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How to Start a Successful Online T-Shirt Business in 2024: The Definitive Guide

How to Start a Successful Online T-Shirt Business in 2024: The Definitive Guide

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T-shirts are timeless.

They’re the ultimate fashion chameleon. T-shirts can dress up, dress down, and express the wearer’s unique personality. They’re always in demand.

And starting a t-shirt business is easier than ever.

E-commerce business platforms and print-on-demand companies make it simple to start selling unique, one-of-a-kind t-shirts. This is why so many beginner entrepreneurs start a t-shirt company. Even experienced entrepreneurs love the t-shirt industry and often start t-shirt companies as side hustles.

So, whether you’ve always wanted to run your own t-shirt company featuring your unique designs or just looking for an easy way to test the entrepreneurship waters, now is a perfect time to get started.

Over the past fifteen years, our team has helped thousands of entrepreneurs start t-shirt and other clothing businesses in the U.S. and worldwide. We’ve helped some of them write business plans for t-shirt and clothing brands and lines and have helped many with unique t-shirt designs . And our expert designers have designed t-shirts for some of the world’s most popular brands, bands, and festivals. We frequently mentor entrepreneurs and business owners on starting e-commerce businesses, dropshipping business models, building new fashion brands, and other topics that drive success in the clothing industry. This guide shares our actionable insights, tips, best practices, and expertise.

How to Start a Successful Online T-Shirt Business:

Develop your t-shirt brand, fill in the business blanks, crunch the numbers, plan your t-shirt line.

  • Build your web presence

Create a sales plan

Spread the word.

online t shirt business plan

Let’s get started.

Step one of starting a successful t-shirt business? Develop your brand identity.

online t shirt business plan

When you start your own t-shirt business, you cannot understate the importance of your visual identity – especially in fashion.

T-shirts are very personal because our clothing choices are one way we define our identity – to both ourselves and the world.

As a result, the brands we choose to wear and the labels we display on our clothes become an extension of who we are and how we see ourselves.

In particular, the millennial generation has been shown to desire an authentic connection with their clothing brands. Fabrizio Moreira writes :

They want a brand “experience,” they want authenticity. It follows, then, that having a message that resonates with these consumers, and staying authentic to that message, is one of the few ways to break into the cutthroat fashion industry as a small brand…

So, before you brainstorm your first t-shirt design and get ready to start your t-shirt company, ask yourself these important questions:

  • What identity do I want my t-shirt brand to project?
  • Who will want to wear my t-shirts? What is my target demographic?
  • How saturated is the target market for my t-shirts?
  • What can customers get from my t-shirt company that they can’t get anywhere else?
  • What makes my t-shirts unique? Is it the material? The graphics? The message?
  • Is there a price point representing a sweet spot in my target market?
  • What is the most important part of my customer’s experience?

Your answers to these questions (and others like them) will build the core of your t-shirt brand. All of your future branding decisions should expand on these ideas. Your business name , company logo, and website design should grow from the concepts you laid out here.

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online t shirt business plan

  • How to Start a Business Checklist
  • Starting a Corporation Guide
  • Is an LLC Right for You?
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  • Starting Business Partnerships
  • Creating a Powerful Pitch Deck

So, take the time to think – think – about your t-shirt brand from the start. T-shirt businesses are popular entrepreneurial ventures because they’re so easy to start. That makes the market crowded.

But customers are people. And people respond to authentic brands to which they can relate.

So, develop a clear and authentic brand for your t-shirt company from Day One to increase your chances of success.

Choose your niche

Part of developing your t-shirt brand is figuring out who you are as an entrepreneur (and possibly designer) and your audience.

You can’t sell to everyone.

Trying to please everyone and do everything is impossible- and expensive. You’re more likely to succeed if you design t-shirts with a specific audience.

For instance, if you sell only sustainably sourced t-shirts made with eco-friendly inks, that should be reflected in your brand. That will make identifying your business easier for people passionate about environmentally responsible apparel.

So, you’ve got to define your niche before committing to a brand name or logo. Then you can choose a business name and obtain a custom logo that reflects your niche.

Here are some t-shirt niche examples:

  • High-performance athletic tees
  • Sustainably sourced organic t-shirts
  • Extra-comfy t-shirts for sleeping or lounging
  • Locally-grounded tees celebrating history or cultural touchpoints
  • Political or pop-culture references
  • Limited-edition t-shirt designs that cycle quickly
  • Exclusive members-only high-quality t-shirts

These examples are only here to spark your imagination. Ground your niche in your authentic interests.

But be sure to consider your total addressable market . Not every niche will support a lucrative opportunity for new entrants.

Whatever niche you choose, make sure you’re passionate about it. That passion will come through in your t-shirt designs and your messaging. And your audience will appreciate and embrace the authenticity of your brand.

So, what kind of t-shirts will you sell? And who are your unique customers?

Your visual brand

Every brand has visual components that help customers recognize and identify that brand.

The most obvious visual component of your brand identity is your company logo . However, many businesses also use specific brand colors , an illustration system , or other small signature graphic elements that help people remember them.

These types of branding elements are important for every business. But they’re particularly crucial for t-shirt businesses.

This is because your logo should appear on your t-shirts so that people can recognize that it’s from your online t-shirt store. So, your logo needs to jive with the designs on your shirts visually.

As we mentioned above, your logo should be a visual extension of the kinds of shirts you’ll be selling. If it looks out of place, your t-shirts will suffer, and your brand will look bad.

If you expand your visual brand identity with an illustration system or other signature graphic design elements, they can be incorporated into future t-shirt designs. So, it's a worthwhile investment that will pay you back in brand recognition and t-shirt revenues over time.

The importance of trademarking

Finally, ensure you get a custom logo that can be trademarked .

If you use a free logo generator to create your logo, you’ll get, at best, generic stock or clip art that cannot be legally trademarked.

This means thousands of other businesses can create t-shirts that look just like your logo to cash in on your brand’s popularity. And there’s nothing that you can legally do about it.

So, whether you get your logo at crowdspring (prices start at $299), or pay a design agency big bucks to do it, make sure you get a custom logo that will serve your t-shirt business as it grows and that you can legally protect.

Once you define your brand, you can think about the vitally important details of starting and running a t-shirt company. From choosing a t-shirt business structure to pricing, licensing, and permits to a business plan...

Starting a t-shirt company is pretty easy. But it’s still a business. And starting any new business involves jumping through a few hoops.

Hoop One: What’s your business structure?

The first hoop is to choose the business structure for your new t-shirt business. Sole proprietorship or LLC ? Incorporate or register a partnership ?

If you want to launch your t-shirt company quickly, a Sole Proprietorship may be the right choice. But give this some real thought. Your business structure can impact all sorts of things – like your personal liability for the company and how you’ll pay taxes.

Hire an expert to form your company and save time. Our trusted partners can help: Northwest ($39 + state fee) or Bizee ($199 + state fee) . We recommend Northwest. After evaluating the leading registration companies, Northwest stands out as our top choice due to its competitive pricing, exceptional customer support, and commitment to privacy. Pay just $39 + state fees and you'll get a free year of registered agent service, articles of organization, privacy, and client support from local experts.

So, making the right (or wrong) choice can affect your business in many ways.

Hoop Two: Paperwork? What paperwork?

After you clear the legal business structure hoop, you must file the necessary paperwork.

The U.S. Small Business Administration tells us that a license or permit is necessary for virtually every new business type. Their website has all of the info you need to find out what sort of license or permit you’ll need to start a business in your state.

Remember that most states require you to register your new business if the trade name under which you operate your business differs from the legal business name .

For example, if your registered t-shirt company is an LLC and is named Three Sisters, LLC, you can’t operate that business lawfully in most states if you’re selling products under the trade name Three Tigers. That’s because the registered name and your trade name are different.

Fortunately, this isn’t a difficult problem to solve. You can simply register your actual trade name with your state (and/or local government) by filing a “doing business as” (DBA) certificate.

DBAs are also commonly called “assumed name,” “fictitious business name,” or “trade name.”

Here’s a terrific resource that explains what a DBA is, the DBA state requirements, and how to file a DBA for your business in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

Hoop Three: Do you have a plan for your business?

Is the paperwork all squared away? Then it’s time to think about the specifics of your business.

Your business plan should include (at minimum) a statement about your t-shirt brand, a general description of your products (t-shirts, hoodies, anything else?), and a strategy for how you plan to sell them. The plan doesn’t need to be lengthy. Many outstanding one-page business plan templates can help you start quickly.

This is when you need to decide what kind of t-shirt company you will run in the first place.

Here are the two most common options:

Print-on-Demand

This business model, a variant of dropshipping business models , enlists the aid of a third-party vendor to print and ship pre-existing garments (like t-shirts and hoodies) to your customers.

You provide custom designs. Your print-on-demand (POD) vendor then applies the designs and ships the finished t-shirts to your customers as orders come in. So, you don’t have to store inventory, decorate shirts, or manage fulfillment (packaging/shipping).

Some print-on-demand companies, like Printful , even provide convenient mock-up generators (more about mock-ups below).

