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How to start a t-shirt business

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How to start a t-shirt business

At this very moment, there are people – real people – wearing bad, substandard, or improper shirts. It’s true. What’s also true is that you have the power to change it. After all, the concept of considering how to start a t-shirt business entirely depends on the idea that someone could beat (or at least compete with) the stuff that’s currently out there. 

And why not? There’s never been a better time to capitalize on the current market trends to reach financial success. Read on to see just how many other people are maximizing their passive-income potential through that very same idea. This is a terrific moment for anyone considering how to start a t-shirt business. Fast fashion is still in vogue – the people always want new, flashy accoutrement that meshes with their own interpretations of the self, the world around them, and the very nature of reality itself. 

In case you’re in a rush, here’s a quick walkthrough:

  1. Acknowledge Market Potential: The customer t-shirt industry is flourishing. 
  2. Technology and T-shirts: This is a very good time to get into the t-shirt game. 
  3. Believe in Yourself: Show the people what you’ve got. It’s a big world. Regardless of what the angle is, even the most esoteric notion can potentially connect with a bunch of other people who feel the same way. 
  4. Have a Good Idea: The brain is always on, anyway. Just nudge it a bit away from comfortable happy places and more toward making money.
  5. Retail vs. E-tail: The good, bad, and ugly of reaching modern audiences. 
  6. Start Working with Printify: This is a free-to-start venture that has essentially no risks while coming with big potential rewards.
  7. Printifying Successfully: These people achieved great things using the Printify setup. Why not step up and claim some similar triumphs?

1. Acknowledge market potential

Custom t-shirt printing market size worldwide from 2016 to 2025 (in million U.S. dollars)
Source: Statista

Looking around, it’s not hard to see that custom and individualized t-shirts are trending. But, if you’re wondering how to start a t-shirt business, the great thing is that it’s really not that hard. Yes, making the decision to move out of a comfort zone and into the unknown can be scary, but that’s where the real rewards are. Speaking of rewards, Credence Research Incorporated estimates the custom t-shirt market to reach (or even exceed) $10 billion by 2025. While it’s easy to throw abstract numbers around, the point is that with such a big pie, securing even a small piece would equate to a significant profit. 

Global custom t-shirt printing market, by geography, 2018 ($US Bn)

Source: Credence

The best news here is that there are a whole bunch of forces out there already acting on your behalf – actively working to make it easier to get business up and running. This means bypassing traditional entrepreneurial hurdles, easing connections with international audiences, and encouraging eco-friendly, sustainable commercialization practices. It all equates to good timing. Whether you’re the type that strikes while the iron is hot, or makes the iron hot by striking, there has rarely been a better time to capitalize on the customized garment market.

If you’re ever unsure of a product’s viability, here are a few key points to consider:

  • Ascertain the product’s market size
  • Calculate Market Growth Rate: This is usually determined by studying market patterns over a few years. Tools like Google trends (but there are many others) are great for simplifying this process.
  • Determine Profitability: All businesses need to profit to survive. This means dialing in numbers like return on investment (ROI), return on sales (ROS, return on net assets (RONA), and return on capital employed (ROCE). Fortunately, there are many market research tools and specialists that can help bring clarity to an otherwise disorganized alphabet soup of foreign terms. 
  • Assess the Competition: No one is ever the only game in town. If you manage to monopolize something, congratulations. However, it’s much more likely that any startup will go head-to-head against other businesses already entrenched within the same sector. So, use tools like this to understand the economic geography of any industry you’re planning to enter. In other words, don’t start a lemonade stand right next to a soda factory. 
  • Know your Customer: T-shirts are bought frequently – they wear out, become less interesting than newer editions, are purchased as pieces of a set, etc. The point is that getting into the mind of a customer helps entrepreneurs cater to their needs. Regardless of the target audience, it’s a big advantage to know what motivates, intrigues and stimulates that demographic. 

