Is it Illegal to Sell T-shirts From Home? 

By  Cartess Ross

Wow… Sounds like someone doesn’t want to compete with another t-shirt business in the area.

From time to time, I’ll address questions sent to me via a video tutorial if I think it would be helpful to the TshirtRiches community… This is one of those times.

The tactics used by this t-shirt shop owner is repulsive….

Got questions? Post them below:

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Cartess Ross

I will guide you through this process and provide you with proven strategies to help you build a t-shirt company. As one of the original pioneers to start selling t-shirts online 20 years ago, I've sold millions of dollars in t shirts to people all over the world. I founded TshirtRiches in 2007 to teach others how to turn their t-shirt ideas into a business. So if you're ready, hop onboard and let's make this money!

Cartess Ross

  • Hi Cartess,
    I have a similar problem, except my homeowners association (HOA) does not allow any businesses in our community at all. I haven’t figured out a workaround yet. The city business license application form specifically asks, “Is you proposed home occupation in conformance with any conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) pertaining to your property (Yes) (No). Is my t-shirt business hosed?
    Any ideas?

    • I would still have that looked into… It’s possible you’re interpreting that HOA agreement wrong. It might be worth paying an attorney to review that. I can’t imagine HOAs keeping you from having a small scale mail-order business — I could be wrong. But it’s worth paying an attorney a couple hundred bucks to look into that. The few hundred is small compared to what you can make if you find you’re able to move forward.

  • I think I might have been a lack of info as to what he’s doing at home. Two local shop owners know what we’re doing, and actually they encouraged us. They said no one in the area sells the same kind of shirts we sell and “there’s a need for it, someone should have been doing it.” The one guy has his national sports league licenses, so that’s what he sells (obviously has been in business a long time and has the money to cover those fees), the other sells skateboards, and his customers like rock shirts like what we’re wearing, and he’s offered to buy our shirts to resell — just a few to get kids in his door to buy skateboards. A hair salon asked if we’d try something different and do their uniforms — it seems that once word got around our small town that we sell shirts online, we were added to a little club of business owners who want to embrace us. It’s cool, we have to check and make sure we can do what they they’d each asked if we can do with the county.

    • I’m glad to hear of your success Kami. Oftentimes people are scared to make the leap. But if they did, they’d find that ‘most’ people in the community are very receptive and accommodating.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • I have a small part time sign shop out of my home. I do shirts from time to time but it is heat press. A few years ago I built my own 4 color screen printing press and have used it plenty of time. Well the city told me I can not do screen printing out of my house because of the chemicals and not having proper drainage. I still do it from time to time but for give away shirts. I still make heat press shirts and sell out of my home. My garage is setup as a business and I have customers coming everyday. The only reason that shop told him that is because he does not want him doing his business from home when the shop has to pay overhead ect. I feel the same way about people buying cheap cutters off eBay and think they can start cutting stickers Honda Chevrolet Ford ect So I understand where the shop guy is coming from. But the guy has some big balls to go to a shop and ask questions and help like that. That’s kinda like me wanting to get in the pest control business and going to a local pest control and asking what is the name of the supplier where they gets his stuff from because I am getting into pest management lol. All I can say is research research research watch YouTube. Then take the jump

  • you know you are on the right right track when someone is threatening to sue you or use scare tactics to try and stop you from doing good in your business.If youre not a threat then why would they bother threatening you in the first place? the fact that the shop owner tried to not only stop Dameous from selling his own goods but actually tried cashing in on his ideas tells me that his product is going to do very well when he gets it out into the world. i wouldnt be surprised to see this shop owner copying Dameous’s products and trying to sell them as his own.

