Hello everyone, having started one myself for almost 2 years now, I am going to run you through the process of starting your own t-shirt business from home. But before that, let’s go over some questions you might have.
T-shirt Business Opportunity?
Sometimes when you start a business, you often hear people tell you how it won’t work. Now only you yourself can be the judge for this. You need to believe in yourself and not let anyone tell you otherwise.
While the t-shirt industry can be saturated, there is always a market to cater to. The key is to get started and this guide is to help you get you off your feet and just START.
Starting a Tee Business Beginners Guide
The Brainstorming Process
The first few questions you need to ask yourself is this.
- Target Market(church, cyclists, surfers etc.)
- Online vs Offline
- Designs: DIY or Outsource?
- T-shirt Drop Shipper or Finding Wholesaler?
This is the first step and a very crucial one. The t-shirt industry is extremely saturated and it is important to choose a few sub niches to focus on. I personally focus on the gaming niche League of Legends. I cater only to this group and it does well for me. You will want to figure out your own. Choose something you are more passionate about. I will give you a huge list to brainstorm if you need ideas:
- Explore Stumble Upon Interests – A wide range of interests to explore and give you ideas
- Teeview – Shows you what sells and you can brainstorm design ideas
Here are some example niches that you can dive into:
- Church groups
- Men over 20/30/40
- Women over 30/40/50
- Video gamers
- Doctors and nurses
- Famous sayings
- Funny quotes
The ideas are endless. The key is to choose wisely and GO HARD. Just do it!
Online vs Offline Business?
Now this one is up to personal preference.
Online Model – You will setup your shop via a eCommerce platform such as Shopify or BigCommerce. You mostly do your transactions online. I recommend this route if you want less “physical” work on your end.
The advantages of online t-shirt business is that you mostly focus on sales and design. You can choose a drop-shipper to ship your items to your customers. The transactions are handled by the eCommerce platform. You won’t have to deal with printing t-shirts since you can send it to t-shirt printers like Printful or Print Aura. The startup cost for online eCommerce is low as well. You can get started with as little as $120 USD.
The disadvantage is that you will have more profits taken off per sale of your t-shirts or merchandise. It is well worth it if you can make plenty of sales.
Note* – To setup Shopify, you can check out this video.
The advantages of offline t-shirt business is that you have control of all aspects of the business. Finding sales, creating designs, finding wholesalers, printing the shirts and shipping will all fall under your shoulders. It is a lot of work but they can be outsourced. You also keep 100% of your profits.
The disadvantage of the offline model is that it costs a bit of money up front. Getting a business license and resale license is also a must (At least in the US, I am not sure about other countries). My minimum recommendation for an offline startup is about $700 USD. Any less would really put you in a tight spot. Also, if you have a low budget and can’t afford to hire help, you literally take care of ALL aspects of the business.
Designs: DIY or Outsource?
This one will depend on whether you have talent in designing or not. Either way, I will provide you resources for both options.
For Do-it-yourself, here are some tools that will help you:
My first design was done via Paint.net. Does okay but I recommend you outsource it if you really can’t design. If you want some design ideas, you can check out these places for ideas:
For outsourcing, my favorite places to find good and talented designers are:
- Elance – You can hire guys/gals from India to save costs but I won’t guarantee quality. Choose US/UK/CA/European countries for a higher chance to get better quality designs.
- Fiverr – You can get designs for really cheap and some are actually really good.
- Dribbble – I have not tried it but some folks have great success finding nice designs with this
If you are lazy, then you can just buy designs from t-shirt factory.
For shirt mockups, I use ShirtMockup.com. I use this to show clients how it would look like on a tee. There are also other services but I recommend this.
Got Everything Setup – Now What?
Awesome! Now you got the basics down. Your next goal is to find customers. You have to make yourself available to the opportunities. You can choose the following options:
You can choose either paid or free methods.
Paid Method – Facebook/Bing Ads
You can start running ad campaigns for these. This method is more for online t-shirt shops. The key is to target your present your tees to the right audience. Facebook ads allow you to custom target certain groups of people. For example, since I am selling League of Legends t-shirts, I target people that like League of Legends AND loves t-shirts. This will narrow the gap and laser focus on only people that are interested.
For Bing ads, you need to create landing pages. You can create one using your online store. As for ad spend, only use what you can spend and not go overboard. ($20 USD to test the campaign is a good start)
Free Method – Reddit
Head over to the Reddit community and start looking for local areas such as /r/Roseville where events are happening. Most of the time, these event planners will need custom made t-shirts. This is where you let them know about your online store and that you offer custom t-shirts.
Free Method – Email Outreach
Send emails to various companies that often hold events. Ideally, search Yellow Pages for catering business or any event oriented business. A lot of them actually need shirts made and you can offer them unique t-shirts. Go to the business’s website and contact them via email. You might want to create an email template to make this quicker. You can also call them if you are good with your words.
Free Method – Google
Search for your niche on Google. For example if your niche is flower arrangement:
- flower arrangement clubs
- flower arrangement association
- florist near me
Look for any association which you can contact them directly. Also look for forums related to flowers and you will find opportunities to contact potential audiences to check out your tees.
Getting Your Tees in Local Stores – Now this is more of a walk in approach. You head over to your local small stores and ask them if they are interested in selling your tees. The key is to approach as many stores as possible. The types of stores that are likely to be your target are:
- Local boutiques
- Supply stores
- Bowling alley
- Shops in malls
**Important** – You must propose to them that they let you sell your t-shirts in their store, but you don’t charge them anything until the tees are sold. This puts the risk off them and all on you. I know you might not like it but you want to sell your tees. Plus your tees are going to be in your house collecting dust anyways. So why not place it in a place where your tees will get sold?
If you outsource it to a t-shirt printing company then you don’t stock any inventory obviously.
If you do not want to walk to stores and ask, pay a teenager $8/hour and do it. Might not be as effective depending on how good the teenager is.
Once you have tees in some stores(about 5), you can start doing a net 30 or payment upfront for placing your tees in new stores you talk to.
There you have it! Hopefully this will get you started. The most important is to take action! Everything else will fall in place and you will solve the problems along the way!