In January 2013, Kim Springer left her job.
Nearly 15 years after becoming a mum to her two older sons, the now 42-year-old had given birth to her third child, and realised she wanted to leave her job as a medical office assistant in New York City to stay home with her daughter.
Her husband, a graphic designer working for an advertising agency, was on board with the plan.
“I wanted to do something, not just stay at home,” Springer says. “I was still in school working on my Masters in media studies, so I said I’ll devote this time to finishing my Masters, and some blogging or something to make additional income.”
She started working on a few projects, including building websites for professionals in the health industry and creating online communities, first building a Facebook page for Tyler Perry’s character Madea that attracted around 30,000 fans.
Springer’s efforts to learn about online marketing couldn’t have come at a better time — after more than a decade, her husband’s agency closed its doors and he was out of a job. “They gave him severance, and while he was trying to get back into [his field], it was really hard because that field had evolved from where it was 13 years ago,” Springer says. While her husband took classes to polish his skills in search of a new job and Springer tried her hand at blogging, the family relied on credit cards to get by, ultimately racking up around $US40,000 of credit card debt.
Down to about $US500 in her account, Springer decided to invest in a course to learn more about online marketing. (The exact course is no longer offered, but was run by Chris Record from the Internet Marketing Bar.) One of the revenue streams Chris and his then-partner Arthur Tubman introduced was a social commerce site called Teespring, which enables people to create and sell their own tee shirts.
In January of 2014, Springer started to create and sell tees through the site, marketing them to a community for Christian women she’d created that now has over 100,000 fans. Her first big seller, which she offered for a little over $US20 each, reads “This girl still dates her husband.”
“I was like a one-person show doing it on my own,” Springer says. “I always stayed in the learning mode — I never felt comfortable bringing a team on.”
That first year, she worked on it every day, waking up in the morning and getting online first thing to build her community, respond to service requests, do research for new designs, and create the designs she wanted to sell until about 6 p.m., with a few breaks during the day.
Each sale earned her $US10-$US12, and in 10 months, her efforts earned $US150,000. She and her husband — who, after a brief stint as a personal trainer, has been employed full-time since the summer of 2014 as a production designer with an advertising agency — were able to pay their credit card debt, buy a new car, move to a new neighbourhood near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and help pay for her oldest son to start college. Their second daughter was born in early 2015.
To date, Springer has sold over 23,000 tees and earned over $US250,000 in total (before taxes). She has recently dialed down her efforts to make money through Teespring, explaining that the site has grown, and standing out among the competition takes more work than ever.
“Start with what you know,” Springer advises other people looking for a lucrative work-from-home job. “Your interests, passions, hobbies, life — that’s going to shorten the learning curve.” If you’re interested in tee shirts in particular, she says, “you also need a knowledge of the community you want to serve, to represent in tee shirts.”
And don’t be too quick to get discouraged, she cautions: “When I launched the first shirt it was January 2013, and not until March did I see any return on investment.”
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