How to Start a T-Shirt Business That Makes Money
We’re not the fashion police but are required to inform you that there are people – real people – wearing absolutely cringeworthy t-shirts at this very moment.
It’s tragic, but true.
What’s also true is that you have the power to change this. Current technology enables you, and just about anyone else, to run a successful online business right from the comfort of your living room couch or a preferred café.
Why should you start a t-shirt business? There’s never been a better time to capitalize on the latest market trends to reach financial success. As we’ll discuss in this article, the market is highly profitable and welcoming to anyone interested in learning how to sell t-shirts.
Read on to see how many people gain passive income through this approach.
In this Article
Why Sell T-Shirts?
It’s safe to say that t-shirts will be in high demand as long as people wear clothing. It is estimated that the custom t-shirt market will reach $3 billion by 2025:
Custom t-shirt printing market size worldwide from 2016 to 2025 (in million U.S. dollars)
While it’s easy to throw abstract numbers around, the point we’re making is that securing even a small piece could be more than enough with such a big pie.
There are countless ways and even more materials on the internet to get you started on this journey, but that will require some enthusiasm and a pinch of discipline. Let’s jump right in.
Retail vs eCommerce
The way we conduct business has changed over the past few decades. Our social lives were not the only things changed by the invention of the internet – it’s now also where we get our food and clothes. Recent global lockdowns significantly sped up the process of moving even more of our lives to the web.
With this in mind, you should consider the best choice for your own business. eCommerce is booming, with projected sales of 8.1 trillion dollars by 2026.
On our journey to learn how to start a t-shirt business, let’s look at a more detailed comparison between retail and eCommerce.
|Location||Brick and mortar store.
You need a place to store and sell goods.
You sell goods on the internet.
No need to store goods with POD.
|Accessibility||Can be 24/7 but is limited to location and specific working hours.||24/7 for you and your customers.|
|Customer Experience||Customers have access to products and staff in person.
Finding products takes time.
|Customers have access to product photos, other customer reviews, and online support.
Finding products is easy.
|Delivery||Customers can receive products immediately or arrange a delivery.||Product delivery takes time, done by a third-party delivery service.|
|Costs||Rent, warehouse, products, staff, taxes.||Costs depend on chosen platform and services.|
|Set-up Difficulty||Takes days and even months of preparation and a large investment.||Your online t-shirt store can be up and running within hours.|
|Retail||Brick and mortar store.
You need a place to store and sell goods.
You sell goods on the internet.
No need to store goods with POD.
|Retail||Can be 24/7 but is limited to location and specific working hours.|
|eCommerce||24/7 for you and your customers.|
|Retail||Customers have access to products and staff in person.
Finding products takes time.
|eCommerce||Customers have access to product photos, other customer reviews, and online support.
Finding products is easy.
|Retail||Customers can receive products immediately or arrange a delivery.|
|eCommerce||Product delivery takes time, done by a third-party delivery service.|
|Retail||Rent, warehouse, products, staff, taxes.|
|eCommerce||Costs depend on chosen platform and services.|
|Retail||Takes days and even months of preparation and a large investment.|
|eCommerce||Your online t-shirt store can be up and running within hours.|
How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the industry, you can begin to start a t-shirt business. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you through.
1. Research the Market
What do I need to start a t-shirt business? First, research the t-shirt industry and market, see what competitors produce and sell, and what people are looking for.
Evaluate successful Shopify t-shirt stores and what makes them tick. What are the competition’s strengths and weaknesses, and how can you be better than them?
Start with the search engines of huge sellers like Amazon and Walmart. Look for terms like “trending t-shirts,” “best-selling t-shirts,” or “popular tees.”
Narrow those searches by adding terms connected to your target market. For instance, look for “Christmas women’s tees,” “political slogan t-shirts,” and so on, according to your target market.
Finally, look for the products and results from these previous queries in Google Trends. That tool will provide detailed information and connected queries.
You may detect secondary interests, demographics, location, or seasonality with Google trends information.
