Develop a Daily Designing Habit

How To Develop A Daily Designing Habit (And Supercharge Your T-Shirt Sales)

Last Updated: November 18, 2016

In order to develop a regular monthly income from T-Shirts online, you need to create a lot of designs. (We discussed this in detail in this previous blog post: Zero To $10k A Month In Passive income from T-Shirts: 3 Key Principles)

Here is where I shifted mindset and started designing daily:

The Impact Of Designing Daily - My Sales Increased After Developing a Daily Designing Habit

…as you can see, my earnings took off not long after.

If I hadn’t shifted to a strategy of daily designing, I don’t think my earnings would be anything like what they are now – and I’m not sure they would have grown significantly at all.

First, The Bad News

Designing is work.

It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you don’t sit down at the desk and do the work, those designs won’t get made, and your income won’t grow.

Regular, consistent output is more important than talent.

A super-talented individual who doesn’t produce a steady stream of work is always going to be outpaced by the less-talented person who produces something (anything!) on a daily basis.

Just look at the biggest YouTubers, bloggers and writers. Almost all of them create something (a video, an article, a chapter) on a daily basis. This is no coincidence!

How To Produce Something Daily

This may seem like an impossible standard to some (It would have seemed crazy to me when I started designing T-Shirts in 2013) – but I know from personal experience that things really started to turn around when I set myself the ‘difficult’ goal of creating at least one new design daily.

Creating daily is not easy, but it is relatively simple.

After all, if you have ever producing a design in a single day – you can do it again. All you need to do is repeat that process, and pretty soon you should have a daily-creating-habit on your hands.

So here are my tips for creating a daily-designing habit – whatever it is you’re creating:

1. Preparation

If you don’t know what you are going to create, designing it becomes a whole lot harder.

If you do know what you want to create, it’s amazing how quickly you can produce.

So before you sit down – you need to know the following:

  • the brief (What it is you are producing)
  • the main objectives of the piece (what does it need to look like? who am i targeting? are there any key things I need to include or exclude from this design?)
  • when you’re done (ie. the ability to know when this design is ‘finished’ to a good-enough level, and further work on it is unlikely to produce any significant increase in sales)

A good design starts with a clear idea (mental picture) of your objective.

(It doesn’t matter if your final piece looks nothing like what you imagined it would – it is the existence of a clear concept that allows you to ‘experiment’ – go off and create something slightly – or completely – different.)

So here are my tips to prepare well:

  • Have your ideas ready to go. I jot down T-shirt ideas in Evernote – usually just as a line of text describing the idea, but sometimes including an image or link providing some extra information or context. As long as I have this, I should have everything I need to remind me of the idea and allow me to start creating.
  • Turn those ideas into ‘concepts’. A concept to me is simply a mental picture of what I want to create. So it usually represents a rough layout for the design, an idea of where the text should be, and any artistic elements (graphics) that will be required and where. You may not need to sketch this physically, but usually doing so helps.
  • Get your tools in order. Have your software, templates, fonts, colour swatches and any other elements ‘to hand’. I use Rightfont to manage my fonts and organise them into different categories, which makes finding the right font a lot quicker. I also have artwork templates ready to go, so I don’t waste time creating them afresh each and every time. And any regular graphic elements you are likely to need (halftones, textures, backgrounds) should be easy to find, so you don’t waste time searching them out.
  • Set the scene. get rid of distractions, make sure your work space is ready to go. You should be able to simply sit down and produce, without any cleaning, shifting or waiting for stuff to load or trying to find files.

Ok so now we’ve fully prepared to start working – what’s next?

2. Process

The process for designing will differ from project to project and person to person – but I have a pattern I follow with almost every design.

My design process usually looks something like this:

  1. create rough sketch of the layout and any artwork elements (this is taking the ‘concept’ from above, and putting it down on paper – or pixel)
  2. do the line work for any art (on the computer)
  3. add the colours to artwork
  4. add text as required
  5. add textures and any ‘style’ elements (eg. distressed effects, halftones etc.)
  6. prepare the deliverable file (export, save various formats)

But your ‘process’ doesn’t just start and end with the actual production of the design.

