How to Make Money from a Creative Startup

The online world has often been difficult for inventive startups that want to make a living from their passion. You have an idea that you believe consumers want, but getting it to them is hard. Your strength is in the idea, but to get it out there you have to create a website, decide on ecommerce or charging capabilities, plan a marketing strategy, resolve accounting issues and even organise customer service. So before you even get started you are defeated by too many obstacles. However, for the creative person there are a great many platforms and technology solutions that will do all of this for you.

For example great designs on t-shirts and hoodies do sell. We saw this in 2020, which created a boom in homeworking consumers who wanted to buy creativity on clothes and accessories. It also created a boom in people with time on their hands and ideas in their heads but little idea about how to monetise their content. At Spreadshop we have seen designers and other brands use merchandise shops to build successful businesses in ecommerce, or to supplement their other work. For two years in a row Spread Group has created commission millionaires, and many more designers and shop owners are making a living from commission.

So what should you consider when you start up in the social commerce world? How can you turn your creativity into revenue? Here are three things to consider when setting up a business using social platforms and mobile commerce; benefit from an established platform, respond to trends and think about the best new technology.

Benefit from an established platform

Startups can spread the word and compete with bigger brands by using established platforms. Choose the right place for your products and you can grow at your own pace with minimal investment. Etsy is the well-known alternative to Amazon for creators and Shopify makes it easier to do it yourself. Platforms for specific markets are also on the rise; has launched in the UK to provide an easier route to market for independent booksellers.

The advantage of an established platform is that they often offer practical benefits. By using someone else’s technology startups can cut out the arduous and expensive process of creating their own; it can be easier to set up a shop on a platform than creating your own from scratch, for example. It also offers access to a global market and some will even offer help with marketing, fulfilment and other services. You can invest your time working on inspiration, rather than spending money building ecommerce technology.

So it’s worth doing some research into the right platform for your business. Find out what they offer, who their audience is and what the set-up costs are (financially and in terms of your time).

Respond to trends

Social media loves a hot trend and many of these work for startups too. Brands that understand their fans and offer them something specific and relevant tend to be the most successful.

For online shops, the ability to customise a design has been gaining in popularity and is a good way to build customer trust and loyalty. Even small brands can now offer a little personalisation to their followers; a choice of colour, a range of sizes or styles which actually fit. This is especially important if you are targeting women. Too often merch comes in one (male) size fits all. Offering different sizes and styles with the same design can increase your appeal.  

Offering some form of customisation will also give your devotees something special and give you feedback on what they like. Make sure you can keep track of what people are doing with your creations, then you can adapt your designs in response.

Use the best new technology

One up and coming technology is video commerce. At the high end, this involves a mash-up of gaming tech and fashion shows, where consumers can buy the clothes they see in-video. But it’s not entirely out of reach of startups; TikTok has recently linked up with Shopify to allow users to shop as they scroll.

Over on YouTube, creators can connect their videos with merch following a partnership with Spreadshop. This allows them to appeal to their followers at the exact moment that they are engaged. It means creators can show merchandise directly below their video, which offers seamless shopping without interruption. No need to click through to another site to buy, which disrupts the consumer experience.

Rather than hitching up to the latest meme bandwagon, have a look at consumer and technology trends to see which connect best with your platform. Does it offer a way for your fans to support you through merchandise or even a subscription service like Patreon?

The aim for startups should be to find a platform, trend and technology that can support your business with a revenue stream. Content plus commerce can be a monetisable option for small businesses. If you follow our ideas it can be low cost-of-entry and be tried with little financial risk. It’s a chance for creative startups to grow and develop their ideas AND bring revenue into the business.