With the ever-growing popularity of everyday comfort wear, print-on-demand, or POD, T-shirts have become a sought-after alternative to boring mass-market options. Indeed, POD T-shirts offer unique personalisation advantages, allow fashionistas to express themselves and communicate their messages, and can even be used as one-of-a-kind gifts.
Naturally, print-on-demand T-shirts are the product of choice for many entrepreneurs looking to start a drop-shipping business.
How to Build a Business with POD T-Shirts Step-by-Step
The idea of starting a dropshipping business with POD T-shirts can sound quite enticing. You don’t need to carry any inventory, the start-up costs are low, and you can begin earning money within a few weeks.
But what exactly do you need to do to build a POD T-shirt business? Here are five simple steps that can help you get going:
Step 1: Product Research
If you want to sell POD T-shirts online, your first step should involve thorough product research.
For starters, determine what design themes or ideas you are planning to represent. Are your products going to focus on topics like politics, sports, music, movies, holidays, or something else?
The topics and themes that you choose should be based on the general knowledge, interests, and concerns of your target audience base. For instance, you may want to catch hot daily events and phenomena associated with one of the above topics and use it to create new trending designs that many people are searching for.
Next, decide what brands will be used for your base T-shirts. Some popular T-shirt brands to consider include Gildan, Bella+Canvas, Next Level, and more.
Step 2: Graphic Design Process
Once you narrow down your topic selection and base T-shirt brand, it’s time to finalise the design of your print-on-demand t-shirts. A great graphic design that aligns with what your audience likes or cares about is often what makes or breaks the purchase: indeed, today’s customers want a POD T-shirt that not only resonates with their values but also looks good!
Ask your graphic design team to create several alternative designs of the same item to offer more product variety and give customers more options to choose from. Make sure to not go overboard, however: when faced with too many choices, potential buyers can get stuck with “analysis paralysis,” not being able to come to the final decision. So, stick with 2 to 5 alternative designs for the same item to keep your customers interested but not too overwhelmed.
Once the designs are finalised, make sure to create attractive watermarked mockups that can be used for all products. By combining unique design ideas with beautiful mockups, you will be able to create compelling product sample images and stimulate your audience to complete the purchase.
Step 3: Product Marketing and Promotion
Just like with any other business, running a successful dropshipping store requires extensive product marketing and promotion. Chances are, you are not the only person selling print-on-demand T-shirts online, so you need to make your store and your products stand out among the competition.
Some effective ways to market print-on-demand T-shirts include:
- Marketing through online marketplaces. You can upload your products to free online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, Merch, TeeChip, and more. Such platforms already have a stable traffic flow, which you may be able to take advantage of.
- Marketing through your own website. Of course, most successful brands have their own central websites, where they market their products. Once you build the website, you will need to find ways to get it seen and stimulate customers to make a purchase. This can be achieved through Search Engine Optimisation, paid advertising campaigns, content marketing, and more.
- Marketing through social media platforms. In addition to having a central website, it is also a good idea to establish a solid social media presence. You can do so by creating accounts for your brand on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Don’t forget to share regular posts and engage with your audience or followers.
Step 4: Order Fulfillment and Shipping
As soon as your marketing efforts start to pay off, you will see a flow of orders submitted through your website or an online marketplace of your choice. When an order is placed, you must arrange for the product to be shipped directly from the product supplier.
Make sure to research product suppliers early on and find a reputable partner that you can rely on. Some options to consider include:
- Printful. Printful is among the leading companies in the print-on-demand industry. If you partner with Printful, they will handle inventory, printing, and shipping on your behalf, all at competitive rates and with great customer support along the way. Notably, Printful offers different T-shirt printing methods, such as cut-and-sew sublimation, direct-to-garment (DTG), embroidery, and screen printing.
- Printify. Printify is another popular POD company to consider. While Printify doesn’t do the printing itself, the platform will connect you with a network of print service providers who will handle the product production and shipping. When working with Printify, you will be able to arrange for screen printing, DTG printing, dye sublimation, and vinyl printing options.
- SPOD. SPOD is a great POD company if you are looking for a quick production time and multiple printing options. SPOD utilises thermal sublimation, digital direct, laser transfer/digital transfer, and special flex printing options, with a 48-hour production guarantee for most items.
- Dreamship. Dreamship is not a print-on-demand company itself. Rather, it presents a network of vetted on-demand fulfillment partners that can help you quickly scale up your business. With Dreamship, you can create new products, find POD partners, and manage vendor relationships, all in one place.
- Gelato. Gelato is another well-known print-on-demand company that works with a large network of print service providers around the world. The platform uses the direct-to-garment printing method as their standard practice, serving customer demands within 72 hours.
- CustomCat. Finally, CustomCat offers a wide range of products with convenient online design tools. The company utilises DTG, screen, and embroidery as its main printing methods and provides white-label solutions, which means you can brand their products for your unique business.
Step 5: Customer Support
Having open lines of communication with your customers at all times is the key to success with any dropshipping business. Whether your customers have a question about your product, would like to return their purchase, or simply want to connect, they should hear from you no later than within 24 hours.
Thus, make sure to hire knowledgeable employees or sales representatives who are available at all times, – or at least, install a chatbot on your site to address customer concerns immediately.
A coherent return policy is a must as well. It is inevitable that some buyers may wish to return the products, – so, you must establish a procedure to determine whether the claimed fault exists and arrange for a return and refund if it does. One point to keep in mind is that your POD supplier’s return policy must match the policy you state on your own website.
Some Successful Brands for References
Although only established in April 2023, TheKingShirts has sold tens of thousands of t-shirts to customers and received a lot of positive feedback. Their goal is to be number one in the POD t-shirt field and serve millions of customers in the future.
Their T-shirts are very diverse and designed for customers from different backgrounds interested in various fields and topics such as music, politics, religion, sports, sciences, nature, and more.
As a famous t-shirt brand about faith, ChristFollowerLife focuses mainly on religious themes. Quotes and sayings often inspire their designs in the bible or images and symbols directed to fine and sacred things such as the sun, Jesus, sunflowers, doves, fishes, and crosses.
Teespring, an American company, runs Spring, a social commerce platform empowering individuals to design and market personalised products. The company originated in Providence, Rhode Island 2011 by Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton. For those looking for more specific designs or wanting to create new ones with a reputable platform to feature the items, Teespring offers a friendly and detailed interface to help creators monetise their own POD products.
TeePublic is one of the world’s largest marketplaces for independent creators to sell high-quality merchandise bearing original art with third-party printers held to sustainable, non-hazardous, and toxin-free production standards. For those who want to keep up or follow the trends and pop culture to make honest profits with POD items, TeePublic offers a great platform to turn those ideas into reality.
While setting up a dropshipping business with POD T-shirts does require a few steps, it is not that difficult. For once, you don’t need any significant upfront investments, storage space, or a team of experts to help you run the company. Simply choose and design your products, find a reliable supplier, and start selling through the platform of your choice! At the end of the day, all things are difficult before they are easy. Good luck!