Get your pen and paper as this post will be an eye opener for you and will guide you into the world of entrepreneurship. This post will teach you how to open your own t-shirt store, or to sell other accessories.
Disclosure: This post may be sponsored or contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. See my full disclosure here.
Selling t-shirts was my first introduction into starting my own online business. I came across a trending t-shirt one day while scrolling through social media, and saw that a $30 t-shirt was very popular. I spent almost an hour on the site seeing $30 on multiple tees that were backed by a social following on both Facebook and Instagram. I decided right then, that I wanted to know how to do something very similar, but knew I didn’t have thousands to spend on inventory, website design, and promotion. The popular t-shirt store stayed with me for a few days as I could not believe that simple shirts were viral for that price. I started sketching what ideas I thought would be great in my sketch pad. I started spending large amounts of time searching t-shirt hashtags. I started doing internet searches for local t-shirt printers. At the time, I had no idea about print on demand companies.
Print-on-demand (POD) companies print the t-shirt individually, as the orders come in one by one, then mail it to your customer for you. My research led me to search for ways to pay someone to build a website for me. I was discouraged as I was quoted on the smallest end, $600, and was told it would take a few months. I didn’t have $600 at the time to just give someone to take months to deliver my site. I started looking into how to build a site for myself and knew of Go Daddy’s commercials. However, I wanted my site to look as professional and great as the same t-shirt site I found. I was at a standstill.
I decided to take the long way to this goal and just commit to learning coding a website. In the back of my mind, I hoped for an easier way. I enrolled online in a program from my local library on how to learn to programme for website building. A couple of weeks into the program, I came across Shopify. My life immediately changed. I started to watch YouTube videos about Shopify to see if it was a scam and to see the difficulty level of creating a website. Then I learned that the same t-shirt store that I was consumed with, used Shopify, as I learned on how to find the coding of any website out there from taking the class. I immediately signed up and that started my online entrepreneurial journey.
This was right on time for me, as I was going through a tough time in my life professionally and personally. I was homeschooling my son during this time, and relying on my fiancé to be the breadwinner, while I was a stay at home mom. I was jealous of him when I would drop him off in the mornings by Union Station in Washington D.C. I would see all of the other professional people walking to their destinations, and thought, why can’t that be me going to work? I was getting groceries, cooking dinner, house cleaning, homeschooling, and working part-time teaching a history course. Professionally, I was not doing what I wanted to do and it was super hard to have to depend on another adult to give me money. I could not find any job that would allow me to work from home and homeschool, making the money I wanted. BUT…Shopify came into my life at the right time.
So let’s talk about how you are going to get started going down this road. You first need to come up with your niche. As mentioned in our Starting Your Business for less than a $100 article, we talked about choosing your niche, based off of doing the research with tools such as Google Trends. The same would apply for your t-shirt company. You have to determine your audience. You can start by making a short list of what type of person you are and the things you like. Once that list is made, is there anything on that list that you believe other people passionately connect with? Or is there an idea of a t-shirt you have in mind that you would love to wear, and believe others would as well?
You will learn in this article:
- How to find your niche
- Choosing your e-commerce platform
- Choosing your POD supplier
- Designing your t-shirts and accessories with mockups
- How to promote your site
The first thing you would need to do is to head over to our Starting Your Business article to get the full knowledge of finding your niche. Your niche can be tied to something you are passionate about, and it can be something that is so simple as well. Perhaps you will sell shirts that speak to the local culture of where you are from, as each city/state/region has their own culture. Are their local phrases that are native to your area, that people in your area would love to wear proudly? Or perhaps there is a new trend that no one has to capitalize to put on shirts. Being an online entrepreneur, you can now justify to your friends and family that you are plugged into social media for research. Finding your niche means facing the obvious question of, “Isn’t everything taken now?” Allow me to rabbit trail to this explanation. When you go to the grocery store, there is not just one brand of white bread on the shelf, but multiple brands. There is not just one brand of shampoo when going to the beauty supply store. There is not just one brand when it comes to buying a pair of socks. Competition is the name of the game, it is all about your unique approach to a popular market. During this time, you may find so many niches that you are passionate about and every one of them excites you. You then narrow that down to your ideas. If you can’t come up with 5-10 unique ideas about that niche, then passion will give way to reason. This is where you get creative in this niche planning space. Maybe you are the socialite that has everybody’s ear when it comes to stating your side of the story (think Wendy Williams). Then start a YouTube channel, come up with your own taglines, and sell those shirts! This process for some will range from a slow burn to an overnight success (and yes, there are a few who have had legitimate overnight successes.)
