Starting any type of business will require a bunch of time and dedication … And starting a t-shirt business is no different. In this post, I will provide you with a simple blueprint to follow. If you can’t, or if you’re unwilling to do these simple tasks, then perhaps the t-shirt business is not for you. Making the conscious decision not to proceed further will save yourself a bunch of money and frustration. In no way am I trying to deter you from getting started, but this is a simple way for you to determine if you’re indeed serious about launching your own tshirt business.
Because it’s going to cost you a decent amount of money to get started, I’d suggest you do a test run before jumping all in. I see people buy equipment everyday, and then a few months later they’re doing nothing. Before you know it, their heat press is on craigslist.com for way less than they purchased it for.
At least if you do a test run first, you’ll only be out of a few hundred dollars versus a few thousand dollars.
Instead, I’d suggest you draft out your t-shirt design ideas onto paper first. If you’re on a very tight budget, start out with maybe 4 designs. If you have a few extra dollars, start out with maybe 6-8 designs… Don’t over think this — here’s an example of what my 14 year old daughter did:
As you can see, this is nothing fancy … You just wanna get your t-shirt design ideas out of your head and onto paper. Thinking about starting a t-shirt business and actually doing it are two totally different things. You’d be amazed at all the people who spent thousands of dollars on equipment have never done this… This is a very important step. If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it’s probably not a great idea to buy this stuff until you’re certain; unless you know for absolutely sure you’re going to be doing this.
Once you compile your draft of t-shirt design ideas, then it’s time to find you a graphic designer who’ll create them for you. A graphic designer took what my daughter drafted out and created the following design:
As you can see, the graphic designer turned her idea into a work of art. A lot of people make the mistake of wanting to learn graphic design software so they can create their own artwork. I think it’s a bad idea. The people who are really skilled with graphic design have been doing this for years and/or decades. Many have spent thousands of dollars in training, classes, getting certifications and master design.
This is not a skill someone can pick up with just a few days or weeks watching YouTube videos. NO. It takes years to master this software. And just because you think you can use Photoshop, it doesn’t make you a graphic designer. A designer knows about art, composition, fonts, styles, curves and stuff you’d never think of in this lifetime. Let the professionals do what they do. A true businessman or woman will surround herself with a team of talented people… Your job is to market and promote your business — not sit in front of a computer trying to learn photoshop for the next few months.
Anyhow, you can find graphic designers who’ll create your ideas for fairly cheap. I use graphic designers from a website called Freelancer. You can create a contest and then you’ll have hundreds or even thousands of graphic designers from around the world who will look at your project and decide if they want to participate in your contest. You determine the prize for your contest — in this case, it’s money. So for example, you can post a contest and award the winner $100 bucks.
If they decide to participate, they’ll create the design ideas you posted in the project. This is great because you could get hundreds of design concepts created for you by a bunch of graphic designers. If you like what a particular designer did with your idea, you can have them make tweaks until you’re satisfied. At the end of the contest, you get to pick out a winner and award him or her the contest.
When the contest is awarded, the designer you selected gets the money and you get the files in whatever format you requested.
For example, when I created the ‘JESUS SCARFACE’ design, graphic designers submitted over 70 design concepts for me. I really liked the work of one of the designers and awarded him the winner… Here are some of the entries from the contest below — these were the ones that SUCKED!
In the end, I chose the work of the following graphic designer … He had the right type of look and feel I was looking for. Plus, he put all of the designs onto this unique background … Check out the winning design:
I thought I was gonna have a HUGE winner with this shirt. I even had our members all chime in and help me create this design and they voted and helped me select this design from the other batches of designs made by other designers. But when it came to purchase and sell, no one purchased this design.
I then ran traffic to the site and only a handful of people purchased it. The one that everyone overwhelming purchased was the following #BLESSED t-shirt design below:
The moral of the story … Create multiple designs. Start with at least 4-6 designs because you can’t predict what people will buy. If you only come up with one design idea and no one buys it, you may quit too soon, thinking nobody likes your stuff. They might not like that one design, but it doesn’t mean they won’t like your other stuff.
Also, the other moral of this story is not to listen too much at what people say… Everyone will tell you they like your design and that they will buy it. Don’t get misled into thinking if you design what ‘they’ want, that they’ll buy it. Most cases they won’t. Everybody likes everything — but in this business, the only thing that matters is sales. Let them vote with their dollars.
Now that you got your designs back, it’s time to find a screen printer. I recommend this route because it’ll be cheaper to do this versus going out and buying a bunch of equipment. Plus, if you’re strapped for cash, this will allow you to get going almost immediately.
Again, this is to see if you’re actually serious. I see so many people buy all this equipment and do nothing. They read all the free content online and watch hours of YouTube videos and do nothing. Learning all of this stuff does not put you in business. You have to execute. This here is execution. YES … you gotta do something and this is it.
