Starting your own business is an opportunity to become your own boss, operate on your own schedule and become financially independent.
The best part is you can tap into the T-shirt industry from the comfort of your own home, thanks to the power of the internet and digital tools like WordPress and WooCommerce.
Whether you’re a talented artist hoping to share your designs with the world, a budding entrepreneur looking to start a profitable side hustle or someone contemplating a career change, this guide will show you how to start a T-shirt business from home.
Reasons to start a home-based T-shirt business
There are several compelling reasons to start a T-shirt business from home. Here are a few.
Low start-up cost
Starting a T-shirt business requires a low capital investment. While the exact amount varies depending on your choices and business model, you’ll likely spend less than on many other ventures to sell physical products.
If you opt for a print-on-demand business model (which you’ll soon learn about), the start-up costs will be even lower as you won’t have to buy any significant equipment or stock up on T-shirts before selling them.
T-shirts are a staple item in many people’s wardrobes. In the U.S., it’s estimated that the average person has around three T-shirts. Meanwhile, the T-shirt market is projected to grow annually by 3.52% between 2023 and 2027.
Starting a T-shirt business means entering a market with a solid, growing demand — which signals a high potential for you to profit.
A home-based T-shirt business is perfect if you’re looking for an enjoyable side hustle to supplement your income.
This business model offers a lot of flexibility: You control your working hours and earn additional income without overwhelming your everyday routine. Plus, your T-shirt eCommerce store can operate 24/7, making you money even while you sleep.
If you have an artistic flair, a T-shirt business offers an excellent opportunity to express and monetize your creativity.
Incorporate your interests and passions into your T-shirt designs. Whether that’s pop culture, sports, animals or abstract art, designing clothing is an enjoyable creative outlet that also brings in revenue.
Plus, consumers are drawn to products and services from a clearly passionate person.
T-shirt businesses are highly scalable. You can begin with a small inventory catering to a local or niche market. When you build a loyal customer base, gradually expand your operations and increase your ad budget.
You have other growth options, too. You can choose to add more types of clothing to your product lineup, target new niches or incorporate new designs — the possibilities for expansion are immense.
Several digital platforms are available to create your new T-shirt business. WordPress stands out as the top choice for several reasons.
It’s easy to use
WordPress’ user-friendly interface makes it a fantastic choice for beginners. You’ll enjoy an intuitive dashboard that allows even those with minimal technical knowledge to create and manage a professional eCommerce website for their business.
WordPress offers unrivaled customizability, with thousands of predesigned themes and plugins available.
You can modify every aspect of your T-shirt business website — from layout to color schemes to fonts — to create an online presence that accurately reflects your brand, aligns with your vision and appeals to your target audience.
WooCommerce is available as a plugin that seamlessly integrates with WordPress. It simplifies the process of setting up an eCommerce store, managing orders and handling shipping.
Starting your online T-shirt business on WordPress is often considerably more cost-efficient than building a custom website from scratch or buying a website builder subscription.
WordPress and WooCommerce are both free to install. Many themes and plugins are available for free, or at affordable prices, to enhance your website’s functionality and aesthetics.
Lastly, WordPress boasts a massive global community comprising millions of developers and users who offer valuable support and guidance.
Whether you’re trying to troubleshoot a compatibility issue on your website or you need recommendations of the best plugins for a particular task, you’ll certainly find the help you need within this community.
1. Define your niche.
2. Make a business plan.
3. Decide on a T-shirt supplier or sourcing method.
4. Create your T-shirt designs.
5. Create mock-ups or take photos.
6. Set up your online store.
7. Market your store.
When you’re ready to start your T-shirt business from home, here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it using WordPress.
Honing in on a specific niche enables you to design products and marketing strategies tailored to the interests and preferences of this audience, which increases the chance they’ll really appreciate it.
A niche also differentiates your business from competitors. When customers want T-shirts in this specific niche, they’ll come to you instead of Walmart and its generic stock.
If you’re having a hard time identifying a niche, consider the following approaches.
What are some of your interests or passions? Consider these as potential niche ideas for your T-shirt business.
For example: If you’re a fitness enthusiast, your niche could be T-shirts with motivational quotes about exercise. If you’re into astronomy, your niche could be T-shirts adorned with images or drawings of planets and stars.