As you’ve been wondering how to start a tshirt business, know that the stars have indeed aligned for anyone choosing to get in. It’s literally become easy. So easy, in fact, that there are written articles that walk people through the whole thing. All that is required in this ultramodern era to get cracking is some enthusiasm, a can-do attitude, and a bit of discipline – well, it’s also important to have fun with it, too.

2. Technology and t-shirts 

direct to garment printingdirect to garment printing

So, why is the t-shirt industry making such a splash right now? Well, one generalized way of breaking this phenomenon down is by pointing out a symbiotic, self-sustaining combination between technological improvements and the inevitable descent of human culture into frenzied consumerism. 

Custom t-shirts are everywhere these days. It’s a veritable blizzard of colors, patterns, and improvisations. It’s a trend only seeming to increase in popularity. Why? The reason can be spelled out in two words: digital printing. The application of this contemporary method has rapidly and comprehensively replaced time-consuming (and expensive) old-school techniques like dyeing and pressing. 

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how scientific innovations are benefiting anyone and everyone considering how to start a t-shirt business:

1. Originality

The very first thing that someone thinking about how to start a t-shirt business needs to have is some of their own artwork. This can be a personal logo, pictures they’ve taken, a figure drawn-up on a computer, a revolutionary approach to familiar or famous words/slogans, adaptations of other popular art – it can really be just about anything. 

2. Standing Out

how to start a tshirt businesshow to start a tshirt business

See, it’s important for an entrepreneur to have something that defines their brand, outlook, and vibe. Whether it’s an eye-catching design, a message that resonates with a particular audience demographic, busting out an amazing allover print barrage, or simply maintaining a high frequency at which new content is generated – the point is to find an angle to hook customers and keep them interested. With the rise of computers, the capacity to create original artwork now is accessible to virtually anyone. 

3. Resources

gildan color chartgildan color chart
Printify – free Gildan, Bella+Canva T-shirt color chart

So many online avenues are out there – many complete with trials or even free download capabilities. There’s never been a time where so many people have such conveniently located creation tools – including articles designed to help stimulate creativity. In short, a ton of people are designing stuff faster, more efficiently, and with greater degrees of customization. Keep in mind that there are a bunch of different t-shirt models relative to their host print provider – each with its own printing locations, sizes, creation materials, etc. 

4. Creating a t-shirt

Even with a design, how does an image come to be printed on a shirt? After all, when visualizing how to make a t-shirt business – decent products are super necessary. This means images with a high enough resolution to look good – even if the image in question’s size is magnified to cover a larger surface area. For example, a sweet picture may turn ugly when stretched to cover the printing area of an XXL-sized shirt. 

Drag-and-drop – free mockup generator

The great news here is that the Printify tech experts have long since perfected a drag-and-drop implementation system for the Printify Mockup Generator. Using this feature, it only takes a moment to onboard new designs. But, even after the upload is complete, the generator goes further – analyzing the projected quality of applied artwork to make sure that the image that is placed on a garment doesn’t degrade, bleed, or blur when it’s finally printed and gotten ready for shipping. 

5. Printing – Print provider network

OPT OnDemand PrintingOPT OnDemand Printing

 So, when a product has it’s graphics lined up and perfected online, the final product still has to be created. Along this avenue, numerous advancements relative to the physical act of applying a design to garments have revolutionized the industry as a whole. A prime example of this transition is the movement away from screen printing. 

Screen Printing

Here, individual screens are used for every single color presented on a given product. So, many separate screens (each with a different color) are used in sequence to produce a final design – layer by layer. This method is terrific for mass-producing a given product, as screens can be reused, but the process as a whole is limited in terms of diversity. This rigid methodology was the rule until the dawning of digital printing in the early 1990s. 

Digital Printing – Direct to garment

In this method, a digitized format of an image destined for printing is analyzed by a computer and converted into a printable format. This digitization results in images being printable within seconds. Combine this actualization with the introduction of modernized inkjet heads – nozzles that disperse colors onto printed materials via the form of tiny droplets, and the entire printing process can be completed in moments.  

