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How to Start A T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know

How to Start A T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know

If you hate risk but love the idea of starting a semi-automated business from anywhere in the world then starting an online T-shirt business could be for you. T-shirts have universal appeal, are affordable to source, and are easily customizable.

I've helped fashion startups take their sales from zero to thousands. So, if you clicked on this article, you're probably wanting to start your own online t-shirt business. And today I'm going to show you how.

In this article, we'll cover seven key steps.

1. Finding your audience
2. Creating your designs
3. Sourcing quality materials
4. Printing options
5. Validating your business idea before investing a lot of money
6. Opening your online store
7. Managing inventory and fulfillment

How To Find Your Customers

Pick a niche in order to find your audience

There's quite a bit of competition in the online t-shirt business because there's such a low barrier to entry. In order to cut through the noise. You're going to want to specialize so that you stand out against your competition. Picking a niche ensures that you're catering to a specific group or audience.

So if you decide to go with funny slogans on your Tee's, that's going to be too broad. But if you choose funny slogans that appeal to neurologists, for example, then you're on the right track. A good niche is going to be an inch wide and a mile deep.

Whenever someone asks me how to choose a niche? I always recommend they choose something that's of actual interest to them. If you're genuinely interested and passionate about it, that will drive your success.

If that's not an option, here are some ways to find a niche.

1. Check out a niche subreddit and take a look at the engagement and subscriber counts.

How to Start A T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know

2. You can also use Facebook's audience insights tool. It's a tool that marketers use to get more information about their target audience. It'll bring up information like geography, demographics, purchase behavior, and more.

How to Start A T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know

How To Design A T-Shirt 

In this business, you have to make a real effort to stand out. So going with a design that already exists is probably not going to cut it. That doesn't mean you have to go with a super complex design, sometimes simpler designs do best. But what that does mean is that you have to go with a design that resonates with your audience. So do research.

What is the cultural language that only your audience understands? Are there any industry inside jokes? Once you have some ideas rolling around in your head, then you're going to want to make a design file. If you're uncomfortable with making the actual design file yourself, check out dribble, freelancer Upwork, or be hand to hire somebody out.

If you are comfortable creating the designs Adobe illustrator for any flat designs, otherwise use Photoshop for any complex designs, as the use of photography. Make sure your images are 300 pixels per inch, are using CMYK, and have a transparent background. Measure out the actual design so that it's taking up enough of the shirt.

​How To Source Quality Materials

Quality is so important

You don't want your patterns to fade or crack, and you don't want the actual shirt to shrink or rip. That's not going to create raving fans that are going to come back to repurchase. The final quality of your shirt will depend on the material that you choose. And the printing technique.

Here are five things you're going to want to keep in mind when you're choosing the actual shirt. Fit, material, sizing, softness, and weight. So that's the actual t-shirt covered. Now you have to think about our printing options.

T-Shirt Printing Options

There are three popular ways of doing this. There's screen printing, direct to garment, and heat transfer. All of them have their pros and cons.

Screen printing is effective for larger batches.

it's not cost-effective for multiple colors. And you can only really print simple images and designs.

Heat transfer

With heat transfer, you can produce full-color images relatively quickly and easily. All you do is order the prints from your local printer and press each shirt on demand yourself.

On the flip side, this method doesn't produce high-quality results. It can be a large investment upfront because a heat press costs anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. And taking the Do-It-Yourself approach does require you to invest a lot of time, so that can be harder to scale.

Direct to garment

Direct to garment has unlimited color options and your designs can be very detailed. It's great for smaller orders and there are no setup costs.

However, this won't be cost-effective for larger runs because there are no volume discounts.

Validating Your Business Idea

Before you invest a lot of money in your new business idea. Make sure that you verify that there's a market and interest in your designs. Get feedback using your social networks. Post your designs to Facebook, niche Facebook groups, and Instagram. But be careful when you're asking your friends and family because their opinions are prone to kindness.

Despite the community's general aversion to marketing, Reddit is still a great place to get honest feedback. It's easy to tap into a niche with the number of subreddits there are out there. Just post your design and ask for some honest feedback. And who knows that interaction might turn into a sale later down the line.

Crowdfunding sites have made it much easier to validate and collect money upfront for your new business idea. Crowdfunding campaigns can be extremely time-consuming, but the benefits, this can be huge. You may be able to fully fund your project before you even launch it.

And if you have a particularly novel idea, like matching shirts for dogs and their owners, then crowdfunding might be for you. Check out Kickstarter and Indiegogo. By integrating your Shopify store with a print-on-demand service, you can validate your idea without investing in inventory. Check out companies for print-on-demand services.

How To Open Your Online Store 

Of course, is the part where we mentioned Shopify. How could we not? Shopify is a quick and easy way to get started. And luckily Shopify has a free trial, so you can get your business set up before even having to spend a dime. 

Here are a couple of things to note, to make your Shopify store easy to use and nice to look at.

1. Make sure your homepage has clear images of your T-shirts and people wearing them. Include strategically placed shop now buttons to encourage purchases.

2. New shoppers will want to find out more about your business. So include an about us page with your brand story and what makes you different.

3. Include shipping and returns policy. This will make your customers feel confident when buying your products.

4. Also, include a contact page to instill trust. Good customer service is key when gaining new customers and encouraging repeat customers.

5. Your product pages should have a description of the fit materials and other important information.

6. Make sure you're including multiple photos of the tee shirts, all shown at different angles.

But if you're more in the market for a quick setup, go with the print-on-demand service that integrates directly with your Shopify store. You'll be able to take orders right away. These services will print and ship your tee shirts to your customers, on your behalf, every time you receive an order. 

It's a great way to get started because there's no need to purchase or hold any inventory. Best of all if you want to use your design on other principal products like totes or mugs, you have the option to do that as well.

Inventory and Fulfillment 

If you plan on holding inventory, you're going to have to have a strategy for this. Too much inventory, you're going to tie up all your funds in the product, but if you don't hold enough inventory and your lead times are too long, your customers might get upset when they have to wait for their orders.

My recommendation would be to start lean. Start with 20 T-shirts. If it ends up being too much, you can just send it to friends and influencers and chalk it up to a marketing expense. If it's too little, you can always order more.

Just make sure you're clear with your customers about lead times, take into account how long it takes to produce and ship to your customers.

I actually want to reiterate how important it is not to tie up all your funds and inventory. You're still going to want to have some leftover money for Facebook ads, your website, photoshoots, and the list goes on.

Last words

So that about wraps it up. In this article, we learned how to find your audience, create your designs, and source quality material. We also covered printing options, how to validate your business idea, and managing inventory. Those are all the tools that you need in order to start a successful T-shirt business today. As always, if you have any questions, make sure to leave them in the comment section below and I will get back to each and every single one of them.

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