The T-Shirt Business

To start a t-shirt business, you will have to create a high-quality product with appealing designs and a distinct brand image. You will also have to have a solid business plan, the proper legal documents, and a savvy marketing strategy that includes a professional website. You will have to be willing to protect your brand, while at the same time not infringing on that of others’. And perhaps most importantly, you will have to have great passion for your business. Without it, your success will be limited at best.

Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business: Tips and Resources


If you lack passion for running your small business, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. Unlike a 9 to 5 job, you can’t simply put your time in, get paid, and go home, especially in the beginning. In the beginning, you will put in many hours without any noticeable financial return. Having passion allows you to grind through the tough early times to success.


Having a niche—or a narrowed market area—will give you a greater chance of success. Selling t-shirts with funny slogans is not specific enough; selling t-shirts with funny slogans related to cats is. Don’t try to conquer the whole market. Become really good at one thing first.

Create a Business Plan and Conduct Research

Without a business plan, your money and time will be wasted. A successful business plan will outline your product, your desired market, and your sales goals and financial projections. It’s also a good idea to see what your competitors are doing, so you won’t be doing the same thing.

Some questions you should ask yourself when making a business plan include:

  • Is there demand for my t-shirts?
  • What is my demographic?
  • How will I get traffic?
  • Where will I sell?

Choose a Business Name

If you’re serious about making a living selling shirts, you should not neglect your business name. It should be simple and easy to remember. It should also capture the spirit of the t-shirts you’re currently selling, but still allow for expansion into other products.

Make it Legal

Your business will need a proper business structure (i.e., LLC or sole proprietor) and the necessary permits and licenses. Business licenses can be got from your local county or city business office. If you have your own business website or sell in-person, you will need to get a sales tax permit from the office of your state’s comptroller.

Get a Professional Website

If you want your business to succeed, a proper website is necessary. If you don’t have one, your business will not be taken seriously. And don’t cut corners: if people don’t perceive your website as professional or trustworthy, they won’t buy from it.

Create T-Shirt Designs

It’s hard to say what slogan or image will become popular, so creating some test products first is a good idea. What you design doesn’t have to be complicated. Many of the most popular shirts are incredibly simple. That said, they must connect with the public and be distinct. They must also be original so as to avoid infringing on the copyright for other products.

Focus on Quality

Quality products bring people back for more. Fading or cracking patterns or clothes that shrink, easily rips, or is uncomfortable won’t earn rave reviews or repeat customers. Sizing, fit, material, weight, and softness are all aspects of quality you must consider.

Create a Strong Brand

A brand ties your niche, quality, and designs together. In highly competitive industries like that of graphic t-shirts, having a likeable and unique brand is of the utmost importance. In order to stand out from the crowd, a distinct brand is key.

Protect Your Brand

While infringing on other’ copyright should be avoided, you also don’t want others profiting from your designs. To prevent this, pursue trademark or copyright protections for your designs, slogan, and/or logo.

Find a Price Point

To find a proper price point, review the available t-shirt production options, such as local printers and online resources. The cost of printing depends on the order’s size, the design’s complexity, and the t-shirt material’s quality. Your price point should cover the production cost, marketing, and overhead.

Market Your T-Shirt

To properly market your t-shirts, you must know your target audience, where they can be found, and how to sell to them. For instance, if your target audience is unicorn-loving middle-schoolers, market your shirt where unicorn-loving middle-schoolers hang out, both online and offline. 

Some marketing venues to consider include:

  • Facebook.
  • Pay-per-click advertising.
  • Craft markets and bazaars.
  • Etsy.
  • E-commerce sites.

Starting your own business may seem like a daunting endeavor, but it will be significantly less so if you break it down into smaller steps, like the guide above does. If you need help starting your own t-shirt business, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.