Million $ Christmas – All Things eCom – Sell Custom POD Shirts on Any Platform
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People love t-shirts. They can make your entire outfit pop, help you make a statement, or be a conversation starter.
According to Statista, ecommerce sales amounted to $504.6 billion in 2018.
This number is projected to surpass $735 billion in 2023. And apparel and accessories alone should generate over $138.7 billion by 2022.
This once again proves that the fashion industry has secured a stable place in ecommerce and it isn’t going anywhere.
Now anybody can launch a t-shirt store online and cash in.
You don’t require product knowledge or modern technology to get started – you just need the right tools at your fingertips that can automate the entire process.
Targeting everyone under the sun is like tilting at windmills.
By making your target too broad, you’ll end up targeting no one.
Doing so will also cost you not only money but also time. And who wants that?
Since you’ve already decided to sell t-shirts, you now are part of the fashion and apparel industry.
While this is a good start, you can probably agree that it doesn’t really help you define your target audience – everyone can wear a t-shirt!
That said, you need to narrow down your audience even more to find a product niche. And here’s how you can do it.
Define your passions and interests.
Nobody else but you will have to run your t-shirt business (at least at the beginning).
So in order to be successful, you need to find a niche that you understand and can market to.
Think of what you are passionate about and what are the interests of people that are around you.
Knowing the desires and pain-points of these people is your biggest advantage – you can now generate product ideas that this particular niche will love.
Do your research.
Now it’s time to research your interests and passion on a deeper level.
Find out who are your competitors, what are their strengths and weaknesses to get a better picture of how you could position yourself in the same market.
Scout the web to learn what are local (or global) trends among online shoppers to find a gap in the market for your niche product.
Identify a problem you can solve with your product.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again – every product has to solve a problem no matter how big or small it is.
Think beyond beautiful t-shirt design and fast shipping.
Will your t-shirt provide psychological support, help someone express their beliefs to the world, or make them feel part of a community?
2. Set up an online store.
Once you have defined your target market and discovered a product niche, it’s time to set up the real estate of your store.
BigCommerce is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there that lets you launch a store in a matter of a few minutes.
Once you create your account, hit “Store setup” in your dashboard that will guide you through important steps of getting your store up. That includes going over:
- Storefront settings.
3. Add products to your store.
BigCommerce offers a number of integrations you can use to source products for your online store, so explore your options.
Probably the easiest way to get started is partnering up with a print-on-demand drop shipper – a third-party service that fulfills and ships your products.
Since all of your products are printed only when the order comes in, you don’t need to worry about any upfront costs.
This also gives more freedom to introduce new products, or discontinue those that are not selling.
4. Fail, try again, fail, and keep trying.
Let’s be real, you probably won’t have hundreds of thousand orders coming in just after the launch of your store, but don’t let it put you back.
Being an online store owner requires resilience and creative problem-solving.
While your research has suggested what design will drive sales, your predictions might not match the actual needs of your target audience at this point in time.
That’s why it’s important to give your customers a voice.
Let them decide what products and designs are most attractive to them.
If one design isn’t popular, try something entirely different. And if customers don’t react to the new design, create another one.
Listen to the feedback and keep trying! You’ll get there eventually.
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As a rule of thumb, the more popular the product is, the bigger the competition it has in the market.
That’s why to break through the noise, you’ll have to create t-shirt designs that tell a story or make a statement people believe in.
1. Find design ideas.
Start by jotting down the key themes, beliefs, and styles you want your brand to be known for. Then, take some time polishing these ideas to come up with more concrete design concepts.
Define your business goal.
Ask yourself whether you’re looking for a one-time success or something that will pay your bills and take you on vacations for years to come.
Now, there’s no good or bad answer here, but being honest with yourself at this very moment can help you make the design search a lot easier.
If you’re looking for ideas that are evergreen, concentrate on topics and themes that don’t go out of fashion or are relevant all year round among your target audience. For example, a t-shirt that says “weekend vibes” or “holy guacamole”.
But if starting an online store is your way of testing the waters of ecommerce, make seasonal themes and trending topics the epicenter of your designs. Is there a popular meme or saying that’s taking the world by the storm? This might be your chance of monetizing the moment.
And in case you’re looking for a little bit of both, mix up your evergreen product offering with designs that support a social movement that’s currently being talked about.
Just make sure it resonates with your personal and business values.
Hijacking random news events can work against you if won’t put much thought to it.
Explore different design elements.
Your t-shirt design can come in multiple shapes and forms.
You can use typography, line drawings, shapes, illustrations, or photographs as your design base. But if you think that using one type of element is too restricting, mix and match different elements to create a one-of-a-kind t-shirt design.
Just remember, even the smallest detail in your design can tell a thousand words, so for the best outcome, stick to clear shapes and forms that are easy to recognize or read both up-close and from a distance.
Choose your color palette strategically.
For most people, including you future customers, visuals matter the most.
That said, every color you use can affect how people see your brand and products.
That’s why you need to think not only about the colors of your design, but also about the colors of the t-shirts your design will be on.
Your ultimate goal is making sure that the two compliment each other.
But you also have to keep some of the technical aspects in mind. For example, selling white tees with text in black will look sleek, but having the same text in pale pink might make the design difficult to read.
