how to start an online clothing store

Find how to start a clothing line on a limited budget. In this guide, you can learn how to pick the best clothing business model, marketing tips, and about some online sales channels for your clothing line.

Starting a business is never easy. Starting a business in a highly competitive niche like the clothing industry is even harder. So, we are going to show you how to start a low-risk and low-cost clothing line by going 100% online with your business idea.

Traditional business models, like in house manufacturing and selling them in local stores, take time, money, and effort to thrive. Therefore, it is not economical for a new clothing line startup to enter the market in a traditional way. That is why you need to go online, save time, and save money, at least until you can sink your teeth into this business.

So, let us find out how to start a clothing line on a budget by going online. And, let’s learn how to pick a niche, how to select a low-cost business model, and how to handle the marketing process for an online clothing business startup.

How to start a clothing line?

Here is your business plan to start a clothing line online.

  1. Find a gap in the market
  2. Pick your business model
  3. Design a brand identity
  4. Register your clothing business
  5. Plan your marketing strategy
  6. Start designing clothes
  7. Pick and develop the selling platform
  8. Get samples done
  9. Plan a product launch
  10. Collect data and adjust your marketing plan

1. Find a gap in the market

As you know, the clothing industry is an extremely competitive business. Immediately after you enter into the market by starting a clothing line, you will have to start competing with well-known clothing brands for price, design, and quality. And, obviously, as already established businesses, your competitors can offer better quality clothing designs for a competitive price. So, all in all, it will be hard for you to face this competition.

Now, there are two ways to overcome this issue. One way is to burn a substantial marketing budget to overpower some of your competition. However, if you are on a tight budget, that would not be a viable option for you. Then, you need a second option, and here it is.

Pick a niche market to start a clothing line

A niche product is a product that has a very specific target market. Since niche markets have a limited audience, usually, they are less competitive. So, by starting an online clothing line by targeting a niche market, you can create a marketing breakthrough for a smaller budget.

However, keep in mind that niche markets also have a smaller audience. That means you will not find many potential buyers for your products as well. So, it is crucial to identify the right balance between the size of the audience and the cost of marketing.

Potential niches to start a clothing line

Well, like anything else in eCommerce, selecting the best niche for eCommerce needs a lot of research. But, to make your life easy, here we have identified some economical niches to starting a clothing line online.

  • Retro fashion
  • Workwear
  • Workout clothes
  • Funny t-shirts
  • Casual dresses
  • Lingerie, underwear, socks

Now, there is a special idea behind all those clothing niches. As you can imagine, all those types of clothes can create great visual content to advertise on social media. Towards the end of this guide, we have a special section about planning your marketing strategy to start a clothing line, and there we will discuss the importance of having a social-media-friendly business.

2. Pick a business model to start a clothing line

Now let us start vetting into three different methods to start a clothing brand. These methods are pretty much different to one another in terms of cost, time, and difficulty. So, take a look, and pick the best option for you to start a clothing line based on your budget.

  1. Print-on-demand clothing
  2. Private label and wholesale clothes
  3. Custom cut and sew clothes

Start a clothing brand with print on demand clothes

Print on demand is not something new. But, in this guide, we are going to talk about online print-on-demand services, which support dropshipping. This would be the best option if you are on a strict budget, and if you need to launch your businesses within a few days.

Starting a print on demand business is easy. And, usually, it won’t cost you even more than $200 to get started, including your marketing budget. Plus, the process is super fast as well.

When you use print-on-demand for your business, all you got to do is to upload your unique clothing designs using the design tools on those platforms. Then, it will automatically create product mockups to use on your online storefront. So, you can create product listings within a couple of hours. Next, when someone makes a purchase from your online store, your print on demand service will print, pack, and deliver that cloth to your customer.

As you can see, when you use print-on-demand services, you don’t have to pay any upfront fees buying raw materials or large stocks. So, it is cheaper and a hassle-free way of starting a clothing line.

