How to Start a T-Shirt Business – 10 Tips | T-Shirt Magazine with t shirt business startup

t shirt business startup begin

It seems nowadays everybody’s selling t-shirts and, if you haven’t started already, you might be next. Before you jump into the t-shirt business you might wanna take a few pointers, and we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a guide on how to start a t-shirt business, divided into the 10 most important aspects.


How to Start a T-Shirt Business

1. Do your research

Make sure you’re knowledgeable about the clothing industry before you dive in. Get an understanding of how the business works. Read about how other brands became successful, and model a similar strategy.

Get some insider info from our past brand owner interviews.

2. Plan everything

Before you get started, get all the info you can on how to start a t-shirt business and have a clear idea of what you plan on doing. Try to decide things like what kind of t-shirts you plan on selling, who your target market is, whether your t-shirts will be available online only or if you’ll eventually be aiming to sell in stores.

Plan a marketing strategy that involves both free and paid advertising methods of getting your brand in front of your target market. Compose a practical business plan to use as a guideline for operating. For starters, identify your brand’s values, mission, objectives, strategies, goals, and long term vision.

For a good way to organize your planning, try Google Drive.

3. Know your competition

You should always know what other clothing labels you’ll be competing with. If you’re starting a label based on humorous t-shirts you should watch what all the other funny t-shirt labels are doing. Keep track of things like their design variety, pricing, and promotion, because it may spur some new ideas for your own business strategy.

This can be done easily nowadays by reading the blogs of competitor brands and signing up to their newsletters to keep tabs on what they’re up to. This knowledge can help you keep up.

Keep track of your competitors activity by following indie clothing blogs like Hypebeast.


4. Create products you believe your audience would buy

It seems this step should be obvious, but you’d be surprised at some of the t-shirts you can find these days. Test the quality of your t-shirts by getting honest opinions from others, preferably people who are within your target audience.

To get real feedback from your potential audience, experiment with polls via Facebook.

5. Know the finances of starting a business

Once you know what you plan on doing, get an idea of how much everything is gonna cost you. When you start producing and selling t-shirts, keep track of all of your expenses. Get screen printing quotes from several printers and compare prices to get the best deal, without sacrificing quality.

Add in the cost for labeling, hang tagging, bagging, or whatever other finishing options you might use. Don’t forget the shipping envelopes, boxes, and product storage. Don’t be fooled by the hundreds of new t-shirt start-ups you see these days; starting a t-shirt business isn’t cheap. A lot of this should also help you decide how much you should charge for your clothing.

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6. Come up with a solid promotion strategy

Figure out a way to spread the word in a manner that those who discover your brand go on to spread the word to others. For starters, your strategy can include PPC ads, press releases to blogs, and social networking. You can even give away t-shirts with your logo for free. Using guerrilla tactics and promotional items like this can have a tremendous impact on your business growth.

However, don’t be a Cheapo. Sooner or later you’ll realize that you’re gonna have to spend money to market your t-shirt business, so you should be willing to pay for things like online ads, event sponsorships, and other paid marketing methods. Understandably not everyone is rollin’ in the dough, so find smart ways to balance paid promotion with free promotion to create an excellent strategy.

Paid promotion options: Consider a Google Adwords campaign or get social network visibility through a PopularPays.

Free promotion options: Actively engage your Instagram audience every single day. Follow hundreds of potential fans, comment on and like thousands of photos, and consistently post to your account. Replicate the same strategy through other channels.


7. Find partners

You might start out on your own but you should find partners to help maximize your brand’s potential and help you reach your goals more efficiently. Aim to have partners within your company while also collaborating with other businesses that may be of some help to you.

Start with your good friends, skilled associates or trustworthy family members. Still no luck? Try browsing potential candidates through Founder2Be.

8. Set business goals

Once you’ve educated yourself on how to start a t-shirt business it’s time to set some real goals. How many t-shirts do you plan on selling this year? How about this month or this week? Alot of people new to the business have no idea, or just don’t care. Then there’s the group of people who are too scared to set a goal out of fear that they won’t reach it.

A successful business sets goals for success in order to have a solid idea of what it’s working towards. Set a goal and believe in your ability to reach it. As the law of attraction goes: if you know you’re gonna reach it, you’re gonna reach it. If you decide from this day forward that you will sell 10 t-shirts every week, and strongly believe in your business, you’ll do everything you can to figure out a way to get those tees moving. If you don’t set a goal you may end up stuck with a box of t-shirts you were too scared to sell.

Keep track of your goals through Google Drive.

9. Don’t quit because you’re not seeing sales the first day

That’s a good way to get you nowhere. Try to figure out ways of improving your designs, your strategy or your work habits. When you’re just getting started you’re still learning so keep at it. Winners never quit and quitters never win. Read informative, motivational books, to keep your spirits up.

