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Starting a t-shirt business is an excellent way to make not only a passive side income but potentially a full-time income. There are many steps involved in ensuring that your t-shirt business will be a success. This article will detail the steps necessary to start your t-shirt business in terms of what is necessary to have on hand, important considerations you need to take, and what you want to avoid throughout the process of starting this business.

  1. shirt-graphicCreate your T-shirt design and test it 

When designing your t-shirt, you want to make sure that the design resonates with the public and niche you are marketing to. The best way to figure this out is by testing several designs and creating several logos and artwork for your t-shirts. Make sure to place an emphasis on the quality of your t-shirt design. More people will want to buy a t-shirt that has high-resolution images. You want to make sure that the way your design looks on the computer screen matches the way that it will look when printed out on the t-shirts. The color of the image is also important when creating your design. Will your images and designs look uniform and high quality on t-shirts of all colors, or will you only choose to print them on certain colors? The sizing of your images is also important. The dimensions of the design, as well as the dpi (dots per inch), are vital to the final product.

You may want to consider hiring a designer who has experience in creating high-quality designs. A designer will be familiar with programs such as Photoshop and they will know how to format designs specifically for printing on t-shirts. There are many freelance websites available such as with designers who are always creating amazing work. A great way to decide on which design you want to use is to hire more than one designer (if this is within your budget). By doing this, you can see which designer really understands the concept you are trying to display on your t-shirts. In doing this, you will establish a relationship with a designer and may want to hire them to help you design more t-shirts in the future.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to stay away from using any images or designs that are copyrighted or trademarked. For example, you are not allowed to use the Nike or Adidas logo on your t-shirts since you do not own the rights to any of their logos or designs. There are serious repercussions and consequences in trying to profit from designs that are not yours. This also goes for businesses that are not as large as these companies. The best option is to create original and unique designs.

2. Create a business name and a business plan 

The name of your business should reflect your t-shirts. If your business is specifically appealing to cat owners, then it would not be very wise to design t-shirts that have puppies on them. When creating a business name, a good idea would be to sit down and brainstorm the intent of the business and who your target audience is. You can look at other business names that are already established and relate to your business, to get an idea of the name you want to create. If you are completely stuck on a name for your business, there are business name generator websites which will generate a name for your business based on the keywords that you provide.

Make sure that you check the availability of your business name by going on to websites such as the Trademark Electronic Search System. Also, do a Google search to ensure that no other businesses are already using the name that you are interested in.

If your first choice for a business is not available, consider using a hyphen or an abbreviation for the business. You can also use a .net for your business if .com is not available. Another excellent website you can use is which allows you to see if your business name is available as a .com as well as if it is available on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.

Now that you have your business name, it is time to create a business plan. Your business plan should include the following: a description of the product you will be selling, your ideal target market and audience, and your financial sales goals.

3. Obtain permits, trademarks, copyrights, and licenses 

The first thing you want to do is to register your business with your state and local government. You may want to register your business as an LLC for the protection and benefits it provides to a small business. If you plan to do business in multiple states, you may need to register with each state. You will need to also obtain a retail business license to sell trademarked goods.

By acquiring a resale license, your business will be able to purchase clothing from the clothing distributor without having to pay sales tax. In this case, your business will collect the sales tax when you resell the clothing. Make sure that you have the necessary permits if you plan to hold a large stock of clothing. You will need to check local ordinances and lease requirements.

A federal tax ID number may be beneficial to your business if you plan on having employees. You will need to get your Employer Identification Number (EIN). The IRS’ assistance tool is a great resource to guide you through the entire process.

4. Price your T-shirts 

Before pricing your t-shirts, you need to know your business expenses. There are a lot of fixed costs related to starting your t-shirt business. For example, knowing the cost of rent, utilities, keeping lights on, etc. if you are running it out of your home or office space. A physical location for your business will typically have higher costs than running your business solely online. If you are running your t-shirt company online, then you will have to factor in the cost of your web presence. You will need money to start the website and to pay for things such as search engine optimization to ensure that your t-shirt company is reaching a large audience. If you are using a third party such as Shopify or Etsy to help facilitate sales, make sure you are aware of their seller fees and monthly service fees for using their platforms.

