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How to start a T-Shirt Business
by Darren Young


Selling T-Shirts has become big business and it’s a growing industry on the Internet where there are already thousands of shops and websites where you can purchase almost any design or T-Shirt style imaginable. Thanks to the many T-Shirt companies that now print and create the T-Shirts for you, with no risk involved, many people have been able to start their own T-Shirt business without having to invest any money. This however, has turned the T-Shirt business online into a fierce, competitive battle against all T-Shirt shop/website owners.

There are now millions of T-Shirt websites online for customers to choose from and this is why starting your own online T-Shirt business can be stressful, disappointing, and very difficult to attract customers and make the sales that you are expecting. Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s going to take a lot of time, effort, and maybe even some money for you to get started and get customers visiting your shop/website.

There are many things you need to consider when starting your own online T-Shirt business. Simply creating a design, putting it on a blank T-Shirt, and expecting it to be a big seller isn’t going to do the trick and bring you many sales, unless of course, you are a very lucky person, whom I can assure you, there aren’t very many of them around. If you want to start a T-Shirt business just to make easy money fast like many other schemes on the Internet claim, then you’re looking at the wrong business. There is no such thing as easily making money fast and you’re always going to have to put in the effort to get the results you are looking for, especially for a T-Shirt business.

Now, I’m not trying to scare you from owning your own T-Shirt business, as there are many successful individuals who have started their business in the T-Shirt industry and are doing very well. I just want to give you the facts of reality so that you’re not disappointed when your business isn’t doing as well as you thought it would. You may succeed at one aspect of the business, but fail in another, or you just might be that person who is successful at all the aspects of the business, which will obviously make your business a success. Either way, you’re still going to have to spend the time and work very hard to achieve success.

Below I’ve listed some of the things you need to consider before you setup or start your own T-Shirt business:

  • Business Goals
    Before you start your own T-Shirt business, you need to think of your business goals. These goals should be realistic and they should point you in the direction you would like your business to go and what you hope to accomplish. An example of a goal would be to have 100 visitors visiting your shop/website a day or to create two new designs a week and put them up on your website. Whatever the goals may be that you have set for yourself, you then need to strive for them and once you have accomplished your goals, then you know you’re on the right track.

  • Passion
    You have to have an interest in what you are doing or you’re not going to enjoy spending the time and effort your business requires. Everybody has a passion in one thing or another whether it is creating the designs, promoting, or any other aspect of the business, but you should have an interest in it. If you’re not passionate about a certain subject, then you need to think of another theme that you would be more interested in doing. Remember, you are going to spend a lot of time on the subject/theme that you choose, so if you aren’t passionate about it, then you’re going to get bored very fast and it’s not going to be enjoyable.

  • Subject/Theme
    This is very important in the T-Shirt industry as some subjects/themes do much better than others and receive more customers, but like all styles, they come and go. It’s possible to have a general subject/theme, but it makes it harder for you to market/promote your shop/website. I suggest choosing just one subject/theme to begin with as you can start adding other subjects/themes later when you are established. You should by all means choose a subject/theme that you are knowledgeable about and have a passion for, like I mentioned under the passion paragraph.

  • Target Audience
    Who are you targeting? Will you be targeting a certain age group, occupation, style, general public, etc. Finding out who your primary target audience will be or is, will help you with marketing/promotion. This will also help you with creating and designing your T-Shirts and shop/website to suit your target audience. Once again you can choose to go for a general audience, but this will only make it harder for you to market/promote your shop/website.

  • Research
    You need to always do your research and find out what’s new, what’s not, what’s in style, what kind of designs people are looking for, etc. You also need to keep up-to-date with your subject/theme as some change on a regular basis (Example: Politics). Keeping informed and up-to-date will give you the leading edge over your competitors, bring back customers time after time, and most importantly it will make sales.

