Today I’m going to take you step-by-step through the process to start your very own online t-shirt business. Sure, a t-shirt business isn’t likely to be the next Uber, or AirBNB. But, it’s still a totally viable way to make money online.
Well, for a start, online t-shirt businesses don’t require a lot of up-front investment. You also don’t need to be a marketing whiz for your t-shirt business to thrive.
All you need is a laptop, a few bucks and some motivation.
With that, you can start up a fully functioning online t-shirt business in an hour or less. Another great reason to start an online t-shirt business is because -well, it’s a start. You’ll learn more from actually starting a business than you ever could from blogs, articles, or podcasts.
A t-shirt business is a fantastic starting point. Plus, once you’re up and running, you can always expand into other types of apparel, or start another online venture altogether.
Alright, ready to start selling t-shirts online? Let’s talk about the three main ways to start an online t-shirt business. All of these are great business models. But, there’s one, in particular, that’s easiest to get started.
Let’s take a quick look at each, before diving deeper into the preferred method.
Business Model Number 1:
Start A New Brand
This is the most difficult way to build an online t-shirt business, because, for the most part, you’ll have to do everything yourself.
You’ll need to: Create the t-shirt designs from scratch, or hire designers, source t-shirts, and guess how many of each size and colour you’ll need, pay another business to print them, store your t-shirts somewhere, take product photos, create an e-commerce website. Phew! That’s a lot to take on.
Especially if you’re just starting out. But, then there’s…
Business Model Number 2:
Use A Print-On-Demand Service
But a print-on-demand service will fulfil your orders. This means that when a customer orders a t-shirt from your store, the print-on-demand service will receive the order, print the t-shirt and send it to the customer for you.
I know what you’re thinking, “What’s the catch?”
Well, the downside to print-on-demand services is that margins can be small — so, it can be difficult to turn a profit.
To give some perspective, a standard men’s printed t-shirt might cost $12.95, plus $3-4 shipping. This means that if you sell your t-shirts for $20 each, you’ll only make about $3-$4.
You still have to pay for your t-shirt designer, website fees, Facebook ads, and so on. “Okay, so what can I do?”
Well, you may want to consider…
Business Model Number 3:
With dropshipping, you choose pre-designed t-shirts from a supplier, and simply add them to your store. There are tons of t-shirt designs to choose from.
What’s more, dropshipping has all of the fulfillment benefits of a print-on-demand service. Your supplier will take care of printing, storing, and shipping your t-shirts.
But, the best part?
These t-shirts cost almost half the price of print-on-demand t-shirts. That means that, with dropshipping, your profit margins will be much bigger.
So, how do you create your dropshipping t-shirt business?
Well, that’s where I come in. All of this is extremely easy to do with Shopify and Oberlo.
If you don’t know, Shopify is a complete e-commerce solution that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods. It lets you organize products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track orders, and more — all with a few clicks of your mouse.
And then there’s Oberlo. Oberlo is a free app that allows you to easily import dropshipping products from suppliers directly into your Shopify store. It really is as simple as that.
So, are you excited to get your online t-shirt business up and running?
Let’s get started!
First, let’s head over to Shopify.com and sign up for a free trial. I’ll show you how easy it is to get your online t-shirt business up and running with Oberlo.
To start, type our email into the box and click ‘Start free trial’ Then, choose a password, and add the name of our store. And don’t worry, you can easily change your store name later.
As you can see, it just takes a few minutes to create your store.
Shopify then wants to know if we’re already selling something. In this case, I’m going to select, “I’m not selling products yet.”
Shopify also wants to know our current revenue, so I’ll select, “I’m just getting started.” We’re not setting up this store for a client, so I’ll leave the checkbox blank, and click, ‘Next.’
Now, just fill out details and click, “Enter my store.” Now that store’s been created, you find ourselves in the Shopify admin dashboard.
Think of this dashboard as the control centre for all of your business operations.
Now, let’s dive straight into adding t-shirts to store with Oberlo.
The first thing to do is head to the Shopify app store. To do this, click on the apps tab on the left-hand sidebar.
Oberlo will show up as a featured app, so in this case, don’t actually need to click, ‘Visit the Shopify App Store.’
Instead, you can just click ‘Oberlo,’ and it’ll open in a new tab. Then, click ‘Get,’ and Shopify will ask you if you want to install Oberlo on your Shopify store. Just click, ‘Install App.’
Then, will be taken to your new Oberlo dashboard. This is where you’ll find and manage the products that you add to your store.
Alright… So, let’s add a t-shirt to our Shopify store. Inside Oberlo, click on “Search Products,” and punch “t-shirts” into the search field. You can set a filter to look specifically at men’s or women’s t-shirts by adjusting the “category.” This search pulls up thousands of t-shirt options.
Alright, let’s do a more specific search for t-shirts we can add to our store. I’m going to search for ‘unicorn t-shirts.’ Okay, I really like this first unicorn flower t-shirt, and I can see that they’re only $3.90 each, with shipping to America costing $5.99, for a total cost of $9.89 per t-shirt.
