T-shirts aren’t just a staple of casual wear—they’re articles of clothing that often reflect our personalities, interests, and identities.
As a result, selling t-shirts online has become a common option, particularly for business owners and creatives searching for a relatively low-cost approach to learn how to launch a company. Additionally, it is anticipated that by 2025, the global market for personalised t-shirt printing will surpass $10 billion.
You will undoubtedly face fierce competition given the popularity of t-shirt sales. However, you can achieve your own success by creating a brand for a particular target market and producing t-shirt designs that appeal to them.
In this guide, we’ll go through each step of how to start a shirt business online that brings in extra income month over month.
How to start an online t-shirt business, step-by-step
- Choose a niche
- Source quality material and t-shirt printing options
- Create your own t-shirt designs
- Mock up your t-shirts
- Validate your designs
- Set up your online store
1. Choose a niche for your t-shirt online business
A niche will help your online shirt selling business stand out and better attract the right target audience without blowing your budget.
Although the word “niche” is frequently used, picking one is crucial if you want to learn how to start an online t-shirt business. Being able to stand out is one of the key components of a successful online t-shirt company plan, and one of the greatest ways to achieve that is by catering to a particular target market or interest group.
In a highly competitive market, categories like “t-shirts for those who adore witty slogans” will typically be too broad to stand out. You should make it a little bit more secure. T-shirts with hilarious slogans that are related to doctors and nurses or dog owners, as shown in the illustration below, are an example of a more specialised specialty.
There are many ways to find and evaluate a niche when you want to know how to start a t-shirt business online. Here are a few:
- Visit your prospective niche’s subreddits and evaluate the subscriber count and level of engagement.
- Use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to gauge the size of your niche on the platform.
- Scan this list of popular hobbies on Wikipedia for inspiration.
- Consider your own interests and the communities you belong to—sometimes it’s OK to trust your gut.
After you’ve identified your target market, write a business plan for your custom t-shirt selling venture that outlines your objectives and potential markets, then decide how you’ll carry out the strategy.
2. Source quality material and t-shirt printing options
Finding suppliers is the next stage in starting an online t-shirt business. Both t-shirts and print works differ from one another. As we just stated, quality is crucial to the success of your company, so do your research and pick your blank shirts properly.
When you launch an online shirt business, it could be tempting to forgo quality in favour of better profit margins. But you must take into account how the level of quality will influence a customer’s decision to recommend your brand and make another purchase from you.
A decent t-fit, shirt’s sizing, material, softness, and weight are just a few of the considerations. Check out T-Shirt Magazine’s evaluation of some of the most well-liked blank t-shirts for printing as a fantastic place to start when deciding which blank t-shirt to use.
Once you narrow down your choices, it’s strongly recommended to order samples so you can make an informed final decision.
3. Create your own t-shirt designs
The creation of designs is the next step in learning how to launch your own online t-shirt business. Here are some methods for giving your t-shirt business designs a head start.
Find the best-selling designs and niches
Looking at what else is popular and currently selling well is a wonderful place to seek for t-shirt niche ideas and designs.
A list of some of the best online stores for graphic t-shirts can be seen below. The “best sellers” and “most popular” sections can be searched using them to give you a better sense of your potential new niche or t-shirt design.
- Kickstarter t-shirt campaigns
For ideas for your online t-shirt business, you might also want to look at Google Trends to see what subjects people are currently interested in.
Hire a designer
You’ll need to create the t-shirt designs you have in mind once you get them. If you have Adobe Photoshop or a tool similar to it, you can probably create some excellent designs on your own. You will need to enlist some assistance, though, if you’re like most individuals.
You can use a wide range of resources and online markets to discover a qualified graphic designer to assist you.
Dribbble: Dribbble is a community of designers with a ton of original talent. Appearance for the look you want and contact the designers you like to inquire about their availability for freelancing work.