    • You’re absolutely right Liam. By the way, I just purchased one of your belt buckles. I clicked your name and it took me to your Etsy site — those things are awesome! Can’t wait to get mine for the good ole’ state of Georgia. Check them out:


  • Dameous Milow says:

    Yo, thank you for addressing my concerns (I must not planning on a video response to it lol). I should have did my homework to it find out myself, which I’m planning on doing. I guess he misunderstood me when I bought up selling tee’s at home (which explains the reason why he bought up selling copyrights materials and “Don’t get caught’). At that time, I thought he would point me in the right direction, but I TOTALLY thought wrong.
    Anyways, I had talked to a church member who owns a fragrance shop and told her the story. She shook her head and said, “The devil is a lie!” lol. She gave me some encouraging, spiritual words which lead to a person she knew was planning on doing a tee biz and bought a heat press, but never used it. I think because of that, it had open a door of opportunity in my favor, as well as, sending 300 bones for a heat press :P. Thank you and God once again for replying to my issue.

    P.S. I agree about the customers coming to your home thing, which it wasn’t my intention to do so. I didn’t want my mom cussing me out lol.

    • That is AWESOME Dameous… This is what happens when you take action. All types of doors start opening up for you and the opportunities just start pouring in!

      It sounds like you’re moving in the right direction. Don’t stop, just keep on moving. Keep us posted on your progress!

  • syed shoeb ahmed says:

    hey cartess ross thankss a ton for providing such a great information!
    actually i am from india from a small town and i want to start a t shirt business in bulk quantity, i have some questions for you if you can answer please
    1) what process should i use? heat, digital or screen printing?
    2) can i get your printing machine here in india ?
    3) should i do a course of adope photoshop for graphic designing ???
    eagerly waiting for your reply…

    • Hi Syed,

      We thank you and we hope you continue to learn as much as possible about the tshirt industry.
      We recommend screen printing, at least have designs screen printed directly onto the plastisol transfer paper. It’s much cheaper than having designs screen printed directly onto the shirts and less of a mess. Not to mention, the cost of inks, equipment, etc.
      Well, we do not ship to India. However, you can more likely find sellers on Ebay, and Amazon who will ship to India. Should you do a course on photoshop, NO! If you’re not a graphic artist, you have no knowledge in creating designs and absolutely no knowledge on how to use photoshop. Hire a graphic artist to help out in that area! The time it will take you to learn how to create designs that people will actually want to buy from you. That could be time applied growing/starting your business. In the long run, trying to learn how to create designs, that will be time and money wasted. It will be much cheaper for you to just hire a talented graphic artist.

      • Hi Syed,

        I am a Graphic Artist and I can help you for little to pay, I also am starting up my heating pressing semi bussiness with the ecouragement of Mr. Cartess and Kim Ross lol, Really you guys are the truth. I already have my Heat press, printer and now I just working on my website right now because I know the internet is powerful :). Mr. Ross after I get setup with my website and everything do I stock up on tees??

        • Hi Michael,

          We thank you so much for your kind words! 🙂

          Yes, the internet is so powerful, I agree! The internet truly is the first place we all go to when we’re looking to make a purchase. 🙂 It’s all about positioning yourself and making yourself available when people come looking for what you can sell to them.

          Honestly, you do not have to stock up on tshirts to get started. You can pace yourself and build an inventory of supplies as your business grows. Just be sure to learn your market and know who you’re selling to.

          • Michael McNease says:

            Thank you for the feedback guys! I’m drawing up my designs just concerned of how many I should design but I have a good theme along the lines of Religious, Faith, and Values, and life on Earth in general.

            When you say stock up on things, “What do mean like ink and transfers?”

            Also how do I set up a Pay Now account?.

            Please reply soon.


          • Hi Michael — congrats on moving forward.

            Not sure what I mean when I said ‘stock up on things’. Which video was that in?

