How to Start an Online Clothing Line On A Budget

How to Start an Online Clothing Line On A Budget

Today I want to talk business. If you’re looking for creative business ideas, you’ve come to the right place! I am going to show you how to start your own online clothing business on a budget. Creating an clothing business or online t shirt shop can be a great way to earn some extra money on the side. Why t-shirts? Wearing t-shirts is a very common thing.


Today we will just focus on t shirts but you can apply the same logic you find here towards other pieces of clothing…


Men and women nowadays wear t-shirts as a staple and casual fashion piece. Creating your online t shirt shop is one of the many startup business ideas that you can use to make money on the Internet. T-shirts are a blank canvas for the creative entrepreneur. Starting a t shirt company is a popular business idea. Opening an online t shirt store is fairly affordable. No matter who you are, it is possible to start a business online.


Many people are selling t-shirts online nowadays.  You are going to face some tough competition. Not to worry.- Competition is a great thing! It means people want to buy shirts and they are looking online to buy them! In order for you to succeed with your online store, you will need to come up with something that people want.


People want designs that they will connect to. You will need to build a brand that people trust and want to pay for. In this guide, I am going to go through how you can start creating your own t-shirt line and start your online store. The key is to get you started and give you a few tips on how you can succeed selling t-shirts online.


Related content on how to start a t shirt shop:


If you would also like to start blogging I created a post on how to create a profitable blog. It’s even better to have a blog and an eCommerce site in this day and age to maximize your exposure and also create your own multiple streams of income!


Let’s not waste anymore time. Here we go!


Starting An Online T Shirt shop is Simple…

Starting your own t shirt line is something that you can do. Even if you do not have alot of money or you are on a budget, this is something you can do. You can make money by being creative. Do not be scared to start your online store. Start with an idea of the kinds of designs you want to sell. You can setup your online store in a few hours.

Shopify offers many apps in their App Store. Inside the App store, you can connect your store to a dropshipper or a t-shirt printer in a few minutes. Connecting your store to a shirt printer or dropshipper will allow it to print the shirts and ship them to your customers! Dropshipping is an affordable option. Starting up your own online store will allow you to launch faster. Dropshipping will allow you to save money.  Keeping costs low is important. You will not have to buy expensive printing equipment.


Online eCommerce is Not Easy

If you thought that all you had to do was start a t shirt store online. Throw up a few designs and make lots of money, you are wrong. The hardest part about building a brand online, is finding out how to stand out from other people. Standing out from your competitors is key. Find out what makes you different. Slim margins and competition in the t-shirt niche is something you will have to overcome. It is hard to start an online t shirt shop. Things are not as easy as you might think. Finding your niche, coming up with unique designs and marketing your store is the key to success.


How to Succeed With Your eCommerce Store

You will need to do more than buy a domain name when you are selling t shirts online. eCommerce involves more than opening up a store. If you want to succeed online, you need to first consider a few key things.


Consider the following before you open your store:



Niche is a word that gets used a lot. Choosing a niche for your t-shirt shop is very important. You will need to stand out from your competition. Success can only be found if you are unique and stand out. Competitors can chew you up and spit you out. Standing out from your competitors is important if you want to survive and thrive. The best way to do this is to choose to cater to a particular niche. One of the worst things you can do is to try and sell to everyone. Funny slogans on your t-shirts will not be enough. You will want to bring things in a bit more. A great example would be to be more specific and design t-shirts with funny slogans aimed at doctors or engineers.

Niche t-shirt designs will help you to better stand out. Find the right audience to market to is another benefit of having a niche. You will advertise more effectively once you know your target market better.



Most people who are online buying graphic tees are searching for a design and slogan that they can connect with. People want graphics, designs and slogans that they can relate to on a personal level. Knowing who your audience is will help you to sell more of what you are selling.

This does not just apply to shirts. Connecting with your audience is not possible if you do not know who they are.  A good example is if you decide to sell t shirts to engineers. Find out where they like to spend their time, what hobbies they have, are they male or female, how old are they, where do they live etc.

DO NOT copy other people’s designs. You would never want someone else to hi-jack your designs so its very unfair to do that to somebody else. Being original will get you further in this business. Your designs do not need to be complicated. Many of the graphic t shirts that sell the most tend to have simple and minimal designs. Worry about connecting with your audience and standing out from other sellers online.

Recommended Course on T-Shirt Design: How to Start a T Shirt Business Fast


The next important thing you will need to have is quality product. Fool someone once, but you will likely not fool them two times. Your shirts will need to be of top notch quality if you expect to make more than a few bucks. The print and graphics on the shirts you sell can not fade or crack. The shirt itself should not easily fray or rip. People are likely to leave negative reviews if your quality is lacking. Repeat purchases and new customers is what you want. In order to get people coming to your store, you need to have products that are of the best quality.



