There are a lot of people selling t-shirts online today.
One great thing about the internet is that it has dramatically reduced the barrier for entry into such businesses. No longer do you need a brick and mortar store with all the very expensive trimmings.
All you need is a heat press and a cutting machine and away you go. You can easily work from home selling t shirts online like I do!
How To Start A T-Shirt Business
Why are t-shirts so popular? Well…
- We have to wear something and tees are so comfortable!
- T-shirts act like a billboard – they express who we are and what we care about. You can tell the world you’ve trekked the Himalayas, or been to the moon (though there’s probably not a lot of people with that t-shirt).
- T-shirts also help us to remember good times. Imagine you’ve had an awesome holiday in Hawaii. You probably wouldn’t think about it that often were it not for that souvenir t-shirt you brought home. It triggers your memory!
- They remind us of the people we were with when we got them. I have t-shirts that I bought while living in London and they really take me back to those days shopping on Oxford Street.
Should I Start Selling T Shirts?
Here are some of the reasons you should consider selling t-shirts:
- Selling t-shirts is a way to make a side income – you might even be able to grow your business to a point where it is making decent money.
- The start-up costs for a t-shirt business are relatively low – for well under $1000 you can start making your own t-shirts.
- You are able to use and develop your creative skills in design and production.
- You will have to learn marketing and sales skills – this is an invaluable transferable skill that we all should work on.
- There are going to be people who only want what you can do – put your unique touch on your designs and create raving fans.
How Do I Start Selling T-Shirts?
How should you start selling tees?
Create and sell pieces you know will be popular – create the sort of thing you would like to buy! However, before getting too carried away, it’s important to validate your business. Approach friends and family and share with them your ideas. Ask if they would be willing to buy some custom t-shirts or other products from you.
I’ve found baby onesies to be one of the best products to start selling Whenever babies are born, everybody buys them a present. A locally designed onesie is a cool gift to give and they sell well.
Test your ability to create, market and sell on a small scale before attempting to do it on a larger scale.
At the end of this article I’ll give you some tips on where to find your first customers to sell t-shirts to before you start selling online.
What Equipment Do I Need To Start Selling T-Shirts?
Starting a t-shirt business can be very cheap indeed. You do not need to get all the best gear right from the start, especially if you’re fresh and are unsure if it’s going to be for you.
To start a t-shirt business, all you really need is the following:
A Heat Press Machine Or Iron
If you are totally new, it’s best to begin practicing with an iron. While t-shirts with iron-on transfers are not ideal for sale, they’re fine as presents for the family! The adhesion of iron-on transfers doesn’t tend to be as good as those which have been heat pressed.
If you are looking at buying a heat press purely for business purposes, I would recommend taking a look at the range on Heat Press Nation. They can’t be beaten on the range of heat press machines at different price points, the quality of the machines, and the support and knowledge that comes with them.
We also have a list of the 10 best heat presses for making tees, which also includes a few HPN heat presses.
A Cutting Machine & Heat Transfer Vinyl
If you have a low budget and need a cheap cutting machine, there are plenty of options. You will need to be ready to learn how to use these machines – they all work slightly differently but don’t take long to master. YouTube will be your best friend!
Heat Transfer Vinyl comes in all sorts of colors and textures. We’ve got many articles on this fun product, including:
Blank t-shirts can be bought cheaply all over the show. I like to begin by going to my local Walmart (or equivalent store) and picking up some cheap blanks. When you’re not buying in larger quantities this is one of the cheaper ways to buy t-shirts.
READ: The Best Free Design Software For T-Shirts
Finding Customers For T-Shirt Business
It is very important to have a beautifully designed website from which to sell t-shirts. However, to start off with, while you’re testing things out, it might be better to sell to people locally.
If you don’t already know much about e-commerce, it takes time to learn. It will take time to build a website, for it to rank in the search engines, for momentum to build, and for orders to start coming in.
Selling locally may be easier to get initial business in your area, and save you the expense of setting up a site if it turns out not to be your thing!
