How to Start Your Own T-Shirt Company

Man wearing a t-shirt

If you’re reading this, it means that at one point you have thought about what it would be like starting your own t-shirt company. We’ve all thought about it at some point. The opportunity to make clothes that you like, while making money? It’s a no brainer. Well the good news is, I used to have my own t-shirt company, along with a couple roommates. The bad news is that it’s not exactly the easiest business to start. However, if you are really interested in what it takes to get started, I will do my best to walk you through your options, and the questions you might be having about how it all works.

Why Should I Start a T-Shirt Company?

I can tell you from experience that starting your own t-shirt company can have a whole bunch of benefits. So why should you start one?

You can run it out of your house.

One of the great parts about starting a t-shirt business, is that you do not need a ton of space, especially when you are just starting out. We ran ours out of the spare bedroom, but you can do it out of your basement, garage, or wherever you have the space. Then you grow as your business does.

You can start it on a budget.

I believe we got started on about $500, but that is obviously not a set number. I will get into some of the specifics of how much it costs to get started, just know that it is possible to start it with little to no money.

You will always have clothes to wear.

Even though we no longer have our company, I still have plenty of the shirts that we made. I still wear them. Just because we don’t make them anymore doesn’t mean that I don’t still love the designs. Designing your own shirts is so much better than shopping.

There is always going to be a demand.

I have always said that clothing and food are two of the best types of business to start because people are always going to need to eat, and you can’t walk around naked. Being that there is always going to be a demand for clothing, that means that there will always be business out there for you to grab it you market right.

Where Do My Sales Come From?

Every business survives off of it’s sales, and as I said earlier there is always going to be a demand for t-shirts and clothing. So where exactly are your sales going to come from?

Your Brand Designs

A lot of your sales, if not a majority or all of your sales, depending on how you structure your business, will come from the designs that you come up with to promote your brand. These are the designs that have your logo, or designs that you created to represent what you want your brand to look like. For most companies, this is your bread and butter.

Group Events

These are the orders that you get from schools, companies, and fundraisers. They come to you, you create shirts for them, and they handle the rest. You usually will not get the same price per shirt as your branded merchandise, but with an order for 100+ shirts, you can make a ton of money in a couple days. Make this a central part of your business, and it can essentially keep you afloat. The best part is, you get to set your own prices, so you find a price that makes you enough money to be worth your time.

Custom Orders

Starting out you are going to get a lot of these from your friends. Often they won’t be worth your time. They are usually just a couple of shirts so you don’t get paid like you do the bulk orders, but charge enough and you can make a little extra money in your free time. These orders are also a great chance to practice new designs or get the word out for your business.

How Do I Make T-Shirts?

I should probably tell you how to make t-shirts right? There are a couple different methods that you can use to put designs on your shirts, and each one comes with their own pros and cons.

Vinyl Transfer

This is the method that we primarily used. It involves using a vinyl cutter to cut designs out of heat transfer vinyl, and then using a heat press to transfer the design to the shirt. The pros with this method are that it is fairly cheap, not a ton of equipment is required, very custom design friendly, and you can make a decent amount of shirts fairly quick. The cons are that you are limited in the complexity of your designs, and you need special software to vectorize the image so that they will work in your vinyl cutter.

Screen Printing or Silkscreening

This is the process of using a mesh screen, and dye, to put your desired image onto a shirt. The pros are that they are high quality, great for making bulk orders, durable, and make sure that each design is exactly the same on all shirts. The cons are that it can be really expensive to start, not great for complex multi-colored designs, and making only one or two shirts is not really cost-effective.

Direct to Garment

This involves using a special printer and ink to print out your design and then heat press it onto a shirt. We started out with this method. Pros are that you can put actual images on the shirt and it is often a very soft design. Cons are that they are often low quality, your printer tends to experience ink release issues, and the designs are not durable for long periods of time.

Print Services

You don’t necessarily have to make your own shirts to have a t-shirt company. There are plenty of businesses that will create your shirts for you. You can either send them your designs and have them send you the finished shirts, leaving you to handle the marketing and shipping, but keeping the profit. Or you can have them make your shirt and ship it, while they kick you a commission on every sale.

How Much Money Can I Make With a T-Shirt Company?

Like any business, the amount of money that you can make depends on how much effort you put into it. The popularity and complexity of your designs will affect how much you can charge for your shirts. Your basic shirt designs shouldn’t cost more than around $5 to produce, so if you are selling your shirts for $20 you are making a pretty good margin. When we did custom jobs, we charged about $10 a shirt, meaning that we doubled our money on every shirt. So on an order of 100 shirts, we were making about $500 profit. So you can see how your sales are directly dependent on your pricing, amount of sales, and how low you can keep your costs.

How Do I Market My T-Shirts?

Getting sales for your t-shirt company is all about how well you manage to get the word out. Some of the marketing methods are going to be the same as any other business, but t-shirts come with their own special ways of marketing.

Social Media

Social media is one of the best ways to get the word out for your brand. People love to show off their clothes, and people love to share clothes that they like with their friends and family. Posting great pictures, interacting with customers, and building a following on social media will bring you a steady fellow of orders.

Advertising

Online ads are becoming popular, and Facebook, Instagram, etc., have made it easier than ever to create ads. You can specifically target whatever demographic that you think will wear or like your clothing. Narrow down your ads demographic by location, ages, gender, or interests, and you can ensure that the right people see your ads.

Word of Mouth/Exposure

People who wear your shirts are going to get asked fairly often where they got it from. They will be able to point their friends, family, and coworkers your way. This word of mouth advertising is great in this industry. Also, you will get a lot of custom orders coming your way once people involved with other events you have worked for hear about your custom services. Your shirts being worn is great marketing in general.

You

You have to be the face of your brand in the t-shirt business. There is no reason for you to not be wearing your own merchandise, because if you aren’t wearing the clothes that you make, no one else will want to either. So deck yourself out with a whole closet of your designs, hand out business cards, and tell everyone you know about your brand. People love an entrepreneur who loves their business.

Thanks for Reading!

I have wanted to do this post for a long time because I loved the t-shirt business, it just isn’t the right fit for me at this time. With a low barrier of entry, and the popularity of clothing right now, it is a great business for anybody with the passion, drive, and determination to get it done. So I hope that you have learned enough to get started.

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If you enjoyed this post or it has been helpful, feel free to drop a like or follow the blog to stay updated when new content is posted. Thank you so much for reading and good luck on your journey into the world of t-shirt design!

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