Behance: Behance is a fun website to explore. You can view the portfolios of several artists from all around the world who specialise in a variety of fields, including illustration, niches, and styles. You can get in touch with a designer you end up preferring and request a quote for your custom t-shirt designs if you do.
The well-known freelance networks like Freelancer and Upwork are some additional choices you might wish to explore. You may quickly locate qualified t-shirt designers and review their portfolios and past employment achievements. You can contact someone directly on the platform and hire them right away if you like them.
Buy t-shirt designs
You may always buy pre-made designs if you’re having trouble hiring a designer for your how to start an online t-shirt business. The probability that someone else is already selling the design you select if you choose to go this way should be kept in mind because it will make it more difficult for you to stand out and build your online shirt selling business.
Check out the following t-shirt graphic marketplaces:
- Designious: which sells vector packs and PNG t-shirt designs, also clip art to create your own products.
- Tshirt Factory:It provides a selection of vector pictures for t-shirt printing enterprises, including old school, punk rave, and urban styles.
- Creative Market: which doesn’t just concentrate on t-shirts, but also features over 3 million original fonts, images, themes, pictures, and templates made by independent designers from all over the world.
- Graphic River: where you can buy and sell royalty-free, Photoshop files, vectors, and icon packs for your t-shirt designs.
Keep in mind, if you want to know how to make an online t-shirt business, you may need to purchase a commercial licence
4. Mock up your t-shirts
Getting some mockup photos will be your next step in learning how to launch a t-shirt business online once you have some final ideas. Mockups are useful so that your clients may preview how the finished design will appear on a shirt.
You can obtain pictures of your final designs on t-shirts in a few different methods, such as by obtaining samples, doing your own product photography, or using one of the many online t-shirt mockups and templates to produce a 100% digital mockup, like the one shown below.
The most popular kinds of mockup files are t-shirt templates for Adobe Photoshop. You may use these to quickly preview how your designs will appear when printed on t-shirts. The majority of Photoshop templates have numerous layers, allowing you to alter the shirt’s colour and add your own design that will blend in with the shirt’s folds, creases, and curves.
Here are several resources to help you find the best mockup file for for your shirt selling business:
- GraphicRiver t-shirt mockups
- 19 awesome t-shirt templates
If Adobe Photoshop isn’t for you, you can use online mockup tools to do the same task without downloading and learning Photoshop.
- Printful mockup generator
- Printify mockup generator
Another great option for tasks like this is to enlist help from someone on Fiverr. Just search for t-shirt mockups.
5. Validate the designs for your t-shirt online business
Make sure there is a market and interest in your designs before you spend a lot of money on your new venture. You may validate the market in a variety of methods and sell t-shirts online.
Some of the most popular and more common methods for validating your design ideas include:
Personal social networks.Share a few of your designs on your Facebook page, in specialised Facebook groups, on Twitter, and on other social media sites that your friends and possible clients use. Asking friends and relatives for advice, though, should be done with caution because they often mean well.
Reddit.Reddit is still one of the finest venues to receive objective criticism for your ideas despite the community’s typical dislike of marketing (which can even translate into sales after you launch). With so many subreddits, it’s simple to identify a particularly narrow group of potential buyers and receive their direct feedback on your designs before releasing.
Crowdfunding.It is now much simpler to test, validate, and raise cash up front for your new business concept thanks to crowdfunding websites. Starting a crowdfunding campaign might take some time and takes a lot of planning. The advantages, though, can be enormous, such as fully funding your project before you start it. Crowdfunding might be right for you if you have a very unique t-shirt company idea, like designing t-shirts for dogs and their owners.
Print on demand.Finally, setting up a fully functional online store (with a domain name included) in a matter of hours to test your business idea is now possible thanks to ecommerce platforms like Shopify. Start a 14-day free trial, integrate a print-on-demand provider, and test selling your t-shirts online to prove your business model.
