How to Start a T-shirt Dropshipping Business
There are many people out there who want to create their own business but just don’t know what to do. Some of them have ideas but aren’t sure how to validate them, while others don’t even know where to begin. With the popularity of eCommerce, having a business is more possible than ever due to the low entry barrier that the online world can offer. If you’re interested in trying something out but don’t know where to start, why not find out how to start a t-shirt dropshipping business?
Dropshipping is an easy business model to implement and building an online store can be done with no coding or technical knowledge. This type of business can typically be started with minimal investment but the costs will of course vary depending on how much of the work involved you want to do yourself. You can do everything yourself and bootstrap the business or you can invest a bit of capital in it and try to hit the ground running. Both ways can lead to equal or greater success, but the amount of success you achieve will be determined by you and your actions.
Let’s get started.
What is a T-shirt Dropshipping Business?
You probably already know what t-shirts are, so let’s start with dropshipping.
Dropshipping is a business model that is essentially the practice of outsourcing your shipping and delivery while never holding any stock of the products you sell.
You can have an eCommerce website showcasing a bunch of t-shirts that you sell online, except you don’t actually have any of them on you. The t-shirts are kept with either the supplier or manufacturer of them and every time someone places an order on your website, that supplier or manufacturer receives your customers order details and fulfills it for you.
This can eliminate a lot of overhead costs for you such as warehousing and staff since the whole business is based online and there’s generally no need for a physical space. Some dropshipping websites can get big and require larger operations behind them such as sales, marketing, and customer service staff but this isn’t something you would need to worry about for quite some time, if ever. There’s plenty of dropshipping stores which turn over 6 figures and are run by one person and a laptop but every store would have different requirements so it’s important for you to do your research before getting started.
How to Start a T-shirt Dropshipping Business
There are many ways that you could start a t-shirt dropshipping business and many different suppliers and companies that you could use to do so. We are going to focus on one particular method to simplify this and save some time for you. We are also going to leave out the obvious fact that you may have to register a business in your country so you will need to research the applicable regulations and procedures relevant to you. Your initial upfront cost to get started will be to purchase a domain name for your website, which would be about $11 USD per year depending on which company you buy it from. This will be covered later on in this guide.
So, how is this business done?
Print On Demand T-Shirts
Print on demand merchandise is more common than you think. Basically, it’s a form of white-labeling, which is when a product or service is produced by one company and is rebranded by another.
You’ve possibly heard of many companies which buy blank t-shirts from overseas and then stamp their own brand on it before selling it to consumers. Many big retailers do this, and some popular brands that you know could even be buying the same blank shirts as each other.
This is kind of what you would be doing, except with a lot less work involved since you will be fashion dropshipping. This is why selling print on demand shirts online can be really great, so let’s take a look at one way of doing this.
Printful is a print on demand dropshipping company that has fulfillment centers on the East and West Coasts of the USA and another one based in Europe. They can ship to virtually every country in the world, even if your customers are far away from these centers.
With Printful, you’re free to create your own merchandise and sell it online while utilizing them as your screen printers and fulfillment service. You simply sign up for an account, upload your designs, and integrate their platform with a Shopify or WordPress store.
They can use generic packaging so there is no indication that Printful sent the products to your customers or you could pay a bit extra for your own branding options.
Looking for print on demand t-shirt companies can be hard, which is why we suggest Printful, due to the ease of use and integration with the Shopify and WordPress platforms so you can start selling sooner. This combination can help to streamline the most crucial elements of your t-shirt dropshipping business while you focus on generating sales and customer service.
Don’t forget, this business shouldn’t be something that you just throw up to try and make some money. You should have a genuine interest in building it and turning it into a brand. Your own brand. Doing it this way is far better than dropshipping some random shirts from AliExpress and far more sustainable. You need to use the best print on demand t-shirts for your business and a good platform to facilitate building your brand, not some cheap designs that everyone else is pushing.
Building a T-shirt Dropshipping Business
Now it’s time to get started. Honestly, you could have a print on demand t-shirt store set up and running within 24 hours, but that would be rushing things.
We recommend you take your time and go through the process thoroughly. How many sustainable businesses can you think of were made in such a short amount of time and are still thriving today?
Probably close to none.
Take your time and plan everything out meticulously. Using the best t-shirt dropshippers is crucial for your business, just like planning every step out is. The extra work and patience that you put in now could pay off immensely for you in the long run. The following stages have been summarized to make them easier to read and follow. They will link to additional resources and guides that you can follow to complete each stage as you progress, and you can refer back to here as a reference point.
Finding A Niche
First of all, you will need to decide what niche you’re going to get into. Think about your interests and hobbies and how you could incorporate them into t-shirts without infringing on anyone’s copyrights.
We have written a guide here on How to Find a Niche that you can follow for an in-depth procedure.