Read more about DTG Printing

3. Believe in yourself

So simple, but so necessary. While yes, it’s a hard fact that success isn’t usually an overnight phenomenon, the key is working to your best efforts with whatever cards have been dealt. Not unlike training a muscle group in the gym, working to build up confidence is something that develops over time. Contrary to mainstream media, it’s actually a normal occurrence to have doubts. However, overcoming intrinsic adversity results in feelings of satisfaction, optimism, and, one of the ultimate human experiences, self- love. 

There are moments when anyone might feel a bit smaller than they’d like to when considering how to start a t-shirt business. Just remember, the rewards are real in today’s flourishing international economy. But, as perspective is everything, this moment could be the dawning of the terrific concept or idea that sends your business into overdrive. See, any endeavor is bound to encounter moments that aren’t as smooth as the beautifully glazed illusions of social media and reality television. 

Moving outside the familiar is not for the faint of heart. However, don’t be afraid to chase variations of unfamiliar positional thinking – it is through comparisons, trials, and potentially even failure that true art and originality can arise. Even wondering how to start a t-shirt business is putting energy in the right direction. The great news here is that there are resources available, like this blog for creating printed ideas, dedicated to helping you start a t-shirt business, even if you don’t have any investment money available. 

4. Have a good idea

Easier said than done, right? Well, not necessarily. The respected philosopher and neuroscientist Dr. Deepak Chopra ventured that the human brain conjures a rough 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day. Statistically speaking, at least a few of them must be golden. And even if they’re not, the very idea of encountering existential angst could be the handle that drives your venture. Ever heard of the starving artist? It’s totally possible to start out with an idea that transitions and evolves into any number of subgenres. After all, you’re special. Or, maybe you’re not special… Either direction could be the start of a great brand idea. 

Get out of your own head

how to start a print on demand business in 2019how to start a print on demand business in 2019

The quest to find a perfect idea is far from linear. But, what aspect of life is? The journey itself has to be joyful. Restricting feelings of success to self-imposed limitations is a recipe for a bummer. Love the process. Love your process. Through daily life, innumerable perspectives will open – providing checkpoints for analysis, observation, and even critique. Fortunately, these movements can be undertaken gradually, or even in tandem with other, more comfortable pursuits. There are also a ton of creativity exercises designed to get the brain fired up. The catalyst for a great idea can bloom from a random image web search, reading a provoking bit of content (books, online, advertisements, whatever), meditation, taking a brisk walk, and so much more. 

All in all, there are virtually no limits on what can stimulate a killer’s thought. But even the act of reading these words is putting more metaphysical momentum toward the goal of starting a business. Take advantage of the strangeness of alternating mindsets. After all, you’re the one thinking about how to start a t-shirt business. You’re the one making those metaphysical ripples. It’s only a matter of time until that raw energy coalesces into something financially fruitful.

5. Retail vs. eCommerce


It’s little surprise that the way business is conducted has taken quite a few turns over the past few decades. Yes, the internet changed things. Nowadays, it’s very normal for people to do a bit of online research before venturing into the brick-and-mortar world to buy a product. Traditional retail is the sale of various services and goods to individuals from merchants. Etail (also called eCommerce) refers to transactions that take place between customers and business owners over an electronic network – the web. But the thing is, each way of doing business has respective pros and cons. Furthermore, these factors come into play with extra impact when considering how to start a t-shirt business with no money. 

E-tail Advantages: 

  • Reviews and Information: While the goal of any business is to be trusted by customers, end-users have always looked to real people for recommendations and advice when purchasing products. When a store provides these details upfront, that enterprise gains momentum toward securing its audience. 
  • Convenience: Right off the bat, e-tail is super accessible. Anyone anywhere can have immediate access 24 hours a day – as long as they have a connection. Even without a traditional connection, sources like libraries and internet cafes make this option easy to tap into. 
  • Pricing: If a store offers a better deal, more options, or some other increased value to customers relative to rivals, they win the customer. While search engines can be tailored to push certain products, the rapid availability of information gives customers options for seeking better services, items, etc. 
  • Flexibility: It’s so easy to go onto an online store and make a few changes. With Printify, it’s a matter of seconds to create new products, remove old or outdated items, change branding, reformat a design, switch print providers, increase/decrease prices, and so much more. 
  • Explosive Market Growth: The winds of favor are blowing hard in favor of modern eCommerce. Forester estimates that their market share is projected to increase at a remarkable average rate of 11.7% per year for the next four years. This expansion is expected to gradually encompass half of computer and electronic items while simultaneously moving to grab roughly a third of accessory, clothing, and footwear sales. 

