Every where you look, you see people wearing some awesome t-shirts that express their personalities. Pet lovers, gardeners, groupies, millennials, old schoolers or total geeks, there is a t-shirt design out there that allows you to represent.
If you’re like me, when you see the numerous t-shirt designs, you think, “I bet I could design some cool t-shirts”.
Guess what? You are right! And you can make some serious side hustle money.
It is so easy to start a t-shirt business today. With print-on-demand platforms and at-home screen-printing options, there are very few excuses not to try it. Because there are few limits as to what you can put on a t-shirt, you can let your creativity explode.
To help you start a t-shirt business, I have put together a list of options you have when it comes to creating and selling your products. I have also discussed them in detail, giving you pros and cons of each platform.
Let’s start with print-on-demand platforms.
Print-on-Demand T-shirt Business
Print-on-Demand simply means you will be using an online t-shirt business. You choose a program, use their tools to create and design your t-shirts, and sell your t-shirts through their platform. There are many platforms available today, but I want to discuss the three I think are rocking it in this business.
Merch by Amazon
Amazon seems to be the ruler of all rulers when it comes to ecommerce. They have millions of built-in customers and this is one reason they decided to start a print-on-demand t-shirt platform. This means the t-shirts you design have immediate access to their customers.
But first, you must request and be approved by Merch to join their program.
Once approved, and I must tell you it can take weeks or months to get approved, you can set up your profile.
Your profile is necessary because it allows you to tell your customers more about you and your Merch store. It also allows you to set up how you will get paid and your tax information, both of which are required before you can start selling your designs.
Once your profile is approved, you can begin designing. Merch by Amazon lets you place your designs on items like t-shirts, raglan shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and pop sockets. Yes, you read that right, pop sockets. This may seem like an odd addition, but everyone has a phone, so I get it. That’s a lot of opportunity.
And since Amazon rules ecommerce, if they pop sockets are a good idea, I believe them.
When you finish designing, submit them for approval. The approval process can take varying times depending on your design. They check for copyright and trademark issues, if the designs are age appropriate and other potential issues.
Once approved, you can start selling and watching the royalties add up. Oh yes, that’s how Amazon makes money. They take a portion of your sales, a pretty large portion. But don’t let that stop you. Small amounts can add up fast. And since they do most of the work, it’s worth it.
Amazon likes to maintain control throughout the process, which is probably why they set the prices, even the royalty amounts, for you.
Amazon likes to take things slow. They have set up tiers that limit the number of designs you can submit at once. They start you in a lower tier, like 25. This means you can sell 25 products at one time. After a while, you will can move to higher tiers, 100 then 500 then 1000 and on up.
Amazon has a lot of resources to help you along the way: forums, support contacts, podcasts, Facebook groups, and blogs are just a few. They also have an advertising program, which can help boost sales.
Let’s recap with some pros and cons.
Access to millions of amazon customers around the world
Easy steps to create and upload designs
Resources and support
Not everyone is approved for the program, giving you less competition
Continually improving the platform
They do all the printing, shipping, and returns so you don’t have to
You are on Amazon time, which can be slow
Royalties are low, but expected since all you must do is design
Advertising is a must to get more sales
They don’t provide you the option to share your products on social media outlets
Need to have a good understanding of SEO to help customers find your products
Product sizes are limited to Adults and Youth, no infant or toddler sizes
The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages for Merch by Amazon and I highly recommend trying to join this club if you want to start a t-shirt business.
Teespring is a print-on-demand platform that gives you way more options than t-shirts and sweatshirts. Their product line also includes leggings, socks, onesies, coffee mugs, backpacks, iPhone cases, canvases and much more.
Not only do they have more products for which you can put your designs, they make it simple to start your t-shirt business. They provide step by step instructions, starting with how to sign up.
Teespring pricing is simple. They have a base price for each of their products. You set the selling price above that base price. This allows you to choose the royalty amount you wish to receive. An example is provided in the picture below.
You can start designing right away. The enrollment processing can be completed by providing your PayPal account, tax information, and profile information. Teespring provides a launching tool to help you design and upload your designs to the products of your choice.
Teespring is the perfect platform for you Fundraisers out there. You set a sales goal and then promote your products to help you reach that goal. Teespring provides promotion tools that allow you to connect with all social media outlets.
Advertising helps sell any product, and Teespring t-shirts are no different. To help you start your t-shirt business the right way, Teespring provides you with advertising help through programs they developed called YouTube Shelf and Google Shopping.
As every good t-shirt design platform does, they print and ship the items, either to you in bulk, or to the individual customers.