But, not all POD vendors are created equal. Here are some variables to consider when choosing a POD vendor:

  • Do they carry quality shirts that will satisfy your customers?
  • What printing techniques do they offer? Can they execute your designs well?
  • How long do they take to print and fulfill orders?
  • Do they offer a wide range of t-shirt styles that will appeal to your customers?
  • What profit margin do they offer?
  • Do they integrate with the e-commerce platform you plan to use?
  • What other services do they offer that may make your business easier to run?

This is one of the easiest t-shirt business models to set up. It works well for entrepreneurs who want to start quickly and without a large financial investment. But remember that some of your revenue goes to the third-party vendor that prints and fulfills your orders.

Pros for the print-on-demand business model

  • Typically, no (or low) set-up costs
  • High-quality prints (if you pick a good vendor)
  • Unlimited color options (but remember that price increases with the number of colors)
  • Ideal for small order quantities or one-off prints
  • Offers many different clothing options (t-shirts, hoodies, hats, jackets, leggings, socks, dresses, etc.)

Cons for the print-on-demand business model

  • Not cost-effective for large quantities
  • Few vendors offer volume discounts
  • Minimal print product selection (you’re limited to what the vendor offers)
  • Few customized finishing options (tags, labels, packaging, etc.)

logo designer sitting in front of a computer

Custom wholesale

Custom wholesale t-shirt businesses purchase pre-made wholesale tees and then customize them by hand.

You can print, applique, embroider, or otherwise embellish the existing t-shirts to fit your vision and make custom shirts.

This model allows maximum creativity when selling t-shirts but requires more time, effort, and financial investment than the print-on-demand model.

You must purchase t-shirt inventory upfront and pay for the materials and labor to customize them. You’ll also need to store the inventory, acquire a space to customize the shirts, and fulfill your orders.

However, you’ll take home more of your profits than the print-on-demand model since there’s no third party to pay.

Pros for the custom wholesale business model

  • Very cost-effective in large production runs of a single shirt type
  • Most vendors offer substantial volume discounts
  • Lower costs mean bigger profit margins for you
  • Ultimate design freedom – decorate your t-shirts in any technique you choose

Cons for the custom wholesale business model

  • Not cost-effective for big clothing lines with different items, colors, and sizes
  • Embellishing or decorating t-shirts can be time-consuming
  • Minimum orders typically require 10 to 25 units per color/size
  • You’ll need to figure out how to manage inventory and shipping (either do it yourself or hire a separate vendor for warehousing and fulfillment)

Be sure to investigate several vendors to find the best fit for you.

Hitting your target price point for your t-shirt line relies on finding the right business model and the right partner or vendors to help you create and fulfill that line. Your product costs will be key factors in the future success or failure of your t-shirt company.

You may want to include your anticipated business model, pricing structure, customer demographics, and estimated spending power in a detailed business plan.

Plan for all the necessary legal and logistical business considerations with a solid business plan, and you’ll create a strong foundation for your t-shirt company’s successful future.

brand identity guide illustration

When starting any new business, you have to understand the numbers.

But not all numbers are equally important to all businesses.

For a t-shirt business, you’ll want to track your sales and profits to ensure that your t-shirt business is profitable. But there’s much more to think about before you can get there. When starting a t-shirt company, begin by assessing your start-up costs .

While your business model (dropship vs. custom wholesale) impacts the costs of running a t-shirt company, some costs are common across all business models. When you start your own t-shirt business, these costs will include the following:

  • your brand design (logo, business cards, and website)
  • any national, state, or local license or permit fees
  • deposits and rent for a physical work location (if you plan to lease your workspace)
  • basic infrastructural costs like phone and internet service, invoicing software, e-commerce expenses, etc…
  • marketing and advertising costs
  • hourly wages to cover your labor time

Once you know how much it will cost to get your t-shirt company started, compare that with the funds you have. Then plan how you’ll make up any difference.

Unlike most businesses, you can start a t-shirt business with little money. For example, people looking to start a trucking company must consider the cost of expensive trucks, trailers, insurance, etc.

But a t-shirt business doesn’t require a lot of capital, and most people don’t need additional funding. But even if you need to secure financing,  numerous business financing options might be available.

If you plan to work with pre-made wholesale garments, you’ll want to shop for the best prices at your quality point to hit your target price point.

If you plan to print on demand and dropship t-shirts , that won’t be a concern. But, you will want to research which POD businesses offer you the best profit margins since you’ll share your revenue with them.

Running smart calculations to determine how much it will cost to start your t-shirt company will allow you to plan your pricing strategy.

Setting your prices

To create a smart and effective pricing strategy when selling t-shirts, you must start by knowing how much it costs to produce your clothing items – also known as cost-per-unit or “CPU.” The small business finance experts at Bond Street explain :

Most businesses in the apparel world use a cost-based pricing strategy, in which the final cost to the consumer ultimately comes from the cost of producing that product.

Your print-on-demand partner should be able to provide you with a CPU. But, if you go wholesale, you’ll have to calculate your CPU, including the t-shirts and additional printing or customization costs.

The CPU is only a starting point. It’s also important to bake the cost of running your business (and some profit!) into your t-shirt prices. Otherwise, it will be difficult to sustain your business over time.

Aim for prices 30% – 50% higher than your expenses to ensure a profit. Profit is, after all, essential to your business’s success.

Competitor pricing

Once you’ve done the math, it’s time to start considering the less-tangible aspects of pricing – competitor pricing and perceived value. These factors help you pick a price point that makes sense for you and resonates with your target market.

Your potential customers are shopping for more than just your t-shirts. They’re shopping with your competitors, too.

And they know how much your competitors are charging. Consciously or not, they’re gathering data about what products like yours should cost.

You must also understand your target market and what your competitors charge.

You might feel your t-shirts are worth more; or want to charge less than your competitors. And that’s okay.

But, if you’re completely unaware of what your competitors charge, you may miss the mark entirely – either costing you profit if you charge too little or sales if you charge too much.

Perceived value

Perceived value is the amount that a customer thinks a product is worth.  And your competitor’s prices are a part of that perception. But not the whole picture.

How your t-shirts look plays a role. How your t-shirts feel plays a role. But your branding can influence how your product is perceived, as well.

A classy logo, professional website, and high-end brand positioning will produce a higher perceived value than a poor logo and amateurish website.

So, remember to consider your brand and your competitor’s pricing when creating the pricing strategy for your t-shirts.

Check out this article for more details  about pricing your t-shirts.

Starting a t-shirt company is a business.

But there's plenty of room for creativity in that business. Planning your first collection is an integral step in the process. And this is where your creativity can shine. So, let's talk about how to get started.

It’s time to (temporarily) put aside the business side of things and start thinking about the t-shirts themselves.

Your first t-shirts should reflect your brand’s essence and properly introduce your unique design perspective. So, refer back to your brand concept and niche for inspiration.

People need time and repeated exposure to know your design aesthetic and brand. Your first t-shirts must show your audience what sort of quality, designs, and messaging they can expect from your brand consistently.

Consistency is key.

So, if you’re a designer, now is the time to create t-shirt designs that reflect you and the brand you’re creating. But, if you’re an entrepreneur who is not a designer, it’s time to find trusted designers to help you create original t-shirt designs.

This is a perfect job for the creatives at crowdspring. Holding a single custom t-shirt design project based on your brand concepts will deliver dozens of t-shirt designs for you to choose from.

You’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with many designers at once. This collaborative process ensures that your unique brand will shine through. And you can award and purchase as many designs as you like.

Uniqueness and authenticity are the elements that will help to set your t-shirt company apart in the crowded fashion marketplace. So, however you acquire your designs, ensure they reflect your aesthetic.

Types of t-shirt printing and decoration

When planning your t-shirt designs, knowing your options for executing those designs is helpful.

There are many printing and decoration options. Here are a few you should know…

Screen or silk screen printing

Screen printing involves creating a custom stencil of your design, which is applied to the screen. The screen (with stencil) is laid over the t-shirt, and ink is applied. The negative space in the stencil is filled with ink, transferring your design to the t-shirt.

Screen printing is great for creating perfectly identical prints. But, each screen can only be used with a single dye color. So, it can get expensive to screen print complex designs with many colors.

Heat transfer

Heat transfer uses a special heat transfer paper that allows your design to be melted into the fibers of the t-shirt.

Your design is printed onto the heat transfer material. The design is laid in place and melted into the t-shirt using a heat press. The design on top remains unaffected by the heat transfer process.

Heat transfer is great for complex, multi-color designs. And, it’s economical for small runs of shirts. But, it can change the fabric’s hand (or feel), making it stiffer.

Consider embroidery if you’re looking for a dimensional effect in your design.

Embroidery software will transform your design into electronic instructions for an embroidery machine. The machine then stitches your design into t-shirts using appropriately colored threads.

Embroidery requires your t-shirt to be made of relatively sturdy fabric; otherwise, the embroidered threads will overwhelm the weaker fabric. This causes the fabric to pucker or sag. So, choose t-shirts that can stand up to the embroidery process.

Embroidery provides a unique visual effect that looks unlike any other decoration technique.

Direct-to-garment printing

Direct-to-garment printing is exactly what it sounds like. This process prints fabric inks directly onto the t-shirt using an inkjet printer.