Initial Investment

First of all, standard retail requires having to pay rent for a physical location. Add that to the necessity of maintaining an inventory for walk-in customers, having to potentially pay staff wages, covering insurance, etc. The list goes on and on for those literally supporting an actual roof. If you’re wondering how to start a t-shirt business with no money, this point should serve as a breath of fresh air.

Disadvantages of eCommerce:

  • Online Security and Fraud: Certain companies have become notorious or pushing inferior quality goods to customers after taking their money. It’s very difficult for the average layperson to verify the legitimacy of a store before they purchase – particularly as many people impulse buy from well-crafted advertisements.
  • Inspections: Often, all an online customer has to work with are a few pictures of products or including products. As everyone knows, it’s well within the realms of possibility to have some shady photographer take selectively placed pictures to boost an item’s attractiveness, an unscrupulous computer wiz to modify pictures and make things look better, or any other way of falsifying the customer’s perspective. There’s just no replacement for being able to hold something in one’s hands and gauge the value in person.

Time Constraints

If an item is needed within a short amount of time, shipping costs may factor in. Postage isn’t always the most reliable way of getting an item from one place to another; items may be lost or damaged in transit. Furthermore, online shipping simply can’t compete with the speed of grabbing something off a shelf and walking it to a cashier.

6. Start working with Printify

free merch makerfree merch maker

There are a lot of different business models out there; various strengths, weaknesses, goals, etc. But, when considering how to start a tshirt business, the Printify setup checks all boxes: effective, efficient, and transparent… Oh, and free. Don’t forget free. One of the main reasons that most businesses fail is cash. Well, the lack of it. While innumerable additional factors come into play when determining whether a startup is successful, Printify skips this first obstacle entirely by providing immediate access to the garment production table. Rather than wondering how to start a shirt business with no money, there’s a clear-cut method available – along with (literal) 24/7 support.

Check out this quick breakdown via four t-shirt facets: What, Where, Who, and Why:

News from PrintifyNews from Printify

What T-shirt?

After a breezy login process, you get access to a user-friendly mockup generator. Here designs, artwork, images, etc., can be uploaded. There, those graphics can be moved around and placed on various places among the system’s t-shirt blanks. When considering how to make money selling t-shirts, this is important to keep in mind: different t-shirts will have different printing locations and sizes.

Where’d you get that T-shirt?

Those blanks, and the printing of their various customizations, are produced by various suppliers that Printify has partnered up with around the world. Entrepreneurs get to choose which providers they want to work with when considering how to start a t-shirt business based on their respective needs. This could be audience demographic, geographic location, political leanings, etc. Various providers will not always have the same products, shipping will differ, etc. Anyway, if one business is all about selling v-necks, then they might have issues choosing to source from a unisex specialist. Check out some of the bestsellers below.

Unisex Heavy Cotton Tee + printing, starting from $7.21

Unisex Jersey Short Sleeve Tee + printing, starting from $7.67

Unisex Ultra Cotton Tee + printing, starting from $8.12

Who can find the T-shirt?

print on demand drop shipping marketplacesprint on demand drop shipping marketplaces

So, having taken a design and applied it to the right place of a chosen shirt, that product is ready for the public eye. To get it there, your Printify store must be linked with an eCommerce marketplace. We currently offer connections with eBay, Etsy, WooCommerce, Shopify, Wix. Furthermore, the Printify API offers an additional plug for the more technically inclined. Fortunately, the connection process is so streamlined, it’s almost effortless. Linking up with an online marketplace means that any published product in a Printify store will become applicable for sale.

