How to Sell T-shirts
by: Robin Goff
This article is intended as
a guide for those who are looking for answers about selling t-shirts
on-line. This guide is by no means perfect. It is written by me, based
ONLY on my personal experiences. Forums, blogs, as well as, the printing
company in question's home page are great places to start getting
What is my experience with selling t-shirts?
In 1999 my first son, Brandon, was born. Long before he could actually
talk, he began the "baby talk." Mostly goos and such. He was a perfect
baby. He slept all night, was NEVER sick., always happy., and always
smiling. Anyway, when he began this baby talk, he would (as most babies
do) say, what sounded like, "I Good." The good was a bit long drawn out.
My wife, Laurie, and I would always respond with something like "I know
you’re good." And that was absolutely the truth, as I said before he was
a perfect baby. I soon came up with the idea that it would be cute to
have a little t-shirt for him that said "I good." Laurie agreed. We soon
went to Wal-Mart and bought iron-on t-shirt transfers. I made a simple
blue phrase using Microsoft Paint, "I Goood." I added the extra o to
make the word more drawn out like he was saying it. By the end of the
night he had a t-shirt that said I Goood. My wife and I made ourselves
one with his picture on it. Laurie loved the shirt. She still has it.
It's 6+ years later, it's a bit worn, but she still has it. I was hooked
on the idea of making t-shirts. I very soon began thinking, "I wander
how I could sell these. They're cute, and every baby says I goood. I
know this would sell, if I could just market it. But how do I market
something that only exists in my brain." My wife and I were not wealthy.
We had only been married a couple years. She didn't work, and I was
making just enough to pay bills. We had no money or experience. I soon
gave up the idea. It was a hopeless dream.
Four years later, our lives had changed a little. We were living in a
new house. I had a new job. My wife had a new job. She was pregnant with
our second son. We both had returned to school. I had recently bought a
new laptop for school. It was late January 2003. One slow Saturday at
work, two co-workers, and myself, were sitting around bored. It was me
(I'm a clinic nurse), the receptionist, and the doctor. We 3 have a
great time at work. We are always playing pranks, telling jokes, and
generally having a good time. I was flipping through a magazine when I
say an article title that said "Football takes balls." It was a pun, and
I love puns. I was thinking "that's a great line." A lot of things could
take balls. I took a sticky note and quickly sketched a few little
pictures, each complete with a little slogan. One had a football and
goal post; it said "It takes BALLS." Another had a prisoner with his
striped cloths, and two balls attached to his ankles with chains. It
said "prison takes BALLS." Another had a canon. It said "It takes
BALLS." I showed my pictures to my two co-workers hoping for a mere
laugh, after all I drew 5 or 6 of these in a matter of 10 minutes, so I
didn't put that much work into them. Like I said, all I wanted was a
little laugh. What I got was unexpected. They both really liked the
pictures. They both began telling me I should try and sell these ideas
or try to get someone to put these on t-shirts. I just blew it off, I
already went down that road with "I Good," and it is a dead end street.
I don't have the means or know how to do such a thing.
Where do I go to sell t-shirts
When I was thinking about selling t-shirts, I was thinking about selling
a design to someone who could make a shirt with the design on it, and
then they could sell the t-shirt. I would make money selling the design
to the t-shirt company. I began surfing the net, on my lap top, looking
for someone who would buy my designs. This was almost hopeless. It was
nearly impossible to find a trustworthy company who would buy designs.
That's when I stumbled upon CaféPress. They didn't actually buy designs,
but they would allow you to upload designs and then sell those designed
t-shirts in a CafeShop, absolutely free. That's right, at no cost. At
that time, CaféPress offered a few items to sell. White t-shirts,
thongs, lunch box, coffee mugs, as well as a few other items.
CaféPress, Too good to be true?
I joined CaféPress on February 6, 2003. I started with a few basic
Was CaféPress too good to be true? Did I get rich quick? Was this an
easy way to make money? Well let’s just say I didn't quit my day job. I
uploaded all my designs, put them on shirts, and then waited for them to
sale. And waited some more. Then I waited a bit longer. After that I
waited a little more. Eleven month of waiting had gone past, not one
single sale. My wife said I was wasting my time "playing on the
computer." I was starting to think so too. I just didn't want to give
up. I thought my ideas and designs could sale if I could figure out how
to market them.
In January 2004, my wife decided she wanted to get one of my "Wanna
Monkey Around t-shirts." We ordered one, and I was shocked. The shirt
itself was OK, but my designed sucked. It was very pixilated. It was
blurry, and looked very unprofessional. I was glad that none had sold.
To my horror, my sister ordered one of these awful shirts before I had
the time to fix it. I spent weeks redoing my images. I ended up
profiting $9.49 in 2004. What a great year right? I think it was. It
gave me the chance to make mistakes and learn how to make better
Time to get serious.