Find the right t-shirt type.
The crew neck, the V neck, and polo are just a few types of t-shirts out there for you choose.
When deciding which t-shirt will make the best canvas for your designs, think about your target audience and envisioned goal for your brand.
It’s simple. Polo shirts probably won’t be the best choice for a store that has an urban feel and targets streetwear shoppers.
Baggy or cropped tees, on the other hand, might be just perfect.
Decide on the print method.
When looking for t-shirt design ideas, you also need to keep printing technique in mind.
Some printing methods are more flexible than others, so it’s better to know what you’re working with right off the bat while you still have time to make adjustments to your designs.
Let’s take a look at the 3 most popular printing methods for t-shirts.
Direct-to-garment directly applies the ink onto the product. It’s sort of like printing on paper, except on a t-shirt. DTG printing allows extensive color options in designs and offers great precision in details. However, design placement can sometimes be limiting.
Screen printing involves pushing ink through a woven mesh stencil onto fabric. What’s important to know, is that with screen printing only one color can be applied at a time. So the more colors your design has, the longer it will take to print it, and the more expensive the whole thing will be.
Sublimation printing infuses a layer of ink directly onto the fabric, which means that the t-shirt print area is significantly bigger. This type of printing works best with patterns, photographs (especially landscapes), and abstract designs.
2. Create the designs.
Once you crystallized your ideas, it’s time to create the actual design. There are several ways you can go about it.
Do it yourself
If you have skills and time, take on the challenge of creating t-shirt designs yourself. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your idea come to life right in front of your eyes.
Creating designs doesn’t have to be difficult, you just need to know what tools are out there that can help visualize your idea.
If it’s your first time creating something digitally, it’s fair to say that professional software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator might not be the best choice not only because of the price, but also because of the learning curve.
Luckily, there are great free alternatives out there that offer basic functions needed to create a print file for your t-shirts. Let’s go over a few open-source vector graphic editors that you can start using today:
- Canva has everything you need to develop your first designs – a simple drag-and-drop editor, access to over 8,000 free templates, folders to organize your designs and the ability to upload your own images.
- Photopea has a bunch of pre-made templates for different projects, this software is a friendly tool for both graphic design beginners and veterans.
- GIMP is a graphics editor that will let you retouch the images you want to use for your t-shirt designs, or add a few free-form drawings to it.
- Inkscape can be used to create or edit vector graphics. While it’s a versatile tool you can use to work with illustrations, lines, or complex paintings, it has a learning curve.
If you want your design to look the best it can when printed, carefully follow basic graphics requirements provided by the printer of your choice.
In most cases you’ll have to take in consideration the size of a print area, file resolution, and accepted print file formats.
Hire a designer.
Not everyone is blessed with an eye for great designs or have all the necessary skills to create them, and that’s completely fine. If you don’t feel comfortable creating t-shirt designs yourself, hand this task over to a professional.
If you’ve never hired a freelance designer before, don’t worry, you won’t need to move mountains to find one.
There are numerous platforms out there that will connect you with a talented designer who has the skills to turn your vision into a print file for your t-shirt store.
Let’s take a look at a few options:
- 99designs. This platform connects freelance designers with clients who are on the lookout for custom designs, let it be logos, business cards, or you guessed it – t-shirt designs. If you have a clear vision of what your t-shirt design should look like, simply browse through the pool of designers to find a person whose style you enjoy. The hit that “Invite to work” button and start your conversation. However, if your idea for design is vague and you’re open to creative interpretations, start a contest that is open to the entire designer community on 99designs. It’s simple: you describe your idea, set the budget and let different designers submit their versions of your design. You get to pick and pay for the one which meets your aesthetic taste and design needs best.
- Dribble. Graphic designers and agencies use Dribble to showcase their portfolios and network with fellow creatives who are on the lookout for new opportunities. To find your designer on Dribble, take time browsing through portfolios until you find someone whose work you enjoy. If that particular designer is open to hire, you’ll see a “Hire me” button on their profile. You can also post a job ad on Dribble if you had no luck discovering talent on your own.
- Upwork, Fiverr, Guru. These global freelancing platforms let independent professionals with clients who are looking for help connect and collaborate remotely. In the pool of freelancers, you can also find graphic designers who can help you with your t-shirt design idea realization. Browse these platforms to find the freelancer yourself or post a job inviting anyone who’s interested send you their proposal.
When speaking with designers, let them know how you’re planning to use the design.
Don’t hesitate to share your store idea, print file guidelines, and some of the design no-nos.
The more information you share with them, the easier it will be for them to create the design you love.
Use your printer’s product generators
Most printers out there have product generators that let you create designs in one go.
So, if you don’t want to worry about finding the right design software and getting your print file quality and size just right, this might be the right choice for you.
If you’re not ready to commit to any printer yet, but would love to test your creativity first, head to Printful’s mockup generator.
This free tool will let you create designs with custom-drawn smileys, shapes, and fonts, and showcase them on the actual product.
The sky (and the maximum print area) is your limit, so don’t hold yourself back.
Since you’re the one doing all the printing, you can guarantee the quality of your products.
Besides, you can customize the packages by adding a personal touch to each order that comes in.