11 Tips for Starting a T-Shirt Business
Starting a t-shirt business is pretty cool. You can get creative with designs, photo shoots, packaging and marketing. You can learn about social media marketing with Facebook, Instagram and email marketing. Your friends and family will hopefully wear your designs, and most importantly, you'll make some money from your t-shirt business.
But starting a t-shirt business isn't easy. So we've created this list of tips and ideas to help you put together a t-shirt business/brand of your own.
Here are our 11 tips for starting a t-shirt business...
1. Come up with a remarkable, marketable idea
You've decided you're going to start a t-shirt business, but what will be on your t-shirts? This is probably the most important decision of your new venture.
What opportunities in the market are there? Do you want to sell just mens, womens or babies t-shirts, or all of these? What's selling? What kinds of designs, colours, styles of printing?
2. Make a Website
You need to have a website, even if it's just basic. Your website shows your customers that you are stable. You are a specialist. You are a big deal. You are trustworthy. You even have a freakin website!
It doesn't matter if you're selling products on your website like we do, or if your website is just one page and explains what you do and provides your customers with your contact details - you should definitely have a website.
If you don't have a website and you don't know where to start, HERE is the easiest way to create a website and get started.
More reasons to have a website in THIS POST.
3. Work out your target market
After you’ve brainstormed your ideas for starting a t-shirt business, it’s time to start thinking about your target market. Who do you want to sell your t-shirts to? Be as specific as possible. What kinda of people do you mix with? Maybe this is where you start. Is your market skateboarders, or golf fans, or people who like to have a laugh about politics? Now dive deeper - what part of that market? Young golfers? Politics fans in the Waikato? The more
Now dive deeper - what part of that market? Young golfers? Politics fans in the Waikato? The more specific you can be with your niche, the easier the brand will be to market. We have a blog post all about NICHING YOUR NICHE HERE!
4. Have a chat with an accountant
Talking to an accountant is normally free for your first visit, and it might be worth chatting with 2 or 3 of them. Talk to them about your options, like do you start a company, or work as a sole trader? Do you pay tax, or claim tax on your purchases? If nothing else, understanding the basics of your tax obligations will help you feel more confident when you're talking with suppliers and customers.
5. Work out which t-shirts to print on
We've got a huge range of t-shirts, so it can be a bit confusing as to which t-shirt best suits your needs.
Here's a helpful article in our Help Centre to make choosing a t-shirt style a little easier, but feel free to grab a few different styles and you can return what you don't need.
Got questions? Feel free to Contact Us
6. Printing your t-shirts
There are lots of ways to print t-shirts. With a vinyl cutter and a heat press, or screens, dyes and inks.
With a vinyl cutter and a heat press, you can print the t-shirts with transfers on them. This is all well and good, but it's harder to come up with fancy designs and can be time-consuming to print each one. However, if you're just putting words onto t-shirts, this might be your best bet.
Screenprinting is an art form. I've tried it years ago and from then on, I'll always leave this to the experts. When you're getting lots of t-shirts printed, it gets cheaper, as there is normally a setup cost of $50 - $150. If you're getting 50-100 t-shirts printed, sometimes printing will only cost $3 - $4 per t-shirt for a single colour print.
We've put together a really helpful database of screenprinters here, contact a few and get some quotes, as they'll often vary a lot.
However, if your style is artistic and crafty, you might love to try some screenprinting. Nothing is perfect, and your t-shirts will still sell just fine if the printing is not perfect, as long as that suits your niche.
7. Pricing your t-shirts
The price of your t-shirts 'loosely' depends on what it costs you to make each t-shirt. When calculating the price, make sure to include the actual price of the shirt, screenprinting costs, shipping costs, costs of hangtags and labels and other costs such as marketing, storage/warehousing and labour. Also, consider if you plan on selling retail or wholesale or both. If you are not selling your shirts to other stores or boutiques, then you might be able to price them lower since you are cutting out the middleman. Set a price that allows you to cover all the costs and make a profit as well.
There's always the method, depending on your market and your target customers, to overprice your t-shirts to give the idea of a higher perceived value. There are lots of t-shirts on the market for $80, $99 or even higher, but they're really no better than a $25 t-shirts, they're just marketed a little different.
8. Storing and shipping your t-shirts
Many people who are starting a t-shirt business start out by storing their shirts in their garage, spare room or home office in bins or on shelves. Think about how much time and space you have and what you want to focus your efforts on.
Do you enjoy packing and shipping and do you have the time to do it? If so, starting in your home is a good idea. But if you hate the idea of going to the post office every day or if you don’t have space in your house to store your shirts, then consider hiring a fulfilment service, which will do all the storage, packing and shipping for you for a fee. Companies like Online Distribution can do that for you.
9. Selling your t-shirts retail
If you are starting a t-shirt business and want to sell your shirts directly to the consumer, you should have a website. Allow people to purchase items directly from your website and make sure you have good photography that reflects the quality of your t-shirts. TradeMe can be a good option, but their fees are high and shoppers on TradeMe don't like paying much for a t-shirt, competition is tough. You might also want to consider selling your shirts at local markets or fairs.
Start a social following, build a following of people that are interested in your niche. Shock Mansion is a great example - they share content online (Facebook, website, Instagram etc) which appeals to its potential customers, and in turn, they sell thousands of their t-shirts and hoodies.
You might also want to consider selling your shirts at local markets or fairs.
10. Selling your t-shirts wholesale
You can also sell your shirts to other stores that target your niche market when you are starting a t-shirt business. These can include local boutiques, gift stores, t-shirt shops and even larger retail chain stores. You can call the store directly and ask to speak to their buyer. Many stores like supporting businesses in their area, so it’s best to start out with stores in your town or city first.
11. Get someone influential to wear your gear
Work out who the influencers are in your niche. Even if you just have a mate who everyone thinks is pretty cool, slide them a free t-shirt. These people are influencing other peoples buying decisions, so take care of them. Have a rich cousin? Get him wearing your brand. Know someone with thousands of Instagram followers? Flick them a t-shirt or hoodie.
Keep in mind, if your design/brand isn't cool enough for these influential people, maybe you need to reconsider your designs. These people should be wanting to wear your stuff.
And lastly, wear your t-shirts as often as you can! This is often of the best and most effective method to get your shirts seen. Tell everybody you know about your new business venture and ask them to tell their friends. Word of mouth is very powerful.