So You Want to Make a Whole Bunch of T-Shirts

Two years ago, we warned you that making t-shirts ain’t all fun and games. But did you listen? No. You went out and made yourself a little side business selling shirts. Maybe you created a Kickstarter to launch your new store, or you run a popular design website with an equipment shop, or maybe you’re not hitting that kind of volume yet, but you see it around the corner and don’t know what to do. Relax, we’re here for you. Get ready to take a crash course in selling and shipping 1,000 tees a month.

shirtpile

We’re not Threadless, but having grown two orders of magnitude since starting this little union, we know the pain of scaling in every part of our operation. What’s the difference you ask? Everything.

Printing

Let’s start at the beginning. Before you can sell a shirt, you need to have a printer. We’ve been through three printers in less than three years, so trust us when we say, you need the right printer. When we started, we did our research. We wanted someone local, someone good, and someone cheap, so we looked around Pittsburgh and found someone who met all three criteria—or so we thought. We definitely found local and cheap, but good eluded us. Don’t get us wrong, at the time we thought our shirts were great. Today, we look back and cringe a little at the quality. Sometimes it’s subtle things like color fidelity and registration clarity. Sometimes it’s big things like plastisol caked on so heavy you could swear you’re wearing a hockey sweater. Unless you’ve been in the garment industry your whole life, you’re going to want to find a printer who knows more about ink, fabric, and production than you. Don’t settle. Look around until you find the right team. They’ll make you better, and your customers will thank you.

sharpness contrast

New shirt on top, old one on the bottom. Note the sharpness of the new style.

You know how I mentioned “production” as something your printer needs to know about? Yeah, that’s a big one. In addition to some less than sharp printing we had in the early days, we were also plagued by issues with quality control. In fact, our entire first guest design batch had to be re-printed because of a problem with the curing process. Needless heartburn, all around. Those kinds of issues eventually forced us to switch to a company in Kansas City that has a tremendous reputation for professional, high-quality work. And they deserved it.

We used them for one big print run before realizing that Kansas City is a long way from Pittsburgh. What if we wanted to drop by for a press check? What if we wanted to talk strategy, fulfillment, long-term plans? You can see our dilemma. Thankfully we bumped into a guy who ran a print shop that met all three of our needs. He was local, he did great work, and his prices were even better than we had been getting before. A hat trick! For the last year-and-a-half we’ve been humming along with Clockwise Tees as the printer of record for United Pixelworkers. As many a Pixelworker can attest, they make a mean shirt. Like any relationship, we’ve had our share of problems, but because our printer is nearby, we can work them out with the least amount of disruption for us and our customers. You want to make and sell a quarter-ton of t-shirts a month? Find a good printer.

Selling

It’s not enough to design a sweet shirt, you’re going to need to let people know and have a rock-solid website to receive and process orders. Letting people know is what you might have heard referred to before as “marketing”. It sounds scary, but it’s actually really simple. That’s why we like to call it “letting people know”. When we got started, we sent friendly emails to the people in the industry we admired. In addition to mentioning how much we liked the work they did, we sent each of them a shirt. That got us started, but it takes a lot more than a bit of early reciprocity to see a healthy six figures in annual revenue and nearly 7,000 followers on Twitter. Selling anything, whether it’s a physical product, a website, or an idea requires trust. One customer sale is noteworthy, two is a relationship. When your best customers come back for more every month and voluntarily spread the word to friends, you know you’re doing something right.

We take an insane amount of pride in every aspect of Pixelworkers (and Pixelivery) from the business model to the shirt design to the production to the fulfillment to the customer service. Having done this now for over two years, it’s pretty clear that our peers and colleagues are proud to represent themselves as Pixelworkers. Just take a look at these handsome folks. That means a lot to us. We unabashedly believe that if you want to have a successful business of any kind, you need to treat your customers well.