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Start a clothing line with private label and wholesale clothes

If you don’t want to start selling unique products right away, perhaps you can re-sell clothes from wholesale suppliers. And, by using private label products, you can even have products with your brand on them. Here is how it works.

One major disadvantage of using print on demand is the lower profit margins. Unless you start selling massive quantities, you don’t normally get bulk discounts from them. However, if you buy private label products from a wholesale supplier, you can get price discounts for bulk purchases. Then, you can print or add tags and labels to those products, and re-sell them under your brand name.

This method would be the perfect option for you if you are expecting a significant amount of orders from the beginning and if you have the facilities to print or add labels to those products. However, some wholesale suppliers might also offer printing services for an additional cost.

The best place to find such wholesale clothing suppliers is the Chinese wholesale marketplace called Alibaba. These suppliers are pretty experienced, and if you have opt-in for door-step delivery, they will quote an all-inclusive price to deliver your order to the doorsteps of your warehouse. On the other hand, if you are looking for American suppliers, you can use services like threadbird to get custom clothes for your clothing line.

Selling custom cut and sew clothing online

If you have a substantial budget to play with, and if you are thinking of going big, having a production run to make your own clothing designs can be an option for you. This is an intensive process. It will cost you money, time, and effort from the very beginning. However, by doing so, you can build a market authority for your business.

In this guide, we are not going to talk about this method in detail. Because, as the title suggest, here we are discussing how to start a clothing line on a budget. But, if you want to explore it further, here are a few tips to get started.

When you are working on a startup, do not put all the eggs into a single basket. So, rather than investing in developing a production line, you can outsource your production to established clothing manufacturers first. For example, you can outsource your production to companies like MAS and Brandix, which are operating in countries like Sri Lanka. Also, if you want to hand over the manufacturing to a local manufacturer, you can find such companies using a local business registry.

3. Design a brand identity

When it comes to businesses like the fashion industry, your branding plays a significant role in marketing. The logo, color theme, fonts, patterns, and even the tone of your advertisements influence your potential customer’s purchasing decision. So, when you learn how to start a clothing line, brand identity design is going to be an essential part of your coursework.

Spy on your competitors

Having a unique brand identity can be great. But, if you make your branding to be extremely different from your competitors, sometimes your customers might find it is a bit harder to understand your business. For example, think of any two major fashion brands serving a similar customer base. Compare how you feel about CHANEL and GUCCI or FENDI and VERSACE. As you can see, even though they are different brands, they all give kind of a similar feeling in their branding strategy.

So, unless you have a substantial marketing budget to create a market disruption, take your time and spy on your competitors. Do not copy their branding, but try to get inspiration and align your branding to stay in parallel with them. So, the customers will easily understand your business as an alternative to your competitors.

Having a brand identity design can save money when starting a business

Having a brand identity design won’t cost you a fortune when starting an online clothing line. And, by having a good branding design, you can translate your startup from cheaper looking everyday business to serious business with good authority. Also, it eliminates the costs of having to tweak colors, graphics, and the looks of your ads and online storefront here and there. So, it is a one-shot process worth vetting into.

Here is a good writeup about how to plan your brand identity. Check it out, and there you can learn how to pick moods, logo designs, brand names, colors, and many more about brand identity design process.

4. Registering your online clothing store

Please note that the following section is given only for informational purposes, and do not consider it as any sort of legal advice.

The legal requirements for registering an online clothing store depend on where you operate. However, it is always advisable to make it official by registering your business name with the authorities. By doing so, you can be eligible for small business loans, getting merchant bank accounts, and even some tax breaks as a small business. Plus, depending on where you live, you will need a business registration to start a merchant account on online payment gateways like PayPal. Because then only you can start accepting credit card payments from your online storefront.

All in all, it is important to get a business registration if possible. So, if you are living in the USA, usa.gov is the right place to learn everything about starting a business.

