How to Start a T-Shirt Business: 6 Step Comprehensive Resource Guide

It’s no secret that the t-shirt business is an oversaturated
market. Due to the ease of entry and low cost of supplies, it’s
become one of the more popular businesses for new entrepreneurs
to start. Because of that, it gets a bad reputation in some
communities for being an “easy” path to success. However, as
we’ll explain in this article, there are many benefits to
starting your own t-shirt business both for yourself and also
for the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Whether you’ve already been interested in starting your own
t-shirt business, or any kind of business, and you just didn’t
know how to begin, you’ll learn the whole process of starting a
t-shirt business from scratch that you can follow along to
replicate yourself.

This article will cover everything you need to know to build a
successful t-shirt business including:

How to Select a Niche Market

How to Create Your T-Shirts

How to Brand Your Business

How to Set Up Your Website

How to Generate an Audience

How to Make Your First Sales

How to Continue Building Your Business

If you want to get started building your first t-shirt business
using the best tools and resources, then keep reading. If
you’re interested in learning more about how to start your own clothing
line, check out this post.

Why You Should Start A T-Shirt Business

As we just mentioned, starting your own t-shirt business can be
beneficial for both you and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
What does this mean?

Starting a t-shirt business can be beneficial for you because:

It’s easy to get started.

You can pursue it as a side hustle.

It can be fully automated.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it up and
running.

You can operate your own business without incurring
substantial risks.

T-shirt businesses are important for the entrepreneurship
ecosystem because:

They’re not too intimidating to get up and running.

They’re an achievable business model for first time
entrepreneurs to start.

Their ease of entry encourages people to start their first
business.

They teach new entrepreneurs how to operate a business.

They help new entrepreneurs learn basic skills that are
relevant to operating other businesses.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that everyone learns how
to start their own business by actually starting a business,
and you’ll learn more from starting your own business than any
blog post or video can teach you. T-shirt businesses are easy
to automate and require a small amount of money to get started-
check out this case study on an entrepreneur who started a
t-shirt business in 24 hours
with only $24 – so new entrepreneurs don’t have to risk a lot
to learn what it’s like to start and maintain their own
business.

Where to Start

For any successful business there is one single, most important
way to start. Every business, whether purposefully or not,
starts this way, or else they’ll have to determine it as they
go along, resulting in setbacks and challenges. The single most
important thing every business needs to determine is their
niche market.

What is a Niche Market?

What is a niche market? A niche market is a specific group of
people joined together by a common interest that is typically a
subset of a larger market. Think of it like this: every person
in the world has interests and those interests categorize them,
consciously or not, into niche markets. The important aspect to
note about niches is that they are specific enough to account
for a substantial amount of people, while not being too large
or too broad.

Simply choosing “Females” as your niche market is too broad.
Females are interested in many different things, they are a
broad range of ages, activity levels, geological locations, and
have varying skills and values. “Females” are a market, but not
a niche market. “Females aged 16-25 who play basketball” is a
more specific, without being too broad. There’s a substantial
portion of the world’s population who fit the description of
this niche market without it being too limiting.

The purpose of niche markets is to define a target group of
people who your t-shirts will appeal to. If you have no niche
market, then you’ll have too broad a range of people to try to
sell to which can become overwhelming and fruitless. Targeting
ad campaigns becomes difficult, your branding can become
directionless and there will be no identifiable passion fueling
your business. Niche markets are passionate about their
interests because, well, they’re interested in them! If you
feed into their interests then their community is likely to
extend their passion to your business.

Examples of Niche Markets

Backpacking

Crossfit

Figure Skating

Gardening

Horseback Riding

Veganism

Yoga

Check out more on How to Use Niche Marketing to
Grow Your Business here.

How to Find Your Niche

One of the best ways to approach choosing a niche market is to
choose a niche that you are a part of. This is useful for many
reasons. If you’re personally interested in the niche you’ll:

Know what the niche values and what appeals to it.

Be able to identify gaps in the market more easily.

Clearly understand your market because you are a part of
it.

Be more likely to stick through the challenges of building
the business as it’s something you’re passionate about.

Finding your niche is the most important first step to take in
your t-shirt building process because it will dictate the
future of your business and how you make every decision after
this.

Take your time browsing different niche ideas, thinking about
your own niche interests and how you can translate that into
designs for a t-shirt, but also don’t get caught up in finding
something “perfect”. You don’t need to have everything figured
out all at once, and don’t overanalyze your decisions as over
analysis leads to paralysis in business. Think about your
niche, but don’t get too caught up finding the “perfect” niche,
as perfection is unattainable. Think about it, pick it and move
on. Worse case scenario is it doesn’t work out halfway through
and you have to revisit this step, which is fine.

Validating Your Niche

Once you’ve chosen a niche market it’s important to validate it
before you actually start investing time and resources into it.
This can help you to see the bigger picture and identify any
foreseeable challenges and setbacks before they happen so you
can be aware and prepared.

How to Validate Your Niche

Validating your niche comes with a set of criteria by which you
can measure it up against.

What’s the potential size of the niche market? How large or
small is it?

Is this a large niche market that is well known and
recognizable, or is this a hyper-niche market that’s under the
radar?

This will determine the amount of potential customers
you’ll be able to sell to.

Who’s your competition?

Are there companies already servicing this niche market in
the same way you want to?

This will determine how you will differentiate your
t-shirts, whether it be through price, quality selection or
branding.

Is this a trend, fad or growing t-shirt market? Will it die
out eventually or is it stable?

Do you anticipate this t-shirt market being around long
term or is this something you can capitalize on short term
only?

This will determine how long you can expect your business
to be relevant for.

Who’s your target customer?

Will they be likely to look for your t-shirts online? Do
they have credit cards and the savvy to shop online? Where and
how are they likely to search for shirts like yours?

Measure your niche market up against these criteria to identify
any potential challenges you might face, or any opportunities
that might arise. You aren’t necessarily looking for a perfect
niche that passes through these criteria with flying colors,
you just want to be as prepared as you can be.

How to Turn Plans Into Action

Now that you’ve identified your niche and evaluated it for
potential challenges and opportunities, it’s time to get
started building this t-shirt business into fruition. The most
efficient way to do this is to set up some ground rules for
yourself first.

Identify how much money you are willing to spend on this
project.

Identify how much time you are willing to dedicate to
building this business.

Identify whether you want this business to fully automated
once you’re done setting it up, or if you want a more hands-on
approach.

These parameters are important for keeping yourself on track,
giving yourself an end goal to work towards and giving no power
to excuses. It’s easy to push off tasks until “tomorrow” or
“next week” if you have unlimited time to work on them, but
giving yourself a deadline is important for motivating you to
just get them done.

These parameters will also prevent you from getting lost in all
the choices available to you. As we said, the t-shirt market is
oversaturated so there can be endless amounts of choice. Can’t
decide between the super high quality $50 premium cotton
t-shirt or the $12 plus shipping generic poly-blend? Well if
your budget doesn’t support premium quality prices, generic it
is. Easy. It might not be perfect, but “perfection” isn’t going
to help you launch your first t-shirt business because there’s
always going to be something to perfect.

Start now with what you can, refine later.

You Have Two Options

You can manufacture t-shirts and print your designs on them
yourself.
This is a great option if you have a lot of money to spend
upfront on bulk t-shirt manufacturing, have the capital to
purchase a printer and ink, are interested in inventory
management and potentially operating at a loss if you can’t
manage to sell all your inventory. However, this is not the
easy entry option.