6. Set up your online store
It’s time to develop your store now that you have your t-shirt designs ready, have created your mockups, and have verified your concept. This is crucial if you want to learn how to launch an online t-shirt business.
A few t-shirt print-on-demand services are directly integrated with Shopify, so you can start accepting orders right away. Every time you receive an order, these providers will print and deliver your t-shirts to your clients on your behalf.
It’s a terrific way to get started because there’s no requirement to buy or hold any goods up front. The best part is that you have the choice to apply your design on various printable items like mugs and tote bags.
There are a variety of t-shirts available through the following print-on-demand companies:
Once your store is set up, you’ll be ready to start selling t-shirts online.
5 considerations for starting a t-shirt business
Starting a business isn’t particularly difficult thanks to the tools and technology available for designing, printing, and distributing bespoke t-shirts; the challenging aspect is creating a brand that stands out from the competitors. Building an online t-shirt business is a little more difficult than it might initially appear when you combine competition with narrow profit margins.
If you want to design and sell t-shirts online, you have to make the right decisions from the get-go.
Starting a profitable online shirt selling business requires a number of essential components. Before continuing, it is important to carefully analyse each of the following factors:
- T-shirt printing techniques.Designs can be printed on t-shirts using a variety of techniques. Making the appropriate choice can enable you to make more informed business decisions and save money.
- Design.Most customers of graphic t-shirts seek out patterns, images, and catchphrases that appeal to them personally and reflect their beliefs and personalities.
- Quality. The quality of the shirts you use and of the print job need to be top notch to build a sustainable business.
- Brand, A strong, interesting brand is vital in the t-shirt industry.
- Inventory,Will you employ a print-on-demand service to save time and work or maintain your own inventory to benefit from volume discounts.
Let’s take a deeper look at each one.
1. T-shirt printing techniques
When it comes to starting an online t-shirt business, there are three common printing techniques. Each process has advantages and disadvantages, so choosing one to utilise will partly rely on how much time you want to devote to developing the product and which printing company you pick.
To help you better understand each procedure, we have provided a brief description of all three t-shirt printing options below. It’s important to understand how each printing method operates whether you purchase your own printer or work with a nearby vendor.
For business owners who create and sell t-shirts in-person and online, screen printing is a time-honoured method.
Screen printing, one of the most often used techniques for t-shirt printing, can result in strong and long-lasting effects. If you want to diversify your product line, you can print on objects like canvas, mugs, hats, and other things to produce and sell.
Screen printing is most cost-effective, though, when printing in large quantities because the initial setup requires a lot of labour. As each additional colour increases costs and manufacturing time, intricate designs or designs with more than four to five colours present problems for screen printing.
- Cost effective for large batches
- Volume discounts
- Not cost effective for multiple colours
- Can only print simple imadesignsges and
Additionally, heat transfers have been around for a very long time and come in a variety of shapes. In your neighbourhood office supply store, basic heat-transfer paper can be available.
This technique makes it simple to print designs from your home computer and iron them on, but it is inadequate for managing a small business. Plastisol transfers are a more sophisticated type of heat transfer that are produced by experts on specialised, premium heat-transfer paper.
The benefit of heat transfers is that you can order a stack of prints from your neighbourhood printer and use a commercial heat press equipment to apply them to your t-shirts as orders come in.
Heat transfers can produce full-colour images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.
- You can “print” each shirt on demand
- More affordable for small batches
- No limit in number of colours you can use in a print
- Lower quality and less durable than direct-to-garment and screen printing
- Large upfront investment in a heat press machine (from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand)
- The do-it-yourself approach means additional time input for you
The way an ink-jet printer works at home is very similar to how direct-to-garment printing works. Its ability to accurately produce full-colour graphics and print ink directly onto the t-shirt make it a popular piece of commercial equipment for t-shirt printing.
Heat transfers cannot match the printing quality of direct-to-garment printing, which is superior. In contrast to screen printing, there are no setup fees because it functions like an ink-jet printer. This indicates that printing small orders is simple and affordable.