Frequently visit other brand’s websites and blogs, and see how much fun they’re having, to remind yourself of where you wanna be in a few years and how bad you really want it. Reanalyze your business plan, promotional efforts, and branding strategy. Consider how you compare to the competition and emphasize your competitive edge.

Continually expand your knowledge on the business by checking out some of our past t-shirt business articles.

10. Have fun

If you’re in it just to make a quick buck you’re not gonna succeed-and that goes for ANY business. Love what you do and do what you love. Your passion will definitely show in your brand image. The more fun it is, the more productive you’ll be. Just don’t get too carried away. On second thought, go ahead!


BONUS TIP:

Read LAUNCH A KICK-ASS T-SHIRT BRAND for in depth advice and more tips on how to start a t-shirt business. Tons of useful information you can’t afford to miss!

RESOURCES ON HOW TO START A T-SHIRT BUSINESS

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How To Start A T-Shirt Business In 24 Hours Subject of tshirt business startup

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As an entrepreneur, I find it hard to do nothing. I always want to be building something. I need to be building something. That’s why, during the process of documenting #TheGreatBuild project I became frustrated so many times.

One evening while I was waiting and I really couldn’t move forward on the project. I was frustrated. I made a decision to build another ecommerce business

The Background Story

For those that are maybe just reading my blog for the first time and don’t know, my new ecommerce business which I have been documenting through a blog series called #TheGreatBuild is called Finch Goods Co. Many people have asked me where the name Finch came from and why I choose Finch Goods for the name of my new business. Truth be told, it was the name of the street I grew up on. It was the place I lived, the place I played, and it was the place of my first dozen entrepreneurial endeavors, mostly in the form of lemonade stands, vegetable stands, a makeshift hockey card pawnshop and garage sales. The name Finch Goods Co. is a tribute to my early entrepreneur days.

Finch is also the name of the closest subway/bus station, and up until I had a car, it was my access point to the rest of the world. If I wanted to go anywhere I passed through Finch Station.

Because of my sentimental attachment to Finch I designed a t-shirt based on the typography, colors and tile pattern of that station in late February.


Fast Forward

Fast forward a few weeks to a night in April. I was working on #TheGreatBuild project ( Finch Goods Co.) and getting close to launching. However, I was stuck. Everything was ready to go except I was waiting on some inventory I intended to launch with from a supplier. I had nothing to do.

As an entrepreneur, nothing to do is a terrible feeling. It feels it exact opposite of progress, probably because it is. Growing anxious to launch Finch Goods Co. and not being able to, I stared blankly at my computer for a few minutes, my screened darkened and went to sleep. In the reflection of my black screen, I saw my shirt, Finch.

Remembering the few compliments I got on the shirt I wondered if people actually were interested in hyper-local t-shirts that represented their local community, right down to their local subway station.

Validation

The idea of hyper-local t-shirts was one I was sure people were interested in. Our city definitely has a lot of pride and after some cursory Google searches, I found nothing similar. The closest was a series of vinyl wall decals with the various stations typography. Searching for that companies name on Google I found several online news articles about them. They had been running their business for 5+ years so in theory they were doing well.

The thought of getting wrapped up in a new business while still trying to launch Finch Goods Co. was a little intimidating. My time was very limited at this point. Because of this, I came to the decision. If I were to build a new business there would be several rules:

  • I had 24 hours to build it – No more, no less.
  • It had to be fully automated once live.

Under these rules, building the entire business would essentially act in-itself as the validation.

It’s Go Time… 23:59

With these rules in mind there were several things to figure out:

  1. Which ecommerce platform was I going to use?
  2. How would I print the t-shirts and ship them in a automated way?

For me, number one was easy. Unless number two forced my hand another direction, I would use Shopify. It’s the platform I know and love, it’s the easiest to use in my opinion and it offered the most amount of app integrations, which I knew is likely where I would find a dropshipping company to print and ship custom shirts for me.

I immediately headed to the Shopify App Store and searched for ‘ t-shirts‘. The search returned approximately six t-shirt printers/ dropshippers. After scanning through all of them, their integrations, their t-shirt options and pricing, I decided on Printful. Printful it seemed had the most seamless integration, best selection of shirts and reasonable pricing. They also had the ability to print other products like canvas prints and bags should I ever decide to expand my product offering.

With my ecommerce platform and printer/dropshipper decided upon, it was time to work on the designs. Now, Toronto has over 60 stations and I completely underestimated how grueling and exhausting it would be to design all 60, luckily, many of the designs had a similar style. Over the next 6 hours I cranked out all 60 designs for almost all of the stations.

With all 60 designs complete, I thought I was done. However, I quickly realized that very few people would buy a design without knowing how it looked on a t-shirt. With that in mind, I headed over to my favorite graphic design marketplace, Creative Market. I searched for ‘t-shirt template‘ and quickly found a really slick template for $8.

