How to start an online t-shirt business
Are you thinking of selling t-shirts online? Well, I run an online t-shirt business for several years now. So, let me tell you the best way to sell t-shirts online. And, in this article, we are going to discuss,
- How to find (or make) t-shirts to sell online
- How to design t-shirts
- The best place to sell t-shirts online
- How to handle marketing for your online t-shirt business
Selling t-shirts online is one of the best ways to start an online business. Now it is easy to sell t-shirts online. There are plenty of low-cost online store platforms, tools, and services that can help you to handle the whole process.
Are you ready? Let us see how to sell t-shirts online.
The best way to sell t-shirts online
- First, decide a small niche for your t-shirt store. For example, choose a niche like “t-shirts for dog lovers.”
- Then, determine the best way to source t-shirts. You can manufacture, print-on-demand, or use dropshipping to source t-shirts to your online store.
- Next, have a fantastic t-shirt design and create an online store. You can use popular marketplaces like eBay, your own e-commerce store, or your blog to sell t-shirts online.
- Finally, you can start marketing your t-shirt business online.
Sounds cool? Let us go to the first step.
Select a niche to sell t-shirts online
Why do you need a niche to sell t-shirts online? Well, there is a reason. I have been running a few successful online dropshipping stores for around 7 years now. And, during this time, I have learned a great lesson about marketing.
Niche markets can help you to sell fast
Today the e-commerce businesses are incredibly crowded. There is a cut-throat competition out there. So, if you need to penetrate into this dense market, unless you have a lot of money to spend on marketing, you need to find a small target market. Then, it will be super easy for you to build an effective marketing campaign for a low budget. Later, after you get some traction, you can expand and start growing into the other markets as well.
That is why you need to select a niche to sell t-shirts online. If you start selling all the t-shirts in the world, you won’t be able to make a single sale. So, select a target market, and find a product to sell to that target market.
When I started selling t-shirts online, I used to sell t-shirts for dog lovers. Then, I found some great online communities for dog owners and marketed my dog t-shirts among them. It was super effective, and as I remember, I made around $1500 in profits during the second month. So, before you start selling t-shirts online, it is better to do some online research and find the right niche for your t-shirt business.
Find t-shirts to sell online
There are four ways to find t-shirts to sell online.
- Selling t-shirts from dropshipping suppliers
- Using print-on-demand services
- Selling affiliate products (t-shirts) from other marketplaces.
- Making your own t-shirts (In-house production)
Out of the above four methods, I am using the first two methods to sell t-shirts online. But, here, I will discuss all four methods.
How to use dropshipping to sell t-shirts online
Dropshipping is a popular way to source products to sell online. Unlike the traditional business models, in dropshipping, you don’t need to maintain an inventory to sell t-shirts online.
Dropshipping is an online retail fulfilment method, where the retailer doesn’t need to maintain a physical inventory for the products that they sell. The sellers who are using the dropshipping business model use third-party services for the product sourcing and order fulfilment.
Related: How to Start Dropshipping in 2020
There are advantages and disadvantages of using dropshipping to find t-shirts to sell online.
For example, if you use dropshipping, you will not get unique designs. But, on the other hand, your costs will be lower, and the process will be much easier. So, it will be easier for you to get things started with dropshipping.
In my online stores, I mostly use dropshipping to sell t-shirts online. For me, it is the best way to sell t-shirts online. I have found a great dropshipping supplier to source t-shirts. And, now it is around 7 years since I have started selling t-shirts online. So far, nothing went “seriously” wrong. So, I guess you can try dropshipping to sell t-shirts online too.
How to use Print-on-demand service to sell t-shirts online
Most of the online sellers choose to use print-on-demand services to create custom t-shirt designs and dropshipping for order fulfilment. This particular business model to sell t-shirts online has some added benefits. For example, when you use print-on-demand services, you can sell your own t-shirt designs. So, you can make your products unique. And, almost all the print-on-demand services offer dropshipping to fulfil your orders too. In this way, you don’t have to purchase a large inventory to start your business. Also, you don’t have to invest in tailoring t-shirts. All these benefits lower the risks of your new business venture.
Here is the whole process in a nutshell.
There are many different print-on-demand companies for t-shirts. Depending on your product and design, you can pick one or many of these services for your convenience.
