How and why I started a T-shirt store to shut it down 1 week later
When I tell you that building a business isn’t as hard as it used to be, I’m not even joking.
In the past – Before 2000 – it would have taken a lot more time and resources to set it up.
Hopefully, nowadays it’s “super easy” to set up a “new website” out of an old website.
Let’s not turn around the spot, that’s not what you want to read.
Here’s how I actually built a T-shirt online business in under a week – and how it could be done within a 2-3 days!
That’s how the t-shirts looked like!
First. You must know that what I did isn’t hard to reproduce. It’s called dropshipping and it’s making a killing all over the internet. Let me explain. I set up my store using Woocommerce – a WordPress plugin that transforms your website into an online store – and connecting it to the dropshipper I chose.
Note: You can also use Shopify to create your e-commerce
That’s how you set up a dropshipping t-shirt business. Simple… in theory and in practice.
Second. Here’s everything you need to have in order to set up your online store.
Note: If you miss something, you can acquire it during the creation process!
- A functional website running on WordPress – Tutorial
- An idea – actually many ideas, unless you just want to make a t-shirt
- Some spare hours – How to get more time in your days!
- An audience – If your mom is your only customer, your business will not work out
- Low-intermediate knowledge in websites – You don’t need to code anything!
I forgot to tell you… You don’t need to rent your house, your scooter and your dog to get the funds.
Your T-shirts will be printed and ordered on demand. It means that you pay nothing unless you make a sale. And that’s a good point. You don’t need any money to start this type of business. Look at the superb chart below to get the point
Third. You know everything you need to know before starting. Now the ball is in your court. Execute or simply learn how to craft this type of business. This is your choice.
1/ Installing WooCommerce on your WordPress website
I assume that you have WordPress installed on your website.
I don’t assume that you know how to install a plugin, so I’ll start here.
First, go to your admin panel – yourwebsiteurl.com/wp-admin by default.
Once there, locate the “plugin” button on the bottom-left of your screen. Click it. You’ll get moved to a page which shows all the plugins installed on your website.
We want to add another plugin so we will click on the “Add new” button.
Now you simply search “woocommerce” in the search box. Nothing fancy.
Check the results. Find Woocommerce and click on “Install now”
Once that’s done, you’ll discover 2 new buttons that popped out of nowhere on the left bar:
Products are exactly like pages and posts. You can create new products by clicking on this button. There you’ll have all the tools to make a good presentation, define the price and more. Products created here will appear on the yourwebsite.com/shop page.
WooCommerce is the headquarter of the plugin we just installed. Here you’ll find all the settings, orders, coupons… Everything that will constitute your store as a global entity – That’s the worst term I could thought of!
What do you do now?
Move to the “Setting” section of Woocommerce and change them to fit your needs. If you find this too hard for you to do on your own, search for help on Google. I won’t describe all the features and settings here because that would take way too much time and wouldn’t be very interesting to read. It’s already done somewhere else on the internet for sure!
Assuming that you managed your settings like a pro, it’s time to unveil our ultimate tool.
2/ Say hi to Printful, your new printer and dropshipper
Printful is a company which makes t-shirts, pillows, caps, mugs… I shouldn’t start like this.
Here’s what Printful does.
- A client buys from you
- You receive an order
- This order is automatically send to Printful
- Printful take a t-shirt, mug, cap… from their supplier and apply your design on it
- Printful make a package with your customer’s order
- They apply your logo and catch phrase – If you submitted them
- They ship your package to your customer with your brand on the package
- The carrier delivers to your customer
- The client happily receive the package
- He comes back to your store and buy another shirt…
Printful is super important to me because they craft the premium t-shirts/polo and more I sell on this website. Without them I wouldn’t be able to craft them nor to sell them!
Now that you know the beast it’s time to register on their website in order to set everything up.
Click here to create an account on Printful – affiliate link
Once that’s done, we have to connect Printful and your WordPress website.
To do so you must download Printful plugin and install it on your WordPress website.
Follow the same steps highlighted above. Instead of searching “woocommerce”, this time search “printful” and add the plugin to your website.
Now you have to connect the 2 software together.
Here is a short video explaining how to do so.
Congratulation, you just synchronized Woocommerce and Printful.
The next time someone buys from you an item created with Printful, Printful will automatically get the order and take care of it.
Basically, all you have to do is actually sell units of the products you show on your website.
