How to Start a T-Shirt Business Using WordPress.com

Do you want to make your online business debut? If so, selling t-shirts is a fabulous way to get started – especially if you’re an artist or fashion designer. It’s an easy way to express yourself through your artwork while offering an enticing product that turns a profit. 

Or, perhaps you already have a thriving online audience? In that case, you might want to start selling merchandise, and t-shirts are an obvious starting point.

Whatever your reasons for starting a t-shirt business, it’s imperative to consider your start-up costs (as with any new venture). Fortunately, thanks to the wide variety of dropshipping and print-on-demand services available, you can get started with very little financial investment. Better yet, you don’t need to stock your own inventory or purchase equipment to print your own designs. 

Instead, all you need to do is create a beautiful website that inspires your audience’s trust and excitement and focuses on marketing your products.

So if you’re ready to take your first steps to launch your online t-shirt business, read on. We’re breaking down how to start a t-shirt business using WordPress.com.

How Much Does Starting a T-Shirt Business Cost?

As we’ve already hinted at, you might be surprised by how cheap starting a t-shirt business is if you opt to use a print-on-demand service. For the uninitiated, sourcing print-on-demand products is where you work with a supplier who will customize items (like t-shirts) with your own artwork. Typically, print-on-demand services enable you to create t-shirt mockups so you can see what your print looks like on the shirt before you commit to selling the items.

Most print-on-demand companies sell white-labeled pieces on a per-order basis, so you never have to part with money until you’ve made a sale. On top of that, print-on-demand companies handle order fulfillment, warehousing, and shipping for you. So there’s no need to buy in bulk or store inventory. 

With much of the usual operational expenses absorbed by your print-on-demand company, you’re free to focus your finances on a high-quality platform to showcase and sell your wares. I.e., your website. 

Why Use WordPress.com to Showcase Your T-Shirt Business?

Like most website builders, WordPress.com offers a variety of payment packages to choose from. However, we recommend the eCommerce plan for anyone looking to start selling online (t-shirts or otherwise). At $45 a month (billed annually), this might seem like a premium price; however, it equips you with everything you need to kickstart your online business. 

First of all, you don’t have to worry about hosting, security, or software patches, as WordPress handles this for you. This alone makes WordPress.com an ideal solution for entrepreneurs with limited (if any) technical know-how.

With the eCommerce plan, you can also install third-party party themes and plugins, and you’ll unlock access to premium WooCommerce design options. On top of that, you can accept customer payments from more than 60 countries and integrate with top shipping carriers. You’ll also benefit from automatic site backups, advanced SEO tools, and the ability to upload videos.

WordPress.com eCommerce plan

How Much Can You Make Selling T-Shirts Online?

How long is a piece of string? 

The good news is that there’s absolutely no limit on how much money you could make selling t-shirts online. As your store starts to grow, your profits will too. T-shirt sales are very scalable. With the right tools and techniques, you’re not limited by anything but your t-shirt design’s popularity and how well you market them.

How to Start a T-Shirt Business Using WordPress.com

Don’t worry if you’re not ready to set up your own website. We’ll walk you through the core steps and considerations you need to make. Hopefully, by the end of this quick tutorial, you’ll feel better prepared to build your own online storefront:

How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Pinpoint Your Target Market

No matter the niche and/or product you want to get into, market research is crucial for establishing who your target customers are. 

Maybe you’ve already built an online following surrounding one of your hobbies? If so, great, you already have a basic idea of who your ideal customers are – and don’t worry if your interest is very niche. There are no boundaries on what passions make great t-shirt merchandise. For instance, podcasts like Welcome to Nightvale (a radio show for the fictional town of Night Vale) successfully sell t-shirts as merchandise. 

Alternatively, suppose you don’t have an online following, and you’re using this venture to monetize your creativity. In that case, you need to pick a niche. I.e., a consistent style, theme, and appeal that runs through your product line. This will make it much easier to market your products. 

Are you an abstract artist? Do you draw caricatures and funny illustrations? Or perhaps you’re terrific at creating elaborate, elegant designs. Each are different niches that may result in a diverse target audience. As such, you need to do your homework to get an accurate feel for who wants to buy the t-shirts you’ll offer. Once you have a better idea of who your target demographic is, you’re better positioned to design a website and marketing materials that engage them. 

