Selling t-shirts online is a very lucrative industry, and there's high demand for custom apparel. People need fresh t-shirts for fundraisers, events, or casual use.
But understandably, sellers may have some apprehensions. Buying a bunch of inventory and taking a loss from leftover stock is a significant risk. Plus, you might not have sufficient space to store all your products.
What if we told you there was a way to sell t-shirts online with no inventory? Millions of entrepreneurs do it every day, and we're here to teach you how. Read on to learn how to sell shirts online without inventory.
How to Sell T-Shirts Online Without Inventory: An Overview
If you want to sell customized organic t-shirts online, you've come to the right place. Here is a quick overview of the process:
Create an innovative design, such as a character, slogan, catchphrase, photo, logo, or another emblem.
Bonus Tip: Use an unlimited graphic design service to create dozens of t-shirt designs to save money.Learn More
Establish your online storefront so that your customers locate your products and place their orders.
You can set up your online storefront via multiple methods. For example, you can make an aggregate storefront on TeePublic or Amazon. Or, you can build your own website with a company like Printful.
These three steps may seem simple enough, but there's much more to understand when it comes to learning how to sell t-shirts online to make money. An essential component to selling shirts in an online store is a reliable print-on-demand service. Read on to learn more.
Understanding Print-On-Demand Services
Some eager entrepreneurs may be wondering, “Can you rent DTG printers and sell t-shirts online?” While you certainly can, the hassle often isn't worth it. DTG printers aren't cheap, and you'll have to learn how to use one efficiently.
Instead, you can recruit a fulfillment partner to print and distribute t-shirts with your custom design. Print-on-demand (POD) services are when a fulfillment partner customizes, produces, and delivers your products for you.
Some online sellers are open about their involvement with fulfillment partners. Others prefer to participate in “white labeling,” which is a type of rebranding. It means you ask your fulfillment partner to make their involvement discrete. They'll place your brand's logo on shipping labels that go out to customers and maintain a low-key profile on your website.
POD services are versatile, as you can use them to sell unique merchandise to your customers at low upfront costs. And, you can reach customers worldwide by working with fulfillment partners across the globe.
The best part? You have a lot of control over your business. For example, you can lessen your ecological footprint by choosing to design and sell organic t-shirts online only.
Printing on demand is a great middle-ground between affiliate marketing and dropshipping, and it will make your entrepreneurial opportunities limitless.
Print-On-Demand: How It Works
Print-on-demand is an innovative solution that means no work for you, the creator. It's especially beneficial for those who want to learn how to sell t-shirts for fundraising online since it minimizes costs and maximizes value.
With this hands-off business plan, you can
- Avoid hefty startup costs
- Eliminate tedious data entry tasks
- Circumvent the need for creating shipping labels
- Take away the work of printing or ironing on adhesives
- Let someone else pack your products into boxes
- Avoid trips to the post office
- Reduce operating costs (e.g., leasing a warehouse to store inventory)
- Expand your production to outside your country of residence
You'll have to get with your fulfillment partner to adjust your product profit margins. Your FP will show you how much their production costs are and allow you to create a markup price. Customers won't see this number, so you don't have to worry about low-balling it. It would be best if you created a fair markup price by evaluating your competition and other factors.
When a customer finalizes a sale, your FP will take their portion of the transaction. You'll take the rest as profit.
POD Startup Costs
Before you dive headfirst into this online business idea, you're likely wondering, “What does it cost to sell t-shirts online on average on your own website?”
POD comes with meager startup costs. Some examples of startup expenses include:
- A designer's services (typically start at around $5, depending on the platform)
- Product listing fees on online marketplaces (usually start at about $0.20 each)
- The rights to stock art to use in your designs (typically start at around $5)
- Costs to self-host a website or Shopify store (rates will vary)
After your first sale, you may encounter other costs. For example, an online ad campaign will help you reach more audience members, but it doesn't happen for free.
As far as risk goes, POD is pretty low-stakes. You won't ever carry the cost of any products before a customer submits an order.
T-shirt printing is an art, and not everything will always go seamlessly. If a customer requests a return, you'll have to know what to expect.
Let's say a customer receives a product. After a few days, the stitches start to tear, and the print job is bleeding. If these mistakes occur, your FP will send a replacement to your customer for free.