Find a screen printer and get your designs made. These are not meant to make you a profit. This is meant to get some actual t-shirts in hand so you can run some test campaigns and get feedback online from your website and social media. Checking to see if there’s interests. Plus, you’ll want to get models wearing your shirts so you can get them photographed so you can later make catalogs and get your designs put onto a website… Check out these few shirts we got shot by a photographer (my wife shoots photographs professionally).
There’s no set number on how many tees to order with the screen printer; but I’d get maybe 6-12 of each design. This is all based on the number of color in your designs and the costs. The more colors, the more expensive it’ll be… I’d encourage you to start out with less colors to keep your cost to a minimum. Remember, your goal is not to make a profit. This is to test if this is an viable business model. This is cheaper than spending $5,000+ and then finding out you don’t want to do this … Oftentimes, when people get rejected and no one buys their designs the first time around, they quit.
Plus, having these in hand puts you in a better position to borrow money from friends and family because they can now see your vision. It’s not all talk and ideas — now they can see something. Having these shirts in hand is far more valuable than keeping them locked up in your head. Plus, seeing these shirts will serve as a motivator to you … Now you can actually see your creation and it’ll help motivate you to get out and do something about getting your brand out to the public.
Don’t worry about T-shirt tags yet … That’ll come later… Let’s just keep this simple.
Don’t go taking pictures with your iphone. Don’t lay the shirts down on the floor in your kitchen. Find someone who can take these for you… If you search hard enough, you can find someone who’ll take the pictures for you for about $100.00. THey don’t have to be top notch photographer yet … Right now, we just need ‘good enough’. You can upgrade to higher end photographer later on. I’m not going to spend too much time on this topic. I’ve already briefly talked about this above.
There are a bunch of options out there. It almost doesn’t make sense to build your own t-shirt website. There’s Shopify. There’s BigCommerce and Big Cartel. But for now, and to save yourself some money, and to keep it easy as heck, I’d recommend you try Wix.
Click here and check out all the beautiful layouts and templates you can choose from … Make sure to ‘see all templates’ and select the ‘FASHION & BEAUTY’ templates. Remember the photographer we discussed above — these layouts can feature your designs and artists, just make sure you get a few good shots to use on your t-shirt website.
Now here’s the important part. You’ll need to sign up for either their $16/monthly plan, or their $25 plan. These options are much cheaper than Shopify, BigCommerce and Big Cartel which goes up to $79 and $299 per month.
By upgrading your plan with WIX, you get to use your own dot-com name… If you don’t upgrade, you’ll have a free wix account and let’s say your company name is Skateboard Tees …. Then your website address will look something like this: skateboardtees.WIX.com and your website will have ads that show up all over the site.
You don’t want that … People won’t take you serious as a real business. And many will think it’s a scam when you ask them for money. You want your own dot-com address so the website address looks like this: www.SkateBoardTees.com NOT skateboardtees.WIX.com
Also, you don’t have to upgrade and pay for the important apps you need to accept payments from your customers. Wix has a FREE Stripe app you can add to your new ecommerce store where you can take payments from your website visitors and clients. You can also take payments with paypal too… It’s all easy to setup.
I recommend WIX only if you get the premium upgrade. I recommend their$24.92/monthly plan. It has much more features. But if you can’t afford that, pay the $16.17/monthly fee. Still much cheaper than the $29/monthly fee charged by the others for a very basic e-commerce website.
The goal here is to get you making money with your t shirts before spending a fortune on getting a custom built website. This can come later once you have revenue coming in. Don’t spend unnecessary monies on bells and whistles that make little to no difference.
Plus … WIX gives you $75 in free ads to purchase from Google when you spend your first $25 bucks on Google to get traffic. They also give you $100 in free search traffic from BING as well. With this, you get to choose keywords for whatever you’re selling. So if you’re selling skateboard t-shirts, and someone does a search on Bing using the keyword: Skateboard T-shirts, then BING will show your ads near the top of the search engines… So when you signup with BING, you get $100 of FREE BING Ads.
Again …my goal is to stack the odds in your favor to help you sell your first shirt so you can see how easy this tshirt business stuff really is!
Believe it or not … everything up until this point has been the easy stuff. The hard work starts after you have your shirts and website… Now you must market and advertise to get the exposure to your website.
Try posting your stuff on Facebook to see what type of response you’ll get. Try and do a little advertising to see what happens. The name of this game is exposure. Get your brand out to the right places and publications and online media so people who are most likely to purchase can see it.
I don’t have enough time to get into all those details in this post, but go check out our online start up training course for t-shirt entrepreneurs by clicking here.
If you haven’t signed-up for our free online mini training, grab that here.
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Over 1,500 people responded to a survey I sent out about starting a t-shirt business and one of the questions were … What are your BIGGEST fears in starting a t-shirt business?
The top 3 results were shocking too me…
Play the video below to see what the 3 biggest fears are, and how you can overcome them so you can get started:
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I hope you’ve found value in this video. Feel free to leave your comments and/or feedback… If you have anything you’d like me to talk about, please share it below.