Suppose you’re unsure which niche to hone in one, head to Google. Do some online research to get a feel for what niches make a successful t-shirt business; once you’ve identified a few potential target markets, head to Google Trends. Plug in a few keywords relating to your niche to assess whether there’s enough interest in the products you’re considering selling before launching your t-shirt company. 

Google Trends screen

How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Consider How You’ll Print Your T-Shirts

Once you’ve selected a niche, it’s time to consider the technicalities of getting set up, which means figuring out a way to print your t-shirts and shipping them to customers. 

Find a T-Shirt Supplier

There are countless t-shirt suppliers out there, so shop around. Think about what you need based on your chosen niche. As we’ve already said, if you’re just starting out, the easiest thing to do is pick a supplier that handles the whole process for you (printing, warehousing, and shipping). Then all that’s left for you to do is sell and market your designs.

To help find the right t-shirt supplier, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s their shipping time?
  • Can they send you a sample of their products for quality control? Printful, for example, offers 20% off their sample orders.
  • What are their return and refund policies?
  • Do they offer a decent variety of products?
  • Do they boast good reviews?
  • Do they offer printing techniques that work for your designs?
  • Do they provide a mock-up editor where you can upload and preview your designs?

Consider the Printing Techniques Available

Print companies often provide a whole range of printing options, so it’s worth knowing what these are and which are relevant to your products. 

In light of that, here are a few processes to familiarize yourself with:

Screen Printing: Here, thick inks are laid on top of the shirt rather than soaking into the textiles, making the colors really pop! Typically, screen printing is most cost-effective when done in large batches, as you’ll often get a discount for bulk orders. Conversely, if you’re only selling the occasional shirt here and there, screen printing can be a costly option.

Heat Transfer: Heat transfer is a reasonably new method and is sometimes known as ‘digital transfer.’ Here, your design is printed on transfer paper. Then, the ink is transferred thermally onto fabric using heat and pressure. Print-on-demand companies often use heat transfer as it’s a cost-effective option for single orders. You can even do it at home if you have the right printer or the budget to purchase one. That said, heat transfer produces lower quality printing than other methods and is inefficient for large quantities. So, be sure to bear that in mind when weighing up your options. 

Direct to Garment: This is a customizable, high-detail garment printing process that uses specialized aqueous inkjet technology. Although it’s excellent for single orders, for larger batches, this method isn’t very cost-effective.

In summary, use direct to garment printing if you’re selling high-quality single prints at a premium price. In contrast, if you would prefer to offer customers a more budget-friendly option stick with heat transfer for more cost-effective single-orders.

How To Start a T-shirt Business: Build Your Site

Online t-shirt marketplaces have become increasingly popular for new sellers. Namely, because you get to place products in front of people with buying intent, and it feels like marketplaces handle lots of the administrative stuff for you. 

That said, these platforms can hinder the growth of your brand. Although it’s true marketplaces attract an audience, they’re so saturated that this seldom benefits new sellers. Consequently, you’ll still need to do lots of your own marketing to secure sales. So you might as well lead those buyers to your own site where you have full control over everything, rather than to a competitive marketplace. Also, with your own site, you keep all the profits – you don’t have to pay for listing fees and/or commissions that marketplaces typically charge.

Use The WordPress.com eCommerce Plan

As we’ve already hinted at, WordPress.com is the easiest way to get started with your own site. In theory, you can be up and running within minutes, thanks to WordPress.com’s intuitive setup wizard. 

On top of that, hundreds of customizable themes optimized for online selling are available to choose from—all of which lay excellent foundations for your web design. Plus, with WordPress.com’s easy-to-use web page editor, you can tweak these templates as much or as little as you like. 

Should you run into any problems, expert support is available 24/7, which is in addition to the two quickstart sessions that come with the eCommerce plan. These go a long way to helping you get your online store up and running the right way. 

Most importantly, many of the top t-shirt printing companies boast native WooCommerce integrations (the power behind WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan). This makes it effortless to upload custom t-shirts to your online storefront, start selling, and automate order fulfillment. 