However, you may be responsible if your design is of poor quality or the customer returns the product for unspecified reasons. In cases like these, you'll have to issue a full refund and see your profits suffer.
POD Order Fulfillment
Your fulfillment partner can fall into one of two categories: marketplaces or integrations.
Marketplaces are one-stop shops that place your products on the same sites as millions of other sellers.
Common marketplaces include TeePublic and Teespring. Some marketplaces, like Merch by Amazon, will only take on sellers who can maintain sales requirements. Otherwise, you could lose your spot and have to find a new partner to fulfill your orders.
Integration refers to when a customer places an order on one platform and another platform processes it.
For example, let's say you own a website with the domain name “www.t-shirtsrock.com.” A customer places an order on T-ShirtsRock, and the order gets sent to another company like Printful for fulfillment.
Many sellers prefer integration, as it allows them to keep customer information on file, get paid quicker, and have more intricate administration features.
If you sell t-shirts online with Shopify or Printful, you're participating in integration. With other websites like Etsy and WordPress, you no longer have to wonder about how to sell t-shirts online not using Facebook or other social media platforms.
Designing Your T-Shirts to Sell Online
Besides logistics, the design is the other crucial element in how to sell shirts in an online store. We've broken down the design process into manageable tips:
Create Your Idea
First, pick a design idea that'll never go out of style. Some themes for inspiration include:
- Fitness mottoes
- Holiday themes
- Career puns
- Popular and “punny” sayings
- Barbecue attire
- Cute animals and pets
- Life milestones
- Clubs and organizations
- Schools and universities
- Social justice and civil rights
- Pop culture and memes
- Motivational quotes
Choose your design idea by studying search engine activity and existing marketplaces. This research will help you determine what customers will buy.
Meet Design Requirements
Most fulfillment partners will ask for the following design requirements:
- A minimum of 150 dots per inch for small products (aim for 300 DPI for larger products)
- A transparent background
- CMYK color mode
- Rasterize all fonts
- Export the file as a JPG, PNG, or EPS
- No effects like “Glow” or “Drop Shadow”
Invest in T-Shirt Design Tools & Services
The following t-shirt design tools will help you design and sell custom organic t-shirts online:
Canva has a “drag-and-drop” interface and an extensive library of pictures, graphics, fonts, and vector images at your disposal. You can use it for free, but some of the best features are available with the premium subscription.
Shuttershock has unique and case-specific photos you can use to realize any design idea you have in mind.
Creative Market is an excellent site to access pre-made graphics, fonts, and design templates. It operates on an à la carte basis so that you can purchase exactly what you need.
Unlimited Graphic Design
If you're looking to create multiple t-shirt designs and want to scale out your store, consider using an unlimited graphic design company. These services can provide you “all-you-can-eat” graphic design at a low, flat monthly fee. This is a great resource for established apparel sales companies, as well as new entrepreneurs looking to quickly create a nice database of original t-shirt designs.
Take Advantage of Free Design Ideas
If you have a limited budget, you can implement some free design ideas to get started. These ideas can be effective in the beginning, but you shouldn't rely on them as your business expands.
Use Free Stock Images Exclusively
In the early stages of your online t-shirt business, you can stick to sites that offer free-to-use photos in commercial applications.
While you can't use copyrighted memes, you can trace (rotoscope) them. The outcome will be a shaky, rough-looking image, but that's the meme style people love. Just be sure to trace it in high resolution.
A Note of Caution
POD t-shirt printing is a perfectly legal business model that gives you freedom as a seller over the custom designs and shipping process. However, you'll need to ensure you stay within specific legal requirements when you design and sell t-shirts online.
While there's no required license to sell t-shirts online, you must adhere to copyright laws and restrictions, especially when using existing images. Also, make sure to abide by your area's tax requirements. Conduct business ethically by learning about taxes for people who sell t-shirts online.
As long as you take these precautions, you'll have a lucrative endeavor ahead of you!
Print-on-demand services let you sell shirts online without inventory, thus reducing startup and operating costs.
Whether you want to sell shirts online to raise money, bring awareness to an issue, or share your creativity with the world, you can do so easily with POD t-shirt printing services!