Let’s see what techniques allow some people to earn up to $10,000/month selling T-shirts online, with little investment, with or without an e-shop and even if you have no design idea.
- Here's the program
- 7 key Points to Successfully Create and Sell Your Own T-shirt Collection
- Environmental impact
If there is a garment that has always met great success with everyone (men, women, and children) and this on the 5 continents, it’s the T-shirt. You just have to walk in a busy place (festival, shopping street, tourist places…) during a nice summer day to realize it. You can see all kinds of colors, with all kinds of printing.
Whether they are militant, cultural, humorous, or just banally commercial, they often reveal a part of the personality or opinions of the wearer. The T-shirt is an extraordinary support for artworks, a way to express a feeling, to make people laugh or even sometimes to deliver a message to the world, and that’s why it is so popular and universal. It’s easy to see why this type of business has a huge earning potential.
Well, I won’t hide it, the T-shirt market is already well exploited on the Web. You just have to do a quick search on Google and see the impressive number of results that come up. Does this mean that the market is saturated and that there is no more room for you? Not necessarily. If you are interested in this idea, let’s see the key steps you should focus on in order to put all the chances of success on your side.
7 key Points to Successfully Create and Sell Your Own T-shirt Collection.
1Choosing what to display on your T-shirts: The first question to ask yourself is “What subject(s) will I choose?”. The answer to this question is less obvious than it seems, you will see. There are so many different topics that can be covered in this medium that it can be extremely difficult to choose. If this is your case and you have absolutely no idea what you want to do, here are some ideas to explore:
aFind a “niche”: A niche is a small market segment with a smaller number of buyers but is still profitable. Many articles on the web state that this is the most effective way to sell T-shirts. This is true. Well, it depends. Because, if indeed the niche allows you to target a certain category of people very precisely, it only addresses them and limits the potential number of buyers.
It’s perfect if you’re targeting a large enough category of enthusiasts who like to wear T-shirts and buy them online, provided it’s not already overused. But how do you find that perfect niche?
There are several ways to do this, but the most effective is probably to use “Keyword Planner”. This free tool, made available by Google, allows you to survey the popularity of a theme, a category, or even a group of keywords. Basically, you just have to type one or more words in the search bar, and you will then have access to various statistics in real time.
You can also combine two or even three niches on one T-shirt. The beer-drinking biker is a perfect illustration of the “double niche” which is still very popular. What you can do to find an original combination is to create small papers each containing a niche, mix them in a hat (or a salad bowl), and pick 2 or 3 at random. The result can sometimes be surprising but often very interesting.
The “sub-niche” is also a good lead. For example, instead of addressing bodybuilders and creating a simple illustration where you see a guy lifting iron, try to find ideas about their diets, their love life, or the daily difficulties that can be encountered when you are built like a bulldozer.
Here are some examples of interesting ”generic niches“. Some of them are already well exploited, but they all have a fairly high sales potential. It’s up to you to target these niches even more precisely or to find combinations between several of them.
- Nurses and the hospital environment
- The police and the army (land, sea, and air)
- The civil administration
- Teaching, teachers, and students
- The Web professions (programmer, graphic designer, webmaster…)
- Marketing and advertising
- The secretaries
- The workers (and proud of it)
- The LGBT* community
- The flirtatious
- The “party people”
- Tourists, travelers, expatriates…
- Entrepreneurs and the world of micro-businesses
- Animal lovers
- Gamers and geeks
- Foodies or vegans
- Singers, karaoke, and music in general
- Sport addicts
- Lovers of beautiful mechanics (cars, motorcycles, etc.)
- The work environment (the coffee machine, the photocopier, the boss, the coworking…)
- Ecology and environmental challenges
- Fantasy (unicorn, zombie, dragons)
- Cinema, series, manga (Beware of copyrights!)
- Ethnic cultures (Asia, Africa, Inca, Aztec, Inuit, etc.)
- Street art
- History and prehistory
- Events and festivals
- Fake news and conspiracy
- Technology, AI, robots, etc.
* A sensitive subject! Be careful not to offend certain people and thus create a “bad buzz” (although it can also boost your sales…).
However, you should not address a target audience that does not have financial means, access to the Internet, or that for some reason would be unable to purchase your products. For example, children do not have credit cards and the elderly may have difficulty making a payment online. In addition, they are not especially known for buying massive T-shirts. The ideal age range, in my opinion, is between 20 and 65.
bFollow the trends: Seeing what sells well elsewhere is an age-old technique. So start by checking out various online T-shirt sales sites and see what works best. Then use that as inspiration to make your choice.