You will also need to purchase several of your t-shirts to make sure they look the way you want the customer to receive them. The amount of money you pay for your t-shirts will depend on the size, number of colors, and the designs have. You will also need to factor in the quality of the t-shirt you use and the type of printing you choose. This will give you an idea of how much you want to charge for your t-shirts so that you are getting a good profit.

5. Select a printer 

In terms of inventory, you want to make sure you know how you will create and source your t-shirts. In the beginning, you can find a local printing business to get an idea of what is the best look for your t-shirts in terms of printing. This can be expensive when you receive an increase in orders and sales. You may need to find a vendor that will sell your shirts in bulk. There are many types of printing options available such as screen printing, heat transfer, and direct-to-garment.

Screen printing is great for putting out a large volume and quantity of t-shirts; however, screen printing is limited in terms of complex, colorful images.

Heat transfer is another t-shirt printing method which you are able to print on demand. Heat transfer can produce t-shirts of lower quality and you can expect to pay an upfront cost for the heat press.

Direct to garment allows for a large variety of color options and great detail although it is not recommended for large volume orders.
There are also a number of online printing resources as well such as,,,,, and

6. Market and Sell your t-shirts 

It is important to create buzz and excitement around your product. It is important to think of your target audience. How old are your buyers? What is the gender of your buyers? Where do your buyers hang out? What social media platforms do your buyers use? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you better sell your t-shirts.

Once you have a range of t-shirts and a website, you are able to make several phone calls and network to increase sales. Make several phone calls per day to get people to your website and interested in your products. Consider creating blog posts related to your t-shirt line to draw more individuals to your website. Offer to give your t-shirt to social media influencers in exchange for promotion of your shirts. Use as many social media platforms as necessary that are related to your target audience and post frequently. Wear your t shirts in public and create business cards if someone is interested in where they can buy your t-shirt. Another option is to bring your t shirts to craft fairs or local fairs in your community and learn how to set up a booth for your products. It is always a great idea to utilize both technology and traditional methods when marketing your t shirts.

In terms of selling your t-shirts, there are several print-on-demand websites where you can sell your t-shirts, or you can sell t-shirts on your own website. Using Shopify, Etsy or Amazon are good ways to start selling your t shirts. Once you have decided on a name for your business, you may want to also register a domain name and create a website. Selling your t shirts on your own website allows you to have more control over the sales. You are also able to collect the emails of your customers. That way you can stay in contact with them and inform them of any new t shirts or products you are coming out with. Having a website is an excellent way to expand your product range past t-shirts. You may also want to sell mugs, hats, blankets, etc. in the future as well.

7. Manage business finances and taxes 

It is important to keep your business records in order. Here are records to keep:

  • Receipts
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Bills
  • Invoices
  • Proof of payments
  • Financial statements from an online service or your bookkeeper
  • Previous tax returns
  • Canceled checks

It may be wise to invest in digital file storage of your records so that you do not lose any important documents and information. Three digital platforms to consider are,, and Expensify. ShoeBoxed digitally organizes information by allowing you to scan receipts. FileThis automatically gathers information from electronic documents. Expensify allows you to scan and email receipts to create simple expense reports.

An income statement is important for your business since it breaks down your business’ income into expenses and revenue. Revenue is the amount of money you brought in selling goods. The cost of goods sold is the amount of money you spent on goods (t shirts) before selling them. The operating expenses of your business are the other costs associated with running your business such as business cards, electricity, internet, electricity, marketing, etc.
Gross profit is the amount of money you are bringing in from a specific product or t-shirt. If your gross profit is low, you may want to consider increasing the price of each t-shirt sold.
Once your business expands and grows larger, you will want to consult with a CPA and even consider hiring a bookkeeper to manage the organization of your business records.