Jason Sadler will earn more than $220,000 this year. Next year, he expects to bring in around half a million. All because the 28-year-old founder of IWearYourShirt.com wears T-shirts for a living.
At first glance, it sounds like a dream come true for any slacker who wants to become an overnight millionaire. Except that wearing T-shirts for money takes a lot more work than you might think.
Every day, Sadler wears a different T-shirt with a different company logo. Plenty of people happily purchase T-shirts emblazoned with a brand name, but in this case, companies actually pay Sadler to wear their brands. In turn, Sadler promotes the heck out of what he is wearing. At any given moment, you can find him on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or YouTube, sharing his wardrobe with the world -- and, in turn, providing viral marketing for his sponsors.
On Jan. 1, 2009, Sadler charged his first client, UStream.tv, $1 to wear a branded T-shirt. On Jan. 2, he charged the next company $2. On the 114th day of 2008, he charged a company $114 to wear their T-shirt, and so on, until Dec. 31, when he pocketed $365. At that point, he had accumulated $70,000.
As for how he finds his clients? "I've been incredibly fortunate to live off of word of mouth," Sadler says. "Obviously, the first group of clients in 2009 took a leap of faith, but at $1, $2 and even $365, it wasn't much of a gamble. We've continued to live off word of mouth and enjoy meeting new sponsors that find us on Twitter and in various press."
Because the prices went up in 2010, he's making more now, and he'll charge $5 on Jan. 1, 2011, $10 on Jan. 2, $15 on Jan. 3, etc. Sadler needs to raise his prices because he isn't the only one who will be sporting company T-shirts next year. He's in the midst of hiring four people to wear T-shirts.
As you would expect, Sadler used social media to find his new team. Potential employees had to create a video resume, which people then voted for on YouTube.
Each employee will make $35,000 in 2011, with bonuses set up so they can reach $50,000. They'll also receive a brand new computer, a digital video camera and free travel to Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 18, where they can meet their new boss and their fellow employees. They'll be contracted to work for a year.
Sadler says he is glad to be able to create jobs in this economy, and if the company's success continues, he will be able to offer more jobs in 2012. The first five months of 2011 are sold out, and as Sadler says, "If I can employ 50 people, I will. I just need to keep driving that value, and I'm very fortunate to be in the position I'm in when a lot of companies are cutting back on their advertising."
That said, what Sadler does is simply a natural progression in advertising, according to Kevin Dugan, director of social marketing at Empower Media Marketing in Cincinnati. "It's far from a new phenomenon," says Dugan, who points out that we've seen some pretty nutty marketing stunts over the years, from CBS advertising their TV shows on eggs in 2006 to companies posting ads over the urinals in men's bathrooms, starting back in the early 1990s.
In fact, what Sadler does -- wearing a company logo and message -- was pioneered in the 1800s, when people would walk up and down the sidewalks, wearing sandwich boards with messages.
But Dugan says he admires what Sadler is doing. "There's an art between accepted and novel advertising and novel but acceptable advertising, and I think I Wear Your Shirt is practicing that art pretty well," says Dugan, a 25-year industry veteran. "I always tell people that stunts, marketing stunts, are for Evel Knievel. You need strategy if your marketing is going to work."
Sadler intends for it to work. "I'm trying to build something great here," he says.
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 12/9/10.