The pros of this process are that it can produce very crisp, complex images and leaves the fabric feeling pleasantly soft. The cons are that it tends to fade quickly, and the print quality is entirely dependent on the quality of the printing machine.

So, ask for samples from a vendor before agreeing to do business with them.

An appliqué is a fabric patch or design sewn directly to the shirt’s surface.

The finished effect is 3-dimensional and can create a wonderful tactile experience depending on the fabrics used.

The opportunities for color, pattern, and overall design are limited only by your imagination.

You’re unlikely to find a Print on Demand company offering appliqué services. But, if you like the look of appliqué, you can do it yourself or hire stitchers to do it for you.

This is a labor-intensive process, but the final product has the potential to be more like a work of art than “just a t-shirt.”

If you plan to sell your t-shirts online (which you should because it’s quick, easy, and cost-effective), you’ll need t-shirt mock-ups.

Mock-ups are images showing your finished t-shirts. These images are placed on your online business store so customers will know what your t-shirts look like.

It’s best to have mock-ups of each design in every color and available t-shirt style. People want to know exactly what they’re buying.

And accurate mock-ups give people the confidence to choose a shirt they like.

Once your t-shirt company is up and running (and bringing in profit!), you can set your business apart from the competition by replacing generic mock-ups with uniquely styled photos of your t-shirts that reflect your brand. Hire models that look like your ideal customers, and style the photos to appeal to your audience.

But to get started, t-shirt mock-ups are all you need to show off your t-shirt designs to prospective customers.

Build your website

Your website is one of your t-shirt company's most important ambassadors. It may be the core vehicle by which you do business. So, this is not a place to cut corners.

The most cost-effective way to start a t-shirt company is with an online store.

E-commerce website hosting , e-commerce platform fees, and up-front web design costs will be cheaper than paying rent on a brick-and-mortar storefront.

Your website has two major aspects to consider – appearance and function.

Website appearance

Your website design must reflect your t-shirt brand. Visitors should understand your business’s personality and what sort of t-shirts they can expect to buy from you as soon as they arrive.

Your website’s visual design and marketing copy will help communicate this vital information. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use your brand’s colors.
  • Prominently feature your logo.
  • Write marketing copy with your target audience in mind.
  • Showcase clear, professional mock-ups (and upgrade to custom photos of your t-shirts asap).
  • Choose a font that’s easy to read and reflects your brand personality.
  • Don’t let design elements overwhelm the copy or pictures of your t-shirts – white space is your friend.

Besides being a brand ambassador, your business website is a great venue for showing off your t-shirt designs to a wide audience.

Augmenting your website with styled photos of people wearing your t-shirts will inspire shoppers, allow people to relate to your designs, and encourage visitors to imagine themselves in your t-shirts.

If your photos resonate with a visitor, the chances are that they’ll purchase your items – or, at least, wish they could.

Finally, a strong website design will lend credibility and legitimacy to your business.

To learn more about great website design, check out Grow Your Small Business With These 7 Website Design Best Practices and 11 Biggest Web Design Trends for 2022 .

Other options exist if web design is not among your many DIY skills. For example, if you already use the Magento platform, extensions like Magento 2 shop by brand can help you build brand pages.

Website functionality

A website’s functionality is just as important as its appearance.

Your website has got to be easy to use – or people will leave. Prioritize these functions…

  • Load speed. Your website should load quickly. For every extra second it takes your website to load, potential customers click away.
  • Navigation. Your website should be easy to navigate. They’ll leave if folks can’t figure out how to shop or where the FAQs are.
  • Customer support. It should be easy to reach customer support. Nothing screams “SCAM BUSINESS” quite as loudly as a website without customer support contact info.
  • E-commerce. It’s gotta be easy for people to buy your t-shirts online. The harder it is to complete the shopping process, the less likely it becomes to complete their purchases. (More on choosing an e-commerce platform in the next section – Create a sales plan.)

A website that’s difficult to figure out or doesn’t work well reflects poorly on your business. It raises questions about your credibility and undermines customer trust. This will hurt your sales.

A website that people can navigate quickly and easily to buy your t-shirts will lead to more successful purchases – and higher revenue for you.

There's more to building a t-shirt company than making t-shirts. Getting people to buy your shirts is a challenge in itself. It's time to create your sales plan.

Where do you plan to sell your t-shirts? In an online shop? In a brick-and-mortar store of your own? Or maybe you want to sell in local boutiques with many different clothing lines ?

We encourage you to sell online from the start because it’s easiest to get an online store up and running. There are no monthly rent, mortgage, or property taxes to pay and no retail fixtures to buy when you operate an online store.

But there are many options – including selling in physical stores. And once your t-shirt company starts to make a profit, you may find that it’s time to expand your business into another channel. So, consider the pros and cons of each option.

Your sales plan should be comprehensive. You’ll want to develop both an overall marketing/sales strategy and a list of day-to-day tactics that will help you sell your t-shirts.

The core of your t-shirt sales plan should include your choice of e-commerce platform.

Choosing an e-commerce platform

It’s easy to create an e-commerce presence nowadays without much technical knowledge. You can even create a side hustle instead of starting a full-time business. The hard part is choosing the right e-commerce platform.

Most template-based web design services offer e-commerce functionality that will let you launch an online store quickly.

And others, like Shopify , are built specifically for e-commerce. These platforms will, among other features, let customers pay by credit card (you won’t need to get a special merchant account because the platform will already provide this functionality).

There are many, many e-commerce options. Here are a few factors to remember when choosing the e-commerce platform to sell your t-shirts…

  • How reliable is the platform? How much downtime do they experience?
  • What payment methods are supported? Are these payment methods compatible with your audience?
  • How quickly does the platform load pages and process orders? (Faster is better!)
  • What fees does the platform charge? Do they get a cut of each sale? Is there a regular subscription cost? If so, how much?
  • What integrations does the platform offer? For instance, Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce integrate with t-shirt printers and drop-ship vendor Printful .
  • Does the platform allow you to create a customizable website that reflects your unique brand?

Remember how important your unique branding is? The website templates on e-commerce sites are available for all other t-shirt brands to use, as well. As we emphasized previously ,

It’s not enough to have a website… You also want to be sure that your site’s design is unique and that it showcases your products and you. Just like your logo, your web design should start with your personal brand. A well-designed website will expand upon and support the values and personality traits that you’ve identified as being core to your business. If web design is not among your many DIY skills, know that there’s help available .

Self-hosted open-source e-commerce services allow you to use your uniquely branded website with its e-commerce functionality.

Check out services like WooCommerce , Magento , and Open Cart . Not only can you use your original web design, but they also scale easily alongside your business as it grows.

Set up your online store

Once you’ve chosen the right e-commerce platform, it’s time to do the most exciting part – create your store to sell t-shirts online!

This is the culmination of all your hard work so far. Here’s a quick summary of what you’ll need to do to get your store set up and running:

  • Create or acquire original, on-brand t-shirt designs.
  • Choose a printing or printing/ drop-shipping vendor.
  • Create quality mock-ups of your t-shirts.
  • Take original photos of models who reflect your target audience wearing your t-shirts.
  • Get a unique brand-appropriate web design OR choose a generic website template. Include your original photos in the design.
  • Create your e-commerce account on the platform of your choice and follow the set-up instructions.
  • Upload your t-shirt mock-ups into your new e-commerce store and write brand-appropriate descriptions for your t-shirts.
  • Enter your pricing info.
  • Follow the e-commerce platform’s instructions to activate your store and sell t-shirts online.

Depending on your chosen platform, some of these steps (6-8) may occur differently. But you get the gist.

And congrats! You’re running a t-shirt business.

Dreaming of retail

If you dream of selling in a physical store one day, starting by selling in existing boutiques is a safer financial bet.

This lets you, among other advantages, accept credit card payments without first establishing a merchant account. And it delays your need to find and pay for physical space.

Wait to open your pop-up or permanent store until you’ve built some retail experience.

When deciding which boutique to carry your clothing line, double back to our first point – your well-developed brand.

Choose boutiques that align with your brand identity and target market. If you design t-shirts for motorcycle enthusiasts, you can probably bypass the boutique specializing in yoga pants and maxi skirts.

However, if you make wise boutique choices, there’s a good chance your target audience already shops there.

Once you’ve targeted which boutiques you’d like to partner with, the next step is to start thinking like a retailer. Stitch Method’s Jennifer Philbrook shared this advice in 5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started My Clothing Line :

If you plan on selling wholesale to boutiques it is important that you have merchandise ready to sell during the correct buying season… You need to figure out when you need to have production ready to ship to stores or customers and then work backwards from there through the development stages (leave enough time!) to make sure that you are working on the correct season.

Always schedule your meetings with boutiques in advance. The customer always comes first in retail, so cold calls and drop-ins are bad.

If you've made it this far, you know your brand inside and out, your legal business details and business plan are in place, and you have a plan for producing/shipping your t-shirts and selling them. Now, let's talk marketing.

Notify the press

It’s time to focus on getting the word out about your fabulous new t-shirt company and drum up some customers!

A great way to get started is to compile a list of local fashion editors and media outlets (radio, television, and online blogs). When you’re ready to launch your t-shirt company, you can notify these resources via press release. Local news sources are often excited to promote local entrepreneurs.

Take it one step further by creating an entire press kit.