Now that I had the t-shirt template and all my files, it was once again a manual process of applying all 60 of my designs to the t-shirt template and saving each file.

With all my t-shirt designs completed, it was time to build the website. I signed up for Shopify’s 14-day trial and got to work. I already had a theme I had purchased for Finch Goods Co. so I might as well use it for this project as well. When it came naming a business, I know it can sometimes take weeks. I didn’t have that long. I decided to allocate 3 minutes to naming this business. As confusing as this was (mostly for my friends and family) I decided to call this business, Finch’s. Again, this was named after the street I grew up on, the subway station closes to my childhood home and, it just so happens that Finch Station is the first station on the subway line.

I designed the website to be as simple as possible, even keeping the same colors scheme from Finch Goods Co. The most time consuming part was creating each of the 60 products and uploading the right photos for each. Organization was key.

Finally, after 5 coffee’s and close to 14 hours straight, Finch’s was born:

The last step before I launch and market my new online store was to integrate my store with Printful. This was an easy enough process. I installed the Printful Shopify App, and from there it automatically pulled in all my products. All I had to do at that point was upload the design file to each product and select the type/style of shirt I was going to use.


Marketing

At this point, I was pretty tired and really had no idea what I was going to do for my marketing. However, I did remember that just the previous week, the subway celebrated its 60th anniversary. Could I use this to my advantage? I did some searches on Google to see who covered this event. One stuck out immediately. It was a pretty popular local online blog and they just wrote an article about the subway systems 60th anniversary. I figured the author of that post might want to hear about to my newly released shirts.

I found the author on Twitter and asked for his email address. Later that evening, I emailed him the following:

Within the hour he replied asking a few more questions. It was late and I was exhausted. I decided to leave the response until the morning. Besides, I still had a few things left to set up in my Shopify account before launch.

The next day, I woke up to the dinging sound of emails coming into my phone, *ding*… *ding*… *ding*. After ignoring the first few, I finally rolled over and checked my phone. To my surprise it was a bunch of emails from customers asking about my shirts, shipping and pricing… customers? I haven’t even officially launched yet!

I quickly opened my laptop and discovered a big spike in traffic to my site. Although I had not ‘officially’ launched, my site was live, however, I still had not turned on checkout, so no one could actually checkout.

First priority was to turn checkout on and complete a test order to make sure everything was no working. After I did that, I checked to see where the traffic was coming from. Turns out, the writer went ahead without my email responses and published a post about my store.

Here was his post, click through to read:

I also received a handful of other emails from people interested in collaborations and promotions with my line of tee’s.

Furthermore,that day I also received some favorable social media mentions from BlogTO as well as a local Hip Hop radio station and a handful of other locals.


Costs & Sales

I have broken down my total costs below for this 24 hour business. My fixed costs amounted to a staggering $24. My variable costs were $13 per shirt to print each. My revenues for the first 24 hours of business were $347.71 for a total profit (in the first 24 hours) of $210.71

Total Costs:
$16 – Font for Typography (Fixed Cost)
$8 – T-Shirt Mockup Template (Fixed Cost)
$104 – 8 x $13 for t-shirts and printing (Variable costs)
____________________________
$137 Total Costs

Total Revenue In The First 24 Hours:
$347.71

Admittedly, after the spike in sales from the initial media coverage, sales dropped. In fact, since that first 24 hour sales period, I’ve only made a few hundred more dollars, however, I have done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and everything is 100% automated. I have not, and I have no need to login to anything for sales and orders to be taken care of.

Going Forward

Since my initial email that sparked my initial sales I haven’t done anything else for marketing. That one blog post continues to deliver a small trickle of sales each week. Most of my time now is spent on my new project, Finch Goods Co. so I have almost no time left for this project. However, when I do get some time, I am going to focus on SEO around some keywords I uncovered that I believe have potential to deliver a steady stream of high quality traffic for people looking for localized Toronto t-shirts. Again, I want to keep this project as automated as possible so SEO is going to be the biggest opportunity to achieving that.

Why You Should Start An Online T-Shirt Business Right Now

T-Shirt entrepreneurs get a bad rep (I’m looking at you reddit) however, I believe t-shirt businesses play an important part of the online entrepreneurship ecosystem. They are in many respects, a modern day lemonade stand (no pun intended), they are can be started quickly and with no money.

The biggest problem I find among online entrepreneurs is:

  1. They don’t know what to sell online – They spend months and months looking for a product, before giving up.
  2. If they do find a great product and start their first business, they have no idea how properly market their product and business to drive traffic and convert that traffic to sales thus a great product or idea is squandered.