Check out more recommendations and learn how to research and profit from eCommerce trends in our blog.
2. Choose a Niche
While learning how to start a t-shirt business, you’ll also need to figure out your target customer, or customer niche.
Picking a niche is crucial. The eCommerce industry is saturated with competition, so if you try to sell online to everyone, you’ll end up selling to no one. Think this step through, do your research, and brand accordingly.
A niche is a group sharing interests and characteristics that is more probable to purchase your merch.
Use the same data from your market research with Google Trends and cross it with representative keywords from your selling proposition.
Let’s say you are interested in reaching women who own pets.
Look for keywords related to specific pets, and do parallel searches, including terms that help to limit your search. Observe all the related queries, and gather any information that allows you to understand your target audience better.
Narrow down your niche based on all the data gathered. For instance, you can target Californian women owning labradors, instead of the general category of pet owners, and sell organic t-shirts for them.
Get inspiration for more print-on-demand niches on our blog, and watch our video:
3. Write a Business Plan
The next step in learning how to start a t-shirt business is preparing a business plan. This might initially seem like the scariest step, but it doesn’t need to be more complicated than planning a weekend road trip.
A business plan states the company’s main goals and business model. It may also describe how to achieve them and establish a timeframe.
A traditional business plan is very detailed and describes the product, target market, and the company’s structure, including staff and locations. Institutions may ask for such a plan if you intend to apply for loans or financing.
However, small business owners may opt for preparing a lean business plan, which is simpler and adaptable. Consider it a road map containing the essentials such as key activities, sources of revenue, assets, and partners. Remember to make clear what your unique selling proposition is.
The US Small Business administration makes available templates for preparing different business plans.
4. Find a Print Provider With Quality Products
Search the internet using keywords related to your chosen market niche to find the best print providers offering blank shirts. Observe the quality and diversity of services.
When starting a t-shirt printing business using POD, you don’t have to handle inventory or shipping. However, acquiring detailed knowledge of fabrics and printing techniques and checking the quality of products before you start selling is crucial.
The most common fabrics for T-Shirts are made from cotton, polyester, or blends in different proportions. Eco-friendly T-shirt printing uses innovative fabrics or recycled traditional materials.
Look for high-quality t-shirts and always order samples to have a precise idea of the garment’s strength and softness.
In addition to a large selection of products, many print providers offer a variety of t-shirt printing methods. Look for those capable of providing direct-to-garment and all-over printing, as well as embroidery printing.
Each one of these printing methods opens up a range of design possibilities, with specific material requirements. For example, all-over-print shirts require 100% polyester fabric, while custom embroidery has precise requirements.
Test the whole process to confirm that your customers are getting the best products and services. You’ll avoid selling low-quality products and dealing with returns or customer complaints.
5. Create Your Unique Design
Next, you’ll want to create a best-selling t-shirt design. Consider the following tips:
- First, choose a graphic design software that fills your needs and fits your pocket. There are free and less expensive solutions than Photoshop – check out 11 T-Shirt Design Software, for instance.
- Keep your branding consistent and make sure your designs are original.
- Pick themes for your own t-shirt designs that resonate with your niche.
- Prioritize simplicity over complexity – unless intricate designs are the most suitable for your target audience.
- Unlike screen printing, DTG and print-on-demand services make the color options for t-shirts almost limitless. Still, limit the number of colors per product and design. It looks more professional and aesthetically pleasant and makes it easier for the customers to choose.
- Choose fonts carefully. Use aesthetically pleasant, trendy, readable fonts, and avoid using more than two. Fonts awake emotions – harmonize that feeling with your clothing brand and niche.
- Bring various elements together, but make them coherent and harmonic. Promote interactions between text and other graphic elements, such as backgrounds and images, while designing.
Check for more graphic design tips to get your t-shirt line to the next level. There’s also an abundance of designers offering to create precisely the designs you’re looking for. You can find graphics designers at Printify Expert.
6. Create an Online Store
Once you’ve created some products, you’ll need to find a way to offer them to your customers.
