How To Start A Successful Online T-Shirt Business

T-shirts are a staple part of wardrobes across the globe. Furthermore, the global market for custom t-shirt printing industry is expected to cross 10 billion USD by 2025.

Clever entrepreneurs, like yourself, have identified the popularity of this product and have started thinking about beginning their own T-shirt businesses. Starting an online T-shirt business is a popular choice for both beginner and veteran ecommerce entrepreneurs. As an ecommerce store, T-shirts are cheap to source, have universal appeal and are relatively simple to customize.

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own online T-shirt business, it’s important that you’re aware that it’s a competitive field in ecommerce. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to make sure that your store stands out from the crowd. To ensure this, it’s important that you source high-quality products, design your own t-shirt, and build a strong brand image.

This may sound like a daunting process, especially if it’s your first time starting an ecommerce business, but don’t worry — we’re here to help you. We’ve created this article to provide you with all the necessary information you need to create a successful online T-shirt business.

Let’s get started.

Starting Your Online T-Shirt Business

If you’re looking to start your ecommerce journey, and you’ve been looking into opening your own online T-shirt business, you may have noticed that it’s actually relatively cheap and simple to get your store up and running.

In fact, we’ve already written an article explaining how ecommerce entrepreneurs can launch their own online stores in less than 30 minutes using Shopify. 

Starting your own T-Shirt business with Shopify is a simple process. You’ll also have continuous support from Shopify, both when starting your store, and during the process of running your store. It’s the ideal ecommerce solution for ecommerce entrepreneurs.

Is An Online T-Shirt Business Profitable?

As we mentioned earlier, everyone owns at least one t-shirt regardless of age, gender, and anything else. Therefore it is no wonder why a t-shirt business can be a profitable business for entrepreneurs in a very quick time span. Not only this but starting an online t-shirt business can have low startup costs if you plan your business model correctly.

How to Start An Online T-Shirt Business

Here are a few steps that you can follow to start an online T-shirt business now:

1. Find a Niche for Your Online T-Shirt Business

As an ecommerce entrepreneur who is looking to start a successful online T-shirt business, it may be useful to find a niche for your store. We’ve already mentioned that ecommerce is a competitive field, and finding a niche can really help you to create a successful online T-shirt store that stands out from the crowd. If you create a T-shirt store that is truly unique, either in terms of brand image or the products that are available, your chances for success will be considerably higher.

If you decide to create a niche store, take your time, and do your research. Take a look through other online stores which you like and use them to brainstorm t-shirt ideas for your own business. Note down anything which you think is impressive and then take some time to think about how you can make your online T-shirt business even better. Ultimately, you can target any niche that interests you. If you think that there is an untapped market, take advantage of it. It’s easier to stand out when there’s little competition, and it’ll be much cheaper too!

2. Design Your Own T-Shirt

design your own t-shirts

When you’re trying to launch a successful online T-shirt business, your t-shirt design ideas are critical. If your products have great designs, you’re already ahead of the game. Your products will act as a strong foundation for your store’s success.

It’s much easier to market great products, so try to nail this part. Be creative. Don’t be afraid of thinking outside the box. Try out various different t-shirt design ideas which relate to your brand, and see which ones fit best with your T-shirts and your audience. If you want to try making your own t-shirt designs there are many t-shirt design websites out there. We explore some of these in our t-shirt templates for your online store article.

If you don’t feel confident in your own ability to design awesome products for your online T-shirt business, seek help from others. You can contact local designers, who will likely be willing to provide their services. You can also take advantage of online freelance platforms, like Upwork and Fiverr, which you can use to liaise with freelance designers. There are a variety of different ways that you can source high-quality design work at an affordable price point.

3. Validate Your T-Shirt Designs

online t-shirt business
Once you’ve assembled a few solid design ideas for your online T-shirt business, you’ll need to seek validation from others. You may think that the designs which you’ve come up with are ready for printing, but others may point out some vital improvements that will help your products in the long run. It’s also important that the feedback which you receive for your designs is unbiased. You can achieve this by posting your designs on some forums (make sure that you watermark your designs so nobody can steal them). You can also receive some professional feedback by getting in contact with some local consultants — they will provide you with a professional, unbiased opinion.

Online discussion platforms, like Reddit, can prove to be a vital tool when you’re gauging the success of your t-shirt business’ designs. You can create t-shirt mockups and post your prospective designs onto the relevant sub-reddits, and you’ll receive honest feedback from people who are interested in your products. If you receive positive reactions from your post, you’re already armed yourself with some potential customers who you can reach out to when you launch your products.