Since each shirt requires the same amount of time to print, the main drawback of the direct-to-garment printing online t-shirt business model is the absence of bulk discounts for large orders.
- Unlimited colour options
- High detail accuracy in printed design
- Great for small orders or one-offs
- No set-up costs
- Not cost effective for large production runs
- Generally no volume discounts
An imitation of a t-shirt design from another source would be the last thing a visitor would want to see in your catalogue. Your designs don’t have to be particularly intricate; in fact, many of the most popular graphic t-shirts have pretty straightforward graphics. However, they do need to stand out and connect with your audience.
Your design files should typically be at least 300 pixels per inch (dpi or ppi), have a translucent backdrop, and be large enough to cover the actual print area of the t-shirt in order to assure great printing for your shirt selling business. Please be aware that based on the printer and printing technique used, your precise specifications may differ (more on that later).
Quality is the second most crucial aspect of starting an online t-shirt business that is prepared for long-term success. They won’t let you let them down twice, but you can let them down once. There won’t be gushing fans who return and repurchase a pattern that ages and cracks or a t-shirt that shrinks and shreds.
T-shirts of superior quality may be more expensive to create, but they can also fetch a higher price. The blank t-material, shirt’s printing method, and properly prepared design file will all affect the final quality of your t-shirt.
When you launch an online shirt business, having a strong, captivating brand is essential. Your brand is a promise that unites all of your decisions, such as your specialty, designs, and level of quality. In a highly competitive market, developing a distinctive and likeable brand is crucial, from the name of your t-shirt company to the logo you employ.
It is crucial for an online retailer to stand out from the competition when clients have more options in order to get their attention.
You can use it in your marketing and website to speak to these customers if you’ve picked a niche for your online t-shirt store that symbolises a particular lifestyle, like in the anime/streetwear example from Imouri below.
Most people choose to buy and hold inventory when learning how to launch a t-shirt business online, taking advantage of bulk discounts and nearby printers, or they hire a print-on-demand service to handle inventory management and delivery for them. A combination of the two is another option.
With print-on-demand, you take on a lot less risk, but by maintaining your own inventory for your online shirt selling business, you can more easily sell in-person and potentially increase your profit margins. Before beginning, balance the benefits and drawbacks. Print-on-demand is always one of the top small company ideas if you’re hesitant.
Small business entrepreneurs can easily understand the dropshipping business strategy for selling t-shirts online. It’s really simple to start and test your t-shirt designs using services like Printful.
Of course, if you have the budget for it, you can also invest in your own printer and set up a base of operations.
Online t-shirt business success stories
Many business owners have started profitable shirt-selling ventures. One individual, Ryan McCarthy, the owner of Imouri (formerly known as Sugoi Shirts), has utilised Shopify since 2016 to manage his anime-themed t-shirt printing company.
When Ryan couldn’t find anime-inspired clothes that complemented his particular style, he made the decision to start his own t-shirt company. He discreetly started what he believed would be a little clothing company, but it quickly grew into a six-figure print-on-demand clothing company that sells streetwear with anime and Japanese pop culture as inspiration. His trade-secret for launching a successful apparel line? Reddit and paid advertisements can be used to test designs and find winners early on. Our Shopify Masters podcast features some of his best t-shirt business advice.
Start your t-shirt business today
Selling t-shirts online and expressing your creativity have never been simpler. A t-shirt store is a fantastic first online business for budding entrepreneurs, regardless of the niche they choose to target or how ambitious they decide to be with their quality and designs.
The good news is that creating and establishing a new t-shirt brand on Shopify is simple, quick, and affordable. If you already have designs that you wish to sell, you may get started right away.
You can also connect your store to a t-shirt printer/dropshipper in minutes using one of the many applications and integrations available in the Shopify App Business. This will allow you to rapidly have a fully operational store that is prepared to print and ship to your clients.