Engage with social media

As a new business owner, you’ll want to take full advantage of the inexpensive and easy exposure that social media marketing offers you.

You need to build an online presence . As we previously explained ,

Social media gives you the ability to easily keep customers up-to-date on new products, store policies or sales. It also enables you to build a social rapport with current customers, while building low-pressure relationships with future buyers.

Maintaining (at a minimum) a Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook presence will help you build an audience of devotees. And consider reaching out to micro-influencers  who can help you in the early days.

Make it easy for visitors to see what your t-shirt brand is all about by featuring those fabulous photos of your t-shirts in a Facebook album.

Social media is also the perfect platform to help future customers get to know you and your clothes.

Customers buy from a start-up business instead of a major retailer because they feel connected to that business’s story . So, use your social media to share that story – for free!

Smart marketers incorporate one or more psychological principles into marketing campaigns, content marketing, and sales strategy. Here is everything you need to know about the principles and theories that can supercharge your marketing and influence people to buy your products or services.

Acquire reviews and social proof

Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing there is. And the online equivalents are reviews and testimonials.

Here are a few tactics that will help you to collect and leverage reviews and testimonials:

  • Invite customers to share reviews of your t-shirts and store them on Google Reviews in your order follow-up emails.
  • Ask happy customers if you can share their rave reviews on your website as testimonials.
  • Create a review page on your website that allows customers to leave reviews right there.
  • Send out a survey a few days after a customer gets their order from you. Ask if you can share their responses on your website as a question in the survey.
  • Place testimonials on most pages of your website. Don’t overwhelm viewers with testimonials, but don’t banish them all on a single dedicated page.
  • Enlist social media influencers who engage with your audience to share their thoughts on your t-shirts. Smaller local influencers are most likely to do this for an affordable cost (or even free).

Throw a launch party

Finally, consider throwing a launch party to create exposure and excitement for your t-shirt line. Francis Arden (Aston Models partner) shares great advice to ensure your launch party is the well-attended extravaganza you dream it will be.

Build your list.   Remember those local fashion editors and media outlets? They should be on your list. So should local boutique owners, influencers, clubs, or groups to which your audience might belong, and anyone else relevant to your area.

Don’t compete for guests.   Schedule your party on an evening with no other major events – especially not other major events in the fashion industry. You don’t want to force your attendees to choose between your launch and another event.

Hold your event at an interesting location.   A special, unique venue can make an event feel like… well… an event! But don’t choose randomly; pick a location that jives with your brand presence. Try to find a venue where your target audience would feel right at home – if ‘home’ was super fun and exciting.

Offer something for free.   People love free swag. If you can afford it, offering a thoughtful and relevant gift will greatly impact your guests.

Sell at the party. Order t-shirts to sell at the party – even if you plan to sell primarily online. This will give people a chance to see the quality of your products. And, if you don’t order too many, the low supply may help drive up demand – sending people to your online store to purchase.

You’re on your way

Starting a t-shirt business is one of the most exciting, creative, and accessible ways to become an entrepreneur.

We hope this guide on starting a t-shirt business has given you the confidence to start today.

online t shirt business plan

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  • Dec 27, 2023
  • 17 min read

How to start a t-shirt business online: 2024 guide

How to Start a T-shirt Business

This post was last updated on December 27, 2023

There's nothing quite like a good t-shirt. Apart from being easy to throw on, t-shirts have a unique way of expressing our individuality, our humor, and our loyalties.

For online sellers, the t-shirt market is also a popular stomping ground. In 2021, the global custom t-shirt printing market was valued at $3.9 billion—and by 2030, it's expected to be worth $9.18 billion, according to Grand View Research .

It's no wonder, then, that this universal wardrobe staple caught your eye. It stands to reason that starting an online t-shirt business might just be one of the best and fastest ways to break into the booming fashion industry.

Related reading: 19 profitable eCommerce business ideas

Not only is it easier than ever to find a free online store builder that's fully integrated with print on demand services and tools to expand your reach, but starting a business online doesn’t necessarily require a big investment. You can launch and start selling custom tees quickly with minimal costs.

Continue reading to learn essential tips for starting a t-shirt business online.

Black text on a light blue background that says "Launch your online store" with a clickable link button that says "Get Started"

How to start a t-shirt business: 12 essential steps

Build your online store

Integrate with a print on demand (POD) service

Pick a niche

Create stunning designs

Select high-quality materials

Get feedback on your designs

Choose a printing technique

Manage your inventory

Calculate your costs

Set your price

Build your brand

Scale your business

01. Build your online store

starting a t-shirt business example

A professional eCommerce platform gives your customers the trust they need to complete their purchase. It’s also an important reflection of your brand’s identity.

Start your online t-shirt business journey by creating and customizing an eCommerce website that embodies your brand. When choosing how to make a website , be sure to choose a platform that allows you to easily integrate your store with a print on demand (POD) service, which offers the easiest way to design, print, and ship your t-shirts.

You’ll additionally want to keep an eye out for integrations with popular sales channels like Amazon and eBay, plus social media channels like Facebook and Instagram.

Here are some other factors to weigh when selecting your eCommerce platform:

Costs - Start lean and budget expenses carefully. Find an eCommerce platform that allows you to start your business with a small investment. Some platforms even let you start for free. (Pro tip: Choose a platform that can support your business at any scale - from a microbusiness to a small medium business to an enterprise.) Review if the platforms offer advanced marketing and customer management tools to help your business grow.)

Website design capabilities - You’ll want a platform that offers plenty of design flexibility and customization. This’ll allow you to create a business website that matches your brand. (Pro tip: Look for a platform that offers ready-to-go, designer-made, store templates that can easily be adjusted to fit your unique brand.)

Mobile storefront - More than half of all online purchases are now made on mobile, so you'll want to make sure that your platform supports responsive sites and mobile customizations. Fans of the Instagram-famous cat, OwlKitty , can purchase branded tees through its online store which is optimized for mobile. By connecting their Instagram account to their store, OwlKitty sends shoppers directly to their store's fully-optimized product pages.

t-shirt business website mobile view

Once you’ve chosen your platform, you can start creating your store. Don't forget to complete these basic steps:

Name your business. Start by brainstorming a word bank of concepts that relate to your t-shirt business idea. If you need help, you can use Wix's free clothing line name generator . Choose a name that reflects your business but won’t limit you if you choose to expand beyond t-shirts in the future.

Choose your domain. Match your domain name to your brand name. This will help your customers find you online.

Design your store. Customize any store template to reflect your brand and appeal to your target audience.

Add payment options. Make it easy for customers to pay you. Provide multiple options to make sure you don’t lose out on any potential buyers. Through Wix Payments , you can start accepting all major debit/credit cards, Apple Pay, buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) options, and more.

For more tips: How to start an online store in 10 steps

02. Integrate with a print on demand (POD) service

T-Shirt business Product Page

If you're wondering, "What the heck is print on demand?" POD is a form of dropshipping that allows you to make and sell custom t-shirts (and other merchandise) online without the hassle of managing inventory, fulfillment, or shipping.

Wix Stores tend to launch an average of 15% faster than other online retailers when choosing to dropship. And in the first quarter of 2021, Wix Stores using POD grew 529.4% year over year.

POD is a great way to get your feet wet without running up your costs or tying up your resources. In fact, family-owned farm, Little Tail Farms —which offers tours and farmstays—uses POD to sell farm-inspired merchandise to bring in extra revenue.

So, if this is your preferred business model, you'll want to connect your store to a reliable POD service like Modalyst , Printful , or Printify .

Many of these services have mockup generators that let you virtually place your design on tees and see how it’ll look on models. You can then use these product images on your website to show your customers exactly what they’re buying.

Under the POD model, you sell your graphic tees directly from your online store. Once an order is placed, your POD partner will then print the t-shirt(s) and ship it straight to your customers.

While using a POD service might be the fastest way to start selling t-shirts, there are plenty of alternative routes, such as sourcing and manufacturing. You just have to choose the right one for you.

If you choose to source your own t-shirts and connect with local or international manufacturers, take some time to research the process and learn more about how to start a clothing line. Some entrepreneurs use POD to test the market or establish their brands before switching to specific suppliers.

03. Pick a niche

Goat T-Shirt Product Page - how to start a t-shirt business

With billions of tees out there, why should shoppers buy yours? The answer: Because you made your product specifically for them.

To find your niche, you might use your personal interests and passions as inspiration when looking for your value as well as your unique selling proposition . Is there a specific group you identify with? Are you a diehard fan of a sports team, a TV show, an indie movie, a specific celebrity? Do you hold a specific political position or are you a member of a particular movement?

Or, discover your niche by researching what’s on-trend. What are people interested in and talking about? Use Google Trends to find out what search terms are trending in your country or worldwide and use that information to inspire or validate your choice of niche.

Once you define your target audience, get to know customers better through channels like:

Reddit - On Reddit, users create posts that are voted on by the community. The site is broken down into sections called subreddits and there’s one for seemingly everything. Users subscribe to specific subreddits that interest them in order to see those posts. Discover what your target audience is posting. Explore feeds to see which content receives the most engagement and subscribers. Use this information as a springboard for creating designs and messaging for your t-shirts.

