9 min 58 sec

Designer Goes Viral with Playful T-Shirts; Earns $445,000

A freelance graphic designer turns his work research into a gold mine.
High Profit Manufacturing Print on Demand Retail

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What It's About

A freelance graphic designer turns his work research into a side hustle that earns $10,000 a month.

Business Model
Skills Required
Design & Trendspotting
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Mike believes that the key to success in print-on-demand, and eCommerce in general, is starting. It’s an easy industry to enter into, and people can start earning money without too much capital. The best way to scale print-on-demand as a side hustle is to put in the effort to learn a few key skills, such as Google Adwords. Print-on-demand businesses thrive by testing new ideas, and one experiment could be your next viral design. Add a dash of experimentation, a heap of patience, a sprinkle of perseverance, and you’ve created a bona fide side hustle.

Fun Fact

Did you know that the world record for the most t-shirts worn at one time is 257? This heroic feat was achieved by Sanath Bandara of Sri Lanka in 2011. It took him 1 hour and 57 minutes to put them all on, and he beat the previous record by just 5 shirts!

Notes from Chris

Episode 424

Mike Pasley is an "Idea Man," and the only thing the professional graphic designer likes more than ideas is putting them into action. According to him, he’s always coming up with a new money-making venture. At the wide-eyed age of 12, he created his first side hustle, an eBay store to sell old items. It’s been an entrepreneurial whirlwind ever since.

From childhood eBay stores, Mike went on to pursue a degree in marketing. After graduating, he went into a full-time freelance career and has been busy ever since. After a foray into the craft beer market, he then found himself working as a digital marketer for Viralstyle, an online fulfillment company which specialized in custom apparel. This was his first step into the print-on-demand industry… and suddenly he was in uncharted territory.

ViralStyle let anyone, anywhere, upload their t-shirt design and sell it online through a crowdfunded format. Once a customer orders a design, it goes to print and is then mailed to their address. Mike had stumbled upon a very simple business model with a ton of benefits! There was no inventory for the company to maintain, very little overhead fees outside of advertising, and the best part—it could be done part-time.

Mike needed to figure out the best way to attract potential sellers to the website, so he started to learn how to design and sell t-shirts. He created his own practice store called Famous In Real Life. That way, he would understand what people needed when they visited the site and how they would use it.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Mike and finding his first few customers proved difficult. It took a few tries, and a $300 investment in advertising, for him to find his golden t-shirt design. But once a t-shirt went viral, traffic to his Shopify store quickly increased. Within six months, he was consistently bringing in an average of $10,000 a month. By the end of 2017, Mike had earned $445,000 in total revenue. He had virtually no start-up costs, so all the money he makes becomes additional income—or funds to invest into new side hustles.


  • Idea Nest: Check out the brands that Mike is building over on his website!
  • Viralstyle: The online fulfillment company specializing in custom apparel that Mike works for
  • Printify & Inkthreadable: The print on demand websites that Mike used to conduct research for his t-shirt designs
  • Shopify: Mike used Shopify to set up his store for Famous In Real Life, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,




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Learn More


Create your online store with Shopify using an exclusive discount for Side Hustle School listeners. For a limited time, get a free 21-day trial and a 10% discount for a whole year.

Many Side Hustle School listeners are building sites using Shopify's easy-to-learn platform. Try it free today!

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Quote of the Day
"Knowing that there are thousands of people in the world who have seen a product I designed is what gets me fired up. This weekend I was at a festival and saw a stranger wearing one of my shirts. It was incredible to see that."
—Mike Pasley #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau