T-shirt shops have been a popular online business idea practically since the birth of the internet, and for good reason: they require very little up-front investment, you can flex your creative muscles and express yourself with your designs, and t-shirts will never go out of style.
Starting an online business is much simpler than starting a traditional bricks-and-mortar business, and WordPress makes it even easier. Even if you’ve never used WordPress before, you can easily set up a t-shirt shop.
Step 1: Create a plan
Remember: those who fail to plan, plan to fail. If you’re serious about creating a successful online store, it’s important to do a little brainstorming and planning before you start.
Choose your niche
The more narrowly defined your niche is, the easier it will be to find and connect with your target audience and market your t-shirt store.
If you just open a general t-shirt shop with no focus, you won’t be able to compete with big businesses with big budgets like Cafepress or TeeSpring.
But if you have a very narrow audience – say, t-shirts that features images from retro video games, or t-shirts targeting a specific profession – then it’ll be easier to stand out. The ideal is to find a niche where you have no direct competitors.
Name your brand
After you choose your niche, you’ll need to create a business name. It should be a name that’s short and memorable, appropriate to your niche and audience, and isn’t already taken.
Try using a tool like BusinessNameGenerator.com to get ideas, or just brainstorm using a thesaurus.
Ideally the .com domain name should be available, but you can also look at some of the new TLDs like .fashion, .design, or one that fits your niche. You can see a full list of new TLDs at Name.com.
You can use a tool like Namecheckr to see if your desired name is available across social media platforms, too. Focus on visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, which are great for promoting ecommerce sites.
Note: Depending on the law in your area, you may have to register your business trade name.
You can also check out our post on How To Choose The Perfect Domain Name for extra tips.
Put together your business plan
You don’t need a long, formal business plan, but it’s smart to write down a few items like your target market, your budget, an estimated timeline for your launch, etc.
Bplans has a gallery of example business plans for ecommerce stores you can check out for inspiration.
Step 2: Set up your website
Next you’ll need to buy your domain and web hosting, and install WordPress.
Choosing a web host
Choosing a web hosting company can be overwhelming with all the options out there. You can check out our web hosting reviews to help you decide.
Many web hosts, including WPX Hosting, include easy 1-click installation of WordPress.
You can also check out our tutorial here on How To Setup Your WordPress Blog: The Essential Guide.
Choosing a theme
Next you’ll need to switch from the default theme to something more unique for your t-shirt shop.
It’s smart to look at themes designed specifically for ecommerce so you may want to check out our article on ecommerce themes.
Step 3: Design your t-shirt graphics
In order to sell t-shirts, you need some t-shirt designs!
You can design your own if you’re talented in graphic design, or hire a designer to create some for you based on your ideas.
A word of caution: When using graphics and images from other sources, make sure you have permission to use them. Brush up on copyright law so that you don’t get into trouble. Copyright lawsuits can be incredibly costly.
Step 4: Build your store
We’re going to be building a shop using Spreadshirt, a great t-shirt design website where you can set up your own shop, with an available WordPress plugin to display your wares. They take care of the details like printing and shipping the t-shirts, so all you have to worry about is creating your designs and managing your website.
Click over to Spreadshirt.com and click on Sell in the top menu, and click the Start Selling Now button.
Scroll down and click on the “Sign up to open shop” button on the right:
So, now you can go ahead and download the WordPress plugin – click here to download the Spreadshirt WordPress plugin.
Navigate to your new WordPress website and click on Plugins > Add New to upload, install, and activate the plugin.
At one point, you would need to register API keys and enter them after installing & activating the plugin. Good news – you no longer need to!
Now you can use the shortcode [spreadplugin] to display your t-shirt designs on any page or post on your website. (You can check out the plugin FAQ for more options on how to display your t-shirts.)
Step 5: Promote your products
Now that your shop is live, the next step is to get the word out!
Create your social media accounts and follow users who are in your target audience. Don’t just promote your website, but make connections, have conversations, and promote other people’s work as well.
You can also try running ads on Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. Figure out which social media platforms your target audience is using and consider advertising there.
Though a t-shirt shop doesn’t require much up-front investment, it can take a lot of work to get going. Don’t give up if you don’t see results right away – keep trying until you do! Though it takes effort to get started, a successful t-shirt business is a fun way to earn money for yourself online.