How to Market your Custom T-Shirt Designs on Etsy

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If you’re new to marketing your custom t-shirt designs, then you’re in for a treat when we explain the amazing opportunities for marketing to niche buyers on Etsy. The power of Etsy is that it is a highly trafficked marketplace for buyers interested in purchasing something of unique and artisanal value. These are the kinds of buyers that will bypass the confusion and less than optimal designs found on sites like Zazzle and Café Press to pay a premium for high quality, artistically superior works of “art.”

The key is to find a niche that has enough interest and to offer a unique design that can’t be easily copied by other t-shirt artists. Some niches are fairly oversaturated like bridal and children’s birthday party tees, so to be successful in that arena, you’ll either need to have an exemplary design that’s really different, or learn how to maximize Etsy’s ranking algorithm, (which we’ll go over in a bit.) Hopefully you’ll be able to do both.

shopping on Etsy

Setting up a good Etsy shop is time consuming, it just is. If you skimp on this critical phase of your business, you’ll never really know if you optimized poorly, or if your designs just weren’t speaking to your target audience. Optimizing your shop and listings is essential to be found on Etsy. In 2017, Etsy announced a partnership with Blackbird Technologies to improve the user experience for buyers, because if people aren’t finding what they’re looking for, they’ll go shopping someplace else. As it’s just in the infancy with this partnership, we can only share with you our predictions for the new user experience.

Rankings are likely going to consist of a variety of factors like the positivity or negativity of reviews, the number of reviews, and the complexity and thoroughness of product descriptions. It may even take into account your reliability, such as how quickly you respond to user questions. Rankings will be of particular importance if you choose to go after a highly saturated niche. If you think about, how many pages would you go through of very similarly designed t-shirts before just settling on a listing based on price alone? Instructions on how to optimize your listing for the best results are gone over in detail in Etsy’s seller handbook. This is a list of best practices to get the most out of your experience in marketplace.

Outside of the Etsy marketplace, there are lots of ways to market your custom t-shirt designs and drive people to your Etsy shop. Create a Pinterest account that is focused on your shop and create appropriately titled boards for your pins. Make sure to pin from your pubic facing Etsy account. Describe the pin very briefly as Pinterest only shows a little bit of text accompanying the image but make it keyword rich so it can also be found independently on Pinterest. Your Etsy shop should also have a Facebook business page and a profile on Instagram, Twitter, and other visually engaging sites like Tumblr or even Wanelo if appropriate.

Encourage repeat business by offering a follow up discount code after your item has been delivered. You can proposition the code as a simple discount on a future order or market as a referral code to encourage the buyer to share the code with friends. Another approach to discount codes is to make the offer for a limited time. If your customer sees it as a good deal they may go back to your shop immediately and purchase additional products to add to their order.


Ask your friends to share the word about your Etsy shop on their social media profiles. If you have a friend or two that seems to have a ridiculous amount of followers with engagement, you could entice them to share your shop’s URL along with a pic of the t-shirt design you printed and sent to them for free. Yes, free. The reason why we mention a friend with a high number of followers is that professional influencers on social typically charge quite a bit for a product mention so hopefully a close friend would just be grateful for a free tee.

Hold an Instagram contest with one of your t-shirt designs as the prize that requires entrants to tag a friend and the method of entry. As of the date of this publication, you can also make following your account a stipulation of official entry. As long as you state in the contest description that the contest is in no way affiliated with Instagram, you can run a paid promotion for pretty cheap. Instagram is still a really effective way to grow your visibility as a t-shirt designer.

social sharing

When you’ve developed a following of people that have favorited your designs on Etsy or followed your shop, every time you add a new listing or renew your listing, that listing is top of feed when your fan base logs into their account. This is a great argument for short listing durations. While it may be more work to renew listings, it’s a lot easier to stay top of mind with people who already like what you have to offer.

List your best social channels in multiple spots in your Etsy shop. If people love you’re product, they’ll follow you on other channels to stay in touch with new products or designs you come up with in the future. Increasing followers outside of Etsy is a viable strategy to amplify your reach.

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