packing t shirt into box

Is Selling T-Shirts Online Profitable? Starting an eCommerce Clothing Business

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Whether your income has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, you’re tired of your 9-to-5 job or you’re just looking for a side hustle to earn some extra cash, starting an eCommerce clothing business could be a great solution. Selling t-shirts online can be a profitable endeavor. While many people use print on demand services to sell t-shirts without keeping their own inventory, you can also build a lucrative business by purchasing plain t-shirts in bulk and customizing them yourself. If you’re thinking about starting an online clothing business, keep reading to learn more! 

Decide on a Business Model

Before you can start taking orders and turning a profit, you need to decide on a business model. When it comes to selling clothing–particularly t-shirts and hoodies–online, the main decision is whether to customize and sell shirts yourself or use a print on demand service. A print on demand service harnesses the power of technology and allows you to sell custom apparel without ever having to buy inventory or do any customization yourself. It’s fast, easy and convenient, and the start-up costs are nearly non-existent. The downside, though, is you have to rely on someone else to do most of the hard work for you. And you are at the printer’s mercy should they decide to raise their prices or discontinue a product. Print on demand is convenient, but it leaves you very little control over your business. 

Order Your Plain T-Shirts in Bulk to Start Your eCommerce Clothing Business

If you choose to buy blank apparel and customize it yourself, you have full control over the entire process. From choosing shirts to creating designs and shipping finished products to your customers, you do it all. It is, undeniably, a lot of hard work and requires a substantial upfront investment. If you have the time and money to do it, though, you could end up with a more profitable business in the long run. When you buy wholesale hooded sweatshirts yourself, for example, instead of having orders processed through a print on demand company, you’ll likely have much more room for profit. You’ll also have the opportunity to assess the various factors affecting the comfort assessment of knit t-shirts to find perfectly comfy shirts customers will love buying and wearing. 

Research What Buyers Are Looking For

cars themed t shirt mockup

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Once you’ve decided how you’re going to sell your shirts, you’ll need to figure out what sorts of designs will actually sell. The research phase can be quite time-consuming, but it is a vital part of the process if you want to build a profitable business. After all, you can’t make any money if you don’t offer products consumers are interested in purchasing. 

Ordering Wholesale Hooded Sweatshirts in Bulk Cut Costs for Your Online Store

Open up an incognito browser window and then visit Amazon or Etsy. As soon as you click in the search bar of either site, you’ll be presented with a list of things that are currently trending. Even if a current trend is something like “safari baby shower,” you can use that idea to create a shirt design that will sell. A mom-to-be who is currently planning a safari-themed baby shower would probably love a maternity tee featuring a mama giraffe and a baby giraffe, for example. 

If you’re not a fan of any of the ideas that pop up, start typing in some of your own ideas. Even entering just a letter or two could bring up some valuable results. Devote a good bit of time to researching what people are buying to come up with some design ideas of your own. 

Design and Sell

screen printing red t shirt

Source: Andrey_Popov/

Once you have an idea of what sort of designs people are currently interested in, it’s time to start creating your shirts. You can create your own custom artwork, purchase design files, etc. Your designs don’t have to be super fancy in order to sell well. They just need to appeal to consumers. Avoid using licensed artwork unless you purchase the license. Getting in legal trouble is not a good way to start your business off on the right foot! 

Create a website, or start selling on a platform like Amazon or Etsy. Take photos of your custom shirts or upload images of your designs if you are using a print on demand service. Be sure to write appealing descriptions that will encourage customers to buy. 

The exact process for fulfilling orders will vary depending on whether you are printing yourself or using a print on demand service. Either way, make sure you do everything you can to ensure a positive buying experience for your customers. 

The Bottom Line

Selling t-shirts online is a great side hustle. It could even become a full-time job if you play your cards right. With the suggestions listed above, you could be well on your way to building a lucrative eCommerce clothing business.