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How to Start an Online T-shirt Business

T-shirt Business

Approximately two billion T-shirts are sold worldwide each year. Their popularity means that the custom T-shirt printing industry is expected to be worth $10 billion by 2025. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced ecommerce entrepreneur, if you want to start an online T-shirt business, now is the time. Selling T-shirts online can be very profitable with minimal work.

T-shirts are cheap to source, have universal appeal and are relatively easy to customize. However, if you want to start an online T-shirt business, you should be aware that it’s a very competitive ecommerce market. For your T-shirt business to be successful, you need to make sure that your online store stands out from the rest. To do this, it’s important that you source high-quality products, have unique T-shirt designs, and build a strong brand.

If this is your first time starting an ecommerce business, this may sound like a daunting process, but this step-by-step guide will help you.

Let’s get started.

Why sell T-shirts?

Customized, printed T-shirts are trending because people love fashion that’s unique to them and they’re more modern than the traditional plain tees you see on the high street. There’s widespread demand for printed T-shirts and if you can find a niche, online T-shirt selling can be very profitable.

There are already some hot T-shirt design trends set to take the market by storm in 2021, including:

  • Book designs – This trendy concept has been popularized by independent bookstores and has helped support these businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Bold statements – Driven by recent news, events and a lack of face-to-face communication because of the coronavirus pandemic, T-shirts have been used to make bold statements. Everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to backing a political party has been emblazoned on T-shirts worldwide. 
  • Multi-colored wording – T-shirts with multi-colored wording have become popular for creating a positive mindset. You can create unique designs using vibrant colors to spread some joy.
  • Tarot cards – The use of tarot cards on customized, printed T-shirts is set to be a hot trend in 2021. Some iconic designs have already emerged with unique imagery, symbolism and aesthetics that people can draw inspiration from. 
  • Handwritten typography – Creating a distinctive tone, hand-drawn fonts on a T-shirt look funky, retro and bold and appeal to a whole generation of young people.
  • Hand-drawn artwork – Hand-drawn Sketches are packed with character and can bring a T-shirt to life. Pencil-like creations are expected to be a great design trend for this year.
  • Illustrative figures – With digital drawings becoming increasingly popular, illustrative portraits have become a great design idea. They inject the right amount of personalization into any customized T-shirt. 
  • Animal portraits – COVID-19 saw a huge increase in the number of people buying pets, which gave customized T-shirt designers a great idea – tees with pet portraits. Pet owners love their animals, so why not create T-shirts that would appeal to a big audience.
  • Rainbows – An iconic symbol of hope, joy and wonder, rainbows are set to be a big feature of printed T-shirts in 2021. The rainbow has been used worldwide to inspire hope during the coronavirus pandemic. All kinds of print-on-demand products have been emblazoned with a rainbow over the past 12 months, from mugs to backpacks, spreading a message of hope.

Here’s what you need to do to tap into these trends or start a trend of your own to make your online T-shirt store a success:

Step 1 – You need a niche for your online T-shirt business

To start a successful online T-shirt business, you need a niche for your store. If you create truly unique T-shirt designs and make a wide range of products available, you will increase your chances of success. You should do your research and take your time choosing your niche. You can check other online stores for inspiration and brainstorm T-shirt ideas for your own business. You then need to think about how to make your online T-shirt business even better.

The great thing about starting an online T-shirt business is that you can target any niche that you’re interested in. If you find an untapped market, you should take advantage of it. It’s easier to stand out when there is less competition.

Step 2 – Create a unique T-shirt design

Having unique design ideas are crucial to launching a successful online T-shirt business. If you have a great T-shirt design, you’re already a step ahead of the game. Your products will be the strong foundation on which your store is built. Great products are much easier to market, so get creative and try out a mixture of T-shirt design ideas that are relevant to your brand and appeal to your customers.

Your designs can be digital art, inspiring quotes or things that are trending on social media or in the news. The possibilities are endless.

If you want to make your own designs, there are many T-shirt templates available online that you can use to create your customized products. Alternatively, if you’re unsure how to design great products, get help from others. You can work with a local designer or use a freelance platform to hire a freelance designer. There are many options available to you for sourcing high-quality design work at an affordable price.

What’s great is that you can come up with designs for any occasion and expand your product portfolio beyond T-shirts. You could design sweatshirts, jewelry, bags, baseball caps and other merchandise. 

For example, you could create personalized T-shirts for Mother’s Day or custom sweatshirts for Christmas to expand your product range. The only limit is your imagination. 