This is where a sales platform or marketplace comes into play. Consider where the best place to house your store could be among the best sites to sell online.
If you’re starting and testing a business idea for a clothing line, consider going with a marketplace, such as Etsy, eBay, or Walmart, so that people can easily find your store.
On the other hand, Shopify, BigCommerce, and website builders like Wix or Squarespace are better for those looking for user-friendly solutions.
If you want complete ownership over your eCommerce store and no monthly subscriptions – consider going with WooCommerce or Prestashop. These platforms have a steeper learning curve but will save you money.
7. Set a Price
Start with market research and review the prices and deals your competitors offer.
Remember that order fulfillment comes with costs. Pay attention to shipping prices, taxes, and other expenses you incur while running an online t-shirt business, including everyday bills and software and subscription expenses. Your sales should cover these expenses.
Price your products considering competitors’ prices, besides the fixed and variable production costs.
Ultimately, your prices should be high enough to cover expenses and profit from the product sales.
Among several pricing strategies, consider diminishing profits and getting an advantage with a lower price, or selling for a slightly higher price than the competition, increasing perceived value.
8. Market Your Products
Creating designs and setting up your store is just the beginning. You need to market your t-shirt company to make sales.
Luckily, marketing is easier than it might seem. Here is some helpful advice for reaching potential customers:
- Start by creating business social media accounts on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Building an audience will increase your brand awareness and sales.
- When it comes to social media platforms, you must choose the service your niche uses. For example, TikTok and Instagram are most popular amongst Millennials and Gen Z, while Facebook is more liked by Boomers.
- Don’t try to be everywhere at once. There is no need to advertise on TikTok if your customer niche doesn’t use TikTok. Try to primarily keep to platforms and events that your customers would attend ensure they get to see your designs, and visibility leads to sales.
- Even if you’re planning to sell t-shirts online on a standalone website or a marketplace, try learning as much about SEO as possible. Include keywords in your product descriptions, and consider starting a blog – it will help with SEO and brand awareness. Check our articles on SEO for WooCommerce, Shopify, Wix, and Etsy.
- Depending on your budget, consider paid advertising. While it can be costly, it will increase your chances of getting noticed.
- Think about how you can plan a successful creative marketing campaign to get noticed by your target audience.
9. Analyze Your Performance
Keep an eye on what you’re doing and whether it works. As you begin figuring out how to start a t-shirt printing business, you will encounter many questions and concerns along the way.
It is important not to let challenges discourage you and keep you from experimenting. Monitoring and keeping track of what you do will help you adjust and refine your actions and strategies for selling t-shirts online.
Most platforms include dedicated analytics to glimpse precisely how your store is doing. By tracking which products sell best and where your audience is from, you’ll be able to optimize both your inventory and marketing efforts.
Some platforms offer additional marketing resources, and those offering standalone websites connect to Google Analytics. This allows you to check how much traffic the website is getting, how the catalog converts when the audience is the most active, and many more metrics, such as location and demographics.
Instagram and Facebook also have integrated business analytics, which will further help you plan the best marketing campaigns.
Make It Happen Today!
How to Start a T-Shirt Business With Printify
Good news – you’ve made it to this guide’s easiest and most fun part. That is, of course, beginning your Printify journey. This is all part of learning how to start a t-shirt business. At this point, you’re only a few short steps away from launching your high-quality t-shirt store.
Sign-up will only take a few clicks. Printify is free to use for anyone starting a t-shirt business. With your free account, you can access Printify’s Mockup Generator, which will create mockups for your store’s product listings.
You’ll also get access to eCommerce integrations, the ability to place orders, merchant support, a self-serve help center, and custom order imports from your store.
When your sales grow, you might be interested in expanding your business. Getting a Printify Premium account guarantees a higher profit margin and even more features, including a 20% discount on all products. A subscription costs $24.99 per month (billed annually).
