Start an Online T-Shirt Business
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T-shirts aren’t simply a staple of casual attire; they’re also items of apparel that often reflect our personalities, passions, and identities.

As a result, selling t-shirts online has become a popular option, particularly for business owners and creatives seeking a relatively low-cost way to learn How To Start an Online Business. Additionally, it is anticipated that by 2025, the worldwide market for personalized t-shirt printing will surpass $10 billion.

You’ll undoubtedly encounter some stiff competition given the popularity of selling t-shirts. However, you may achieve your own success by developing a brand for a specific target market and producing t-shirt designs that appeal to them.

This tutorial will walk you through every step of starting an online t-shirt business that generates additional revenue every month.

How to start an online t-shirt business, step-by-step

  1. Choose a niche
  2. Source quality material and t-shirt printing options
  3. Create your own t-shirt designs
  4. Mock up your t-shirts
  5. Validate your designs
  6. Set up your online store

1. Choose a niche for your t-shirt online business

Without breaking the bank, a niche will make your online shirt selling business stand out and better attract the correct target audience.

Although the word “niche” is often used, picking one is crucial if you want to learn how to start an online t-shirt business. One of the most crucial components of a successful online t-shirt business strategy is the capacity to stand out, and one of the greatest ways to achieve this is by catering to a specific target demographic or interest group.

In a highly competitive market, categories like “t-shirts for those who adore witty slogans” will often be too wide to stand out. You should make it a little bit more secure. T-shirts with hilarious slogans that are related to physicians and nurses or dog owners, as seen in the illustration below, are an example of a more specific niche.

Online T-Shirt Business
Photo courtesy of: ThinkPup

When attempting to know how to start an online t-shirt business, there are several ways to find and evaluate a niche. To name a few:

  • Evaluate the subscriber count and degree of activity on the subreddits in your prospective niche by visiting them.
  • To estimate the size of your niche on Facebook, use the Audience Insights tool.
  • For ideas, go through this Wikipedia list of popular hobbies.
  • It’s sometimes okay to trust your instincts; take into account your personal interests and the communities you are a part of.

After you’ve identified your target market, write a business plan for your custom t-shirt selling venture that outlines your objectives and potential markets, then decide how you’ll carry out the plan.

2. Source quality material and t-shirt printing options

Finding suppliers is the next step in starting an online t-shirt business. Both t-shirts and printed works differ from one another. As we just said, quality is crucial to the success of your brand, so do your research and choose your blank shirts properly.

When you start an online shirt business, it could be tempting to forego quality in favor of better profit margins. But you must take into account how the level of quality will influence a customer’s decision to recommend your brand and make another purchase from you.

A quality t-fit, the shirt’s size, material, softness, and weight are just a few of the considerations. Check out T-Shirt Magazine’s evaluation of some of the most well-liked blank t-shirts for printing as a fantastic place to start when deciding which blank t-shirt to use.

Ordering samples once you’ve narrowed down your options can help you make an educated decision in the end.

3. Create your own t-shirt designs

To start your own online t-shirt business, come to the designs next. Here are some ways to give your t-shirt business designs a head start.

Find the best selling designs and niches

Looking at what else is popular and currently selling well is a wonderful place to start exploring t-shirt niche ideas and designs.

Here is a list of some of the best websites to buy graphic t-shirts. To help you find a better idea for your next niche or t-shirt design, you may use them to search the “best-selling” and “most popular” areas.

For ideas for your online t-shirt business, you may also want to look at Google Trends to see what subjects people are currently interested in.

Hire a designer

You’ll need to create the t-shirt designs you have in mind once you get them. If you have Adobe Photoshop or a tool comparable to it, you can probably create some excellent designs on your own. You will need to enlist some help, however, if you’re like most people.

You may use a broad range of resources and online markets to find a qualified graphic designer to help you.

Design communities

Dribbble: Dribbble is a community of designers with a tonne of original talent. Search for the appearance you want and contact the designers you like to inquire about their availability for freelance work.

Online T-Shirt Business as-educate
T-Shirt shots

Behance: Behance is a fun platform to check out. You may see the portfolios of several artists from all around the world who specialize in a variety of fields, including illustration, niches, and styles. You may get in touch with a designer if you end up enjoying their work and ask for a quote on your custom t-shirt designs.

Behance

Freelance networks 

Well-known freelancing networks like Freelancer and Upwork are some other choices you may wish to explore. You can quickly find skilled t-shirt designers and check their portfolios and prior employment achievements. You may reach someone directly on the platform and employ them right away if you like them.

