Small Business Ideas: How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business

Not only are they a classic piece of casualwear, but t-shirts are a blank canvas for artists and entrepreneurs alike.

Because ofthis, selling t-shirts online has become a very popular business choice.

The good newsis that online t-shirt stores are relatively inexpensive and quick and easy to set up.

The bad news is competition will be stiff and the margins can be small so in order tobe successful with your new t-shirt brand, you have to make the right decisions fromthe get go.

In this video, we’ll go through the entireprocess of starting an online t-shirt business.

We’ll go over strategy, t-shirt and printquality, as well as creating and mocking up your designs.

And then we’re going to showyou step by step the easiest – most cost effective way to get your online t-shirt store up andrunning – without having to deal with any upfront inventory costs, minimum orders, oreven shipping and fulfillment.

Now, I’ll be starting a store from scratchso I can show you just how easy it is to get up and running – here’s a quick peek atwhat the final product will look like.

So follow along and by the end of this video, you too will have created a beautiful online t-shirt store – even if you have no designor coding experience.

Okay, There’s a lot to cover in this video, so if you’ve already thought about your strategy, tshirt quality and design – youmay want to skip ahead to one of the following sections: And for those of you just starting out, let’sget started with some strategy and the key areas you’ll want to focus on to ensureyou build a solid brand that stands out from the competition.

Great, let’s get started.

Niche – You hear the term get tossed arounda lot, but nowhere is it more important to choose a niche than in the graphic t-shirtindustry.

In general, broad categories like t-shirts with funny slogans are going to bechallenging to gain traction for right away because there’s so much competition online.

You’re going to want to tighten it up a little more.

An example of a more specificniche would be t-shirts with funny slogans that relate specifically to fitness.

Design – The majority of people that are purchasinggraphic tees are looking for designs, graphics and slogans that connect with them and reflecttheir opinions and personality.

Your designs don’t necessarily need to be complex, infact many of the best selling graphic tees are very simple, however, they do need toconnect with your audience and stand out.

Quality – Another extremely important factorin the success and sustainability of an online t-shirt business is quality.

You can foolsomeone once, but you can’t fool them twice.

The quality of the shirts you use and theprints needs to be good quality.

A pattern that fades and cracks or a t-shirt that shrinksand rips won’t create raving fans that come back and repurchase.

Let’s dig a littledeeper into t-shirt and print quality.

So, T-Shirt Quality.

Not all t-shirts arethe same and not all print jobs are the same, so it’s important to educate yourself andchoose your blank shirts wisely.

It will always be tempting to sacrifice onquality for higher profit margins but you need to consider how the quality will affectcustomer’s decisions to share your brand and repurchase in the long run.

Now, quality t-shirts encompass several factors, including fit, sizing, material, softness, and weight.

A great starting point for determining which blank t-shirt to use is to check outT-Shirt Magazine Online’s review of some of the most popular blank t-shirts for printing.

We’ve linked to this in the description of this video.

Once you narrow down your choices, we suggest you order each of the t-shirts yourself tomake an informed final decision.

T-Shirt Printing Quality – In this day inage, there are three popular methods for printing designs onto t-shirts.

Each method has itspros and cons, and will partially depend on how much time you want to invest into theproduct creation, as well as the printing partner you choose.

One of your options is screen printing, which is an old technique that has stood the testof time.

As one of the most popular methods for printing onto t-shirts, screen printingcan produce durable and long lasting results.

However, a labor intensive initial setup meansscreen printing is most cost effective when printing in bulk.

Screen printing also poses issues when it comes to complex designs or designs with morethan four to five colors as each color increases costs and production time.

Another printing method is Heat transfersand heat transfers have also been around for a long time and exist in several forms.

Youmay have even seen basic heat transfer paper at your local office supply store.

Althoughthese make it easy to print your designs from your home computer and transfer them withan iron, these won’t cut it when it comes to running a business.

The more advanced form of heat transfers are called plastisol transfers and are printedby professional printers on special, high quality heat transfer paper.

The advantageof this is being able to order a stack of prints from your local printer and transferthem to your t-shirts as you receive orders with a commercial heat press machine.

Heat transfers can produce full-colour images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.