Print on demand services
- Printful is a popular print-on-demand service for t-shirts. It is a Shopify tool, so if you have a Shopify e-commerce store, you can directly integrate your online store with their service. Also, you can use their mock-up generator to get images for your product listings.
- Merchify, Print Aura, Printify are other popular solutions that offer print-on-demand services for t-shirts.
Above four services are just some examples, and you can search and find other popular services too.
I also use print-on-demand services to add some custom t-shirt designs for my online t-shirt store. This is just to add some varieties and customized branding to my store. So, I guess the best way to sell t-shirts online is to use dropshipping and print-on-demand services.
But, let us go through some other ways to sell t-shirts online. Depending on the resources you have, sometimes you will find one of the below methods as the best way to sell t-shirts online.
How to use affiliate marketing to sell t-shirts online
If you have a successful blog, a YouTube channel, or a large number of social media followers, you can simply use affiliate marketing to sell t-shirts online and make a commission.
There are different affiliate marketplaces. For example, Amazon associates are the most popular affiliate program out there. With Amazon associates, you can sell the t-shirts, which are listed on Amazon, and make a commission up to 7% for each sale you make. Also, if you have a large number of followers, you can directly join with an affiliate program of a top tier t-shirt brand.
Selling t-shirts online with affiliate marketing has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, here, you will only make a commission. So, your income will not be as high as starting your own t-shirt business. But, on the other hand, with affiliate marketing, you don’t have to worry about handing an online store or customer care.
In-house manufacturing for an online t-shirt business
There is nothing like manufacturing your own t-shirts to sell online. Of course, in-house manufacturing requires a significant investment, space, and time. So, it has a more considerable risk; but you can get the best profit margins with this method.
Screen printing can be the best way to make custom design t-shirts in-house. A semi-automatic screen-printing machine can cost a few thousand dollars. But, it can be a valuable asset for your business. If you have the machinery, you can have a lot more flexibility in having custom designs and orders.
If you go for in-house manufacturing, you will have to handle the shipping process too. If you are only planning to sell locally, you can simply find a local courier company. Most of such companies offer cash-on-delivery services too.
But, if you are planning to sell overseas, the process can be a bit more complicated. Depending on where you live, there can be different laws and regulations. So, the best thing is to contact a local shipping company or an international fulfilment service and get their assistance and advice. For example, if you are planning to sell t-shirts on Amazon; you can use Amazon fulfilment service to handle the fulfilment service.
How to design t-shirts to sell online
Well, not everyone is a t-shirt designer. But, don’t worry; you have plenty of options to get t-shirt designs for your new business.
Where can you find t-shirt design ideas or designers?
Luckily, t-shirt designs are not hard to find. If you spend a couple of hours on,
- Facebook pages/ groups
You will come across hundreds of best t-shirt design ideas to sell online. While you are researching for t-shirt design ideas, make sure to focus on the right niche. For example, t-shirt designs for dog lovers.
By picking a particular niche, you can quickly develop your marketing strategy around those interest groups. Do not think that you are limiting your potential profits by selecting a small niche.
Trust me; this is the easiest way to sell your first product. I know that because I have wasted a couple of thousands of dollars to learn that in a hard way.
Actually, focusing on a particular niche can be one of your unique selling propositions too.
Where to find t-shirt designers?
If you have design skills, you can use Photoshop or any online tool like Pixlr to create a good design. There are so many free t-shirt design templates available online.
If you don’t have any design skills, you can simply outsource the process too.
Check Fiverr, up work, 99deisgns, Behance, or any creative marketplace to find a freelancing t-shirt designer. The worst thing that can happen is your cost of the products will get higher.
If you want to get the best out of a freelancing designer, provide them with all relevant information about your t-shirt business. Tell them about your target audience, your business niche, if you have any design ideas from Google, your preferred colours, and everything. In this way, you can get the best out of the money you spend.
Give them positive feedbacks and work hand-in-hand until you get the best design.
Additional reading: How to design t-shirts – 99designs
The best place to sell t-shirts online
Fortunately, nowadays, there are so many ways to sell t-shirts online. When I get started, I had a very limited number of opportunities, and they were costly too.
There are three basic places to sell t-shirts online.
