One of the more popular ways to make money blogging is to offer something for sale on your site. Typically, bloggers look towards digital products like eBooks and coaching programs as their first jump into the sell your own products realm, but physical products are not outside the list of options when you are looking to grow your business.

One of the biggest hurdles bloggers run into when they are looking to expand into physical products is high upfront cost of development, minimum orders and carrying inventory for fast shipping. This is a real fear as you can watch your income causally sit in your home office just stagnant…and that is never a good thing. When you are looking to jump into the world of soft goods (t-shirts, hats, etc.) or niche products, there are ways to get rid of your fears and tackle the obstacles in front of  you in a way that promotes growth and provides another resource to your readers.

As with most things on Blogging Labs, I am going to show you how I launched a new t-shirt line on Bike198 without using a single bit of operating capital (my cash) and was able to stock all inventory in the process.

Gauging Product Interest

As with any product you are going to release on your blog, you are going to want to gauge the interest of your readers to see if what you are about to release has any actual value to them. If they are not going to buy it, there is no reason to move forward and you need to find something your audience is actually willing to spend money on. This goes for any product including digital ones.

For the t-shirt line, I already knew that my audience likes to buy shirts related to the sport of mountain biking. There are companies that are completely dedicated to it so I had to find my niche in the sea of shirts to set myself apart. I decided to attack the sub-niches of mountain biking as riders are pretty passionate about their gear and trails. The first on the chopping block was “29ers Size Does Matter” and for those of you that don’t already know…29ers have a larger wheel size than typical 26″ bikes that we are all used to.

29er Size Does Matter T-Shirt

It had been a good review product week, so I sold a part on eBay and paid my product designer Adam Allen (adam-allen.com) to draw up the concept. He provided me with the initial comps and I went to my email list, Facebook page and Twitter account to start gauging interest on the shirt. While I did have to front the money for the design, I still didn’t want to go to the market with something that people didn’t want to buy. Luckily, interest in the shirt was great so we needed to move forward to the pre-sale process after I got the pricing nailed down with a friend of mine that owns a t-shirt printing company (scrappymusic.com).

The Art Of The Pre-Sale

A pre-sale can serve multiple purposes for bloggers. For example, you are releasing a coaching program and you want the forum to look active to new members, you can have a pre-sale to get your program populated before the launch. In my case, I needed to raise the funds necessary to complete the first order that would fulfill the orders for the pre-sale, give me stock to sell from and to get me the best price possible by being able to order in large quantities. Since I already knew the shirts were going to sell based off the interest I received from my readers and other riders, it was time to move forward and make the jump.

The Hook: How To Get Early Adopters

When you are asking a reader/customer to buy on a pre-sale, you are asking them to deal with longer lead times and uncertainty as they have zero testimonials or proof from others before they buy. Because of this, you need to have some added value for your customer for participating in the pre-sale process to encourage sales. In my case, I offered the shirt at $5 dollars less than the regular price during the week of the pre-sale. This gave a discount to my readers for buying early and helping me get together the necessary funds to make the order.

You can also throw in bonuses, free items and other hooks to get your readers to jump on the bandwagon early.

Time Is Running Out

With any pre-sale, there needs to be a sense of urgency. You are on a time-line to get the project or product live in its final form, so allowing a pre-sale to go on for too long can have a negative affect on earnings and overall perception from other readers or customers. For my t-shirt release, I set the pre-sale for one working week (starting Monday and ending on that Saturday). This also allowed me to add in the lead time for the actual order to let my customers know exactly when they could expect the shirts to ship. The sense of urgency and the definite shipping date calms any wonder on whether or not they are really going to get their shirt in the mail.

Leveraging Your Blogging Assets

At the beginning of the pre-sale process, I emailed my newsletter subscriber list through Aweber, I hit up my Facebook page, I tweeted and I sent out press releases to the major sites and forums in my niche. I even contacted manufacturers of 29ers and asked them to post about their shirt in their social media outlets announcing the pre-sale and the discount for ordering early. As you could probably guess already, my newsletter subscribers were my highest converting into sales (another reason you should start a newsletter with Aweber today if you haven’t already).

By leveraging my assets that my blog has built over time, I was able to draw readers and potential customers to my sales page and have them complete an order during the pre-order process. At the end of the week, I had enough sales to cover all of my costs including stock…so the order was placed and we are off to the races.

The Pre-Sale Timeline

What you have just read is my step by step process of the pre-sale, but there is also a defined time line that you need to be aware of when you are going to release a product in this manner. A pre-sale has an interesting component to it that affects how you react with your readers. Your “pre-sale week” or however long you choose it to be is going to see the following order process…

  • Day One: First initial order swarm
  • Day Two – Day Before The Last Day: The trickling in effect (lower quantity per day than day 1)
  • Last Day: Ending process order swarm

Your readers that order on day one are looking to get their order in fast so they don’t forget. They know they are going to order it anyway so they might as well get it off their mind and do it now. The readers that trickle in during the middle part of your launch process are typically ones that saw the email at work and had to wait until they got home or just saw the email at that point in time. Your readers that order on the last day at the last minute probably saw and read your first email, but they wanted to wait until the last day to place their order because they are lazy or they didn’t want their money tied up for an extended period of time without anything to show for it.

