There’s nothing more exciting – or daunting – than starting your own business. So, if you’re starting a t shirt business, we congratulate you, we feel you, and we’ve been in your boat! And we promise – you don’t have to spend a fortune to get started.
If you are starting an Etsy t shirt business, here are our 6 favorite tried-and-tested ways to save money.
1. Print on Demand
I know how tempting it is when you’re first starting out. You’ve got your perfect t shirt design, and you’re positive everyone’s going to love it. Wouldn’t it be fun to get the supplies and start printing your own?
The reality is that building a successful Etsy t shirt company takes time. The safer, cheaper, and smarter option when you are starting out is to pick a print-on-demand company. This means that you’ll hire a company to do all the fulfilling and shipping for you, so that you’re only charged when someone makes an actual purchase.
When looking for a supplier, don’t settle. Look at their fulfillment time, customer service, quality of print, and cost, and see if they align with your business objectives. I’ve worked with several print-on-demand companies over the years, and I’ve had good experiences with this one.
2. Take Advantage of Free Marketing
You can’t sell products if people don’t know who you are, so marketing is going to be essential. So how do you market without breaking the bank?
While paid advertising may be easy, it’s also, well, paid. And if you’re looking to save money, then don’t underestimate the power of free social media marketing. In fact, our founder used Instagram to grow her small t shirt business to a nationwide brand (see her story here).
The first step to good social media marketing (free or paid) is to nail down your niche. If you’re just selling generic t shirts, you’re going to have a really hard time differentiating yourself from the competition. That’s why it’s better to sell t shirts to men who love gardening, for example, or women who own Siamese cats. Do your research, but don’t be afraid to get specific.
Once you’ve got your niche down, you can start to explore social media. We’ve found great success through Instagram, but like with all things, you need to have a smart strategy to make it actually work. No worries – we’ve got your back! Find 9 Instagram posting ideas for product-based businesses here, 7 Instagram captions that sell here, and more tips for building a t shirt brand on Instagram here.
Building an email list is another great way free marketing tool. And while not technically free, these 3 email opt-in ideas are easy and relatively inexpensive ways to get more sign-ups for your list.
3. Save On Photography With Professional Mockups
OK, the bad news first. You can’t have a successful t shirt business without great product photos. Customers simply demand high res, high quality shots, so they can get a feel for your products and what they’ll look like in real life.
And a little more bad news. Brand photographers are expensive, and learning to shoot photos and organize photoshoots yourself is difficult, stressful, and time consuming.
But now the good news! You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars or dozens of hours for product photos when you use (drum roll, please!) high quality t shirt mockups.
And yes, not all mockups are created equally. We’ve seen some real doozies. In fact, that’s what inspired us to start creating high quality t shirt and hoodie mockups that are eye-catching and easy to use – all of which are available in packages or individually on our Etsy store.
You can peruse our collection of mockups here. We’ve got over 1000 available, in a variety of themed collections (like ‘casual summer, ‘fresh for fall,’ and for many different holidays). We’ve got options with male, female and kid models, as well as beautiful flatlays. And, we add new photos each month.
If you’re new to the idea of using mockups for your t shirt business, download our free mockup starter pack here. Be warned: it’s a game-changer!
4. Host Through Etsy
One thing you won’t find on our list of supplies you need for your t shirt business? A website. That’s because you really don’t need a website to get started.
Of course, a website does offer you a little more flexibility and control that you might want down the line. But think of it as a ‘nice-to-have.’ And it can be a pricey nice-to-have at that. Simply using Etsy is a great way to reach a wider audience than you can with a brand-new website, and it’s much more affordable, too.
Discover ways to drive traffic to your Esty shop here.
5. Save on Software
Repeat after us: Canva is your friend! You don’t need to invest in Photoshop or expensive Photoshop training for your graphic design needs. We swear by Canva, and we use it almost daily. It’s a web-based service that’s basically ‘Photoshop for Dummies.’ It’s also free to use (although there are paid options if you end up needing them).
So for example, if you’re worried about how to use those mockups we mentioned in Step #3? Don’t be! They’re super easy to use in Canva. See our quick tutorial on how to make them here.
6. Poll Your Community
Ultimately, the best way to save money is to make money. The best way to make money is by creating impactful designs that people will love. And the best way to make designs that people will love is to ask them!
That’s why our final tip is to poll your community to find out what kind of designs and t shirts they’re dying for. You can do this over social media or using that handy email list we discussed in Tip #2. Either way, you’ll be getting data directly from the people who matter most.
Finally, if you’re really looking to cut costs, don’t miss our article on how to start a t shirt business for $100, and don’t forget that we offer mockup memberships to help you lock in even more savings. Good luck!