How To Start A TShirt Business – even if you are not a graphic designer.
So – you’ve decided that you want to learn how to start a tshirt business ?
Or, at least perhaps the idea may have been bouncing around inside your head and tickling your fancy….?
In this fast paced internet enabled world that we live in, it’s actually quite easy to START a tshirt business – even if you are not a graphic designer.
The tricky part is to sell enough tshirts and make enough profit to ensure the whole adventure is worthwhile.
The best part is that, apart from a bit of time and effort, there is very little cost – and for the most part it can be free !
Print On Demand.
You most likely have already heard about the “print on demand” concept. It’s an amazing idea and opens up soooooo many doors and soooooo many options for entrepreneurial and enterprising people.
In a nutshell, a “print on demand” company will print your design onto almost what ever you would like. They handle the ordering of stock, they handle the ink and actual printing process, they handle the shipping and the customer service.
For the purposes of this article, we will be using TShirts as the main example. But be aware that the “print on demand” idea covers many, many products – books, audio / video, mugs, clothes, phone cases, posters, artwork, photos, drink bottles, pens, office supplies, umbrellas, suitcases and tote bags and back packs, etc, etc, etc. It is almost only bound by the limits of your imagination !
There are a few main steps involved in setting up your tshirt business to the point where customers can actually order your items.
None of these steps are difficult; however a few may take a little time or effort. Most of them are free.
Are you ready ? This is a rather long article, so let’s get into it.
Step 1 – pick a niche.
Focussing, initially, on one niche will allow you to potentially systemise the whole process – so that it is easier overall to begin, create, market, sell and profit from your efforts.
By concentrating on one niche you will be able to appeal to one target market. It will be easier to find them, get in front of them, appeal to them and ultimately to make sales to them.
What are your hobbies ? What are your interests ? What do you like and enjoy ? These are the best questions to ask yourself in your initial brainstorming.
Personally, I like saxophones. I enjoy playing my saxophones in my spare time. I’ve lived, breathed, played music and have been a musician for decades. For me, this was a good place to start my saxophone tshirt business. Have a look at SaxophoneTShirts.com if you’re interested.
Do some googling. Search for “<insert your idea here> tshirt”. Eg “saxophone t shirt”. Have a look at and take note of what already exists. Are there millions of tshirts in your idea / niche already ?
If there are, then perhaps try another idea.
The perfect scenario is when there are not that many tshirts related to your particular idea.
So, how many is “not many” ? How many is “too many” ? These are the million dollar questions !!
There will always be some….. it is simply a case of comparing one idea to another and to yet another. Soon you will see that Idea A has hundreds of millions of tshirts available already, Idea B has millions, yet Idea C only has thousands or less. In this case, Idea C might be a better and easier place to start.
As another example, I also like beer. However, I searched for “beer tshirts” and the competition of existing beer tshirt designs was enormous. It would be unlikely that I could compete with the sheer volume of existing beer tshirts in the short term, so I moved on.
You might like cars, or guitars, or cupcakes, or unicorns. See what you can come up with !
Tip: Be careful with and stay away from brand names. Copyright infringement is not cool and larger organisations such as Disney or Apple will find you !
Step 2 – Apply to the Merch By Amazon program.
The Merch By Amazon program is Amazons offering in the “print on demand” space. The sheer volume of potential customers using the Amazon ecosystem is obviously enormous. Getting in front of these customers is going to one of your priorities.
You need to actually apply to and ask Amazon if they will let you in, and they need to approve your application.
The application process involves filling in a simple online form and takes all of 5 minutes.
However, the approval process can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months or more.
This wait time is why it is important to get this ball rolling very early on in your T Shirt business journey. You can get on with other things while you are waiting for Merch By Amazon approval.
Step 3 – investigate a few TShirt Print On Demand companies.
There are quite a few “print on demand” tshirt companies to choose from – which is great !!
Some of these “print on demand” tshirt business companies have design interfaces and tools built in to their websites. Others only allow you to upload a completed design file.
They are all free to join. There is zero up front cost involved with using these services.
You do not need to outlay any money to these “print on demand” tshirt business companies.
This means that you do not have to buy any stock or inventory. You don’t have to pay a printer until after your customer orders from you. Even then, funds do not leave your account as such.
They work like this:
You upload or create your design. You are given various choices – style/make/model/colour of blank tshirt – and they tell you that this one costs this much and that one costs that much.
They tell you that it costs this much for full colour ink and printing, or that much for just one colour ink and printing.
After you have created your design and made some choices, you know how much it will cost – and you simply offer it for sale at a higher price.
The “print on demand” tshirt companies will offer you suggestions as to what your retail price should be.
A customer then buys your tshirt – the company keeps their wholesale cost and they then pass on the difference to you.
It is all very easy.
And, as a delightfully convenient extra bonus, most of these print on demand tshirt companies also have other products that they can put your design on. So suddenly you’ve got hoodies, bags, phone cases, stickers, baby clothes, shirts, dresses, leggings and more products – not just tshirts !
Tip: Stick very closely to the recommended retail price suggested by your print on demand tshirt business company. Yes, you can offer your tshirt for sale at a lower price, but this only affects YOUR profit margin. It does NOT affect the wholesale price, which you still need to ultimately (but indirectly) pay. If you offer cheap tshirts with no profit for yourself, then this is not only a waste of time, but also starts a “race to the bottom”, where everyone else selling tshirts like you lowers their prices. Make sure you make a profit !!