The final technique for printing is the direct-to-garment printing process, which operates much likea ink-jet printer you would have at home.

The printer prints ink directly onto the t-shirtand can produce full color images with accuracy.

Direct-to-garment printing produces qualityprinting on par with screen printing and better than heat transfers.

Because it operates justlike an ink-jet printer, there are no setup costs.

This means that it's easy and costeffective to print small orders.

The major disadvantage however is the lackof volume discount for large orders, as it takes the same amount of time to print eachshirt.

So which option is best for your business?Well, like we said, it all depends on your unique situation.

However, for a lot of newonline t-shirt businesses, it will be tough to sell a large volume of shirts immediately, which makes screen printing too pricey and although heat transfers allow you to printon demand – it is time consuming and generally of lower quality.

So Direct to Garment maybe your best bet.

Alright, let’s talk about T-shirt design.

Now, if you already have a design, feel free to skip ahead.

Creating your designs – Once you have someideas for t-shirts you’ll have to actually design them.

Now, if you have Photoshop orsimilar programs you can try producing some simple designs yourself – however if you’relike most people, you will likely need to enlist some help.

A great place where youcan find a design community with loads of unique talent is on dribble.

Search for the style you’re looking forand message the designers you like to see if they’re available for freelance projects.

Additionally, if you can’t find a designer, there are also options to purchase pre-madedesigns.

We suggest taking a look at the t-shirt marketplaces Designious and T-Shirt Factory, which we’ve linked to below this video.

Although you’ll want to keep in mind thatif you choose to go this route, there’s a high likelihood that other people are alreadyselling the design, making it harder for you and your brand to stand out.

You may also want to check out general graphic design marketplaces like Creative Market andGraphic River but keep in mind if you plan to sell your t-shirts, you’ll need to purchasea commercial license.

Mocking up your designs – Once you have somefinal designs, your next step will be to get some mockup images of them on actual t-shirts.

Your customers are going to want to actually see what the final design will look like printedon a shirt.

The easiest way to do this is to use a freeweb-based T-shirt mockup tool.

These tools allow you to quickly preview how your designswill look printed on a t-shirt.

Head over to “ShirtMockUp.

com” or “Theprintful.

com/generator”to give it a try.

And for those of you who are comfortable usingAdobe Photoshop, you can also make use of the abundance of photoshop-t-shirt templatesyou can find online.

Most Photoshop templates come with multiplelayers that allow you to change the colour of the shirt and apply your own design thatwill blend with the creases and folds of the shirt.

I’ve linked to a few of these inthe description of this video.

Validating your designs – Before you spenda lot of money on your new business idea, you should first verify that there is a marketfor your designs.

There are a number of ways you can do this.

The first thing you can do is post some of your designs to facebook twitter, and othersocial networks your friends and potential customers are a part of to see if there mightbe some interest.

Be careful asking friends however, their opinions will usually be biasedbecause they want to support you.


Now, a great place to go to get some unbiasedfeedback for your designs is reddit.

The unique thing about reddit is that thereare thousands of category specific subreddits, so it’s easy to find a highly targeted nicheof potential customers.

To find relevant subreddits, simply use reddit’ssearch feature and type in your keywords of choice.

From there you can ask them firsthand their thoughts on your designs before launching.

Kickstarter and other crowd-funding websiteshave also made it much easier to test, validate, and collect money upfront for your new businessidea.

Launching a crowdfunding campaign can be time consuming and requires a good dealof preparation, however, the benefits can be huge, which include fully funding yourproject before you have spent a dime.

Those are just a few methods you can try tovalidate your t-shirt ideas, however with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, it’s neverbeen easier to set up a fully functional online store in a matter of minutes to validate yourbusiness idea.

Additionally, we think the easiest and mostpractical way to get your online t-shirt business started is by integrating your store withan online, on-demand, printing and fulfillment service.

These services are incredibly convenient and allow you to set up your online t-shirt storewithout any risk.

They offer a wide variety of t-shirts you can print on, there are noset up costs, no minimum orders, and you don’t need to hold inventory.

You simply upload your T-shirt artwork, and the type of shirt you want them to print onand when you receive an order, they print your shirt, and send it directly to your customer.