5. Plan the marketing strategy to start a clothing line

Marketing contributes to more than 80% of the success of your new clothing line. There is no point in having the best clothing design in the world unless your potential customers get to know about it. And, most importantly, having a strong marketing strategy helps you not to lose money when starting a business. So, in this section, we are going to talk about how to plan your marketing strategy for a new clothing line.

Start marketing even before you start designing clothes to sell

Do not wait until the last moment. By starting your marketing strategy during the initial phases of your business, you can attract some early-bird customers and create suspense for your products. And, for sure, when you open up your process of starting your clothing line to the general public, you can give a human touch to your brand. Then your followers will start pursuing your brand as someone they already know, which is a good thing when comes to building trust.

Using Facebook and Instagram as the marketing channels for a clothing line

When it comes to a clothing line, you can create engaging visual content, like photos and videos of the products. So, these kinds of content work really well on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Plus, you can piggyback the massive userbase of these two platforms to build an audience for your new clothing line. Finally, needless to say, Facebook and Instagram ad costs are incredibly cheaper compared to most of the other paid marketing channels. Therefore, it makes sense to plan your marketing strategy to start a clothing line with these two platforms.

So, create a Facebook and an Instagram accounts for your business right away, and start posting about what you do and how you do those things during the initial phases. This could be a great content marketing strategy for your business. For example, you can start posting photos and videos explaining how you are going through the clothing design process. And, invite your friends to like and follow your business on social media. So, when they start commenting and giving you hearts, it creates social proof for your clothing brand.

Take a look at this Instagram post to understand the importance of pre-sale marketing. As you can see, it does so many things. It reveals the faces behind your business by giving it a human touch, it creates suspense, and it attracts potential buyers for your clothing line.

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Using influencer marketing for a clothing brand

Working together with social media influencers is another highly effective way to reach potential customers for your clothing line. Plus, there are thousands of micro fashion influencers on Instagram, which gives you a great opportunity to develop a marketing plan with a higher ROI for the lowest possible cost.

So, start working on your influencer marketing strategy parallel to your design process. So, you can save time and launch your clothing line much sooner. You can start the process by researching for influencers to work with. We have a good roundup on how to start influencer marketing. So, take a look at it leisurely and start working on it as well. Then, you can use this strategy during the business launching phase.

6. Start designing clothes

If you are pro designer, perhaps you can skip this section. Here we going to talk about how to use some low-cost tools and services to get your product designs done to start a clothing line.

Collect ideas

Not every clothing design works well with your customers. So, since you are here to learn how to start a clothing line on a budget, perhaps it is better to follow a fail-proof design process. Therefore, before you ahead and start the design process, start vetting about the best selling clothing designs. And, you can use Amazon bestseller listings, Pinterest boards, and bestseller listings of your competitor’s online stores to get product ideas.

Start designing

Well, unless you are a pro designer, it might be a good idea to hire a freelancing textile designer to get your design work done. Of course, it is better if you can learn and do it all by yourself. However, if this is your first time, hire a freelancer anyway. It will not cost you more than $50, but you can learn the industry best practices by doing so.

Find professional clothing designers

Find an experienced clothing designer to work within your budget now.

Ask others to review your work

You can seek a sort of approval of design work from your friends, family, and even from the social media followers of your business. The reason is, sometimes the designer do not tend to see any design flaws of their own work. Here are some funny examples. You don’t want this to happen to your clothing designs, do you? (Unless that is what your original intention is)

7. Pick and develop the selling platform

Now it is time to pick a platform to start a clothing line. And, there are many options to choose from. In this section, we are going to explore the most popular ways to start selling your clothes online.

Sell clothes on online marketplaces

If you are looking for ways to start a clothing line for free, you can literally use online marketplaces like eBay or Etsy to get sell clothes online for free. Because when you sell on online marketplaces like eBay, they usually offer a number of free product listings per month. Plus, they charge the platform fee only after you made a sale. So, it is technically free to start using these platforms to start an online clothing line. Here is a definitive guide to learning how to sell on eBay.