Here are some popular niches for selling t-shirts online:
Quotes – Motivational, Inspirational, Funny, etc.
Cars – Different models for enthusiasts
Jobs – Jokes about engineers
Culture – Things people from a certain culture would know
Animals – Cute cats/dogs
Analyzing The Market
Once you have shortlisted some niches, it’s time to see if they are viable. You need to analyze the competition to see if it’s worth it for you to enter this space.
That guide on How to Find a Niche we linked to before includes a section on Competitor Analysis for you to use. Make sure you pay close attention to keywords, trends, and search volume before you decide to pursue with a niche.
Don’t worry if you’re niche is huge and seemingly saturated. There may be plenty of t-shirt dropshipping websites selling print on demand products of quotes and animals, but there’s still room to carve out your own slice.
The main concept itself may be saturated, but you can create your own micro-niche and have less competition. There may be a lot of shops selling cat t-shirts, but how many specialize in selling t-shirts of cats on skateboards? Just an example, but you get the idea.
You’re going to need some designs to go on these t-shirts, so let’s take a look at a few options you have available.
Make Them Yourself
Hire A Designer
Free Images for Commercial Use
The following websites state you can use and modify their images royalty-free and with commercial use:
Once you have your designs, you need to put them onto a shirt so your customers can see what they’re buying would really look like.
Lucky for you, Printful has a built-in mockup generator tool for you to use. This is awesome because you can use these as product photos for your eCommerce store, saving money on hiring models in the process if you want to bootstrap. Or, you could order some samples from Printful and then take professional product photos and remove the background using Clipping Magic.
Set Your Pricing
After you have chosen which shirts you want to sell, you will need to figure out your pricing. Pricing is very important, as your business will have some overheads that you need to account for. A traditional business would need to cover costs such as rent for an office or warehouse and staff as well. Online businesses can be a lot cheaper to run if you just have a website. In this case, you will need to account for the costs of your eCommerce site which would be the yearly domain fee and monthly hosting fee.
We have created a guide here on How to Price Your Products which could give you some insight into how you can structure your pricing.
Develop Your Brand
This isn’t a business selling other peoples products; these are your products.
You have the opportunity to create your own brand and not be bound by someone else’s creative direction. Put some love and care into it and create a brand that you’re proud of.
Here, you will come up with a name for your t-shirt dropshipping store.
We have created a Branding Strategy Guide here to help you out.
Once you have chosen a name, make sure that there are names available for social media platforms so you can claim them.
Next, you can register a domain name from here for about $11 USD per year.
Create Social Media Accounts
You’re crazy if you don’t utilize social media for this.
Not only does it give credibility to your brand, enable you to provide customer service, and boost your overall profile, it can also drive traffic to your store and facilitate sales and marketing.
You should create accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, even if you’re focused on some channels more than others.
Build A Website
You will need a website to sell your t-shirts online, and Shopify and WordPress both provide an amazing platform that enables you to do this.
If you decide to go for WordPress, then you will need to learn how to use it before you can build a store with it.
Don’t underestimate the power of email and make sure you collect your visitor’s email addresses so you can market to them. Offer a coupon code in exchange for their email, as this is a very effective way to get people to sign up for your newsletter.
Check it again.
Go over your store, make sure you haven’t made any mistakes such as spelling and grammar errors, and that everything on the store functions the way it should.
Click on every single link on your website to confirm they go to the correct pages. Test all of your product images to see if they can zoom and also make sure the products can be added to the shopping cart and you can proceed to the checkout page.
Once you’ve gone over everything and you’re ready to make sales, make sure the checkout works and you can accept payments.
Can’t make any sales without any visitors.
First and foremost, start promoting your store on your social media accounts since you’ve already created those. You don’t need to spend any money here, just post your products on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest using relevant hashtags and links back to the products where you can.
You can get into paid advertising if you want and this could generate you results a lot faster. Many people create Facebook ads or try out Google AdWords to get traffic to their eCommerce website. While paid advertising can be incredibly effective, it can also be incredibly wasteful if you don’t optimize your campaigns properly. It’s your own fault if you don’t select the right keywords or audiences, so make sure research this element of your niche and to test different ads and sales copy to find a winner.
Here are some ways you can generate traffic.
If you want to step it up a notch you can create an effective content marketing strategy to give your brand credibility and help increase your sales. Content marketing is a slower process with long-term results, but can be absolutely amazing in the long-run and should not be overlooked.
Business doesn’t stop once a sale is made.
Your customers are going to have questions and you should be building an email subscriber list of both customers and visitors. Consider implementing a live chat system or a chatbot to handle visitors on your website in real-time while they’re interested in your products. These can greatly increase your sales as the visitor can have their queries answered fast and purchase your product before having the need to look at your competition.