You can use a service that can do all that for you.
Services that manage inventory, print, fulfill and ship
orders are called drop shippers. You can have your t-shirt
orders printed and handled by drop shippers so all you have
to do is supply them with designs and your customer’s
addresses to ship them to. This is the easy entry
option. It requires no inventory management, you don’t have
to own and maintain printers, you don’t have to ship orders
yourself, you don’t have to pre-purchase any inventory and
you don’t have to worry about selling it all. The best part
is, you can use a drop shipping service and still make a
profit.

Option two is the method we recommend you use to build your
t-shirt business and it will be the focus of this article. It’s
a simpler process for first time entrepreneurs, it requires
less money upfront, it minimizes potential risks and enables
you to still make a profit and start your own business.

What is Drop Shipping?

Drop shipping is a service provided by wholesalers,
manufacturers, distributors or suppliers who makes their
product inventory available for their customers to sell without
actually having to pre-purchase any inventory from them or ship
the orders out themselves.

When you work with a drop shipping service, you advertise your
supplier’s products on your own website for your customers to
view, and when they place an order you manually or
automatically forward the order to your dropshipper, they
fulfill the order and then ship it to your customer.

Essentially, you’re the middleman. You provide products to your
customers and source the products case by case from your drop
shipper. T-shirt drop shippers also print your designs for you.

For more information on drop shipping and what it is, check out
our article Dropshipping 101: What is
Dropshipping.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Drop Shipping

Advantages

You don’t have to purchase or own inventory.

You don’t have to manage inventory.

You won’t lose money on unsold inventory.

You don’t have own capital and equipment.

You don’t have to manage employees.

You don’t have to print, ship and fulfill orders.

Disadvantages

You have limited control over the range of inventory.

You have no control over inventory availability.

Your profit margins are smaller than they would be if you
were to manufacture.

Managing returns and exchanges can become complicated.

How to Choose a Dropshipper

Now that you know what drop shipping is, how do you choose a
dropshipper for your t-shirt business? This can be based on a
few factors:

If you have a specific type of t-shirt in mind, like a
specific style or fabric, find a dropshipper who stocks that
type of shirt.

If you want the largest profit margins possible, find a
dropshipper who offers the lowest prices.

If you plan on creating a completely automated business,
choose a dropshipper who has an app that integrates with the
ecommerce platform you use (more on ecommerce platforms later).

Depending on your location or the location of your
customers you may want to choose a dropshipper who is based
conveniently.

If you want to use a specific printing method (more on
printing methods in Part 3).

Each drop shipping supplier will have unique advantages and
disadvantages, it’s up to you to evaluate what you can and
cannot compromise on. Shop around to see what each dropshipper
has to offer and what will benefit your business the most.

T-Shirt Drop Shipping Services

Each of these companies provide t-shirt drop shipping services.
We recommend taking your time to look at a few of them, see
what they have to offer you and if they stock the styles,
colors and fabrics you’re looking for.

It’s important to note that many of these dropshippers also
stock more than just t-shirts, so if you think you’ll be
interested in expanding your product range after you get
started, keep that in mind while looking through these
dropshippers. Always remember to do your own due diligence and
evaluate each of these companies thoroughly to make sure you
find the right fit for you.

Amplifier (USA)Example UK (UK)Kite.ly (UK)InkThreadable (UK)Libertees (USA)Merchify (USA)Print Aura (USA)Printful (USA)Printify (USA)Shirt Monkey (UK)Tee Talkies (India)T-Shirt & Sons (UK)

If you’re interested in fully automating your business once
it’s set up, some of these drop shipping services may be
applicable for you while others may not. Read on to find out
how to fully automate your t-shirt business.

How to Fully Automate Your T-Shirt Business

This is important to discuss at the beginning, before you’ve
even built your business because it will influence how you
select the drop shipping service you’ll use. Not every drop
shipping service is capable of creating a fully automated
service so if that’s what you’re looking for you’ll have to
choose accordingly.

Benefits of Fully Automating Your T-Shirt Business

You don’t have to manually pass on orders to your
dropshipper.
If you don’t use an automated drop shipping service you’ll
have to make an order with your dropshipper every time a
customer makes an order from you. This can be fine for the
beginning once you first launch your store when you have
little traffic, but as your business grows and more and more
orders start coming in it can be a lot of work to manually
pass orders on.

Orders can be accepted and fulfilled when you aren’t
around.
No matter where you are, what you’re doing, whether you and
your customers or dropshipper live in different time zones,
orders can be fulfilled without you having to send them over
manually.

You don’t have to actively keep track of orders.
No matter how great your organizational skills may be,
keeping track of order numbers, dates of orders, sizes,
addresses, SKU numbers, etc. is a lot to keep track of with
ample room for human error to occur. Automated services
prevent order information from changing hands so there’s a
smaller chance of mistakes occurring.

Less work for you to do.
By using an automated drop shipping service there’s so much
less work for you to do when it comes to the actual
order-fulfilling process so you can focus on other things
like providing exceptional customer service and a really
smooth customer experience.

How to Find Out if a Dropshipper Offers an Automated Service

There is an easy way to do this, or a hard way.

Hard Way: Search multiple dropshipper’s websites for
information on whether they are compatible with any ecommerce
platforms and which ones.

Luckily, Printful makes it clear
who they integrate with, so if you choose to work with them you
know upfront which ecommerce platforms they’re compatible with.
Unfortunately, not all drop shippers are that clear about it,
so you’ll need an easier way to figure it out.

Easy Way: Search your ecommerce platform’s app store for
t-shirt dropshippers to get a list of which ones they’re
compatible with.

With a simple search in the Shopify App store you know all the
drop shippers you can work with to run a fully automated
business.

We keep mentioning ecommerce platforms but what are they and
why are they relevant to your business and the drop shipping
service you choose to use?

How to Choose an Ecommerce Platform

An ecommerce platform is the host platform that’s going to
support your online website. By using an ecommerce platform you
are able to create a website and sell products to your
customers.

You basically have two options when it comes to creating your
business’ website: you can build a self-hosted website
yourself, or you can build a website via an ecommerce platform.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of ways to
create a website, however, for new entrepreneurs starting their
first business it is STRONGLY recommended that you build your
business’ website on an ecommerce platform for various reasons.

Benefits of Building Your Business’ Website on an Ecommerce
Platform

Increased Security.
Because ecommerce platforms are hosted websites they offer
much more security for you and your customers than
self-hosted websites. If you self-host your website you’re
the one who’s going to have to put security measures in place
and routinely monitor them, but when you use a hosted
platform their team does that for you.

Ease of Setup.
Ecommerce platforms make it easy for you to set up your
website by having customizable themes and templates so you
don’t have to focus so much on the coding aspect of creating
a website. This is great for you if you have none or very
little coding experience as it makes creating a beautiful
website easy and stress free.

Technical Support.
If you operate a self-hosted website then you are the
technical support. You’re in charge of making sure your
website is running properly, that there are no hiccups or
bugs, and that everything is in working order at all times.
Hosted ecommerce platforms take care of the behind-the-scenes
tech stuff so you can focus on creating your business and
come to them for help if you need it.

Cost Effective.
Self-hosted websites may look like they’re cheaper to set up
because of low yearly domain payments, however, large costs
can crop up unexpectedly. Most ecommerce platforms charge a
monthly fee (or you can save money by paying upfront for a
year) which is stable, predictable, cheaper than owning and
operating a brick-and-mortar store and accounts for top-notch
security and peace of mind.

