How To Start A T-Shirt Printing Business
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Are you ready to hear this?
The T-shirt business is a $20 billion dollar a year industry!
This business is quite an impressive market into which many new start-ups are entering. You too can venture into this multi-billion dollar industry, as it does not take that much to get started, even on a small scale.
Among the considerations you will need to make to get started are good planning, the right market, strong branding and promotion, enough money, the right equipment, and reliable suppliers.
Actually, there are a variety of ways to print T-shirts and you will need to identify the best solutions for your T-shirt business. It is not that simple to choose the best T-shirt printing equipment or to find the right people to work with you. So, take the time to research and investigate the T-shirt market before plunging into a printing method.
Working with screen prints requires a longer time in learning the ins and outs of that business. It is, however, less costly to produce for large orders. Working with heat transfers machine and digital ink-jet prints, on the other hand, is quite easy to achieve with very little training. You will find, however, that this method is slower and is best for small orders that can be produced within a small-scale operation.
Table of Contents
Practical Steps to Get Your T-shirt Printing Business Off the Ground
Bring Your Passion and Love Into It
One thing you will definitely need to succeed in a business is genuine passion. Without it, you will crumble when challenges and tough times hit your business. Your passion will carry you through the dry times when funds are not rolling in despite your best efforts at making and selling your T-shirts. You will have to put in countless hours without seeing the returns immediately.
This is the time for you to hang in there and allow your passion for your T-shirt business to drive you to success. Never mind that during the process you will make a ton of mistakes because in the beginning of your T-shirt journey you do not know much and you have to learn everything you need to know or figure things out for yourself. With your passion, giving up is not an option.
Research, Research, Research
It goes without saying that even before you spend your first dollar on your T-shirt printing business you need to put in the research. Get to know the ins and outs of the clothing industry and the T-shirt market in particular. Read as much as you can on how competing brands managed to succeed. Get familiar with the ways the clothing and T-shirt businesses work. Adopt or emulate the successful formulas you are able to identify in your research.
Plan for Your Business
Alongside research is planning. You need to have a clear idea on the type of T-shirt printing business you want to get into. Your research will help you to find your niche and eliminate anything that will hinder you from making your T-shirt printing business a success. You definitely need a good business plan that maps out the key elements of your business.
Topics like who your target market is, the type of T-shirts you will be making, the one or two things that will differentiate your brand from the rest, how you plan to market and distribute your T-shirts, even your pricing strategy will need to be clearly outlined in your business plan.
In addition, it’s a good idea to formulate your brand’s long-term vision, mission, goals, objectives, strategies, and values in your business plan. You also need to plan how you intend to have your business supplied with the raw materials and ingredients, and how much all these will cost you. As it is said elsewhere, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, so take the time to plan your T-shirt printing business completely before you commit your first dollar.
Register Your Business
Although technically you are not required to have a special permit for your T-shirt printing business if it is small scale, you would need to get a general business permit or license if your intention is to launch a corporation or a limited liability company. This would mean filing the proper forms within your state through the business regulatory offices.
If applicable in your state, you may also need a Sales and Use Tax Certificate and Certificate to Make Sales at Retail from your tax department or business regulatory office. You may also be asked to produce your personal Social Security Number, or you may obtain a business tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service.
Of course, if your intention is to remain small scale, you may not need to go through these steps.
Know What Your Competition Is Up to
This might seem like spying, but it is quite necessary for you to get to know your competition very well. Find out what the other T-shirt labels are doing and keep abreast of the latest developments in the competing brands.
Things to keep track of include pricing strategies, design variety, special promotions, and changes in technology or techniques. Not only will you see how you can out-maneuver your competition to grab a larger share of the T-shirt market, you might even learn a few valuable lessons that will only make your own business better.
Ways to keep track of your competitors include blogs, newsletters, industry magazines, social media forums and other methods that will tap into the competition.
Know Your Customers
While you are paying attention to knowing as much as possible about your competition, you should not ignore your target market – your potential customers. After all, it is just as important, if not more so, to learn as much as you can about your potential customers.
Once you know your target market and its preferences, you will be able to print the T-shirts customers are most willing to buy from you. So, avoid the temptation to create T-shirts that only appeal to you as you might very well end up with an inventory of printed T-shirts you cannot move.
Instead, test your T-shirt ideas among members of your target market and get their honest opinions on the quality and appeal of your T-shirts. You may also get feedback through opinion polls if you like.
Work Out the Start-up Costs
You might be surprised at the number of new T-shirt printing businesses that started without a clue as to the final costs of putting out the first products. Inevitably derailment or failure will follow if no thought ever goes into the cost of doing this business.
As you plan and research your business, you need to keep tabs on your costs and expenses. Getting quotes from various screen printers or heat transfer suppliers will give you an idea of the production costs which will help you determine how much you can actually charge for each T-shirt to make a profit. In addition to the cost of printing, consider the cost of labeling, packaging, transportation, and other processes to get your product from your workshop to the customer.
Don't forget certain accounting and taxation costs that you also need to factor into your business expenses that you must recover somehow.
Promote, Promote, Promote
An effective promotion strategy is great for your T-shirt printing business. So, take the time to map out how you intend to get the word out about your brand new T-shirt printing business. Your objective at this point is to get potential customers and supporters to discover your brand.
Every conceivable method to get people’s attention would need to be part of your promotional arsenal. Both free and paid promotional methods will work just fine. Potentially rewarding promotional media include blogs, press releases, paid ads, social media, networking, websites (both for your business and in collaboration with a partner), fliers, T-shirt giveaways, local trade fairs, and online forums.
The possibilities are endless and the main thing that may limit you, of course, is the size of your marketing budget. Nothing, however, beats the word of mouth advertising of a satisfied customer, so in your marketing efforts, try also to provide the best product and service that will get your customers raving about your business
Select the Best Supplies and Equipment
To get started on the right footing you also need to find the suppliers of the best raw materials and equipment. Your research would have already given you a few clues as to who and what these are. The good news is that you really don't need much to start a small-scale T-shirt business.
You can find good quality blank T-shirts for a reasonable cost at wholesalers online and offline. You also need to decide whether your T-shirt printing business will use screen printing or a heat press. Expect a higher quality product from screen printing which requires more experience to make. If you prefer the heat press note that this technique is less costly and easier to use on your own.
Don't forget to check out the best T-shirt design software for your business. T-shirt design software is provided with templates that you can use to create both back and front designs. Templates make it easier for you to create designs in the proper size. Alternatively, you may choose graphic design software to design your T-shirts. Such software allows you more freedom to create your design in any style and size you want.
Don't Throw in the Towel
You have done everything to get your T-shirt printing business started but you have not seen your first sale yet. This is not the time to quit and throw in the towel. Instead, review your business to discover any weaknesses that you can resolve. Practice using your equipment to make better designs.
Give away a few sample T-shirts to family, friends, and colleagues. Read more about the T-shirt business and be motivated to continue. Continue to watch your competitors and see how you actually compare with them. Work to improve your product quality and your efficiency.
Keep your passion for your T-shirt printing business alive. Also, don't forget to have fun while you are doing your business. After all, it's your own T-shirt printing business and you should be passionate about it.