This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please read the disclosure for more info.
What is a necessity item wildly used by everyone? Clothing! Have you ever thought it would be cool to start your own t-shirt clothing line business (or any kind of screen printing business), but thought that it would require a lot of upfront cost to get it started? I used to think that I would have to find a local screen printer and have to order a bulk amount of shirts in different sizes to start a clothing business. Another idea was to just buy the screen printer and create shirts as orders came in. One time, my friends and I made t-shirts for our indoor soccer team. It took hours to make! Never will I do that again.
I always look at businesses and see how much time is required and what the profit is. Just as an example, a lot of DIY shops spend an hour or two for something that sells for only $20. It would require a lot of time in exchange for money. Starting a t-shirt business didn’t make sense to me when I added the cost and time it would require to make just one item at a time, but then I found the magic formula to build a somewhat passive t-shirt business that didn’t require much time at all. That magic formula is print on demand and dropshipping.
What’s print on demand and dropshipping?
Print on demand is an amazing service! Print on demand companies take your design and put it on t-shirts, mugs, totes, mobile phone cases, towels, and the list goes on. Whenever someone orders something from your store, you just have to process it with your print on demand company and they will print your design on the product ordered. Once the product has been printed, they will ship it to your customer.
Dropshipping is when another company carries your inventory and they ship it out for you. You never actually have to carry that inventory and you only pay as things are ordered so there is no upfront cost to you. In fact, all you have to do is a press a button to process it. You never have to go to any shipping offices or waste time driving to go ship out a product.
Print on demand companies
There are many print on demand companies that I have tried out, but my favorite is Printful. Their product quality is great. You can order samples of the product with your design on it at 20% off so you can check the quality and what your customers would be getting through Printful. I always suggest ordering samples from print on demand companies so you know how long it takes them to print the product, how long it takes them to ship out, and how the quality is. All those factors are very important when you are trying to build a brand.
Printful has warehouses in the US and the UK, which makes it convenient for shipping prices. I’ve gotten my products within 3-5 days from ordering. I’ve also found that Printful has the biggest inventory in custom print products. Such products are backpacks, swimwear, sports bras, leggings, canvas prints, hoodies, mugs, hats, phone cases, and so much more! Check out all the things they have to offer here.
Find your niche
Before creating your t-shirt designs, make sure that you do a market research on what is selling. The best niches to go into when it comes to ecommerce are the ones that people are passionate about such as a hobby and something that solves a problem. An example of a good niche is the dog lover audience, and even better example is niching down by dog breeds. If you have a dog, or know of anyone who has a dog, you know that they are all loyal to their dog breed. An “I love Pit Bulls” shirt will do better and gives more impact in feeling than a shirt that says “I love dogs”. The dog niche is just one example of a great niche to be in.
How to create t-shirt designs
Once you have found your niche, you can start designing your t-shirts. My favorite way to create t-shirt designs is with a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. If you plan on creating your own designs then I suggest getting the Adobe Suite program since it has everything you will ever need. Plus you can create your logo for your store with Adobe Illustrator. You’ll have full control with the Adobe programs to do whatever you want.
A free way to create your own designs is with Canva. It doesn’t give you the full features that Illustrator does, but it is free and can get the job done.
Printful requires png files. You’ll just have to make sure that your file is large enough size to be printed on your products and make sure they are sent over as a png file.
Don’t want to design your shirts, but still want to have a clothing business? Try hiring someone on Fiverr to make your designs. You can usually hire someone to create things for you for $5 on there. Upwork and OnlineJobs.ph are also great places to find designers.
Setting up your store with Shopify
Shopify is an ecommerce platform that houses many of the online stores on the web. It’s a very user friendly platform which is why many people use it. You don’t need to know how to code to use it at all. There are many applications that sync with Shopify which allows you to omit having to use a developer to make you your own ecommerce store online. The basic Shopify plan starts out at $29 a month and you can get a free 14-day trial here.