  • Third Party shops Vs. Your Own Website
    Should I invest in my own website or use a third party website to host my T-Shirt designs? If you are thinking about doing every aspect of the T-Shirt business yourself (including making the T-Shirts), then I suggest you invest in a website (not a free website hosting service), but first try out a third party website that makes the T-Shirts for you (no risk involved or investment needed) to see if you can make your business a success. Once you’re confident in your business, then you can upgrade to making and owning your own website.

There are many online third party websites available on the Internet that you can choose from that will create and ship the T-Shirts to your customers (risk free with no money invested) and therefore, save you the hassle of actually having to deal with the customer aspect of your T-Shirt business. There are as many cons as there are pros when using a third party service. Some of the cons are: You don’t get your own website and you are in some way connected to them, you don’t make as much profit (you have to pay them to do all the work, like printing the T-Shirts and shipping), and they make all the rules (Example: not providing you with the E-mail address of your customers or refusing any designs that you create). When you sign up with one of these third party services, you are actually working for them and that includes promoting their site. The customers that purchase your T-Shirts are actually their customers meaning they have full control and every time you make a sale, they make a profit. In other words, these third parties depend on your success and if your business goes under, theirs doesn’t because there’ll always be someone else to take your place.

Marketing/Promoting
This will be your biggest enemy in the T-Shirt business and many businesses fail because of this. I suggest you do your research on the web for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and about how the basic search engines works, as there is a lot of information about them. Do not just resort to search engines as being your source for traffic as there are many other websites that can help bring in quality targeted traffic to your website like T-Shirt ranking sites (Example: www.T-ShirtShowdown.com).

The major search engines (Example: Google) are complicated in how they work and many people have been trying to figure out how they work for years. The search engines change their algorithms on how pages are ranked every once in a while so you’re better off not focusing your attention on just getting to the top in the search engines.

If you do manage to make it to the top and are very successful, then your marketing/promotion shouldn’t stop there. You have to always be marketing/promoting your site one way or another because it won’t take long before someone else over takes you, simply because links can die and you need incoming links from other websites to get traffic.

T-Shirt Ranking Websites
Do ranking sites work? Yes, ranking websites are a great way to market/promote your T-Shirt designs and shops/websites. Many people don’t want to waste their time searching all over the web trying to locate websites that sell specific designs that they are looking for. This is where T-Shirt ranking websites come in handy and allow customers to view thousands of different T-Shirt designs and styles from many different websites. Ranking sites are a great way of bringing many unique and different T-Shirt websites/designs together and help to bring the buyers to the sellers. www.T-ShirtShowdown.com is a great example and offers many different categories to choose from including: Animal, Artistic, Attitude, Automobile, Biker, Computer, Floral, Funny, Holiday, Kids, Logo, Misc., Movie, Music, Novelty, Occupation, Offensive, Patriotic, Pets, Political, Religious, Sports, Unusual, Vintage, and Western.

Many T-Shirt business owners think that they can just upload their T-Shirt designs to a ranking website and expect to receive sales. This is a myth and it’s not true. Ranking sites, like www.T-ShirtShowdown.com, bring high quality targeted traffic to your website, but it’s your T-Shirt designs in the end that have to convince the customer to buy/purchase the product. T-Shirt ranking websites only make it easier for you to market/promote your site/designs and to get the high quality targeted traffic that every business wants.

Below I’ve included some advice, problems, and solutions from other T-Shirt businesses that they encountered when they were starting their own T-Shirt business.

For MindTrix the hardest part for starting out, besides money, was finding a “nitch”. Our first line of T-Shirts was all over the map, so starting your own clothing company can be hard. I had to do and learn everything on my own. I over came this obstacle by going to tradeshows, surfing the Internet, and reading magazines like Sport and Street, etc.

MindTrix has grown beyond just T-Shirts due to the fact that everyone including their moms have a T-Shirt company. When I would go into stores trying to sell my T-Shirts, I would always get feedback, like what makes these any better than the other 90,000 brands we have in here, which most of these other brands people have heard of, and that is why we graduated to cut and sew as well as any higher end T-Shirts.

You have to stay ahead of the pack to survive.

