Today, it’s easier than ever to break into retail and start an online t-shirt business, especially since demand will always exist in the apparel industry. So, let’s take you through everything that you need to know before you start your own successful online t-shirt store.
Selling t-shirts online is an extremely saturated industry, mainly due to how easy is to get a store up and running. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stand out and become successful. While t-shirts are a popular eCommerce product, the industry is unique in that success is highly dependent on niche designs. There may be millions of shirt stores online, but only yours will have the design that you’ve created for your specific niche audience. This makes t-shirt stores uniquely easy to set up and quick to profit if you’ve tapped into the right target group. But, it’s not just about creating a great design that people will flock to; you also need to nail down printing, suppliers, fulfillment, online presence, branding, web design, and more to ensure that your online t-shirt business is successful.
One of the oldest methods of t-shirt printing, screen printing is done by transferring ink directly onto the shirt using a blocking stencil in the shape of the desired design.
DTG, or direct-to-garment, is a form of t-shirt printing that uses a machine which prints ink directly onto the shirt, similar to an ink-jet printer.
Heat transfers, or transfer printing, involves transferring a design from transfer paper onto a shirt with a machine that applies heated pressure to the garment.
Also referred to as cut & sew, all-over printing involved printing on every piece of the t-shirt before it’s sewn together.
Dye sublimation is a method of t-shirt printing that transfers your design into your t-shirt through ink and heat, similar to heat transfers. The difference is that it uses a specific type of ink that absorbs into the fabric permanently.
One of the largest and most popular print-on-demand dropshipping suppliers, Printful offers a variety of printing techniques that they can use to create your t-shirt designs. Printful uses direct to garment, cut and sew, embroidery, and screen printing on its products.
Printful offers a selection of 8 clothing brands that supply them with t-shirt blanks, which you can choose to be used for your designs. What makes Printful unique is the sheer amount of product variations that they have. However, the cost of having a wider variety of shirts to choose from is the fact that Printful’s base prices for blanks are much higher than the other dropshipping suppliers on this list.
Printful typically takes between 2 to 7 days to fulfill orders, and offers several options for adding your own branding to shipping materials. You can add custom stickers, package inserts, and notes to the box, enhancing the unboxing experience for your customers.
If you’re looking for a print-on-demand dropshipping solution with an international vendor network, giving you access to a variety of unique products you won’t find elsewhere, then Printify may be the choice for you. Printify uses direct-to-garment printing on their shirts, and offers 7 different brands to choose from.
Printify usually takes between 3 to 4 days to fulfill orders, and offers options for custom shipping branding, including custom return labels, custom packing slips, tag removal/application, hand tag application, and pack-ins. Their service is free to use, but a premium subscription for $29 a month gives you 20% off all products.
The option on this list with the second-to-least expensive costs for shirts, CustomCat is a print-on-demand dropshipping service that you may want to consider. CustomCat uses direct-to-garment printing and offers an unparalleled variety of brands, with over 30 brands to choose from with their service.
CustomCat has an average fulfillment time of 2 to 3 days, however a major downside is that they do not offer custom branding options for the unboxing experience.
Stationed in New York, Print Aura is a print-on-demand dropshipping supplier that uses direct-to-garment printing and offers over 10 different t-shirt brands to choose from for your printed designs.
Print Aura’s average fulfillment time is 3 to 5 days, and offers custom branding options such as custom packing slips, personalized shipping labels, neck label removal, tagless label application, hand tag application, custom shipping packaging, individual bagging with size stickers, and added pack-ins. However, some of these options may come at additional cost.
Offering the least expensive base price for shirts, Gooten is a print-on-demand dropshipping platform that uses direct-to-garment printing for their products, of which they have a selection of 11 different apparel brands.
Gooten typically takes 3 to 4 days to fulfill orders, but they do not offer custom branding on any of the shipping materials that your product will be boxed in. However, they do offer adding a custom neck label to garments.