Building your niche around something you love has its advantages. First, it makes it easier to stay motivated and engaged with your business, which is a crucial factor for long-term success.
Second, when you’re genuinely passionate about something, it shines through in the products you create, attracting customers who share your interests.
But while personal interests and passions provide a good starting point, they don’t guarantee a profitable niche. Make sure to conduct market research to confirm there’s a real demand for your niche.
To identify possible market gaps your business could fill, start with some self-reflection.
Was there a time you sought a specific T-shirt design but couldn’t find it anywhere? Have friends or family ever mentioned T-shirt designs they wish existed? You could be the one making those designs, attracting exclusive attention.
Another way to identify possible market gaps is to scrutinize your competitors’ customer feedback — on social media, for instance. See if there are any persistent themes that could indicate customers have a desire that isn’t met by other businesses.
Try conducting keyword research. Use tools like Google Trends to understand what potential customers are searching for online about T-shirts. This can identify niches with high demand.
Finally, you can do surveys, using tools like SurveyMonkey, to find out what potential customers feel is lacking in the market, and what they would like to see more of.
Think up a business plan that acts as a road map; describe where you want to end up and link together the various milestones along the way.
If you’re just starting out, you’ll suffice with a business plan that spotlights just the key elements.
Here are some main elements to include in your T-shirt business plan:
- Your brand name.
- A niche and target market.
- A detailed product description.
- Your brand’s mission and goals.
- An analysis of your competitors.
- A strategy for marketing.
- How you’ll track finances.
If you don’t know how to prepare a business plan, search online for a free template. Alternatively, get business plan guidance from experienced entrepreneurs.
If you have a bigger budget, you can hire a professional to craft you a custom-tailored business plan from scratch.
In any case, take your time with this step; you’ll critically need a solid conceptual foundation to start a T-shirt business from home.
How will you obtain your inventory? The best route depends on your needs and budget. Here are the three primary options:
With this approach, you give your print designs to a company. The company prints them on blank products, then ships them directly to customers. Companies offering these print-on-demand services include:
The major advantage of the print-on-demand route is that it eliminates the need for inventory management.
The downside of this T-shirt business model is that you’ll have little control over the look of the final product and its packaging. This approach can also result in lower profit margins because you’ll pay to outsource nearly all elements of production and distribution.
This method involves purchasing blank T-shirts in bulk, then paying a printing company to put your designs on them. The company then delivers them back to you. You’re in charge of stocking and fulfilling orders.
This approach gives you more control over your final product. But it also means more workload since you’ll be responsible for handling your inventory and finding a delivery service.
If you opt for this model, research the different printing methods available. The printing process you choose affects the production cost and time. The main options to learn about are:
- Screen printing.
- Heat transfer.
- Direct-to-garment printing.
This option entails managing the entire process yourself, from sourcing blank products to printing and shipping.
The startup costs will be higher since you’ll have to budget for inventory, machinery and shipping supplies.
The main advantage of in-house production is that you’ll have complete control over the whole process, including printing, packaging and boxing.
You can ensure all your products and packaging meets your exact vision. Customers appreciate high quality and are willing to pay a premium for it. When combined with a personalized shipping experience, you can foster more repeat purchases and customer loyalty.
As with the third-party printing approach, research the available printing methods to determine the most suitable option for your needs and budget.
This is arguably the most exciting part of starting a T-shirt business from home: When you get to unleash your creative prowess.
If you’re confident in your graphic design skills, create your own T-shirt designs from scratch using tools like Adobe Illustrator.
But even if graphic design isn’t your forte, there’s no cause for concern — you have other options.
If your budget permits it, hire a professional designer through freelance sites like Upwork, or design platforms like DesignCrowd, Dribbble and Penji. The artists will bring even your most wild ideas to life.
Alternatively, you can turn to platforms like Canva, which offer ready-made templates you can customize despite limited experience with image editing.
Once your designs are ready, the next step is to create mock-ups or capture photographs of your finished products. You’ll display these images on your online store once it’s up and running.
If you’ll be using a third-party printing company or a print-on-demand service, order a few samples from them and take high-quality photos.
