Why I Don’t Show You My Own T-Shirt Designs

by Michael Essek   ¬∑   Updated: July 21, 2017

I get asked a lot of questions, and one that comes up very often is this:

“Can I See Your Designs / Store?”

The answer, I’m afraid, is no.

It’s not because I don’t like you, or because I’m rude.

It’s for these 2 simple reasons.

Reason Number One: Copycats

If you’ve been around the print-on-demand t-shirt world for any length of time, then you’ll be aware of the problem of ‘copycats’.

If you aren’t aware – then here are two simple facts you must first understand:

  1. It’s very easy to download any image from the internet.
  2. It’s also (Now) very easy to print any image onto a T-Shirt.

If you combine those two elements together, you have a ‘perfect storm’, that allows unscrupulous sellers (we call them copycats or art thieves) to steal the original work of others and undercut those artists on the very same sites that the original artists sell on.

(For more on dealing with copycats, check out this article: Stolen Designs? How To Deal With Copycats On Merch By Amazon)

Now – Copycats are a fact of life, and they will be around whether I publicly show you my work or not.

But having something of a ‘profile’ (albeit a tiny one) in the online t-shirt world makes me something of a bigger target for copycats.

Let me be more explicit – if these unscrupulous individuals could see the exact designs that were making me $10k+ a month in royalties, they would probably try to recreate / copy and otherwise undercut all my designs, in order to help themselves to some of that income.

And the fact is that – even if I show just a few of my designs – it would not take long for someone to discover my various T-Shirt ‘brands’ and go about replicating / undercutting or hi-jacking my stuff on a regular or systematic basis.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I am above such things as ‘copying‘ the work of others. I constantly look at the work of others to gain inspiration and to get ideas.

And I don’t think it’s always ethically (or legally) wrong to ‘copy’ or replicate the work of another – though that is a big, complex topic and one for another day.

However I do – at least for the most part – try to focus on creating new and original designs that have come principally from my own noggin.

Anyway – my point is this –

I don’t want to make it easy for those few bad apples who would like to help themselves to my Intellectual Property and hit my income.

The fact is that there is very little that independent artists, reliant on royalty income (as I am) can do to protect ourselves from copycats. Ok we can issue take-downs notices, cease and desists etc – but that is a time consuming and painful process, and pursuing any legal action would be costly and not worth it.

So – that’s the first reason why I don’t share my shirt designs. I don’t want to paint a big target on my back and help out the copycats.

Reason Number Two: It Limits Your Thinking

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. We do it all the time, unconsciously.

I don’t want people to be unnecessarily influenced by my style or my approach to T-Shirt designs. I believe that the market is big enough to sustain designers of many different styles and approaches – and I don’t want to give the impression that ‘you should create designs like this‘ – because that isn’t the case.

In fact I think that I am probably, already, personally too ‘stuck’ in a particular style – and I don’t want to pass that on to anyone else.

There’s a lot of different ‘types’ and categories of designs that you could create – and I think it’s best if you push the boundaries yourself and try new things – rather than trying to imitate the approach of someone else.

If you have talent and you match it with hard work and a dogged persistence, you can make a very respectable full-time income from your art, online – regardless of the style or nature of your designs.

It may not even be T-Shirts that are the main money-spinner for your style (they happen to be the right vehicle for me) – but I assure you there’ll be something (and probably multiple things) out there you can sell to customers that will deliver you a sustainable and scalable business over time.

So that’s reason number two. I don’t want you to think that it is only designers who have a particular ‘style’ who can make good money from their art online.

OK Fine – But Can’t You Give Us Some Idea As To Your Style?

Yeah I can do that.

My designs are very much in the funny, pop culture vein.

So if you take a look at sites like:

…you’ll get a pretty good idea of the kind of thing I spend most of my time doing / thinking about. (Stupid jokes that will work well on T-Shirts).

But – as mentioned above – don’t let this influence you too much. There’s a lot of room out there for more ‘arty’ style work – just take a look at threadless.com for example.

‘Funny T-Shirts’ is just the style or niche that works best for me – plenty of people are making a great income from ‘non-funny’ designs – especially on platforms like Merch By Amazon (which can reach many demographics and niches that other sites cannot).

So – now you know why I don’t share my own designs here on my blog.

I hope that explains my thinking, even if it is a little frustrating ūüėõ

Thoughts, comments, angry diatribes? Fire away below!

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