Look at the Printify Product Catalog to find the best shirts for your store. You’ll be able to choose women’s, men’s, and kid’s t-shirts from a variety of print providers from various locations in the world.
Take note of internal rankings based on product reprints and delayed production time in the last 30 days to find the best print providers for your store.
Printify offers a growing selection of products, product variants, and printing methods. Our catalog has the largest T-shirt selection of any print-on-demand service, with over 20 quality clothing brands. That includes the most popular and best-sellers t-shirts for print-on-demand, such as:
- Bella+Canvas – Located in Los Angeles, it is the manufacturer of the Bella+Canvas 3001 (jersey short sleeve), the best-selling T-Shirt in print-on-demand. The company prides itself on dying and cutting most of its tees in the US. It also engages with socially responsible practices, zero-waste, and renewable energy usage.
- With the 5000 (heavy cotton) and 64000 (unisex softstyle) models, Gildan competes directly with Bella+Canvas for the most popular print-on-demand tees. They manufacture their products in Central America and the Caribbean and are committed to environmentally and socially friendly practices.
Other leading brands include Delta, American Apparel, Hanes, and top eco-friendly t-shirt brands like Stanley/Stella, Royal Apparel, and Econscious, to mention a few.
These shirts cover all styles, body shapes, genres, and sizes. Watch a comparison between Bella+Canvas 3001, Gildan 64000, and Gildan 5000, and check out the best t-shirts for printing.
Use the Printify Mockup Generator to drag and drop your unique designs onto t-shirts. Duplicate, adjust the size, and position them for the best possible look. Add text, and change fonts.
You’ll get access to product mockups that will help you and your customers visualize wearing your shirts.
Always order a sample after creating a new custom t-shirt to make sure that every product in your store is high quality and up to your standards.
You’ll need to find a way to reach people to sell them your custom shirts. The easiest way is by creating an eCommerce store. As mentioned earlier, Printify integrates effortlessly with some of the most popular eCommerce platforms and marketplaces. Check them out to see what works best for you.
- Etsy is one of the most popular eCommerce marketplaces. It’s focused mainly on offering handmade crafts, but they also accept POD product listings. It is free to create an account, but a store will have various associated fees like listing, transaction, or currency conversion fees, depending on the case.
- Shopify is a standalone eCommerce platform. It’s described as one of the most user-friendly to new users due to how quickly and seamlessly you can start a Shopify t-shirt business and have your website up and running.
- eBay is one of the most widely recognized eCommerce marketplaces. Many people joke, “if you can’t find it on eBay, it doesn’t exist.” Although this may sound discouraging, this also means that your target audience might actually be more successful at finding your products on eBay.
- PrestaShop is an open-source eCommerce service. It offers excellent possibilities for website customization and even supports plans for direct help with managing your store. PrestaShop is free to use but requires hosting.
- BigCommerce is an eCommerce website builder that includes online store creation, search engine optimization, hosting, marketing, and security.
- WIX is an all-in-one website builder that offers an easy-to-use visual editor, shopping and payment optimization, and business and finance management tools.
- WooCommerce is another open-source eCommerce platform built on WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system. It is one of the most cost-effective options after you master the medium.
- Walmart, the second largest retailer in the US, gives access to millions of shoppers in the global market. Printify is the first platform to connect Walmart with a print-on-demand service.
- Squarespace is one of the most popular website builders on the market. It has a huge focus on aesthetics and design and is very suitable for small business owners targeting the fashion industry.
- Printify API allows you to use Printify in connection with your custom-built website. To successfully use this option, you’ll need some knowledge in coding or help from a developer. The Printify API is free to use.
Sit back and watch those shirt orders come rolling in. Printify has automated all store order fulfillment processes, letting you focus more on learning all the nooks and crannies of starting a successful t-shirt business. Printify will directly manage the fulfillment and shipment of your orders.
While it’s one thing to try something entirely new, following in the footsteps of others is something different.
Learning how to start a t-shirt business can be a stressful experience. It requires quite a bit of self-confidence, perseverance, and even courage.