The great thing is, the customer has no idea you’ve used this type of service, becauseyou're able to customize the return address and include your branding in the packaging.

Also, if you’re using Shopify – there are several of these services in our app store, that connect directly to your ecommerce store.

This means that once a shirt is ordered fromyour online store – it will be automatically created, and shipped to your customer.

I’velinked to a few of these providers in the description of this video but for now let’shead over to Shopify.

com and sign up for a free trial so we can show you just how easyit is to get your t-shirt business up and running with one of these services.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Shopify is a fully hosted, turnkey, ecommerce solutionthat allows you to easily setup and run your own beautiful store on your own domain.

I’m going to quickly start a new store from scratch, so I can walk you through the setup process.

The first thing I will cover is how to sync your store with an on demand printingand fulfillment service, and then I’m going to show you how to add products, and customizethe look and feel of your store.

To start, we’ll type our email into thebox there and hit get started.

Then we’ll create our password and the nameof our store.

If you’re following along and haven’t decided on a name for your storeyet, don't worry you can easily change your store name later.

Okay, so it just takes a few moments to create your store.

Great, so Shopify wants to know where we would like to sell, let’s focus on an online storefor now.

Let’s quickly add our address to set upour shop’s currency.

Okay, so Shopify wants to know a little bitmore about our plans.

“Are you already selling?”.

And we haven’t started selling productsyet so I’ll tick that off.

and how much revenue does your business currentlymake in a year.

We’re starting from scratch so I click $0.

Okay so now that we’ve created our onlinestore, we’ll find ourselves within the shopify admin dashboard and it’s best to think ofthe dashboard as the control center for all the operations we’ll perform on our shopifystore.

Now, I want to get right into showing youhow to integrate with a on-demand, printing and fulfillment service so let’s jump rightinto it – but if you’re looking to go into more detail with starting your shopify store, we have another great tutorial video that shows you how to get up and running in moredetail.

I’ve linked that video in the description of this video.

Okay, let’s get started.

So the first thing we’re going to do is head to the shopifyapp store.

To do this, we’ll click on the “apps” tab on the left panel and thenwe’ll select “visit the app store”.

So the Shopify App store has 100s of appsthat can extend the functionality of your shopify storein categories ranging from marketing, shipping, sales and customer service.

Now, we’re looking for a pretty specific type of app, so let’s narrow our resultsby searching for the word “t-shirt”.

As you can see there are currently 6 availableapps that appear in the search results for “T-shirt”, you can take a look at eachof them and read what they have to offer as well as look at customer reviews.

For this tutorial, we’re going to take a look at printful.

Okay so like we said – No upfront costs, they offer personal branding – so it looks likeyou sent it and no manual orders – everything is automatically sent to printful.

If we scroll down we can see, they offer a variety of t-shirts, American Apparel, Gildanand Anvil.

They also offer Sweatshirts, posters, mugs and a whole bunch of other products ifyou’d like to branch out.

They also offer 20% off and free shippingif you’d like to order samples of your t-shirts and the conveniently provide you with mockup images that you can use in your shopify store.

They even have some pre-written productdescriptions you can use – although we suggest creating your own.

Alright, let’s go ahead and add the app and it will bring us to the signup page, wherewe’ll want to create an account.

I’ve already created an account so I’llbe brought directly to my Shopify page where, I’ll want to install printful.

Once you’vecreated account as well, you will be redirected here.

Okay so our store is now synced with printful, and we haven’t added any products to ourstore so we won’t see anything here quite yet.

In the blue box, we can see that printful wants to make sure we follow their print guidelines.

Let’s click on that link.

Here we can see more information on the t-shirtsand pricing they offer.

If we scroll down we can see the variety ofshirts and sweaters they offer and if we click on the image, we can see all the colours thatare offered, as well as a description and sizing information.

If we click on the retail prices tab we can see how much each shirt will cost.

And theseprices are what you pay for the shirt and the print.

The American Apparel 2001 T-shirtcosts you $16 and if you sell your t-shirt at $26 you will profit $10.

Of course, you decide how you want to price your t-shirt so you determine your own profitmargins.