Step 3 – Get feedback on your product

Once you’re happy with a few of your designs, get feedback from others. You might think that the designs you have are ready for printing, but you may get valuable feedback from people to help you improve your products. The feedback you get needs to be unbiased. You can post your designs on forums, making sure to watermark them so your ideas aren’t copied.

You should seek professional feedback by getting in touch with some local consultants who will give you a professional, unbiased opinion. If you get positive feedback from forums and professionals you could have potential future customers who you can reach out to when you launch your products.

Step 4 –  Source your products

Once your designs have been validated for your online T-shirt business, you will need to think about where you will source your T-shirts from. Quality is the key because it will ensure a great customer experience. If you’re selling T-shirts that rip or shrink after a couple of wears that’s bad for business. The chances of people buying from your store again will decrease, which is something you want to avoid.

If your online T-shirt store is selling high-quality products that last, your business stands a better chance of building a strong reputation. This will help your business grow.

Step 5 – Get your designs printed

The print quality of your design on T-shirts is crucial to the success of your online T-shirt business. If your designs start to fade or crack after a few washes, the chances of people buying from your store again will decrease. There are various options available to you for printing your designs. One of the most popular ways is print-on-demand – more on this a little later.

It is important that you work with a print provider that will allow you to check the quality of your product before you ship them to customers.

Step 6 – Choose a business model

If you are looking for an affordable and sustainable business model for your online T-shirt store, then dropshipping is the ideal solution. Dropshipping is simple, cost-effective and can be done from anywhere in the world.

Step 7 – Market your products and start selling

Once you have completed the previous steps, it’s time to start marketing and selling your customized T-shirts. Knowing your audience is key to selling as many T-shirts as possible. With that in mind, you must decide whether your products are going to be versatile, all-inclusive or completely niche.

At this stage, you should be paying attention to your competitors. Find out where they’re selling and how they’re marketing their T-shirts. In-depth market research will help you to understand your audience before you begin selling. It will also help you to determine the best platforms on which to sell so that your customers can find your tees easily.

You could find that your audience spends more time on social media than searching for T-shirts using Google. This means that you could take advantage of influencer marketing and advertising to sell your products and services, rather than spending on search engine optimization (SEO).

Alternatively, maybe your customers do use search engines to find customized T-shirts, in which case you should invest in SEO, blog marketing and email marketing to sell more tees.

Once you have an idea of what your competitors are doing and where your customers like to hang out online, you can start to set up and build your online presence. You’re all set to start selling T-shirts online.

Print-on-demand and dropshipping for your online T-shirt business

What is print-on-demand?

Print-on-demand is a business model where:

  • You provide a design for your T-shirt
  • The supplier prints it on blank T-shirts
  • The supplier hands it over to the shipping company that delivers your T-shirts to your customers

Print-on-demand is popular because it’s a low investment option for starting a T-shirt business, you can create your products quickly and all your shipping is taken care of. You will be able to get the exact T-shirt and design that you want in multiple sizes and colors.

Some print-on-demand providers will even offer discounts if you require bulk T-shirt printing for an event or a large group. 

Thousands of products can be sold using print-on-demand, making it one of the most effective ways to make money online. You can customize and sell a range of top products that are in demand, including T-shirts.

What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping is an easy to apply business model because you will never need to hold any inventory. You won’t have to stack boxes of T-shirts high in your living room or pay for storage space. Instead, your customers will place an order and your products will be shipped straight to them from your supplier’s warehouse. Dropshipping ensures that your online T-shirt business is streamlined and can be managed from anywhere in the world.

If you choose to dropship for your online T-shirt business, you will be able to take advantage of various ecommerce platforms. This will enable you to source products at an affordable price, and you will instantly be connected with a wide network of suppliers open to collaborating with you.

How much can I make selling T-shirts online?

There are thousands of online T-shirt business success stories. Once you have everything in place, you could make as much as $100,000 a year. You might not earn this when you first start the business, but if you roll up sleeves, put the effort in and set your store up correctly, there’s no reason why your online T-shirt store can’t be a success.


The key to successful T-shirt selling online is to get set up correctly, be original and don’t give up. If your designs aren’t selling, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board to come up with fresh ideas. With more people buying clothing items online than ever before because of the coronavirus, there’s a real opportunity to make money online selling T-shirts.

Never has there been a better time to express your creativity and personality by selling customized products that are in demand. If you already have designs that you’re ready to sell, it’s relatively inexpensive and quick to launch your T-shirt brand. In fact, it can be done in a few hours.

Thanks to an abundance of web apps and integrations you can easily connect your store to a print-on-demand and dropshipping provider in minutes. This gives you a fully functioning online T-shirt business that’s ready to print and ship to your customers.

Here’s to your success! 

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