There’s also the after design / before upload tasks;

  1. creating relevant title(s) for the design (may require research)
  2. writing a relevant description of the design and including relevant keywords
  3. generation or writing of relevant tags (for those sites that use these)
  4. uploading to website(s)
  5. keeping track of what designs are live on what sites
  6. etc.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into producing and listing a design. So it pays to make each step as smooth and simple as possible.

So here are some tips for creating and streamlining your own process:

  • Organise. You need a system to track all your designs. For me this is a Google spreadsheet + Google Drive for saving artwork and design files. I keep a folder for each individual design, with at least an (editable) psd and png. I have also recently adopted a ‘SKU’ approach – so every new design has a unique ID number. This makes it a lot easier to quickly find the specific design artwork or mockup I am looking for.
  • Automation. Any process you have to repeat should be automated (that’s something I stole from Sean McCabe). Automation can be as simple as Photoshop Actions – little macros that repeat certain steps. (For example, I have a photoshop action that quickly creates a mockup image for any given design).
  • Manage Your Time. Uploading designs to websites is unfortunately not very automate-able (depending on the site) – so I’ve found it helps to set specific times to do specific tasks. For example, on a Monday morning I design. On a Tuesday Morning I upload designs to Redbubble. On Wednesday I add them to Etsy…and so on. I find doing a bunch of designs in ‘bulk’ like this allows me to get through them a lot quicker.

3. Persistence

Producing a design everyday for a single week is great – but 7 designs are never going to make you significant long-term income.

You need to maintain that level of output…day after day, week after week, month after month.

And it’s not just the designing that requires the persistence – it’s the often mind-numbing task of uploading/listing designs on the various websites.

I’m not saying you need to do this until you keel over and die. But I want you to realise that regular consistent output is the best way to grow a decent inventory of designs that will produce a passive income months and years into the future.

I remember sitting in my lounge night after night adding T-Shirt after T-Shirt to my Etsy store in the summer of 2014. It took me days to get every design up. There was no immediate pay-off – I was making less than $100/month from Etsy at the time. But once I knew I could sell something on Etsy, I figured the more designs I added, the higher my earnings would be.

It was only around Christmas that year that my investment of time began to return something – as I made a few thousand from Etsy in December alone.

If I had stopped after listing a few T-Shirts and thought ‘well, these aren’t really selling – why bother?’ – I would have missed out on a lot of sales over the years. The best bit is that the income is almost entirely passive – so if I stopped listing on Etsy tomorrow I would still be making that money months into the future.

Tips for developing persistence:

  • Have A Plan. It’s hard to consistently tackle a boring and repetitive task if you don’t have confidence in why you’re doing it. If you haven’t sold anything on Etsy for example, then I don’t recommend you list hundreds of products straight away. You need to get to grips with the system and learn how it works. Once you have confidence in your work and your ability to sell, then doing the grunt work it takes to scale up is simply ‘working out’ the plan.
  • Get In The Zone. I find that fast-paced music and some good quality headphones makes the boring tasks somewhat easier to perform. When you’re doing something that doesn’t require much mental effort but does take time (ie. uploading designs) – it’s a great opportunity to listen to something educational – catch up on that latest podcast or whatever. Do what works for you, but make it part of your process.
  • Stick With What You Know. Once you have something that works (ie. a website where your designs are selling well) – double-down on that. There are literally hundreds of sites that allow designers to sell T-Shirts – but I only focus on 3 or 4. Focus on what works and keep improving it’s ability to work for you – rather than constantly jumping over to try new opportunities. I don’t suggest you have all your eggs in one basket – but there are only so many baskets you can carry at any one time.

Final Thoughts

Designing daily provides a whole heap of advantages – from improving the quality of your work to fast-tracking your income growth. Perhaps most importantly, you will develop the ability to churn out work (and I’m not talking about low-quality work either), whether you feel like it or not.

‘Motivation’ is a useful tool but a useless master. You don’t need to feel a certain kind of motivation in order to produce – you just need to develop the mindset and habit of producing daily (or at least, very regularly).

So take these tips and apply them to your design process – pretty soon you’ll wonder how you ever got through the day without producing something new!


Has this article been useful to you? I hope so!

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Published by Michael Essek