How to Start an Online T-shirt Business

Posted On June 19, 2022 by bubyr
eCommerce Guides

Are you wondering how to start an online t-shirt business that would be successful?

The t-shirt business is one of the most popular go-to choices for young and creative entrepreneurs looking to earn their own income. And this industry is lucrative.  The t-shirt industry is worth 2.1 billion USD today and is expected to reach $3.1 billion by 2025.  The custom-printed t-shirt market is set to reach $10 billion by 2032.

So you might want to get a how-to start an online t-shirt printing business guide and tap into the massive potential of this market.

People love t-shirts for a lot of reasons. While some want something unique, others want to send a message, and yet another just wants to participate in something new. If you are looking to start your t-shirt e-commerce journey, you might have noticed that the options are limitless.

You can start relatively cheaply or even start a t-shirt business online for free.  Yes, you can begin for free, or if you have everything on the ground for your business, you can read how to start an online t-shirt business using Shopify. It is much easier and offers plenty of DIY themes and options to get you started successfully.

Are you looking to tap into the potential that eCommerce platforms have to offer for your online t-shirt business? This guide should put you through it, either as a beginner or an experienced entrepreneur.

Is starting a t-shirt business online profitable?

Of course, it is. Take your eyes away from the crowded marketplace but think about what you can offer. If you have something to offer, there is a booming market looking for originality and quality shirts. Additionally, t-shirts are easy to wear for every gender, and with a sales target of over 3 billion dollars by 2025, starting your online t-shirt business should put money in your bank.

Remember that your profit is hinged on the amount invested and the final price of the shirts. One thing is certain: whether you have money or not, you can start an online t-shirt business and make money in as little as 30 days.

Now back to the steps to starting one.

Step 1: Identify your market

This is the same thing as identifying your niche. It is crucial, and please don’t skip this step. Identifying your niche allows you to design your t-shirt business to cater to specific demography. The truth is that you cannot sell to everyone, but only to some. Find someone that needs your design.

As with any business, you want to know who your customers are, their location, budget (how much they are willing to spend on a t-shirt), and what they want. If these facts are established, then choosing the quality and brand should be the next step.

A great way to start is to look around you for people, businesses, or establishments that wear t-shirts. Next, you must determine if their t-shirt has any significance or portrays any message, then run with it. By run, we mean go check on Google how many other brands or online t-shirt business owners do the same thing.

For example, say you want to print t-shirts with different trendy topics. You must conduct a thorough investigation into what kinds of messages won’t be offensive and which one will attract that demographic.

Google is always the answer, so use it.

Step 2: Define your brand identity

Like finding your niche, your brand identity is crucial when starting an online t-shirt business. The apparel industry is a competitive one, and those who fail to take possession of their designs lose them.

T-shirt designs are your creative design and branding, which establishes your business in the industry. A brand is an extension of who you are and what you stand for. Customers that appreciate your idea will buy your designs and buy into your brand.

When defining your brand, keep the following in mind:

  • Authenticity
  • Originality
  • Belief
  • Culture
  • People
  • Design

The customer’s experience with and in your design

In addition to defining your brand, the above-listed points should be embodied in your business name, logo, and concept as you grow your online t-shirt business.

Step 3: Designing a t-shirt

Now that we have gotten the niche and branding straight; let the designing begin.

Eye-catching and original designs will set your online t-shirt business apart from the competition. If you are stuck, let your design embody your brand identity. 

It is a great place to start. However, if you still cannot find headway with the designs, do these.

  • Put your attitude or beliefs into your design.
  • Go online and search for templates to inspire your creativity.
  • Contact local designers or check for freelance designers online on Fiverr, BehancePeoplePerHour, and Upwork.

In addition to the above, you can take a cue from your demographic when designing your t-shirts. For example, if your demographic is Gen X and Gen Z, then you know they are bold, blunt, and daring, and a t-shirt design with these attributes is sure to get their attention.

Step 4: Create a mock-up design

Once you have some designs in hand, the next step to starting your online t-shirt business is getting the designs printed on a shirt to give your potential demographic a final look.

There are different ways you can get images for your t-shirt design, including ordering samples online, using Adobe Photoshop, or DIY.

Step 5: Validating your design

This process is crucial when starting an online t-shirt business and involves getting feedback and comments from potential customers about their opinions of your designs. 

When your designs are valid, it is the go-ahead that you have a market and a sellable idea. You can test your mockup designs on sites, including Reddit, Crowdfunding, and social media.  Additionally, you can conduct a simple survey on your page or via email to know how your potential customers feel or think about your design.

Step 6: Source for quality materials for your designs

When your mockup designs have been validated, it is time to invest in your business. If you are sourcing materials, you must also consider the final price of the t-shirt and your potential buyers.

As mentioned, your market research should determine the material you buy. If your customers want affordable t-shirts, choose the material accordingly; if they are high-end consumers willing to pay the price, choose the material to satisfy the market.

Remember, you are in business to make money. There will be some hiccups, but you should overcome them as you progress.


The t-shirt market is a competitive sphere. If you’re in such a space, choose your material carefully to distinguish your online t-shirt business from the crowd.

Step 7: The printing process

Finding a print-on-demand service is the most challenging step when starting an online t-shirt business.

Ultimately, you have two choices for printing your designs:

  • Find a print-on-demand service.
  • DIY

While many people would opt for the second, it is not a terrible option for several reasons, namely;

Printing is expensive, and the equipment is too, so if you are looking to start an online t-shirt business for free, this is definitely not the way forward.

Printing your designs yourself means keeping tabs on the hard inventory.

You do not want to mess with your inventory; it will destroy your business objective. However, if your t-shirt business is big enough, then it is an option worth looking into.

Doing the printing process by yourself will not give you enough time to plan your delivery strategy and can be detrimental to your online t-shirt business.

Now save yourself the trouble and have professional web development and business experts take care of the process while you concentrate on growing your business.

Choose the print-on-demand option.

Finding a reputable print-on-demand service is not complicated, but you can choose to start your online t-shirt business on Shopify. Print on demand is cheaper and is added profit to your pocket.

Step 8: Get your business online

It is an online business, after all. So it is only fair to have a well-designed website or marketing page to sell your designs.

When you decide on the e-commerce marketplace, hire a professional web developer to assist you with the design, uploading images, creating marketing campaigns, and starting the selling process.

Several online brands have simplified the process but designing your own page is a great way to promote your online t-shirt business.

Step 9: Legalizing the process

If you are in this business for the long haul, you must never ignore the legal aspect of it.

  • Register a business name and legalize the name.
  • Choose a business entity
  • Get your tax ID and EIN.
  • have a registered and active checking account
  • Get a permit or sell a license.

Step 10: Launch and market your business

Use every avenue and channel to announce your designs to the world.

Do not relent; make the calls, take your time to set up a meeting, and be willing to give out some free samples to potential customers.

It will not be effortless, but it is worth the effort.


Now that you know what it takes, are you still interested in starting an online t-shirt business?

This is just to let you know that the market is competitive, but creativity is not limited, and you can create a name for yourself if you step out of the box. Whether you have the resources to run a t-shirt business or are looking to expand your earnings, a t-shirt business is a great way to test the entrepreneurial waters. Do you need help starting your online t-shirt business? Contact Ecomitize today and get it right from the beginning.

You may also be interested in