How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business

Another installment of our T-Shirt Business Guest Post series – this time with some great tips from Peter Kowalski, the man behind Wordboner and Wordboner Store. He put together all of the important stuff you should know when starting a t-shirt business. We couldn’t have said it better. Big thanks to Peter and enjoy the read!

So you want to open a tee store online. Exciting, isn’t it? You probably don’t know what to start off with, so here you are, a couple of guidelines I would have loved to have had when I was opening my store.

Be original. The very first thing you should do is to figure out what you want to sell. Find a niche. Do something that’s never been done before. Don’t be one of many – be one of a kind. People won’t buy something they can go and buy someplace else. Originality sells. If you don’t know what you want to sell, then don’t just sell just anything. The ‘be original’ rule is the most important one simply because it applies to almost every aspect of your business. Always think outside the box. Remember: the minute you start swimming with the stream is the minute when you get lost in the crowd.

Packaging is (almost) everything. Now you know what you want to sell, but even the best idea might be worthless without an adequate packaging. By packaging, I mean the overall look of your brand: the name, colors, fonts, logos… all that jazz. Make sure your logo makes sense. Learn about the meanings of colors. Make sure your website doesn’t look like it was created in the 90s. Pick the right name for your company – only few companies have had success changing it later. It should be catchy, smart and memorable. Don’t be generic. The trick is to keep everything clean and simple without it looking boring.

Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will be your success. Some people wait months before their stores (and sales) take off. Unless your tee gets worn by Lady Gaga in public, don’t expect your store to be any different. The right marketing will surely help to speed up the process, but don’t expect miracles. Always be prepared that you might not succeed.

Know who your customers are. That is quite important mainly because at some point you will have to market your brand and you will need to know where to do it so you won’t waste time and energy. It can be a learning game, especially at the beginning: the older your company is the more fans it has and the more data you’ll have to analyze.

Tools like stats on Facebook Pages will help you find out the location, sex and age of your fans. This is all important data – for example, women tend to spend more on clothes, people from bigger cities usually have a higher income and are more willing to spend more on tees, etc. People under 18 probably won’t have a steady income but at the same time they tend to be more impressionable. If for some reason you get popular in colder climates, think about expanding your offer to hoodies and hats.

Be smart when marketing yourself. Don’t use sketchy lines to sell your product – you hate them, and people will hate them too. Get Google Analytics and keep an eye on the statistics. Open a designer store and make sure you have both European and US stores running.

Customer service! Personally, I think it’s the most important thing. Response time is essential: when I have to wait days for an answer, I lose interest in the product and lose respect for the company. Make sure your customers feel cared for. I try to be as attentive as I possibly can – the only time I don’t respond to my e-mails is when I sleep (which drives my friends crazy and it will drive yours, too). Remember: the customer is the most important thing and is always right. Any bad rep they give you could put brakes on your success. Get an e-mail notifier on your mobile phone, desktop or web browser to always be on top of your inbox. Answer every e-mail that needs responding and never, ever be rude. Treat your customers the way you’d like to be treated. Remember that there will be unsatisfied customers – learn how to handle them. While you can’t undo your mistakes, you can learn from them.

Be social. Social networking is a blessing to store owners – people will want to share your creations online via Twitter, Facebook or whatever they use with their friends. This takes the marketing job off your hands. Let’s be honest, while we all hate ads and we subconsciously think they lie to us, we believe our friends when they recommend something. That is the key – make sure people recommend your brand to their friends. Involve people by asking questions and organizing product giveaways. Again: be creative. Update frequently, make tweets personal and smart.

Know how to be your own boss. Now this is tricky. You will have to work from home and that can be a challenge to keep yourself motivated (especially when there’s nothing motivating happening).

Coupons. People love them. Who doesn’t like to get something for partly free? Keep an eye on Spreadshirt’s announcements and make sure to make banners that will announce them to the customers. Get a profile on and share the coupons with others there. Keep it updated.

The bottomline. Even if you do everything by the book, the success might not come at all. It happens. The harsh truth is, if your products aren’t good, nobody will buy them no matter how well you market yourself or how good your website looks. But with time, talent and patience, you can achieve greatness.

About the Author
Peter Kowalski has run and since 2009.

If you’d like to share your expertise about the online t-shirt business, designs or anything Spreadshirt related, let us know! And if this inspired you to start your own t-shirt business – then feel free to open your own online t-shirt shop!

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