Business 101: 3 Hard Lessons I Learned in the T-Shirt Business

So, during my journey to discover what areas would be part of my business empire I have dabbled in the t-shirt selling business.  While I haven’t spent a lot of time in this space, I’ve learned several lessons that can help anyone that is just starting out. If anyone else has additional hard lessons shoot them in the comments section.

  • Don’t buy inventory ahead of time.
    1. I had the grand idea of purchasing 3-5 t-shirts in several sizes of my first design so basically 20 shirts. Nearly 9 months later, how many shirts do I have left you ask, 19.  It you aren’t running a brick-and-mortar store and or don’t have an established demand it makes no sense to buy physical inventory ahead of time.  Just because you think your design is a good idea doesn’t mean the world will buy it.  I recommend putting in an application for Amazon Merch because they allow you to create designs and only manufacture the inventory when an order is placed.  Redbubble is the same way minus the requirement to apply to be a merchant on the site.  The downside to Amazon Merch is that if you don’t sell a given number of shirts by a certain time frame than you can get kicked off the site like myself.
  • Develop marketing plan for your product.
    1. I will admit that once I got up to maybe 10 different t-shirt designs posted between Amazon Merch and Redbubble that I didn’t do a whole of marketing. I created a web page on my website that linked to a lot of the shirts but that wasn’t enough to generate any sales.  I won’t pretend that I’m a marketing guru and with all the research I’ve done apparently others aren’t either.  No, buying followers and likes on Instagram doesn’t count as being a good marketer.  Know that if you are going to outsource someone to do marketing for your product that you’re probably going to end up paying someone up to thousand dollars a month for several months to see results.  The costs could be maybe several hundred dollars if you use overseas company or labor.
  • Avoid dealing with unproven overseas manufacturing companies.
    1. I called myself trying to find my own overseas manufacturer for t-shirts right out the gate with no experience on my end. Stumbled on site called and thought their database of potential vendors seemed like a jackpot.  However, when I tried to make my first purchase on there, they had some deal where the payment for the order was held by them and then released to the overseas manufacturer.  To make the payment though you had to make international wire transfer.  So, I placed the order, but the money took several weeks and still wasn’t in manufacturer’s hands.  Things didn’t seem right to me, so I demanded my money back and cancelled the order due to sketchiness of the site.  If you are going to use overseas manufacturer, I would recommend finding someone with industry knowledge to provide you tips.  Places like the small business administration, better business bureau, or asking around would be better starting points than my random web search.

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