If we click on the shipping tab we can seethe rates for the USA, Canada and the rest of the world.

Just like pricing, it’s upto you to you to decide if you want to offer free shipping on your products or if you wantto adjust your shipping rates according to the printful rates.

We’ll dig into thisin more detail shortly.

If we click on the mockups tab, we can downloadsome apparel mock ups and they also point you in the direction of some other mock uptools that we mentioned earlier like shirtmockup.


And if we click on the guidelines tab – wecan get some instruction on the details of the print file we need to include.

We can very easily download these files and work along with them, but if we want to getstarted quickly, we can click on the mockup generator from the top menu.

So this feature allows you to generate a t-shirt mockup and print file very easily.

The firstthing we can do is pick our t-shirt brand.

We’re going to print on American ApparelTees, so I’ll select that.

The next thing we’ll do is pick our t-shirtcolour.

And then we can upload our artwork.

Once it’s uploaded we can adjust, wherewe want it to appear on our T-shirt.

center the file by clicking the center button, or adjust the size of our graphic by using the slider bar.

When we’re ready we can click to proceed to the file generator and click to generatethe mockup and printfile.

And it will just take a few moments.

And We can now downloadthese files.

Great, now let’s quickly set up our billinginformation so we can get all synced up with Shopfiy.

There are few options and we’regoing to go with the default payment method.

Now, if your printful account is connectedwith your Shopify store, all you have to do is add a credit card and any new shopify orderswill automatically be added to printful and your credit card will be automatically chargedfor them.

No manual order submission required.

Okay, let’s head over to our Shopify store- and we’re going to add our first t-shirt to our store.

To do this we’ll click the products tab and select add product.

Let’s name our Shirt Just below that we can add our product description.

You’ll want to take some time to craft a proper product description but we can alwayschange this later.

Type: T-ShirtVendor: Shopify And let’s make sure we add this to the frontpagecollection, which means the product will be featured on our home page.

And Images.

This where we can upload our T-shirt mock ups, or if we have any shots of our productson models or anything like that.

For now, let’s just add the mockup file that printfulcreated for us.

Okay price.

I’ll just go with $30 for now.

Since we plan to print on demand, we don’t need to track inventory.

And this producthas multiple options.

So we’ll need to add the weight of our productfor when we set up our shipping rates.

We’ll get into this in more detail but for now, I’m going to say that our t-shirt weighs 0.

5 kilograms.

Variants, this is where we can add or different shirt sizes.

And we’ll just type in thesizes we offer and separate them with a comma.

Okay, let’s hit save product.

And our producthas been successfully created.

So now, we’ll want to sync our t-shirt with printful.

Let’shit this handy button on our top bar and select “edit on printful”.

And as we can see our Shirt has been synced and it is showing the sizes we added.

Whatwe can do now is add our printfile, and let printful know what type of shirt and sizewe would like them to print on.

Product Type, T-Shirt.

Brand: We’re going to go with American Apparel and the model, we’ll go with the very popular2001, fine jersey sleeve men’s t-shirt.

The size for this one will be small, and thecolour black.

We can now add our printfile by selecting“front print” and clicking upload file -and then we’ll locate the printfile we generated and downloaded and click the image to confirm.

We also have the option to add a back print or outside label at an additional cost.

Wecan also add the mockup we created.

Let’s go ahead and do that.

It will just take a few seconds to upload – and again we’ll click the image to confirm.

Then we will hit done – and repeat the process for the additional sizes.

As you can see all the info is conveniently filled out and we simply have to change thesize of the shirt.

I’ll just adjust our large shirt as well.

Great, so our t-shirt is all synced up with printful and ready to go.

Now let’s takea look at adding our branding to the packages printful ships out to our customers.

So, printful is completely white label, which means you will not see their name or brandinganywhere and they make it very easy to add our branding to their packages.

To do this we’ll head to “settings” from the top tab, select stores from the lefttab and then click edit.

So here we have the option to add our brandingsticker.

Follow printful’s size and quality guidelines, and at no extra cost you can easilyadd your logo to all your packages.

Additionally you can add some custom textto your packing slips by filling out the custom packing slip message right here and you alsohave the option to change your return address, although printful recommends that you keeptheir address as the return address.