Upwork

Buy t-shirt designs

If you’re having trouble finding a designer for your how to start an online t-shirt business, you can always buy pre-made designs. It’s important to keep in mind that if you choose to take this approach, it’s likely that other people are also selling the design you choose, which will make it more difficult for you to stand out and build your online shirt selling business.

Check out the following t-shirt graphic marketplaces:

  • Designious: which sells clip art to create your own products, as well as vector packs and PNG t-shirt designs.
  • Tshirt Factory: This provides a variety of vector images for t-shirt printing enterprises, including old-school, punk rave, and urban styles.
  • Creative Market: you won’t only find t-shirts but also has over 3 million unique fonts, images, themes, pictures, and templates made by independent designers from all over the world.
  • Graphic River: where you can purchase and sell vectors, Photoshop files, and icon packs for your t-shirt designs that are all royalty-free.

Remember that you may need to purchase a commercial license if you want to know how to start an online t-shirt business.

4. Mock up your t-shirts

Getting some mockup images will be your next step in learning how to start a t-shirt business online after you have some final designs. Mockups are useful so that your clients can preview how the final design will appear on a shirt.

You may get images of your final designs on t-shirts in a number of different ways, such as by obtaining samples, doing your own product photography, or using one of the many online t-shirt mockups and templates to create a 100% digital mockup, like the one shown below.

Print on Demand Shirts: Beginner Guide

The most popular types of mockup files are t-shirt templates for Adobe Photoshop. You may use these to quickly preview how your designs will appear when printed on t-shirts. The majority of Photoshop templates include numerous layers that allow you to alter the shirt’s color and add your own design while still blending it in with the shirt’s folds, creases, and curves.

You may use the following resources to find the ideal mockup file for your shirt selling business:

If Adobe Photoshop isn’t for you, you may use online mockup software to do the same task without downloading and learning Photoshop.

A great option for tasks like these is to get help from a Fiverr freelancer. Simply search for t-shirt mockups.

5. Validate the designs for your t-shirt online business

You should verify that there is a market for and interest in your designs before investing a lot of money in your new business idea. You may sell t-shirts online in a variety of ways while validating the market.

The following are a few of the most well-liked and popular techniques for validating your design concepts:

Personal social networks. Post some of your designs on Twitter, Facebook groups for your niche, your profile page, and other social media sites that your friends and potential customers use. Asking friends and relatives for advice, however, should be done with caution since they often mean well.

Reddit. Reddit is still one of the finest venues to get objective criticism for your designs, despite the community’s typical dislike of marketing (which can even translate into sales after you launch). With so many subreddits, it’s easy to identify a particular niche group of potential customers and receive their direct feedback on your designs before releasing them.

Crowdfunding. It is now much simpler to test, validate, and raise cash upfront for your new business idea thanks to crowdfunding websites. Starting a crowdfunding campaign takes time and requires careful planning. The advantages, though, may be enormous, such as fully financing your project before you start it. Crowdfunding could be right for you if you have a very unique t-shirt business idea, like designing t-shirts for dogs and their owners.

Print on demand. Finally, setting up a fully working online store (with a domain name included) in a matter of hours to test your business idea is now possible thanks to ecommerce platforms like Shopify. To validate your t-shirts by attempting to sell them online, start your store and include a print-on-demand provider.

6. Set up your online store

It’s time to develop your store now that you have your t-shirt designs ready, have created your mockups, and have verified your idea. This is crucial if you want to know how to start an online t-shirt business.

A few t-shirt print-on-demand services are directly integrated with Shopify, so you can start accepting orders right away. Every time you get an order, these services will print and deliver your t-shirts to your customers on your behalf.

It’s a great way to get started since there’s no need to buy or keep any goods upfront. The best part is that you have the option to put your design on various printed items like mugs and tote bags.

The following print-on-demand companies provide a variety of t-shirts:

Once your store is set up, you’ll be ready to start selling t-shirts online.

5 considerations for starting a t-shirt business

Starting a business isn’t particularly difficult thanks to the tools and technology available for designing, printing, and shipping custom t-shirts; the challenging aspect is creating a brand that stands out from the competition. Building an online t-shirt company is a bit more difficult than it would initially seem when you combine competition with narrow profit margins.

Making the right choices early on is essential if you want to create and sell t-shirts online.