Offering T-shirts with images that are relevant to current news/events can also be a good idea, but since topics are by definition very ephemeral, you will have to be both very responsive and able to renew yourself very frequently.
cGet ideas from the web: There are quite a few blog posts or YouTube videos that list themes that could be a hit. There is new content coming out fairly regularly, so a little Google search should help you find it.
dTalk about a topic/area (social, cultural or professional) that you know well: This is often the easiest and most effective way to find a good niche idea. Think about your entourage, your passions, your job, your daily life, your relatives, the specificities of your region or your country, etc.
eAsk your graphic designer for advice: If you are planning to use a graphic designer to create your designs, why not ask to him? He or she theoretically has more experience than you and knows the current trends.
fDoing “Corporate”: Some people propose a series of T-shirts with the colors or logo to a company they have targeted. It’s a gamble, but if you manage to convince them, the “jackpot” may not be far off. However, don’t try with Google or Amazon, I think they already have their own service.
2Create an appealing design: If you are familiar with software such as Adobe Illustrator or any other graphic design tool, and if you have a minimum of artistic talent and imagination, the best would be to do it yourself. There is no need to create dozens of designs. A few will suffice, but make sure they appeal to your target audience.
The tone of your designs can be funny, motivational, cheeky, touching, cute/kawaii, etc. or even all of these at once. Opting for a flashy style, muted colors, or monochrome is also a determining factor and varies from case to case. So, it’s up to you, but just know that there are certain technical constraints imposed on the printing. They can change from one printer to another but globally, here is what you should remember:
- Colors: Pantone (PMS)
- Resolution: 150 or 300 DPI
- Format: PNG, EPS (Adobe Illustrator), PSD (Adobe Photoshop)
- Minimum size: 30 x 40 cm / 12 x 16 inches
If, on the other hand, you feel you don’t have the talent to make your own T-shirt designs, don’t despair because there are alternative solutions. I suggest you some of them here, but whatever you decide, avoid using the cousin who claims to be an artist, but can barely scribble a few insipid and soulless drawings (yes, even if he is nice). The design must be original, striking, and stylish.
aFind an artist who will create your images: There are several platforms on the Web that gather a lot of brilliant artists (designers, graphic artists, illustrators…) ready to help you. Of course, it won’t be free, but don’t forget that design is a key element for the success of your project. If there is a time when you have to invest a minimum of money, it is this time. And then, if you look hard enough, you should be able to get it for very little money.
Some examples of platforms:
- 99designs: As the name suggests, this platform allows you to call exclusively on designers from around the world. Perfect to create the images of your next collection of T-shirts but also for a logo or the design of a website for example.
- Upwork: This one gathers all kinds of professions (translators, developers, accountants, marketing specialists, etc.) but especially a lot of talented graphic designers.
- Dribbble: Dribbble is more of a community site, reserved exclusively for designers from around the world. It’s a very good way to find a collaborator but also to see the design trends of the moment.
- Deviantart: Deviantart works a bit like a social network and gathers mostly illustrators, designers, and photographers from all over the world. You will find a lot of talent and inspiration.
- Fiverr / 5euros: Similar to Upwork but you will find here services from $5! Be careful because at this price, you will sometimes be dealing with beginners with little (or no) experience, so take the time to choose who you will work with.
- Behance: This platform is a kind of giant portfolio where each professional artist exposes a part of his work. A very good source of inspiration too.
bSearch “stock images”: Another option is to search “stock images”. These sites offer an impressive quantity of vector images (created by computer) and photos, covering every conceivable theme. The prices are also usually quite affordable but depend on the type of license you need to purchase.
Some image banks:
cBuy by bundle: Some sites offer bundles that contain a series of designs specifically dedicated to T-shirt printing. This option is perfect for those who don’t want to waste time creating different designs for their collection.
I’ve prepared a small list below, but you’ll certainly find more via a simple Google search with the keywords “T-shirts Designs Bundle”.
dDisplay only text You can choose to display only text in different colors and fonts. T-shirts with quotes, for example, are often very popular, especially if they are funny or punchy. So no need to find images here, but it is important to choose fonts carefully.
The best thing to do is to go and see what is being done elsewhere and choose what you like best. You can then go to one of the sites below to choose fonts similar to those you have noticed. All that’s left to do is to create the image with software such as Adobe Photoshop or others. There are a lot of good tutorials on the web, so you should be able to do it yourself.
