T-shirts aren’t just a staple of casual wear—they’re articles of clothing that often reflect our personalities, interests, and identities.
With the growth in popularity of selling t-shirts, there’s no doubt you’ll face some stiff competition. But by building a brand for a specific target audience and creating t-shirt designs your customers want, you can find your own success.
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.
You hear the term “niche” tossed around a lot, but it’s important to choose one when trying to understand how to make an online t-shirt business. One of the most important parts of a successful online t-shirt business model is the ability to stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is by catering to a specific target audience or interest group.
Generally, categories like “t-shirts for people who like funny slogans” are going to be too broad to get noticed in a very developed market. You’re going to want to tighten it up a little more. An example of a more specific niche would be t-shirts with funny slogans that relate to doctors and nurses, or to dog owners, as pictured below.
2. Source quality material and t-shirt printing options
The next step of how to start an online t-shirt business is to find suppliers. Not all t-shirts are the same and not all print jobs are the same. As we mentioned above, quality is paramount to your brand and its success, so it’s important to educate yourself and choose your blank shirts wisely.
It might be tempting to sacrifice quality for higher profit margins when you start a shirt business online. But you need to consider how the quality will affect a customer’s decision to share your brand and purchase from you again.
3. Create your own t-shirt designs
Next up in how to start your own online t-shirt business is to come up with the designs. Here are a few ways you can get a head start on your t-shirt business designs.
You may also want to consider checking out Google Trends to get a sense of the topics people are currently interested in for inspiration for your t-shirt online business.
4. Mock up your t-shirts
Once you have some final designs, your next step for how to start a t-shirt business online will be to get some mockup images. Mockups are helpful so your customers can see what the final design will look like printed on a shirt.
There are a few ways you can get images of your final designs on t-shirts, including ordering samples and taking product photography yourself or, with the abundance of t-shirt mockups and templates online, opting to create a 100% digital mockup, like the one below.
5. Validate the designs for your t-shirt online business
Before you invest a lot of money on your new business idea, you should verify that there is a market for and interest in your designs. There are many ways you can go about validating the market and sell t-shirts online.
Some of the most popular and more common methods for validating your design ideas include:to start a shirt business online
Personal social networks: Post some of your designs to your Facebook profile, niche Facebook groups, Twitter, and other social networks your friends and potential customers frequent. Be careful when asking friends and family, however—their opinions are prone to kindness.
Reddit: Despite the community’s general aversion to marketing, Reddit is still one of the best places to get honest feedback on your designs (which can even translate into sales after you launch). With countless subreddits, it’s easy to find a highly targeted niche of potential customers and ask them directly for their thoughts on your designs before launching.
Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding sites have made it much easier to test, validate, and collect money upfront for your new business idea. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can be time-consuming and requires a good deal of preparation. However, the benefits can be huge, including fully funding your project before you launch it. If you have a particularly novel t-shirt business idea (say, matching t-shirts for dogs and dog owners), crowdfunding might be for you.
6. Set up your online store
Now that you have your t-shirt designs in hand, have made your mockups, and validated your idea, it’s time to build your store. This is especially important if you want to know how to start a t-shirt business online. There are a handful of t-shirt print-on-demand services that directly integrate, allowing you to start taking orders in no time. These services will print and ship your t-shirts to your customers on your behalf every time you receive an order.