Once you are logged in to your Shopify account, click Online Store on the left side of your dashboard and then click Themes. You’ll want to select a free theme for your store. There is also an option to buy a theme. You’ll want to play around with the themes and see which one you would like to use.
Once you have selected a theme, it’s time to add Printful to your apps. To do this, go to your Shopify dashboard and click Apps on the left side. Once there, click Visit Shopify App Store and type ‘Printful’ in the search bar. Click the icon like the one below and click the Add App button. You will be taken to another page where you will have to click Install App button. Log in with the existing Printful account you created earlier and connect store.
To add products to your store, simply click Add Products and select the item you want to add. It will take you to a series of different options and then you’ll be able to upload your design and create the mockups which will publish to your Shopify store once it is synced. Once you have added all the items you want to add to your store, you can go back to your themes and play around with how you want to categorize and design the look of your shop and featured products. The best part about using Printful is that they already have the image of the item mockups for you, unlike other print on demand companies where you will actually have to manually create those individual images.
Apps you should have
There are so many apps in the Shopify app. There are a few that you should definitely have for your store. You’ll want to have an email collector so you can sell to those people all the time buy offering discounts and deals. You’ll also want an app that gives item suggestions that are similar to the product they are viewing. You’ll want a review app because a lot of people make purchasing decision based on reviews. You’ll also want an upsell app so you can increase your cart value. Another great app to have is social proof, those pop ups on the bottom of pages that say someone has recently viewed or bought from the store. A money back guarantee also makes buyers feel better when purchasing online.
Establishing your social media
Once you’ve finished designing and putting your store together, make sure you have signed up for a few social media accounts. The best one for selling t-shirts are Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. You can connect all three of these platforms with your Shopify store. Just search for their names in the app store. Pinterest is especially great for t-shirts because people are searching things on Pinterest and you can directly buy from Pinterest without ever having to leave the platform.
Going live with your store
Once you are done designing how you want your store to look, you’ll want to make it live on the web. To do this, you will want to buy a domain. You’ll be able to get a domain from Namecheap for about $10 or less. Once you’ve bought your domain, click Online Store from your Shopify dashboard and add the domain you purchased. You’ll have to configure the domain to forward to your Shopify. You will also want to pay for the Shopify plan so your site can go live and be able to make transactions. Other than creating your about page. faq page, privacy and policy pages, you are ready to go live and have your own t-shirt business. Now just order a sample of your own product to test out the transaction process of your site!
Before going live with your store, it’s a good idea to contact some Influencers from Instagram that are willing to do a trade for a shirt or you can pay them to do a shoutout. You can find a few influencers and the day that you do go live, all these influencers can create a buzz and drive people to your store.
You can also just find shoutout pages and pay them to give a shoutout to your product. I recommend picking one of your designs to promote, rather than the store. You can also run some Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads for one of your products. Sending someone to the store, rather than a product is a never a good idea as a confused mind never buys. Give them one option to land onto from an ad.
You will also want to start pinning on Pinterest regularly as it is basically like having a store on there since they can make the purchase through Pinterest. Pinterest is a great place to sell.
Focus on selling one product and then make sure you have an upsell strategy to increase your cart value. There are some apps you can find on Shopify that automatically does upsells for you when someone adds a product to their cart.
Once your store has taken off, and you want more freedom to do what you love, you should be hiring someone to do all the fulfillment for you which requires fulfilling the order through Printful. They can also do customer service. This is how you can make this business passive for yourself. A good place to hire someone to manage and run your store is OnlineJobs.ph.
So how much does it actually cost to start your own t-shirt business? Definitely under $50 if you are doing it all yourself. Shopify cost $29 and you can get a free 14-day trial here so you can start building out your store. A domain will cost you under $10 with Namecheap and it’s usually cheaper than that. That gives about an extra $10 to play around with and you can use that to hire someone on Fiverr to make you a t-shirt design or a logo, or both! Ready to make your passion into profits? Start your very own t-shirt business for under $50 today!
You may want to learn how to add others products like accessories to your store without having your own inventory here.