Everything You Need to Know to Start a T-Shirt Business Online

Everything You Need to Know to Start a T-Shirt Business Online

If you’re considering an online business to start, it makes perfect sense. After all, take a look around town and you’ll realize just how many people are wearing T-shirts at any given time. People buy lots of shirts all their lives, and it’s a fashion fixture that will most likely never go out of style. You’ll always have a ready-made consumer base no matter what.

Of course, you won’t be the only entrepreneur who has realized the potential profits in an online T-shirt business. It’s safe to say that you will face a lot of competition. But you can stand out in the crowd by offering unique designs that appeal to a specific segment of the consumer public. When you’ve created a solid brand image that engages the continuing interest of a certain demographic, then your path to success is much more likely.

But how exactly do you start this type of business? It’s not really all that complicated, especially with this guide we’ve come up with. Heed our tips, and you’ll get the guidance you need every step of the way. Even choosing the selling platform isn’t all that hard to figure out—just go with Shopify and you’re good to go. It takes only a few minutes to set up your completely functioning store. It’s even easy to connect to a drop shipper (a 3rd-party supplier who takes care of storage and shipping) along with the printer.

But before you embark on your Shopify online T-shirt business, you better have a plan. Your plan needs to factor in certain elements so that you can boost your chances of success.

These are the factors that your plan needs to consider if you want to stand out in this crowded segment:

A Specific Niche

You’re selling printed T-shirts, but the prints you’re offering can’t be designed to target everyone’s attention. That’s just not possible. The printed T-shirts that appeal to prepubescent girls will certainly not get the interest of male rebels who ride Harley motorcycles and who listen to heavy metal music.

What this means for you is that you need to define just who your customers are. You can then cater to this specific group to achieve success. By having a definite idea of your typical customer profile, you have a better idea of which designs will attract more attention.

In addition, knowing who these customers are will help you become more effective when you engage in your marketing efforts. You’ll have a better idea of how to get their attention and how to talk to them.

To find and evaluate a possible niche, here are some research methods you can try to use:

  • Your own interests and knowledge. It really helps if you are trying to sell to customers who are in many ways similar to you. You won’t have to work hard trying to discover what these customers are thinking. You already have an idea of what they want—because it’s likely that the T-shirt designs that appeal to you will also appeal to them.
  • Audience Insights on Facebook. Facebook has a tool called Audience Insights that can let you check out the level of interest in Facebook for your particular niche.
  • Subreddits. You can visit the subreddits of your niche so you can see the subscriber count and the level of engagement displayed by the users.

Everything You Need to Know to Start a T-Shirt Business Online

The Right Designs

Now that you have a particular type of customer in mind for your printed T-shirts, it’s time to think about the specific designs you want to put on your shirts. Your designs need to comply with the following guidelines:

  • They have to be unique. It’s best if the designs you offer can’t be found anywhere else. Because if it’s a very common design, your brand will hardly stand out. Besides, your brand reputation can suffer as people might think you’re just a talentless, unoriginal copycat.
  • They have to be engaging. This means the prints should appeal and catch the interest of your intended buyers. The design should be interesting enough that your intended customers will actually want to buy the shirts.
  • The designs should be of high quality. The design files you use should be a minimum of 300 ppi. The background should be transparent, and the size should be appropriate for the shirt’s print area. The pattern shouldn’t crack or fade either.

Brand Identity

This starts with the name of the brand, but that’s not the extent of it. You need to have a specific idea of what your brand identity is, as this will be the unifying theme for your designs. The identity of your brand will then help you foster a deeper relationship with your customer base. When you have a definitive brand identity, you’re much more likely to attract a passionate following. Your customers are more likely to buy more of your shirts, and they’re also more likely to recommend your shirts to their friends and family.

By knowing your brand identity, you will also have a clearer idea of how to approach your marketing. You’re able to find the right tone and approach to engage your potential customers.


Here you have 2 basic options. One option is to print on demand, and for this, you can work with a drop shipper. That relieves you of having to deal with inventory storage and shipping.

The other basic option is to buy and store your own inventory. This allows you to enjoy discounts with bulk pricing, and then you can work with local printers rather than deal with other printers online.

Of course, you can do both options as well. In fact, if you grow your business you may be able to afford your own printer and save money in the long run.

Everything You Need to Know to Start a T-Shirt Business Online

T-shirt Printing Options

There are 3 basic printing methods to choose from, and each offers its own set of advantages and liabilities. Here’s a quick overview:

1. Screen Printing

This is a time-tested method that still remains popular. However, it is labor-intensive so it’s only more cost-effective when you’re printing in bulk. When you have complicated designs with 4 or more colors, the cost drastically increases.

2. Heat Transfer

This is another proven method, though the old standby of using an iron to transfer a home-printed design onto a shirt just won’t cut it for your business. You need a more advanced type of heat transfer called plastisol transfers. These are printed by professional-grade printers using premium heat transfer paper.

With this method, transferring a design onto a shirt is no trouble even when you have multiple colors used for the design. You can easily print T-shirts ion demand.

However, the design doesn’t really last long compared to the other methods. A heat press machine is also expensive, and for the most part, you’re going to have to do the heat transfer yourself.

3. Direct to Garment (DTG)

This is the Direct to Garment method that’s similar to printing your own documents at home. This time, the DTG printer inks your shirts directly. It can produce multicolored images with amazing clarity, with quality better than heat transfers and at par with screen printing. There are no extensive startup costs aside from the printer itself.

This is a great method if you like to print on demand and only make small batches. With this approach, there’s no discount if you start producing in bulk.


Once you have your T-shirt printing operations ready, make your website. Don’t forget to approach your friends and family for support. They can buy your shirts, spread news about it online through social media, and offer constructive criticism and advice concerning your designs and T-shirt quality. You can even start your T-shirt on-demand service for 2 weeks for free, to see if there’s a lot of interest in your designs!

LAStartups.com is a digital lifestyle publication that covers the culture of startups and technology companies in Los Angeles. It is the go-to site for people who want to keep up with what matters in Los Angeles’ tech and startups from those who know the city best.

Similar Posts