Some sites offering fonts (free and paid):
eFind an image and make arrangements with its author: If you have spotted an image or an artwork that seemed perfect to be displayed on one of your T-shirts outside of the “classic” circuits I just mentioned, do not hesitate to contact its creator directly. Whether it’s an artist or a company, it doesn’t cost you anything to ask for an authorization to use it (probably for a fee), or to propose a form of partnership, with a share of the profits at the end.
fResell pre-printed T-shirts: If you like to travel, check out the local markets. You can sometimes find handmade T-shirts and other clothing that are often very original in design. There are many people on the web who are looking for “exotic” styles from far away cultures. Perhaps this is a “niche” to exploit?
If you prefer more classic and modern designs, there are quite a few sites that sell pre-printed T-shirts, by lot. The best way to save on shipping costs is to find a wholesaler not too far from your home. A quick Google search with keywords such as “Wholesale T-shirts” or “Bulk T-shirts” along with the name of your city or country should help.
User licence: Attention! Whichever solution you choose, be sure to obtain an appropriate license for that type of use. For example, some basic licenses allow only web page display and/or non-commercial use. So, be sure to read the terms and conditions before spending any money or downloading any file (image or font).
3Test the popularity of your T-shirts: When your collection is ready, you will have to determine which designs will be the most likely to please your customers. To do this, you can use an ultra-known platform that you have probably been using for a long time: Facebook! Here’s how.
aThe “A/B” test: This is a technique widely used in marketing, which consists of creating several advertisements with certain variants. In your case, it will be the design that will change from one ad to another.
Let’s imagine that you have created 4 different designs for your T-shirts, so you will create 4 ads each containing one of them: Design A on ad A, Design B on ad B, etc. This will cost you a few dollars but will have the double advantage of helping you to determine which ones are attractive or not thanks to the stats displayed in real time, but also to make your first online sales.
In a short time, you will be able to stop using designs that are not successful and focus on the most popular ones, but also create new ones.
Facebook has a very comprehensive article on how to best create an ad on its platform. If you don’t know how to do it, I strongly advise you to check it out.
bPolls: There are also applications on Facebook that allow you to publish polls that include illustrative images. This solution can be a very good idea if, for example, you are hesitating to launch your business and want to “test the waters” (This could also be an opportunity to offer your T-shirts for pre-order?).
4Perfect product quality: You will certainly be tempted to look for the cheapest possible raw materials in order to maximize your profit margin, which is the natural reflex of young entrepreneurs. Except that if the quality is not optimal, you risk not only having a large number of returns but also seeing your first customers flee.
So, find the best quality/price ratio, and don’t hesitate to order samples to compare. Never forget that a customer who is happy with his purchase will not only come back to buy next time but will also be your best ambassador to his family and friends.
5An impeccable store: Your online store will first be used to showcase the products you offer. It must, therefore, be visually pleasing first. Then, you will have to do everything possible to facilitate navigation within it by making it both functional and intuitive. There are several ways to create your store yourself, but the easiest and fastest is to go through an e-commerce platform such as Shopify.
The advantages are multiple: They offer a formula at 29€/month, offer the choice between a multitude of cool visual themes but especially have a catalog of applications quite complete, including one that will allow you to manufacture, print, and even deliver your products directly to your customers for you. In short, all you have to do is create your store, add your T-shirts to the catalog, and follow up with customer service.
Shopify is not the only solution, far from it. If you have the time and the budget, you can choose to create your store with Prestashop or WooCommerce. This requires more work and interesting applications are often paid, but you will gain in freedom and flexibility. If you are hesitant, I invite you to read my article dedicated to this subject.
Another option that might interest you, especially if you are really in a hurry and don’t have the patience to create an online store, is to use a platform specialized in selling personalized clothing and objects called “print-on-demand service”. Some are open to resellers and offer a complete turnkey service. All you have to do is register, choose to sell on their “marketplace”, and send your creations. Moreover, not only will you be able to sell your designs on other media such as mugs, caps, smartphone cases, shoes, cushions, sweaters, and other garments, but it will cost you absolutely nothing since they only charge a commission on each sale but have no monthly fees.
Some print on demand services:
6Be visible on the Web: You may have created the coolest T-shirts in the world, but if no one knows about them, you’ll only be able to sell them to your cousin and your mom. As soon as your store is ready, start communicating as much as you can, and do it smartly. Because, even if it’s here (too) that you should drop a few bucks, it will nevertheless be necessary to build a real advertising campaign that will directly target the people likely to be interested in your T-shirts. I’ll probably write a whole article on this subject, so don’t hesitate to come back, but in the meantime, you can this article.
Another very good solution to show (and sell) your T-shirts, is to use online sales platforms, such as “Marketplace”. There are many of them, but here is a small list of the most famous one:
I’m only talking about the Web here, but why not sell in markets or even open a small “pop-up” store to start? Physical sales places are very good ways to sell merchandise quickly if they are located in a strategic place where there are a lot of people passing by (commercial or tourist area, train station, etc.).