4. Source Your Products

When you’ve validated the designs for your online T-shirt business, you’ll need to take some time to consider where you’ll be sourcing your T-shirts from. It is better to source high-quality T-shirts for your store’s inventory, it’ll make for a superior customer experience that will rival your competition.

Running an online T-shirt business is highly competitive, so you’ll need to stand out in any way that you can. One way you can do this is by sourcing the highest quality products that your business can afford. If your customers find that your t-shirts are shrinking or ripping after a couple of wears, it’ll build a bad reputation for your ecommerce store. This will dramatically decrease the chances of these customers purchasing from your store again, which is clearly something that you want to avoid. If your online T-shirt business is stocked with high-quality products which are built to last then your store will gain a great reputation that will help your business grow. We highly recommend using the best quality products available for your online T-shirt business.

how to sell t-shirts online

5. Print Your Designs

Having high-quality prints on your products is essential for a successful online T-shirt business. If your customers find that your designs are cracking or fading after a few washes, this will leave them with a bad impression of your business.

There are various different options which you can take advantage of to print your designs. You can get in contact with local printing businesses, which will allow you to check the quality of your prints before you ship them to customers. However, this may be an expensive process, especially when your ecommerce business grows and the demand for more prints increases.

6. Choose Your Business Model

If a local printing business is too costly for your online t-shirt business, then dropshipping could be your solution. At Oberlo, we believe that online T-shirt businesses can benefit greatly from a dropshipping t-shirt business model. It’s simple, cheap, and you can run it from anywhere in the world. Connect Oberlo with your Shopify store to import products, and communicate with suppliers to print your t-shirt designs with ease.

7. Set Up Your Online Presence

Finally you need to start thinking about where you want to sell, and market your product. For a t-shirt business it is super important to know your audience as t-shirts can be versatile, all inclusive, or very niche. At this stage you will have decided on your design, and have an idea of your audience, but what about your competitors? Have you looked them up and found out where they are selling and marketing their tees? 

Taking the time to do market research will help you to understand your audience before you have started selling. It will also ensure that you are present on the right platforms for your audience to find your products easily. It could be the case that your target market is active on Instagram and Snapchat, and they don’t spend time searching for t-shirts through Google Search. This means that influencer marketing and advertising are your best options for success, instead of spending a lot of time and resources on search engine optimization.

Once you have mapped where your competitors are, and where your ideal customers like to hang out online, you can start to set up and build your online brand presence. You are now ready to start selling t-shirts online!

Considerations When Designing Your Own T-Shirts

how to start a t-shirt business

There are many ways to print designs on t-shirts and other clothing. It is important for you to understand them before you create your own online t-shirt store. Understanding them will ensure you are making the right decision for your business. Below are three of the most common t-shirt printing options to consider for their quality and process.

  • Screen Printing

Screen printing is a great option for designs that are darker or have a high level of vibrancy. Using stencils, or screens, printers apply layers of ink on a t-shirt, using different stencils for different colored inks. Screen printing is great for bulk printing of five or fewer colors due to its labor-intensive setup.

  • Heat Transfer

With heat transfer, an image is placed on heat transfer paper, cut from the paper, and then placed on a t-shirt. Like a huge iron, heated to high temperatures the Heat Transfer paper melts into the fibers of the clothing, making it part of the shirt without disturbing the top image. Heat transfers can produce color images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.

  • Direct to Garment

With Direct to Garment printing, ink is applied directly onto a t-shirt through an inkjet printer.  Using specialist water-based ink, t-shirt designs are downloaded to a computer and, with a specialist printer, they are directly transferred onto a physical t-shirt. This is the cheapest print option as there is relatively no set up cost but it does take some time to print each t-shirt so this is a good option for small print orders.

How to Sell T-Shirts Online

t-shirt design ideas

Here are the main things to keep in mind before starting your own online venture dropshipping T-shirts:

  1. Decide Your Market

    Before starting your online T-shirt business, it’s important to know the niche that you’ll be focusing on. The T-shirt industry is over saturated and to be successful you need to know what you’re going to be aiming at.

  2. Design Your T-Shirt

    You’ll have a hard time convincing people to buy your T-shirts if the designs aren’t good. So pay extra attention to what goes on to the T-shirts that you’d like to dropship. Utilize t-shirt design websites to ensure that the artwork on your products is high-quality, and not trademarked.

