You will be surprised how much you can make

Jason Weiland
Sep 18 · 12 min read
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

How would you like to make $100,000 in just five months selling t-shirts online? Benny Hsu did it and so can you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, but hey, it’s 100K!

How would you also like to have a business where you can have fun? Making people happy with your t-shirt designs is a blast! How about working part-time from anywhere in the world? Once you get your store set up, you can.

The first thing you will probably ask is, “if this business is so great, why isn’t he doing it?” It’s a valid question for which I have an easy answer.

I am a writer. I love to write. Writing, taking care of the business of writing, and building a brand takes all the little bit of time I have.

I came up with an idea for a dropshipping business selling t-shirts with a “beard culture” theme called Remarkable Gentleman. I set it up and made a few sales to see if it was a valid idea and I could build a story around it.

It was and I could.

Source: Remarkable Gentleman. Image by author.

I still run it in the background, but I’m not pushing it. Writing takes most of my time, but when things settle a bit, I’m going to put up a few more designs, run some Facebook ads, and make some profit.

This business will be good for you if you have about 20 hours a week to spare. I set it up already once, and since I am a writer, I documented the whole creation process so I could share it in the future.

I bet you can’t wait! Let’s get started.

Getting set up

There are some important things you should do in the beginning, like getting a business entity set up and choosing a business name, but we won’t talk about that here because the subject is covered in detail plenty of places on the web and all you have to do is Google it.

There are a few things I can help you with though.

Pick a niche

What topic, or subject will your t-shirts cover? What will you focus on? The more specific you are, the better. For example, maybe you want t-shirts for golf pros or coffee lovers. Maybe you are, at heart, a Game of Thrones fan and you want to sell shirts about the show. Pick something you love, because you will be working on your store every day. Don’t pick something you will get tired of in a week.

Your niche will be one of the first things you pick, because it will most likely decide your business name, logo, t-shirt designs, colors, and just about everything else. Choose wisely, but I will say — most people know what niche they want right away!

Where will I sell my t-shirts?

This is a point where you must make some more tough choices. You could choose one of the larger platforms, like Shopify or WordPress, design a store, set up payments, set up your print-on-demand plugins (Printful), and start selling t-shirts. Or, you can do what I did and use Teespring.

Teespring is great because you don’t have set up a website — all you do is enter a bit of information, add your designs, and start selling. And if you want to expand, you can even sell other items like coffee mugs and iPhone cases with your designs on them.

Now all you need is the designs.

Choosing t-shirt designs

The great thing about this important step is that you don’t have to be a designer and do it yourself. It’s an easy thing to commission them on 99Designs or Fiverr.com. Make rough drawings and choose a color palette and let the designers do the rest.

I picked a person who advertised t-shirt designs on Fiverr, because when your order is delivered, you should have the design proof and t-shirt mockups. These are the actual files with your design that will go on the t-shirts and sample pictures of what the t-shirts will look like when shipped. You will put these designs in your Teespring store software.

Social Media Setup

We will go into more detail about social media later, but there are a few things you need to know to launch your store. You need to set up your social media accounts on your chosen platforms, so you have the usernames available to input in your store.

How do you know which social platforms are the best? You should have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest as they are very visual and great for t-shirts. There may be others you also use like Twitter, but it’s up to you.

Now may also be a good time to start getting comfortable with your platforms of choice because you will be working with them every day. The best places to start if you don’t know anything are tutorials on Teespring and a good old Google search.

This time would be good to set up the branding elements for your social media accounts like covers and profile photos. If you don’t know how to create them, Fiverr is a cheap place to get them done.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Do you need a business plan?

If you are an MBA and think you need a business plan, feel free to write one. If you don’t feel the need, write down the answers to these questions and keep them for reference:

  1. What is your company name?
  2. What is your company tagline (if you have one)?
  3. What is your niche?
  4. Who is your target audience, or how does your ideal client look?
  5. What is your USP (what makes you unique?)?
  6. How much do you charge?
  7. What is your monthly revenue goal?
  8. How many new or repeat customers do you need to achieve this goal?
  9. How do you get new customers?
  10. Who makes up your team?
  11. How will you measure success (number of customers, monthly revenue, etc.)?