Okay great, so now that we’re all syncedup with printful, let’s head back to our shopify admin dashboard and quickly set upour payments and shipping rates.

To set up payments, we’ll head to settingsand then select payments.

Okay, so for our users in the UK, US and Canada, our Shopify stores have automatically been set up with Shopify payments, which allowsus to start accepting payments from all major credit cards instantly.

All we have to do is click to “complete shopify payments account setup and fill outthe relevant information.

And for our users outside of the UK, US, andCanada, don’t worry – Shopify has integrated with over 70 different payment partners sothere are plenty of hassle free options available.

Additionally, as soon as we open our Shopifystore, we will be set up with a Paypal Express Checkout account with the email we used tosign up for our Shopify Store.

As soon as we receive our first order throughPayPal Express Checkout, Paypal will send us an email that contains the link and instructionsto complete our Paypal account set-up and claim our funds.

Alright, let’s setup our shipping ratesand to do this we’ll select the shipping tab on our left panel.

Okay, so like we said before it’s entirelyup to you how you want to set up your shipping rates.

You may decide you want to offer freeshipping to your customers, or even build the shipping prices into the cost of yourshirt.

We have some great resources that can help you get a shipping strategy in placethat I will link to in the description of this video.

But for now, we’ll show youan easy, and safe way to set up your shipping rates, so that they match the rates that printfulwill charge you.

Let’s pull up Printful’s shipping ratesfor reference.

So you can see they have different rates forthe USA, Canada and Worldwide shipping.

We’ll set up our Canadian rates first, because thatis where we are located.

So our first t-shirt will cost $8.

00 and eachadditional shirt will cost $1.


So we’ve already been set up with some standardshipping rates – but these won’t do us much good since we want to match printful’s rates.

So let’s get rid of the heavy goods shipping.

And let’s open up the standard shippingand customize it.

Let’s set up a shipping rate for if ourcustomer orders 1 t-shirt.

So, the first thing we’ll want to do is change our criteriato “based on weight”.

Now, if you remember we put the weight ofour t-shirt at 0.


so we’ll put our range 0.

0kg – 0.

5 kg.

And we’ll set the shipping price to $8.

00as per Printful’s rates.

Now we can hit save and our shipping ratesfor orders of a single t-shirt have been set.

So next we’ll want to set up a rate forcustomer’s who order 2 t-shirts.

We’ll click “add shipping rate” – I’ll addthe same title “Standard Shipping”.

Okay so we know we’ve weighted 1 t-shirtat 0.

5kg, so 2 t-shirts will weigh 1kg.

Therefore we’ll want to change the weight range ofthis rate to 0.

6kg, so that it weighs more than 1 shirt – to 1 kg.

And we know printful charges 1 extra dollarfor each additional t-shirt to Canada so we’ll change our rate to $9 instead of 8.

We can keep filling these rates out in a similarfashion – you may also decide to give your customers who are ordering a bunch of shirtsa deal on shipping.

You can achieve this by changing the weightrange for example to 1.

1-20kg with a shipping rate of $10.

Meaning if they order, 3 shirtsor more they are offered the same rate of $10.

To set up rates for the USA we can click “addcountry”, and select the united states.

We’ll then follow the same method we usedto set up our Canadian rates.

To set up international rates – click addcountry, select “rest of the world” and again follow the same process to set up yourrates.

Okay, so we’ve taken care of the logistics.

Our store is integrated with printful – our products are synced and we’ve provided printfiles.

We’ve set up our billing information onprintful and set up our shopify store to accept payments.

Our shipping rates are set – butyou’re probably wondering – what does my store actually look like? Well, that’s reallyup to you.

Let’s head back to our admin and click onthemes tab to get started customizing the look and feel of our store.

So, the theme of a Shopfiy store controlsall aspects of the store’s appearance and layout.

Now, Shopify actually automaticallysets us up with an introductory theme called launchpad, which is a great starter theme- but let’s quickly head over to theme store and explore some options.

So there are lots of themes to choose fromand we encourage you take some time looking through them and seeing which one would workwell with your t-shirt business.