With Printful you can create caps, mugs, t-shirts and polos… and even more if you are motivated!
Let’s see how to create your brand and give it a unique image.
3.1/ Creating your unique brand
You already have the name of your brand!
That’s the domain of your website. It can’t be otherwise. It would be weird for a customer to click on a link to nerdow.com and appear on a website stating: Welcome to Yannick’s Shirt. That would throw the person off, and probably my self-esteem too.
The first step is to create a congruent experience for your clients.
What do they want?
They want to have the same experience all over your website.
- The same tone
- The same style of pictures
- The same ideas
- The same colors
Fail to bring coherence on your website and your website will fail to build trust with your potential customers. Who would buy from an awful, badly designed, old and slow website? Certainly not me. It rejects trust as a mosquitoes repellent.
Let me remind you something…
When you came to Nerdow on the front page. What did you thought?
- It’s unique?
- It’s congruent?
- Why is it black and white?
Only to discover later that it’s probably not unique. I’m not alone with a black and white themed website, probably. It’s surely congruent as far as I can take it. Sure, it would require some tweaks but I’m happy with the result. And fundamentally, it’s black and white because those colors show rarity, quality and fanciness.
That’s the style of my blog/store.
Now, let’s come up with a super list that will help you build a congruent design over all the pages of your website.
Believe me, it’s important for your customers to feel at home before they buy from you!
On this part, it’s only design, colors… Nothing speaks better than design!
- Choose 2-3 colors and stick to them
- Get/craft a logo with 2-3 colors and use it everywhere
- Define – or redefine – the name of your store
- Find a theme that match – I’m using Hestia
- Apply your colors on the theme
- Use Unsplash to find good looking pictures – Stay within your theme ! Colors, style…
- Upload these pictures on the front page of your website
- Use Elementor to customize all your pages by adding unique elements
3.2/ Creating your awesome products!
Having a good-looking website is great. Selling products is actually much better for an online T-shirt store.
Before selling those products, we must actually create them!
Some of the t-shirt I created. Unfortunately you can’t buy them anymore
Let’s see how you can create new products with Printful.
First, go to their website and connect to your account – it should be automatic if you ticked the auto-connect case.
Select the store button on the upper bar.
Then choose your store and click on the “add” button to add a new product to your store.
Unrelated Note: You can manage different store with a single Printful account
Now you should be on a page similar to this one
As simple as it appear, you now need to choose the type of product you want to create.
As an example we will create a custom t-shirt with the Lion Crown logo.
First we must choose a t-shirt.
Click on Men’s clothing –> T-shirts –> The t-shirt you want
Now it’s time to customize it.
First, choose the following:
- Where it will be stocked – Pro tip: Choose USA and Europe
- The different colors you want to display in your store
- The different size available in your store
Now it’s time to customize your first t-shirt.
I already have the logo so I’ll upload it by clicking on “Upload a file”.
If you don’t have a logo/specific design in your head, take a sheet of paper and write, draw let your imagination flow.
As soon as your file is ready, you can place the logo where you want on the t-shirt.
I’ll place it on the top right of the t-shirt so that when I’ll wear it, the logo will be located near my heart. Exactly like most luxury polo brands do.
- You can change the size of your design
- You can add multiple pictures on one shirt – vectors are preferred
- “Add text” add text – Logic
- And “Add” clipart” brings you a hell load of cool pictures that you can also add on your piece of art
Once you are done with your design, click on the orange “Proceed to mockup”, at the bottom left of the window.
Next step let you choose the main picture of your store. Usually you take the t-shirt color that match the best your design. Here it’s clearly the white.
Now, proceed to description.
As said, the description is where you write the description that will appear on your website.
Please, make an effort to come up with something original.
The basic description sucks and always identify you as a crappy marketer, which we don’t want to be identified as.
Last part of the page ask you which type of size chart you want to show on your website, tick the 2 cases as you don’t have a clue who will visit your website. As a matter of fact, I’m French so inches and foot don’t make any sense to me.
Next step: Proceed to pricing!
Printful price is the price you’ll pay Printful when they’ll charge you.
The retail price is the price displayed on your website.
I consider our product as premium so I have no problem to set up high prices for them. Wearing a Lion Crown t-shirt make you stand out, it comes as an entry price.
Nonetheless, you are free to fix the price you want!
Product visibility is mandatory. If it isn’t ticked, your product won’t appear on your store. What a shame!
For the categories? That’s those on your website.
