How to start a t-shirt business in 8 steps

Starting an online T shirt business demands dedication, hard work, and grit. But, then again, it demands building a great plan and knowing the phases. Yet, building one is a fantastic idea.

Current global estimates put the custom T shirt printing industry at $10 billion by 2025. That means starting a T shirt business is a nice idea. Sure, it also means you will be dealing with a fair bit of competition, but you can become a success once you build a great brand. This article will share with you how to start a T shirt business online that brings in profit month after month. Ready? Here are the vital details on how to start a T shirt business from home.

Step 1: Build Your T Shirt Niche

To make your T shirt design business stand out from the crowd, you need to choose the right niche. It will help you tailor your marketing strategy and position you better to attract the right audience without going over your budget. Selecting a niche will also help you stand out from the crowd with ease.

However, how do you pick a niche? Naturally, most people figure ‘funny slogans’ is a niche. The reality is that we can have funny slogans for everything, so they are too broad and ambiguous to get the needed effect. A better niche is t-shirts for really tall people. Right there, you can make great T shirt designs about funny things only really tall people can relate with. Nevertheless, that might be too specific a niche. Let’s share with you some niche ideas to get you started in the right direction:

Pets – t-shirts with memes, one-liners, funny images, and jokes about pets. You can narrow further to a specific animal. Although dog-inspired t-shirts are popular, we believe horses might be more profitable.

Career – you can create t-shirts about different jobs such as firefighting or nursing or a category of people. For instance, you can create t-shirts about mothers with a business on the side. To make your shirt unique and easy to identify, you should use custom hangtags.

Hobbies – gaming, gardening, book lovers, anime, fishing, cars, and crocheting

Sports – baseball, hockey, football, cycling, basketball

Lifestyle – yoga, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, keto dieters

Family –  single dads, proud mamas and fathers, new brides, new mums, grandparents, siblings, newlyweds, etc.

Travel – You can focus on a single location or hot destinations. Designs will focus on maps, local delicacies, architecture, travel quotes, etc.

Seasonal – Christmas, Halloween, Valentine, Thanksgiving, etc.

How to Choose the Perfect T shirt Niche?

– With our list of T shirt niches, which do you want to sell? What type of people do you wish to attract? Tip! Choose a niche that you already understand, the people around you will love, or one that you are affiliated with.
– Check out Wikipedia (especially for popular hobbies) to gain more inspiration.
– Make sure your niche is profitable. Validate through forums and communities on subreddits to check the level of engagement and subscriber counter-image
– Consider using Facebook’s audience insights tool to determine your niche’s size and gain insights into your competition.
– Use Google Keyword planner to find more suggestions within your niche. Simply add in some keywords and target country to find words and key phrases. Check out the monthly search volume, competition, and suggested bid. Always aim for a search volume of 1 to 10K monthly. Also, it would help if you didn’t target a niche with very high competition.

Step 2: Create a T shirt Business plan

Now that you have an idea of the niche you want to focus on, you’ll need to build a robust business plan. A robust business plan will provide all you need to validate your new T shirt design business. It will help you consider your goals and conduct in-depth market research.

You will be able to further segment your niche by the needs of your customers and target age. Remember that your target age may also have different needs regarding quality, design, and style. All of these will help you narrow your niche further and accurately evaluate your competition.

To help you create a successful T shirt business plan, here are a few insights:

– Would you love to wear your t-shirts?
– Who will you sell to, adults, teens, toddlers, youths, or infants?
– What other theme ties your target group? Tip! It’s better to target a very specific group than have a vague selection. For example, it’s easier to target Mid-aged women building their business than women in general.
– Will you offer a fixed range of designs, or will your customers have the option of designing theirs?
– Will you purchase designs or make them yourself?
– What fashion and quality of printed T shirt meet your market demand?
– What are your brand’s goals, values, and mission?
– How many people will be on your team?
– What kind of vendors will you choose to buy plain t-shirts from?
– Will you handle your printing in-house or outsource?

