How to Start a T-Shirt Business with Zero Inventory Costs

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Introduction

Have you ever thought about starting your own t-shirt business or brand?  With so many different tools and services currently available, it’s never been easier to jump into this lucrative field. The best part, it requires very little up front investment.  Starting an apparel business is usually expensive, particularly because of inventory costs. Assume you have 1 design, available in 5 colors, and 5 different sizes; that alone would require to have 25 shirts in stock (and that’s only having 1 of each).  You can see how quickly this number will grow once you start adding more designs and need to have larger quantities available in stock.

However, now there are alternative ways to start a t-shirt business.  The first type is called is dropshipping.  This would allow you to resell someone else’s brand, and have that company ship directly to your customer.  Your profit would be the difference between your cost and the cost of the product.

The second method, the one we will cover below, is called print on demand.  This allows you to start your own brand with your own unique designs.

Niche & Product Research

The niche refers to the category where your brand will sit.  For example, if you want to create a t-shirt brand that caters to nurses, you are in the nursing niche.  Generally, products in passion niches sell very well (e.g. nurses, fire fighters, police officers, hunting, fishing, etc…).

The reason it’s important to select a niche is for 1) branding and 2) marketing.

If you’re trying to build a brand, it should be focused on a particular topic.  It’s hard to maintain a brand image when there is no cohesion among the products.  If for example you have 1 product in the yoga niche, and 1 product in the dog niche, the consumer may be confused about what the brand is focused on.

Secondly, marketing in one specific niche is much easier than targeting a general niche.  When all of your products are in one category, you give the consumer options of what they want to purchase.  It allows you to have a defined marketing message and detailed targeting about your prospective customer.  However, if you’re selling products in a number of different categories, you may be limiting yourself.  For example, if a customer visits your website seeking to buy a yoga shirt, the may leave if they only see 1 design that doesn’t speak to them.  However, if all of your products are yoga related, there is a chance they may purchase some of the products.

Once you have decided on a niche, you should research the type of designs that your audience might be interested in purchasing.

Find out What’s already Selling

Deciding on a Business Name & Domain Name

Where to Find Designs for your T-Shirt Business

Unless you’re a graphic designer, you’ll need someone to create the designs for you.

Here are a few options:

Hire a designer on a freelance website:

Upwork

Freelancer

Fiver

99Designs, Crowdsourcing,

 

Print on Demand – Your T-Shirt Supplier

There are a number of different print on demand companies and new ones popping up frequently.  These are companies that can print your design on their products and ship the products directly to your consumers.

The main difference between all the various print on demand companies are:

  • The type of product they carry (e.g. mug, shirts, pillows, yoga mat, leggings, etc..)
  • The printing methods they use (direct to garment vs. screen printing)
  • The price of the products
  • Processing time and shipping time
  • Customer Service

Here is a list of the best print on demand fulfillment companies.

T-Shirt Mockups

Ht-shirt mockup exampleaving t-shirt mockups are an essential part of selling your own t-shirts.  Especially when starting out, you may not have the ability to have someone model your t-shirt. T-shirt mockups give you the ability to have your design turned into a realistic lifestyle photo.

Having lifestyle mockups can help increase conversion rate because it’s easier for a consumer to picture themselves wearing the design when they can see it on someone else.

https://graphicriver.net/category/graphics/product-mock-ups/apparel/t-shirts

https://creativemarket.com/graphics/product-mockups

Selling the T-Shirts

Once you have your designs ready and a POD supplier in place, it’s time to start selling them.  There are a number of different ways to sell your products.

  • Marketplaces
    • Etsy
    • Ebay
    • Amazon
  • E-Commerce Store

These are not exclusive so there is no reason your product should not be listed on as many market channels as possible.  That means you can sell the product through your own website as well as on all the different third party marketplaces.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a T-Shirt Business?

There are a number of costs you should take into account when starting a t-shirt business.  The main ones include (but not limited to):

  • Domain Name – ~$10.00
  • Website Platform:
    • Hosting – $5-$10/month (if you decide to host your own shopping cart, like by using wordpress + woocommerce)
    • If you decide to use a managed solution like shopify, there is no hosting fee, but there is a monthly fee associated with the service that starts at $29/month
  • Marketplace Fees: If you decide to sell on a marketplace, there are some minimal fees associated with listing your products.  The main fees, like the fee amazon takes for selling a product, are calculated when your products are actually sold.
  • Website Design – There are free themes/templates available but the recommended ones can cost $50-200.  The premium themes are usually better maintained, designed for usability, conversion and provide a much better user experience
  • Logo Design – $5-100
  • T-Shirt Design – $5-50 per design
  • Advertising – This is completely up to you.  Advertising can be a major expense, or a minimal one, depending on how you decide to run your business.  For example, if you decide to spend time to build a loyal following on social media, you can launch your business without a large marketing budget.  However, if you decide to do paid media (google adwords, facebook ads), this cost is ultimately decided by you based on many different factors such as profit margin, conversion rate, average order value, customer lifetime value, etc..

Here is a list of the best print on demand fulfillment companies.

 

Selling the T-Shirts

Pricing Strategy

Startup Costs

How to Market the Products

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Best Domain Name Registrars

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https://www.shopify.com/blog/50559813-how-i-built-an-online-t-shirt-business-and-made-1-248-90-in-3-weeks

How To Start A T-Shirt Business: 10 Essential Tips

How To Start A TShirt Business Tutorial

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