Ease of Day-to-Day Use.
Because ecommerce platforms focus on handling the tech side
of things and make setting up your own website easy, you can
manage your website without frustration on a day-to-day basis
which really is invaluable. Ecommerce platforms just work
which is exactly what you want them for.

Popular Ecommerce Platforms

For your t-shirt business we’d recommend one ecommerce platform
above the rest simply because it’s the best option for this
kind of business. Shopify is one of the leading
ecommerce platforms available based on its ease of use,
customer education and support, app store, theme store and
overall customer experience. It’s top of the leaderboard in the
ecommerce industry at the moment and they host hundreds of
thousands of established businesses and startups alike.

We cannot recommend Shopify enough and highly
suggest you consider it your first choice to host your t-shirt
business. If you need more information, check out this Shopify Review.

Check out this video to help you startup your
Shopify store.

However you do have alternative options. You may also want to
look into:BigcommerceSquarespace

How to Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform For Your T-Shirt
Business

When building your t-shirt business the right ecommerce
platform that works the best for you really is going to come
down to:

Price.
Since you’re just starting out and perhaps working within a
budget, your choice of ecommerce platform may be influenced
by the price of the service. Shop around for the price that
works the best for what services you’re receiving.

Ease of Setup.
If you’re new to creating websites, you may want to look for
the most user-friendly ecommerce platform when it comes to
website themes and templates.

App Integrations.
If you’re looking to fully automate your business, your drop
shipper’s app must be able to integrate with your ecommerce
platform if you want your orders to be automatically put
through to them. Search each ecommerce platform’s app stores
for which drop shipping companies they integrate with.

It’s important to note that not all ecommerce platforms have
apps, therefore the ones that don’t will not allow you to fully
automate your business. Squarespace does not have an app store,
so if you were to choose it as your ecommerce platform then you
would have to manually forward your customer’s orders to your
dropshipper. This is not an advisable route for long term
scalability and success.

Some ecommerce platforms facilitate the use of third-party
apps, however, they may not always have the latest and greatest
app integrations available if they are not one of the more
popular platforms.

Since Shopify is one of the leading ecommerce platforms they
are the first to have new app integrations and they have the
largest selection of apps available. Simply search “t-shirt
drop shippers” on their app store and you’ll find
plenty of options to choose from that you can sync with your
store so you can be fully automated.

Now that you’ve completed all the research and sourcing parts
of your t-shirt business, it’s time to get into the branding
and design. This is the fun part, and the part that most people
already have ideas about before they actually start building
their business.

Creating Your T-Shirt Designs

We’re going to go ahead and jump right into creating t-shirt
designs. Often times the t-shirt designs will influence the
name and logo of the business so it can be a good idea to start
with the designs first so you don’t stray away from the name
and logo as your designs evolve.

How to Create Your T-Shirt Designs

There are several ways you can create your t-shirt designs:

You can create your own artwork.

You can hire a designer.

You can buy a design.

You can use templates to create your own designs.

Creating Your Own Artwork

If you’re artistically inclined or skilled with any sort of
artistic medium like calligraphy, etching or spray painting,
it’s entirely possible to create your own t-shirt designs.

The guidelines for creating your own designs via your own
artwork are pretty simple: do whatever you want. You’re the one
with the skills and you’re the one who’s going to be operating
this t-shirt business so make whatever t-shirt designs you’re
inspired to, whether that be image based designs or text based
designs.

All you’ll need to be able to do is get your artwork into
whatever file format your drop shipper requires so that they
can print your designs. Most dropshippers require PNG files,
JPG files or at least PDFs, so as long as you can turn your
design into a two dimensional format, you’re good to go.

To learn more about these different file formats and how
they’re used on the web, check out Optimizing Images for Web: A
Step-By-Step Practical Guide.

However, before you start creating your t-shirt designs be
aware of two things:

If you aren’t creating your artwork on the computer
already, you’re going to need some way to get it onto the
computer once it’s finished. That likely means you’ll need a
scanner of some description that doesn’t compromise the quality
of your artwork. Be prepared to face that challenge or find a
way to create your designs using a software like Adobe
Photoshop. Check out this course to help you learn the basics
of Adobe Photoshop.

Depending on the kind of designs you create you may need to
be selective of the dropshipper you choose to work with. Each
dropshipper will use different printing methods to get your
designs onto a t-shirt and some of those printing methods are
suited for some designs and don’t work well for others. Make
sure the drop shipper you plan to work with uses a printing
method that will allow your designs to translate well onto a
t-shirt whether it’s a text based design or a colourful and
intricate design. Check out the drop shipper’s website or reach
out to them if you have any questions regarding their printing
methods. Printing methods will be covered in further detail
later in this section.

Pros & Cons of Creating Your Own Designs:

Pros:

It’s inexpensive.

You get full creative control.

You can create designs quickly & when you need them.

They’ll be unique.
You’ll receive exposure for your talent/brand.

Cons:

Limited to your own abilities.

Possibility of Having Your Designs Copied.

Hiring a Designer

If creating your own designs isn’t plausible, you can always
hire someone else to do it for you. There are various different
websites and marketplaces you can go to online to find
designers and your only limitations will be the cost and
specific artistic style you’re looking for.

Where to Hire Designers

How to Hire a Designer

Read their reviews: Most, if not all, of the
websites you use to search for a designer should have a
section of previous customer’s reviews for you to look
through. This is a great place to get a sense of the
designer’s quality, turnaround time, work ethic, time
management skills or anything that’s relevant to how they’ll
perform their job. Remember that reviews are opinions
and they can be biased, so take that into consideration when
going through them.

Evaluate their portfolio: Have a look at the
designer’s portfolio see if their style matches with the
designs you have in mind. This is important because you
want a designer who’s the right fit for your brand. Just
because a designer is talented at creating one style of
design, doesn’t mean he or she will have the skills for
others.

Determine whether they fit into your budget:
Hiring a designer for a project can be as inexpensive as tens
of dollars or as expensive as thousands of dollars, so your
budget will influence the designer you hire. Consider
how many designs you’ll want them to create, any variations
of the designs, how often you’ll want them to create designs
for you or if it’s just a one time project.

Contact the designer: Contact them directly
or via the service you discovered them or by their email and
get a sense if your project is something they’d be willing to
accept, whether they have time to work on it, when they can
work on it, a quote of the cost and any other information you
need.

Be aware that hiring a designer can be very much so like hiring
an employee, meaning that they have the power to make your life
infinitely easier or harder, depending on how they work
individually and how you work as a team.

Don’t be afraid to contact multiple designers when you’re
initially looking for one and give each of them a trial project
to work on so you can get a sense of their work ethic and style
as it directly pertains to your project. You want to take your
time finding the right designer that fits your brand, as it can
impact your business positively or negatively in the future.

Keep in mind that you typically pay for what you get, so if
you’re looking for top-notch professional quality designs,
you’ll need to allow for that in your budget. Also remember
that designers should always be compensated fairly for their
time and their work, so be understanding of the time and effort
it may take them to create your designs, mock ups and edits,
and be ready to compensate them fairly.

Pros & Cons of Hiring a Designer

Pros:

You’ll have a bespoke design (or designs) for your business
only.

Your designer can create a unique brand for your business.

The quality of the designs will be at the professional
level.

You’ll have someone to create new designs on demand.