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I was in Kohl’s department store trying on a t-shirt … I absolutely loved the shirt and wanted it bad, but I didn’t like the way it fit. Not only that, I really didn’t like the color white for that design either – but I was willing to still buy it, but it just didn’t ‘wear on me’ right.
Which brings me to the point of this short blog post. It’s extremely important you sample a variety of t-shirt styles to see how well they ‘wear’.
You don’t want to get into this business and be known as the person who sells cheap shirts that shrink really bad after the first wash. You don’t want to be known for the guy selling bad fitting shirts.
If shirts feel and wear good, your customers will talk about it and will likely continue to buy from you. Putting your designs onto cheap t-shirts can cost you BIG. The people who purchase your tees for the first time are likely to purchase more from you, but if they don’t like the ‘quality’ of the shirts you send them, you run the risk of never getting repeat or referral business from them.
So … Order some sample shirts from a variety of brands to see how they ‘wear’. It might mean spending $100 – $200 to ensure you make the best possible decision on which shirt to use to represent your t-shirt brand!
If you’d like access to a listing of companies that wholesale blank apparel (t-shirts), go here and get access to this vendor resource.
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When Judy posted a previous blog post titled, “Plastisol Transfers … This Surprising Alternative to Screen Printing Allows Anyone to Start a T-shirt Business From Home“, we received a few e-mails from people wanting to know the BIGGEST advantage to using screen printed transfers…
Some people felt that there really was no difference in cost when buying screen printed transfers versus getting the design directly screen printed onto a shirt…
In fact, I got the following question from a guy named Rod…
I don’t really understand how plastisol transfers are better than actual printed shirts. Unless you purchase the plastisol transfers in bulk the price is about the same. The ONLY advantage I’ve seen is that you won’t have a printed garment laying around having not sold.”
Take a look at my response below … you’re in for a surprise!
hi Rod. Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, screen printing trumps all other methods in terms of ‘quality’. For all intended purposes, it’s the best way to get shirts made, especially when buying in bulk. The next best method for getting quality shirts made is gonna be plastisol transfers. No other method outside screen printing trumps ‘plastisol transfers’. This method is the ONLY method that gets you closest to a screen print quality shirt (keep in mind, this method is NOT the same as printing your own transfers from a home computer).
One of the reasons for this post was to make the case that screen printed or plastisol transfers is an affordable option to get into the t-shirt business. All without having to spend over $10,000+ dollars to get started. I just wanted to make that clarification. There isn’t an extensive amount of learning involved with screen printed transfers compared to learning how to screen print. Plus, with transfers, you can do this in a spare bedroom, kitchen table, sunroom or garage.
You are correct in saying that you must purchase plastisol transfers in bulk to get a good price, but the pricing is not exactly the same. Here’s how screen printed transfers work to your advantage…
Take a look at this pricing chart of just one of the many vendors that make screen printed transfers:
In the pricing chart above, the pricing shown are for custom screen printed transfers being put onto large jumbo sheets measuring 25 inches x 38 inches. In the first column, the pricing for 100 sheets is $2.81 for a single color design.
But because these are jumbo sheets, depending on the size of your design, you can get up to 6 standard shirt size designs onto just ONE jumbo sheet. Broken down, each design on one jumbo sheet is only costing you .47 cents each.
But since you get 100 sheets with 6 designs on each sheet, you essentially end up with 600 transfers for just $281 bucks.
But here’s how it gets even better … let’s say you have 6 different designs, and let’s say each of the 6 designs are blue (the same color). Guess what??? You can put each of the 6 designs onto the jumbo sheet and get one hundred sheets made for the same $281 bucks.
Now you have 6 totally different designs and you have 100 each. Now convince me you can get that from a screen printed for $281.00?
You’ll spend more than that getting 100 t-shirts printed up with 1 color through a local screen printer … The shirts would probably be really cheap and they’re all pre-printed onto shirts that might or might not sell. But at least with the screen printed transfer, you 6 totally different designs.
If you get creative and think things through when coming up with your designs, you can get a whole lot more for your dollar, for practically the same money.
Look further down the list and you can get 500 sheets printed up for $1.65 per sheet for a total of $825 bucks. With 6 designs on one sheet, your cost per transfer in this example costs you about .28 cents each. In this scenario, you walk away with 3,000 transfers. If you had 6 different designs on a sheet, you get 500 transfers of each of the 6 designs.
Now tell me how this doesn’t work out in your favor?
$281 bucks is a small price to pay to walk away with 100 of 6 different designs. You just don’t lose at all.
Now if you’re only buying 12 transfers, then the pricing model makes no sense at all… Just like it wouldn’t if all you were buying were 12 transfers from a local screen printer. Their fees would be outrageous for just 12 tees.
Hope this makes sense and thanks for your feedback… It’s questions like yours that help me elaborate more on how this process works and benefits the end user.
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