Here’s the highlights:
You set your royalties
Start designing right away
Great for Fundraisers
Many tools and resources to help you succeed
Great variety of products
You need to advertise and do a lot of promoting to boost sales
Product prices can be higher due to base price set by Teespring
If you don’t meet your sales goal, they don’t ship any items
If you thought Teespring has a good variety of products, let me introduce you to Zazzle. The main categories from which you can choose products include invitations and stationery; home, sports and games; clothing and accessories; arts, crafts and party supplies; electronics; babies and kids; office and school; and weddings.
To start your t-shirt business, Zazzle makes it easy and free. You can choose to use their design tools and ready-made templates or upload your own design.
Before you start designing, though, you must still complete the basic steps of signing up, providing your profile, bank and tax information.
Zazzle has a slightly different pricing and royalty system than other platforms. Like Teespring, Zazzle sets a base price for each of their products. Then, you set a percentage for your royalties. The lowest percentage you can choose is 5%. Those two numbers together equal what your customers will be asked to pay.
Before we move on to screen printing options, let’s review the pros and cons of Zazzle.
Easy to sign up
Easy to design using their templates or upload your own
Can choose your own royalties
Start designing right away
Massive variety of products to place your design
Easy to promote designs on social media
Advertising is a must to get good sales
Products can cost more depending on base price
You must know SEO to help customers find your products
If these don’t meet your needs, there are other print-on-demand platforms to check out to start your t-shirt business. These include Redbubble, Printful, Spreadshirt, Teepublic, Café press, and Society6.
And if print-on-demand is not your thing, try screen printing.
Screen printing is great for those of you who want to get your hands dirty and be a part of every step of the t-shirt design process. It is a stenciling technique that applies ink to a surface using a mesh screen. T-shirts aren’t the only products you can print on either. Glass, wood, textiles, electronics and signs are a few examples.
Screen printing is known to be very durable and very lucrative.
The steps to start a t-shirt business using this method are simple but require more work than print-on-demand. I mean, you must buy a screen-printing machine, the ink, the tees and other products and supplies.
Cost to start a screen-printing business depends on the type of equipment you buy. Starter kits can average between $1500 and $5000. Advanced equipment can cost up to $25,000.
To point you in the right direction, I’ve listed a couple of examples below.
Merchmakr All-in-One Screen-Printing Kit
The Merchmakr is a great unit to help you start your t-shirt business. It is an all-in-one machine that even comes with a unit to make stencils. The makers created this machine to change designs quickly and allow you to use multiple colors on each design.
Merchmakr is great for beginners and more advanced screen printers.
DIY Print Shop Tabletop Screen Printing Kit
This is a compact screen-printing system that can fit in small spaces but produce big results. It comes with everything you need to get started designing and printing quality t-shirts. It even gives you the hinges and screws you will need to create your transfer board.
It is just a starter kit, so once you get comfortable using it, you will need to purchase additional colors and supplies that can help you produce advanced products.
YUDU Personal Screen-Printing Machine
If you think screen printing is done by using ink only, you will be happy to learn there are digital ways to screen print. That’s right, you can create your design on your computer and print it using your inkjet printer. Then, use the screen-printing machine to apply the design to your product.
The YUDU is easy, clean and has a low price, all of which help you start a t-shirt business quickly.
What I Know for Sure About the T-shirt Business
I’ve played around with many formats to start a t-shirt business. Some worked out, some didn’t. With all tries I learned a lot of good lessons. I’m sharing them with you because I want you to be a rock star in this field.
- Marketing- You must market your products, no matter which option you choose. You need to find ways to get customers to buy your items. With the right marketing, any design will sell. Know your target audience and then target them.
Use social media to promote your work. Place ads on social media. Join Facebook groups and forums. When you are not finding customers online, find them in person. Set up booths at markets and festivals. Approach local stores and offer them a small percentage of the sales if you can place your products on their shelves.
Think of all the successful actions businesses took to get your attention as a customer. Implement their techniques.
- Niches- You need to have a niche that will separate you from all the other t-shirt designers. Finding a niche means taking a broad topic and narrowing it down to a smaller, more specific category. For instance, instead of choosing animals, choose farm animals. Then, choose chickens.
People search online for specific things. Therefore; you need to be specific in your designs and your target audience.
- Outsourcing- Be honest with yourself. If you stink at designing, don’t try to do it. You can still start a t-shirt business even if you can’t create the designs yourself. You can hire a designer to produce an illustration or graphic.
On places like Fiverr, you can hire designers for little cost too.
Do the research, find the right options to fit your lifestyle and your goals, and go for it. Start designing and selling. It will be so cool to see one of your own designs helping someone show off their unique personality.