Self-note: Update “Lined” to “Lion Crown” | Done
Once you are done, it’s time to submit it to your store. Clicking the orange button will do the job!
Congratulation, you just published your first product.
Your online business is now functional… So why are we stuck at 50%?
Because your online t-shirt business still miss a hell load of features and settings…
4/ The final features and settings
Here’s what I recommend you to do next once your business runs.
This list is in no particular order. You’ll find a lot of content, feel free to skip it if it bores you.
- Add an affiliate marketing service on your store. Pay people to promote your product based on how much product they sell for you – We have this!
- Add mailing service. Automatic mails triggered when specific actions occur.
- When someone buy
- When you publish an article
- When you offer discounts
- When someone leaves his cart all alone. Some people have no heart!
- Add some coupons. People love coupons! Free shipping, fix or percentage…
- Shipping time varies a lot! 5-20 days!
- Configure the shipping settings. Personally I charge no fee for shipping as the price of Lion Crown items largely outweigh the shipping fees charged by Printful
- Create events with webinars or social networks and trigger more sales!
- Configure the tax settings in WooCommerce
- Add more products to your store. A single t-shirt isn’t enough. But launching with 50 look-a-like t-shirt sucks – Don’t reproduce my mistake ! More on this at the bottom of the article!
- How Printful charges you when a customer buys one or more of your products: Printful product price +[ VAT = 21% of the price you sale at] + Printful shipping price
- Your shop must look trustful. If you want to be sure about this, ask a girl to check your website and ask her if she would trust this website. If she wouldn’t? You must work on the design/quality
- Returns are hard to handle. That’s why we don’t take care of returns nor exchanges. Do as you please
- You need a “Terms and conditions” page on your website. Use google to find one and simply change the name of the company to yours. Some blueprints are also available online
- Review all the settings in Woocommerce at least 5 times. You don’t want to mess up something!
- Write clearly what you deliver. When you deliver it. How you deliver it.
- To customize your Printful package, go to your settings on their website and click on “Packing slip” . You’ll be able to change several settings
- You need to drive traffic on your store. The more people visit your shop, the higher the chance that someone buys. How to encourage readers and shoppers to come?
- Social medias
- Paid advertising
- Affiliate marketing
- Write your own description for your products! Otherwise you aren’t trustful
- Get your own pictures of your t-shirts as soon as possible. Printful pictures do not look fake, but an empty t-shirt on a white surface… that don’t show how you look in your t-shirts
- Have a “before buying” page that your clients can refer to before buying
- Use testimonials to convey trust to your future buyer? You don’t have any? Ask your family/friend to write them for you!
- Use your social media accounts to convey traffic to your store. Tell your friends/family that you are building a t-shirt business and that you would love them to buy from you
- Have an original store. If it looks generic, it will be skipped by potential customers. That’s why I use black and white on Nerdow. Very few other shop use these colors.
- Promoting is more important than creating. You could create thousands of t-shirt without selling a single one
- Get your head on your website. It shows that you are a real human being – that’s game changing in term of trust
- Have a blog on your store. Your readers may like your products and buy them. Plus it’s the easiest way to get people to your website for free
- Have as many social networks account as possible on different social networks. It increases your SEO!
The last 20%? I’m not a know it all. My website didn’t get any sales within a week so I choose to come back to my original job: Writing.
I realized it by creating dozens of t-shirt… I couldn’t live without writing.
I wanted to write. To tell stories, to share adventures… That’s very different from writing 50 different t-shirt descriptions, believe me.
Anyway, I’m back on Nerdow to write more articles!
What did this adventure brought me?
A fresh new shop section which features some fancy clothes and accessories with the new logo and my 2 ebooks.
- Make money writing
- Life is a game
Also, I learned how to set up a t-shirt business, which I’m pretty sure not many people know about.
I’m very happy of this experience!
Thank you for reading this very long article! Now you know exactly how to set up your online t-shirt store – and more!
BONUS: How I made my first designs
They look good!
They are simple.
I didn’t design anything.
I’m a bad drawer. My talent lies in assembling.
I thought of using them in t-shirts.
I also thought that it wasn’t enough so I added a bit of text.
Adjective + Name
Both related to the picture. That’s how I realized the 50 first designs of Nerdow.
Anyway, with all the resources available for free on the internet, you should be able to make some high-quality good-looking t-shirts!
P.S. Make a tour on our store. You won’t be deceived. I promise!