How to Start Selling T-Shirts Online: 6 Simple Steps
Starting a T-shirt business is a doable task even if you’re a novice entrepreneur. You need to pick a promising niche, come up with catchy designs, and find a smart way to separate your brand from the crowd. Find out 6 easy steps for starting the business of your dreams!
- Pick a niche
- Generate ideas
- Create T-shirt designs
- Choose a good fabric and printing technique
- Choose the best sales channels
- Attract customers
Step 1. Pick a niche
Since T-shirts are a practical and relatively cheap product, the competition among T-shirt sellers is pretty high. Picking the right niche is a key to building a successful T-shirt business. To do that, you need to answer the question: Who is going to buy my product?
Answering “everyone” won’t do. You need to identify who your potential customers are. Doing so is essential to meeting the market needs and eventually boosting your sales. Here are some of the criteria for narrowing down your target audience:
- by occupation: programmers, bakers, designers, journalists, etc.;
- by hobby: cat lovers, model car collectors, healthy lifestyle adepts, rock musicians, etc.
- by social status: students, freelancers, children, parents, etc.
Market analysis is the cornerstone for finding your ideal niche.
- Study the market. Visit online shops that specialize in selling T-shirts. Pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses. Note down smart ideas to improve on. See which niches are oversaturated and which ones still have room for growth.
- Analyze your interests. Think about your hobby as a potential niche for your business. Is there a field that you consider yourself an expert in?
- Find out how popular the niche is. After pinpointing a few potentially beneficial niches, evaluate their importance among shoppers. See how frequently each product is discussed on social media, on theme-specific forums, in subreddits, etc. Also, use Google Trends to check the popularity of certain categories of T-shirts among consumers.
Step 2. Generate ideas
To make T-shirts that would appeal to shoppers, you need to know who your target audience are. In other words, you need to build the profile of your average customer. Scrutinize social media groups and theme-specific forums. Run a survey among your potential customers. Based on the information obtained during your research, outline the demographic (gender, age, country, occupation, etc.) and psychographic (personal traits, interests, values, fears, problems, goals, etc.) characteristics of your target audience.
Now that you know your potential customers better, you can figure out what T-shirts they might like. When coming up with design ideas for your T-shirts, consider the following:
- themes, images, characters, etc. that trigger emotions among your target audience;
- deeper needs of your target audience (people can use T-shirts to express their ideas and beliefs, showcase their uniqueness, feel a part of the community, etc.);
- specific details (quotes, slogans, memes, etc. that resonate with your target audience).
Note down the best ideas. Think about what visual elements will be able to transcend each of your ideas in the best way possible. It can be photos, illustrations, fonts, etc. Feel free to combine these and other graphics in order to craft a unique design that would send the right message.
Step 3. Create T-shirt designs
There are three ways for designing your T-shirts. The method you choose depends on your budget, deadline, and complexity of the task.
To create a design by yourself, you’ll need a graphic design program. In fact, any graphic editor will do: it can be Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. Creating a T-shirt yourself is no joke. You need to have at least basic knowledge of graphic design and skills working in a graphic editor. On the plus side, this method is free and allows you to bring to life your creative ideas just the way you want to.
Hire a designer
If you have enough budget, you can opt for a professional designer. The cost of the designer’s work depends on their experience and skills. The best places to look for a designer are freelance websites (Upwork, Fiverr, your local platforms) and professional communities (Behance, Dribbble).
If you’re hoping to get the result that lives up to your expectations, you need to be very careful when choosing a designer. Pick a person whose creative vision is similar to yours and whose work style you like. Also, be sure to provide a clear and detailed explanation of what design you want to get.
Use online generators
For a small fee, you can create a design online based on ready-to-use templates. This makes online design services a great option for beginners. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to instantly see what your T-shirts will look like with this or that image and text.
- Printful. The service offers 800+ custom templates and 80 mln photos from Getty Images. Also, you can upload your own graphics for a unique result.
- Placeit. Choose from 4,000+ templates which are sorted by theme. Pick the template that you like best, customize it, and enjoy the result!
- Canva. With 8,000 templates, Canva is an advanced constructor that allows you to create a stunning T-shirt design from scratch.
Below we’ve outlined some important tips for designing your T-shirts.