A strong and unique brand is essential to your success as an entrepreneur. Your brand is something that will allow you to compete better. Building a brand is more important than building a store. Stand against your competition with your brand and be remembered for more by building your brand. Companies that work on branding tend to stay in business longer and are more likeable. A strong brand is what will separate you from the thousands of people who are selling t shirts online.

Recommended Course on Branding:

Personal Branding Mastery: The System To Reinvent Yourself!

Quality T-Shirts

Not every t-shirt is made the same. All print jobs are not identical. Quality is a very important element towards your success and your brand. It is very important to choose your t-shirt supplier wisely. You do not want crappy quality t shirts that will disappoint your buyers. Do not be tempted to cut costs and sacrifice quality. You might make a bigger profit, but your brand will suffer. Considering how much your merchandise quality will affect your customer is important. Your customer has a choice as to whether or not they will want to repurchase from you again. The customer can also choose to review your web store and leave you a negative review. Overtime, many negative reviews will discourage people from buying from you.

So what does a quality t-shirt look like?

Quality shirts have a few things in common, these include: The fit, sizing, weight, softness and material. You can check which t shirts you should use when starting your online shop. Take a look at T-Shirt Magazine Online’s review of the best blank t shirts for printing. After you have selected a few choices, you will need to place an order for the t shirts you prefer so that you can get a sense of the quality. Making a final decision is easier if you already know the quality of your merchandise.

T-Shirt Printing Quality

Nowadays there are a few popular methods that you can use in order to print t-shirts. Every method has some good and bad qualities. It depends on how much time you would like to spend making your product.

I have explained the most common methods you can use to sell t shirts online.

Stop Putting Your Dreams on Hold: Start Your Online T-shirt Business With Shopify

Screen Printing

Source: Specialities Plus

Screen printing t shirts is a more traditional approach. It’s still very popular to print designs using screen printing. This printing method can have long lasting and durable designs. Printing using this method is more labor intensive. Printing t shirts in bulk is more cost effective. If you print more complex designs, you might have more issues. If you want to screen print, it works best for designs with fewer than four colors. Having more than four to five colors will be more expensive. More colors will increase the production time and the printing costs.


  • More affordable for printing in bulk
  • Volume based discounts


  • Costly for multiple colors.
  • Limited to print simpler designs and images.


Heat Transfer

Heat transfers have been around for a long time. You can find Transfer paper can be found at your local office supply store. This type of paper makes it easier to print designs right from your own computer. If you are building a real business, using the heat transfer method will not work. Plastisol transfers are more advanced heat transfers that can be printed by professional printers on good quality heat transfer paper.  There is an advantage to using Plastisol. You can get a stack of prints from a printer in your town and transfer the design prints onto your t-shirts.

Heat transfers can produce full-color images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.


  • Transfer full-color images on t-shirts quickly and easily.
  • Ability to “print” each shirt on demand.


  • Less durable.
  • Lower quality than screen printing.
  • Lower quality than direct-to-garment printing.
  • Costly heat press machine (up to a few thousand dollars).
  • Time consuming since this is a more DIY approach.



Source: Melco

This method works like an ink-jet printer you would have at your office or at your house. The DTG prints right onto the t-shirt and it allows you to print more accurate full color images. The Direct-to-garment works on a similar level to screen printing.

Direct to Garment works like your ink-jet printer. It is easy and more affordable to print smaller orders. To print every shirt it takes the same amount of time. If you print large orders you will not get you a discount with direct-to-garment.


  • Ability to print in unlimited colors.
  • Very detailed and accurate printed designs.
  • Works well for small orders
  • Barely any set-up costs.


  • Not cost effective if you are printing in bulk.
  • Normally doesn’t have volume discounts.

Creating Designs for Your T Shirt Shop

Find some inspiration from popular niches and designs

If you are stuck looking for t-shirt design ideas and want to know what niche to go with, do not worry. There are plenty of popular designs online that you can draw inspiration from. Notice I said draw inspiration. Do NOT copy other people’s designs and graphics. Being a copycat is no way to build a long lasting and thriving business.

Below are a few places that you can find some bestselling t-shirt designs and graphics. These online sites are great if you want to get a few ideas for your next t-shirt designs or niche.

Taking a look at Google Trends is something you will want to do Looking at Google Hot Searches will help you to see what topics and things that people are currently interested in.

Hiring A T-Shirt Designer

You will first need to get an idea for your t-shirt designs. Getting your ideas brought to life is the next step. If you have Photoshop or other design programs you can design your own t-shirts. Do not worry if you are not artistically talented. Like many people, you will want to find someone to design your t-shirts. Delegating these tasks to someone else can help to free up your time. Focusing on other money making activities is important. Marketing and building ads to test on Facebook, Instagram etc is what will result in sales.