The great news is that many other people have come this exact same way before – many of them reaching great success.
Check out these success stories to get your creative and confident mojo flowing:
For online entrepreneur Rich Khun, running a successful online t-shirt business comes naturally. From making $200,000 a year to being a successful YouTuber – Rich is a true inspiration.
We’re not only fans of Rich as a Printify user, but are also hooked on his YouTube channel – Hustle Ninjas. It is useful for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, as he shares advice and experience on how to start a t-shirt business online.
Cassiy lost her job during the pandemic and plunged into the world of print-on-demand services. She soon discovered that the activity was way more fun than her 9-5 job.
Instead of focusing on a specific niche, Cassie has an Etsy store with products for various niches and teaches how to start a t-shirt business from home and so much more on her YouTube channel. Investing in custom mockups, Cassie makes the most of holiday sales to expand her business and sell T-shirts and other apparel.
She uses Pinterest and some Etsy ads for marketing, but most of her sales come from organic searches.
In an extraordinary tale of triumph, Lindsey lost her corporate event production business of 12 years, but this didn’t hold her down and stop her from becoming a successful eCommerce entrepreneur.
Lindsey runs an Etsy shop, FerrisBuilt, which has more than 7,000 sales of shirts, notebooks, mugs, and other print-on-demand products. The merch she offers has truly inspiring and empowering messages, though there are also some designs that are more calming and fun.
Final Thoughts – Sell Custom T-Shirts Today
Congrats, you now know how to start your own t-shirt business.
Printify is set up to give you and anyone else a chance to succeed, regardless of your background and any past failures. We are dedicated to providing opportunities to people, channeling their creativity with the hope of bringing about a better world for themselves and their communities.
We’d love to be a part of your success story. Get started with Printify today, and let’s put your brand on the map – right up there with other Printify superstars like Rich Khun, Cassiy Johnson, and Lindsey Ferris.
Start Making T-Shirts Today With Printify and Print-On-Demand!
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Are there any upfront costs, or do we pay you through our sales?
When a customer submits an order in your connected store, your store receives the payment consisting of the product retail price (production price + profit) and the shipping fee.
Then the order is automatically imported into Printify and sent to production according to your order approval settings. However, since Printify can’t pull funds directly from your sales channel, Printify charges your linked credit card or your Printify balance with the production price of the product and its shipping fee.
To sum it up: your customers buy from you, and you buy from us.
Hello, I am a seller on the ebay platform, the price you give me and the price I give to the end customer will be different, if the product is shipped from you to my customer, which price will be sent to the customer in the invoice? And whether the name of my store is mentioned in the invoice that he bought from ebay and my store or not?
Your customer will be charged with the price you yourself set up. Printify charges you the production and shipping costs (+ tax/VAT, if applicable). You charge your customer production + shipping + the profit. In other words, you yourself have to set the profit margin, however, we recommend setting it at least at 40% to successfully grow with Printify. You can read more about it here.
And that all said, the customer will only see the retail price, so they don’t know how big of a profit margin you will have set.
As for the invoices, Printify does not send your customer any invoices, however you should be able to set up your own payment policy on eBay.
If any further help is necessary, please reach out to our merchant support team via the live chat on Printify website.
Where can I check if my designs are not infringing other peoples designs?
Hi there Wylie! You can check out this article and the Intellectual Property Policy can be found here.
Do you have children sizes
Yes, we have a whole section in our Product Catalog for children’s and baby clothing. See here.
Hi, May I Connect my printify products to an Ecwid on line
Hi there Sandra,
Currently there is no direct integration with Ecwid. However, you can still use Printify for your order fulfillment, as long as it allows you to create product listings and collect payment from your customers.You can also create product listings, using our Mockup Generator and save the mockup images to your computer, then manually upload them to your listings. Please see more detailed information here.
Hi can I use this platform for South Africa, I did not see a supplier in South Africa on your platform
At the moment we unfortunately don’t have any print providers located in South Africa, however we do ship there, so you can still use Printify.
