What a weird year. No one needs to tell you that.
On the positive side, 2020 was the year I changed the direction of DVLPR®. Moving away from the gift shop print-on-demand style that everyone and their brother has, to more of a brand. It was an experiment I wanted to try for a couple years before, just never bit the bullet. So how did it pan out?
After about 7 months of doing it the new way (supporting local screen printers, getting custom items made, shipping items myself), I am happy with the way it has turned out so far.
But Travis, have you heard of POD?!
I get this all the time, especially from new customers and followers. Yes, I know about it, yes I did POD (print-on-demand) for close to 6 years, and yes it works pretty well. I think it’s pretty great that anyone can put up a design and sell it within a couple minutes, but at the same time, it takes away the feel of the brand for me. I didn’t feel like I was apart of anything special, I was just another gift shop on the interwebs. I know as developers we feel the need to automate everything, which is great, but this project feels better the less automated it is.
In terms of revenue, I did quite a bit less than I did in 2019. Some of this was because I had my shop closed for the first 5 months of 2020, some was due to the fact that I have very limited items for sale on my site, and some was obviously due to the pandemic we are still in.
On the flip side, my profit margins were higher, my customers were much higher quality, and I received zero returns (much less than the year before).
On the topic of money, it also takes money to put out each new product. I get shirts screen printed at a local screen printer, I get hats made in California and enamel pins made over seas. Each of these takes money up front, unlike POD where you pay for the product when the customer does. This is one of the harder parts of this new direction for me.
I have ADHD and struggle very much with planning and forethought (hence the lack of hoodies and new shirts). I have lots of ideas, overthink things, throw away ideas too soon, and don’t take into account production times or upfront costs. It’s something I am working on and is a big goal of mine this year.
Overall, unlike a lot of developers side projects, I didn’t start DVLPR in hopes of making enough money to quit my job, I started it to make quality apparel for others like me. While I am happy with the money it does make, I hope that I can make more in 2021 so I can make more products and be apart of more developers’ journeys.
This new direction increased my confidence in myself, in my products and the brand as a whole. I am no longer worried about getting emails about poor quality products, a customer receiving a different shops product, or if the shipment even made it to the customer at all. Instead of wasting time emailing customers and emailing my POD supplier, I instead spent that time getting to know my customers more on social media, mainly via my personal Twitter
It’s just a shirt
I’m sure most people don’t know or care what brand of blank their shirt is, or if the shirt has a printed neck label vs a scratchy tag. That’s fine, but I care. I am picky about the type of shirts I wear, and don’t want to sell anything I wouldn’t wear. Sure, the price might be a bit higher, but I want my customers to like what they buy, and to wear it more than once.
If you follow me on IG, you will notice that I am kind of MIA. I got burned out from trying to figure out what to post, how to post consistently so the algorithm will actually show my posts, and just endlessly scrolling. I am starting to become more active again on social media, but again mostly on my personal Twitter account. I find it much more fulfilling and engaging than IG. I still think IG has a great dev community and I have gotten to know a lot of you over there which has been awesome.
2020 was not the year any of us could have predicted. I am very fortunate that my family is healthy, that I was able to land another job, and that DVLPR is still around. I am proud of myself for trying out this new direction, and how it has turned out. I could absolutely make more money and sell more products by switching back to POD, but I am happy with the way things are going. I have the best customers I could ask for, I am happy with the quality of my products, and I feel like I am building something meaningful. Here’s to 2021!
Happy Coding, Travis