Step 4 – Start designing.
You can use “text only”. Ridiculously easy. Design skills required = 1 out of 10.
You can use text and/or images. Some of these print on demand companies have a design interface that allows you to either upload your own or use their clip art and simple images. Very easy. Design skills required = 2 out of 10.
You can use photos – upload them into your design. Very easy. Design skills required = 2 out of 10.
You can use a combination of the above. Design skills required = 5 out of 10.
You can create your own designs using graphic design software, such as Photoshop. Unless you are a graphic designer, this is not a good option. Design skills required = 9 out of 10.
Remember – Copyright infringement is not cool. Don’t steal or use other people’s images unless you are 200% sure that it is ok to do so. There are sites such as Pixabay.com that have royalty free images available for commercial use at no cost, if you are unable to create your own.
If you have neither the skill nor the time, then it’s easy to find someone else who can create designs for you. This will come at a cost – anywhere from $5 to $5000 and beyond, depending on multiple variables.
Your print on demand tshirt business company with have the specifications for the artwork required. You will need to provide these specifications to your designer along with details fo what you actually want your design to look like.
Check out Fiverr.com , Upwork.com , Freelancer.com.au , 99Designs.com , DesignCrowd.com to name but a few outsourcing options for your graphic design needs.
Interested in finding out more about outsourcing ? Check out our Start Outsourcing Today ebook.
Step 6 – Marketing.
Creating your design and making it available to the world is only one part of learning how to start a tshirt business.
Getting customers eyeballs on your designs is another important part.
The easiest marketing options these days are via social media. Announce each and every design to your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube to name but a few. Join groups, forums, hangouts and post links to your tshirts. Try not to be annoying. Subtle and appropriate mentions are better than making a fool of yourself.
For example, if you are part of a gardening group on facebook and the current topic of conversation is planting a vegetable garden, there is not a lot of point yelling out, “Hey ! Check out my Tequilla themed Tshirts !” You will get banned or blocked from the group pretty quickly.
The words you use to describe your tshirts also have a big impact on sales. A picture tells a thousand words – sure – but google and humans like real words too. Getting customers to see your designs is part one: part two is convincing them or explaining to them the benefits via simple text, which in turn will increase the likelihood that they will buy.
Later on in your tshirt business journey, you may even consider spending a little on Facebook ads, or Google ads, or other forms of advertising. However, starting slowly and building up to this is probably a better way to begin.
Step 7 – repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 as many times as possible.
Quite simply, tshirt sales are based on volume. The more designs you have, the more likely you will sell a few units.
Please be aware that when you are learning how to start a tshirt business, you will need to put in some time and effort with creating multiple designs and having multiple options available to your customers.
It is unlikely that you will make very many sales at all before you have 7, 8, 9 or 10 designs available for sale.
From there you should be aiming for 30 or 40 or 50 designs. Then the goal should be 100 designs, then 500 designs.
Obviously this can be done over time. Don’t stress yourself out by aiming to launch your tshirt business with 200 designs !! Slow and steady wins the race…. Or something like that anyway.
The point is that if you want to make sales, then you are more likely to do so with having multiple designs available. But, keep in mind that realistically you can only create one at a time.
This also provides an opportunity for experimentation. You will get good at creating your designs. You will also get a feel for what sells and what doesn’t. You will possibly get feedback from customers, which in turn allows you to create something more likely to appeal to your target audience and perfect customer.
Create a central hub for all your designs on your own website.
It is beyond the scope of this article with being able to provide the detailed steps of creating your own website when beginning to find out about how to start a tshirt business.
However, there are many tools and options available, such as DOMAINSBYMATT.COM.
In a nutshell, you will need to buy a domain name, buy some hosting and use some tools to create your website. One option might be WordPress.org, or some built in hosting-and-tools packages such as WORDPRESS.COM, or WIX.
The reason for having your own website is so that you can control your content. You can control and guide what you want your customers to see and do.
Facebook, Youtube, Amazon and all of the other platforms can and have changed their rules in a heartbeat. Suddenly, without warning, they can block you, or stop you from doing what it is you want to do. Your business can cease to exist in less than a second.
From your website, you can point your customers in several directions. You might have some of your designs on Teespring, some more on Redbubble and still more on Merch By Amazon. This means that you will not have all of your eggs in one basket.
With your own website, you are in control. Google and Bing and the search engines will like this as well, which in turn makes it easier for your customers to find you.
Step 9 – Profit.
You’ve created some designs. You’ve uploaded these and made them available to the world across multiple platforms – including your own website. You’re selling these for more than they cost you.
Maybe you’ll make a significant sum, maybe you’ll make some extra pocket money.
Maybe you’ll buy a diamond encrusted Ferrari, or maybe you’ll buy a beer or a chocolate bar.
You will definitely learn some skills that will be useful for your next online adventure.
Obviously this is a simplistic version of how to start a tshirt business, even if you are not a graphic designer. However, hopefully you will realise that it is quite easy. Yes, it will take a bit of time, but it potentially will cost you nothing other than time and effort.
Anyone can start a tshirt business. But only the action takers actually do.
Go for it !!