How to Make a T-Shirt and Sell It

You’ve probably heard those fateful words, “You could put that on a t-shirt!” It sounds like a great idea, or so you tell yourself. You have great ideas, great designs. The world would beat a path to your door – or at least your brilliantly designed website – and soon everyone would be wearing your designs, and you would be rolling in lovely green money. Let’s discuss how to make a t-shirt…


It’s Not That Easy

Yes, you have brilliant designs and witty ideas, but getting from the Ah-ha Moment to putting a t-shirt on a client’s back is a ride on a learning curve. Don’t let that learning curve scare you off, though, because being able to wake up every day and do something you love is satisfying and fulfilling, even if getting that something off the ground is some heavy lifting.

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Printing Your Shirts

You have your idea, you have your design – now what? Finding a printer to put the design on a shirt takes you from the idea to the actuality. Ideally, you want someone a) local, b) good, and c) cheap. Realistically, you might get a and b, or a and c, or b and a, or b and c. It’s going to be a tough haul to find all three. It also means evaluating what you mean by cheap. Most people have paid a good deal for a cool t-shirt that feel like you’re wearing a bulletproof vest from all of the plastisol glopped on. Instead it might be less of a hassle to reevaluate your ideal printer and look for a) local, b) experienced, and c) reasonable. Why?

  • Going with a local printer means that you can keep an eye on your print run. Being able to check your order in progress means catching problems before you’re stuck with 1,000 shirts that look like bad and feel like the previously mentioned bulletproof vest.
  • While there are t-shirt machines out there, unless you have the time to really learn how to use them and the design software, experience is going to trump DIY. An experienced printer stands a better chance of delivering a crisp, clear shirt in a timely fashion and at a better price than a print on demand provider.
  • Reasonable over cheap is a matter of opinion, but a cheap cotton shirt with design that looks like one of those old 1970’s iron-on decals is not going to make a customer happy or inclined to buy your next cool idea.

Some printers will accept a test order – a smaller run of shirts – against the possibility of future business. You will have to pay a higher rate, but being able to evaluate the quality of the production can have you angry customer service hassles later.


Pricing Pitfalls

Yes, you have cool shirts. Now, that you know how to make a shirt, how are you going to price it? According to Statistic Brain Research, one of the primary reasons that 63 percent of retail businesses fail in the first four years is because of “emotional pricing.” Emotional pricing is essentially thinking the product is worth more than it is simply because it’s your product, your design and your work. As much as you value everything you’ve put into your brand, a casual shopper is going to look at the price keep going. On the other end of the spectrum, racing to the bottom and marking your price to a super-low retail price gives you no room for sales and promotions, and maybe not even enough to clear your overhead. A clear idea of your operational expenses is a must before you post that price to the web.


Building Your Site from Storefront to Doorstep

A clean, professional-looking website puts your shirts in the spotlight. You want your customers to remember the shirts of course, but also to look back and think what an easy checkout there was, and maybe there was that free shipping thing, too. UPS, in a survey of online shoppers, found that the number one customer-pleaser for 81 percent of respondents was ease of checkout.

Right behind that was the variety of payment and shipping options, and the ease of making returns. Plotting your shop’s path from the point of view of a customer is a good idea, because the things that please or aggravate you are likely to do the same to your site’s visitors.


Go Forth and Sell a Shirt

Now that you know how to make a shirt, and have a rough idea of how to sell that shirt, start assembling your ideas for your store. Most of the popular eCommerce platforms can hook you up with customizable, brandable templates so that your site can be just as cool and unique as your t-shirts, connect you with payment methods, and shipping solutions. With worldwide eCommerce sales about to hit $15 trillion worldwide, you have a lot of backs looking for shirts. Start turning your ideas into moneymakers today.

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