Starting an online eCommerce store to sell clothes

If you are really serious about your business, it is worthwhile to launch an online storefront for your clothing line. So, you can customize the selling platform to fit into your branding, giving your brand more authority. It will be helpful to achieve long term success for your clothing line.

Starting an online store for a clothing line is a lot cheaper and easier than you may think. And, by choosing a beginner-friendly store building platform like Shopify, you can even create a business website without any technical knowledge.

And, if you don’t have time and skills to create one, you can even find freelancing professional developers to build an eCommerce site for your clothing line for less than $50.

Hire a professional designer to create your website

Find pro freelance site developers to create an online store for your business.

8. Get sample done

Whether you are using print-on-demand, drop shipping, private-label clothes, or even customized cut and sew clothes, do not forget to get samples done from your suppliers. Ordering samples is not a waste of money. There are many uses of these samples when starting a clothing line. For example, you can check the product/design quality, shipping times, and packaging to assess your suppliers before selling in public. Also, you use those samples to take real photos of your clothes to be used in your social media marketing strategy. Plus, you can send them to your influencer marketing partners to do their part as well.

9. Plan the business launch

Now you are ready to start selling clothes online. So, how to get that word out there? Planning an official business launch is a good way to spread the news about your new fashion business. Let’s have a look.

Offers, deals, and coupon codes

You must have to give away some sort of temptation to lure new customers to your clothing store. So, plan some giveaways, deals, and offers to create that temptation. You can use these “baits” on your product launching marketing campaigns.

Start running ads about your clothing line

If you follow the pre-sale marketing strategies that we have described in step 5, your social media accounts will get a considerable amount of followers at this stage. Now, you can use their demographics to plan your business launch ad campaign. So, start running ads on Facebook and Instagram, targeting similar demographics of your followers. You can do this by using the Facebook audience insights tool. There you can select your followers, and list down the demographics of them. Then, you can use those demographics details to run a properly targeted ad campaign.

Related: Why your Facebook ads are not working?

Launch your influencer marketing campaign

Now you can go ahead and ask your social media influencers to start posting about your clothing line. This will create the buzz in their networks, helping you to reach more niche audiences.

However, even though it might be tempting to run influencer marketing with multiple social media influencers at the same time, sometimes it can backfire. Because, even though influencer marketing is a paid marketing strategy, it works more organically. So, if you try to oversell by running too many parallel campaigns, people will start feeling it as being too salesy.

Do a press release for fashion blogs

Reach out and ask fashion bloggers to write about your new clothing line. Most of the fashion bloggers work as influencers, and they will be happy to help you out (of course, for money ???? ). But, if you can get a news article on a top fashion blog, many smaller blogs will rewrite about your clothing line for free. So, it is worth looking into it.

Collect data and adjust your marketing plan

Many small business owners usually forget about marketing as soon as they start getting sales. They get busier with order fulfillment, and they even forget posting on social media channels. This is a bad thing to happen, as it is more time-consuming and costly to restart a marketing strategy.

So, keep collecting analytics data offered by your sales and marketing channels to assess the effectiveness of your process. Then continuously adjust your marketing plan to anticipate these changes. As we have mentioned earlier, marketing contributes to 80% of the success of your business. So, never forget about the importance of marketing when you starting a clothing line.

Start a clothing line on a budget – Wrapping up

Achieving your dream of starting a clothing line s possible. Even if you have a substantial marketing budget or not, following the steps described in this guide will help you to start an online clothing store without having to spend a lot of money.

Here we have shared some insights, tips, and tricks to start and run a successful online fashion store. And, most importantly, in this guide, we have given you the steps to build a low-cost and fail-proof marketing strategy to start a clothing line. Finally, we hope that this information will help you to start a successful clothing business in the future.

Check our other guides on digital marketing to boost the sales of your online clothing store.