Facebook Groups - Find niche communities that share your interests. Engage with these users and see what receives feedback. Ask them for ideas and test out your designs.

Competitor sites - Many of your competitors have likely done their own customer research to inform product design and their marketing messages. Take a peek at their sites and observe what seems to be working well for them, versus what could use improvement. Check customer reviews, FAQs, and product descriptions for clues as to what your business could offer to make your customers happy.

T-shirt dropshipping is also worth considering, as a low cost business idea.

04. Create stunning t-shirt designs

Make your t-shirts stand out from the pack with original designs.

Use your t-shirt to express a message, tell a story, or display an aspect of your personality. Your designs don’t have to be complex. A simple, trendy design can attract customers.

Modern Magnolia sells hand printed t-shirts with illustrations and slogans that appeal to a broad range of female users. Its t-shirts have a strong American flavor (with a touch of humor) and target niche audiences like parents, music fans, and animal lovers.

starting a t-shirt business example

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an artist to make a cool design. You can use pre-existing templates offered by some POD services or Wix's free logo maker . Alternatively, you can hire a designer from one of these platforms:

Wix Marketplace - Safely search through a list of vetted professionals. The Wix Marketplace serves as a directory for connecting with designers of various backgrounds and specialties, and features transparent rates and past work.

Fiverr - Connect with a freelancer to create a single design. You can search by the type of designer and filter by how much you are willing to spend.

Upwork - Use this platform to find long-term freelancers to help with numerous or ongoing projects.

Behance - Explore this designer-focused social media platform. Graphic artists use Behance to show off their work, gain inspiration and find jobs.

Dribbble - This is another platform where designers hang out. You can scroll through showcased art or filter by style to find designs you like. Then reach out to the artist to discuss your project.

Note that each manufacturer or POD service will have different image requirements that you'll want to read through carefully in order to ensure that your designs are printed correctly. For example, Printful has the following requirements :

Images should be at least 150 DPI (dots per inch). Some specific t-shirt brands may require a larger DPI, so double-check before uploading your design.

Your design can be uploaded in JPG and PNG formats.

Print files should be saved in sRGB, not CMYK.

05. Select high-quality materials

Nobody likes an ill-fitted, low-quality graphic tee.

Whether you’re using POD services or sourcing your own t-shirts, make sure to sample your products as part of your overall business operations . Ensure that you’re selling a product that meets your quality standards and prints exactly as you'd expect.

As another test: Go through the normal buying process as though you're a customer. Buy the t-shirts from your website, jotting down any hiccups with checkout, shipping, packaging, and more. As you test the product yourself, consider:

Is it comfortable to wear?

Are the colors vibrant?

How does it look and feel after a wash (e.g., does it shrink? Does the pattern crack?)

How does it wear over time?

Most suppliers will offer tees made out of regular cotton and ring-spun cotton. Some use organic cotton, grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. Here’s what to consider when choosing your materials.

pros and cons list for choosing t-shirt material

If your t-shirt business has a sustainable ethos, it’s worth choosing t-shirt manufacturers or POD services who offer t-shirts made from organic cotton or recycled fabrics, like cotton scraps and upcycled polyester. It’s likely that these options will have a higher unit price, but shoppers may be willing to pay more for more eco-friendly options.

Consider what size options you’ll offer customers, too. Do you want to build a size-inclusive t-shirt brand that is accessible to everybody? Or perhaps, for now, you want to limit your inventory and specialize in tees for a particular size range.

In short, treat your customers like you’d want to be treated. Make sure your product is made well so your customers keep coming back and become ambassadors for your brand.

06. Get feedback on your designs

It's always a good idea to validate your ideas. Once you have your design and tee picked out, you’ll want to make sure that it looks good when it all comes together.

Use a mockup generator to visualize how your design will look on products before it’s printed. Then, take some time to write engaging product descriptions that tell your shoppers everything they need to know about your t-shirts. Include product specs, sizing details, care instructions, and the story behind your t-shirt design. Some POD services will provide default product descriptions that you can edit and make your own.

t-shirt business design example

So, you love your new tees, great. But will potential shoppers?

Post your mockup on your own social media pages and see what your followers think. Publish them in Facebook Groups to see how your community responds.

Remember those subreddits you found? Revisit them and request feedback from your fellow Redditors. Word your post in a way so that it doesn’t come across as a marketing ploy. Rather, ask people for honest feedback on your tee. (This is a great way to attract attention to your product while learning more about your target audience.)

You can even share your design on designer blogs or sites like Behance and Dribbble . If your idea is particularly innovative, consider uploading your project to a crowdfunding site and asking people to invest in your t-shirt business.

Wherever you share your design, make sure to add a watermark to protect your designs from being copied.

07. Choose a printing technique

printing technique for starting a t-shirt business

When it comes to inking your tees, learn about the different printing options available. Choosing the right printing technique is just as important as choosing the right material, though some POD services may only offer a certain type of printing by default.

Heat transfer - This is a good option if you want to print images yourself. The most popular type of heat transfer is called Plastisol Transfers. For this method, print your design with a professional printer on high-quality release paper. Then, use a heat press to “print” the image on your t-shirt.

Screen printing - This method is ideal for printing large quantities of t-shirts with the same design. Using stencil-like mesh screens, designs are painted onto t-shirts layer by layer. Each layer is limited to a single color. While you can add multiple layers and colors, doing so will drive up your cost. Because of the labor-intensive setup, this method is best suited to large batches of tees with the same design.

Direct-to-garment (DTG) - This is currently the most popular method of printing designs onto t-shirts. Using an inkjet printer, your design is applied to garments. This is ideal for complex, detailed designs. DTG uses the same process for small or large quantities of prints.

All-over print (sublimated) - If you want to create a truly unique t-shirt, you may want to print outside the seams. All-over print allows you to do exactly that. Create a design that will be printed all over your tee. Unfortunately, not all print on demand companies will allow you to do this.

Embroidery - Stitch a unique embroidered design on your tees for a more delicate look. While you’ll be limited in colors and sizes, well-designed embroidery can be all your shirt needs to make a statement. Both Printful and Printify offer embroidery for t-shirts, but pay close attention to their guidelines.

Here’s what to consider when choosing a printing method:

pros and cons list for t-shirt printing methods

08. Manage your inventory

If you're not using a POD service, you’ll need to manage your own inventory and keep track of the necessary operating expenses . Keeping control over your inventory is key to building a profitable business.

Start off with a small number of t-shirts in a variety of sizes. Stick to one or two t-shirt colors to limit your risk and overhead costs . To keep initial investments low, consider buying small batches of t-shirts as the orders come in. Then, find a local printer that can ink your tees with a technique that works best for your needs.

Research how to find a manufacturer and once you’re ready to buy a larger stock, source your t-shirts from reliable suppliers to ensure product quality. Find a wholesaler who can offer you an affordable rate so you can give your customers the best product possible at a good price.

At this point, you'll want to choose a printing company that will provide the quality and fulfillment services you need. If it’s within budget, you may want to consider investing in printing equipment yourself to have more control over the process.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re using a POD service, inventory, shipping and fulfillment will be handled for you. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to keep a small amount of stock on hand to sell in a pop-up shop or to local businesses. It can also be helpful for promotional offers, or to show potential customers and investors your product.

09. Calculate your costs

When it comes to learning how much it costs to start a business , calculating your costs is essential. Before you price your products, you’ll need to determine your expenses. Go through this list and estimate what you’re paying (if anything) for each service. This will give you a better sense of how much you’ll need to charge per tee to make a profit.

Online store - Website hosting, domain, business email account

Design - Website designer, logo, t-shirt designer

Printing - Printing equipment, extra charges for specialty POD services

Product - Cost of t-shirts, inventory, storage

Shipping - Offset the costs of free shipping, domestic shipping, international shipping

Branding and marketing - Promotional materials, social media marketing, digital advertising, branded packaging

If you make the t-shirts yourself, in-house, account for your labor costs too: time spent making t-shirts, packing, shipping, managing inventory and general business administration.

While you might not take a wage from your business when it’s in the startup phase, you’ll need to know potential costs as you grow and hire staff.

10. Set your price

How do you make sure you profit from each sale? To build a t-shirt business that makes money and can justify certain prices, you’ll need to research the market, identify a niche, and create unique products or powerful messaging that attract loyal customers.

Before you decide on the right product pricing strategy for your business, take these three factors into account:

There’s a lot of competition

With low-cost products, your profit margins will be slimmer

It takes time to grow your business

As with all eCommerce business ideas, you'll need to be strategic in order to start making a significant profit, i.e., you’ll need to be creative, mindful with expenses, and market your tees well.

Before deciding on a price, do market research. Check marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, alongside your competitors to see what’s a fair and profitable price to charge for a niche graphic tee.

Here’s a rough pricing estimate for graphic tees.

$5 - $15 : Unless you are selling huge amounts of t-shirts, you may find it difficult to make money selling tees at this price range. So, this range is only feasible if you create and print large amounts of the same design as one batch, or if you print t-shirts yourself.

$16 - $29 : This is roughly the average price range for graphic t-shirts. If you want to make a decent profit on each tee without scaring customers away, set your price within this range. This is helpful for scaling your business from the start, earning up to 50% profit on each tee, and selling products printed by a POD service.

