How To Start Your Own T-Shirt Business

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In the past two weeks I've received about 15 emails from various people asking about the t-shirt business. How to get started, what to do, where to print, ext. And my response to that is simple:

I invented t-shirts. So get you own idea.

Jk jk! I've actually been meaning to write this post for awhile because I was in the same boat just a year ago with no idea where/how to start. I'm happy to share what I did and what has worked for me. It's obviously not the only way, but it's the only way I know. So here it goes.

Find a good brand of t-shirts. Do some research.

If you ask me, this is most important. Check my reviews and you'll see it's the quality of t-shirt that keeps people coming back. I pay for excellent shirts that don't shrink, aren't cheap, and that feel incredibly soft. The brand I use is Bella and it's awesome.

Find a printer that carries the shirts you want to use.

My shirts are all screen printed, nothing is iron on. Again, in my opinion this is a quality issue. I'm not a fan of iron on shirts. The images peel and look crappy after just a few washes. But screen prints last forever and rarely fade.

I use a company in good old Norfolk, Nebraska to do all of my printing. They give me fair prices, free shipping, and most important, a quick turnaround. I am always moving inventory so having a fast turn around is everything to me.

Just do a simple google search for "t-shirt screen printers" and you'll find a lot. Then decide what is most important to you. Cost or time? For me, it's time. I need to order on a Monday and have my shirts by Thursday.

That first shirt.

So you have a design and a printer, now what?

You can either take pre-orders by simply sharing a mock up of what the shirt will look like. Or you can order the minimum (which is usually 12-24 depending on your printer) or just bite the bullet and order a lot.

I typically order the minimum and start from there. Why? Because I sell more shirts when people can see the actual image of it rather than just a rough idea of what it will look like- i.e. just a drawing.

Where to sell.

Well... I may be bias, but I suggest nebrowse. It's a good place to start for new sellers, not too big or overwhelming, and I personally promote other stores across all of my channels.

Open a few stores, sell on different platforms would be my advice.

How to sell.

Hustle, hustle, hustle. Push it everywhere you can. Facebook, Insta, Twitter, blogs, do what you have to do to get your shirt out there.

I am constantly running promos and giveaways on my Facebook page. You can see some examples here. I also use bloggers a lot. Turns out most of us are pretty good people with a wide reach.


I order all of my supplies from Uline and print all of my labels at home using my DYMO label printer. That printer is a real sonofabitch I tell ya what, but if it keeps me from stepping into the hell that is the Chicago post office I suppose it's the lesser of two evils.

Label printers, am I right ladies?

And finally.

T-shirts can be very lucrative. But it's actually a lot of hard work... or I should say tedious work. On busy days I spend 5-6 hours packing and labeling shirts to be mailed. On the weekends I spend at least 8 hours.

It's also a brutal world. Just be prepared for that, there can be a lot negativity. That's a big reason I'm packing up shop and moving my entire store over to nebrowse in the next week, I'm just tired of it.

The way I stay sane (and I know this sounds corny) is giving back as best as I can. When I'm swimming in negative feelings because I've been told I can't sell a shirt I've come up with... (cough cough "I Just Want To Hang With My Dog") it's my favorite time to send a donation check from my profits to a shelter. I'm also at the point where I send at least one shirt per week toward a specific animal fundraiser because people have found me and ask for an auction donation. I like doing that stuff, it gives me jollies. Makes the other crap go away.

I'm not claiming to be Julie Good Deeds over here, I'm just saying you have to find ways to keep a positive balance sometimes. And for me it's giving back to animals.

But let's wrap it up. Was this useful at all? Or did I just spend two hours making a terrible graphic for no reason?

T-shirts, you guys. Can't live with them, can't live without them.


  1. Thanks, Tay! Very helpful, also that's an awesome was to keep positive.

  2. This was definitely helpful! I like to think that maybe one day I'll be clever enough to come up with cute sayings for t-shirts...

  3. this is AWESOME. and i do appreciate the good white rug pic. you are the t-shirt expert. no, seriously.

  4. Such an awesome post! Having owned my own business (not tshirts, cakes) I can definitely agree that any small business is A LOT more work than people realize! It ain't all rainbows and sunshine! But it can be very rewarding too, so cool that you give back! Also I REALLY want the "Hang with my dog" shirt!! :)

  5. My husband and I have seriously talked about doing this FOREVER! We even have a list of ideas that we have worked on for a couple of years, but I have no idea where to start so I keep putting it off. So, thank you for this! :)

  6. Funny because my boyfriend and I were just talking about this the other day! Thanks for the great advice!

  7. Thanks for sharing this! I've been toying with the idea because I say and think crazy things so maybe other people will like it too?? Haha

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  11. Great post! I would love to sell t-shirts along with my dog lifestyle blogging and this is a great inspiration! Thanks for sharing!