Updated January 2023
You wouldn’t be hard pressed to find a way to open your own business with the really low entry threshold that comes with a custom t-shirt brand. T-shirts are a staple of the American wardrobe. Finding an audience that is interested in purchasing t-shirts isn’t the hard part. It’s finding the right audience for your design ideas!
Beyond your own specific t-shirt brand style, people are highly interested in personalized t-shirts. We should know, we’ve printed millions over the course of more than a decade. T-shirts are an easy and low cost way to bring together people from all walks of life including military, students, churches, and other organizations.
Because of the inherent bonding quality t-shirts offer, the business of t-shirt design and printing has exploded to meet the demand and make the most of the trend. And in turn, the competition is challenging and requires any t-shirt brand to really stretch the imagination to compete and stand out in an ocean of rival T-shirt designers.
The personal experience of building your own business can be incredibly rewarding. Obviously having a successful business can make a huge impact on other facets of your life like your economic standing in the world. Typically to have a successful business you need to have a passion for what you’re doing. So if you’re not 100% on board with t-shirt design, rethink what you’re doing here.
How can passion help you build a t-shirt brand? Someone who feels passionate about what they do will be able to do the things that take a little longer, are more risky, and are harder to accomplish. Passion will drive you to see things in a positive light and this positivity will propel you down courses you might not be willing to chance if you felt differently.
Personal reflection will be the most important deciding factor to evaluate whether you’re really ready to launch your own t-shirt brand. Here are some practical steps to take once you’re ready to go down this career path.
Develop a business plan – Taking this step will set you far apart from the herd of day traders that are attracted to the t-shirt business. This is the blueprint upon which you can grow. As your business progresses you’ll be able to make smart forecasting decisions and be nimble when your objectives change. In the beginning, consider it like a checklist of things that need to happen and what research needs to be completed.
Choosing products – Your t-shirt designs will be a huge part of your t-shirt brand’s success or failure but what you may not have considered is the influence the kind of t-shirt product will have on your chances for success. There are tons of t-shirt products to choose from. Understanding what is popular amongst certain demographics will help to determine what you choose.
Some demographics are totally fashion conscience and will react best to trendy, well-known t-shirt manufacturers like Bella+Canvas and Next Level. Tri-blends and heathered fabrics are also well received by this segment.
Other t-shirt qualities to keep in mind when choosing a product are how they are manufactured. T-shirts can be either side seamed or tubular. Side seamed tees will appear more fitted and flattering to the body. The counterpart to side seamed is tubular. Since they require less sewing, they are less expensive but will have a more boxy appearance. How a garment is hemmed can impact the longevity of the garment and certainly can impact how the quality of your t-shirt brand is perceived. Quality hemming will lie flat on both the inside and outside of a garment.
Before you commit to a large run of t-shirts for your brand you should always insist upon seeing a sample of the product and doing an inspection for signs of quality. If the hems are bubbling or appear loose, this will likely be indicative of the t-shirt product as a whole.
Your t-shirt printer should be able to source just about any type of product you want to use. Using print-on-demand printers often restricts your creativity and quality control because you have to use the products they offer on their site. The convenience of not having to deal with inventory is countered with little to no opportunity for customization for you as the budding t-shirt brand business. That’s why we recommend going with a t-shirt printer like DesignAShirt.com since we can not only offer a wide variety of products but offer expert advice on products of all kinds. Think of us as a partner instead of a t-shirt printer.
Testing your design- Learning what types of designs resonate with your potential customers won’t necessarily require that you have them custom printed. Mockups can go a long way when testing the market. If you’re just starting out, superimposing the design on a picture of a flat blank t-shirt is the easiest way to achieve this. If you have Photoshop skills you can take it much farther by manipulating shadows and product colors to make the picture seem more realistic.
Without getting too caught up in details, post your t-shirt design idea on social channels to see what kind of reaction you get. This is one of the easiest ways to test the sales potential of a design. Don’t give up if you fail and fail again with your t-shirt designs. While you think people should love them, you never know what makes people tick and what is relatable to them. When you do find a design that has mass appeal you can work on expanding the concept and think of ways to replicate the design elements that made it popular to begin with but with a new twist. This is basically creating a style that uniquely defines your design approach and thus creating a true t-shirt brand.