Why bother with T-shirts?

Well, because it’s a super easy ball to get rolling. Once everything is set up, whenever a customer pays for an item, that product will be pulled, printed, and packaged – all without the designer (you) doing anything. No matter how many products are shipped out, there’s never a need to get involved in sourcing, warehousing, machine maintenance, supply, etc. – it’s all handled. The potential for scaling is virtually limitless. When an enterprise takes off and demand increases, the ability to rise to the occasion is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There’s no fear of this occurring in the POD model, though. After a bit of time investment, the rewards flow on their own. 

prices print on demandprices print on demand

The goal of any commercial venture is profit. The interesting thing about this final line is that Printify gives users full control over their own pricing. Now, during the price selection phase, certain costs are deducted from the overall total – for sourcing, production, shipping, etc. It’s important to note that these manufacturing and processing numbers are transparent and clearly visible on the pricing page. 

The higher a price is set, the greater the profit – obviously. But this transaction depends on a customer’s likelihood to purchase, a factor often influenced by low pricing. It’s a convoluted balance. However, there is another way to affect the scales: Printify Premium. This system immediately drops production costs by 20%. With the ability to drop the bottom in order to reach new audience bases, or to simply pocket the savings entirely, this option has grown in user popularity. particularly for the entrepreneurs who stick with their ideas through times of difficulty.

7. Printifying successfully

print on demand dropshipping printifyprint on demand dropshipping printify

While it’s one thing to try out something entirely new, following in the footsteps of another down an unfamiliar road is entirely different. It’s true that first starting down the road of wondering how to start a t-shirt business can be an unnerving experience. The action requires quite a bit of self-confidence, perseverance, and internal fortitude. The great news is that a bunch of other people has come this exact same way before – many reaching great success. The best part is that you don’t have to take our world for it.

Check out these success stories to get the creative, confident mojo flowing: 

Liora Goren:

Liora GorenLiora Goren

This enterprising woman took the bath matt word by storm with her “Get Naked” slogan. While somehow balancing full family life, complete with husband and four daughters, Goren manages to regularly put aside time to develop her shop: Ahavti LifeStyle. Before settling on Printify, she experimented with a few different POD enterprises. Her decision to stick with Printify was largely due to how easy she found it to make new products and tinker with existing ones. It’s worth mentioning that, even with the success from “Get Naked”, she regularly branches out to design new home décor products – further fueling her success. 

Carlos Rodriguez:


This humanitarian pastor created his Printify nonprofit, The Happy Givers, in order to help people. His venture gives participants the ability to assist the less fortunate – such as those suffering in the wake of natural disasters like Puerto Rico, unfortunate economic situations like families in East Africa, those occupying children’s homes, and more worthwhile efforts.

His unique, altruistic angle has generated over $200k to date – all used to further the life experience of people truly in need. 

Mike Pasley:

famous in real lifefamous in real life

This go-getter managed to secure a staggering $700k within the first year of operation. Pasley managed to grasp this figure by constantly working his brain to come up with ideas that people would resonate with, like his store:  Famous in Real Life. This triumph was closely connected to his ability to move beyond his own comfort zone, improve his own eCommerce capabilities, and keep his ear to the ground to hone in on popular demand.

Charles Smith:

An entrepreneur acting to counter negative stereotypes, Smith took on racism directly with his company Black Fathers Exist. Acting in the face of adversity gained Smith a respectable following, resulting in one particularly lucrative month netting over $100k. 


In short, this article should give a brief introduction on how to start a t-shirt business. Thankfully, it’s not a particularly hard task. The Printify system itself is organized to give anyone a chance to succeed. Regardless of background, ethnicity, or prior failures, this organization is dedicated to providing the people with opportunities to capitalize on their own creativity and inclinations to bring about a better world for themselves and their communities at large. We’d love to be a part of your success story. Get started with Printify today, and let’s put your brand on the map – right up there with other Printify superstars like Charles Smith and Liora Goren. 

Make it happen right now.

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