$30 - $40 : T-shirts in this price range are usually specialty items or particularly unique. This range works best for tees that incorporate various printing techniques, high-quality t-shirts, and detailed or specialty designs (e.g., limited release tees).

Compare your tees to similar brands who sell shirts online. Think: what will the market pay for an organic cotton t-shirt with a unique hand-drawn illustration? Will you charge more or less than your competitors? If more, why would people pay more for your tees? If less, ensure you’re not undervaluing your product. That said, when starting a new business, strategically underpricing can be a good way to stand out and attract new customers if done responsibly.

Most businesses aim to make about 50% profit on each item. So, this simple formula can come in handy when determining your retail price:

Retail price of your graphic tee = cost of product x 2

In other words, you can start by charging your customers double the amount it cost you to create each tee.

11. Build your brand

Now, it's time to start selling your t-shirts and getting your brand out there. Here are a few pointers for strengthening your eCommerce branding and your eCommerce marketing :

Create a memorable logo to represent your brand. Use a logo maker , design one yourself using software like Adobe Illustrator, or hire a graphic designer to create one for you.

Get on the right social media platforms . Know your target audience and where they hang out online. Then create promotional campaigns to spread the word about your products. Consider influencer marketing as a way to connect with your audience. If social media influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers are out of your budget, find relevant nano influencers with a small but loyal following. Reach out to them and see if they would be interested in showcasing your t-shirts on their platform.

Use advanced SEO tools to help customers find your site organically on Google. Include keywords relevant to your brand and products throughout your site pages, without stuffing them unnaturally. Consider investing in digital advertising, using tools like Google Ads to target high-intent shoppers searching for unique t-shirts online.

Create a unified brand from your products and packaging to your online store and ads. Think about what appeals to your audience. Build buyer confidence with a familiar look across all your sales channels that stands apart from your competition. Be inspired by this of clothing brand names .

12. Scale your business

Scaling your business requires regular check-ins with your spending. When reviewing your finances, pay close attention to the following:

Your net profit - How many t-shirts are you selling per month? What are your total costs? How much money do you have left at the end of the month after expenses?

Overhead costs - What investments are not paying off? Can you minimize your production costs?

Consider the costs of expanding your business. Will you need to hire a designer? Will you need to buy more inventory? Will you need more storage space or equipment? Can you scale up using your own finances or will you need to take out a business loan or reach out to investors?

When you're ready to expand, here's how you can take your t-shirt business up a notch:

Write a business plan. Outline your brand’s mission, your niche, target audience, budget, financial projections and future sales goals set against a timeline.

Create more designs. Stay focused on your niche audience. Determine which t-shirts sold best and create more designs that are similar.

Expand your marketing strategies. Use email marketing to retarget previous customers. Use Facebook and Instagram Ads to target new customers on social media. Narrow down your audience by choosing specific demographics, like gender, age, location, and interests.

Create a pop-up shop. Partner with local businesses, markets, or fairs and sell your products in person.

Consider hiring a Wix Partner . Consult and hire a digital agency to help you reach more shoppers, market your products effectively and grow your business.

Ready to get started on your t-shirt business? Create your online store now.

Considerations for starting a t-shirt business

Starting a t-shirt business can be an exciting venture, but there are several considerations to keep in mind to ensure its success. Here are some key factors to consider:

Niche and target audience: Identifying a specific niche and understanding your target audience is fundamental. Tailoring your designs and marketing efforts to a well-defined audience increases the likelihood of capturing the interest of potential customers.

Design and quality: The design and quality of your t-shirts play a pivotal role in attracting customers and building a positive brand image. Invest time and resources in creating unique, visually appealing designs and ensure that the quality of the t-shirts meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Online presence and eCommerce: Establishing a strong online presence is essential in today's digital age. A well-designed eCommerce website, supported by effective social media marketing, provides a platform for showcasing your products, reaching a wider audience and facilitating online sales.

Brand identity: Building a distinctive brand identity sets your t-shirt business apart from competitors. Consistent branding, including a memorable logo, cohesive visual elements and a clear brand voice, helps create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.

Customer service and satisfaction: Providing excellent customer service is crucial for customer satisfaction and repeat business. Respond promptly to inquiries, address concerns professionally and ensure a positive buying experience. Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend your business to others.

While these considerations are crucial, it's important to recognize that success often involves a combination of factors and ongoing adaptation to market dynamics. Regularly reassessing your business strategy based on customer feedback, industry trends and your own performance metrics can contribute to sustained growth and success.

How much does it cost to start a t-shirt business?

The cost to start a t-shirt business can vary depending on a number of factors, including the size and scope of your business, the type of printing method you choose, and the quality of materials you use. However, there are some general costs that you can expect to incur, including:

Design costs: If you're not a designer, you'll need to hire a designer to create your t-shirt designs. This can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Printing costs: The cost of printing your t-shirts will depend on the type of printing method you choose and the quantity of shirts you print. Some popular printing methods include:

Screen printing: This is the most common and cost-effective printing method for large orders.

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing: This is a digital printing method that is well-suited for small orders and custom designs.

Heat transfer printing: This is a versatile printing method that can be used for a variety of materials and designs.

Inventory costs: You will need to purchase inventory, which includes the cost of blank t-shirts, printing supplies, and packaging materials.

Marketing and advertising costs: You will need to market and advertise your t-shirt business to potential customers. This can be done through online and offline channels.

Other costs: There are other costs that you may incur, such as website hosting, domain registration, and shipping costs.

Can a t-shirt business be profitable?

Yes, a t-shirt business can be profitable. In fact, the t-shirt market is a multi-billion dollar industry, and there are many successful t-shirt businesses of all sizes.

However, it's important to note that starting and running a profitable t-shirt business isn't easy. It requires hard work, dedication, and a good business plan.

Looking to start a t-shirt business in a specific state?

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How to start a t-shirt business online FAQ

How can I start my own t-shirt business with no money?

If you want to start a t-shirt business fast with no money, you can use a print-on-demand service. With a print-on-demand service, you don't have to buy any inventory upfront. You simply create your designs and upload them to the service. When someone orders a t-shirt, the service prints and ships the shirt for you. This is a great way to get started with a t-shirt business without any upfront investment.

Do you need a business license to sell t-shirts online?

What do I need to start a t-shirt printing business?

geraldine feehily headshot

Geraldine Feehily

Marketing Writer, Wix for eCommerce

Geraldine is a marketing writer for Wix. She uses her broad experience in journalism, publishing, public relations, and marketing to create compelling content and loves hearing user success stories.

  • Sell Online
  • Dropshipping

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How to Start a Profitable Online T Shirt Business [11 Steps]

Nick

By Nick Cotter Updated Feb 02, 2024

image of a online t shirt business

Business Steps:

1. perform market analysis., 2. draft a online t shirt business plan., 3. develop a online t shirt brand., 4. formalize your business registration., 5. acquire necessary licenses and permits for online t shirt., 6. open a business bank account and secure funding as needed., 7. set pricing for online t shirt services., 8. acquire online t shirt equipment and supplies., 9. obtain business insurance for online t shirt, if required., 10. begin marketing your online t shirt services., 11. expand your online t shirt business..

Starting an online t-shirt business requires a thorough understanding of the market landscape. This step is crucial to identify your target audience, understand current trends, and analyze your competition to position your brand effectively.

  • Research your target demographic: Age, gender, interests, and spending habits to tailor your products and marketing strategies.
  • Investigate current trends: Look at fashion trends, popular themes, and design aesthetics that resonate with potential customers.
  • Analyze your competition: Identify other t-shirt businesses, study their product range, pricing, marketing tactics, and customer reviews to find gaps in the market.
  • Understand the market demand: Use tools like Google Trends and social media analytics to gauge the popularity and demand for certain types of t-shirts.
  • Assess suppliers and manufacturers: Evaluate the quality, cost, and lead times of potential suppliers to ensure you can offer competitive pricing and quality products.

image of a online t shirt business

Are online t shirt businesses profitable?

Yes, online t shirt businesses can be profitable. In order to succeed, it is important to have a good product, an effective marketing strategy and a clear pricing structure. It also helps to use quality materials and to keep costs down. Additionally, utilizing dropshipping for inventory management can improve efficiency and reduce overhead costs.

Starting an online t-shirt business requires careful planning and strategy to ensure success. A well-crafted business plan will help to define your brand, identify your target audience, and set a clear roadmap for growth. Here are the key components you should consider when drafting your plan:

  • Executive Summary: Briefly describe your business, your mission, and your vision. Highlight the unique selling proposition (USP) of your t-shirts.
  • Market Analysis: Research the t-shirt industry, identify your target market, and analyze your competitors to understand where your business fits in.
  • Product Line: Outline the types of t-shirts you will offer, including designs, quality, and sizes. Consider the production process, whether it will be in-house or outsourced.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Explain how you will attract and retain customers. Include your pricing strategy, advertising plans, and sales channels (own website, marketplaces, social media, etc.).
  • Operations Plan: Detail the operational aspects such as your online platform, inventory management, shipping, and customer service.
  • Financial Projections: Provide an estimate of startup costs, projected revenue, and potential profits. Include a break-even analysis to understand when your business will likely become profitable.