How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Promote Your Store

Without a strong marketing strategy, it’s challenging (if not impossible) to set your store apart from the competition and secure your first few sales. That said, here are some surefire tips on how to promote your online t-shirt business:

Social Media

When used to the fullest, social media (particularly visual platforms like Instagram and Facebook) are incredibly effective for marketing t-shirts. In fact, as many as 70% of B2C brands get customers through Facebook

To make the most out of these platforms, use WordPress.com alongside JetPack Publicize to unlock advanced social sharing tools. WooComemrce also boasts a native Facebook extension for selling directly on this network. 

There are tons of social media marketing plugins out there, so do some snooping to see what works best for you. 

Email

With some marketers achieving ROIs of 3800%, email remains one of the most effective and most sought-after marketing methods. Further to that, 59% of consumers say that email actively influences their purchasing decisions.

So you’ll be pleased to hear WordPress.com integrates with loads of advanced email marketing tools. Many of which offer automation, segmentation, professional templates, and valuable insights into your audience. 

Some of the more notable email marketing platforms WordPress.com integrates with include:

  • Mailchimp
  • Klaviyo 
  • Mailster
  • MailPoet

…and many more!

To start collecting email addresses, you may need another plugin to create simple sign-up forms. However, most visitors won’t provide their emails just like that. So consider offering a lead magnet in exchange for their name and email address – perhaps a discount, a freebie, free shipping, etc.?

Blogging

With WordPress.com, you have access to the best blogging platform on the net, WordPress. It would be foolish not to take advantage of it. Maintaining a blog is great for your SEO and for engaging your website visitors. More than 57% of marketers say they’ve gained customers through blogging. So, be sure to provide valuable content – this is where understanding who your target audience is, is imperative. As with this info to hand, you’re better positioned to create blog posts that meet their needs. 

How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Mistakes to Avoid

Any grand undertaking is liable to pitfalls – and launching an online t-shirt business is no exception. So, below we’ve outlined a few common mistakes to steer clear of, so you don’t have to learn your lesson the hard way.

Not Ordering a Sample Product

Product research doesn’t stop at picking a niche and identifying designs that actually sell. Instead, product research extends to ordering sample t-shirts from potential printing partners. This goes a long way to guarantee the superior quality of your products. After all, you don’t want to market t-shirts you wouldn’t wear yourself!

Using Copyrighted Material

Needless to say, using copyrighted material is a big no-no when it comes to selling t-shirts. It’s unprofessional at best and illegal at worst. Typically speaking, company/team/brand/university logos and graphics are copyrighted materials. The same goes for characters from books, tv, movies, and games. As such, your fanart isn’t always saleable. Also, sometimes quotes from books, TV programs, songs, and films are protected by intellectual property law. 

In 2018, designer Jan Davidson sued Etsy and an Etsy Seller for copyright infringement when the seller offered t-shirts and mugs with a knock-off of her beer-eye-chart design.

While the court case was ultimately inconclusive, the proceedings dragged on and racked up court expenses. At this point, it’s worth noting that 70% of print-on-demand firms don’t check for copyrighted material, so the burden of research is entirely on you. 

If in doubt, contact the IP owner to discuss licensing agreements and ask if adapting their content would be allowed. It’s better to err on the side of caution and assume the content isn’t free to adapt and sell without explicit permission.

Stopping After Your Store Goes Live

As easy as setting up an online t-shirt store is, you can’t expect an eCommerce storefront alone to draw in sales. You need to do the legwork to direct visitors to your site. This is where creating and executing a well-thought-out marketing plan comes into play. But, don’t despair if you don’t bear the fruits of your marketing straight away; it can take time to get the ball rolling. Consistency is vital, so don’t give up!  

Are You Ready to Start Your Own T-Shirt Business Using the WordPress.com eCommerce Plan?

There’s never been a better time to enter the online t-shirt industry. Whether you’re creating merchandise or artistic prints, anyone can build a site and begin selling t-shirts online with WordPress.com.

With WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan, you have all the tools you need at your disposal. From advanced SEO functionality to shipping management features to a robust blogging engine and social media marketing, WordPress.com has you covered. Plus, you can always extend WordPress.com’s functionality by integrating with third-party apps and themes. 

Sign up to WordPress.com for free today to familiarize yourself with the platform. Then, when you’re ready, upgrade to the eCommerce plan at any time to start growing your very own t-shirt business!

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The WordPress.com Team

At WordPress.com, our mission is to democratize publishing one website at a time. Create a free website or build a blog with ease on WordPress.com. Dozens of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes.

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