You and your designer will have full creative control of
the end result of the design.

Cons:

The cost of a quality designer can be pricy.

The process of creating designs from mockups, to edits and
then the final product can be lengthy.

Finding the right designer to work with initially can be a
time consuming process.

Purchasing Designs

If you aren’t able to create your own designs and don’t have
the budget for a designer, it is possible to purchase designs
already made. There are various different services that allow
you to purchase pre-made designs so have a look at any of the
following resources to see if they have any designs that may
suit your requirements.

Where to Purchase Pre-Made Designs

It’s important to note however, that because these designs are
so readily available, you aren’t the only business that may be
using them. Because if this it can be hard to differentiate
your brand in the long run and this is usually only a
short-term option only. So if you’re really bootstrapping your
t-shirt startup, by all means start with a pre-made design as
it’ll look more professional than trying to throw something
together yourself, but just know that this is only a short term
solution and you’ll be looking for a way to replace it within a
year of launching your business.

Pros & Cons of Purchasing a Design

Pros:

The design will be ready made for you to use.

You can have a professional looking design without the cost
of a designer.

Little effort is needed on your part to imagine a design
and have it brought to life, you can simply browse what’s
available.

Cons:

Other brands may be using the same designs.

Difficult to differentiate your brand.

Not a viable solution long term.

Your creative control is limited to what designs are
available.

Using Templates to Create Designs

The final option you have in terms of creating designs for your
t-shirts is to use a pre-made template that you can adjust to
your liking. Templates of all kinds are available for purchase
via many different services so there are plenty of options for
you to choose from. The benefit of using a template versus just
purchasing an entire design is that you can modify templates to
make them more relevant to your needs.

While the template itself may be used by other brands, it’s
likely to have been modified in a different way from yours so
that it’s not completely identical. While this option is still
not the best in terms of longevity, it will give you a
professional look that you can have some hand in creating,
without having to start from square one.

To edit the template you’ll need a software service
like Adobe Photoshop to make
adjustments to it. Check out this course, Basics of Photoshop:
Fundamentals for Beginners, to learn more about how to use
Adobe Photoshop.

Where to Purchase Templates

Pros & Cons of Using Templates

Pros:

Gives you a professional looking design.

You have some input into how the end result of the design
looks.

It’s less expensive than hiring a designer.

It’s adjustable and modifiable so it won’t be likely that
you find another brand with an identical design to yours.

Cons:

Limited in some aspects of how the design will look
overall.

Potential to have a similar looking design to another
brand.

Not an entirely long-term option.

The Design Process

Now that you’ve figured out how you plan to create your
designs, what does the design process actually look like? There
are three main steps to the process that you’ll have to work
through, encountering challenges and setbacks as you go.

Step 1: Ideation

This step in the design process is crucial because it’s going
to serve as the foundation and dictate every other decision
that follows. This is the step where you’ll start brainstorming
ideas for your design, how you want it to look, what you want
it to represent and how you want your designs to represent your
brand. Essentially you want to map out all of your ideas into a
logical plan so that you can build on it in the coming steps.

How to Work Through the Ideation Stage

At this stage free flowing thoughts and images are going to be
the key for your success. You want to be able to take all your
ideas for your designs, in whatever form they come to you, and
get them down on paper or into one specific place.

How to Keep Track of Your Ideas:

Brainstorm/Mind Map: If your ideas are all
over the place and you don’t have a cohesive way to explain
your design in sentences, start a brainstorm bubble or a mind
map to get all of your ideas down next to each other. Once
you’ve written all you can, take a look at all the words
there and categorize them or summarize them to narrow them
down. The purpose of this exercise is to take all the ideas
spinning around in your head and see them next to each other
so that you can start to create a more cohesive understanding
of your design. This will make it easier to explain to a
designer or to use for your own reference.

Write Jot Notes: If you’ve got a pretty
solid idea of what you want your design to look like or
specific elements you want to incorporate, write them down as
a list that you can reference easily. Again, the purpose of
this exercise is to get all your ideas out where you can see
them so it can be easily explained to a designer or
referenced as you’re creating your own designs.

Create a Moodboard: If you can’t describe
what you want your designs to be but you know what they want
to look like, create a moodboard of images that represent
your designs. These images can show exact elements of your
design like certain shapes or colours, or they can be more
abstract and give off a certain mood, vibe or color pallet.
Whatever it is you want your designs to look like, get it in
image form and onto a moodboard.

Draw It Out: This is the best option if
you’re creating the designs yourself, so in whatever medium
you plan to create your design, start working on some
preliminary mock ups. This will give you an idea of what
works and what doesn’t work so you can be more prepared for
the next step.

Moodboard Resources:

Step 2: Creation

After you complete the first stage you’ll be prepared to start
creating your designs. Whether this means you’re actually
physically creating it yourself, looking for templates online
or having a designer create it for you, the first step has
helped you know what you’re aiming for.

The creation process takes time and it usually isn’t as simple
as making the design and then it being done. Often you’ll
create a mock-up, a rough draft, a second draft, etc. with
edits in between to make the design perfect.

The more information you discerned in Step 1 of this process,
the easier you’ll make this step for yourself. If you’re
confident with your direction in Step 1 and truly considered
every aspect of the design, then this step should simply be a
matter of putting it all together. However, that isn’t always
the case and you may find yourself changing direction or
pivoting as you go along and that’s fine.

How to Work Through the Creation Stage:

Start With a Mock Up: Don’t go full out on
the first try of making your design. Just have a rough run
through, figure out where you want everything to go and just
get a design created.

Move Onto as Many Drafts as You Need: From
here you’ll be able to identify what worked and what didn’t.
You’ll know what went well and what needs more thought put
into it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Edits: Edits are
where the magic happens. This is where you’ll take your
design from being “good” to “better”. If you aren’t sure
where to make edits, put down your design and don’t look at
it for a day or two and then come back to it. That space
should give you time to recognize any glaring problem areas.
Otherwise, have a friend or family member look at the design
and see what they have to say about it unprompted. You’ll
understand a lot about your design based on their initial
facial expressions, body language and words.

Settle on a Final Design: The design may
never feel like it’s going to be done as there’s always
improvements to make. At some point you’re going to have to
take what you have and be okay with it as your final design
and just keep moving forward.

Step 3: Actualization

This is the final step in the creation process and most of the
hard work will be done by now. At this stage your design is
created and now it’s about fitting it and formatting it onto
the t-shirt of your choice. This is where you’ll see your
product come to life.

How to Work Through the Actualization Stage:

Format Your Design Onto Your T-Shirt: As we
said, the hard work is done at this stage and all you need to
do is put your finalized design onto your t-shirt mockups. Be
aware of any specific formatting or dimensions you need to
adhere to depending on how the t-shirt is being printed. Your
dropshipper will have all of this information available to
you on their website. Download Printful’s T-Shirt Templates
& Guideline Information here.

Make Minor Adjustments: Whether it be a
color or certain spacing or just a minor modification, make
it now before your shirts start to get printed.

Different Printing Methods: Depending on the
design you just created, it may need to be printed in a
specific way so it’s important to understand your options and
know what your dropshipper can offer you.

For more on the t-shirt creation process check out these two
courses:

Inspiration for t-shirt designs can be found here:

Printing Methods

Printing methods may have an influence on your designs and how
they end up being able to appear, so it’s important to
understand the different printing methods available to you, how
they suit different designs and how it may impact which
dropshipper you are able to work with.

