A Guide on Starting an Online T-Shirt Printing Business in 2020


Share on LinkedIn

An aspiring designer is always keen to grab the opportunity to start any business associated with the clothing industry. So, even if they get the idea of printing t-shirts, they think they’ll be able to manage everything efficiently.

But when they ‘actually’ start working on it, they face a number of obstacles and get stuck.

Despite these obstacles being small, they can show up anytime in the course of the entire process from designing to printing. And when you are a newbie with little knowledge of t-shirt print business particulars, obstacles are inevitable.

Though every designer works in their own way and every print shop has its own set of rules, there are several steps that may help you successfully kickstart a t-shirt printing business.

Here are the steps:

  • Create a Business Plan
  • Choose an appropriate ecommerce platform
  • Integrate a t-shirt design tool for website
  • Choose a suitable printing method
  • Choose the right t-shirt supplier/vendor
  • Set up the printing infrastructure
  • Set up logistics infrastructure
  • Launch and market your store

1. Think of a T-Shirt Business Plan

A robust business plan is the first and foremost step towards success in any business. Talking of the t-shirt printing industry, there is a wide range of audience on the basis of choice of quality, design and style.
After deciding what to sell, a company needs to decide whether to open their online store or partner with a large online retail company like Amazon, Etsy, etc.

Below are the steps you can follow.

a. Identify the Market Niche

Segmentation of customers can be on the basis of either customers’ needs or age.

To find out the market niche, ensure to ask yourself the following questions.

  • Will you sell printed t-shirts to infants or teens and grown-ups?
  • Will you offer unlimited flexibility of customization or a fixed range of designs to pick from?
  • Will you target a niche within various age groups? For example, printed comic character t-shirt for teens or printed sport t-shirts for adults?
  • Will you align the design and quality with current market trends?

There are several more ways to identify a niche.

A basic step is keyword research. Google Keyword Planner can help you with that. Just put some keywords related to your intended niche and targeted country, and note which phrases and words appear as suggestions. Narrow down the suggestions further by monthly search volume, competition level or suggested bids.

Go for those keywords with a minimum search volume of 1k per month. As there would probably be no room for any keyword less than this.

With competition, you get ideas about your competitors and with suggested bids, you can get the idea of a high level of commercial intent. After industry and market research, write down your plan.

While creating a custom printed t-shirt, ponder over a few points like:

  • Mission of your company – like offering high quality printed t-shirts at nominal prices.
  • Will you create the basic templates and design or purchase pre-built designs?
  • What do you expect from yourself, management and staff members?
  • Knowledge of source of raw materials. Whether you will fix a vendor or buy plain t-shirts from a particular brand?
  • Create marketing ideas on the basis of marketing analysis using events, social media, fairs or conventions, etc.
  • Analyze the competition to work out the strategy to make your brand stand out.
  • Gather corroborative documents like sample designs, vendor agreements, and statistical analysis of t-shirt printing business.
  • Obtain a license as per your location and type of business.

b. Consider Financial Aspects

Before establishing a business, having an idea of the overall cost is important.

Being an entrepreneur thinking for the long run, your financial strategy should include:

  • Projected expenses and assumptions of fixed and variable costs
  • Costs of investment
  • Revenue goals and expenses
  • Break-even analysis
  • Business ratios encompassing turnover, accounts payable, etc.
  • Monthly profit or loss figures
  • Annual gross margin

The main expenses you should add are printing, bagging, tagging, labeling, packing,
shipping, taxing, etc.

Obtaining printing quotes from various t-shirt printing firms to compare prices can help.
They can help decide on the best deal to offer without compromising quality. And these aspects combinedly will help decide prices of your t-shirts.

One more thing you need to evaluate is how far you can go if things don’t go as planned.

c. Strictly Avoid These Mistakes

For a robust business plan, undergoing each step of the planning process is indispensable. Small entrepreneurs or startups think at times that there is no need for a business plan. But that doesn’t work.

Here are the few mistakes that you must not make.

