How to Sell T-Shirts Online: 10 Successful Steps to Start

How to Sell T-Shirts Online: 10 Successful Steps to Start

how to sell t shirts online

Learning how to sell T-shirts online is not too difficult as you think. Regardless of your place or time zone, running a T-shirt business at home with an Internet connection is possible. Save the ultimate guide on starting a custom T-shirt business to practice, then achieve your first order.

How to Sell T-shirts Online Without Inventory in 10 Steps

Nowadays, when it comes to create and sell custom products online, personalized T-shirts are always great items to start. With a high-profit niche and an excellent business plan, your T-shirt store can achieve great success. The question is how to start a customized T-shirt business properly. Here you go!

Step 1: Choose a Niche to Sell T-shirts Online

Researching the market is the first step to building a successful T-shirt store. Knowing the market landscape helps you find new ideas and generate an effective business plan.

The goal of this step is to find a T-shirt niche. Starting with a niche is less risky but has a higher profit. Moreover, it also makes your business stand out among millions of T-shirt stores.

research the market to start tresearch the market to choose a niche to sell t-shirts online shirt business

Find a group’s interest to get a potential niche, such as space and the universe

There are many methods to discover new and rising hobbies, such as hot hashtags on social media, a list of hobbies on Wikipedia, emerging interests on Google Trends, discussions on T-Shirt forums, etc.

You can begin with a broad keyword and then tighten it up. Here are some worth-selling ideas for you:

  • Customize T-shirts for pets, gamers, sports lovers, or family.
  • Add designs of anime, pets, crypto, besties, or seasonal signatures.

When ideas come, you must conduct multiple research on the sizes, entry barriers, target audience, etc. You may find two popular business models:

Business model Pros Cons
  • Fast setup
  • No inventory & leftover stock
  • No machinery
  • No shipping
  • Long shipping time
  • Higher price
Bulk fulfillment  
  • Lower price
  • Instant production & shipping after the order created.
  • High-risk investments: inventory, factory, machinery, etc.;
  • Complicated management

Experts say that selling customized print-on-demand T-shirts is the most suitable choice for a newbie. You can work online and have more time to understand the market, improve the budget, and prepare for a long-term plan.

Step 2: Select T-shirt Materials and Printing Techniques

The higher quality, the higher the profit margin and the more sustainable your business is. It would be best if you chose a T-shirt segment to focus on: low, medium, or high quality. By selecting the material and printing technology, you can quickly clarify it.

T-shirt Material

Here are three popular materials for T-shirt printing:

  • Polyester: It is sturdy, more durable, less prone to fading, and easy to maintain. However, it cannot absorb sweat.
  • Polyester-cotton mix: It is smoother and more long-lasting than cotton. The percentage of cotton will bring different quality.
  • Cotton: Although expensive and hard to care for, it is high-fashion, skin-friendly, durable, and well-printed with multiple printing methods. It has become the top-quality material for T-shirt printing in the world.
choose material to design and sell t shirts online

Polyester and Cotton T-shirts

Printing techniques

Each printing method brings different visualization. The most popular printing techniques are screen printing, heat transfer, and direct-to-garment (DTG).

  • Screen printing can bring lively and durable colors. It is more appropriate for large quantities than small ones. Consider not using this method if you want to print complex designs because the details may not be sharp.
  • Heat transfer (heat press) allows you to print unlimited colors on T-shirts at an affordable cost. The disadvantages are low quality and less durable than the other printing techniques.
  • DTG seems to be the best choice for a print-on-demand T-shirt store. Multi-color designs can have good details and exact colors. Fulfillment providers can work well and fast with small orders. But the cost for DTG is relatively high, which can raise your T-shirt prices.
how to start selling custom t shirts

Direct-to-garment printing technology

Other trending techniques are dye sublimation, vinyl cutting, airbrushing, etc. Consider the method that best fits your fabric, budget, and timeline.

A summary below can suggest what is suitable:

Premium T-shirts Cheap T-shirts
  • Higher profit margins
  • Improve the brand’s reputation
  • Easily increase customers' loyalty
  • More sustainable
  • Cost-effective
  • Fast production and shipping
  • High-cost
  • Need more time to build the brand
  • Negative impression
  • Low repurchase rate
  • Difficult to go far

Step 3: Register Your T-shirt Business

After choosing a business model and product segmentations, registering your T-shirt store is to make it legal. Moreover, you can also get local rebates or benefits from international tax treaties.

The registration process in each country is different. Therefore, remember to understand the laws to avoid legal troubles. In general, you need to prepare some information and relative documents:

  • The legal representative and the management structure
  • Established capital

💡 You may concern: 7 Steps to Get Unique Print-on-demand Business Name Ideas

Step 4: Make a Business Plan to Sell Tshirts Online

A plan is a roadmap to drive you toward success. Don’t worry if you have never practiced making a business plan.