That’s two-thirds of marketing. The other half is greasing the wheels. Run a sale every so often, give some stuff away, share the spotlight, have a contest just for fun, ask people what you can do better, get your name out there in blogs and podcasts. We like to think having a beautiful, functional, mobile-friendly website helps too. Oh, and spend some money every once in a while. We’ve sponsored several conferences including the upcoming HybridConf and ConvergeSE (where we’re also going to be speaking, say hi!), run ads on The Talk Show, The Evening Edition, ShopTalk, and a handful of other mediums, and we actively review our options for spreading the word even further. Bottom line: plan to spend 10-25% of your time and money marketing your product. Do it in a way that aligns with your personal and business beliefs. If you believe in your product, you should be happy to do what it takes to let people know. (Without being a jerk, of course.)

Did we mention a fancy ecommerce site? I think we did. When last we talked, we were hosted by the excellent Big Cartel. We’ve since switched to Shopify for reasons outlined in a blog post last year. Whatever direction you go, a hosted solution makes selling shirts by the car load trivial for even the least technical person. Both Shopify and Big Cartel have very reasonable monthly costs. Shopify has a big advantage today with its app store. There are integrations for just about every aspect of running a modern web shop. If you’re looking for or already have high volume, we can’t avoid recommending you go with Shopify.

You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your payment processor. For a long time (dating back to our Big Cartel days), we used PayPal. There’s a lot to like about PayPal. Customers who don’t have a credit card can still check out and the total fees are less than those you might pay with another provider. Unfortunately there’s a whole lot more to hate about PayPal. It’s slow (in every possible, conceivable, eye-clawingly irritating way), they’ve been known to lock you out of your funds on more than one occasion, and the interface is a relic of the time when they had founders who cared. We switched to Stripe in March of 2012, and it’s been a dream in every way that PayPal was a nightmare. You won’t get your money for seven days and the flat 2.9% is a little more than you’d pay elsewhere, but the interface is amazing and the processing absolutely flawless. We’re happy to put our money behind a company that we can feel good about. (We probably lose about $200 each month in additional fees.) Our bank offers us same-day access to our funds and a 2.3% rate, but there’s no way to sign up for their service without going through a sales rep and we can only imagine the travesty that would be their web interface.

Do yourself a favor, use Stripe. They’re eating everyone’s lunch at the bottom of the market now, and it’s only a matter of time before they own the top as well. Just like Flash died a slow and predictable death when HTML5 became the only option on mobile, payment processing is a classic innovator’s dilemma. Payment processors were so focused on high-volume customers they didn’t even see small businesses switching en masse to a better product. (And don’t forget about Square. They’re coming from the physical side, but you can count on these two annihilating the competition in the next 3-5 years.)

Shipping & Fulfillment

In 2010, our shipping advice was:

Ship all your packages with USPS, and tell them to send it as cheaply as possible, with no tracking or delivery confirmation. One t-shirt should cost about $2.50 to send anywhere in the country, and no more than $6 to anywhere else on Earth. As bad as shipping is, it’s a necessary evil. Grin and bear it.

Let’s talk about what’s changed in the interim (aside from USPS jacking their prices up). The first big advance for us was switching to online postage and bulk label printing. We use Endicia, and it’s great. There may be other options out there, but Endicia comes with native apps for Mac and Windows. If you’re savvy, you can also save a lot of time by learning how to do bulk address imports. The difference between hand-labeling and point-and-click printing is astronomical. If you’re shipping more than a handful of t-shirts each month, invest in online postage and labeling.

Not long after switching to Endicia, we started wondering if we couldn’t leverage its API to make our lives even easier. There’s still a non-trivial amount of prep work that needs to happen when you’re schlepping spreadsheets around, so we decided to design and build a custom fulfillment application. Since we had switched to Shopify, we had access to all our orders via the Shopify API. Now every order that comes into United Pixelworkers is automatically saved to our local database and queued for fulfillment. At the touch of a button, we print packing slips and shipping labels ready to be affixed and stuffed by whoever has time. (Every packing slip and label to come out of United Pixelworkers has been printed on the Brother HL-2270DW wireless laser printers. It’s a workhorse.) Our fulfillment prep work dropped from hours to seconds. But what if you don’t have a back-end developer on hand? That’s where you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of the Shopify App Store we mentioned earlier. Our personal favorite is ShipStation (we tried it, and even though it wasn’t right for us, they have tremendous customer service and it’s getting better all the time), but there several great options to choose from in the shipping category, so look around and see what’s right for you.

