The T-shirt Economy – The
Sky's the Limit
by: J.J. Jackson
A couple years ago I took a
step that I never thought would turn out as well as it has. A friend of
mine turned me on to a site called CafePress which allows every day
schmucks like me to design t-shirts and gifts, upload them to their site
and then pays money based on markups that are set by the user. I had
tried selling t-shirts in the past and given it up after realizing that
the ink in my printer cost far too much and the cruddy heat transfers
usually didn’t work all that well. And to be honest I didn’t have the
cash to buy 25 t-shirts of only one design with only two or may three
colors in it from a screen printer either.
But what Cafepress promised was to take the hassles out of this process.
They would do all the heavy lifting from printing to shipping to
handling the money and then pay me if I ever made enough off the markups
that I set to break the $25 minimum check amount.
Was I skeptical? You bet. I knew very little about this company and at
the time they used heat transfers to create designs which I had had
nothing but bad experiences with in the past. But I took a leap of
faith. I whipped out some of my old designs, looked at them, tweaked
them a little bit, paid the small monthly fee for “premium” site and put
them up on the site. I even ordered a hat and a t-shirt just to see if
the quality was any good. I figured I was only out a couple bucks if
The items I ordered arrived and I was pleasantly surprised with the
quality. The problems that I did notice were clearly problems of my own
doing and after reading a little through their helpful how to guides I
adjusted the designs and fixed the products.
Imagine my surprise however that when only about two weeks I made my
first sale for a profit of a couple bucks. Then a couple days later
someone else bought something for another couple bucks. And by the end
of my first month I remember thinking that yeah I had only sold a
handful of items (about one every 4 or 5 days) but I had actually
covered my cost.
So I set to work. I started out gathering up some more of my older
designs many of which, I admit, were never really designed to be on
t-shirts and started reworking them, uploading and creating products.
The next month passed and again I had sold enough to cover my costs plus
a buck or two. Then the third month passed and I had made enough to
cover my costs plus enough to pay my monthly subscription to EverQuest
which was my addiction at the time. Then I made enough to cover my costs
plus my internet bills. Then enough to cover my costs plus my internet
and phone bill. Then I made enough to pay my car payment. Then I made
enough to pay my mortgage. Then … well I think you get the picture.
I was stunned. I was so stunned that in 2004 I spun off a whole section
of my original Cafepress storefront into its own site and made the leap
to officially founding my own company, Land of the Free Studios, Inc.
And then in late 2005 I started my third and fourth stores. On top of
that the printing technology has progressed to new heights with direct
printing processes that rival screen printing.
And right now I count myself among the most successful Cafepress store
owners, receiving a nice check from them each and every month.
Was it easy? No. Did it take hard work and long hours? Yep. Did my wife
want to beat the crap out of me as I was sitting in front of the
computer at midnight instead of coming to bed when I had to be at work
by 7 AM the next day? Oh yes. But the sacrifice and the hard work did
And it can for you too. That is IF you are willing to work hard and you
love what you do. The fact of the matter is sites like CafePress give
every day schmoes like you and me a chance to make money with little or
no up front investment and grow that business as profits increase.
The truth of the matter is the sky really is the limit! It’s just a
matter of whether or not you are willing to reach for the stars. Because
the t-shirt economy is here to stay.
J.J. Jackson is President of Land of the Free Studios, Inc. and is a
Cafepress Top Shopkeeper. His site, The T-shirt Entrepreneur is designed
to help people get started in the T-shirt Economy. He is also the owner
and operator of American Infidel T-shirts and Funny When Wet T-shirts &
Gifts and has been making money selling t-shirts online since 2004.
Samples of a few Designs
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