How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business at Zero Cost

by | Oct 24, 2020

One of the best and easiest ways to get started making money online is by selling T-shirts.  Entrepreneurs have been designing and selling T-shirts successfully online for years now.

Some are literally making millions through their designs!

Gone are the days of buying an industrial printer, or bulk ordering shirts by the thousands.  The magic of the internet has made it possible for anyone to start an online t-shirt business FOR FREE.  No inventory, no industrial equipment, no storefront, nothing. All you need is an internet connection and a creative mind to create purchase worthy designs.

In this article, we’re going to explain step-by-step how to start an online T-shirt business at absolutely zero cost.

1. Start with a Niche or a Design

People want to start a t-shirt business for different reasons.  Some people are natural artists and like the idea of making money through their designs. Some are more focused on finding a non-competitive niche for business and profitability sake.

It doesn’t matter your reasoning. What does matter is that you understand where you want to start.


Starting with a niche is great because you can really dive deep into different markets and find great opportunities to sell within those markets. An example of a niche would be giraffe lovers and even fans of different sports teams. Creating sport-themed apparel always presents a great opportunity to sell t-shirts.


There’s a lot of very talented people in the world that can produce amazing designs. Might as well monetize your skills, right? Finding your exact audience might be a little difficult for design-focused t-shirt shops, but the potential to create a loyal following is much greater. 

2. Create your First Designs

The lifeblood of your business is through your designs. Amazing designs that resonate with your target audience is what sells. You’ll want to create at least 5 different designs to start. It’s important to see which of your designs sell the best so you can create more of the same variety.

Maybe your right-brained, business-focused mind wants nothing to do with designs. That’s ok! It’s very easy to outsource the work of creating designs. However, be specific with what you’re requesting. Your designs need to be specific to your audience, so don’t ask for just any design. Platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer offer a network of freelancers who can create beautiful designs for you.

Use Canva to Start Designing Asap

Gone are the days of relying on professional graphic designers to create designs for you. Canva is an easy-to-use tool that allows you to create large, transparent files to use for your t-shirt design. The software is easy to use and allows you to create designs in minutes.

3. Source a Print-on-Demand Supplier

Teepublic, Printful, and Teespring are all print-on-demand suppliers that provide great options when you’re just starting.

No, you don’t need to order 5,000 shirts at a time. Nor do you need to do your own printing. Tee-spring does both. It takes 5 minutes to create an account and you’ll be ready to add your designs to your shirts and start selling, asap! It’s really that easy.

A word of caution: These platforms are made to be simple. If you’re looking for a certain type of material or fabric, These websites might not be great for you. However, if you’re like most newbies to online t-shirt selling, These websites are a great place to start. Over time you can start sourcing shirts of different styles and materials, but for now, we just need to start selling.

4. Choose your Network to Sell on 

Where do you want to sell your t-shirts? Not sure where to begin? Find a couple of similar competitors and plug them into a tool called Similar Web. Once you do this you’ll be able to see where their main source of traffic is coming from.

Since we don’t have a website (yet), it’s important that we choose a network that we can link to our store or sell directly from the network.

A few popular options are YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. YouTube in particular is a great option thanks to the ease of creating content and building a quick following to promote your shirts.

5. Start Driving Traffic to your Store 

You might have to get a little creative here. Since this is titled “How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business with no Money” I’m going to skip over the “give Facebook and Instagram a bunch of money section.”

Because we’re not paying for our traffic, we have to earn our traffic organically. You can do this by creating user-generated content. Depending on your niche, start posting content like blogs, videos, or updates and start creating a following.

Driving Traffic to Online T-shirt store

Somebody selling fitness t-shirts should post content that a fitness guru would enjoy. As you build your following start building out your shopping pages on Facebook and Google and drive your followers to the shop.

6. Keep Testing New Designs and Grow! 

You’ll have winning designs and losing designs. Stay the course and keep designing! As your designs become more and more popular you’ll have loyal customers ready for your next design waiting to buy.

As your skills start to grow and develop, start trying new experiments. See how your following reacts to different designs. The more of a pulse you have on your following the better designs you’ll create which means more sales!

7. Scale the Business 

Once your store becomes more and more successful it’s inevitable you’ll need to scale. At this point, all we have is some social media followers and a t-shirt print-on-demand account. One of the first things I’d recommend doing is to build a Shopify store.

Creating a website for your store will allow you to own the traffic you generate. Here you can capture email addresses, send social traffic, sell more products, and expand your sourcing.

Another recommendation to scale the business is to invest some of your profits into social media ads. Facebook and Instagram do very well selling t-shirts and apparel. Facebook has a convenient option to create a “lookalike” audience based on the email address of your current customers.


There you have it. You are now on your way to launching your own t-shirt business! Remember, you’ll likely hit some bumps in the road. Stay persistent, grow your following, and always be designing. Best of luck! Let us know your thoughts by commenting below. Did you find this helpful? Let us know how we can do better!

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