- Online marketplaces and t-shirt sales sites
- Your own e-commerce store
- Your personal blog
Sell t-shirts on online marketplaces and t-shirt sales sites
This can reduce the burden of building an e-commerce store to sell t-shirts online. They are easy to use, and you can piggyback their marketing campaigns to sell your t-shirts. Online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy are popular online marketplaces to sell t-shirts online. Then Teespring, Teechip, Redbubble, Teepublic, etc. are the popular t-shirt sales sites where you can create a custom design and let them produce and fulfil the order. If you like to start selling on eBay, read this article to learn the whole process – How to start selling on eBay
Sell t-shirts on your own online store
Selling t-shirts on your own online store can give you a lot of flexibility for your t-shirt business. With your own site, you can expand your business and sales channels. Also, it can give you better profit margins than an online market place. There are different ways to start an online store. Explore your possibilities and find the best choice for your budget and plan.
Sell t-shirts on your personal blog
Your personal blog can be another great place to sell t-shirts online. You can either use affiliate marketing or use an e-commerce plugin to start selling t-shirts. This can be a great way to monetize your existing audience. You can create awesome t-shirt designs that are unique to your blog, and start selling them within your community.
How to handle the marketing process
After setting up your online t-shirt business, now you need to focus on marketing. To be honest, this is the hardest step in selling t-shirts online. After years of selling things online, still, I spend hours, every day, to learn new marketing trends.
Online marketing is getting more and more competitive. Most of the online marketing techniques that worked beautifully are not working anymore. Selling t-shirts is a competitive market. There are so many other players. So, if you want to sell t-shirts online, you need an amazing marketing strategy.
Test your t-shirt designs before selling
This is an important step that can help you to avoid loses. Before you start selling t-shirts online, you can simply share your design idea among friends and interest groups to see the feedback. Use Facebook or Instagram to test your t-shirt design with mockups. If it is not getting enough wows, it might not get enough sales in the future. Once you get a good design, print to check the first piece physically. So, you know what your future customers are actually getting. It is much easy to correct your process during the initial stages.
Selecting a marketing channel for your online t-shirt business
T-shirts can provide visual triggers for impulse buyers. With a great photo or video content marketing strategy, you can create a fantastic audience for your products. Also, Facebook and Instagram can offer an unparalleled marketing platform to sell t-shirts online. Social media holds a vast potential to build brand awareness, bring website visitors, and to make sales. By understanding how to build a strong Facebook marketing strategy, you can get the maximum use out of these platforms to sell t-shirts online.
I extensively use social media marketing and content marketing to sell t-shirts online. For me, those are the best ways to sell t-shirts online. Also, you can try some other marketing strategies as well. Online marketing is more of a trial-and-error process. So, try different marketing strategies and find the best way to sell t-shirts online.
Designing a brand identity for your t-shirt business
Wherever or however you sell t-shirts online, you must build your own brand identity from the start. This helps you to set your brand apart from the crappy competitors, and sell more for a better price. Especially when it comes to an e-commerce niche like t-shirts, a brand identity can play a significant role in pricing and customer retention. Check this article about creating a proper brand identity for your business.
Focus on customer retention strategies
For any business, there are two types of customers; the returning customers and the new customers. The returning customers help you to create baseline revenue. And, the new customers create revenue growth. So, both of these types of customers are essential for any business. For e-commerce niches like selling t-shirts online, you have better opportunities to play with your customer retention strategies. Therefore, work on the customer retention strategies for your online t-shirt business too.
The best way to sell t-shirts online – The final tips
Be strategic from the very beginning – Start with a good business plan to sell t-shirts online. Clearly outline your target audience and your niche.
Create mockups – Mockups with bright (White) and Warm (Yellow) mockups tend to sell more on e-commerce. Once you get your design, you can use free online mockup templates to create mockups.
70% marketing – This is a thumb rule that I am using for my e-commerce stores. Be bold and pump more money for marketing. It pays off itself. So, focus and learn about marketing before you start to sell t-shirts online.
Start small and grow – At the beginning, focus on a small niche to sell t-shirts online. Once you can understand the market, widen your niche, and grow. That is the best way to sell t-shirts online.
Create a brand identity from the beginning – Niches like t-shirts and fashion items require a good brand identity design to thrive. Understand how the brand identity design works and create a proper plan to have a consistent brand identity from the beginning.
Starting a business to sell t-shirts online is comparatively easier than many other online business ventures. Selling t-shirts online is a highly competitive business. But, that competition confirms the demand. All you need is to pick a small niche to penetrate the online t-shirt market and to grow your business from there.