Starting a successful online shirt business requires several essential elements. Before continuing, it is important to carefully analyze each of the following elements:

  • T-shirt printing techniques. Designs may be printed on t-shirts using a variety of techniques. Making the right choice may enable you to make more informed business choices and save money.
  • Design. Most customers of graphic t-shirts seek out patterns, images, and catchphrases that appeal to them personally and reflect their beliefs and personalities.
  • Quality. To create a long-lasting business, the shirts you use and the printing work must be of the highest quality.
  • Brand, In the t-shirt market, having a strong, distinctive brand is vital.
  • Inventory, You may benefit from volume discounts by managing your own inventory, or you can use a print-on-demand service to save time and money.

Let’s take a deeper look at each one.

1. T-shirt printing techniques

When it comes to starting an online t-shirt business, there are three popular printing techniques: Each process has pros and cons, so choosing one to use will partly depend on how much time you want to invest in developing the product and which printing company you choose.

To help you better grasp each procedure, we have included a brief explanation of all three t-shirt printing options below. It’s worth understanding how each printing technique works, whether you invest in your own printer or engage with a nearby supplier.

Screen printing

Screen printing
Photo courtesy of: Printful

For business owners who design and sell t-shirts both online and in person, screen printing is an ancient technique that has withstood the test of time.

Screen printing, one of the most often used techniques for t-shirt printing, may have popular and long-lasting effects. If you want to diversify your product line, you may print on objects like canvas, mugs, caps, and other things to produce and sell.

Screen printing is most cost-effective, nevertheless, when printing in large quantities since the initial setup requires a lot of effort. As each additional color increases costs and manufacturing time, intricate designs or designs with more than four to five colors present problems for screen printing.

Pros

  • Volume discounts
  • Cost effective for large batches

Cons

  • Not cost-effective for multiple colors
  • Can only print simple images and designs

Heat transfer

Heat transfer t-shirt printing
Photo courtesy of: Transfer Express

Additionally, heat transfers have been around for a very long time and come in a variety of shapes. In your neighborhood office supply store, simple heat-transfer paper can be found.

This technique makes it simple to print designs from your home computer and iron them on, but it is inadequate for managing a small business. Plastisol transfers are a more sophisticated kind of heat transfer that is printed by experts on specialized, premium heat transfer paper.

The benefit of heat transfers is that you can purchase a stack of prints from your neighborhood printer and use professional heat press equipment to apply them to your t-shirts as orders come in.

On t-shirts, heat transfers may quickly and simply create full-color images.

Pros

  • more affordable for small batches.
  • You can “print” each shirt on demand.
  • There is no limit to the number of colors that can be used in a print.

Cons

  • The do-it-yourself approach means additional time input for you.
  • lower quality and less durable than direct-to-garment and screen printing.
  • large upfront investment in a heat press machine (from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand).

Direct-to-garment (DTG)

Direct-to-garment (DTG)
Photo courtesy of: Anajet

The way an ink-jet printer operates at home is quite similar to how direct-to-garment printing works. Its ability to accurately generate full-color graphics and print ink directly onto the t-shirt makes it a popular piece of commercial equipment for t-shirt printing.

Compared to heat transfers and screen printing, direct-to-garment printing offers superior printing quality. In contrast to screen printing, it doesn’t need any setup since it operates like an ink-jet printer. This indicates that printing small orders is simple and affordable.

Since each shirt requires the same amount of time to print, the main drawback of the direct-to-garment printing online t-shirt business model is the absence of bulk discounts for large orders.

Pros

  • No set-up costs
  • Unlimited color options
  • High precision in printed design
  • Great for small orders or one-offs

Cons

  • Generally, there are no volume discounts.
  • Not cost-effective for large production runs

2. Design

An imitation of a t-shirt design from another source would be the last thing a visitor would want to see in your catalog. Your designs don’t have to be very intricate; in fact, many of the most popular graphic t-shirts have pretty simple graphics. However, they do need to stand out and connect with your audience.

Your design files should typically be at least 300 pixels per inch (dpi or ppi), have a transparent backdrop, and be big enough to cover the actual print area of the t-shirt in order to assure great printing for your shirt company. Please be aware that, based on the printer and printing technique used, your precise specs may vary (more on that later).

vapor95 graphic tee
Photo courtesy of: Vapor95

3. Quality

Quality comes in as the second-most crucial success factor in how to start a successful online t-shirt business. They won’t let you let them down twice, but you may let them down once. There won’t be gushing fans who return and repurchase a design that ages and cracks or a t-shirt that shrinks and shreds.