Sometimes it’s good to get it down in writing, even if you must guess the answers in the beginning.

Adding T-Shirts to Your Store

After your store is set up, you will want to add t-shirt designs. The process is quite easy.

You’ve already commissioned the designs, so all you have to do is load the image files into the Teespring application software. This process ensures the t-shirts are printed properly. Teespring will generate mockups for you in any color you want — and all you need to do is create descriptions.

Descriptions

Product descriptions are one of the most important things you need to get right to guarantee you get sales. Here some tips to make the most out of your descriptions:

  • Be specific — What kind of fabric is used in the t-shirts? How does it feel to wear them? Do you want to include a size guide to help your customer get the right fit and entice them to press the buy button?
  • Be creative — This is where you can shine. Don’t use the same wording as everyone else. Try to be different, edgy, or funny!
  • Don’t forget your audience– Remember who the people are that will be attracted to your t-shirts. How do they talk? Is there specific jargon they use that no one else does? How can you get their attention?
  • Stories are best — People love a good story. If you can somehow create a story about your products, people will respond! If you carry the theme throughout your store, people will enjoy what they see, stay long, and above all, BUY!
  • Keywords — The use of descriptive keywords will make it easier for people to find you on the search engines, like Google. Phrases like “black Star Wars Darth Vader t-shirt” are closer to what people will search for on Google — even more so than the word “t-shirt.”

If you are a writer, this is a good time to spin a few stories, if not, Fiverr has plenty of people who will do it for you.

Once you load the descriptions in your store application and the rest of the set-up is complete, you are ready to launch your store. This is where the fun begins!

Integrations

One thing I haven’t done is to add integrations and take my store everywhere on the web. You can set up on Etsy, Amazon, and eBay. You can integrate with Google, Pinterest, and Facebook and run ads from each. There is so much to do to generate sales. I’ve only scratched the surface. I plan to push my store further than before with all these connections, and so can you! Teespring explains how it’s done on their website.

How to Make Your First Sale

After you push the button to launch your store, you can’t let it sit idle and expect it will get sales. You’ve got to get the word out, and the best first place to start is your personal network. Do you have some Facebook or Twitter friends? Can you send out an email to people you know and ask for their opinion on your t-shirts?

Post first to your social media accounts and direct them to your store. Add a picture of one of your shirts to the post because people respond better to visual content on social media. Pictures are memorable!

Where Do My Customers Hang Out?

The next step is to find out where your customers congregate. If you picked a niche that is near and dear to your heart, you are probably already connected in many ways to your target audience. Facebook groups, forums, and blogs are all places you can find people interested in your products.

But, a word of warning: Don’t just jump on someone else’s blog and start sending out your store URL in the comments. People do not appreciate spamming!

When you post in the Facebook groups or web forums, get to know everyone you can. In your signature or at the bottom of the post, you can add a link to your store or social media accounts without breaking any rules in most cases.

As a last tip, try Reddit. There are many subreddits within, and you are bound to find one that would have many potential customers. Don’t spam — they hate that! You can post a t-shirt picture or a product photo, and your link will be in your profile. It is a great place to get feedback on your designs!

Don’t be blatant! But, if you see an opportunity, take it!

Giveaways or Deals

Come up with a great giveaway or a special deal on your shirts and post it on social media. People love free and discounted stuff!

There are some great resources on the internet with ideas for promotions to run. Be creative!

It’s simple to set up a discount or giveaway in the Teespring software.

Photo by Don Agnello on Unsplash

Social Media Marketing — The Basics

You will find out social media marketing will generate most of your customers. Be careful which platforms you chose and do a thorough job on each. It’s better to have three platforms on which you do an amazing job interacting with your customers than to have many and do a poor job on all.