So you’ve locked in your niche, sourcing method and product images; you’re nearly ready to start a T-shirt business from home. It’s time to set up your digital storefront so you can start to sell online.
Follow the steps below to create your online shop.
Secure a domain name: Start by buying a domain name that aligns with your brand’s identity. Use Bluehost’s domain search tool to check if your preferred address is available. If not, the tool will suggest great alternatives that align with your brand. Once you’re satisfied, buy the domain name.
Select a web host: Go for a reputable provider, like Bluehost, that offers hosting plans specifically optimized for WordPress and eCommerce businesses. Peruse the available plans and buy the one you feel best fits your needs and budget.
After buying a plan, you’ll typically receive a welcome email with info on how to access your hosting dashboard and control panel. With those tools, you can start setting up your platform.
Install WordPress: Bluehost offers one-click WordPress installation, so this step should be a breeze. Alternatively, download WordPress if you prefer a manual installation.
Choose a WordPress theme: Select a theme that resonates with your brand and target audience. WordPress offers an array of free and paid themes tailored to various aesthetics and business types.
Install WooCommerce: When you host your store with a WooCommerce plan from Bluehost, the plugin comes preinstalled, reducing the workload for you. If you’re installing WooCommerce by yourself: On the WordPress admin dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New, then search for WooCommerce. Install and activate the plugin.
Set up WooCommerce: Activating the plugin will prompt a setup wizard to help you configure the basic settings for your online store.
Configure payment gateways: To set up PayPal, Stripe and any other preferred payment gateways, visit the WooCommerce settings.
Set up shipping options: Also in the WooCommerce settings, configure your shipping methods and rates.
Add your products: In your WordPress dashboard, go to WooCommerce > Add Products. Alternatively, use Products > Add New. For each product, add relevant information such as its name, description, category images and price.
Install useful plugins: Enhance your store’s functionality and appearance by installing relevant plugins. For example: Use SEO plugins to improve your website’s organic traffic, use social media plugins to get your T-shirts shared more and use contact form plugins to encourage customers to reach out.
Your online store is now set up, but your work isn’t done yet. The next step is to promote your T-shirt company to attract customers. This is where marketing strategies come into play.
Here are a few of the best marketing strategies to consider.
Email marketing: Build an email list to form a direct line of communication with your customers. You can then send your audience valuable content, announce new products and offer exclusive deals.
Search engine optimization (SEO): Boost your online store with SEO to rank higher on Google and other search engines. This involves creating SEO-friendly page titles and product descriptions, improving your website speed and ensuring your pages are mobile-friendly.
Paid advertising: If you have the budget, consider investing in paid ads on Google or social media platforms. This will boost your store’s exposure to a wider audience.
Influencer marketing: Partner with content creators in your niche who can promote your products to their audience. This drives more traffic to your website, which you can convert to sales.
Starting your own T-shirt business from home presents an exciting opportunity to tap into a thriving market. With the right mindset, planning and dedication, this venture will grow into a profitable and fulfilling business.
Each plan even comes with a free domain name for the first year. Kickstart your entrepreneurial journey today.
Starting a T-shirt business from home: FAQs
Starting a T-shirt business with no money can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Use print-on-demand services, which require no upfront investment. You can create designs using free tools. Whenever a customer orders a T-shirt, part of your profit is subtracted to pay for the printing and other fees.
But to maintain a professional and trustworthy website, it’s recommended you buy a domain name and hosting, which can cost as little as $9.95 a month when you use Bluehost’s WooCommerce plan. It even comes with a free domain for the first year.
The equipment you need for T-shirt printing depends on the printing method you choose.
For heat transfer, the primary tools are a heat press machine, transfer paper and inkjet printer.
For screen printing, you need screens, photo emulsion, a dark room (or black garbage bags), transparency paper, a squeegee and ink.
If you choose direct-to-garment printing, you’ll need a specialized printer that can print directly onto clothes.
Your potential income from selling T-shirts varies greatly depending on the business model, marketing and pricing. Profits could range anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month.
Remember that building a profitable business takes time, and initial earnings may be modest. As your T-shirt brand becomes more established and as you refine your marketing and sales strategies, your profit potential increases significantly.