How does a online t shirt business make money?

An online t-shirt business makes money primarily through the sale of tee shirts. Customers purchase the shirts from an online store or marketplace, and the business profit from these sales. In addition, the business can advertise on platforms like Instagram and YouTube to increase their reach and profits. An example of a target audience for this business could be homeowners or commercial businesses who are in need of air duct cleaning services. Additionally, this type of service can be marketed towards people with pets that shed a lot, as this could potentially increase the need for air duct cleaning services.

Starting an online T-shirt brand involves creativity and strategy. It's essential to differentiate your brand from the competition by offering unique designs and a compelling brand story. Here are key steps to help you develop your online T-shirt brand:

  • Define Your Brand: Establish a brand identity that resonates with your target audience. Consider your brand name, logo, and the message you want to convey.
  • Create Unique Designs: Develop original designs that reflect your brand's ethos. Stay up-to-date with trends and use design software or collaborate with artists to ensure high-quality graphics.
  • Choose Quality Materials: Source high-quality materials and printing methods to ensure your products meet customer expectations and promote repeat business.
  • Set Up an Online Store: Select an e-commerce platform that suits your needs, whether it's a dedicated website or a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon.
  • Implement Marketing Strategies: Use social media, content marketing, and email campaigns to reach your target audience and build a community around your brand.
  • Establish Fulfillment Processes: Decide whether to handle inventory and shipping in-house or to use a drop-shipping service for order fulfillment.
  • Monitor and Adapt: Continuously gather customer feedback and monitor sales data to refine your products and marketing strategies over time.

How to come up with a name for your online t shirt business?

One way to come up with a name for an online t-shirt business is to brainstorm ideas that are meaningful to you. Consider your hobbies, passions, and the values you want your business to represent. Once you have some ideas, narrow down the name by looking for ways to combine two words or adjust existing words. Additionally, use a thesaurus or search engines to generate more ideas if necessary. Finally, once you have chosen a name that resonates with you, ensure it is unique and make sure to check whether there are any registered trademarks or domain names associated with it.

image of ZenBusiness logo

Formalizing your business registration is a crucial step in establishing a solid foundation for your online t-shirt business. This process will vary depending on your location and the business structure you choose. Below are key steps to guide you through the registration process:

  • Choose a Business Structure: Decide whether your business will be a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation. Each has different legal and tax implications.
  • Register Your Business Name: Check for name availability and register your business name with the appropriate state agency or with the county clerk's office if it's a sole proprietorship or partnership.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): If necessary, apply for an EIN via the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you plan to hire employees.
  • Register for State and Local Taxes: Register with your state to obtain a tax identification number, workers' compensation, unemployment, and disability insurance.
  • Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses: Research and apply for any required local business licenses or permits to operate your online store legally.
  • File for Trademarks: If your brand or designs are unique, consider filing for trademarks to protect your intellectual property.

Resources to help get you started:

Explore crucial resources designed for online t-shirt entrepreneurs focusing on market trends, operational best practices, and strategic growth advice:

  • Printful Blog: Offers comprehensive guides on starting and scaling your online t-shirt business, covering topics from design to marketing. Link
  • T-Shirt Magazine: Provides insights on the latest trends, marketing strategies, and success stories in the t-shirt industry. Link
  • Shopify Retail Blog: Features advice on e-commerce strategies, online store optimization, and case studies of successful online apparel brands. Link
  • Threadless Artist Shops Resources: Offers tutorials and tips on how to create and promote your t-shirt designs effectively online. Link
  • Wix eCommerce Blog: Presents trends, tips, and tricks for building and growing an online t-shirt store using the Wix platform. Link

When launching an online t-shirt business, it's crucial to ensure you have all the legal requirements covered. Acquiring the right licenses and permits is an essential step to operate legitimately and avoid any legal issues. Here's a guide to help you get started:

  • Business License: Check with your local city or county government to obtain a general business license, which allows you to operate a business in your area.
  • Seller's Permit: If you're selling goods, most states require you to have a seller's permit. This allows you to collect sales tax on sales made to residents of your state.
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): If you plan on hiring employees, you'll need an EIN from the IRS for tax purposes. You can apply for one online, by fax, or mail.
  • Home Occupation Permit: If you operate your business from home, this permit ensures that your business activities don't disrupt your neighborhood's zoning regulations.
  • Trademark: Consider registering a trademark for your brand to protect your designs and logo legally.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a online t shirt business?

To run an online t-shirt business, you may need the following licenses and permits:

  • Business license
  • Sales tax permit
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Certificate of Authority (if required in your state)
  • Zoning permit
  • Health department permit (if selling food or beverages)

Once you have laid the groundwork for your online t-shirt business, it's time to focus on the financial aspects. Opening a business bank account is essential for managing your finances effectively, and securing funding will provide the capital you need to scale your operations. Follow these steps to set yourself up for financial success:

  • Choose the right bank: Research and compare business banking options. Look for an account with low fees, high transaction limits, and good customer service tailored to small businesses.
  • Prepare the necessary documents: When opening a business bank account, you'll need your business registration documents, EIN (Employer Identification Number), and personal identification.
  • Understand your funding needs: Estimate the initial capital required for inventory, marketing, website development, and other startup costs.
  • Explore funding options: Consider bootstrapping, business loans, credit lines, or investors. Crowdfunding platforms could also be a viable option for a creative business like a t-shirt company.
  • Keep finances separate: Always keep personal and business finances distinct to simplify bookkeeping and tax preparation.

Deciding on a pricing strategy for your online t-shirt business is crucial as it affects your profit margins, competitiveness, and overall brand position. Here's a succinct guide to help you set competitive yet profitable prices for your t-shirts:

  • Cost-Plus Pricing: Calculate the total cost of producing each t-shirt, including materials, printing, labor, and overheads. Add a markup percentage to ensure profitability.
  • Competitive Analysis: Research your competitors' pricing. Position your prices in line with your brand's value proposition, whether it's lower for budget markets or higher for premium segments.
  • Perceived Value Pricing: Set prices based on the perceived value of your t-shirts to customers. Unique designs, quality materials, or a strong brand story can justify higher prices.
  • Volume Discounts: Encourage larger purchases by offering discounts on bulk orders, which can attract organizations or groups.
  • Dynamic Pricing: Consider using dynamic pricing strategies that allow for adjustments based on demand, trends, and inventory levels.
  • Psychological Pricing: Use pricing tactics like setting prices just below a round number (e.g., $19.99 instead of $20) to make the cost appear lower.

What does it cost to start a online t shirt business?

Initiating a online t shirt business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $23000 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your online t shirt business.

Starting an online t-shirt business requires careful selection of equipment and supplies to ensure high-quality products and efficient service. Here's a guide to help you acquire the essential tools and materials you'll need to get started:

  • Direct-to-Garment Printer (DTG): Invest in a reliable DTG printer for printing designs directly onto t-shirts with precision and vibrant colors.
  • Heat Press Machine: A heat press is essential for curing ink on printed garments and for applying heat-transfer vinyl designs.
  • Screen Printing Equipment: If offering screen-printed t-shirts, purchase screens, squeegees, inks, and emulsion.
  • T-Shirt Inventory: Stock up on blank t-shirts in various sizes, colors, and styles to cater to a wide range of customers.
  • Graphic Design Software: Use professional design software like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW to create and edit your t-shirt designs.
  • Print Media: Buy high-quality transfer papers or vinyl for different types of t-shirt printing methods.
  • Packaging Supplies: Get poly mailers, boxes, packing tape, and tissue paper to package your t-shirts professionally for shipping.
  • Shipping and Label Printer: A reliable printer for shipping labels will streamline your fulfillment process, saving time and reducing errors.

List of software, tools and supplies needed to start a online t shirt business:

  • E-commerce platform:$20-$150/month
  • Payment processing system: $0-$30/month
  • Shipping software: $15-$50/month
  • Website design and content management software: $50-500+
  • Product photography and photo editing software: $50+
  • Packaging supplies:$10+
  • Inventory tracking software: $20-$100/month
  • T shirt printing machine: $2,000+
  • Shipping materials (envelopes, boxes, etc.):$10+
  • Cloud storage solution: $10-100+/month

It's important to safeguard your online t-shirt business by obtaining the right insurance coverage. This will protect you from unforeseen risks and provide peace of mind as you operate your business. Here are some recommended steps to ensure you have the necessary insurance coverage:

  • Research different types of business insurance policies such as general liability insurance, product liability insurance, and business interruption insurance to understand what coverage they offer.
  • Contact insurance providers to get quotes tailored to an online retail business. Make sure you discuss the specific nature of your t-shirt business to get accurate coverage.
  • Consider purchasing a Business Owner's Policy (BOP), which typically combines general liability insurance with property insurance at a cost-effective rate.
  • Review the terms and conditions of each insurance policy carefully. Pay special attention to what is and isn't covered, policy limits, deductibles, and premium costs.
  • Choose a policy that balances comprehensive coverage with a reasonable premium. Remember, the cheapest option isn't always the best one if it leaves significant risks unprotected.
  • Regularly review and update your insurance coverage as your online t-shirt business grows and diversifies, to ensure it remains adequately protected.