CHOOSING YOUR E-COMMERCE PLATFORM
I can’t sing Shopify praises enough. Again, the same t-shirt store that grabbed my attention and was successful using Shopify as their platform, was good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, as there are other platforms. You can get a full exhaustive list on those here and a few more from our resource page. Shopify has a simple design that allows you to focus more on the creative aspects of your site very easily. However, if you are not concerned with creating a brand, and just have one or two great t-shirt ideas, then head over to Teespring. You can simply create a Facebook business page and/or Instagram account, tying content and your t-shirt idea(s) back to your social media. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, that if you want to be a brand, then Shopify would be the best bet, along with integrating The Printful supplier. The best option for all of the PODs is that there is no upfront cost to get started! They only take a percentage after you make a sale. For example, you could sell your shirt at $30. The cost could be around $9-14 for the POD to take, which would leave you with a profit of $16-21. You would then also subtract the shipping of a few dollars if you absorb the shipping cost instead of charging that to your customer. What I want you to focus on is this.
If you sold 10,000 shirts, and make a profit of $10 per shirt, that is $100,000!! That means to get 10,000 people, in a world of 7 billion people to buy from you. Break it up into smaller math and sell 5,000 shirts, with a $10 profit, and that is $50,000 for you that year. You are running this business while still carrying your current job, as it will be on autopilot! Once your store is set up, designs created, and your targeted advertising campaigns are running, that’s it. Your store’s checkout process is automated, the POD gets alerted to make and ship the shirt, and you do not have to worry about how to manage your current job along with this new adventure. Welcome to the new way of life. This information was and still is super exciting to me. I use to flirt with the idea of perhaps going to take a night shift part time job after dinner was cooked to just make a few extra hundred dollars a week. When you look through our list of POD suppliers, take your time. We included in the list our top recommendations. Whichever choice you make for POD supplier and e-commerce platform, make sure they integrate with each other.
DESIGNING YOUR T-SHIRTS & ACCESSORIES WITH MOCKUPS
This is the fun part I believe, as you get to express your creativity. This is true even if you have to hire an affordable freelancer to help you with your designs. For this journey, I ended up doing about 90% of my own designs and hired the last more elaborate ones to a freelancer rating from $5-10 per design. I went to Fiverr to get those last designs taken care of, and at most, I waited overnight to get a couple of them delivered. Fiverr and other freelancing websites, allow you to hire freelancers to help you with most of the jobs it takes to start a website. Want someone to write product descriptions for your products, someone to edit your pictures or someone to design your t-shirts. Head to Fiverr, where most of the jobs start at $5.
Maybe you have ideas of your own but fear not if you don’t, because you can browse these sites for inspiration to see what other people are buying.
You can just buy some ready-made designs 🙂
Now you need to mock up your designs. When buying from Fiverr, that is already included for you with the majority of designers. When talking to freelancers, discuss that you do want the mockups for the design. When you have your design files, made from a freelancer, or designed on your own, you upload the files into Printful, and Printful includes the mockups for you as well. If you don’t choose Printful and want mockups for promotion purposes, then try these sites.
Here is the final part! You now have to create a Facebook Ad Account. This is the part that blows a lot of people’s minds, as you are now coming into the understanding of the purpose of what social media is for. Once you create your account, follow these steps below.
- Choose your objective
- Select your audience
- Set your budget
- Pick a format
- Track your ad
Here are some great links below on facebook ad tutorials:
Facebook Blueprint (A free tutorial on how to get started by Facebook themselves)
You can totally do this! All it takes is pacing yourself and remembering that experience is the best teacher. You can start reading this information over and over, but it will start to take residence in your mind when you start applying it.
If you want a more in depth tutorial, click on the link below to take my full t-shirt training. The cost? I charge the price of one t-shirt to teach you how to start your own t-shirt store 🙂