For a t-shirt shop, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest will work best for you, followed by Twitter. Also, depending on your niche, one may work better than the others, or you may find a platform that works better than these.

You will find out what works and what doesn’t. But, some tactics always work no matter what.

  • Image posts always perform better and get more interaction than text-only. You should be putting your professional mockups and photos out there for your audience to see. Encourage your customers to submit photos of themselves wearing your merchandise and have your own branded #hashtag.
  • Use hashtags to encourage different groups to interact with you. Use popular hashtags or make up your own!
  • Find out who your competition is and follow them. Find out who your competition follows and do the same. Find people and influencers in your niche and ask them for an opinion on your products. If they like what they see, mention them in future posts.
  • Use Google Alerts to find out what people in your niche are talking about and when. Alerts can also give you ideas for future designs.
  • Make sure the design on all your social media sites is consistent. A good design will go a long way towards building your brand and creating buzz around your store. You should also keep the tone of your posts consistent. You don’t want to be folksy one day, and edgy the next.
  • Find out which times in a day get the most engagement. Weekdays usually are best, but finding the specific time when your customers are active is key.
  • Remember, be consistent in tone and voice across your platforms.

Each platform will have its own best practices.

Instagram

The only downside to Instagram is that you can’t put outbound clickable links in your posts, so you must be creative by finding ways for people to interact with you. You can use Linktree and a link in your profile, which is better than nothing. Remember that Instagram is a visual platform, so professional photos and short videos are your bread and butter.

  • It’s best not to post product photos with a white background. Be creative and find ways to display your products that are fun and interesting and have a story. Encourage your audience to mention you or use your hashtag with their photos of your merchandise.
  • If you do use filters, try to use the ones that emphasize warmth (red or yellow) because you will get much more engagement.
  • Use the stories feature to tell stories about your products or make temporary special offers or promotions.

Pinterest

On Pinterest, 2 million people pin products every day. It is a huge platform for pinnable and visual content. This platform will drive a huge amount of traffic for you. Here are some best practices:

  • You can add a pin button to each of your products, so it’s easy for your audience to share them.
  • Like Instagram, product images with a white background don’t work as well as action shots of your merchandise. Images perform better when they are light, tall, and don’t include shots of people.
  • Don’t only promote or pin your own products. Create boards with awesome or funny t-shirts you find on the platform.

Facebook

Facebook the biggest player, but the amount of organic traffic and views to your posts is limited. Facebook will be powerful for you because you can boost posts and run targeted ads. Again, image posts work the best.

  • Make sure you have a business page. Don’t use your personal account.
  • Make sure you fill up your about section with keywords and valuable information so your page is found easier.
  • When you start getting some sales, start thinking about running paid ads. Because of all the information Facebook collects, it’s easier to get a more targeted group getting your ads.

Twitter

Twitter is a great platform, even though the life of your tweets is very short. You must find out the times when your audience is on Twitter and time them accordingly. Again, use images wherever possible.

  • Hashtags are key on Twitter, so make sure you use them effectively.
  • Follow your competitors and find out who they are following and follow them too. Many times, you will get a follow back!
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Final Words

We covered a lot of ground and by no means am I implying I covered everything. I could have one 2000-word post on integrations alone! Do some research. Scour the Teespring website and Google and look for information on the business of running a t-shirt store. Pay close attention to Facebook ads, because they are so targeted that you can reach the exact people who are looking for you.

Learn something new about your store and business every day. Try new things. Always be on the lookout for new designs and cool products.

Above all, have fun. Before long, you will make money, so don’t worry.

When you do, share your success with others and show them how to start a t-shirt business.



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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in places he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.

He would love to connect with you on social media.

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Jason Weiland

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Normal is boring. I love the self-deprecating essay that breaks boundaries and makes people think. jasonjamesweiland@gmail.com

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