Because there are a large quantity of people in the “last day” part of the process, it is vital that you send out a second email to your subscribers, followers, etc. 24 hours before the pre-sale ends. That gives your email enough time to hit their inbox and allows your reader adequate time to order it online. You have no idea how many responses I get from readers thanking me for sending that last email because they had forgotten about the pre-sale end date. Your product is not the most important thing going on in the lives of your readers, so a casual reminder at the end of the week is a very effective closing tool.

Selling Physical Products On Your Blog

As you can see by this process, I was able to release a t-shirt that is the start of a complete line without having to put it on a credit card, pull funds from the bank or use personal income to fund the process. By simply selling a piece of review product and launching an effective pre-sale process, I was able to get everything accomplished and cover all initial costs. Now, my blog has another asset to sell that also promotes my brand. When you are looking at what your readers want to buy, do not rule out physical products as they can provide you with additional income, but…more importantly…they can jump start your credibility within your niche with a huge promotional tool.

You can buy the t-shirts here.


In the blogging world, there is a ton of focus on social media, content and online promotion techniques. While all of this is fantastic information that can grow your blog and income over time…at some point, you are going to want to extend your blogging that you are running as a business into an area that many bloggers are scared to death of…the outside world.

Yes…creating your own digital products and promoting others is great and highly lucrative as a blogger…watching the cash roll in off of direct advertising and PPC campaigns can create great recursive income…but what happens when you want to step beyond that? What do you do when you want to expand your business into the lives of your readers? When you do want to stop being just a “blog” and start being serious competition for brick and mortar companies and publishing firms? You are sitting on one of the biggest launching platforms on the market…so it is time to take advantage.

Stop The Fear Of The Real World Products

The first thing you have to do as a blogger is get rid of the fear of the “real world”. Yes, creating products outside of digital goods takes a lot of time, research and effort, but the feedback and results can extend past your wildest dreams. The trick…find something that you can tackle and work with easily without taking on too steep of an upfront cost.

The nice thing about digital goods is the only cost of entry is basically your time. While you can get expensive with designers, coders and ghost writers, most successful digital products are made in the home office of the blogger. With real world products, you have to rely on manufacturers or other companies to work with you to make the dream happen. For this to ramp up…you need some cash to get the ball rolling before you can make your first dollar. This…on its own…scares away most bloggers from even trying.

The #1 thing you need to realize about stepping into real world product lines…you can raise the money upfront to get rid of the capital generating fear.

By having pre-sale deals (offering a discount for getting in on the first order), you can raise the money necessary to create your first order for just about any product you want to sell. Not only are you giving your readers a great price (that you still make a percentage profit on) but you do not have to step into your earnings to put in the cash for the first order. By removing this fear of money loss, you can make your first step into real world product markets.

How To Enter The Real World Product Market

When you are looking to expand your corner of the web into the daily lives of individuals in your niche, you need to start looking at what they are buying that you can provide outside of the digital world. In the beginning, you are going to want to locate markets with lower cost of entry points to get your feet wet. As with all things on RobbSutton.com, I find that the best way to show is through my own personal experience, so let’s take a look at what I am doing with Bike198.com to give you an idea on where to start looking.

In the biking community, I started looking for avenues in which I could not only promote my brand, but do so while also creating and fostering community. The natural progression given these parameters was to step into soft goods. Now…soft goods (t-shirts, etc.) is one of the #1 ways bloggers start the transition into real world market places because of the low cost of entry and the ability to promote your brand at the same time.

My first step into soft goods happened at the beginning of the month with the release of the Bike198 cycling jersey’s and shorts. To create buzz and a willingness to participate on the behalf of my readers, I also worked with the Livestrong Foundation and half of the profits of the kit sales are going to get donated for cancer research. I didn’t want it to be just another “website kit” so by incorporating the Livestrong Foundation, we are able to make it something bigger.

Bike198 Kits

Luckily, I have a friend of mine that is a kick ass designer that offered to help with the project (regularjoe), so the end result is incredible. The pre-sale process went great and we were able to meet the minimum order requirements easily to get the process started and get some kits in to take pictures for promotional materials.

The next step, start up the t-shirt line that I have had in my head for a long time.

Fringe Benefits Of Real World Product Sales For The Blogger

Now…the monetary side of releasing your own products is an easy concept to get your head around. You sell the product, pay your costs and keep the profit. But…the real benefit to releasing physical products into the marketplace is much harder to measure.

  • What do you think happens when riders wear a Bike198 jersey or t-shirt and hit the trail? They spread the Bike198 brand to new riders and potential readers.
  • What happens when their picture is taken and posted on a forum? Same result on a bigger scale…
  • What happens when cycle sells more t-shirts and jersey’s? The results multiply like crazy…

By creating products that your readers want to buy, you are strengthening your brand into something much bigger than just a blog. You are also strengthening the overall trust in your brand to deliver the goods because you are now perceived as more than just a blogger releasing your ideas. You are now a trusted source that has grown into a profitable product company. Through this…you get to watch your corner of the web grow exponentially over time at a much faster rate.

Yes…the income generation of the physical product is important and measurable, but the most important aspect of releasing physical products as a blogger is what they do to strengthen your brand presence outside of just your words.

How can you expand past your blog? What are your readers willing to spend their money on outside of your digital products? What do you need to do to make that dream a reality? These are the questions you need to ask yourself as you move forward in your blogging.

Image by Reinante El Pintor de Fuego