Here I can see the sizes and colours available. I’m going to add this t-shirt to my import list. We can also scroll down to view related products and add them to our import list as well.
Okay, now that I’ve selected a t-shirt, I’m going to click ‘Import List’ at the top of the page. Here I can edit the details that show up on my store. So, I’m going to go ahead and change the name, and then add the t-shirt to my home page collection. You can always change these options later, so I’m going to leave the rest blank for now.
Next, I’m going to click on the description tab and edit the product description. And the next tab allows me to choose which variants of the t-shirt I’ll add to my store. In this case, I’ll select small, medium, large, and XL.
We can also set the price of our t-shirt. You can see here that Oberlo shows a recommended price, so let’s use that for now.
Here at the top, Oberlo gives us the option of auto-updating the product’s price. I’m going to turn this on. Then we can go in and adjust the price manually if we want to.
Lastly, we’re going to visit the images tab and select the pictures that we want to showcase on our store.
Okay, now that we’ve configured this t-shirt for our store, we need to click ‘Import to Shop’ for it to be sent to our Shopify storefront.
And, we’re done!
Now that we’ve added a t-shirt to our store, we need to head back over to our Shopify admin dashboard to quickly… Set up our payments and shipping rates.
To set up payments, we’ll click ‘Settings’ in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Then we’ll click ‘Payment Providers.’
Now, for our users in the UK, US, and Canada, our Shopify store is automatically set up with Shopify payments, which allows us to accept payments from all major credit cards instantly.
All we have to do is click, ‘Complete Account Setup,’ and fill in the necessary information. And for users outside of the UK, US, and Canada, don’t worry — Shopify is integrated with over 70 different payment partners, so there are plenty of hassle-free options available.
What’s more, as soon as we open our Shopify store, we’ll automatically be set up with a Paypal Express Checkout account. Then, as soon as a customer users Paypal Express Checkout to buy one of our t-shirts, Paypal will send us an email that contains a link, and instructions on how to set up our account and claim our funds.
Alright, now let’s set up our shipping rates. Let’s go back to Settings, and then click ‘Shipping.’
Now, it’s entirely up to you how you want to set up your shipping rates. You may want to set a standard shipping cost, offer free shipping, or build the cost of shipping into the price of your shirt.
For now, I’ll show you a safe and easy way to set up your shipping rates so that they match the shipping rates that your supplier will charge you.
Here you can see that we have two shipping zones set up: One is domestic, and the other is the rest of the world. If we want to add or subtract countries from these lists, all you have to do is click the edit button on the right-hand side.
Now, we just want to edit our U.S. shipping rates. So, let’s go ahead and click ‘edit.’ Alright, we want to match our shipping rates to our supplier’s, so let’s delete heavy good shipping rates, as we aren’t shipping any heavy goods.
Next, we need to find out how much our supplier charges for shipping. So, let’s head back to Oberlo, click on ‘My Products’ to find our t-shirt, and click through to the product page.
Here, we can click on the shipping information to find out more. And, we can see that shipping to the U.S. costs up to $3.
Alright, our website is looking pretty bare, because we’ve only added one product to our store so far. So, I’m going to head back and add a few more t-shirts.
Okay, now we can easily start customizing our theme by clicking on the ‘Online Store’, ‘Themes’ in the left-sidebar, then the customize button.
We can add photos, edit the text, or scroll to the bottom and remove the section altogether, by clicking ‘Remove Section.’
Let’s keep it simple for now, and remove the Slideshow section We’ll change the ‘Featured Collection’ title, to ‘Favorites.’
And then we’ll add a banner image to our store, and change the heading and text. Take some time to explore the theme customization options to make sure your store looks great.
Okay, let’s save our changes by clicking the ‘Save’ button in the top-right-hand corner of our screen. Now, the store is starting to come together.
We might like to add an About Us Page. We can do this by heading back to our Shopify admin dashboard, and clicking on ‘Pages.’ Here, we can add a page and begin to customize it.
Adding blog posts is also easy. Simply, click on ‘Blog Posts,’ and then ‘Create Blog Post.’
Okay, let’s take a look at your store’s domain. Click ‘Domains’ in the sidebar. Now, all new stores start with a ‘.shopify.com’ address as a way to log in and store our content safely.
However, it’ll look much more professional if you get your own custom ‘.com’ address. You can do this very easily by clicking the ‘Buy a New Domain’ button, and searching for a domain that you like.
Or, if you already have a domain registered, you can connect it to your Shopify store, by clicking ‘Connect Existing Domain.’ When you’re ready to launch, you just need to remove the password protection and your store will go live to the public.
You can do this by clicking ‘Preferences,’ and then ‘Disable Password.’ And there you go! Just like that, you’re all set up with your own fully-functioning, dropshipping t-shirt business.
Now, when a customer orders a t-shirt from your store, an order is automatically sent to your supplier who will ship it to your customer.
That’s it! Well done for sticking with me.
Did you stick on any of these steps?
Let me know how I can help in the comments section below.
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Muammer is a Marketing Analytics Manager at Turkcell. His mission is to empower entrepreneurs and to help them achieve their goals. He also has a passion for illustration.