First and foremost, you have determined your goals. It is to increase profitability, beat the competition, increase revenue per customer, or spread the brand?

Keep in mind analyzing the target audience is a must-have step. It is essential to know their pain point and expectation. Some people want to show off through the price of a luxurious T-shirt. It’s not the problem of pricing strategy but marketing.

make a business plan to sell tshirts online

Get to understand the customer journey

Next, look into your competitors: What are their target audiences? What is their pricing policy? How can you learn from their marketing and sales plan?

There are three main elements that a plan should have:

  • Pricing strategy: starting price, product development, etc.
  • Marketing & Branding plan: reach or conversion goals, budget, marketing channels, etc.
  • Sales plan: revenue objectives, team members, selling methods and metrics, etc.

If you bring a high-value and unique T-shirt and want to beat competitors, you can offer a more affordable price. Here are some effective pricing strategies for you:

  • Penetration: break into the T-shirt market with a very low price
  • Premium: high price for high-quality service
  • Promotional pricing: start with a high cost, then give discounts
  • Versioning: offer many levels of T-shirts, such as low, medium, premium, etc.

Step 5: Choose Your T-shirt Fulfillment Partners to Sell Easier

Fulfillment companies are the answers for “how to sell t-shirts online without inventory”. They are third-party providers who offer white-label T-shirts, printing services, inventories, order processing, and shipping services.

Take a look at the top-rated T-shirt providers below:

  • Printful provides multiple printing techniques, including DTG, embroidery, sublimation, and cut & sew. Moreover, it is also one of the world’s largest print-on-demand fulfillment providers. It can produce a T-shirt in only 2 - 5 business days.
  • Customcat offers high-quality custom T-shirts at the best price. It can make an order averaging 1.5 days and quickly deliver to customers.
  • Dreamship has extensive network worldwide. It is a good partner for sustainable T-shirt brands with high-quality product bases, fast shipping, and marketing collaboration.
  • Gelato is an expert in producing and delivering personalized print-on-demand products, including T-shirts. Its network reaches over 33 countries with over 100+ local print partners worldwide, which helps reduce your pricing and increase shipping time.
  • Printify gives multiple types of T-shirts and connects with over 70 print providers worldwide. Its 24/7 customer support is fast and helpful.
  • Shirtee specializes in fashion. It can take over printing and conducting all fulfillment tasks for you.
  • Printway is the leading fulfillment provider for print-on-demand, custom products, etc. Besides the strong products in Decor & Kitchen, they are also a famous partner for online T-shirt sellers.
choose t-shirt fulfillment to sell easier

Best print-on-demand fulfillment providers

All the above providers get API connection with Teeinblue Print-on-demand Personalizer. Thanks to that, you can create customized T-shirts and automatically send orders to your partners.

Step 6: Build an Online Store To Design And Sell T-shirts Online

Establishing a website is indispensable to selling T-shirts online. It is the place where all of your business activities start. An e-commerce website helps to increase customers globally with the lowest budget.

Learning how to start a customized T-shirt business with a website through 2 core steps:

  • Create a user-friendly website: You can hire a website agency or build it on WordPress. The best recommendation is to create a T-shirt store on e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, Woocommerce, Wix, Weebly, etc. They specialize in online purchasing and offer the easiest-to-use themes, tools, apps, etc., for new sellers.
  • Write all of your content: After getting and registering your website domain, it’s time to fill necessary copies. Let the audience know who you are, the types of T-shirts you offer, your selling policies, etc. Don’t forget to add valuable blogs to spread your brand.
build an online store to design and sell t-shirts online

Shopify is one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the world

Step 7: Upload T-shirt Mockups to Sell Custom T-shirts Online

You now have a website to start your own T-shirt business at home. The next step to sell customized T-shirts is to import mockups to the website. T-shirt mockups are digital photos that show different viewing angles. You can preview how your designs look on the T-shirts before releasing them.

You can get free or paid T-shirt mockups from Pixabay, Freepik, Shutterstock, etc. Direct importing mockups from your T-shirt fulfillment partners is much more convenient. A provider offers the best print area on each view and connects them with the manufacturing process. You not only get elegant images, but you can also add designs faster and send orders more smoothly.

prepare mockups to start selling personalized t shirts

An example of a mockup

Step 8: Create Designs to Print on T-shirts

It is indisputable to say that designs (artwork) decide the success of any print-on-demand campaign. A good T-shirt design should:

Consistently follow your brand value

  • Focus on your niche
  • Be simple but remarkable
  • Be same same but unique

Creating T-shirt designs that sell is not too complicated but quite time-consuming. Take a visit to the ultimate guide on how to create print-on-demand designs.

