Can you come up with an idea, phrase or theme (not a design) for a T-Shirt/Sweatshirt that people would buy and do you have an established audience? If so then you could run your own online T-Shirt business for very little capital investment with zero stock and no printing experience required.

What I love about eCommerce is the ability to plug together different services to build a new business model for a very low start up cost.

In this example, we can link together three services to create a fully functioning online t-shirt business. Which is easily expandable to a whole range of printable products. Once working all you need to do is promote the business and drive traffic and sales, payments and shipping are handled automatically.

Make sure before you start you have the following;
  • A PayPal account
  • A good idea of the brand designs theme 
  • A way to promote the business, like a strong social media following or an event
In this model, you don't carry any inventory so you can run it for short term events or seasons.

So we can use three easy to use services to pull this end-to-end store into life.
  • is a job website where designers and creatives post gigs priced at, you guessed it $5. You can use these guys to create your T-Shirt designs as well as the branding and marketing material you will need.
  • is a multi-channel (the web,mobile, blog buy button, in-store) solution to put your store online and it includes apps integrated to other platforms. In this case to T-Shirt print and delivery companies
  • is a T-Shirt (as well as Sweatshirt/poster/mug etc) printing and fulfilment company it is integrated into Shopify.
So using these three services, you have your designs created in formats that can be used to print products. You upload your designs to and select T-Shirt type to define products, these products are added to your Shopify inventory. One design with a range of sizes and colours will add many products.

So you get an online store packed with products, when ordered, Shopify handles payment and sends the order details to which does the printing and fulfilment. The product is only created when ordered so there is no inventory to hold but with one design theme, you can expand into sweatshirts, prints, and mugs without any inventory.

What is great is that these platforms are running hundreds of stores so you know that they work together. 

So the techies really have taken care of the end-to-end solution, leaving you with only really need to firstly generate the design theme idea and then to promote your store and drive traffic to generate sales. 

If you can do that then everything else is taken care of automatically. You will just see the notifications from Shopify in your browser that sales have taken place and money in your PayPal account! 

Because you are going to commission some work, I recommend that you take some time to really define very clearly exactly in a design brief and define what you want in terms of image sizes etc. The more details you specify the better product you are going to get. Generally, you won't be talking to designers on the phone, so clear communication is required. So come up with a detailed design brief and look at examples on Fiverr for designers creating designs similar to what you require.

Designers on are working on tight margins, you can't expect unlimited revisions like you would get on with an internal designer. An initial Gig on Fiverr is $5, but in reality, you are going to get something fairly basic for that. 

Here are some packages. Make sure you will own the copyright. This may cost a bit extra but worth it. So not quite $5, but still for a design you should be looking at less than £50 investment and you can see these guys work fast.

You may want a separate Fiverr gig for your brand name logo so you can put it on the website and delivery package etc. So add another £10-15. For under £80 we have the creative materials required. 

Now we are going to have to setup both a account and a account. 

Printful doesn't charge any monthly fees at all. Clearly, they are your supplier they define the prices you pay them, you can charge what you want. Shipping is not included you need to align your shipping prices on Shopify to those on printful so your shipping costs are covered.

Shopify is a paid service, however, it's possible to start the trial and have your first fifty orders processed for free. If you do this then you will have a Shopify URL. You can use your own domain name but you need to pay for this.

To keep running your store then monthly charges will apply, but with fifty orders free your first month's fees should be well covered by the initial sales.

There is a lot to think about, but really you should be able to achieve this end to end in a week. I believe none of these steps are too technically challenging but if you would want this project managed then I can offer this service. Get in touch. 

This video is on how to set up a T-shirt business by using Shopify and Printful.

It goes through the items step-by-step. If you are interested but a bit daunted then get in contact, I would be happy to run this project for you. 

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