Selling T-shirts can be a very profitable business. If you have some artistic talent and drawing skills it can be even more profitable. You don’t even need a special printer or equipment. In fact you don’t even need to keep an inventory because there are services such as printaura.com that will print the shirts, ship them and even handle any issues on your behalf. The idea came to me while I was watching YouTube videos. Almost all the popular vloggers out there get t-shirts as gifts from their subscribers, and, every time they find one in the mail, they look so happy and enthusiast about the new gift which they just received! Even one of my friends once sent me some t-shirts as a gift. People love t-shirts! They love expressing themselves using their clothes, they love giving cool t-shirts to the people they care about, and they love art. Since portraits, graffiti and artwork in general are readily available on the Internet for free, selling prints and original artwork on the Internet is a very tough job. Many people have high-quality laser printers or Ink-jets that can do any paper-printing job professionally, and let’s face it: when it’s for personal use, no one cares about copyrights. T-shirts are a different story though. A special printer is needed to print on clothing and this costs several grand. The average Joe doesn’t have one in the basement, so people will still invest in shirts. Keep in mind , however, that there is a lot of competition out there. So to be successful in this business, we need to be creative, original and appeal to the widest possible audience. How do we do that?
STEP I: Create a T-shirt
This is the very first step of course, but the cool thing here is that we don’t need to actually create a physical t-shirt. All that is needed is to create a unique design that our potential customers will want to have on their chests. The truth is that you don’t even need to be an artist. Surprisingly enough, some of the best-selling t-shirts out there are made of plain text and (sometimes) very simple graphics. Here is one t-shirt that has a lot of success on eBay:
This is a very simple design, which takes any lobotomized monkey just about fifteen seconds to complete in Photoshop. Simply use the text tool for the text, and the shape tool to create the arrows automatically. The power of designs like these comes from the message they carry, not the graphics. The arrow saying “the man” points to the face of the guy who is to wear the t-shirt; the arrow saying “the legend” points to his … groin. The eBayer selling this t-shirt sold forty of these in one month. Even if he’s making a profit of $1 from these, that is $40 in passive income every month with fifteen minutes of work once. The key to making this business work is not to focus on the graphical design of the shirt, but rather the message that the t-shirt carries.
People put on graphic tees as a means to communicate with others. Just like verbal and body language, t-shirts are another form of human communication, much in the same way such as when a dog sniffs another one to show some interest in it. If you print the Mona Lisa on a tee chances are it will not do as good as the simple design above. After all what man doesn’t want to approach every woman telling her, “Hey babe! I will give you the time of your life!” Most guys are too shy to actually do it, and those who aren’t are probably smart enough to realize that they wouldn’t be successful with that approach. Having one’s sexual prowess printed on a shirt is considered “funny”, as opposed to communicating it verbally to a woman, which would be considered vulgar and gross by most.
T-shirts are a great way for people who are shy to communicate with others. They can express themselves to strangers, who they don’t even know, without even talking to them. The secret here is to find the right message and the right customers who will want to wear that message. The best people to whom t-shirts should be marketed are college-aged folks. Older people don’t enjoy using this form of expression as much, and younger ones are likely to not have enough cash to spend their money on them. Get the message right, and it’s forty shirts a month; get it wrong and it’s a fiasco.
STEP TWO: Sign Up to Printaura or a Similar Service
Once you create the design to be printed on the tee, the toughest part of the job is done. There are many services on the Internet that will print and even ship your t-shirt directly to your customers. All you need to do afterwards is to just sell the t-shirts! Printaura are the easiest I have found to work with. They have the lowest prices, as far as I know, you don’t need to order minimum quantities and they are easy to work with. Ouch…I know what you’re thinking, but, no, they don’t have an affiliate program and I am not working with them in any way. They charge a minimum fee of $13.75 including shipping charges to print and deliver a t-shirt. This means that you will need to charge something on top of that to get a profit for yourself (and cover eBay and Paypal fees, if you sell on eBay). Finding a cheaper service wouldn’t be bad. Do you know of any? Let me know in the comments below. Just don’t use the word “genuine” in your comments since I noticed that 90% of the spammers use that in their spam, and so I blocked all comments containing the word “genuine”. How cool is that? But I digress…
Setting your account on Printaura is very easy. You don’t need to place a minimum order or prepay anything. Just register and upload your t-shirt design. When you sell a t-shirt, place an order with Printaura and have them ship it directly to your customer. They also have some plugins available, which enable us to automate the whole process, making this business even more passive!
STEP THREE: Sell the T-Shirt
You can sell your tees on Etsy.com, eBay.com or Amazon.com. Each of these platforms charges quite a few fees, so those have to be taken into consideration before pricing the t-shirts. It’s important to not be greedy. A profit of $1–2 should be enough. The goal here is to create as many t-shirts as possible and to sell a large quantity, not to make a huge profit for every sale. It’s very simple to create a t-shirt in fifteen minutes. Working six hours a day for one week, one can easily create like 150 t-shirts. Selling ten of each every month at a profit of $1, means earning $1500. Now, let me be clear (or I will end up sounding like one of those money-making gurus, whom I hate so much!), this is NOT easy. Selling forty t-shirts in a month is an exceptional result. Selling ten of them is pretty tough. Most people end up selling only one every three months or so. It takes a lot of trial and error, frustration and research to get that result. On top of that, expect people to low ball you, if you are successful. The big guys are always looking to steal the small guy’s ideas. They have their own t-shirt printing machines, and can produce them at costs that we aren’t able to compete with, so don’t take t-shirts as a get rich quick scheme. They are not, but we can get clever and try alternative methods to be successful in this business, even though we don’t have the same resources that the big guys do.
First of all, you can sign-up on Society6.com and Redbubble.com. These offer services like Printaura, but they also sell the tees on your behalf, and not just tees, but also iPad covers, prints, hoodies, posters and anything you can imagine that can be printed. The best thing is that you don’t have to find any buyers in this case. They will list your design in their marketplace, and, whenever someone buys an item, you earn a commission. Different strategy; same end result as using Printaura+eBay.
Of course, as can be easily guessed, competition is fierce on those platforms too. However, there is yet a third and more clever way to sell t-shirts. As I mentioned in the introduction, many popular YouTubers love t-shirts and so do their subscribers. So, a nice and neat idea could be to design some tees themed with the subject of some popular channels and ask the channel owner to promote the t-shirts in exchange for sharing profits with them. Some of these YouTubers have as many as one million views per video. If they manage to convince ten people to buy on each video they put out there, we’re in business. Many of these YouTubers, despite their huge following, do not monetize their channels other than using AdSense. They don’t even seem to know what affiliate marketing is, or how they could benefit from it, so don’t rule out the idea that they might accept, especially if you send them a cool specimen before asking them.
Remember that once you sell the t-shirt, you’re done. You don’t have to ship anything yourself. So what are you waiting for? Set your brains working and design a few cool tees! As I said above, the key to success is the message that the tee communicates, so make it funny, witty, enjoyable and sociable, and you’ll get it right. Let me know in the comments below how you’re doing!