having our blog page act as a focal point for our social media and online shop would have been ideal if we had just been a bit more proactive and thought ahead.
9: Nothing setting us apart
Looking back at our first run, it was was so uninspired and unoriginal. There was nothing there that I would wear myself one year on. Nothing. I look at it now and wish I could slap myself for putting it out there. We had no set style and no real eye catching designs. In short we were throwing shit at the wall and seeing what would stick.
10: We were lazy as fuck with the brand
After we launched I would draw a page of sketches and designs a day and call it a day after that. One page of sketching. There was no effort to email potential partners or network with like minded creatives. Our designs weren’t published online and subjected to scrutiny by our target audience. I would do a page of doodles and trick myself into thinking that was hard work. What I should have been doing was posting my work, getting engagement on social media, and fucking networking and trying to develop my brand. Instead I was too busy wanking over my own work and acting like I was big time.
This is all just the tip of the iceberg though. Talking about what I did wrong is easy. The tough part is learning from it and figuring out what needs to be done as a creator.