For now, let’s narrow our results a littlebit by selecting a free theme, that is in clothing and fashion.

So our results have narrowed significantly, and I’m personally drawn to the “new standard”theme so I’ll click on it.

Here we can learn more about the theme, viewa demo, see what styles it comes in and read some reviews.

If we’re satisfied with what we see we canclick “Get Theme” and publish it as our stores theme.

And it will take a few moments to publishit.

Now, we can view what our store is lookinglike by clicking this view on your website button or at any time by using the handy iconin the bottom left corner.

So our website is pretty blank – we’ve onlyadded one product.

But we can easily customize our theme and start filling it out by addingour logo to the top – adding a nice slider image and filling out our About us section.

First things first, I’m going to quicklygo back to our products page and add 3 more t-shirts just so we can better visualize ourstore.

I’d encourage everyone to do the same.

If you’re following along, make sureto add your new products to the “front page” collection so they will appear on your homepage.

I’d also like to mention that if you'readding shirts that you plan to sell, remember to sync them with printful, by using the sameprocess we used with our first t-shirt.

Okay great, so we now have 4 products to fillout our store and help visualize it.

Let’s head back to our themes and click customizetheme.

And there are our 4 products displayed on our front page.

Let’s start by adding our logo – to do thiswe’ll click the “header tab”.

If we read the description it let’s us know thatour logo dimensions can be a maximum of 844 pixels wide and 200 pixels high.

I’ve already got a logo prepared so I’llclick choose file – locate my image, and click open.

Great, let’s save those changes.

Next up, let’s add a slider image, by clickingthe back arrow and going down to the homepage tab.

We can see that our image should be 844 pixelsby 490 pixels.

Let’s click the replace button under “slide 1” and select our bannerimage.

Cool – so that’s added.

I also have anotherone I will add so it can scroll through two different photos.

Same idea, I’ll clickreplace under Slide 2 and locate my photo.

Awesome, you can also very easily add captions- or you may even decide you want to turn off the slider.

Take some to explore the storefront editor, it’s extremely intuitive so you can easilycustomize the look of your store.

If we look at the footer section, for examplewe can easily link our social icons, which are located at the bottom of our page to ourappropriate channels, simply by changing the URL.

If we don’t use a particular social channel, we can easily remove the icon by deleting the URL entirely.

And as you can see our Google + icon is nolonger there And if we’re interested we can add our contactinformation into the boxes below.

Okay let’s save changes.

Alright, so ourT-shirt store is starting to fill out nicely and another thing we may want to edit is our“about us” section and our blog.

To start, we’ll head back to our admin dashboard andclick pages.

From within the pages we can very easily customizeour about us page and we can change the text on our frontpage by selecting the “frontpage”section.

And just like everything else, adding blogposts is extremely easy.

Click on the blog posts tab from the panel and there is oneset up for you that is ready to edit.

And to add additional blog posts, simply hitthe “add a blog post” button from the right hand corner.

Okay and the last thing we recommend you dois register a custom web address by clicking settings and then domains.

All new storesstart with a with a (dot)myshopify(dot)com address as a way to log in and store our contentsafely, however it will look much more professional if you get your own custom .

com address forexample.

You can do this very easily by selecting the“buy a domain” button and the domains will even be offered to you at a discountedprice – or – if you already have domain, you can easily add it to your store by selectingto add an existing domain.

And there you go, just like that you’reall set up with your custom branded, online t-shirt store.

And if you’ve followed along, your t-shirts are all synced up with printful – so when someone purchases a t-shirt – anorder is automatically sent to printful, printed on your t-shirt of choice and sent directlyto your customer.

And since you don’t have to worry aboutupfront inventory costs, or printing and shipping you’ll have plenty of time to focus on otheraspects of growing and running your online t-shirt business.

I’d also like to mention that your storeis currently private, and password protected – but when you’re ready to launch you caneasily remove your password by heading to settings, then scrolling down to the “storefrontpassword” section to remove your password and make your store live to the public.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitateto leave a comment below – and if you found this video helpful, please let us know byclicking the like button.

Thanks for watching.

Ready to put what you learned into action?Head over to shopify to start your free trial.