7An excellent service: Here is another element that will strongly contribute to the loyalty of your customers. Whether it is about the service before or after sale, always be reactive and do not let a week pass before answering a customer’s email. The same goes for delivery—send the packages the same day or the next morning. People like to be listened to, but they don’t like to wait.
The secret to successfully selling T-shirts online is to follow the few steps mentioned in this article but above all, to take the time necessary to develop each of them. The competition is sometimes tough in this sector, hence the need not to do things anyhow.
I admit that the title of this article is a bit “pretentious” or “sensationalist”, but I chose it because, while doing my research, I came across a lot of articles written by T-shirts sellers who managed to live very comfortably from this activity. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to make a living from it, but I hope I’ve given you a few pointers that will help you do so.
So, to summarize:
- Find a “niche”: Know from the start whom you want to target with your products. Finding a niche is probably the best way to effectively sell your T-shirts, but you can also decide to target a wider audience. This is a strategic choice that will certainly have a direct impact on your sales, so take the necessary time before deciding.
- A powerful message: Whether you display an image or just text, it will trigger a real emotion in your buyers. Make them laugh, cry, feel proud, feel nostalgic, moved, supportive, admiring, etc. In short, make them want to buy your T-shirts.
- A design that appeals: There are many different graphic styles. Find the one that will appeal to your target audience the most. If you don’t have the talent, get someone to create the design for you.
- Get the word out: As soon as your T-shirts are available on your website, whether it’s Shopify, a print-on-demand platform, or something else, invest in a Facebook, Google, or other advertising campaign. It’s imperative that people see your products to make them want to buy them. Then, create new designs and get rid of the ones that don’t sell.
- Perfect service: I’ve told you this before, but I’ll say it again: A satisfied customer is your best ambassador. Make sure your T-shirts are of good quality, take care of the presentation of your website, deliver quickly and answer complaints/returns without delay.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
Behind this very popular and colorful industry hides an unfortunately very dark truth since it has a very harmful impact on the environment. The damage caused is numerous, from production to distribution:
- Water-intensive cotton production (up to 10,000 liters of water per kilo produced) while it is grown in some countries affected by drought, the massive use of pesticides and herbicide, GMO crops making producers dependent on multinational agrochemicals…
- Use of toxic chemicals, especially for dyeing, some of which are prohibited in Europe, USA, and other countries, untreated wastewater discharged into nature, dangerous exposure of people working in factories…
- Enormous amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases since, once harvested, cotton is transported from one country to another to be successively spun, woven, dyed, sewn, distributed and sold.
- The workers in this sector are paid very low wages, have no social security coverage, and are not insured in case of accidents.
But then, what to do if it is so bad for the planet? We are not going to stop producing clothes (especially as I’m quite sensitive to the cold)? Actually, no. It is quite possible today to produce clothes in a more respectful way for our environment and those who work in this sector. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
The raw material: There are now more than 200,000 organic cotton producers in 18 countries around the world. If you want to make your own T-shirts, you should go to them.
Labels: There are several independent labels that aim to improve working conditions in the clothing and textile industry or to reduce its impact on the environment. This is the case for example of the Fair Wear Foundation, Soil Association or Max Havelaar, but there are others. Their websites are a mine of information, so don’t hesitate to consult them to find out more.
Carbon offsetting:: There are platforms such as carbonfund.org, purprojet.com, or goodplanet.org, which allow you to offset CO2 emissions due to transportation. The principle is simple: You pay a sum of money that will be used in various projects such as carbon sequestration (tree planting) or energy transition (wind farms and solar panels). It would be possible to offer this option to your customers or even to integrate this cost directly on the selling price for example.
The online platforms: spreadshirt.com and teezily.com, which I already mentioned above, both offer organic T-shirts in their catalogs. On the other hand, I didn’t manage to find any on the “store apps” of Shopify, Prestashop, or WooCommerce, but the choice is so vast that I may not have looked hard enough. If you find any, please let me know in the comments. If not, here are a few more interesting links:
- Very popular product
- Easy and quick to implement
- Possibility of significant gains
- Disastrous environmental impact
- Strong competition
- Location: You work from home, but if you opt for a solution that takes care of printing and delivery, this activity can very well be carried out in nomadic mode.
- Investment: Minimum if you choose the Marketplace of Spreadshirt or Teezily
- Earnings perspective: Quite important as long as your designs appeal and your advertising campaigns are effective.
- Required: Rigor and business sense – know how to manage an e-shop.
- Risk level: Relatively low given the small investment required.
- Implementation time: Quite fast.
- Material needed: A laptop and… well, that’s it.