How To Start A T-Shirt Business

Everything you need to know about T-Shirt Businesses!

Many people love making art into a wearable commodity. Or they want to display brand loyalty, share a favorite quote, or simply enjoy designing clothes. This is why owning and operating a T-shirt business can be so appealing: almost everyone wears T-shirts, so there are always customers, no matter what you put on them. When considering opening a company based on T-shirts, you will have to decide whether you want to manufacture, print, or outsource. All these options require different levels of investment and skillsets. Research the costs in each area and decide on the type of T-shirt business you want to pursue.

Manufacturing your shirts may be cost-intensive, requiring a lot of investment in machinery, employees, and premises. On the other hand, printing or silk-screening onto ready-made T-shirts involves a lot less investment but requires space and an initial t-shirt stock. Moreover, your shirt orders will have to be significant as you will have to stock a variety of colors and sizes.

The last option, outsourcing your T-shirts and dropshipping to your customers, requires the least amount of investment. It is the best way to start your business. After the success of your first designs, you can consider printing them yourself.

Business plan and costs

It would be best if you had a business plan for your t-shirt company. Below are a few things that you should include:

  • projected start-up costs and a profit and loss account
  • cash flow analysis for the first six months
  • supplier list
  • outline of your target market
  • projected sales for years one to three.

A business plan outlines the financial details and goals of your company. However, it would help to revise it regularly to determine whether you have reached your projected targets. Nevertheless, if you need advice on creating your business plan, this guide will help you.

Outsourcing and dropshipping

Outsourcing means that you give your design to a company, and they supply you with the finished shirt. Many companies offer this service, making it easy to enter the market.

Dropshipping is when the company you order from sends the T-shirt directly to your customer. So, in effect, you are removed from both the production and delivery process. Consequently, you need to find a supplier to print and send your T-shirts to your customer to complete the supply line.

Research your business idea

The t-shirt business is dense with competitors, and only the companies that have identified their USP ( unique selling point) will be successful. USP combines price, style, quality, design, and marketing techniques. So first, decide what your niche will be. Then find out if there is a market for your product. The best way to do this is to get one of your designs printed up and show it to shop owners and people you know. This way, you can gauge their reactions and get their opinions on improving it.

Ask people specific questions about your T-shirt’s design, quality of material, and projected price. And, most importantly, ask them if they would love to buy it? People will be aware of potentially insulting you if they say negative things, so tell them that you need honest opinions to improve the product. If you get positive feedback, you can go to the next stage of your business.

Design your T-shirt

When you have decided on your supplier and material quality for your shirts, then it’s time to design them. However, there are many things you will have to reconsider when doing this:

  • What is your target market? Young, old, male, female, or neutral?
  • Are you going to specialize in particular subjects, or will they be random designs?
  • Will your t-shirts be based on humor and witticisms, or will they be more abstract and artistic?
  • Are you going to target a specific group of people with particular interests? Sports, gaming, and fashion are an example of this.
  • At what price level are you going to place your t-shirt? Do you want to offer limited edition designs at a premium price?

After answering all these questions, decide on your range and put it online.

Market your business

Marketing your business will be the difference between success and failure. First, you will need a good company name to attract customers to your brand. Find a unique and memorable name for your brand that your customers will easily refer you to others. If you face any difficulty coming up with an ideal name, you can try our Business Name Generator. This software is designed to generate thousands of name ideas.

Get advice from a digital marketing expert who will distribute your ad effectively when posted. Spend some money on Facebook ads to reach your specific demographic. Then, pay for a certain amount of clicks with GoogleAds. This is good because you can set a ceiling on the amount you spend on these ads, so you will be able to stick to your budget. You will see if they are effective by the percentage return you get. If it is not working as well as you had imagined, tweak the ad and try again.

Interestingly, making incremental changes to ads can make a difference in and increase customer engagement. Reduce the price by 10%, for example, and see if this works better. Of course, finding the best marketing mix for your product will be expensive and time-consuming. But if it increases your sales, it will ultimately be worth it.

Create a high-quality website

Your website will be competing with thousands of others to get business. Make sure it is both original and of the highest quality. Your website is your shop window, and you want to keep your customers there long enough for them to buy one of your T-shirts. Therefore, it should be easy to navigate. The first step in creating a website is to get a website host and a domain name. Look at Bluehost and get a 60 % discount off hosting and a free domain name.

Start with describing your company and the vision behind it. Explain the thoughts behind your creations to give the customer a more personal feel for your product. All your T-shirts should be exhibited with high-definition photographs. Employ a professional photographer to take care of this for you. It will be a very worthy investment.