The third wave in our quest to get smarter with shipping was having USPS come to us. Once upon a time we used to load up our car with boxes and boxes of packages. The post office kindly let us in the back door so we wouldn’t disrupt the other customers, but the loading, unloading, and driving still occupied an entire afternoon. Not smart. Thankfully,  USPS will come to you! Just schedule a pickup. For awhile we were scheduling one big pickup each month and then a pickup each week. That was fine we most of our sales were in big pre-order batches, but you probably noticed we’ve been ramping up our inventory. We made a call to our local post office to arrange for the mailman to swing by every day for a box or two of shirts. If you’re shipping in volume, do yourself a favor, let the mailman come to you.

Pixelworkers stock on shelf

Finally, our fourth improvement: help. For nearly the entire history of United Pixelworkers, every shirt leaving our office was packed by Jay, Nate, or Matt. As I hinted earlier, we still like making websites for clients from time to time. The bigger United Pixelworkers got, the less time we had for clients and even improvements to the site itself. Because we invested in our custom fulfillment application, however, we were able to turn over the packing labor to a friend. Truthfully, anyone can do it or everyone can do it. The more water-tight the process, the less technical knowledge each person needs to bring to the equation. When we were juggling spreadsheets and squinting at PayPal, fulfillment was a nightmare. Today, we could bring a person in off the street and have him or her up and running in minutes.

Even with all our improvements, shipping is still a tedious and complicated process. Addresses can be malformed, international packages frequently take weeks to arrive or sometimes disappear entirely, inventory requires more and more space in the office leading to money being tied up in shirts on shelves, packages return to our office almost daily as undeliverable, and as we’ve expanded our offering into different types of merchandise like notebooks, patches, hats, and prints packaging diversity has reared its ugly head.

We’ve come a long way, but keeping shipping in house has required the upfront investment of hundres of hours to time. We believe controlling the experience is worth it, but if you’re simply looking to be the shirt designer, there are services that you can use to handle your shipping process. If you poke around the Shopify App Store, you’ll probably even find ones that are ready to be integrated into your store.

Customer Service

Customer service can be a nightmare, but we’ve learned to love it. Here are some but not all of the types of emails we get:

  • my shirt doesn’t fit
  • my shirt is defective
  • I got the wrong shirt
  • I need to change my address
  • where’s my shirt?
  • do you ship to my location?
  • when will the shirt I want be back in stock?

When you’re selling a few dozen shirts each month, inbound emails and tweets are hardly a trickle. Multiply your sales by 10 or 20, however, and the requests quickly become a flood. If you want to retain your sanity, heed our advice.

First, get some customer service software. We use Zendesk. You probably can’t go wrong with any of the bigger names, but for the reasons we outlined in a post last year, Zendesk is right for us. Good customer service software lets you set up macros (a set of instructions that can be applied to an incoming email) to handle common inquiries. We have several that get used every day. A good macro will handle about 90% of the work leaving you with just a few seconds or minutes of personalization and attention before moving on to the next email.

Second, decide how you want to handle each situation before it arises. It’s not uncommon for someone’s shirt to get lost in the mail through no fault of their own. Are you going to give them a refund? A replacement? Will you tell them that it’s not your problem? How about when a customer wants an exchange? Maybe they got the wrong size. Shopping online can be a great experience since you never leave your chair or a terrible experience since you have to rely on pictures and charts to make a decision. As the retailer, you’re going to have people who want exchanges. What do you do? I can tell you what we do. We look at each customer request as an opportunity to make someone’s day. Every dollar we spend making someone happy is an investment in our company and its future. Happy customers tell their friends and they buy more stuff. It would be incredibly short-sighted to focus on the immediate cost rather than the long term dividends. Plus, making someone happy feels good whereas its exhausting to pick a fight with everyone just looking for a little help.