Starting a t-shirt business helps with both of those factors. First, if you’re struggling to find a product to sell, you will automatically have a product, t-shirts (these printer/dropshippers also usually offer other products as well, like canvas prints, mugs etc.). Second, an online t-shirt business gives you a way to start understanding online marketing, before you sink some real time and money into a more serious business.

Remember, and never forget, you’ll learn 100x more from actually starting a business, than you ever will from just consuming articles, blogs, books and podcasts. There is no substitution for real world experience of building traffic and learning to convert it.

How To Start An Online T-Shirt Business Right Now

The 3 Pillars of Success

Before starting your own online dropship t-shirt business, there are three important things to consider:

  • Niche: Choosing a niche is absolutely vital for success in the over-saturated t-shirt industry.
  • Design: No one will buy your shirts if the designs don’t look good. This doesn’t mean you need to have complex images though and it doesn’t mean it has to cost a lot.
  • Quality: This includes the quality of the t-shirts themselves as well as the printing.

Choosing Your Ecommerce Platform

There are plenty of options available for your actual selling platform. Platforms like Teespring have become popular lately, however, options like this aren’t good if you’re trying to learn more about digital marketing and branding. Going with a platform like Teespring means your product ideas live on the Teespring platform and doesn’t give you the option for your own branding, deep analytics or conversion optimization.

If you’re serious about building a brand or learning more about digital marketing & optimization and strategy, you need to go with a more customizable option. I can’t recommend Shopify enough. Not only is Shopify one of the easiest platforms to get started with but it’s app store is the most robust and has a host of integrated t-shirt printers and dropshippers.

The Ecommerce Startup Bundle
Purchase The Ecommerce Startup Bundle and get any Shopify plan for 20% off for the life of your business as well as discounts totaling nearly $1,000 to other tools, apps and service that help you build your online business. Don’t start your business without buying this package!

Choosing a Printers/Dropshipper

There are a few considerations when choosing a printer/dropshipping partner for your new online t-shirt business. These considerations include the t-shirts they have available to print on, t-shirt/print pricing, shipping pricing and quality of t-shirt prints.

Check out the following Shopify printer/dropshipper apps:

The Ecommerce Startup Bundle
Purchase The Ecommerce Startup Bundle and get up to 5 sample orders per month from Printful at 20% off and free shipping as well as discounts totaling nearly $1,000 to other tools, apps and service that help you build your online business. Don’t start your business without buying this package!

Choosing A T-Shirt

If using a printer/dropshipping like I did, you t-shirt selection (type/style/quality) will partially depend on what you printing/shipping partner have chosen to stock. Most will provide a range of shirts to cover several levels of quality and price points.

USA made American Apparel is largely considered the best quality however if comes with a much steeper price point which will significantly cut into your margins. For my 24 hours business, I went with a medium quality/price t-shirt style/brand.

You can choose to order a few samples before deciding on your t-shirt but I would recommend you check out this review guide on the most popular t-shirts for printing to get started.

Mocking Up Your Designs

There are literally hundreds of t-shirt mock-up templates available online, both free and paid. Here’s a list of 50 free templates, or if you want to use the same one I did, just go to Creative Market and search for ‘Realistic-T-Shirt-Templates’. It should be the first one.

Step-By-Step Video

Followup Learnings And Resource Roundup:

If you are too lazy to read everything above, I have rounded up all the resources below that you can use to build your own online t-shirt store, fast!

Start by reading this (I wrote it):

Take these courses. They are cheap and should help:

Build your store with:

Choose a t-shirt printer/dropshipper:

To choose a t-shirt blank, check out this T-Shirt quality reviews guide:

Inspiration for t-shirt designs can be found here:

If you need to hire a designer, try these services:

Or, be lazy and buy some designs from here:

You may also want to check out general graphic design marketplaces but keep in mind if you plan to sell your t-shirts, you’ll need to purchase a commercial license.

Mock up templates for your shirt designs can be found here:

Another great options for tasks like this is to enlist help from someone on Fiverr for $5. Just search for t-shirt mockups.

Conclusion

There you have it. A new business born in 24 hours with only $24. All in all, I had fun building it. The challenge of building a fully automated business in 24 hours was pretty exciting and the fact I was able to generate over $300 in sales in the first day was well beyond my expectations.

Granted, this business will never make me rich and margins are generally slim however, as I pointed out before, I firmly believe a t-shirt business has it’s purpose, even if that purpose is just practicing for something bigger.

Now it’s your turn. If you’ve been thinking of starting an online business but have been stuck in the ‘I don’t know what to sell’ stage for more than a few months, I am challenging you to build a a t-shirt business, for no reason other than to start. Start building something, start marketing something, start converting something. Start.

Go!


About The Author

Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur, author and speaker. Learn more about Richard or get more from him on Twitter.

Note: To read my affiliate and income disclosure statement here, click here.

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