There are many places online where you can hire a t shirt designer.

find a suitable graphic designer to help you with your designs.

Design Communities

Dribbble – This is an awesome community for designers and graphic artists who have a lot of  talent and experience. Look at the styles and designs on the site. You can message the designers. Look to see if designers are able to take on freelance projects.

Behance – On this site you can find your next designer to bring your t shirt ideas to life. Behance is an excellent community for designers.

Freelance Websites

Find your designer on freelance websites like Elance, Upwork and Freelancer.

Buy Your Designs

If you can not find a designer you like, there are other options you can use to buy pre-made t shirt designs. It is important to remember that if you decide to go the pre-made route, other people might already be selling the same designs. Selling designs that other people are already selling will make it more difficult for your brand to stand out.

Have a look at the graphic design marketplaces below. Its possible  to buy pre-made t-shirt designs here:

Take a look at general graphic design marketplaces. If you plan to sell your t-shirts, -you’ll need to purchase a commercial license.

Get Mockups for T Shirts Online

After you have your final designs, the next step you will need to take is to get mockup images of your designs on actual t shirts. If you want to sell your t-shirts, people need to be able to see how the final design looks like. People need to see how your designs look on a real life t shirt if they are going to buy from you.

There are a few ways you can get your designs onto t shirts. Taking pictures of your sample orders is one way. You can use online t-shirt templates like  Mockups can turn your final designs into a digital mock up like the one shown below.

Using Adobe Photoshop is the most common way to create mockup designs. T-shirt templates allow you to view how your designs look on a t-shirt after printing. Many Photoshop templates have many layers that enable you to switch up the color of the shirts and put your design on there. In the end, the templates allow your design to blend in with the contours, folds and creases of the t shirt.

Below I have put together a few resources you can use to get the best quality t shirt mockup file. You can use this on your next design project:

If Photoshop is not really for you, you can use other software to do the same thing. Best of all, you will not have to deal with the learning curve that Photoshop has. Some of the t shirt mockup software you can use includes:

Something else that you can do is to get some help from freelancers on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. My own personal preference is to find graphic designers on UpWork.

All you have to do is put in the search term : t shirt mockups on Fiverr, UpWork or other freelance sites.

Validate Your Designs

Try out your business idea. Do not overspend on a business you have not proved yet. It is important to validate your design ideas. Testing the market allows you to see if this is something people want.

There are a few ways you can test the market:

Reddit – It is easy to find a highly targeted niche with the many subreddits it is possible to find a very targeted niche of would-be customers. Ask people their thoughts on your designs. Proving your business idea is very important. The worst thing you can do is spend lots of money selling things that people do not want.

Example: Bitcoin T-Shirt Validation

Social Networks -Post your designs to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks that your target customers use. Be careful with presenting your ideas to family and friends. Family and friends can present you with overly positive feedback. Strangers will give you more unbiased feedback.

Kickstarter – Crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter have made it easier if you want to to validate, test your new business venture. This method allows you to collect cash upfront to fund your business. Building a crowdfunding campaign can take a long time. A good campaign will take a great amount of time to prepare. The benefits of a quality Kickstarter campaign can be huge. If people like your business idea, they can actually fund your project without you having to spend a single cent.

Kickstarter success stories: Dev Tee’s and Starstuff Clothing

Open Test Store – Starting an online store on a platform like Shopify is fairly risk-free. You can setup a fully functional online store in a few short hours. If you are ready to sell t shirts online, – you can Sign up for 14 days free trial with Shopify.  Shopify has many free themes. You can save money by using a free theme to start. Just stop doubting yourself and go for it!

Building Your Shop

After you have your final t shirt ideas made and created your mockups, it is time to build your shop. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, you can get started very easily and quickly with Shopify.

There are some print-on-demand dropshipping companies that you can use in your Shopify store. Going this way will allow you to get up and running in little to no time. Dropshippers will print and ship your shirts to your customers each time you get an order. This happens automatically through an app that you would add to your store.

Below are a few Shopify on-demand printers and dropshipping apps I would recommend:

Avoid using the dropshippers listed below. Bad customer service and poor quality products are the two reasons why.

  • Teezily
  • Scalable Press   ( AWFUL quality )
  • Pressera

Stop Waiting!

Nowadays, it is easier to bring your ideas to life and start your own t shirt shop. You do not need thousands of dollars or a big bank loan to start a business. Coding or design experience is not a requirement.. Many startup business tasks can be outsources. The key is to stop waiting around for the right time and simply do the work. You can get your t shirt business started and running without spending a fortune to begin. On-demand printing and fulfillment companies can get any orders from your store to your customers. Best of all, -you do not need to keep any stock around!

Start Your Online Store Today with Shopify!