Finally, because the customer service process has been centralized and no longer lives in your email and because you decided ahead of time how to handle common requests, you can hand customer service over to someone you trust so you can go back to designing shirts, marketing your site, or whatever you’d like to be doing. The nice thing about retail is that most aspects of it can be considered as independent chunks. As your sales volume increases, you can find discrete pieces to offload onto someone else.

Now You’re Ready

That’s it. Go forth and sell t-shirts. If you have any questions about the techniques we mentioned above or you’d like us to address an area we failed to cover, let us know in the comments or give us a shout on Twitter.

Or, maybe all of that was a little overwhelming. Maybe you tried printing your own shirts in the past and quickly found it wasn’t for you. Well, we’ve got good news. Starting soon, like real soon, we’re going to be launching a store where anyone can pitch us a tee about pretty much anything. If we like it, we’ll put it in the store. Your design gets two weeks to sell 25 or more shirts. If it’s successful, we’ll print and ship it and handle all the customer service as well. Plus we’ll pay you $3 for every sale. Does that sound like something you might be interested in? Email us at us@unitedpixelworkers.com. If you have some artwork you want to include, even better. Making great shirts is a passion of ours and it just so happens that giving our friends and colleagues a helping hand is too. We’re champing at the bit to roll out our new t-shirts-as-a-service offering. If you you’re as eager as we are to see it live, we want to hear from you. Make some noise.

Here are some comments

  1. I can’t help but chuckle at the points you made, just because we’ve made the exact same mistakes (and corrections) ourselves at Tinkering Monkey! Selling stuff online isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even after all this time, we’re still trying to figuring out customer service and fulfillment…

    Most lessons need to be learned the hard way. Even so, it’s still a great deal of fun. Thanks for writing this – I’m sure it will help out many.

  2. Thanks for this. Probably one of the most well thought out and helpful articles I’ve come across. You guys rule.

  3. This resonates a huge amount with me, having setup helvetitee.com last year.

    Taking people’s money and selling physical products is not a task to be underestimated. It is a responsibility. Think hard before going down this road. But equally, don’t be scared — it can be a lot of fun when you get it right.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write this! Though I doubt I’ll ever end up in any sort of similar endeavor, I very much enjoy reading honest, forthright and fair assessments of one person’s (or company’s) venture into the unknown. It makes any venture that direction seem much less daunting.

    I’m also still holding out for my Albuquerque pixelworkers shirt. ;-)

  5. Great story.. thanks for sharing this.. it’s going to help lot of people. Shall share this on our blog. We too use shopify and it’s really good.
    btw, your twitter link below doesn’t work.. !
    Keep up the good work.

  6. This is a great and awesomely detailed post. Thanks so much for sharing all your useful findings!

  7. Very insightful post.

    That said, there are places (like the one I work for, Printfection) that help streamline all of this for you, and probably save you money (especially if you include your time). As well as this was laid out above process, it is still a TON of time and work. In fact, it’s exactly why we exist — to help reduce the amount of work it takes to do something that should be much easier. If you’re curious or other are: printfection.com

  8. Anyone have a recommendation for a good website tool that allows customers to design their own merchandise? (Hopefully HTML5, not Flash)

  9. Thanks for the post. It’s always good to hear from people in the business and what they are doing. I planned to beef up my marketing efforts this year. Thanks to you I now have a better idea on what I should do.

  10. Great post. I’m not in the t-shirt business but you had some good information for business in general. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I love the article, I am an aspiring t shirt entrepreneur. I am considering using megento go for my all in one shopping vs. Shopify. Question you say you are using shopify which has a built in shopping cart, and a monthly fee. But then you are using stripe which has no fees unless you sell something? Isn’t the whole point of using shopify is for the built in cart and easy checkout? You confused me on that one.