T-shirts of higher quality may be more expensive to produce, but they may also fetch a higher price. The blank t-shirt material, the shirt’s printing technique, and the properly prepared design file will all affect the final quality of your t-shirt.

4. Brand

When you start an online shirt business, having a great, captivating brand is vital. Your brand is a promise that unites all of your decisions, such as your niche, designs, and level of quality. In a highly competitive market, developing a distinctive and likable brand is important, from the name of your t-shirt business to the logo you use.

When customers have more options, an online retailer must stand out to attract their attention.

You may use it in your marketing and website to communicate to these customers if you’ve picked a niche for your online t-shirt business that symbolizes a certain lifestyle, like in the anime/streetwear example from Imouri below.

Imouri

5. Inventory

Most individuals choose to purchase and keep inventory when learning how to launch a t-shirt business online, taking advantage of bulk discounts and nearby printers, or they hire a print-on-demand service to handle inventory management and delivery for them. A combination of the two is another option.

With print-on-demand, you take on a lot less risk, but by maintaining your own inventory for your online shirt selling a business, you can more easily sell in person and perhaps increase your profit margins. Before you start, balance the benefits and drawbacks. Print-on-demand is usually one of the best small business ideas if you’re hesitant.

Small business entrepreneurs may easily understand the dropshipping business strategy for selling t-shirts online. It’s really simple to start and test your t-shirt designs using services like Printful.

Of course, you may also buy your own printer and set up a base of operations if you have the money for it.

Online t-shirt business success stories

Many business owners have started successful shirt-selling ventures. One individual, Ryan McCarthy, the owner of Imouri (formerly known as Sugoi Shirts), has used Shopify since 2016 to run his anime-themed t-shirt printing business.

Imouri Online Store

When Ryan couldn’t find anime-inspired clothing that complemented his particular style, he decided to start his own t-shirt business. He discreetly started what he thought would be a small clothing business, but it quickly grew into a six-figure print-on-demand clothing business selling streetwear with anime and Japanese pop culture as inspiration. His trade secret for starting a successful clothing line? Using Reddit and sponsored advertisements to test items might help you find winning designs early on. Our Shopify Masters podcast features some of his greatest t-shirt business advice.

Start your t-shirt business today

Using your imagination to sell t-shirts online has never been simpler. A t-shirt store is a fantastic first online business for new entrepreneurs, regardless of the niche they choose to target or how ambitious they decide to be with their quality and designs.

The good news is that creating and launching a new t-shirt brand on Shopify is simple, fast, and affordable. If you already have designs that you wish to sell, you may get started right away.

You can also link your store to a t-shirt printer or dropshipper in minutes using one of the many applications and integrations available in the Shopify App Store. This will allow you to rapidly have a fully operational store that is prepared to print and ship to your customers.

FAQ: Starting a t-shirt business

Is a t-shirt business profitable?

T-shirts are a mainstay for men, women, and children throughout the globe, with worldwide retail sales topping $1.9 trillion in recent years. Creating an online t-shirt business is profitable and has modest initial costs compared to other business alternatives. While t-shirt business profit varies based on your niche and marketing costs, you may build up a profitable second cash flow in as little as 30 days.

How much does it cost to start a t-shirt business?

Compared to founding a brick-and-mortar t-shirt store and buying your own t-shirt printing business equipment and embroidery machines, starting a t-shirt business from home requires a very small investment.

Since you don’t pay for products until they are sold, using print-on-demand services to make and ship your products allows you to reduce costs to an absolute minimum. Due to the small likelihood of overstocking, there are no product overheads.

The only costs you’d have to pay are those related to using your ecommerce platform, hosting your domain, and any online advertising campaigns you decide to run.

How do I start a t-shirt business?

1. Create your own t-shirt designs.
2. Set up your social media accounts.
3. Come up with a t-shirt company name.
4. Make a business logo and set up an online shop.
5. Run paid ads for your online t-shirt business site.
6. Do market research and find a passionate community.
7. Do blog outreach and free promotions with influencers.

How much can you make selling t-shirts?

How much time you invest in your business will determine how much money you earn selling t-shirts. There are several examples of business owners making $100,000 by selling and dropshipping t-shirts online.

How can I start my own t-shirt business with no money?

Use print-on-demand dropshippers like Printful to add products to your store if you want to start a t-shirt business quickly and for no money. Search for Printful in the Shopify App Store and choose “Add app” to add it.

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