The Four Main Printing Methods

Screen Printing

Screen printing is one of the oldest printing methods and has
stood the test of time because of the quality results it
produces. Screen printing only usually makes sense to utilize
when there are a large number of t-shirts with the exact same
design needing to be printed as it’s labour intensive and time
consuming to set up.

This printing method is utilized by some dropshippers, but they
usually still require bulk orders of t-shirts that you would
have to pay upfront to produce. This option doesn’t usually
make sense for new entrepreneurs as you’ll be more likely to
not want to product in bulk so you don’t have inventory to pay
for and manage.

Heat Transfer

As the name would suggest, this printing method uses heat to
print the design from special heat transfer paper onto a
t-shirt. This method is an old printing method, and it hasn’t
stood the test of time as well as the screen printing method as
it doesn’t product super high quality or long-wearing results.

This printing method may be used by dropshippers, but typically
it’s used by people printing and selling their own t-shirts
from scratch. The upfront cost to purchase a heat transfer
printing machine as well as the t-shirts and printing paper can
be immense and isn’t a recommended option for new entrepreneurs
as it’s costly, produces low quality results and is labour
intensive.

Direct to Garment (DTG)

This is a relatively new printing method that extremely cost
effective because it’s conveniently similar to an inkjet
printer, thus suitable for printing small orders. This printing
method yields high quality and lasting results that are less
labour intensive to achieve.

Most dropshippers will use the DTG printing method because of
its ease of use, colour accuracy and ability to print in small
quantities. This will be your best choice to print your designs
as it’s able to print both colourful and monochromatic colours
well and intricate patterns are not a problem.

All-Over Sublimation

This is another relatively newer printing method that’s
generating a lot of attention in the apparel drop shipping
world at the moment because it allows you to print a design all
over the entire garment as opposed to just in one place.

Some dropshippers offer all-over sublimation printing, so look
into it and see if it’s something that would elevate the look
of your t-shirts.

Choosing a T-Shirt Style

Each dropshipper is going to offer a different selection of
t-shirt styles for you to choose from. You’ll want to have and
idea in your head of which kind of style (or styles) you’re
looking for so you can find a dropshipper that offers what you
need.

Your options typically include short-sleeved t-shirts, long
sleeved t-shirts, cap sleeve t-shirts raglan t-shirts, pullover
hoodies, zip-up hoodies, tank tops, cropped t-shirts, crew
necks, v-necks, scoop necks, youth t-shirts, infant t-shirts
and unisex t-shirts. Depending on the dropshipper they may have
some, all or more of these options. It’s up to you to decide
which look you want to go for so you can pick a dropshipper
that has the styles you want available.

Check out this review for the best quality
t-shirts for printing.

Creating Mockups

Once you’ve finalized your designs and now have an idea of how
you want your t-shirts to be printed, it’s time to create
mockups. Essentially these are going to give you a sense of
what your final product is going to look like, and they can
serve as your product photos on your website.

Luckily, most t-shirt drop shipping services provide a
complementary mockup creating service so that you can create
your t-shirt mockups easily, for free, and typically on the
exact t-shirt style you plan to use. You can also provide
mockups to your dropshipper to help them understand the
placement of your design on your t-shirts which is useful
knowledge for them so your t-shirts appear exactly how you want
them to.

T-Shirt Mockups

These services are helpful tools to use to get a sense of what
your designs will look like on actual t-shirts. This can help
you manage the placement of your designs and communicate to
your dropshippers how you want the final product to look. Most
of these tools are free to use.22 Awesome T-Shirt Templates
& Mockups50 Free TemplatesCreative Market Realistic
T-Shirt TemplatesGoSpaces T-Shirt Templates &
MockupsGraphic River T-Shirt
MockupsPlaceIt ApparelPrintful Mockup GeneratorShirt MockupShopify T-Shirt Mockup Template
Generator

T-Shirt Templates

These are the best option for creating product photos of your
t-shirts for your website because they will give you a
realistic look without you actually having to take the product
photos yourself. Many of these templates also show the t-shirt
on the body which is helpful for your customers and typically
what they want to see when they’re shopping online. Most of
these tools require a small fee to use (around $10-$20) as well
as Adobe Photoshop to make
adjustments.Realistic T-Shirt
TemplateHanging T-Shirt TemplateGhosted T-Shirt TemplateIsolated Model T-Shirt
TemplatesMen’s Lifestyle Image T-Shirt
TemplatesWomen’s Lifestyle Image T-Shirt
TemplatesComprehensive Clothing Template
Bundle

Building Your T-Shirt Brand

Now that the details are finalized such as your t-shirt
designs, style, printing method and mockups, it’s time to start
building a brand around your t-shirts.

What is a Brand?

A brand is how someone thinks and feels about your company,
whether they’re a customer of yours or not, and their thoughts
and feelings are based on the sum of all the interactions they
have with your business.

A brand is a collection of expectations, memories, promises,
stories, thoughts, feelings and relationships between
businesses and people. A brand affects both customers and
noncustomers, and a business can control some aspects of their
brand while people’s experiences, reactions and interactions
dictate other aspects of a business’ brand.

Why a Brand is Important

As we’ve already mentioned, the t-shirt industry is
oversaturated, meaning many people are designing and selling
their own t-shirts to sell to consumers and without a brand,
there’s little to no reason why consumers should buy from your
t-shirt business rather than another one.

Defining your business’ brand also gives you a direction to
work in and helps you communicate your message and story to
consumers. It gives consumers something to relate to, which is
important because consumers buy from brands they like. Every
business has a brand whether they consciously play into it or
not, so if you’d like to have a hand in your t-shirt business’
brand, it’s advantageous to start when your business is new for
maximum desired effect and potential.

What a Brand Consists Of

Branding itself is a huge topic to cover as there’s lots to
know and learn about branding specifically, so if you’re
interested in learning in depth about branding and building a
brand then check out our Ecommerce Branding Guide.

In the meantime, these are the basics of branding your t-shirt
business:

Controllable Brand Elements

Brand Story

Business Name

Logo

Brand Colors

Typography

Photography Style

Uncontrollable Brand Elements

Customer Experiences

Customer Expectations

Word of Mouth

It’s important to differentiate the two types of brand
elements, controllable and uncontrollable, before you start
because it will impact what you’ll need to work on and develop
as a business. We’ll go into both elements in further detail.

Controllable Brand Elements

Controllable brand elements enable you to present your business
in an appeasing way to consumers. Everything about your
controllable elements should work in harmony with one another,
not contradicting each other and always aligned. This means
that they should use similar colors and fonts, complementary
styles, the same tone of voice and most importantly of all-
represent the same brand story.

Brand Story

Your brand story is the backbone of your business and it should
tell customers what purpose your t-shirt business serves, why
it was created, who wears these t-shirts, what they represent,
what they stand for, etc. Your brand story should be compelling
as it’s how your customers decide that your business is right
for them, that they’re aligned with your brand values and it’s
why they’ll choose to wear your t-shirts. Your brand story
should play a part in every aspect of your branding because it
represents why your brand is important and it sets you apart
from other brand. You should explain your brand story in full
detail on your website’s “About Page”.

Business Name

You business’ name is one of your first point of contact with
consumers and should represent as much of your brand story as
you can possibly fit into one or two words. Business names are
better short and sweet, the easier to spell and pronounce the
better, and should be easy to remember.