    If stripe is my payment gateway then why would I need shopify?

  12. Hey, Norris. Shopify sets you up with a website that you can theme, a way of keeping track of all your orders, and a host of third-party integrations that make everything run more smoothly. You could definitely just use Stripe if you wanted to build all of that yourself. Regardless of whether you use Shopify or not, you’ll need Stripe, PayPal, or any one of a dozen other gateways and payment processors. We think the best combo right now is Shopify + Stripe, but a lot can depend on your situation.

  13. Great article, thanks for the walkthrough! Enjoyed that you detailed the business and technical points.

  14. Hey Fantastic Advise.
    I can totally relate my self to yours. I moved from different platforms and finally moved to WordPress Woo Commerce. Shopify is great solution but I wanted a dedicated IP, SSL & Backup Solution. I totally suggest Shopify if you do not have an inhouse development team.
    I am just wondering how did you made your customers wait for 3-4 weeks for shipments in case a design gets approved. We have orders and we start getting emails the very next day …
    My Site is http://www.efani.com

  15. Nice read! Oh so many details to getting a tee out the door. I’ve had an online retail store for several years -http://www.mitetees.com/Products/143-production-onesie-beanie.aspx – CUSTOM – yikes! ugh – some days…(but, i’m happy to be shipping the best baby gift ever!). I have to say that the USPS has been awesome. Endicia works great too. The shopping cart software I use is nopcommerce which as been great – super content management system.

    Keep an eye out for a ‘pitch’ or two from me soon. I think you all would be great to work with.

  16. What about PR? I have tees on Red Bubble http://www.redbubble.com/people/scholara/ clothing and at Cafe Press http://www.cafepress.com/voxyvisions and my biggest problems is connecting to potential markets I have 2 twitter feeds I use Facebook and I pr them on several blogs but the sales are not coming! I tried a pop culutre tie in design and thats had no sales yet http://www.cafepress.com/notsheldon What about PR What to do if you can’t afford Pro marketing?

  17. In the spirit of letting people know about your business without being a jerk, if you decide you want a mobile app give me a shout. I co-founded The Jed Mahonis Group, a small mobile app development company in Minneapolis, MN.

  18. I have to tell you I got an estimate from your guys at clockwise, where they were far from cheap. Im assuming you guys probably get large bulk orders so its cheap for you but $11.00 per for a 2 color print is high!

  19. Great post. I can vouch for using Stripe, quick and painless to use. I use their woocommerce plugin for legittees.com and it works great.

  20. This was so insightful and inspiring. It is amazing that there are people in the world like yourselves, that take the time to write something like this and share it with everyone. I’m so glad to have stumbled across this. Amazing.

    Thank You

  21. I noticed that you have own designs and you also outsource t shirt designs. How do you choose graphic designers? How do you negotiate designer fee? Do you pay always $X what illustrator asking you or you have set fee? I’m not graphic designer and this is hardest part to negotiate and get designs and the fees can be so different.

  22. Juris, we give all our guest designers a standard percentage of the profit. It’s 50% for guest designs and 30% for local guest designs. We’ve been very fortunate to have gracious friends who are excited about making a shirt and willing to do the design without knowing exactly what they will be paid.

  23. Hmm .. perfect thank you. You got very good fiends in this money hungry world. :) One more question regarding designs and designers. Do you brainstorm or discuss designs with designers? Because possibly some designs would be hard to screen print or print would be too heavy. I used to tell designers: ”Feel free design what you like better!” Not sure if it is ok.

  24. Juris, we do work with the designers to make sure the shirt will look the best it can. Some of the work is conceptual, some is technical.

