How to Start an Online T-shirt Business

how to start an online t-shirt business

Learning how to start an online t-shirt (T-shirt) business starts with choosing a strong niche and a unique design that will set your business apart from the competition. You have to choose your production method, sales platform, and market your business. If you are successful, you can potentially sell t-shirts online with an average profit of IDR 10,000 to 20,000 per t-shirt. Here’s how to start an online t-shirt business in five steps:

1. Find Opportunities

Finding the right niche is critical to having a successful t-shirt business. Naturally, t-shirts tend to look very similar; It’s not easy to make a product that stands out. However, that’s exactly what you need to do to get shoppers to buy from your store over other, more established brands. In general, the t-shirt business is a saturated market. You need a clear vision of what your product will look like, who will buy it, and why it is needed.

2. Create an Attractive Design

No matter how you plan to sell your t-shirts, having an attractive design is a must. An eye-catching design is what will set your product apart from other t-shirt sellers. During the design process, it can be helpful to choose a specific theme or image for your brand. This can include a defined color scheme, font or logo. Anything that will help make your business recognizable.

Apart from being attractive, your design must also be original. Some popular t-shirts feature famous characters and quotes. That doesn’t mean they are free to use. Disney, in particular, is very strict with outside companies using their characters or other trademarks. Comic books, superheroes, children’s shows, and literary quotes are all elements that are popular with customers but can get you into serious trouble if you use them without proper permission.

Inexpensive ways to brainstorm original designs include:

  1. Hire a freelance designer: If you’re not artistically inclined or aren’t sure how to start, consider hiring an affordable freelancer; Sites like, Fiverr and Upwork help you hire experienced designers for individual projects.
  2. Use the free mock-up generator: Tools like Placeit are great for uploading your designs to real photos so you have a lifestyle photo of the product. Other services, such as Printful , allow you to create basic designs.
  3. Crowdsource ideas: If you plan to market your product to your social media followers, ask them what type of design would appeal to them the most; You will get great feedback and are sure that your t-shirt product will be a hit.
  4. Work directly with wholesalers: Many wholesalers who offer custom printing also have an in-house graphics team that will help you create your designs, and it’s generally free.

3. Choose Your T-shirt Business Type

There are many traditional and non-traditional options when it comes to selling t-shirts online, and even offline. If you want to start selling immediately and with no upfront costs, you can use sites like Teespring or SunFrog to simply create designs and collect profits every time one of your designs is sold on their sites. Or, if you want to create a complete t-shirt empire, you can build your own business from the ground up.

4. Choose a T-shirt Production Method

Now that you have your concept and sales funnel in place, you need to choose a t-shirt production method. There are basically three main options you can choose from: make your own t-shirts by buying blanks in bulk and screen printing; buy a large number of premade t-shirts for your specialty from a wholesaler or manufacturer; or you can use a print-on-demand service that will create and ship a custom t-shirt for you to order.

Each production method has advantages and disadvantages. Printing your own t-shirts will give you the highest profit for each sale, but it is labor intensive. Buy your premade t-shirt from a manufacturer or wholesaler but the profit is slightly smaller, but the margins are still large with the risk of having excess product. With these two options, you are also responsible for the delivery order. A print-on-demand service is the most expensive option, but it shouldn’t be a pain on your part once it’s set up properly.

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Screen printing is the most practical method of making your own custom t-shirts on a large scale. Screen printing is a technique that uses a mesh screen to force the transfer of ink onto a surface — in this case, a t-shirt. Screen printing is the preferred technique because it allows for a vibrant, multicolor, and high-quality finish.

Semi-professional screen printing machines can cost millions of rupiah. This is certainly an investment. However, if you are serious about printing your own designs, doing it yourself will allow for the biggest increase in sales. Plus, having your own equipment means you can expand into new products, change designs, or even create special orders.

Apart from a screen printing kit with stencils and ink, the next important product you need to invest in is a t-shirt. Since you are buying blanks, you can really save by buying in bulk for the best prices. Sourcing from wholesalers or manufacturers to get the lowest prices.

5. Market Your T-shirt Business

Product marketing is critical to the success of your online t-shirt business. This is also one of the elements of selling t-shirts online that will forever be an ongoing process. There are many different elements that go into marketing a product. You have to consider price, paid and unpaid advertising strategies, brand, and sales channels.

Key areas of consideration when marketing your t-shirt business include:

Manage T-shirt Prices Strategically
Price is one of the biggest factors in a buyer’s decision to buy. You can browse the internet on how to price products walking through basic terminology, such as markup, profit margin, and keystone pricing, if you want to dive into the basics.

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One of the most common pricing strategies is psychological pricing. Ever noticed how much the price often ends up in nines? Rp 199,999, Rp 149,999 and Rp 999,999 are all common promotional prices because they subconsciously tell the brain that you got a good deal. Ending your price in an odd number, especially a nine, shows a lot. The Rp 200,000 price tag and the Rp 199,999 price tag are basically the same. However, one price proved to be more effective than the other.

Also, be sure to limit your competitors’ prices. You don’t need to have the cheapest price, but you also shouldn’t have the highest price, especially when you’re just starting out in your business. Having a mid-range price point and high-quality custom products is a great way to build your brand.

Use Creative Packaging
Creative packaging is essential to help budding retailers stand out and develop their brand identity. A simple change to your packaging, such as tissue paper or a branded logo sticker, can go a long way. If your packaging is beautiful, customers are more likely to share their experiences with your products online via videos or Instagram posts.

Consider Additional T-shirt Sales Channels
Once your business is up and running, consider using additional sales funnels as a marketing tool. Ideally, you will have a Facebook page for your business. Instead of just posting pictures of your shirts, you can actually catalog and sell your products through the Facebook Shop. You can also link your product catalog and sell via Instagram or Whatsapp business posts and Stories Feed. If you use any kind of mainstream ecommerce platform, they likely have tools or plugins to help you manage this.

Another way to advertise your t-shirt is to take it out on the street, literally. Participate in local markets, pop-up shops, and community events to help spread awareness of your business. Even if you are an ecommerce seller, you are likely to gain a strong fan base of your friends and neighbors, which isn’t a bad way to start.

Start t-shirt subscription service
One great online marketing strategy is to start a monthly t-shirt club. Platforms like Cratejoy make it easy to run subscription services that provide a marketplace for finding new customers and software for managing subscriptions. Your customers can subscribe to receive goods from you every month.

Use High Quality Product Photos

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If you sell online, having high-quality product photos is a must. Luckily, you don’t need professional or even fancy equipment to take quality pictures. Just use a smartphone or if you have a digital camera, the shots are good enough.

Bottom line: How to Start a T-shirt Business
You can start selling t-shirts online without spending anything up front. However, you still have to market your product and have a great design to stand out from the thousands of other sellers. Designing and selling t-shirts to an established audience can help shorten the lead time from manufacture to sale as you will be using your own online store.