The definitive eight-step guide to starting your own online shirt brand store
Dreaming of starting your own online t-shirt business? Here are eight steps that will help you to get started.
Something almost everyone has in common, no matter what their demographics are, is that they all own a t-shirt. This wardrobe essential is versatile enough to be sold in flea markets, thrift shops, department stores, and luxury retailers.
When you own the right t-shirt, it can enhance just about any outfit you wear. But customers aren’t waiting until they can find the shirt they want in a store. Now, they’re heading to customer printers to design their unique tops.
Custom t-shirt printing started out with a bang and continues to skyrocket in popularity. By 2025, the industry will reach over ten billion dollars in sales. Because of the affordability of designing and creating t-shirts at home, it’s easy for people just like you to get on board this lucrative entrepreneur opportunity.
Ready to learn how to start your own online shirt brand store? Follow these 8 tips, and you’ll be making money in no time!
How to become a t-shirt entrepreneur in eight steps
Starting a t-shirt business requires two main components: the equipment and material to make the shirts and a little savvy business know-how to sell them. The basic t-shirt can be sourced cheaply, so as long as you have the artistic ability (or program) to customize them and the marketing channels to get your name out, you’ll easily make money.
Tread with caution before you jump in headfirst. As a ten billion dollar industry, custom t-shirt creation is a competitive field. To be successful, you need a niche and a recognizable brand. These steps will get you there.
1) Plan your budget
As with any business, you’ll always want to start with a deep dive into your budget. How much will it take to get your store off the ground? The materials are relatively inexpensive once you have the equipment to customize the t-shirt or the dropshipping company to order them in bulk. Your main expenses will be your office overhead, your website (most sellers use Shopify), and marketing. Because of the low cost, a t-shirt printing business is often profitable quickly.
2) Design your business
Start by determining how you’ll stand out from the competition. Will your t-shirts be higher quality than others? Do you have a license to print copyrighted images that are prohibited to other t-shirt sellers? Research the competition in your area, and then delve a little deeper and analyze what people are buying online. You could expand to a nationwide or global market with cheap shipping options.
3) Determine how you’ll design your t-shirts
What designs are you going to offer? What programs are you using to create them? Are you artistic enough to make unique designs that will attract a particular market?
It’s best to start with a small, core number of offerings and then build up. Otherwise, your audience may get overwhelmed, or it may be too expensive to market all of them. If you aren’t artistic enough to create your image, consider outsourcing to a graphic artist on Fiverr, Freelancer, or Upwork.
4) Verify your choices
Remember, your tastes may not match your target markets. Before you start selling, do what most businesses do and run your product choices by a sampling of your target market. You can ask people you know who happen to be your ideal customers, or post them on a design forum once they’re watermarked.
Many early stage entrepreneurs use discussion platforms like Reddit to help them guide business decisions. Post your mockups and prospective designs on matching feeds and subreddits, and see what reactions you get. Since the posts are anonymous, you’re more likely to get honest critiques.
5) Find your material
Where will you be getting the material to create your t-shirts? There are many wholesale clothing businesses that will sell you high-quality shirts in bulk to establish and replenish your industry. Avoid “cheap,” low-quality options that can harm your reputation.
If your t-shirts shrink or rip easily, your brand name and reputation will feel the impact. You are trying to build your brand right now. If your company becomes known for soft, long-lasting, wearable t-shirts with colorful images that don’t fade or wear off, you’ll attract more word-of-mouth referrals. When you print your designs, you can do so with your own equipment or partner with local printing businesses.
As you get started, focus on saving money without sacrificing quality. This could mean switching from a “small” order to a slightly larger order. Since you’re buying in bulk, you’ll get a discount that may not cost you too much more than you budgeted for.
6) Determine pricing
Now that you know how much your material is going to cost, and you’ve evaluated your overhead, you’ll be able to determine a price to sell your shirts. To do this, figure out how much of a profit you want to make.
Most businesses aim for a 50% profit, which means taking the cost and multiplying it by two. This gives you your base unit price. If you’re trying to corner the market, don’t reduce your base price. Instead, offer “discounts” and “sales” that reduce your individual profit margin but frequently increase the number of sales you get and give you an edge over your competitors.
7) Handle the business side
You may need to get a retail or sales tax license to sell in your area. Check with your state’s requirements. Head to irs.gov and file for an EIN (employee identification number). Consider establishing your business as a sole proprietorship or a limited liability corporation once you begin making sales. These designations reduce your tax burden later.
8) Start selling
As soon as you’re legally ready to sell, go for it! If you’ve already developed your online presence or website, you can start marketing it on social media and other advertising avenues. Everyone’s preferred method of marketing is different.
Do some market research on your ideal customers and the area where you plan to sell, and see which methods are the most lucrative and successful. It could be as low-cost as posting on social media for a few dollars a month. Or, you may want to advertise with local outlets. The sooner you get your company’s name out there, the faster you’ll start selling and earning a profit to cover your expenses!