How to sell t shirts online with print-on-demand

Sell t shirts online

The beauty of running a side hustle is that you’re in control of how much time and effort you put in. You can be as hands-on, or -off, as you want. For example, if we look at how to sell t shirts online, you could do everything, something, or practically nothing…

What do we mean by that? Think about the different stages of running an online t-shirt business, from designing to printing and then shipping orders out. Not to mention maintaining the online store and marketing your products. There are a lot of moving parts but it could definitely be worth the effort. The global market for the custom t-shirt printing industry is expected to hit $10 billion by 2025.

As you’re considering selling t shirts online, the chances are that you have some creative experience. If you have existing skills in Illustration, Design, or Copywriting, for example, you could design the t shirts yourself. In this case, you can save yourself some money, as well as maintaining creative control over the products you want to sell. However, if you want or need to hire a freelancer to design t-shirts, then that’s always an option too. 

So what about when it comes to the other stages of t-shirt manufacturing? Again, if you have experience in t-shirt printing, it makes sense to do that yourself. However, if you don’t, you’ll have to outsource this to a printing company.

What is print-on-demand?

With print-on-demand (POD), items are printed following each individual order, rather than having been printed in bulk prior to any sales being made. Instead of a business owner having to place a minimum order and then store the inventory, POD means that they can print single items or in small quantities. This can save you both upfront costs and storage space, which is fantastic when you’re just starting out.

Of course you can print-on-demand at home, if you’re doing things on a DIY basis. For example, if you have the set up to do screen printing, iron on transfers, or photosensitive dyeing, then you can still print orders individually. However, if you choose to print your own t shirts, be aware that you may need a lot of space. Somewhere to keep your equipment and to hold stock. Even if you print on demand – when someone places an order – you’ll still need to have blank t shirts ready.

Why use print-on-demand when selling t-shirts online?

There are so many benefits to using a print-on-demand service when selling t-shirts online. As well as minimising the risk associated with placing a large bulk order, prior to knowing if you’ll make any sales, POD can also save you time.

Another benefit to using a print-on-demand service is that they’ll already work with suppliers, meaning that you won’t have to source your own blank t-shirts. These will usually be stored in the print service’s warehouse, which means that you don’t need to store your own inventory. Again, this saves you a lot of upfront costs.

Also, most print-on-demand services are dropshipping platforms, which means that they take care of handling and shipping orders, as well as printing them. Some sites also have Graphic Designers on hand to create designs for you, so in theory, you could have very little to do with the products you’re selling. 

However, even if you take full advantage of a POD and dropshipping service, there’s still lots for you to do when selling t-shirts online. With the design and order fulfilment elements taken care of, you’ll have more time and effort to put into the brand awareness and marketing side of things.

Sell t shirts online: marketing

Even with the “set it and forget it” approach to running an online store using a fulfillment service, there’s still a lot for you to do. Marketing your t-shirts is an essential part of having a successful business. If no one can find you, how can they buy from you?

Here are some of the ways in which you can promote your products and attract customers.

  • Social media presence
    A lot of people use social media to shop nowadays. Speculate to accumulate and build brand awareness by organising a giveaway or competition. There are some mechanisms you can use to work with the algorithms and increase the visibility of your posts. For example, encourage Likes and Shares.
  • SEO
    Optimise your content so that you appear for relevant search terms. There are a number of ways to do this but researching the best longtail keywords is an important one. Once you’ve highlighted what your target audience are likely to be searching for, it’s time to incorporate them into your copy. Think about product titles, descriptions, tags, etc.
  • Social media influencers
    Work with social media influencers to promote your t-shirts. Look for influencers who fit your brand and make contact with them. Remember that they will be representing you, so it has to be a connection that both parties are happy with.
  • Retargeting ads
    Retargeting ads are used to bring visitors who have previously visited or bought from your site back again. For example, they can be used to attract repeat custom and encourage abandoned carters to return and complete their purchase. 

Print-on-demand services

So now we know what a print-on-demand service does, it’s time to look at some of the options.

Merch by Amazon

Merch by Amazon is a simple way to sell customised merchandise, such as t-shirts, on Amazon. As well as printing, Amazon takes care of things like shipping and customer service. To join Merch by Amazon, you’ll need to request an invitation. Once your application has been approved, you can upload your designs and start setting up your selling page. This is as easy as adding a title, product description, and some images. 

However, you’re a little limited in terms of the amount of customisation you can do to your selling page. For example, there’s only so much SEO you’ll be able to do. If that’s the case, you can always focus on driving traffic from a social media account or blog, which you have optimised properly.

Once you’re set up, you can start selling straight away. Your money comes from a royalty on each t shirt you sell.


Upload custom t-shirt designs and start selling through the seamless integration with online ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, Etsy, and Wix. Similar to some of the other POD services on offer, Printify also fulfills and ships orders on your behalf. Once you’ve set up and connected your online store, you can start selling and have Printify take care of things for you.


Printful is an example of a POD site that offers other services such as graphic design, product photography, and a mockup generator. This means you can elevate your online store with professional, high-quality images and also see what the end product will look like before it’s been printed.

You can either open a storefront on Printful or connect to your existing online store. Through integration, orders placed on somewhere like Etsy are automatically forwarded for fulfillment.

Unlike with some other platforms, you can set your own prices which means that you’re more in control of what you earn.

Sell t shirts online: your shop

Once you’ve worked things out behind the scenes, it’s time to create your storefront. Use an e-commerce platform such as Shopify to build and house your business. Your store can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be, thanks to the tools and third party apps you can bolt on. Shopify can also integrate with a number of print-on-demand and dropshipping services which makes it the perfect place to host your storefront. To ensure that there are as few moving parts as possible, choose a POD and/or dropshipping service that easily connects to Shopify.

Other ways to make money online

Selling t shirts online is a great way to make money online. However, if custom design and print isn’t for you, you could get cash for clothes by selling your unwanted garments instead. Or for something completely different, take a look at matched betting. By betting on both outcomes of a sporting event, you can turn free bets offered by bookmakers into real profit.

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