  • Failing to include market research and profit or loss projection
  • Not branding your business enough
  • Not deciding on the method of accepting and fulfilling orders beforehand
  • Launching an online store without a web-to-print and t-shirt design tool for websites.
  • Not gathering knowledge about working and maintenance of a web-to-print software.
  • Failing to check the quality of final output beforehand
  • Failing to assess the possible run-time challenges that your business might face

2. Choose the Right Ecommerce Solution for Your Store

The second step is deciding on the ecommerce platform for your store. Hosted platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce have a low startup cost and are ideal for low-budget startups. But they don’t let you choose an individual choice of your design and cannot add customized elements. On the contrary, with self-hosted platforms, you can choose your own design, make custom edits, add products and set prices at your convenience. The only drawback is that they aren’t ideal for low-budget startups and one can choose them only if they have higher (capital reserve/spending ability).

3. Integrate an Online Product Designer Tool

Investing in an advanced online product design tool is highly recommended. To start with, you can just integrate a t-shirt design tool for website to fulfill basic customers’ requirements. This way, you can help customers design t-shirts that stand out. Once your business takes off, you can add new functionalities to your web-to-print store and enhance it further. Similarly, you can even expand features of your t-shirt design tool for Website to help people avail of ready-made quotes, clipart, texts, designs, and more.

4. Select the T-Shirt Printing Method

Post deciding designs, decide on the method of t-shirt printing.

There are 3 common ways of printing t-shirts – Screen Printing, Heat Transfer Printing, DTG Printing. Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages.

While screen printing and heat transfer printing are more suitable for bulk printing, DTG printing is not. In the same way, there are a number of differences between the three. So, research well and match those features with your objective. Go for a method only after ensuring it is a perfect fit.

5. Choose the Right T-Shirt Supplier/Vendor

Choosing the right t-shirt supplier is also crucial. Look for a manufacturer who can provide you with good quality blank t-shirts for printing at nominal prices.

Make sure that your relationship with your vendor is good throughout as every single imperfect t-shirt will directly hamper your business.

Keep in mind the other points like:

  • The design should fit in the center of the t-shirt.
  • The type of ink you choose out of high intensity ink, gel ink and foil ink based on your fabric type and customers’ requirements

6. Set Up the Printing Infrastructure

Set up a printing infrastructure where printing can take place without any glitches.
Printing studio with well-maintained printers accompanied by a coating and a finishing unit is recommendable. Also, ensure to have printers that can print on a variety of fabrics as customers can for customized caps, bags, jerseys, etc.

The following are the steps involved in the printing process.

  • Proper choice of color schemes
  • Saving a copy for yourself and for print
  • Printing the t-shirts

7. Set up Logistics Infrastructure

Once a customer places an order, it is a must to deliver it on time. Ensuring a smooth delivery involves three steps.

  • Take care of your orders independently with your team support.
  • Sell products through a drop-shipper who can take care of your orders
  • Tie up with a logistics company who can take care of warehouse and order fulfillments.

8. Launch and Market Your Store

All set? Here comes the final step – store launch. Invite your customers to put their creativity to use and draw designs with a t-shirt design tool for website you offer. Make sure to keep the designer tool user-friendly and interactive to reduce cart abandonment rates.

If you are keen to start an online t-shirt printing store, you need not be tech-savvy or a highly skilled programmer. All you need is the love for art and knowledge and sense of the latest fashion trends.

So now that you have successfully launched the store, next comes its marketing.

Start spreading information about your upcoming business through flyers, pamphlets, and business cards. Approach nearby schools, organizations, and businesses in person as word-of-mouth promotion is one of the best promotional methods.

  • Be active on social media, click snaps of products, post them on Instagram, Facebook, etc.
  • Interact with people and use the tactic of giveaway contests for your fans.
  • If your budget allows, you can further use paid marketing, sponsor events, and go for other marketing tactics for maximum outreach.
  • Conduct timely online polls and keep posting to keep people engaged.

Final Takeaway

T-shirt printing business is indeed a great idea for fashion lovers. However, only if you come up with a strong business plan and proper steps right from choosing the right ecommerce platform, t-shirt design tool for website, to marketing your store; your business can ‘actually’ succeed.

Pratik Shah
Mr. Pratik Shah is Creative Head of Brush Your Ideas, a Web-to-Print technology solution offering custom product design software and Web-to-Print Storefront Solutions. He has been giving his valuable tips and suggestion about Magento product designer tool and other useful Magento extensions.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here