  25. I’m wondering about shipping .. :) It kind of makes sense to send out t shirts as cheaply as possible, BUT .. lets say you posted shirt and customers claiming, that they didn’t get shirt. If you dont have tracking or delivery confirmation you cant proof that you shipped package. What you can do? Does it happen often? Here in UK I’m always posting parcels by Recorded delivery, which cost me or customer more .. hmm .. maybe again wrong ..

  26. Juris, we trust our customers not to rip us off. If the package doesn’t arrive, we do everything we can to make it right.

  27. If I use Shopify why do I need a payment processor I thought Shopify processed the payment

  28. Great article for someone like me who has been procrastinating about this business for a long while now. Some of the lessons learned are great, not many people would share and its great that you did. I will be moving foward with my plans now. You gave me some “get right”.

  29. Wow! What a great and timely article. I found you on IG tonight through a designer I follow, Matt Stevens. And, I am currently in the process of starting my own t-shirt brand (actually asking you guys a question on IG about what pantone swatch you use to match colours? Do you send your artwork in pantone and your guys matches it?) Sorry…went off topic for a sec. Anyway, I have a shopify acct (glad I got that right), waiting for my printer to come back with the first batch of shirts (fingers crossed) and trying to get Paypal to sort out my payment process…shipping i have no clue lol but Im def taking onboard all your advice. Oh, I’m doing this all from Dubai!!! (Do you guys ship here btw?) So can’t wait to see what constant instant intl orders will be like. Im from NJ so maybe I’ll need to localize? Would love to speak with you guys if you’re free at some point.

    thanks again for the sharing the love

  30. Great post!
    Can I ask about the percentage amount of particular t-shirt sizes? In other words: how many MS, ML, MXL, MXXL, WS, WM, WL, WXL you produce per design so that you don’t run own of the most popular sizes and not end up with the least popular unsold? Is there any regularity? After a couple of years in the business you must have gained some experience and made some adjustments I guess…

  31. @Piotrek On average we order about 1 men’s small, 2.5 men’s medium, 3 men’s large, 2 men’s extra large, and 1 men’s 2X. We order women’s sizes any time we notice someone has asked to be notified when the shirt is back in stock in a specific size we don’t carry regularly. Some shirts also are more popular with different groups of people, so we try to rely on the history of a shirt’s sales as much as we can.

    @Najmudeen We do use Pantone. It’s not an exact process, but we work with our printer to get a look we like. PayPal can be frustrating. We use Stripe. We do ship to Dubai, but it can take several weeks for packages to arrive.

  32. I love you guys for writing this post.

    Having only had 100 t-shirts printed so far, but still struggled at Christmas to handle shipping them (so many trips to the post office), I can’t thank you enough for laying out all your findings so honestly. Options are a little more limited here in the UK but I think a lot of the same principles still apply.

    May the good karma return to you in by the bucket load.

    James
    CycleLove

  33. Great article, thank you so much for writing this. I decided to start designing my own shirts just about a week ago, and I’ve already got about 130 ideas lined up. I was dreading entertaining the notion of starting from scratch with finding a printer and how do store these things, and how many to order, how does shipping work, omg!

    I will definitely be hitting you guys up soon with several ideas for t-shirts, just have to get my Photoshop skills working a bit.

    Thank you so very much!!!!!

  34. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I have a question regarding the comments you made about “letting people know” by sending emails to folks in the industry. Can you elaborate on that a bit? How did you chose (and find) those recipients? Any other ideas on getting the word out?

    Thank you again… Jill

  35. Aloha,
    This is a beginner’s question for real. I’ve had a desire to start a t-shirt brand for several years now and I’m really researching now. Your blogs have been a great resource for me, but I need to go even further back to the creative aspect. The ideas I have for my t-shirts are all from visions I have and would have to be drawn or I would have to find clip art (?). How do I get these images from my brain onto a t-shirt? Is this where the printer comes onto the scene? Do I need to know Photoshop or get a particular program?!?! Ugh, where do I start?
    Thanks for your time and any advice you may have for this beginner with very little clue.