If you’re having trouble thinking of your business name try
using the Shopify Business Name
Generator or brainstorm some ideas and test them on
friends and family for spelling and pronunciation. Your
business name is important, so don’t approach the task too
flippantly, but also don’t let it hold you back from
progressing with your business.

SHOPIFY HOMEPAGE IMAGE
It’s also important to check which domain handles are available
for your business name before you finalize the name, so check
on Shopify’s Business Name
Generator, Namecheap, or any other domain
registrar.

Logo

Again, your business’ logo is one of the first points of
contact between you and consumers so it’s important that it
represents your brand accurately. Not all businesses choose to
create a brand logo, or to create an elaborate
one. Luxy Hair is a successful business that
simply uses stylized text as their logo, so it’s not integral
that your t-shirt business have a complex and professionally
designed logo. Of course, you can choose to create a beautiful
logo if you think it’s worthwhile for you.

You have several different options for creating a logo: you can
design one yourself, get a designer to create one, use a logo
making service or use a premade template.

Check out the logo making resources we recommend:

A Better Lemonade Stand Logo
MakerDribbble99DesignsSquarespace Logo GeneratorShopify ExpertsTailor Brands

Brand Colors

It’s common knowledge that colors evoke certain feelings within
people, so depending on the atmosphere you want to create
between your customers and your brand, choose appropriate
colors.

The importance of your brand colours starts on your website and
may even extend as far as the colors you pick for your
t-shirts. If you’re branding your business as being adventurous
and playful, you may choose bright colours for your t-shirts,
while if you’re wanting to exude a more minimal, fresh feel you
might pick black or white shades instead. Whatever colours you
choose will impact how your brand is perceived.

Resources to help you develop your brand colors:0to255Adobe Most Popular Color
PalletsAdobe Most Used Color
PalletsBrand Colors

Typography

Font matters. It subtly relays atmosphere and emotion to
written words, so choose brand appropriate fonts for your
website, logo and for your t-shirt designs if there’s text
involved. There are many resources you can source either free
or premium fonts from, so have a look and find one that speaks
well for your brand.

Font Resources:Creative Market FontsDafontFont Squirrel

Photography Style

Like all the other visual elements of a brand, photography
style plays into the mood of your brand and should reflect it
appropriately. You need to understand how you want your
customers to feel when they have your t-shirt in their life and
you should be aiming to represent that through your photography
style.

There are two main photos you take for your website, product
photos and lifestyle photos. Product photos should always show
the t-shirt clearly, in quality lighting with very little
distraction. For more on product photography check
out Product Photography: The
Ultimate DIY Guide.

Lifestyle photos should show your t-shirt in action. They
should show how it’s worn, where it’s worn or why it’s worn. It
should enable your customers to picture your t-shirt as a part
of their lifestyle.

Use stock photos and a little photoshop to create some
lifestyle photos:500pxCreative Market Lifestyle
T-Shirt TemplatesPexelsPixabayUnsplash

Uncontrollable Brand Elements

Uncontrollable brand elements are defined by your customers as
well as people who have never purchased from you. It’s
important to realize that these uncontrollable elements are not
solely limited to the individuals who have purchased from you
because that leaves out a large portion of people who have
drawn conclusions of your brand that you haven’t directly had a
point of contact with. It’s important to know your
non-customers’ impressions of your brand just as much as it is
important to know your customers’ impressions.

So how do people, your customers and non-customers, impact your
brand?

Customer Experiences

People start having an experience with your brand the moment
they come in contact with your first touchpoint, whether they
see your t-shirt on someone, get a glimpse of your logo, hear
your business name or listen to someone else talk about you.
From that moment that person is having either a positive,
neutral or negative experience with your brand whether you like
it or not. You have no control over what they’re seeing or
hearing, and you have no control over how they’re perceiving
their experience. The most you can do is provide the best
possible experience through every direct point of contact you
have with people, and hope that continues positively.

Customer Expectations

People, no matter how little contact they’ve already had with
your brand, have their own preliminary expectations. They
expect a certain level of quality when it comes to aspects of
your brand like your website, your customer service, your
shipping and packaging, as well as your product and this level
of expectation is different for everyone. Because it’s a
totally subjective experience that you don’t always have a hand
in controlling (like if their package is lost or late because
of the shipping courier, or if your t-shirt is of a different
quality than they expected), then they either form a positive,
neutral or negative opinion about you.

Ideally, you should always be aiming to exceed your customer’s
expectations, however, that isn’t always possible because their
preconceived expectations may not be realistic for you to meet.
All you can do is your best.

Word of Mouth

Lastly, an aspect of your brand you have no control over is
what other people are saying about your brand. Based on their
expectations and experiences with your brand, whether they’ve
actually purchased from you or not, they may speak in a
positive, neutral or negative way about your brand to other
people. This may or may not improve or damage your brand’s
reputation depending on any given situation, so again, the most
you can do is provide the best possible experience that you
have a hand in controlling directly and hope that doing so
encourages positive word of mouth.

For more on branding, check out this worthwhile course:A Staple of Branding: How to
Start Your Fashion Company by Jeff Staple
of Staple Design.

Trademarks & Copyrights

It’s common for new entrepreneurs to wonder if they should
trademark their branding or copyright their designs and if it’s
worth it. For this subject your best advice would be that of a
lawyer and there are many online law services available for you
to contact should you be interested in legal advice.

Trademarks apply to identifying elements of a brand such as
a logo.

Copyrights apply to literary and artistic works such as
designs, books and videos.

The short answer that we can provide you is no. It’s not worth
your while to formally file for trademark or copyright
protection purely because trademarks are only valid in the
country they’ve been registered in (unless you register a
special kind of trademark) and copyrights are immediately
granted to works of art, such as your t-shirt designs,
automatically and without you needing to formally register
them.

Registering for trademarks and copyrights can be a costly
expense for a new entrepreneur to stomach when they’re first
starting and it’s not something that’s mandatory. Your best bet
is to work on your brand so much so that people would rather
purchase directly from you rather than a counterfeit version of
your t-shirt design, so focus on creating a strong brand
identity.

However, always do your own due diligence and seek professional
legal advice.

Online Legal Resources:LawTrades (USA)Clarity (USA)Law Scout (Canada)Rocket Lawyer (UK)

Now that you’ve put together a product it’s time to get it on
the web so you can start selling to customers. First things
first, you need a website.

In Part 2 we discussed ecommerce platforms and we strongly
recommended that you chose Shopify as your
ecommerce platform host, as that is almost always the best
option for every ecommerce t-shirt business.

Your ecommerce platform is where you’re going to build your
website, and there’s four main steps you need to achieve. You
need to:

Design your homepage.

Integrate with your dropshipper.

Set up the rest of your website.

Launch.

Designing Your Homepage

Your homepage is one of the most important aspects of your
business as it is your main point of interaction with your
customers. You want to make sure that it’s easy to navigate, a
clear representation of your brand and displays your t-shirts
in an enticing way.

It’s Important for Your Homepage to Be:

Easy to Navigate.
You want your customers to be able to easily find what
they’re looking for.

Enticing to Your Customers.
You want them to be interested and excited about your brand
and your product.

Devoid of Distractions.
You don’t want your customers to click onto a link that leads
them off of your website, and you don’t want to distract them
from your products.

Representative of Your Brand.
You want your customers to immediately be able to understand
what you’re selling and what your unique value proposition is
within three seconds of being on your homepage.

Welcoming.
You want customers to see your homepage and trust your
business immediately.