As an entrepreneur, you need to consider the long-term scene across all aspects of your T shirt business planning. Therefore, you may also consider these areas:

– Vendor agreements, statistical analysis of the T shirt printing business, design samples
– Competitor analysis
– Marketing ideas for launching and promotion
– Obtaining a license depending on your location and business model
– Revenue goals and resources
– Break-even analysis
– Costs of investments
– Projected expenses and assumptions on variable and fixed costs with primary expenses as printing, packaging, tagging, packing, shipping, tax, and labeling
– Business ratios, such as debt, accounts payable, and inventory turnover
– Profit and loss figures
– Gross margins

Every business needs a concrete business plan regardless of the size. The T shirt industry can help you make the best financial projections, so you know whether to apply for funding and how to stretch your budget effectively.

Step 3: Sourcing Quality Materials

To start a T shirt business that thrives from the first day, you must consider quality, style, and material.  What’s more, all print jobs are not the same. So, you need to consider each factor carefully. Also, note that quality is vital to your success. But, how far in quality will you afford to go? How much will your customers be willing to pay for your design?

At the onset, it might seem tempting to sacrifice quality for higher profit margins. But also bear in mind that your expenses are expected to be high at the beginning. Secondly, the quality of your t-shirts may make or break your business. We recommend determining your printing options and quality materials from the customer’s perspective.

Your goal is to attract them, convert, and make them come back to buy again. To choose a quality T shirt material, you will also have to consider weight, texture, material, fit, and sizing. While making that choice, do bear in mind that if a pattern cracks, or fades, or a T shirt strips or shrinks, customers might not come back to buy again. So, you need to take great care of your material choice.

Also, ensure you find reputable suppliers and establish a good relationship, so you don’t have to lose time or money going out of sync with production.

Step 4: Choose Your T Shirt Design Pathway

You can choose to design your t-shirts yourself or hire a T shirt designer. Designing on your own demands a great learning curve. In contrast, hiring a designer depends on your budget. You can access tons of graphic designers across freelance marketplaces like Dribbble or Behance. Other freelance networks like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr also provides access to great designers. It is recommended to make your choice by looking at their job successes and portfolio to ensure you have a great designer for your business.

Another alternative is to purchase pre-made designs. In this case, you can consider using T shirt design graphic marketplaces like T shirt factory, Designous, Creative Market, and Graphic River. Do realize that using this method might also mean you will the same designs that other people are already selling.

Step 5: Choose Your T Shirt Printing Options

If you want to learn how to start a T shirt business from home, you’ve to pay attention to printing options. There are many T shirt printing techniques you may consider at your T shirt printing business startup. However, three popular techniques stand out. Let’s look at their most important perks and drawbacks.

Screen printing

Screen printing is an old technique and one of the most effective for bulk printing. It produces long-lasting and durable results. It also allows you to print on a vast range of things, including hats, mugs, canvas items.


– An excellent choice for bulk printing
– Enjoy volume discounts


– Becomes too complicated when using more than four colors
– Can be too costly for multiple colors
– Only great for simple designs and images

Heat transfer

Heat transform has also been around for some time (but not as old as screen printing). It works just like regular laser printers and photocopy machines. Therefore, the process involves the basic transfer of designs from heat-transfer paper to your t-shirts.

Consider heat transfer when thinking about how to start your T shirt business from home. However, this does not mean running your prints with a home computer and an iron. In reality, choose between the more common heat transfer techniques such as laser and plastisol transfers.

So you have the choice to invest in a laser printer, or you can use plastisol transfers. Plastisol transfers are the most advanced form of heat transfers. In this case, professional printers can help you transfer your designs onto special high-quality heat transfer paper.

The reason to make this choice is that you can order stacks of prints from your printer and apply them on your t-shirts whenever your customers place their orders.


– Heat transfers can transfer full-color images to your T-shirts easily.
– The fabric will also retain its natural feel after it is printed.
– Your t-shirts will look attractive and professional.
– More cost-effective for small batches
– You can print shirts on-demand and fast.
– No limit to the colors you can use on print.


– Excellent for the DIY approach, but you need to invest the extra time and effort.
– Requires upfront investment for a heat press machine (or payments to your local printer)
– Less durable than screen or direct-to-garment printing.

Direct-to-Garment Printing

The direct-to-garment printing process works just like your inkjet printers. So, it’s pretty common. It also can create perfect full-color images. Because it works just like the inkjet printers, you require no setup costs. If you are thinking about how to start a T shirt business with no money or a very tight budget, this might be your choice.


