How to start an online t-shirt business
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T-shirts are not just a basic element of clothing, they are a commodity that often reflects our personalities, interests, and identities. For this reason, online t-shirt trading has become a popular choice, especially for entrepreneurs and artists who are looking for a relatively inexpensive way to learn how to start a business.
In addition, the global market for custom T-shirt printing industry is expected to exceed $10 billion by 2025.
With the increasing popularity of selling t-shirts, there is no doubt that you will face stiff competition. But by building a brand for a specific target audience and creating T-shirt designs that your customers want, you can carve out your own path to success.
In this guide, we will go through each step of starting a t-shirt business that will generate additional income per month.
Steps to Getting Started in Online T-Shirt Trading
Choose a business category
Choosing the category for your t-shirt business will help you stand out and better attract the right target audience without affecting your budget.
One of the most important parts of building a successful business is the ability to stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is to meet the needs of a specific target audience or interest group.
In general, categories like t-shirts for people who like funny logos will be too broad to be noticed in a highly developed market. You’ll want to customize it a little more. An example of a more specific niche is T-shirts with funny slogans related to doctors and nurses.
There are many ways to find and evaluate a niche, but here are some of them: Evaluate the number of subscribers and level of engagement or use the Facebook Audience Insights tool to gauge the size of your niche on the platform.
Scan the list of popular hobbies on Wikipedia for inspiration. Consider your own interests and the communities you belong to, sometimes it’s okay to trust your intuition.
Once you have narrowed down your niche, create a business plan for your t-shirt company that covers your goals and various opportunities for selling custom t-shirts, then figure out how you will implement that plan.
Material quality and T-shirt printing options
Not all shirts are alike and not all print jobs are the same. As mentioned above, quality is critical to your brand and its success, so it is important to educate yourself and choose your blank t-shirts wisely.
It may be tempting to sacrifice quality for higher profit margins, but consider how quality will affect a customer’s decision to share your brand and buy from you again.
Choosing a quality shirt includes several factors, including fit, size, material, softness and weight. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s highly recommended that you order samples so you can make a final, informed decision.
Create t-shirt designs
Here are some of the ways you can get a head start on your t-shirt business designs.
Find the best selling designs
If you are stuck in niche t-shirt ideas and designs, a great start is to look for other popular t-shirts that are currently selling well.
You can use the pages of some of the best t-shirt marketplaces to search the “Top Sellers” and “Top Popular” sections to help you get a better idea of your next design or t-shirt design. You may also want to consider reviewing Google Trends to find out what topics people are currently interested in.
Hire a designer
Once you have an idea of some t-shirt designs, you will have to design them already. If you have Adobe Photoshop or similar software, chances are that you will be able to produce some great designs on your own. But you may need to ask for some help.
There are a variety of tools and markets you can use to find a suitable graphic designer to help you. You search for the style you’re looking for and send a message to designers you’d like to see if they are available for independent projects.
Behance: A great platform to check out. You can see portfolios of different creators from around the world specializing in illustrations, ports, styles and more. If you end up liking a designer, you can reach out to them and get a quote for your custom t-shirt designs.
Freelance Networks: Some other options you might want to try are popular freelance networks. You can find qualified t-shirt designers and check their past career successes and portfolio. If you like someone, you can connect directly in the platform and hire them right away.
buy t-shirt designs
If you have trouble finding a designer while starting an online t-shirt business, you can always buy pre-made designs. Keep in mind that if you choose to go this route, there is a good chance that others will already be selling whatever design you choose, making it difficult for you and your brand to stand out.
Keep in mind, if you plan to sell t-shirts online, you may need to purchase a commercial license.
Once you have some final designs, your next step will be to get some mockup images so that your customers can see what the final design printed on a T-shirt will look like.
There are several ways you can get pictures of your final designs on T-shirts, including ordering samples and taking a photo of the product yourself. With the abundance of t-shirt mockups and templates online, you can choose to create a 100% digital mockup, like the one below.
Adobe Photoshop t-shirt templates are the most popular type of template file. It allows you to quickly preview how your designs will look printed on a T-shirt. Most Photoshop templates come with multiple layers that allow you to change the color of the shirt and apply your own design that will blend in with the shirt’s folds and stripes.
If Adobe Photoshop is not for you, you can also use a web mockup program that allows you to do the same without having to download and discover Photoshop.
Validate your designs
Before you invest a lot of money in your new business idea, you should check that there is a market and interest in your designs. There are many ways you can go about validating the market and selling t-shirts online.
Most popular methods
Some of the most popular ways to validate your design ideas include:
Personal Social Networks: Post some of your designs to your Facebook profile, niche Facebook groups, Twitter, and other social networks frequented by your friends and potential customers. Be careful when asking friends and family, remembering that their opinions tend to be kind.
Reddit: Despite the general community’s aversion to marketing, Reddit is still one of the best places to get honest feedback about your designs that can translate into post-launch sales. It’s easy to find a highly targeted niche of potential clients and ask them directly for their ideas about your designs before you launch them.
Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding sites have made it easy to test, validate, and raise money in advance for your new business idea. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can take a long time and require a great deal of preparation. However, the benefits can be huge, including the full funding of your project before it is launched.
If you have a particularly new business idea for t-shirts, crowdfunding might be for you.
Print on Demand: Finally, with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, it’s never been easier to build a fully functional online store (domain name included) in a matter of hours to validate your business idea. Start a 14-day free trial and integrate a print-on-demand service to validate your t-shirts by trying to sell them online.
Set up your online store
Now that you have t-shirt designs at your fingertips, you’ve made mockups, and you’ve validated your idea, it’s time to build your store.
There are a few on-demand t-shirt printing services that integrate directly with your Shopify store, allowing you to start taking orders in no time.
These services will print your T-shirts and ship them to your customers on your behalf every time you receive an order. There is no need to buy or hold any inventory up front, which makes it a great way to get started.
Best of all, if you want to use your design on other printable products, like mugs and handbags, you have that option as well. Once you have your store set up, you’ll be ready to start selling t-shirts online.
A set of considerations for starting a T-shirt business
While the tools and technology available to design, print, and ship custom t-shirts make getting started relatively simple, the hard part is building a brand to stand out from the competition. Combine competition with meager profit margins and building an online t-shirt business becomes a little more difficult than it might first seem.
If you want to design and sell t-shirts online, you have to make the right decisions from the start. There are many crucial elements involved in starting a successful t-shirt business. Each of these items should be considered closely before moving forward:
T-shirt printing techniques
There are many different ways to print designs on a t-shirt. Choosing the right option can help you save money and make smarter business decisions.
The last thing a visitor will want to see in your catalog is a copy of a T-shirt design found elsewhere. Your designs don’t necessarily need to be complex. In fact, many of the bestselling graphic campaigns are quite simple. You need to connect with your audience to stand out.
The next most important factor in the success and sustainability of your online t-shirt business is quality. The cost of producing high quality T-shirts may be higher but they can also charge higher prices. The final quality of your T-shirt will depend on the T-shirt material, the printing technology used, and the correct setup of your design file.