What happens if someone want to return an item?
Print On Demand products have customized designs, therefore items cannot be returned to print providers, however you can come up with your own return policy in case you want your customers to have this option.
We offer reprint or refund for any order that has issues or differs from the ordered. Make sure your customer has provided the picture of the issue, and send it to our merchant support along with the order number.
How do you protect my designs from being used by your other customers who are also selling through your printing services? Some of my designs will be copyrighted through the U.S. Copyright Office, however, others will be simply be protected by just having them in use, in commerce.
The designs you upload on Printify Mockup Generator when creating your products are not used anywhere else, and they are not accessible to anyone else. Only the person, who has access to your Printify account, can access your designs.
Also, do you have your own payment supported platform or would I have to join shopify or another platform? And what other ones beside shopify if that’s the way I need do it?
Printify does not provide a storefront that would be accessible to your customers, so you’ll need to use one of the sales channels. On Printify you can design products, edit listings, control which products appear on your store, manage sales and overall – run your business. Here is a full article on which direct sales channel integrations we offer and how to connect each one.
Does your platform protect me from doing something that infringes on someone else’s rights? Even if their not members of your platform?
You may not post or upload content (text, data, articles, images, photographs, graphics, software, applications, designs, features, and other materials) that infringes on the copyright or trademarks of others.
Hello , do I need a license to sell online
You would only need a license, if you’re using copyrighted or trademarked designs for your products.
Good evening, I have a great logo idea to put on a t-shirt would I need to patent my idea first before I start sending my idea with printify? and how much would it cost to get started? I’m new at this. So much I need to learn. i
Hello there! Hope you are doing well.
You can upload your design on Printify and order a product without any worries about copyright infringement. You keep all the rights to your designs, and they are shared with our print providers only in order to have the item fulfilled.
When it comes to publishing your design to a sales channel, this is when your design becomes visible to everyone, so to avoid the chance of people copying your design, you can copyright it before publishing.
As for the costs, please consider that total price consists of price for product, print, tax and shipping expenses. T-Shirt prices start at $5.25 and you can see the full production price once you add a design to an item of your liking.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask [email protected].
This post is very encouraging. It is worth the shot now that my wife and myself are in certain need to try some new way of income.
I have some ideas for my brand, and with the help of this service it could possibly work.
What percentage do I receive from sales do I get the full sale or just a cut
On Printify you will need to cover base costs that include production and shipping, and based on that you set your own retail price, depending on the profit you’d like to receive.
? Can one display products in all e commerce channels at the same time and also is intellectual property law maintained with regards to been copied by someone
You can definitely trust us with safety of your designs, we use your design file only for purpose of printing your order. Nevertheless, whenever your product is published on a sales channel, it is visible for others. Without direct access to your design file copycats can’t use your design, but they can still have ideas quite similar to yours. I do hope you won’t have to experience it.
As for multiple sales channels, you can publish your product on one and just copy it to all remaining sales channels. On My Store, click on 3 dots next to your product and choose ‘Copy to’ option. After that you can select which of your stores you want to share the product with.
This is a great article and has literally given me a few ideas with wordplay I want to use in my soon to be new tee-shirt business!
Thank You now I need to get my @$$ in gear and get on it!
Hi I’ve been thinking of my own online brand and I think tshirting can be one, hopefully it will work out.
Hi, please explain to me why the store Famous IRL can use things like Schrute farms or Michael Scott paper company? Are they paying licensing fees? Everything I’ve read in your terms of agreement and printify’s terms of agreement consistently says to watch out for copyright laws and using other peoples material. What is the fine line here? Any help is appreciated!!
Thank you for your question! As long as you have the license to use copyrighted designs, you are more than welcome to do so also on Printify. However, you may not post or upload content that infringes on the copyright or trademarks of others. If you have any further questions about this, feel free to address them with our merchant support team via [email protected].
Inspiring 🙂 … can’t wait to upload my first designs and sell my first product
Awesome! We can’t wait for it too, Ricardo!