It’s Important for Your Storefront to Have:

An Appropriate Theme.
The theme you choose for your website dictates the look, feel
and the layout. You want your theme to do your t-shirts and
brand justice, so choose one that fits your business’
style.Shopify Theme StoreOut of the Sandbox Shopify Themes 

Your Business Name & Logo
These are important to your brand and you want your customers
to undoubtedly know which website they’re on.

Your Unique Value Proposition
This is a few words or a short sentence that tells customers
why they need your product in their life and why it’s of
value to them.

A Clear Call-to-Action
Lead your customers through your website, don’t let them be a
deer in headlights, tell them to “Click Here For This” or
“Scroll Down For That” so they know exactly what to do and
where to go.

Lifestyle Photos of Your T-Shirts
Show your t-shirts in action and give your customers a vision
of how their life will look with your t-shirts in it.

Integrate With Your Dropshipper

This is how you’re going to be able to operate a fully
automated t-shirt business. If you’ve chosen your ecommerce
platform strategically, it will have an app integration with
your drop shipping service that enables you to link the two
together.

This means that every time a customer places an order for one
of your t-shirts it will be sent directly to your dropshipper
and they’ll be able to confirm the order, fulfill and ship it
without needing any additional input from you.

It’s highly recommended that you select a dropshipper who does
have an app integration with your ecommerce platform as it will
make your life much easier and your business easier to manage.

Printful, our preferred printing and drop shipping service, has
an entire article answering frequently asked
questions for the Shopify + Printful integration.

Setting Up Your Website

After you’ve setup your homepage it’s time to start on the rest
of your website. Similarly to your homepage, the rest of your
website also needs to be devoid of distractions, easy to
navigate, representative of your brand and enticing to
customers.

It’s Important for Your Website to Include:

An “About Us” Page
This is where you get to gush about your brand story and tell
your customers what you’re all about. The “About Page” is one
of the most frequently visited pages of any website so be
sure you utilize it to let your customers know about your
t-shirts and why they need one.

A “FAQ Page”
Another frequently visited page on most websites, the
“Frequently Asked Questions” Page should answer common
questions customers ask, or questions you will expect
customers to ask, so they don’t have to contact you and wait
for a response. Make everything as simple as possible for
your customers and provide as much information as you can
upfront.

Product Pages
Every different kind of t-shirt you’re selling on your
website needs to have its own product page. When your
customers click on a product your website will direct them to
the product’s page and that’s where they’ll learn necessary
information they’re interested to know like what sizes your
t-shirt comes in, what colors, and what styles.You should
also include additional images of your t-shirt, like what it
looks on the body, what the back looks like and any other
images you see fit. There should also be a compelling
description of the t-shirt like where it should be worn or
how it can be worn, plus you should also include the care
details (how to wash it, etc.) and what the fabric is made of
(cotton, polyester, blend, etc.)Answer all your customer’s
questions on the product page so they can feel satisfied
knowing what exactly the product is that they’re buying. This
will also save them from contacting your customer service
asking questions you could have easily answered.

T-Shirt Pricing
Before you launch you’ll need to put a price on your
t-shirts. This is where you’ll have to take into account how
much your dropshipper is charging you for your t-shirts and
how much profit you’d like to make per shirt.You’ll need to
find a balance between the cost of making the shirts, the
cost of shipping, your profit and how much you anticipate a
customer would be willing to pay, and find a number that
suits that balance. You need to at the very least cover the
cost of the shirts and the shipping, the profit you make is
totally up to you and probably lies between the cost of the
shirts & shipping, subtract how much you can expect a
customer will pay for the shirt.Make use of psychological pricing
strategies to help make your t-shirt prices seem
more appealing to customers, but don’t expect to be making a
large profit per shirt. Dropshipping as a business model
chews into your profit margins so aim to sell large
quantities of shirts rather than making large quantities of
money each time you sell a shirt.Tip: Make sure you know
which currency your dropshipper works in so when you’re
crunching numbers they’re all in the same currency. If you
can also let your customers know which currency your website
operates with so your prices make sense to them.
Checkout Shopify’s article to help you
with currencies. Don’t forget to figure out the correct
taxes either.

Contact Information
In the event that a customer needs to contact you to ask a
question or provide feedback, let them know the best way to
contact you and within how long they should expect a
response. You should be able to respond quickly to your
customers (within 24 hours is ideal) through whichever method
of contact you prefer (email is typically the best), as
making your customers wait may force them to purchase from
another business.Use Google Apps for
Business or FastMail to get a
domain specific email handle like hello@t-shirtstore.com.Want
a business phone number you can use right on your own phone?
Check out Hushed.

Shipping Information
Let your customers know how their t-shirt will be shipped,
how much it will cost them, if they should expect any customs
or duties fees and how long they should expect their package
to arrive. Providing all this information upfront allows your
customers to create realistic expectations of your service so
they know what to expect.

Returns & Refunds Information
Let your customers know how and where they can return their
t-shirts and what your refund policy is. Since you’re working
with a dropshipper who handles the t-shirt fulfillment,
you’ll need to get familiar with how they handle returns and
how that will work for your business.Use these to create a
Returns & Refunds document:Returns & Refunds Policy
Generator

Privacy Policy/TOS Information
It’s mandatory to provide Legal and Terms of Service
information on your website, which can be drawn up by a
lawyer or by online generator services. This information
helps to protect your business and your customers so it’s
important to have available.Use these to create the
documents you need:Privacy Policy
GeneratorTerms & Conditions
GeneratorTerms of Service
GeneratorTerms of Use Generator

Launching Your Website

The final step is to launch your business! It’s important to
realize at this point that just because you’ve built a business
does not mean that customers will immediately start trickling
in. You’ve done a lot of work up until this point to create
your t-shirts and get your business ready for customers, but
once you’ve removed the password protection from your store and
officially launched, it’s time to start working on generating
traffic.

Just because you’ve built a business does not mean customers
will magically come. It’s up to you to use strategies to
generate traffic to your store so you can start selling your
t-shirts.

How to Get Sales

In case we haven’t said it enough already, the t-shirt business
is a saturated market. There are lots of other t-shirt
businesses and that’s going to impact how you make sales. No
matter how cool your designs are, you’re not selling a product
consumers can only get from just you, so you need to be very
specific with who you target. Remember your niche market?

Sell to Your Niche Market

This is where your niche market comes into play. At the
beginning of this post we went into a lot of detail determining
the right niche market and ultimately you built a business that
should appeal to the niche market you chose. Now’s the time to
target that market.

They are your ideal customers. They’re passionate about your
niche and people like to spend money on their passions. All you
have to do is make yourself known to them. So how do you do
that?

Go where they go.

Where does your niche market hang out?

Do they have a Facebook group?

Are they on Instagram?

Do they have a subreddit on Reddit?

Do they hold organized events?

Are they at fairs or markets?

Can you find them at festivals?

Any place your niche market hangs out is an opportunity to
target them. Become a part of these groups, engage in their
communities and take part in their events. Even if it just
means getting your business exposure and not necessarily sales
at first. Just make your business known in as many ways as
possible.

Strategies to Get Sales

Beyond just making your business known to your niche market
there are strategies you can implement to get sales. These
strategies can help get you up and running, generate some
traffic and momentum and help get your t-shirts out there.
Here’s what you can do.

Sell to Friends and Family.
This will be your most accessible group of people to sell
your t-shirts to initially and can help give you a boost of
motivation when you’ve just launched. Contact your friends
and family, show them what you’ve been working on and
encourage them to show their support by purchasing a t-shirt.