1. Local Clubs & Societies
You are likely to have a wide array of clubs and societies in your town or city. Especially if you have a college or university nearby. These groups, small or large, are ripe for a t-shirt entrepreneur! Having a t-shirt with the group name or logo is a way of further cementing that bond that develops among group members.
Find a group who have a logo but don’t have any merchandise (yet!). Make the t-shirt and pitch it to them. See if they’ll present an order form to the rest of the group. If your t-shirt concept is good there will be plenty who go for it. If there are 50 people in the group and 40 decide to buy, it has been well worth your time.
What types of clubs and societies are there in a given area?
- Sports clubs – football, basketball, soccer, tennis, Frisbee golf and everything in between
- Miscellaneous clubs – chess, bowls (or is that a sport?), book clubs and coffee groups
- University groups – the scavenger hunt group, ballroom dancing, French group and hundreds of others
- University societies – the Alexander Hamilton Society, Astronomical Society and so on
Don’t worry if another t-shirt business is in the same area. They may not be actively approaching groups and pitching ideas like this. These groups are yours for the taking.
2. Local Churches
Local churches are another potential customer base, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated about approaching them! Of course, if you’re already part of one you’ve got an easy in. Not only can you sell t-shirts to the church at large, but also to smaller groups within it.
What might a church want a t-shirt for? Possibly for a church camp, conference or other large event.
Smaller groups within a church that might buy a tee include:
- Youth groups wanting a tee to remember a particular year of meeting together
- Bible study groups who’ve grown particularly close
- Church sports teams – often indoor soccer or volleyball!
- Or for when the church is out serving the community in a particular way they often use church t-shirts to identify themselves
3. Local Schools
The same applies to local schools as applies to churches. The school on the whole might be interested in having a t-shirt made up for a current year. This fosters unity and participation among the attenders and wider community. It is also nice to have a tee when it’s all over to remember past times.
There are also, as always, smaller groups within the larger body as well. For example:
- A particular class at school might like their own t-shirt
- School sports teams – not just an item as part of a uniform while playing the games, but something a bit more fun to remember the year and the team by
- School camps are a popular t-shirt time
- Even the teaching staff might like a tee celebrating making it through another year!
Schools are a wealth of opportunities. Find some email addresses on their website and start offering your services!
4. Local Cafes & Restaurants
Local cafes and restaurants are another opportune place to find customers for your t-shirt business. There are many opportunities to sell your wares.
These businesses need branded tees or shirts for their staff. Restaurants and cafes are the natural choice for starters. Many workers in these spots are simply wearing unmarked black or white tees. Approach the owner to see if you can give them a sample tee with their logo on it. It’s much more professional for staff to be wearing branded uniforms.
If you are located in something of a tourist destination you can sell t-shirts as a souvenir. If a cafe or restaurant has a cool and unique logo, people will go for it! I know because I’ve experienced this in a restaurant I’ve worked in. Perhaps the best example of this is a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt – you see people wearing it all over the world!
5. Local Trades People
Trades people are an excellent group to target for t-shirts or other branded products. In particular small owner operated trades businesses. These people are often very busy juggling a multitude of tasks. Finding someone to do up some work t-shirts is not always at the top of their list, but if you approach them they can be very receptive.
It’s pretty obvious who trades people are, but let me list a few to get your mind juices flowing:
- Builders, plumbers, electricians, plasterers and painters
- Carpet layers, heating and cooling specialists, tilers and carpet cleaners
- Gardeners, cleaners, chimney sweepers and gutter cleaners
And no doubt there are many other types of in home services who require branded uniforms. Try and figure out who doesn’t yet have one and convince them they need some.
What Are You Waiting For?
In conclusion, if you’ve got the passion and drive to create and sell t-shirts, you should do it! Why not give it a go? At the very least you’re going to learn a bunch of new skills that will help you in whatever it is you end up doing. I have so much fun making t-shirts and I now you will too!
The Shopify Guide to Starting a T-shirt Business – Shopify
The Pros and Cons of Selling on Etsy – Aeolidia
Should You Sell on Etsy or Build Your Own Website? B-Plan
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