How to Sell T-Shirts Online and Make $50,000 in 10 Months

Let’s be honest. Everyone has thought about trying to make money selling t-shirts at one time or another.

The business is so simple.

Come up with an idea for a design, pay someone a few hundred dollars to print them up, and they’ll sell like crazy.

I remember watching a sports documentary about a guy who went to Notre Dame and made a bunch of money doing just that.

For most people, that initial excitement fades after they think about it a little more.

All the questions, concerns, and fears start to pop into their head.

How am I going to make the design? I’m not a graphic designer.

How to Sell T-Shirts Online

Where am I going to get the money for inventory?

Where am I going to keep all those shirts?

How am I going to sell them?

But things have changed.  Those fears shouldn’t even enter your head.  Now that you’re able to sell t-shirts online, all those problems are gone.

By the end of this post, you won’t be spending anything and still making over $50,000 a year selling t-shirts.

Is Selling T-Shirts Online Profitable?

Elaine Heney was a serial entrepreneur.

She’d created hundreds of apps, produced movies, was a #1 best seller, and run successful FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) campaigns.

But, there was something about selling t-shirts that caught her eye.

Maybe it was because she’d been a successful FBA that the idea jumped out to her.

She spots good ideas and knew this one could be a huge success.

Elaine was right.

Within the first ten months of selling t-shirts online, she had sold over $100,000. Taking in a profit of roughly $53,000.

All within 10 months!

Is selling t-shirts online profitable? Definitely

While Elaine had ran businesses before, she wasn’t a designer. She didn’t have connections with t-shirt manufacturers. She didn’t have a huge social media following that bought all her designs.

Elaine saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.

An opportunity that she says is still available and that anyone can take advantage of.

Best Place to Sell T-Shirts Online

Best place to sell t-shirts online is Merch by Amazon

The opportunity she saw was Merch by Amazon.

If it’s not clear, the “merch” in Merch by Amazon stands for merchandise.

This is Amazon’s way of dipping their toes into the world of custom merchandising.

Places like CafePress have been doing this for years.

They offer hundreds of products that anyone can customize and buy.

Logos, images, slogans...you name it and they’ll put it on a mug or hat or shirt for you.

It seems like Amazon is going to start offering a similar service, but right now it’s just shirts.

That’s OK though! Shirts are great!

Everyone wears t-shirts.

What Elaine saw with Merch by Amazon was the opportunity to sell on the largest marketplace in the world.

She could sell on the largest marketplace in the world and not have to worry about processing credit cards, shipping, returns, or even holding inventory.

That’s right, you can sell shirts online without inventory.

Granted, there are other businesses that offer a similar option.

Teespring offers the same convenience. The difference is Amazon.

Amazon already has millions of people shopping on their site. They’ve got built in customer goodwill.

People feel comfortable buying from Amazon. Most of the time their credit card info is already on file with Amazon and they just hit the 1-click Buy button.

Most people don’t have that level of comfort with Teespring or any other site out there.

How Does Merch by Amazon Work?

Merch by Amazon makes this selling t-shirts thing ridiculously simple.

I’ll go over this in more detail a little later but let’s look at things from a high level.

Once you’ve got a Merch by Amazon account, you’ll come up with a design.

You’ll create the design on the software of your choice. Don’t worry. I’ll give you a tip later to make this process really simple.

Next you choose the shirt colors. What colors do you want available for the customer to buy?

Write a short description. Set the price. You’re done.

Your shirt then gets listed on Amazon and is there for anyone and everyone to buy.

Once someone decides to buy your shirt, the process is the same as any other sale on Amazon.

Instead of the order going to you to fulfill, Amazon takes care of everything.

They print the shirt on-demand after an order comes in. Amazon packages it up, handles the shipping and delivery, and next thing you know the customer is wearing your design.

You just made money without having to lift a finger.

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Now let’s dig a little deeper. Elaine has a few tips on how to make your t-shirt business a success.

Design Topic for Your T-Shirts

When it comes to the theme of a design, it’s best to stay within three categories:

  • Evergreen
  • Trending topics
  • Seasonal

Evergreen topics are the things people are passionate about.

Nurses are passionate about nursing.

Sports fans are passionate about their teams and the sport in general.

Rock climbers obsess with everything rock climbing.

Creating a t-shirt design that makes money

 

Tap into that passion with a shirt design. Hopefully there is something you’re passionate about.

Use your knowledge of the subject to make some shirts that other people would like.

Trending topics have a shorter lifespan than evergreen but can be VERY lucrative.

Around the election, there were hundreds of trending topics.

Hashtags and catchphrases are always catching on Twitter.

If you keep your eyes open, you can cash in on one of those trends before they fade.

And finally there is seasonal.

Seasonal has a longer lifespan than trending topics but doesn’t have the year round potential like evergreen designs.

With seasonal designs, you’re tapping into holidays or seasons.