  36. Great article!
    When I was 15 I started selling t-shirts at school and quickly came up against many of the hurdles discussed – Today, I run a Subscription Coffee Club and face many of the same challenges with fulfillment. Today, we use a combination between Stripe and WP / WooCommerce —

    Being a recurring subscription, would you still recommend using some sort of shopify setup? I’m not sure they support recurring billing. I’m thinking of sticking with the current setup — but I’ve yet to find a way to connect Endicia directly to the Order Management — would be great to grab at least the shipping address & tracking numbers without copy / paste

    thanks again!

    -adam / http://www.lacoffeeclub.com

  37. Hi Guys,

    First off i think its amazing the way you guys share your valuable experience with everyone. Very selfless. Hats off.
    I’ve been a garment manufacturer for over 10 years, with my own factory in south asia. I can tell you that we make T-shirts with prints (all kinds, puff, pigment, high density etc) for about $4-$4.5 including shipping anywhere in the world. We’ve made stuff for FILA, Disney, Mark & Spencer’s, as well as innovative guys looking to catch a break.
    I’d love to work with you, if its mutually beneficial. So give me a buzz or let people who want help know. Thanks and good luck with everything

  38. This is an excellent read. I have been thinking of getting into t-shirt printing as a side project. Thanks for sharing the details.

  39. Thanks for the article. It’s funny how similar our experiences have been through the process. We actually started as a screen printing and embroidery wholesaler. It wasn’t until recently that we started tapping into the online retail market.
    Although, our core business is high quantity corporate accounts. This enables us to keep the machines moving and it doesn’t take us too far away from where we are comfortable.

    If you ever get a chance to checkout our site it is http://www.t-shirt.time.com

    Thanks and best of luck on your continued success…

  40. Didn’t see this post until just now, but I did see the one from two years ago. And for sure it was fair warning! However, no I didn’t listen. :-) Thanks for linking to my Dev Tees kickstarter BTW!!

    So I want to say thanks to the Nate and Jay for sharing freely so much of the lessons you’ve learned. You guys have helped me big time in getting Dev Tees to a real product. I’ve learned so much through your experience, and I’m very grateful. And thanks for sharing more tips here!

    And for the record, t-shirt business are seriously a PITA. Wanna buy Dev Tees??? :-P Jk…but really.

  41. Great article, thanks for that. One question that I am stuck at right now before starting my little clothing line of t-shirts is the Legal aspect. I have yet to find a good article online or anything that walks through different aspects of setting up the e-commerce shop, what kind of business license to get, what kind of company to become (LLC, S-Corp, etc) , how to get a reseller licese so you get higher discounts etc and etc. Where can I get answers for these questions without spending money on lawyers?… I know the paperwork itself if you do it on your own is 5 times cheaper without lawyers, but again, what is the process? We all have to pay taxes

  42. I was looking into a starting up a T-shirt business at my college campus with the hopes of expanding after that. Did you start off selling physical T-shirts at a stand on the weekends, or was it more like you did everything online and marketed well? Any tips for someone just starting out?

  43. I have a really quick question. I will be starting a online store, how do you recommend shipping to customers in the same city?

  44. Who do you recommend, in terms of honest printers, in the Southern California area? Anyone have any experience with someone they really like? Also, if you have artwork and want to resell T-shirts, any legalities involved? I have copyrighted designs, assume a printer’s making a “work for hire” but don’t want to assume anything!

    Thank you for an amazing article that really cuts through a lot of the confusion for me as I start my T-shirt enterprise!

  45. Great article, very informative! My friend and I are thinking about selling shirts but I have some concerns. Do you know anything about copyright/licensing?

    My friend and I are graphic designers who happen to be big boxing fans. We’ve seen sites selling shirts with boxers on them (past and present) and thought we could make better ones. Most of the designs we saw were made from images you can easily find on google and fight posters made by big name promoters and networks (also on google). We’re looking at these sites and we’re thinking there is no way these sites got permission from all these boxers and promoters to use their faces/logos/names.