  3. Choose a Quality Dropship Supplier

    Make sure you meet quality standards when it comes to T-shirts. It can be tricky to know which T-shirts are high quality when you’re dropshipping. Order a few samples from your suppliers just to test them out. You can discover that the design is not what you like or the material is not to your liking

  4. Build Reviews and Social Proof

    Reaching out to customers and asking them to review your product online is a key aspect of selling t-shirts due to the importance of social proof in this niche. Customers want to know that they are getting value for money when buying online and they want to hear from actual customers when making their decision.

    Ecommerce product reviews

  5. Grow Your Brand Awareness

    Brand awareness can be the make or break part of your new business. The right branding can establish your business as trustworthy and a leader in your space. This also helps immensely with your marketing. A brand tells your customers who you are and what you’re about. 

    The basic elements of a brand are how you look and your tone of voice. Your logo and website will often be the first thing a new customer sees when browsing for new t-shirts, so these elements of your business need to make a good first impression. Your tone of voice and style of writing also affects everything from sales to engagement. Think about how you want your customers to view you and establish your tone and style from there. 

  6. Outreach to Influencers

    Influencers can help you break into new markets, or win you more customers in your current demographic. Finding influencers on your top platforms like Instagram, or Snapchat can be easier than you think, with the advent of micro-influencers and nano-influencers. These are influencers who may only have a few hundred followers but are very influential to these people. 
    Try outreaching to a couple of smaller influencers, offering them free t-shirts in exchange for them sharing images of them wearing your product. This small act of social proof can incur bonus brand points for your online t-shirt business. 

  7. Use Remarketing to Your Advantage

    If you have a lot of people adding t-shirts to their cart and then disappearing from your website, remarketing could be your best weapon to increase your conversion rate. When a customer adds a product to their cart, you can retarget them on various websites through products like Google Ads, or on social media platforms through products like Facebook Ads. You can lead people back to their cart with discount codes, new offers, or simply just a reminder of their items. 

    Criteo found that website visitors, who are retargeted to, are 43% more likely to convert compared to those not shown retargeting campaigns. This shows the true power of remarketing for businesses across any niche, but especially the t-shirt niche. This is a fast moving niche, where people need to be reminded of their abandoned carts sometimes.

Dropshipping with Your Online T-Shirt Business

As an entrepreneur running an online T-shirt business, dropshipping is a great business model. If you dropship your T-shirts, you’ll never need to carry any inventory. Forget about having piles of T-shirts littered around your house, or having to waste valuable resources renting a storage space. Instead, you’ll simply receive orders from your customers, and ship the products straight from your supplier’s warehouse to their door. A dropshipping T-shirt business is streamlined and will allow you to manage your business from anywhere in the world.

make your own t-shirts

If you choose dropshipping for your online T-shirt business, you can take advantage of ecommerce platforms like AliExpress. Aliexpress allows you to source high-quality products at an affordable price point. You’ll be instantly connected with a wide network of suppliers who are open to collaboration. You can reach out to individual suppliers on AliExpress who can print your designs directly onto their T-shirts. Then you can ship said products directly to your customer’s door — it’s as simple as that.

If you decide that AliExpress dropshipping is the best option for your ecommerce business then we recommend that you use Oberlo. With Oberlo, you can easily import products directly into your ecommerce store with just a few clicks. You can also manage all your orders easily with Oberlo. Oberlo is free, so you can start dropshipping today.

Online T-Shirt Business Success Stories

Many successful ecommerce entrepreneurs created their online T-Shirt businesses with a dropshipping business model. One of Oberlo’s users, Melvin Chee, 22, started off his own ecommerce store as an experiment and ended up making $100K+ in just 3 months.

Melvin decided that he wanted to start an online T-shirt business when he stumbled across Oberlo in a Facebook group. He knew that he would need to find a niche which would enable his ecommerce store to succeed. He settled on a bank of core products which were basic T-shirts with funny slogans printed onto them. It was these products, incorporated with his marketing efforts, which transformed this experiment into an ecommerce success story. You can check out our full article on Melvin’s story


Now that you’ve read through this post you’ll know exactly how to start an online T-shirt business and create your own success story. Remember, designing and selling t-shirts online in this niche is competitive, so be sure to make use of the tips which we’ve mentioned in this article.

If you have any further questions about starting an online T-shirt business, or ecommerce in general, then let us know in the comments section– we’re more than happy to help.

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