Setup Your Business on Social Media.
It’s never too early to get your business on social media so
register on all the platforms that make sense for your
business whether that be Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest,
Facebook, Youtube, etc. Start engaging with your niche market
by following, hash tagging, commenting and posting so you can
get your brand out there and get people who are interested in
your t-shirts following your accounts. Making your business
present on social media is the easiest and fastest way to
introduce your brand to relevant markets.
Check out Shopify’s article on growing a large Instagram
account from scratch.

Run a Contest or Giveaway.
This is a great way to get your business on the radar of lots
of people and generate buzz around your brand. To do this
you’ll want to use a tool like VYPER or Gleam which generate
viral giveaways to encourage consumers to sign up and share
with their social platforms. Try it out and see how it can
boost your sales.

Produce Paid Advertisements.
Paid advertisements are hugely important on social media
platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Reddit, and
can be a very lucrative opportunity when done right. You may
have to spend some time tweaking your advertisements before
you get the right mix of what you need for it to be
successful, so if you have time, patience and some cash, paid
advertisements can drive a lot of traffic to your website.
You can also pay for sponsored posts by social media
influencers, depending on your budget, as that’s a lucrative
way to target a niche market.Facebook Ads Instagram Ads Pinterest Ads Reddit Ads 

Implement an Email Capture.
This is a long play strategy and won’t likely get you many
sales in the short term, however, it will help you to build
access to an interested audience that you’ll be able to make
sales from eventually.In ecommerce emails are king because
they’re free to send, you don’t have to bid for the top spot
in a customer’s inbox and essentially the people who sign up
for your newsletters are volunteering themselves as being
interested in your brand. These are the ideal candidates to
sell to.Your email list will start at nothing but the more
effort you put into sending out valuable information the more
it will grow. You can send out information such as new
t-shirt designs you’ve launched, new t-shirt styles you’re
printing on, other news that’s relevant to your niche market,
exclusive discounts, or share social media images of
customers wearing your t-shirts. Do what you can to promote
your brand through your free marketing channel.The best way
to acquire emails is to:
– Give customers an incentive for signing up like a discount
or a free product.
– Have customers create an account with your website in order
to check out.
– Use a tool that creates pop-ups like the SumoMe List Builder or the Picreel Exit Offers. They may be annoying but
they work.Email Capture Resources:MailChimp: Free for up to 2,000
subscribers.Klaviyo: Advanced email marketing.AWeber: Affordable email marketing.

Create Content.
Create content on your social media platforms to entice
customers that are interested in your brand. You can create
any kind of content whether it be Instagram posts, Youtube
videos, or blog posts, just create on any platform that makes
sense for your business.Content will help people engage and
become interested in your brand and the more they identify
with it the more likely they’ll be willing to purchase one of
your t-shirts.Check out Shopify’s Beginner’s Guide to Content
Marketing for helpful information and tools to
create your best content.

What to Do If You Aren’t Getting Any Sales

If this is your first business it’s likely that you may have
trouble generating consistent sales at first, so don’t get too
frustrated. Sometimes all it takes is a revamp of your sales
strategies and small change in direction to get where you want
to be. This is a learning process, so be willing to try new
tactics and don’t get too discouraged.

Regroup

Identify the problem. It could be anything from poor product
photos, expensive shipping fees, a confusing website, a poor
quality product, an overpriced product, lack of exposure, poor
SEO, inauthentic content, an unconvincing brand story or a
combination of any of these factors.

Take a hard look at every aspect of your business and figure
out what changes can be made. If you can’t achieve an objective
perspective, have family or friends help you out. Your best
bet, however, would be to have strangers with an unbiased
opinion towards your business take a look. Post a thorough
question or request to the r/entrepreneur subreddit on Reddit for advice and suggestions you may
not have be able to observe yourself. Basically you just want
to figure out what’s not working so you can fix it.

Retarget

A major challenge you may be facing if you aren’t getting any
sales is that you may not be targeting the right market.
Re-examine your niche market to find out if your product
directly adds value to it, or if you’ve begun to stray away
from your niche since you originally identified it at the
beginning.

Perhaps your niche market has shifted slightly and you’ve been
marketing to the wrong group of people. Maybe you need to
target a larger niche market or a smaller niche market. Perhaps
you need to target an entirely different niche than you
originally thought. This may take some time to evaluate and
retarget, but you’ll eventually find out where your brand fits
in.

Remarket

It’s easier and cheaper to sell to current customers than it is
to acquire new ones. You have a t-shirt business and people
typically wear more than one t-shirt in their daily lives. That
means you have a great opportunity to sell more than one of
your products to your customers. Utilize that opportunity!

Create an incentive for your customers to purchase again from
you whether that be a stellar unboxing experience,
a packing insert with a discount code for their next order
(Printful enables you to send
your branded packing inserts) or fun new products for them
to get excited about. Do what you need to to make them want to
purchase from you again.

What does a t-shirt business look like in the long run? What
sort of strategies can you implement to make it successful long
term?

Utilize Your Email List

If you’re maintaining a steady amount of traffic and you’ve got
your email capture method figured out you should be growing
your list. Continue to make use of this list to send out weekly
or monthly news and updates, sharing your content and your
products to the people who have raised their hands and put
their names down to say they want to know what your brand is up
to. These people are important, so keep up with your email list
and you’ll continue to grow a dedicated group of customers.

Continue to Better What’s Already Working

If customers are loving your t-shirts, bring out some other
apparel or homewares. If your social media content is
generating lots of views or likes, keep at it. If your paid
advertisements are sending lots of traffic your way, keep
investing in it. Just keep focusing on what’s working and
building that platform of whatever is driving traffic and sales
to your store. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Just keep
working on it and it’ll keep growing.

Sell on Other Marketplaces

Your t-shirts may do well selling on other marketplaces such
as Etsy, Amazon or Ebay so don’t rule those out as
possibilities even when you have your own ecommerce store. The
benefits of selling on marketplaces is that they already
generate lots of traffic and lots of consumers are actively
searching for products, so make use of that opportunity. Use
other marketplaces as a tool to help generate traffic back to
your own ecommerce site and to gain exposure.

Get Feedback

Contact your customers, let them know that you’re a new
business and you want to know what you can do to improve. You
want to be evolving in the direction your customers want to see
you going, so ask them what they’d like to see from you. This
can help you to realize problems you never knew you had and it
will help you to create a positive experience for your
customers in the future.

Conclusion

You now know the entire process of what it takes to create a
t-shirt business and it’s time for you to start your own.

A t-shirt business is a great entry-level business for new
entrepreneurs because it doesn’t cost a lot to start and
working with a dropshipper that can integrate with your
ecommerce platform makes the process easier and automatable for
you. You can start and run this business as a side hustle to
make extra cash in your downtime because it’s not time or labor
intensive to start up, and it can be fully automated once your
ecommerce platform and dropshipper are integrated.

By starting a t-shirt business you get to learn some
fundamental ecommerce business skills such as niche selection
and validation, design creation, branding, setting up a
website, getting traffic and making sales that are the basis of
any business. A t-shirt business is a perfect low risk way to
implement these skills, play around with them and learn from
them without being afraid to make a costly mistake.

The best way to learn how to start a business is to actually
start your own, so follow along with this guide, make use of
the tools and resources and get your t-shirt business up and
running.