Emphasize the quality of the material used to make your T-shirts. List the colors and sizes each t-shirt comes in beside the photo. Moreover, you can utilize a software program that can change the color of the t-shirt with a click to show your customers how their favorite color will look. The price should include delivery and any relevant sales tax. Finally, the payment channels on your site should be secure and efficient, charging you a reasonable commission per transaction.

Invest more to make more

If your marketing has been successful through Facebook and Google, find out what has worked and increase your advertising budget. If the marketing is working and your ad has proven successful, you widen the target area. This means using the same concept, but attracting more people. Because your business is borderless, there is no limit to where you can target your potential customers. On this basis, your sales will increase, making you more profit.

What’s more? You might consider veering away from your original designs and launching an entirely different range at this stage. This will reduce risk and make your business less sensitive to market demands. You don’t need to make any significant adjustments to your business if you do this. Just add the new line to your website with all the relevant details and explain your creative thoughts behind it. Now you can watch your business start to grow.

Build a relationship with your supplier

Because your supplier takes care of production and delivery, you won’t see the finished product. This is what dropshipping is all about. However, you’ll need to agree on a price with them and add your profit. This is the price the customer will see on your website. When you receive an order and payment on your website, you transfer the specified amount to your supplier with the customer’s address. It is, therefore, essential that you have clear lines of communication with your supplier.

Furthermore, good communication avoids potential returns for incorrect orders, which, in turn, will cost you money and affect your reputation. Finally, the longer you deal with your supplier, the more trust is earned, and you may be in a position to negotiate a discount. The savings from the discount can go straight into your pocket.

You will need to open some company forms when you start trading. In this case, a sole proprietorship will be sufficient. In theory, you should not have any trading creditors as you pay your supplier after you have received an order on your website. This way, you will not lose a lot of money if your business is unsuccessful. However, you will not need to be protected by an (LLC) Limited Liability Company.

You will need to pay tax, so your books should be in good order. There are lots of accounting programs on the market. Quickbooks is probably the best of them. With this program, you will check your sales and calculate the tax you have to pay. Additionally, this program will help your business grow, and your bookkeeping process becomes more complex.

The next step

If your designs are successful and have an extensive customer base, it might be time to take more control over the production and delivery process by printing the T-shirts yourself. To do this, you will have to buy a printing machine and negotiate a reasonable price with a T-shirt manufacturer. Also, you’ll need to buy a printing machine that suits your fabric quality and production volumes. However, below are some of your options.

1. Screen printing is a great way to produce volume runs but might lack more intricate designs.

2. Heat transfer will allow you to print a t-shirt quickly, but the quality might not be up to your desired level.

3. Direct-to-garment produces good quality t-shirts, but it is better suited to low volume production.

In addition, choose the machine that suits your business best but remember that none of them will be cheap. Account for this in your business plan.

Find the right supplier

Find a T-shirt manufacturer that can supply the same quality you had before. The price should not be the only factor you consider when entering into a contract like this. If the manufacturer is aware of your business but is a little more expensive, it might be worth dealing with them for convenience and reduced transport costs.

Keep your costs down

If you have free garage space, use this before discovering how much the business will grow. Signing a lease on premises at the start will cost you if the company is unsuccessful.

Furthermore, as your business expands, you must maintain or improve the quality and service you had before the switch over. Your website doesn’t have to change, and the payment system will stay the same. Nonetheless, you can continue your drop-shipping until you are ready to go with your printing business. By doing this, you will make the change seamless and maintain your sales levels.

Employ the right people

It may be very stressful to run your new business on your own. If you employ someone, choose the person most suitable for the job. This includes receptionists, accountants, designers, or salespeople. They will be absolutely essential to your success, and you will need to trust them with the details of running the business.


When you start your T-shirt business, it should be on a small scale to test the market. As mentioned, the best way to do this is by outsourcing and dropshipping as this will keep your costs down to a minimum. Make sure you have a great website that has been optimized with great keywords for a good web ranking and visibility.

When your business starts to take off, you might consider manufacturing the T-shirts yourself. Consequently, you will have to adjust your business plan for more capital investment and at least one employee. If you market your product well and know your customer base, you will turn your T-shirt business into a great success.

Related: Business Name Generator

Related: Clothing & Fashion Brand Names 

Related: Domain Name Generator


Katrina Haggarty

Katrina Haggarty

Katrina is our Head of Content and has 13+ years of experience in content strategy development and marketing within B2B, AV, and financial service markets.

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