– Ideal for custom or small orders
– No setup expenses
– Can create full-colored images with detailed accuracy
– Unlimited color options


– Not ideal for bulk production
– No way to offer volume discounts

Step 6 – Setup for Inventory and Logistics

When building your online T shirt business, you also need to consider how you will deliver to your customers and handle inventory. These questions will also affect your T shirt business plan.  If you print-on-demand, you may opt to buy and hold inventory, although this is a popular option for most people. It also allows you to take advantage of discounts on printing and material purchases. ‘What’s more, it can help boost your profit margins.

An alternative is to use a drop shipping printing service like Printiful, which allows you to start and test your T shirt designs even without a budget. If you want to know how to start a T shirt business with no money, this option is for you. Furthermore, consider the right logistics company for final fulfillment.

Think about the regions you will sell to, and figure out your shipping costs. You can also handle your packing and labeling on your own to bring your costs down. If you have the funds, of course, finding companies to handle the storage, shipping and packaging gives you the extra time to focus on meeting your customers’ needs.

Step 7 – Where to Sell Your T-shirts

You can decide to sell your products by building an e-commerce shop. BigCommerce and Shopify are popular hosted platforms for such purposes. An alternative is picking between T shirt market places. This provides you more chances to reach thousands of customers. In some cases, production and fulfillment might be handled for you.

Building your online shop off-course cuts down your competition and allows you to connect more with your customers. However, it also requires a lot more monetary investments from you. Choosing to build your online shop can also help you enjoy the great benefits of a drop shipping service like Printful, which significantly lowers your production costs. Creating your store can also provide the avenue to gain control over the quality of your t-shirts. To improve the branding on your T shirts, you should design your custom woven labels.

If you wish to use a T shirt marketplace, here are some popular options to quickly set up your store and start selling from today.

Merch by Amazon

This is one of the biggest eCommerce platforms with a huge selection of clothing options. Here you can consider having your fulfillment and delivery handled by Amazon. You will also incur a very low risk and no upfront cost. It is perfect for trying out the market. A great drawback is the higher fees and lower profit margins. You will also have no control over the quality, which means offering your customers low-end t-shirts.


Teespring is quite popular and can offer you a great connection with millions of customers looking for custom t-shirts. It is also easy for you to create t-shirts. You can use their libraries or design yours from scratch. However, you may have no control over quality. There are also no options for diversifying beyond t-shirts and hoodies.


CafePress also offers you access to millions of customers. But you will also enjoy the opportunity to expand to accessories, mugs, and lots more. They can also take care of your fulfillment, production, and delivery. However, you may have no control over quality. There is a vast range of solutions. So, make that choice and get started on building a great T shirt business now.

Step 8 – Market Your Online T shirt Business

When starting an online T shirt business, most newbies place marketing at the back burner. However, marketing is a critical aspect that determines your success. Whether you choose to use a T shirt marketplace or set up your shop, you still have to market your T shirt printing business startup. That is the right way to get your gorgeous designs in the faces of your target audience. Consider these mediums to market and promote your sewing business:

1. Word of mouth – talk to your friends, colleagues, and neighbors to help get the word out on your business. Consider wearing your shirts yourself and giving out free samples to your friends and relatives to boost your reach.
2. Use referral marketing – you can offer an incentive to buyers to refer a friend. For instance, you can offer an accessory or discounts on your purchase for referrals
3. Influencers – contact social media influencers and bloggers in your niche to help market your t-shirts. Depending on their audience, they might ask for outright fees or a trade. Consider making custom t-shirts for each social influencer to attract their audience effectively.
4. Social media – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and lots more are excellent for promoting your products. They are also a great space to start getting the word out for your new startup. So go out there and start promoting.
5. Facebook or Instagram Ads – At some point, you can consider ads to efficiently reach your targets. While considering how to start a T shirt business online, always put ads in the picture. You might not use them at the onset, but you might need them to ramp up sales at some point. To brand your T shirt or other products well, you should make care labels.

Build Your Thriving T shirt Business Today

Now you know how to start a T shirt business, you can start working on it immediately. The steps in this article are only one side of the picture. You will need to start acting on them.

Ensure you create a marketing strategy and build a great business plan for your business. Overall, starting a T shirt business can be a wholesome experience. With hard work, dedication, and a smart strategy, you might just become successful in no time. So get out there and start building your T shirt business.