Adding personalized options to designs can increase revenue incredibly. The 2022 State of Personalization report shows that 49% of consumers will likely repurchase from a personalized store.

💡 You may concern: What is Product Personalization and How to Make Personalized Products?

Step 9: Test the Buying Experience on the T-shirt Store

After uploading mockups and designs, testing the buying experience, sending orders, and payment process to ensure that your customer can purchase easily. You can check yourself or ask your team and friends for help.

how to make money selling custom t shirts

Write a checklist not to skip any feature

Step 10: Launching the First Selling Campaign

Congratulations on following the last step of the guide on how to start a customized T-shirt business. When everything is ready, it’s time to launch the first campaign. Follow your business plan to take the next action.

Don’t be depressed if you don’t get success on the first try. Learning from mistakes and continuously optimizing the process will bring you sweet results.

FAQs: Design T-shirts and Sell Them Online Successfully

You may wonder many things when opening a new customized T-shirt store. Here are the answers from Teeinblue’s expert to the most popular questions.

Is Selling T-shirts Online Profitable? How Much Can I Make?

Selling T-shirts, specially customized T-shirts, still brings profits. It is an ever-growing industry, so new doors for new sellers always open.

FMI's latest data shows that the custom t-shirt printing market is anticipated to reach USD $9.9 billion by 2033. The CAGR is 9.7% from 2023, starting at $3.9 billion. Printify estimates sellers can make a 30%-50% profit margin when selling these products.

Take advantage of being the first store to sell personalized T-shirts in a new niche to achieve the highest profit.

is selling t-shirts online profitable

The forecast of Custom T-shirts in the North America market in 2020 - 2030

How Much Does It Cost to Start a T-shirt Business?

The cost to start a T-shirt business depends on the business model, goals, product quality, etc. The range is from $250 to $20.000, even more. There are some essential costs you need to cover:

  • Business registering fee: It is often cheap. In the US, it will be less than $300.
  • Website creation & maintenance and its relatives, such as domains, extensions, product personalization apps, etc.
  • Design creation: A full-time designer is often cost-saving than buying every design.
  • Marketing fee: Advertisements will take you a lot of money.

Hiring an agency may cost thousands of dollars. For maintenance, Shopify will charge $29-$299 monthly, based on your choice. Besides, there will be additional fees for each order.

How Can I Start up My T-shirt Business with No Money?

Exceptional for Business registering fees, you can optimize the cost with the below methods:

  • Use free website builders: Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly, Jimdo, etc.
  • Make use of free design resources: Canva, Freepik, Open Clip Art, PNG tree, etc.
  • Practice free marketing: SEO, social media, etc.
How Can I Start up My T-shirt Business with No Money

SEO may take time but can reach unlimited audiences

Can I Insert Any Image on a T-shirt and Sell It?

Suppose the author sets the copyright for a design. You can only put unlicensed images on a T-shirt and sell it. Please check the authority before you use one.

Is a Business License Essential to Sell T-shirts Online?

A business license isn’t essential to sell T-shirts online as long as you got a tax ID number. Without any license or tax ID number, you may face legacy troubles.

What is the Best Site for Me to Sell T-shirts on?

Among multiple online platforms, Shopify is a top-rated site for selling T-shirts online. It can help:

  • Create a new website with a separate domain, making it easy to add advanced features and third-party apps to your store.
  • Sell products on multi-channel, recover abandoned checkout, boost SEO, fraud analysis, etc.
  • Try Shopify to sell T-shirts with 3 days of free trial and 3 months for only $1/month on select plans.

💡 You may concern: Shopify vs Etsy Print-on-demand: Which Is The Best Platform?

How to Sell Custom T-shirts on Shopify?

Using Shopify helps you create amazing personalized products and develop your business easily and sustainably. To sell custom T-shirts on Shopify, firstly, you need to build an online store on this platform. The next step is adding a product personalization app.

Teeinblue is the top Shopify product customizer. This app can provide powerful personalized options and control the process of sending orders to fulfillment providers.

Installing Teeinblue, you can:

  • Design your artwork online: Customize text, change clipart, adjust images, and personalize the star map & street map.
  • Add products from Teeinblue partners: Picanova, Printful, Customcat, Dreamship, ShineOn, Gelato, Printify, Shirtee, Printway, and 13+ more.
  • Live preview the designs on mockups before launching campaigns.
  • Send orders directly to print-on-demand services.

Get to know how to create a personalized T-shirt with Teeinblue in this video:

Create personalized T-shirt & All Over Print Hawaii Shirt (for Mother's Day and Summer 2022)

Building and starting to sell custom T-shirts is not expensive and time-consuming as you think. Focusing on your e-commerce website and designs to get the first success. If you still have questions about how to sell T-shirts online or Teeinblue’s features, don’t hesitate to leave comments or join our Teeinblue Facebook Community.


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