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How to Start a T-shirt Business

There can be few things more thrilling than seeing someone wearing a piece of art that you have created. One way to achieve this is to go into the T-shirt business, create amazing designs and then sell them to people online.

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Business Startup Guides

    A Plan for Starting Your T-Shirt Business

    Before you start your business, there are a few key areas you need to focus on. You will need to establish whether there’s a demand for your T-shirt business services, look at potential benefits and pitfalls, understand how your business finances might look and ensure everything is in order.

    Here are the steps you’ll need to take to setup your custom T-shirt business.


    Come up with the niche and idea

    Do your research and understand the niche you want to go into. Validate this niche with your potential customers to check that there’s interest.


    Create T-shirt designs

    You will need to create designs yourself, partner with a designer or source designs from elsewhere for all your T-shirts. You should come up with several original designs for when you launch your T-shirt ecommerce store.


    Setup a T-shirt ecommerce store

    You will need to create an online store to sell your T-shirt products through. Shopify is a great place to start; it automatically has integrations with several print-on-demand services. Alternatively, you could try an online web builder like Wix or Squarespace, or Wordpress paired with WooCommerce.


    Find a print-on-demand provider

    We recommend using a provider who can handle the printing and distribution of T-shirts on your behalf. There won’t be any upfront expenditure for you; you don’t need to hold stock and the provider will take care of everything., Merchify, Zazzle, Cafepress, Print Aura, Printify and Printful are all good services.


    Link everything together

    Build your website, upload your designs, link it to your print-on-demand provider and launch your business.


    Get your branding and marketing right

    Once you have launched your store, you will need to market and brand it properly. Use whatever type of marketing works, take advantage of social media and engage with influencers.


    Run your business

    You will need to continue marketing, handling customer service and coming up with new designs. Keep a close eye on your analytics so you can see what designs are selling.

    Do Market Research and Validate Your T-Shirt Products and Services

    Before you launch your T-shirt business, you need to understand if there’s a demand for what you’re selling. That means carrying out market research and “validating” your products and services. Here’s how to go about it:


    Identify your business’s unique selling points (USPs)

    These are the areas that will set you apart from competitors and encourage customers to come to you. You might have better pricing, more exciting designs, an underserved niche, a higher-quality service, faster delivery or some other special feature.


    Look at who your competitors are in the space

    There are likely to be plenty of competitors. Look through them and see the types of clothing and designs that they are offering so you can find a gap in the market.


    Validate your products and services

    Test whether people will commit to spending real money on what you’re offering.


    Talk to clients

    Speak with potential customers to understand what they want from your T-shirt products.


    Get involved with business communities and discussion groups

    Ask questions about T-shirt businesses. You can find links to some excellent discussion groups later in the article.


    See if there are any market research reports for T-shirt businesses

    Search locally, nationally, or internationally to help you find your T-shirt niche.

    Understand Your T-Shirt Business Model and Financial Projections

    All businesses need a business model, which is how you will generate sales, provide products and make money. Think about your business model now, because it’s better to have that in place so you can start acquiring customers and generating revenue from day one.

    You will also need to look at financial projections for your T-shirt business. What are your expected sales and revenues? What is your profitability? How much money will you keep in the business to grow it? How much will you pay yourself and others? If you can, try to plan your revenue for the next month, three months, year and two years.

    Write a Business Plan for Your T-Shirt Business

    Finally, you should put your business plan together. Business plans do vary slightly, but they should cover the following areas:


    An executive summary with the most important points from your business plan


    Your goals and what you hope to achieve with your T-shirt business


    A description of your business, background information and context


    A market analysis and likely demand


    An overview of how your business is structured


    Your business model


    How you will market and sell your offerings


    Financial projections, revenue and profitability



    We’ve got the perfect guide to writing your business plan.




    The Next Steps: Running a T-Shirt Business

    Once you've legally created your T-shirt business, you’ll need to get some other things in place.

    Location of your business

    If you’re using a print-on-demand service, you should be able to run your business from your home. If you’re printing yourself, you will likely need a warehouse or something similar.

    Permits and licenses

    Running a T-shirt business comes with certain rules, regulations and legalities you need to be aware of. Bizee offers a Business License Research Package for you, or you can take the time to do the research yourself.


    Branding and marketing are vital to help you build a distinctive identity. This is one of the areas that you should invest plenty of time and resources into.


    Make sure you understand all your profit margins and get strong analytics in place so you can understand exactly what is and isn’t selling.


    You will probably need to hire employees for your T-shirt business; more on that below.


    Branding and marketing are vital to help you build a distinctive identity. This is one of the areas that you should invest plenty of time and resources into.

    Finances and Taxes

    What kind of bank account will you get? Do you need a business credit card? How will you pay your business taxes? These are important questions to consider so your T-shirt business stays in the green. Here at Bizee, we can even help you file your taxes.

    Business Maintenance

    Most states require businesses to file an Annual Report once a year. You will also be expected to pay estimated taxes on what you plan to earn in the current business year. Your federal, state, regional and city business licenses and permits may need to be renewed on a regular basis, typically once a year.

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    Hire Employees for Your T-Shirt Business

    If you’re just running your T-shirt business solo, you don’t need to worry about employees. If you are hiring people to work for you, you will need to know what to do. See our 10 tips on hiring employees.


    Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

    Contact the IRS and let them know you will need an EIN for your T-shirt business. This is a number you will use to file and pay your taxes. We put together this guide to getting your EIN.


    Make Sure Your Employees Can Work in the U.S.

    Your employees must be legally able to work here. Carry out background checks and ensure they have all necessary legal documentation.


    Report Employees as “New Hires”

    In most cases, you will need to report the hiring of employees to your state.


    Withhold Income and Payroll Taxes

    You will need to calculate and keep back income tax so you can pay the appropriate bodies. You will also need to pay the employer portion of the payroll tax.


    Get worker's compensation insurance in place

    As listed above, you will need to make sure you have proper workers’ compensation insurance to cover injuries, illness, medical costs and the like.


    Pay Employees on a Regular Basis

    You will need to run payroll and compensate your employees on a regular frequency. Your state may mandate how often employees need to be paid.


    Learn About Legal Requirements and Responsibilities to Employees

    You do have certain responsibilities and requirements for hiring employees. In addition to getting a proper employment contract in place with them, you have a duty to provide them with a safe working environment, proper training, regular pay and certain other criteria. OSHA covers your health and safety requirements, while the U.S. Department of Labor provides information on other responsibilities.

    Useful Online Resources for T-Shirt Entrepreneurs

    Here are some really great online tools for managing your T-shirt business. They will reduce the time you spend on administration, help you collaborate with others, and free up your time to grow and manage your new venture.

    Project Management


    Marketing Automation

    Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

    Customer Support

    Human Resources

    Website Development

    Ready to Start Your T-Shirt Business?

    Starting a T-shirt business is a great way to get exposure to the fast-moving worlds of e-commerce and creative products. Although it’s difficult to succeed as a T-shirt entrepreneur, with the right niche, awesome designs, and great marketing, you can certainly make an impression. Just remember to stay on top of your profit margins, try new things and learn how your T-shirts can help your customers express themselves.