Are you good at design? Or are you good at coming up with clever things to say? You have the basics to start a custom T-shirt business.


  • A custom T-shirt business is very easy and inexpensive to start up.
  • There are companies devoted to custom T-shirt sellers, allowing you to run this business without too much work.


  • Since this kind of business is easy to start and run, it is very competitive.
  • You will most likely rely on others for the most complicated parts of your business (like printing and shipping) and thus you will have to share your profits.

How to get started:

NOTE: Before you start your business, you should read the page on this website entitled “things to think about before you start a business.” After you have taken the preliminary steps for starting any business, you can take the specific steps outlined below.

Stories abound on the Internet about how easy it is to start a custom T-shirt business. In fact, Richard Lazazzera, on his website A Better Lemonade Stand, tells the tale of how he built an online T-shirt business in one day for only $24 in start-up costs and made $347 on the first day.

(Mr. Lazazzera is obviously a talented individual so this seems like a good place for us to add that all-important caveat, “Your results may vary.” But you don’t have to be as successful as him for this to be a worthwhile venture for you.)

The thing is that the tools available to Mr. Lazazzera are available to anyone. You don’t have to buy and learn how to operate a T-shirt printing machine, nor do you have to rent a warehouse to store your inventory of T-shirts; there are companies that will do that for you. (Of course, they’ll take a cut of your profits but you will earn money if you sell T-shirts.)

The website Shopify has a step-by-step guide to setting up an online T-shirt business, including connections to companies that will fulfill on-demand printing and shipping for you – that means that you don’t have to pay a lot of money to create an inventory of T-shirts; they will only print shirts when someone is ready to buy them.

One thing these other businesses won’t do is come up with designs/slogans for you and market them for you. Let’s take these one at a time.

Creating a unique and appealing design is challenging for most people, but you can find plenty of help. For instance, the website Uber Prints offers help with design through clip art and fonts, or you can upload your own images.

But the T-shirt’s design may not be its selling point. Many people buy T-shirts for the slogan on the T-shirt. For that, all you have to do is come up with the right thing to say at the right time.

Remember when the movie “Straight Outta Compton” spawned a number of T-shirts all over the country with similar slogans? That fad has faded, but supposing you had a T-shirt business up and running at the time and quickly designed a T-shirt saying, “Straight out of (put your high school’s name here)”? You probably could have easily sold a few dozen of those T-shirts just by spreading the word in your school’s cafeteria at lunchtime.

Of course, you’d want to sell more than a few dozen shirts so obviously you want to sell shirts online. Fortunately, you can find plenty of help on how to do that. You don’t even have to set up your own website; you can sell through an ecommerce website like Etsy. (And you can even find help for how to do that – for example the website The Balance Small Business offers a guide to online marketing sites.)

Once you get that set up, you can send your friends (and anyone else) there through Instagram, Twitter or any other social media. You’ll be on your way!

How much to charge:

In general you don’t want to sell a T-shirt for more than $20 but there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The bets way to set a price for your T-Shirts is to look for shirts, especially in your area, that sell T-shirts and see how much they charge. If you live in an area where there are a lot of T-shirt sellers (e.g. in a tourist area), you have a lot of competition and will have to price your shirts lower.

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