Shirts that are popular around Halloween or Father’s day. Shirts about winter or the rainy season.

Creating a Design

This part will still scare a lot of people.

When people think about designing a shirt, they think about some elaborate artistic creation.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Most of the best selling shirts on Merch by Amazon are words. Just plain words.

One of the highest selling shirts of all time came around the 2016 election and all it said was Resist.

It was a black shirt with white lettering in a basic font. That’s it.

Come up with a short phrase that taps into one of those three design topics and you’re set.

Once you’ve got the phrase, use a tool like WordSwag.

That’s right, you’re going to be creating t-shirt designs on your phone.

Wordswag allows you to type in anything and then apply various design templates.

Think of it like an Instagram for words.

Once you’ve got a Wordswag image dialed in, you’re all done.

You’ve got your t-shirt design. Quick, easy, painless.

By the way, don’t put too much pressure on yourself with the design.

If it doesn’t sell, who cares! It’s not like it cost you any money.

You came up with an idea and put it out there. If it doesn’t sell, oh well.

Come up with another design and try again. That’s the beauty of Merch by Amazon, you get to do all this trial and error for FREE.

Other Design Apps

There are a host of other design apps out there you could use.

Check out this list of design apps and see if another one appeals to you.

The other app I’d recommend downloading is Resize Images.

Amazon needs the image to be 4500 x 5400, 300dpi, and have a transparent background.

Most apps will do that, but, just in case, Resize Images handles all those details for you.

Pricing and Color Choices

Amazon recommends a selling price of $19.99 and this is what you should sell at.

There hasn’t been a lot of testing to see the success of cheaper priced shirts.

Since Elaine made $50k in 10 months selling at $19.99, I’m going to trust her.

Price and royalties of selling t-shirts online

With that sale price, you earn about $5.38 in profit.

Sell 10 shirts, you make $53.80. Sell 100, you make $538.

Elaine also recommends you stick with darker colors. Black and navy blue are top sellers.

Amazon gives you hints into what the best sellers are.

Once you’ve uploaded a design and want to select shirt colors, they line the colors up from top selling to lowest.

I’d pick a few of the highest selling colors and stick with that. That is, as long as your design looks good on those colors.

If your design doesn’t look good, choose some different color shirts or tweak your design.

Most of this is going to be trial and error.

You’re going to come up with designs, put them on a few colors, and see if they sell.

If they don’t, you come up with a new one and try again.

Sometimes you can cycle back through old designs and see if they start selling again. You might get lucky.

One way to try more things is to increase your design limit.

Increasing T-Shirt Design Limit

When you’re first starting, Amazon only allows you to have 10 designs at one time.

Once you sell 10 shirts, they lift that 10 design limit.

Amazon doesn’t care where those sales come from as long as you reach 10.

One way is to order 10 yourself. Give them away as gifts.

Or create a random design for a family get together. Order 10 for the event and then pull the design down.

The more designs you’re allowed to sell at one time, the better odds you have of finding a winner.

Marketing Your T-Shirts

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Amazon is a massive marketplace and your t-shirt designs can easily get lost in the sea of products.

That’s OK. Remember, you’re not paying for any inventory or storage space.

Your t-shirt designs can sit there for 60 days without a sale and then Amazon will pull it down.

Try a different design or put it up again.

The good news is you’re not out any money if something like that happens.

We’re in this to make money, though. That means you’ve got to do at least a little marketing.

You’ll be surprised to find out that Elaine made her $50,000 without spending a dime on marketing.

She’d post a picture of the shirt on Twitter or Instagram with a popular hashtag about the theme of her design.

The hope being someone is looking at posts about the hashtag, sees her shirt and buys it.

If it worked for her, it’ll work for you.

You could spend money on Facebook ads or Instagram ads, but I wouldn’t.

The goal is to make money while spending as little as possible.

Selling t-shirts online is one of the easiest ways to make a lot of money without spending any.

I recommend you keep coming up with designs and posting them to Instagram and Twitter.

Just like Elaine did.

Don't Wast Time on Amazon Reviews

For whatever reason, this won’t make a difference.

I’ve tried to figure out why, but couldn’t find anything.

It’s not going to have any impact on the sale of your t-shirt. For other products, it’s definitely going to make a difference, but t-shirts are immune.

If someone loves your design, they’re going to buy it regardless of whether there are reviews or not.

They probably see that “Fulfilled by Amazon” and instinctively know it’s going to be of good quality.

Of course good reviews never hurt, but don’t put time or energy in trying to get reviews.

The cost benefit just isn’t there.

Conclusion

And there you have it!

Selling t-shirts online has to be one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make extra money for free.

Especially with Merch by Amazon.

Technology has made the process so easy and cheap, all it takes is your time.

As long as you’re willing to put in a few hours a week, your t-shirt business is almost guaranteed to be a success.

Have you sold t-shirts online?  Any tips or recommendations?  Leave a comment below.

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