1. Brand your T-shirts. Your brand identity is made of a bunch of design elements, such as your company name, logo, colors, typography solutions, etc. A good brand identity ensures that your customers will easily memorize your brand and separate you from the crowd. You don’t have to use all your branding elements on your merchandise at once. One way to go is to use your logo and an inscription made in a custom font.
To leave a strong impression on your potential customers, your brand identity must be unique, concise, and memorable. Looking for an easy way to craft a professional brand identity? Use the Logaster brand identity maker! Just enter your company name and choose from dozens of logos, color schemes, and fonts!
Brand your T-shirts in a few clicks!
Get a jaw-dropping brand identity for free! Choose from a plethora of custom options generated especially for your company.
2. Stick with minimalism. Always put quality over quantity. A T-shirt with few elements is sure to look stylish and edgy. Plus, a minimalist design is easy-to-read even from a distance.
3. Prioritize quality. To make your design look equally good on your computer screen and on fabric, be sure to save your HD file in vector as well as in raster formats.
Step 4. Choose a good fabric and printing technique
Be sure to use durable, high-quality materials. If your T-shirt gets a hole or fades after a couple of washings, your customers are unlikely to come back for more. Think about the composition, density, and color(s) of the fabric that you’re going to use for your T-shirts. Also, pick the suitable printing technique.
- Silk screen printing. Ink is printed through a tightly stretched mesh. This is a great way to get high-quality T-shirts with saturated colors. The only drawback is that using this technique only makes sense for a large batch of T-shirts. The more T-shirts you’re printing, the lower will be the production cost of each item.
- Thermal transfer. Thermal printers print images and text on a surface using heat. Keep in mind thermal transfer can’t compete with silk screen printing in terms of quality and durability.
- Digital printing. Ink is applied onto a T-shirt with a special printer. This printing technique guarantees that the colors will stay fresh and vivid for a long time. The good news is that the number of printed items doesn’t affect the production cost of each T-shirt. This makes digital printing a great option for businesses that need small batches of custom T-shirts.
Step 5. Choose the best sales channels
Once you have your T-shirts printed and ready, it’s time to think about where you’re going to sell your merchandise.
- Online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Etsy, Aliexpress or local platforms. The best thing about big marketplaces is that they take a great deal of responsibility off your shoulders. You don’t have to stress over website development, payment arrangements or financial risks. At the same time, online marketplaces are characterized by a tough competition among sellers which means you’ll have to work hard to separate your brand from the rest.
- Print-on-demand services. Major print-on-demand services, such as Printful, Pixels and Amplifier, will take care of printing, packing and shipping your items for you. Since all orders are fulfilled on demand, you don’t need to estimate how many items need to get printed for the next month or where to store your merchandise. Read more about print-on-demand services here.
- Your own online shop. The easiest way to build a nice online shop is by using advanced website constructors, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, and others. By choosing this path, you take responsibility for everything, from website development, to packing, to shipping.
When speculating which selling method to choose, consider the factors below.
- Popularity and competition. Build a presence on the platforms which are popular with your target audience and have a mild competition.
- Investments. If you have a limited starting capital, choose print-on-demand services. If, however, you’re tempted by the idea of starting your own ecommerce website, prepare to spend a lot.
- Control. If you aim for full control of your business, the best option for you will be to launch an ecommerce website. If you choose to work with online marketplaces or print-on-demand services, you’ll have to content yourself with a limited control of the selling process and customer communication.
Step 6. Attract customers
To highlight your brand’s personality and product advantages, you need to develop an effective promotion strategy.
- Be active on social media platforms that are popular with your potential customers. Post engaging videos with your T-shirts, communicate with your subscribers, organize contests and giveaways, share positive reviews of your products, and more.
- Enhance your brand recognition. There are many ways to increase your brand awareness, both online and offline. Participate in local fairs and exhibitions, team up with other businesses and bloggers, launch online ads, etc.
- Identify the methods that deliver the best results. Being flexible is crucial to staying relevant and keeping your business afloat. Keep tabs on your audience’s needs and market trends to be able to tweak your T-shirt design, grow your product range, and explore new communication channels with your audience.
Building a successful T-shirt business takes a great deal of commitment and energy. You need to ensure high quality of your products, study your audience’s needs, pick the best selling platforms, and devise a smart promotion strategy. Also, it’s important to keep up with market trends and your customers’ preferences to stay relevant and competitive. We wish you a loyal audience and good sales!