            Paypal will walk you through the process of setting up an acct. Just visit their website and register: http://www.paypal.com

  • Guys, thanks for the many helpful tips. Just a few questions:
    1). If I am selling from home, should I get a registered business name??
    2). Should I trade mark my designs??
    3). Are there tax consequences to worry about?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Kevin,
      Yes, you should definitely consider getting a business license. It would be wise to get your designs trademarked/copyrighted. However, we like to encourage people not to allow this to be the reason of not getting starting with your business. If you can afford to get your designs copyrighted/trademarked immediately that’s great. If not, you can do it when you can afford it. We recommend hiring a good accountant to assist you with your taxes.

  • Would you happen to know how to get a logo trademark or a name?

    • Hi Juan,

      We recommend you contacting a Trademark/Copyright attorney on the process and they’ll be able to answer any legal questions you may have concerning your trademark/logo.

  • Kamaka Aweau says:

    Aloha Mr. Ross. I’ve been thinking about those transfer papers that you were talking about and know from what you said that the more colors you use, the more expensive it is. Well I was wondering, would that same rule apply to photographs? Assuming that it is possible to print a photograph onto a transfer. Please let me know if it is possible and if it would cost alot. Godbless and Mahalo.

    P.s. I’m thinking about starting my own T-shirt bussiness and is thinking about using photo’s as part of my design for my shirts.

    • Photos in general will be more expensive. Will they be the same photo or will each transfer be of a different photograph.

  • Daniel Mercado says:

    Is it legal to sell the shirts I make using the heat transfers I get from transfer express or other transfer producing companies. I am wondering if I will get in trouble or sued for that. I’m just starting my business and I have yet to register as a business and I don’t have a vendors license. I post shirts I make on facebook and I am worried about legal issues regarding this.

  • lyndell fisher says:

    Do we need a license to sell tee shirts online or out of our house, using a heat press machine??

    • Kimberly Ross says:

      Any time that you are operating a business then it is a good idea to have a business license, just in case.

  • Hello Cartess,

    You did answer some questions that I had some concerns about. I just want to make the tshirts in my home but I planned, depending on the size of the order, wanted to do mail order or deliver locally. I still plan to call my local courthouse and find out the facts even though i did get the business license application.

    Thank you for all you do Cartess. I plan on making my business a success.


  • Hi Cartess,
    I’m using alot of your information to launch my teeshirt plus business. My son who draws exceptionally well have purchased a few start up presses and have made a little bit of money thusfar, so folks the methodolgies given work, if applied correctly.
    My question is, I have sold more of the pre-made transfers, a few of our own creations have sold but not as fast as we hoped. The other thing is we have our customers pre order when means having to order different size and color shirts often. My question is three parts..1. Is it better to offer one type of product (pre made transfers vs self created) 2. Does it make good sense/cents to buy different size and color shirts (as suggested by my son) 3. My target audience is 18-85, M/W/C …all walks of life, I figured if I narrowed my target audience I’d lose a potential customer. However, too big means too many directions I would need to cover. Whats your suggestion ?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Sheryl!
      We encourage people to offer stock designs alongside of their custom designs. It is often more pricey to create custom designs, so it is a smart business move to fill in any gaps with stock designs that coordinate with your niche. It’s entirely possible that your custom designs just aren’t doing well. Don’t make the mistake of falling in love with your product and not seeing when it is failing. If the designs aren’t selling, it’s time to go back and see how you can improve on it to make it sell. In regards to your shirt inventory, it would be cheaper if you ordered shirts in bulk, rather than ordering them when an order presents itself. It might be a good idea to analyze sizes you sell often and have more of those on hand. It is best to pick a niche and market to that niche to keep things very simple. I wouldn’t narrow down a niche any further (such as further narrowing christian tees to only women who like gospel music). So the key is to keep it broad, but still small enough that you’re not literally marketing to every man, woman and child with a variety of themes. If you’re going to market to men, women and children, make it about something you can really market and sell. Picking a niche is most important so you can target a specific audience. We have a great training program that goes over everything you just asked in depth, as well as other tips and tricks to make your business stand out. Visit http://www.tshirtriches.com/training for more information!

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