    So my question is, is there some secret law that allows sports fans to use athletes on shirts and sell them for profit? To be honest I haven’t done the most extensive research on this, but enough to come to understand that we can’t. The other sites are either not caring if they get sued or I overlooked a giant loophole. Thanks!

  46. Hello Guyz,
    Trying To Launch My own Clothing Line Starting with T-shirts and snap back Hats. All Inspired My Real Life adversity intended to inspire and motivate anyone who is in a difficult situation or anyone trying to achieve a goal or anyone battling an Illness.That is the premise of My Clothing Line and what the name Means Which Speaks for itself.All My Designs I want to Start with are Completed.I am in the Process of locating a fabric manufacturer once that is Done, I need a qualified Printer.

    Thank You For all Your Advice and taking the time out of your very bizzy schedule to share your knowledge in the business.
    How Do I Chose A very Talented Printer.I Live In NYC. Do You know anyone you can Recommend.

    Thank You
    Joli Alfano

  47. Hi, great article.

    As someone said in the comments there is lots of good advice for any type of business here. It’s also great that your prepared to share it.
    Whats your experience with say organic and ethically produced t-shirts?
    I’m asking as I work in Europe for Continental Clothing. We specialise in both with a quality/fashion edge and wondered how that impacts on the market in the US.

    Mark Wells @ Continental Clothing http://www.continentalclothing.de

  48. Thanks so much for this! We’re just getting started selling t-shirts (other things, too, but t-shirts will be our focus), and you’ve shared so many great resources here. I really appreciate it when someone up ahead lights the trail for the rest of us who are finding our own way.

  49. Hello! Designing and selling tees is great fun, profiting from it is important, but nothing beats working on them, wearing your own tees and to see people on the streets wearing your tees. When it comes to starting your own t-shirt eshop, do you think it will work if only one design is up for sale? Or do people find this unprofessional and shun it? In short, is it sort of necessary to print 3 or more tees to consider yourself creating a t-shirt label? Or it does not matter at all?

  50. I’m glad I came across this article to help me get back into the game. I started binaryclothing.com a couple years ago as a niche graphic tee shop for all things geeky, not knowing how to get started in retail clothing – I tried the whole social media blitz – facebook here, twitter there. I think I sold 2 shirts a month. My second daughter was born and I let the site sit idle for at least a year. No sales. I’m itching to get back into it now..I’ve got a redesigned site with Shopify – though its pretty basic but gets the job done. I truly take to heart all the things mentioned in this article, especially customer service.

    I don’t want to see desperate but I’m looking for any advice that can help drive traffic, drive sales….get rid of the hundreds of shirts I had printed and purchased in bulk in my basement :)

    Thanks

  51. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Sooo much for this Blog! I’ve been working at this for tooo long now, I’m always on the look out for GOOD, POSITIVE commentary on how to run a successful online business, especially when it comes to T-Shirts. I don’t Know Where to ‘look’ for or how to write BLOG’s, so when I happen upon one I go for broke! This one answered MANY of my questions that I’ve been pondering.

    I do have a concern however of Storage and (now) Returns.
    Last thing… Can You tell me something about How You got the initial FUNDING for your business? #WhoSaidYES #WhatDidYOUSayToMakeItHappen Thanks

    Can you offer other Customer Service sites Besides zendesk.com? It would be helpful to me, Thanks. =)

  52. Great write up. I’m one of the new ones to the party and this whole shipping thing is confusing! I can understand if it’s just one or two shirts but if a customer orders more than four or five and how to reduce the costs on that.

  53. Awesome article and applaud you for sharing your lessons with the countless number of aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s a tough game to get into and there are a ridiculous amount of people thinking they have the next great idea for t-shirt designs (myself included).

    Seems like you guys have had to put a ton of elbow grease into the start of it and I commend you for what you guys have done thus far. Inspiring, humbling, eye-opening and motivating article. I’m now a fan.

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