How To Start A T-Shirt Business


As a creative, you may not have considered the possibility of starting your own business. But in fact, it can pay dividends to think of yourself as an entrepreneur! Though the landscape can be competitive, starting a clothing line (specifically focusing on tees) can be an interesting and satisfying way to make money from your awesome art.

Wondering how to jump in? Here are  three BIG steps to starting a t-shirt business.


I. Getting Started

  1. Love Your Interests (AKA Find A Niche)
    You know what you like. You know what moves you. If you don't do this already, now's the perfect time to stake out your own style. To start, it can be helpful to focus on one content area to start, so that you can test and iterate later (more on that soon). For example, if you love the Tumblr aesthetic, go with that! If you're not really sure what to create, check out forums and online groups. Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram all have inspiration galore.  Just be sure to find your own special niche and you'll be creating original work in no time!
  2. CREATE! 
    So, you've found your inspiration and nailed down your own special take. Now, get to work! At TeePublic, we create our work on Photoshop, but plenty of artists also love Illustrator. If you're new to the digital art game and you want to try a product for the low, low price of free, GIMP is a great tool, too. If you adore the tactile feel of a pen or pencil on paper, though, we can't blame you! You could always draw your piece and scan it so that you can upload later.

  3. Upload
    Uploading your work can be the scariest step because it separates you from all those other artists who have never put their art out there. We're so proud of you for taking this big step! As challenging as it can be to put your work up for the world to see, we've made our uploader as easy as possible to use. Read about our uploader for our best tips and tricks to make the most out of it.

  4. Choose Your Products
    You came here to be a t-shirt designer, right? Of course, you did! We have 19 kinds of teeshirts for you to offer to your audience. Classic tees are our bread and butter, of course, but we are also really excited about our Women's Premium tees, our curvy collection, and our youth program too. Besides tees, we offer 75 total products for your audience to love. Try them all!

  5. Know How Your Products Will Print
    At TeePublic, when one of your fans buys a piece of your work, we give your design a once-over for fidelity and placement on your product so that you get a great result, every time. After that, your design gets printed using a method called DTG, or direct-to-garment. The best machines in the business (Kornit) are used to ensure a high-quality print. These printers look a little something like a laser printer but bigger! The only limit to these printers' colors is your imagination! Unlike screen-printing where you are limited by the number of printed colors, you can go wild with DTG. So make the most of your creativity!

  6. Understand Our Earnings Structure
    As a merch maker, it's especially important to know how to get paid! Opening up a shop and hosting designs is totally free on TeePublic, as is offering any number of products/SKUs in your store. Every time a product in your shop is sold, you'll receive a flat-rate earning, paid out monthly via PayPal or Payoneer. Read more about how to modify your account (and payment email address) if you have more questions.


II. Creating More Work

By now, you've started your t-shirt business. That's huge!!! High five! But as any small business owner knows, the best shops have many SKUs from which their audience can choose. Find out how best to add to your shop by reading on!

  1. Validate
    So you've uploaded your awesome design. It represents your original style, and you feel proud to show it off. Great work! To push yourself even further here's a worthwhile challenge: validate it AKA get some feedback!) Other fans in the fandom (and even other t-shirt aficionados!) could have some valuable words of advice for you. If you used a font on your t-shirt, is it hard to read? Is the design clear enough? Could that flat background be made transparent for more adaptable printing? As a creator and artist, it's easy to get too close to a piece of work, so ask your family, friends, and folks in online forums for help. If we know one thing about the Internet, it's that everyone has an opinion! :) 

  2. Iterate
    We've said it before, but we'll say it again: We are so proud of your work so far. You've taken big (and hopefully fulfilling) creative steps to start your clothing line. Now it's time to enact that feedback that you received from your people and begin to brainstorm. If it's true that your audience likes simple fonts better than those with lots of , then what other fonts could you try next? What else could you try?

  3. Celebrate!
    An e-commerce t-shirt business is still a business, same as any other brick-and-mortar or website. So, celebrate the holidays! Try your hand at making some holiday-themed art. You might expand your creative horizons in interesting ways!


III. Running Your Shop

You've got a full body of work in your storefront and on our marketplace, so now you're ready to spread the word. Here's how!

  1. Spread the Word
    Everyone and their mother has a social media presence today, so it's a great idea to meet your audience where they are: online! Post about your new shop on your social media channels, and post about it often. Let your friends and followers support you!

  2. Advertise
    When you post on your social media channels, you may not be sure what to post. Or you may not want to post the same image every time (shrewd move). We suggest using PlaceIt, a mockup generator that uses your art and puts it on models so that you can show off your work in action! We've partnered with PlaceIt for 15% off a subscription for TeePublic shopowners. 

  3. Utilize Sales to Your Advantage
    So, your shop is on sale, either because we're holding a sitewide sale, or because it's a major holiday. What should you do? Find out how best to make the sales work for you, and lean in!

  4. Join Our Community!
    We have a super-talented and dedicated community of designers and merch store owners who are an invaluable resource for making your new t-shirt business a success.  Once you sign up, we'll tell you how to get connected with this incredible network of international artists.

So, what are you waiting for?



This entry is part of a series about getting started with TeePublic. Other entries include:

How Does Print-on-Demand Work?
Print-on-Demand T-Shirts
Sell Your Art
T-Shirt Business Plan

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