Advice for Promotion: Don’t be afraid to advertise. Create buttons, stickers, give them out and be sure people remember you. Tell people about it, you’d be surprised how many people would be willing to help you out.

Advice for Designing: When designing A T-Shirt, there are many points to keep in mind, but the following factors are some technical stuff overlooked by companies starting off: The Number of colors used & what material will be used. Most screen printers charge in the $10-$40 range for every different color you use. It can get really expensive for someone (Example: music bands) to get several T-Shirts printed. They then have to sell the fans $36 dollar T-Shirts just to cover the costs and make some profit.

The Material used: Usually each material/brand/size comes with a set of colors that they’re printed on. There isn’t one that provides you with every single color in existence. It would be a great idea to ask the client what material they can afford and then research it, or familiarize yourself with the more popular brands that are being printed on (Examples: American Apparel, Fruit Of the Loom and Hanes). I’ve had several problems with this when I began, so don’t just go creating something that only looks good on a red background that you can’t easily fix, or something that looks good on a T-Shirt color that’s almost impossible to find. This will save you so much time and trouble.

Lastly, but most importantly, just be original. Keep the designs more personalized, deeper and more meaningful.

  1. Vision. You need to know who you are, what you’re doing, why, etc. This will define how you market your product, how it looks over all, and all the little details within that you need to do. Yep, so figure that out and then go nuts because you can’t go wrong with a big idea, as long as you know what the big idea is.

  2. Marketing. It’s essential in today’s design world. You might have a good product but if its weak on branding, labeling, packaging, shelf appeal, matching coat hangers, etc., it’ll look bad. Consistency also needs to be achieved across the spectrum including same font, same style, etc. Designing is totally open to new creations and ideas, so anything goes, but there are some boundaries that you don’t want to cross, while others you need to break through.

  3. E-commerce. Yes, it’s fully possible! It will take some setting up though, but I’ve recently realized how I can just pick up the phone and order a set of hoodies, wait four days until they’re on the doorstep, pay for them a month later online, etc. Also, I can call up the fabric company down the road, or one in wellington, get them to send me samples of denim, call them back and order a set amount of denim to be sent to my garment manufacturer, and then call him and tell him how many of what I want right from my rocking chair at home.

  4. Online selling. Totally possible if you use ebay or know how to set up an E-commerce website yourself, but getting the credit card system sorted out is a major cost. Lots of girls shop online now, you just need to know how to market it right and get your products noticed.

  5. Promo. Get it out there! Make sure your friends buy your products or you could give out freebies. Put stickers, advertising your shop, wherever you can. Be shameless because designers are really admired (as opposed to being a ’salesperson’), especially if your product is favorable.

  6. Don’t waste your time on silly details. I’ll let you figure out what those are.

  7. Get your accounts sorted out now. Segregate your personal and business spending, so you can claim back GST with no problems. Make sure every transaction (sales, purchasing, spending, etc.) goes through your account, so you can see how well you’re doing by looking at your bank statement. Use the ATM machine for petty cash; your accountant will love you one day for this.

  8. Have fun! It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out. I was just thinking how involved my life is at the moment with my T-Shirt business. My life revolves around it, which is crazy, but if it all fell apart and closed down tomorrow I’d be the same person and I’d find something else to do! I make sure I take one day off during the week to do what I love that doesn’t involve my work. I love doing my work, so I’m very lucky in that aspect, but sometimes it gets boring or tedious so I make sure I stay fresh and focused.
  9. Work hard. I still do after three years. I work my butt off and hardly make any money off it, but I know it’s worth it in the long run and the things you learn along the way are invaluable.

  10. Give away free stuff! People love free T-Shirts and sponsorship goes a long way. It’s also your duty, being in business and generating wealth, to share that with society in some way (Example: Old stock goes in recycle clothing bins, etc.).

Visit http://www.T-ShirtShowdown.com - The Ultimate T-Shirt Website On The Internet. You can Rank, Vote, Comment, E-mail, Visit T-Shirt Websites, Auction, Bid, Sell, Buy, Promote/Market T-Shirts and more.



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