LogoUp is a family-owned embroidered apparel business that specializes in creating custom apparel for companies and organizations that want their logo on shirts, jackets, hats, and more.
With the color/size options matrix, you can use advanced options on any product to differently quantify and configure every unique aspect of the product. You’ll be able to add specific weights, inventory numbers, prices, and more for customers to select.
Using a product customizer, like the Doogma Designer, gives customers the ability to customize the design of their own shirt. With the added feature of dynamic pricing, customers will be able to see how different designs, shirt materials, apparel brands, and printing techniques will look and cost for the final product. This way, you won’t have to have a picture and price pre-set for every single possible product option; the product customizer app will do it for you.
Your store can be directly integrated with Printful, which is our top recommendation for a print-on-demand fulfillment company. Direct Printful integration will make importing products quick and simple, so you have more time to focus on building your online store and designing your products.
Since your products are heavily focused on design, you want to make sure the theme your online store uses doesn’t distract from your shirts. Equipped with a large home page carousel and easy navigation, this theme uses a minimalist design approach that puts your product and images front-and-center. Large photos are perfect for showing off people modelling your t-shirts, which will catch more eyes than just showing a shirt on a hanger. You can even showcase featured design collections on the home page, which is helpful if you have designs that fall into different categories.
If your shirt designs are classy and higher up on the fashion spectrum, then this theme may be perfect for your online store. Clean and modern, this theme utilizes a huge carousel banner that is perfect for stylish product and model photography. There’s space for you to clearly outline your design vision and the mission of your store, giving your site more depth and making customers more interested. You won’t be just another t-shirt store with this design.
Because graphic t-shirts are in such a highly-saturated market, it’s difficult to stand out if you don’t determine who your target audience is and what they want to see. Instead of designing something general, like funny phrases, try and design something more specific, like funny grandmother phrases. It’s easier to stand out when you focus on a specific audience, so that you can make a name for yourself as the best store for that specific design. Do some research into what niches are trending, and what you may feel is a neglected market. Also, think about what you actually like, because a great way of targeting towards a niche is by filling your own needs and desires.
Your designs should be unique and high-quality; there’s nothing worse than being accused of stealing a design or uploading a low-res file that doesn’t do your idea justice. Don’t worry though; you don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to get designs for your shirts. There’s a plethora of designers out there that you can hire freelance to design your shirt for you, bringing your vision to life in a way that will look great on a shirt.
You want your products to exude quality and make a good name for your brand, so it’s important to choose the right printing method. There’s a variety of ways that you can print t-shirts yourself, but there’s also several print-on-demand suppliers that you can integrate into your store that will print shirts as soon as they’re ordered. This way, you won’t ever be responsible for printing shirts yourself, holding inventory, or shipping products. Different print-on-demand suppliers use varying printing techniques, brands, and materials, so be sure to look into which supplier works best with your vision.
Now that you’ve figured out your products, you’ll need to decide on what platform you’d like to sell them on. There’s a decent list of t-shirt marketplaces that you can list your products for sale on, including Teespring, Zazzle, Threadless, and Redbubble. But, these marketplaces often deduct hefty fees from every sale that you make, so you might want to consider building your own online store with an eCommerce platform like Shift4Shop.
If you’ve decided to start selling with an eCommerce platform like Shift4Shop, then you’ll need to start building your online store. Choose the website theme that best fits your t-shirt designs and products, and customize it to better fit your personal brand. Enable all of the features that you’ll need to in order to run your business effectively, such as a print-on-demand integration and a product customizer tool. Make sure that all of your payment and shipping methods are set-up properly, and then you’re ready to launch your site!
After you get your store up and running, you can start working on your online presence. A huge aspect of getting your online t-shirt store off the ground is by marketing your unique brand and your one-of-a-kind products. Establish your personal brand, your company’s voice and mission, and get to work on building up social media power. Work on dominating the search engines with unique keywords and search terms that your niche products will rank well with. Most of all, get your name out there and make people want to care about the product you’re putting out.