With your online t-shirt business set up and ready to go, it's time to attract customers and make sales. Effective marketing is the key to standing out in a crowded marketplace and driving traffic to your store. Here are some strategies to kickstart your marketing efforts:

  • Utilize social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to showcase your designs, share customer testimonials, and engage with your target audience.
  • Invest in search engine optimization (SEO) for your website to improve its visibility in search engine results, making it easier for potential customers to find you.
  • Create compelling content such as blog posts, design stories, and customer features to connect with your audience and enhance your brand narrative.
  • Consider paid advertising options like Google Ads or social media ads to reach a broader audience and drive targeted traffic to your site.
  • Partner with influencers or brand ambassadors who resonate with your brand values to tap into their followers and gain credibility.
  • Offer promotions, discounts, and limited-time offers to incentivize first-time purchases and encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Collect customer emails to build a mailing list for newsletters, exclusive deals, and new product launches, keeping your brand top-of-mind.

Expanding an online t-shirt business requires strategic planning and effective execution. To ensure your growth is sustainable, consider the following steps that can help take your business to the next level.

  • Introduce new designs and limited editions to keep your product offerings fresh and exciting for customers.
  • Partner with social media influencers and bloggers to reach a wider audience and enhance your brand's visibility.
  • Implement SEO strategies to improve your website's search engine rankings, driving more organic traffic to your store.
  • Expand your sales channels by selling on multiple online marketplaces and platforms in addition to your own website.
  • Offer personalized or custom t-shirt options to cater to customers looking for unique items and enhance customer engagement.
  • Invest in targeted advertising campaigns on platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to attract specific demographics.
  • Collect and utilize customer feedback to improve your products and services, ensuring customer satisfaction and repeat business.
  • Explore international markets for potential expansion and adjust your marketing strategy to cater to diverse cultural preferences.

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T-Shirt Business Plan Template

T-shirt business plan.

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 5,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their t-shirt businesses.

Get our t-shirt business plan template and step-by-step instructions below to quickly and easily create your own t-shirt business plan today.

How to Write a T-Shirt Business Plan

Use the links below to learn more about each key component of a business plan and what to include in each section of your plan:

Next Section: Executive Summary >

T-Shirt Business Plan FAQs

What is the easiest way to complete my t-shirt business plan.

Growthink's Ultimate T-shirt Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your T-Shirt Company Business Plan.

Where Can I Download a T-Shirt Business Plan PDF?

You can download our t-shirt business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

What Is a T-Shirt Business Plan?

A business plan provides a snapshot of your t-shirt business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes research into the t-shirt industry to support your plans.

Why Do You Need a T-Shirt Business Plan?

If you’re looking to start a t-shirt business or grow your existing t-shirt business you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your t-shirt business in order to improve your chances of success. Your t-shirt business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.

What Are the Sources of Funding for T-Shirt Businesses?

With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a t-shirt business are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.

Angel investors might also fund a t-shirt business. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan. Venture capitalists will not fund a t-shirt business. 

What is the Best T-Shirt Business to Start?

create t-shirt design

  • What are my passions?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • Do I have funny slogans to share?
  • Who do I want to serve?
  • How will what I'm doing help someone else?

If you don't have a specific passion, then consider starting a t-shirt business that is related to your current job or another business that you have been thinking of starting.

What Are Some Examples of a T-Shirt Company's Business Goals?

Your goals for starting a t-shirt company will depend on what your long-term plans are for the company. A successful t-shirt company should always have its next steps planned out so that it is achieving its short-term goals while also working toward its long-term targets.

Before starting a t-shirt company, you should have a solid idea of what kind of t-shirt designs you would like to sell. Then determine whether there is demand in the market for your product. You can conduct this research by speaking with potential customers or reviewing existing online stores selling similar products.

A t-shirt company will typically have some combination of the following goals. These include:

  • Increase revenue
  • Grow market share by acquiring new customers or increasing customer spending
  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Improve gross margin
  • Decrease operating expenses
  • Achieve profitability
  • Grow employment, expand capacity to fulfill orders, and/or increase output

In addition to these goals, a t-shirt company wants to maintain cash flow. The cash flow from the t-shirt company will help it continue operations and grow.

When creating your business plan, include all aspects of how you will operate your t-shirt business. At the minimum, include information on how much money it will cost to start your company, what equipment you'll need to get started, and how many shirts you'll need to sell each month or year in order to become profitable.

When Should I Update My T-Shirt Business Plan?

Your tshirt business plan should be updated whenever your company experiences significant changes. These might include:

print on demand shirts

  • A change in leadership
  • The introduction of a new product line
  • Changes to manufacturing or distribution methods
  • Changes to products or services offered
  • Changes to pricing structures
  • Changes in cash flow or revenue projections

If this is your first business plan, then it should be updated annually. After your t-shirt business has been operating for one year or more, then the business plan should be updated every two to three years.

How Do I Start a T-Shirt Business?

Starting a t-shirt business is easier than you might think. You can start your t-shirt business part-time while working another job, or you can quit the job now and work on the t-shirt company full time.

To get started, conduct market research to determine whether there is demand for your t-shirt business idea. You can conduct this research by:

  • Talking to customers and potential customers about their t-shirt needs
  • Asking friends and family members what kind of t-shirts they would buy
  • Surveying your friends and other acquaintances to determine various sizes that should be available
  • Checking existing online t-shirt stores for products similar to yours

You should also create a t shirt printing business plan that has the goals and information of how you will operate your t-shirt company before you get started. You can either create a business plan or use an online template to get the job done.

Learn More : How to Start a T-Shirt Company

What are the Different Methods for T-Shirt Printing?

The two most common methods for t-shirt printing are called screen printing and direct to garment (DTG).

Famous brands of screen printing presses include Gerber, Wohlenberg, Heidelberg, DMLS. You can also rent a screen printing machine or purchase used equipment.

A DTG printer is more expensive than a screen print press, but it has cost savings associated with it. The average price of a DTG printer ranges between $10,000 to $25,000. 

How Do I Make My T-Shirt Business Successful?

The most important aspect of starting a t-shirt business is ensuring that you have demand for your t-shirts. You must be able to sell your t-shirts at a price that you can make a profit on each shirt.

Your other major concern should be selling directly to the customer, rather than through distributors. The more hands between you and the end consumer, the less money you will make per t-shirt sold.

Is a T-Shirt Business Profitable?

A t-shirt business can make a lot of money if you have the ability to design, market, establish a quality t-shirt brand, and sell t-shirts. Generally speaking, it's best to start small by selling locally or regionally before expanding your efforts further afield or internationally. Some businesses have grown to be worth millions of dollars by selling t-shirts online, in retail stores, and through sports clubs.

A successful t-shirt business requires little initial capital to start, although your t-shirt company will need to secure funding before becoming profitable. Depending on the size of your t-shirt business, it could take between one month and several months to break even.

T-SHIRT BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE

  • T-Shirt Business Plan Home
  • 1. Executive Summary
  • 2. Company Overview
  • 3. Industry Analysis
  • 4. Customer Analysis
  • 5. Competitive Analysis
  • 6. Marketing Plan
  • 7. Operations Plan
  • 8. Management Team
  • 9. Financial Plan
  • 10. Appendix
  • T-Shirt Business Plan Summary

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Use This Simple Business Plan Template

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  3. T SHIRT BUSINESS PLAN PDF || (How to start your own T-shirt business)

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  4. T-Shirt Company Business Plan Template

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VIDEO

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  6. Canva T-shirt Design

COMMENTS

  1. How to Start a Successful Online T-Shirt Business in 2024: The

    Build your web presence Create a sales plan Spread the word Let’s get started. Step 1 Develop your t-shirt brand Step one of starting a successful t-shirt business? Develop your brand identity. When you start your own t-shirt business, you cannot understate the importance of your visual identity – especially in fashion.

  2. How To Start a T-Shirt Business Online: 2024 Guide

    How to start a t-shirt business: 12 essential steps Build your online store Integrate with a print on demand (POD) service Pick a niche Create stunning designs Select high-quality materials Get feedback on your designs Choose a printing technique Manage your inventory Calculate your costs Set your price Build your brand Scale your business 01.

  3. Start Your Own T-Shirt Business Online

    1 Find a t-shirt niche Decide on the type of t-shirts you want to sell 2 Set up a t-shirt store Build your own website or create a shop on an ecommerce platform or marketplace 3 Connect your store to Printful Sync your shop with Printful for automated order management 4 Design a t-shirt Upload your own design or give our Design Maker a spin

  4. How to Start a Profitable Online T Shirt Business [11 Steps] -

    2. Draft a online t shirt business plan. 3. Develop a online t shirt brand. 4. Formalize your business registration. 5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for online t shirt. 6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed. 7. Set pricing for online t shirt services. 8. Acquire online t shirt equipment and supplies. 9.

  5. T-Shirt Business Plan

    What Is a T-Shirt Business Plan? Why Do You Need a T-Shirt Business Plan? What Are the Sources of Funding for T-Shirt Businesses? What is the Best T-Shirt Business to Start? What Are Some Examples of a T-Shirt Company's Business Goals? When Should I Update My T-Shirt Business Plan? How Do I Start a T-Shirt Business?