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How To Start a Successful T-Shirt Business

September 3, 2020

The T-shirt business is booming, more and more people are jumping on board but may find it difficult to get stated.

Are you ready to start a successful t-shirt business? This 7 step guide will show you how to set up and run a successful t-shirt business, automate your t-shirt and printing process, and launch a successful t-shirt business.

Find a Niche

Finding a niche for your t-shirt business is crucial and will determine if your business is going to succeed. For example, if you want a niche in dog prints, you would start your research by typing on google or any other platform you use "dog t-shirt" and will immediately see the search engine results page (SERP) features popping up.

You will also get blue links from E-commerce or from other websites. You will find that most search results come from high authority domains and well known brands like:

  • Amazon
  • Ebay
  • Etsy

If you click on any of the above sites you will see the t-shirts that were sold and also find the niche of shirts you are looking for. This will help you get an idea of the design you want to create.

There are many t-shirt business ideas out there and what you need to do is:

  1. Avoid designs that have high competition
  2. Pick designs that are not highly competitive
  3. Create your own design from scratch

Make a list of the ideas you like and prioritize them by:

  • The total search volume on Amazon or Google
  • How you would rate your competitors
  • The number of sellers on a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy
  • The quality of the sellers t-shirts
  • How many designs already exist based on the niche your looking for
  • Are there any active online communities based on your niche?

Keep the ideas that will most likely sell and that supports your business model. Choosing the right niche can potentially make your business successful very fast so choose wisely.

These are a couple of tools you can use to research your t-shirt idea:

  • KissTrends
  • JungleScout
  • Ahrefs
  • Consumer barometer
  • Google trends
  • Keywords everywhere
  • Glimpse
  • Ubersuggest
  • Keyword niche finder

Use these tools for sourcing your t-shirt business idea:

  • Red bubble popular t-shirts
  • Amazon best sellers
  • Pinterest t-shirt designs
  • Zazzle t-shirts
  • Teeview
  • Snorg tees best sellers
  • Tees kickstarter projects

Pro Tip: To see the best selling designs on Shopify copy and paste /collections/all?sort_by=best-selling after the root domain that you want to check.

Design Your T-Shirts

There are many designs out there so in order for your t-shirt business to be successful you will need to create a design that is remarkable and that stands out.

It may not be that easy to design a t-shirt. Below are a few ways you can design a t-shirt:

Hire a Designer

You can hire a designer to design your t-shirts for you.

You can find a graphic designer on websites such as:

  • Upwork
  • Behance
  • Freelancer
  • Dribbble
  • PeoplePerHour

For example, on Upwork you can search on the search bar by typing "t-shirt designer" but before you do this you will need to create a client account. You can also post a job and wait for freelancers to come to you.

Pro Tip: Ask freelancers to start their proposal with a certain word or phrase to avoid spam and automated messages.

when finding a designer online look for things like:

  • Communication
  • Past experience
  • Price quote
  • Relevant testimonials
  • Turnaround time

Design Your Own T-Shirt

There are many free tools to design online such as:

  • Canva
  • Adobe photoshop
  • Adobe illustrator

Quick Tips:

  1. Focus on quality and not quantity
  2. Your designs should resonate with your targeted audience
  3. Get ideas from successful t-shirt companies but DO NOT copy their designs

Make your t-shirt unique so that you stand out from the crowd. Still not sure on the designs you want to go with? Well here are few websites you can use to generate ideas:

  • 99designs
  • Custom ink
  • Pinterest
  • DesignCrowd
  • Designhill
  • BoredPanda

Build a Brand

Naming your brand is only a small part of building your brand. Building a brand means telling a story.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What motivated you to start your own t-shirt business?
  2. Is there a cause you are trying to support?
  3. Who are the team behind your company?
  4. Are you using recycled fabrics or any unique thing worth mentioning?

These questions are very important and need to be answered in the best possible way.

Why is building a brand important? Since you are just starting your business, you will not have any reviews so customers will come to you if you have a great story about your company.

Learn From Successful T-Shirt Businesses

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do they form their messaging?
  2. Do they have a story behind their brand?
  3. What kind colors do they use and what do they mean?
  4. How do they support a cause or help the environment?

Building a brand is one of the most important aspects of starting a t-shirt business.

These tools can help you design your brand:

  • Canva
  • ecomm.design
  • BrandBuilder
  • Unsplash
  • uiGradients
  • BrandColors

Create Mockups For Your Designs

Mockups will provide you with how your t-shirt will really look like. Photoshop is the best tool to use in order to create mockups for your t-shirt designs. Your can also buy mockups from marketplaces like GraphicRiver.

Other resources and marketplaces you can use for your mockups are:

  • CreativeBooster t-shirt mockups
  • Placeit t-shirt mockups
  • MockupWorld Fashion & Apparel mockups
  • GraphicRiver t-shirt mockups
  • DesignBolts t-shirt mockups
  • Colorlib t-shirt mockups
  • Oberlo t-shirt mockup templates

You may not have the budget to shoot all your products so investing in a good t-shirt mockup is essential. The better your mockups are the more sales you'll make. So creating a high quality mockup will help you sell your t-shirts faster.

Find an on Demand Printing Service or Print it Yourself

When designing your t-shirts you'll be faced with two options:

  1. Find an on demand printing company
  2. Print it yourself

If you are on a tight budget or do not simply want to invest money on equipment or space then find an on demand printing service online.

If you do wish to print on you own then there are a few things to consider:

  • Buy a printer
  • Regularly maintain the equipment
  • Rent a space for the equipment and a place to keep your inventory
  • Purchase high quality ink from a good source

If you choose to use a print on demand service, you can find many services online and choose the one that best fits your needs.

When choosing the right printing service consider:

  • The pricing
  • The services and add-ons the printing service offers
  • The average rate
  • The reviews from users
  • The number of reviews

When working with an on demand printing service:

  • You don't hold any inventory
  • Overhead is eliminated since you do not print your own t-shirts
  • You don't ship or package your products

Choose an E-Commerce Platform

Choosing an E-commerce platform is an essential step for starting your own t-shirt business online.

Key factors to consider are:

  1. Does the E-commerce platform have an active community of users
  2. Are there enough sales and marketing tools to use?
  3. How is the usability of the E-commerce platform?
  4. How is the competition?
  5. What are the fees and seller chargers?
  6. Are you going to launch your own online store and use an E-commerce platform?
  7. Are you going to sell on MerchbyAmazon or eBay?
  8. How are you going to promote your t-shirt or store?
  9. Are you going to build a new store or use an existing one?

When choosing the right E-commerce platform, you should look into:

  • Their monthly traffic
  • Competition
  • Seller fees

If you do not want to set up a new business, you can purchase an existing store on:

  • Shopify exchange
  • Flippa
  • Digital exits
  • Empire flippers
  • SideProjectors
  • FE international

Launch Your Website & Start Selling!

To sell your t-shirts online you need to be:

  • Authentic, people are more interested in authenticity.
  • Unique, people want to be a part of something special
  • Transparent, you will achieve long term results in the long run
  • Don't disturb users online experience with spam of your products

Do not be discouraged if things did not go your way, persistence is key. Many people have launched successful t-shirt businesses but this does not mean the market is already swamped. You can still be successful in launching your own t-shirt business. As a matter of fact, having tough competition will just mean that you will be a better entrepreneur in the long run.