In late 2004 I knew if I wanted to sell t-shirts, I need to have a way
to drive traffic to my CafeShop, but how? Part of the solution was to
get my own domain name. I chose web hosting through Yahoo. I then
registered TshirtManiacs.com. I also began paying for a premium
CaféPress shop. Over the next year I made new designs and CaféPress
added new items to put my designs on. Again I didn't get rich, but I did
make a $505.17. That is a 53 times increase from last year. Now I'm not
going to say what I've made in 2006, but I will say I'm expecting to
make a few thousand this year. So it's a little improvement in last two
years. I only do this part time, and I put NO money into it. If I were
to invest in ads, and other forms of advertisement who knows what the
profit potential is. For now, I am happy with where I am at.
CaféPress and it's competitors.
CaféPress is a great service. It is very easy to use. Very inexpensive
(basic shops are free). CaféPress offers a large selection of products
to sell, including the best selling t-shirt. They are an award winning
service with great customer service, great products, shopkeeper forums,
and much, much more. They do their best to offer great products and
service to both their customers and shopkeepers. Currently they have
more than 22,000,000 products available by their shopkeepers. They have
search system that is beyond compare. It is very easy for shoppers to
find the product and design they want. They also have a wonderful
affiliate plan too.
What does CaféPress offer?
You can sell: Merchandise you design including t-shirts, posters, mugs,
bumper stickers and much more Books printed on-demand Audio and Data CDs
What CafePress.com does
Gives you a FREE online shop to promote your products
Produces each item when ordered using there unique print-on-demand
Handles all payment transactions including major credit cards
Ships your products worldwide
Manages all returns/exchanges
Offers customer service via toll-free phone and email
Sends you a monthly check for your earnings on sales!
Can I really make money?
Yes! Some of the shopkeepers earn over $100,000 a year. Premium Shops
earn 10X more than Basic shops on average. Plus thousands of members
earn a steady stream of income through their CafePress.com shop.
How it works:
Each product has a Base Price that includes all fees associated with
selling. You simply set your retail price above the Base Price. When you
sell an item, we keep the base price and we send you the markup.
Value T-Shirt has a base price of $8.99
You decide to markup the price to $13.99
When you sell one shirt, you generate earnings of $5.00.
CaféPress sends you a commission check for your total markups once per
How much does it cost?
With a CaféPress Basic Shop, you can start selling for free. And, there
are no inventory costs associated with selling products through either a
Basic or Premium Shop.
Each item you sell has a base price. You simply markup the base price by
the amount you wish to earn for each product you sell. When you sell a
product, we keep the base price and you earn the markup.
If you are serious about making money on CafePress.com, check out the
Premium Shops service. Premium Shops cost $6.95 at the monthly rate, or
as little as $4.99 per month at the yearly rate. There are additional
benefits associated with a Premium Shop to help you sell more.
How much time will it take to get my shop online?
Once your digital content is ready, you can create and launch your
online shop in minutes. All you need to do is upload your content,
choose the products you wish to sell and set your prices. If you don't
have your images or content prepared. By spending a little time to
optimize your images, you can ensure your products will look their best.
How can people find my products on CaféPress?
There are two ways people will find your products:
1. You will have your own online shop.
For example: http://www.cafepress.com/ShopID
When you open your shop, you will choose a Shop ID that will become part
of your shop's URL (see above). With your own URL
Promote your shop on your web site
Email your shop link/URL to friends and family
Buy ads on Google and other search engines
2. The CafePress.com Marketplace
Shopkeepers will be able to purchase your products directly from the
CafePress.com Marketplace, which is visited by millions of
people each month.
Now in the mid-summer of 2005 I tried one of CaféPress' competitors
because they had black t-shirts. At the time CaféPress didn't offer this
service. The competitor was mediocre compared with CaféPress. They
offered a few items that CaféPress did not. But they just didn't have
the same level of search that CaféPress offers. The profits were not as
good as with CaféPress either. Now, don't get me wrong, they were a fine
company. Nothing was wrong with the service they offered. It was simply
that CaféPress offered a better service.
Now am I dead set on using CaféPress? The answer is no. I really like
CaféPress. But if a competitor comes out with a service better than that
of CaféPress, I may begin using that. They thing is, I don't think
CaféPress will ever lag behind. They are the print on demand industry
leader, and I think they always will be.
What do I need to sell t-shirts online?
First, and foremost, you need creativity and a imagination. Hope is
another good thing. You also must have determination and a strong will
to succeed. You need to have thick skin and the ability to take an
criticism in a constructive way. (Yes, you will have those who criticize
you.) Those are all traits that are needed by the person who are wanting
to sell t-shirts online. One trait that is maybe the most important is
patience. Selling t-shirts online is no get rich thing.
Other things needed are a good computer, good Internet access, and
available time to invest in your new business. I would suggest a domain
name of your own and a premium CaféPress shop also. You can start your
ad campaigns with the use of a credit card, but spend wisely.
That is all the startup you need.
Can you make money selling t-shirts online. YES! Is it easy? YES! Does
it require a lot of work? YES. Selling t-shirts online is no get rich
quick scheme. Heck, you will most likely never get filthy rich doing it.
You can, however, make extra spending money easily and have a good time.
You could make a good living at selling t-shirts if you wanted too. It
is entirely left up to you, your wants, your needs, and your dreams.
About The Author
Robin Goff is the owner/ creator of
http://tshirtmaniacs.com as well as several CaféPress basic shops.
Samples of a few Designs
Our checkout is a SECURE