How to Start T-Shirt Printing Business Under Budget[UPDATED]

Think of any business randomly. Stop. Thousands of others thought about the same thing at the same time you did!

The t-shirt design business is no different. Whether looking to sell your brand at a physical store or online, the market is crowded with both different brands and potential buyers.

It is up to you to create your own unique space in these markets by giving a quality brand and applying aggressive marketing techniques to sell the same.

When starting this kind of business, stay alert to both the technical and business sides of the venture. Many first timers tend to ignore this and focus more on the side of the business that they find more interesting while leaving the rest to fate.

Tips to Start Your Own T-Shirt Business With Low Startup Costs

Identify And Develop The Product 

What exactly do you want to do? It is one thing to have a concept in mind and another to actually make it a reality.

So settle on your idea and work to develop a unique brand. Come up with a creative but simple design that you understand and can explain.

Come up with more than one initial design. Review what you have to come up with the best compromise.

Make sure that you sample a range of materials within this period and come up with the best compromise that does not bring down quality but is pocket friendly.

Decide What Printing Method to Use

There are several techniques you can use to print t-shirts, and the method you choose will depend on the amount of cash you have as capital as well as the size of your clientele. Let’s discuss the main methods briefly:

  • Screen printing

This is arguably the best t-shirt printing method with regards to the quality of the output. However, due to the cost of the supplies as well as its labor-intensive nature, screen printing is perhaps not the best method someone who’s on a tight budget should use.

But again, if your budget allows, we’d highly encourage you to go for it. Some of the items you will need include screens for each color you’re going to print, inks, emulsion liquid, a screen printing frame, and a squeegee. All the items will cost you around 200 to over 1000 dollars.

  • Heat transfer

This is the most popular t shirt printing method at the moment, and it offers lots of flexibility especially with the cost. You can choose to print your designs on a transfer paper using a digital printer, or you can just cut pieces of adhesive vinyl and use them to design the t shirts without having to use a digital printer.

Again, you can use a heat press machine that goes for 300 to 3000 dollars or a simple iron box to heat press the transfer paper or the adhesive vinyl onto the t shirts.

Now that you’re on a budget, we suggest you use heat transfer vinyl and an iron box for a start. If you have an inkjet printer, using inkjet transfer papers will be very cost efficient.

In case you’re using heat transfer vinyl, a pair of scissors will come in handy for cutting before you buy a 200-dollar cricut machine.

Once you make money from the business, you can then invest in a heat press machine and perhaps a good digital printer to be able to operate your heat pressing t shirt business more efficiently.

  • Direct to garment

This is the quickest, most convenient printing method, and the results are great too. However, a good DTG printer goes for over 5000 bucks, and so if your budget is very tight, the DTG will be unsuitable for you.

Do A Dry Run

‘Dry run’ is a term commonly used in newsrooms and refers to reading a bulletin offline. Just to make sure it sounds and feels right.

Before deciding whether you really want to go big on the design, test the waters. Identify who you want to target and give out a few samples to persons from this demographic.

Give it some time and let your clients experience your design. It’s not about putting it on for a few minutes and giving feedback about the fabric.

Experiencing the design means putting on the t-shirt severally and seeing how it makes me feel. Does it go with my wardrobe? Do my friends like how I look in it? How does it wash? The questions could go on and on.

Get solid feedback and you would normally want to make a few adjustments here and there based on the same. You may also discover that the product is a total flop. In this case, go back to the drawing board and redesign or look for another target consumer group.

Once you are safely beyond this point then there is a high chance at success. If you skip this stage, you will be wading into the unknown.

Create a Brand and Showcase Your Artwork

After deciding on the printing method to use, it’s time to print a few t-shirts and use them to display what you can do. Take some good shots and post the pictures to various web platforms especially the social media.

Thus, be sure to create a website as well as social media accounts on big networks like Facebook and Instagram. Your website and social media accounts will help you market your work profoundly.

Learn Your Audience 

The t shirt business is profitable and because of that, many people have ventured into it. So, expect lots of competition from small and huge brands alike. But how do you break into the market and keep growing?

By understanding your customers’ needs. And to do that, you have got to know who they are, where they’re from, and other demographics involving them. They could be churches, companies, or even schools. Also, they could be youths or older people.

By having a good picture of who your customers are, you’ll be able to give them exactly what they need especially in terms of design.

