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How to start an online T-shirt business in ten steps

Growth Secrets|17.05.2016

Whether you are looking to gain some first-hand experience of e-commerce, make some money using your knowledge of the web, or have been sitting on some great designs that you want to get out there...

Starting an online T-shirt business is probably easier than you think. In fact, we can tell you how to do it in ten steps. Dubious? Then read on.

1. Find a niche

If you are reading this, it probably has not escaped your notice that the online T-shirt market is a very crowded one, so identifying a corner of it that is not yet catered for is vital to the success of your business. Small cities, towns and villages, obscure pastimes and underrepresented sports are all good places to start.

2. Nail down your designs

While designs do not need to cost the Earth or be particularly intricate, no one will buy a T-shirt that does not look the part. You can find inspiration for designs on custom T-shirt stores such as Teespring and independent marketplaces such as Redbubble.

If you are no designer yourself, hire one from an online artwork community such as Dribbble, or buy designs from a content store such as Creative Market or a studio such as Designious.

3. Choose a T-shirt

You have got your designs, now you need a T-shirt to put them on; take quality, style and type into account, although this will partly be determined by what the printer or drop shipper you choose stocks.

Remember that while a higher-quality T-shirt may be more attractive to customers, it will cost you more, and so cut further into your margins, so be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of each choice.

4. Make your mock-ups

You will struggle to shift T-shirts if your customers cannot see what your designs look like on them, so you will need to apply your designs to a T-shirt template. Hundreds of these, both free and those you will have to pay for, are available online, but obviously, the better the template, the better your T-shirts will look in your store, making them more appealing to customers.

5. Choose a printer or drop shipper

Now your T-shirts exist digitally, you will want someone to make them and get them to customers, which is where printers and drop shippers – manufacturers or wholesalers that ship directly to customers – come in.

The most important things to consider when choosing a T-shirt printer or drop shipper, such as Shirt Monkey or Print Aura, is the cost, type and quality of the T-shirts they print on, the cost and quality of their prints, their shipping rates, and whether they integrate with your e-commerce platform of choice.

6. Choose an e-commerce platform…

That brings us neatly onto selecting a place from which to sell your T-shirts. There are a lot of options out there, including those that specialise in designing and selling T-shirts, such as Teespring, but these prevent you from doing your own branding, marketing and conversion optimisation.

Ecommerce entrepreneurs recommend Shopify as it makes it easy to get going, has a strong range of apps, and offers a selection of integrated printers and drop shippers.

7. …and make it yours

The beauty of Shopify is that you can increase your sales through branding and marketing using We Make Websites, the highest-rated Shopify experts in the UK. We Make Websites can create a design for your online T-shirt business that will give customers a responsive, reliable experience whether they are using a desktop computer, a smartphone or something in between, helping you to both build traffic and convert it. 

8. Get marketing

Just because you are enlisting experts to help you with getting word on your online T-shirt business out, it does not mean that you cannot make a start yourself. Do some research to see if any opportunities to market your T-shirts present themselves. Are there any events coming up that you could use to gain some visibility? Are there any newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs or online communities covering the niche your designs fulfil whose audiences would like to hear about them? Can you identify any keywords that people who would be interested in your T-shirts might look for that you could base your SEO strategy on?

9. Get testing

Conduct a test order to ensure that everything on your website is working; after all your hard work, the last thing you want is to be directing customers to it only for them to find that they cannot spend their money when they get there because they cannot checkout or validate payments.

10. Get learning

Do not rest on your laurels just because your first few orders have started to come in – there is a lot that you can learn once you have built your online T-shirt business. How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business: The Ultimate Guide by Richard Lazazzera is a good place to kick things off, while taking a course could be really helpful, so get 25 per cent off our ‘How to build a sucessful e-commerce business’ for learning.ly, presented by We Make Websitesco-founder Alex O’Byrne - just enter code: ecommerce25 at the checkout. 

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