Train Your Staff

Before you get started make sure that you and your staff know exactly what you are doing. This is not a drill anymore. It’s the real thing.

The training is meant to ensure that you are all operating at optimum level. You want the best in the shortest time.

The training will ensure that the equipment is well handled and operated. It will also help with proper and efficient use of materials which are quite costly.

Lack of training has led many startups land before they take off. Some of the reasons include:

  • Improper operating and eventual damaging of new equipment
  • Wastage of materials to the extent they cannot be replaced
  • General disorganization within structures that eventually fall apart despite having the best concept

Identify Outlets And Delivery Methods

Identify stores that your target customers visit often. Look for deals with your brand.

Also identify suitable methods of delivering the product to individual addresses/

Hire An Expert To Evaluate Your Preparations

It is very advisable to consult with an expert in business startups on who will thoroughly look at what you are selling and how you have prepared yourself for the task.

The expert eye will see things and gaps that you did not see or even imagine existed. In most cases there will be recommendations to implement here and there to fine tune your venture.

The minor adjustments will most likely come from your marketing plan; these are always characterized by loopholes that competitors use to beat you at getting clients.

Advice from the advisor should be taken seriously as these are persons who have advised on similar situations over and over; they have a very keen eye for gaps and following their advice would normally cushion you from hard falls.

Get Down To Production

It is now safe to get down to producing your printed t-shirts.

Make sure that you are slow but sure when making the first prints. Observe your staff and make sure everybody knows their role and is playing it effectively.

Correct any errors or issues that may arise at the earliest opportunity.

It is important that your operation runs as smoothly as possible.

Monitor And Evaluate Your Business

Make sure that you are monitoring the progress of your sales and what needs to be done to improve them or take them to the next level all together if your Brand is already doing well.

Always keep an ear open to new ideas and never get tired of breaking new boundaries. It is a constant run and when you slow down, you automatically get overtaken.

Learn to accept it if the market is working for you and either diversify or look to creating a new design that will attract back your clients who may have been drawn away from you by some new product.

There are many approaches to doing business and there are hundreds of well thought opinions out there. It is necessary to always be alert to the business environment and consult widely before making decisions, especially big ones.

Work with Print on Demand Services

Now, we already mentioned that printing on demand would help in saving cash. Well, another even better means of saving cash is working with other print on demand services.

Does that seem confusing? Okay, here’s how it works – you come up with designs and use your marketing prowess to get customers. The, when someone orders, you send the design and the other particulars of the order to another on-demand printing service, which will print and ship the t shirts on your behalf.

This is the ultimate method of conducting your t-shirt business if you’re on a shoe-string budget as you’ll not even have to print anything. All you really need is a computer for creating your designs and some marketing skills. You don’t need any transfer papers, screens, heat press machine or any printing gear.

Some of the best on-demand t shirt printing services to work with include CafePress, Zazzle, and Society6.

You can start this way, and once you make some cash, you can now purchase your own printing gear.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the easiest way to start my t-shirt business?

There are two incredibly easy ways to start your t shirt business. First, you can purchase heat transfer vinyl and use a simple iron to press the cutouts onto the t shirts. Or, you can come up with designs and send them to on-demand printing services when a customer places an order. With the second method, you don’t even have to get any printing equipment.

3. How do I go about selling my t shirts on Amazon?

You only need to open a merchant account and upload your designs. After that, set the price and published the item. Once there’s an order, you can either fulfill (fulfillment refers to the process of shipping the items to the customer) the order yourself or have it fulfilled by Amazon.

To boost your sales, try marketing your Amazon items on various platforms especially Facebook and other social networks.

4. What printer do I need to print on transfer paper?

The printer you choose should depend on the transfer paper you’re using. If you’re using inkjet transfer paper, then you need to have an inkjet printer. If you choose to use sublimation transfer paper, then you got to have a sublimation printer.

The point is, you need to consider the kind of printer you have before buying transfer papers.

Final Word

That’s it on how to start a t-shirt business on a budget. As mentioned earlier, the best approach is to work with on-demand printing services so that you come up with designs and send the orders to the printing firms.

Remember, no matter how you choose to operate your t shirt business, marketing will make all the difference. So, market vigorously on Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and other social networks, and of course, use your website or online store to showcase your work and sell online.

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