10 tips to starting your own fashion business

If you’ve searched for, and found, this article then it’s more than likely because you’re thinking about starting your own clothing line and you’re interested to know the tips about how to make it successful. Starting your own clothing line is a fantastic experience and it’ll be a tremendous learning curve for you and it will help you a lot with personal growth and, if successful, financial growth as well.

Many people believe that if they build it, people will naturally come and guess what? Nothing happens. No sales :(.

So, to help you get off in the right direction, here are 15 questions that you should be asking yourself when you’re trying to get your T-Shirt business off the ground.

1. Have you got an idea in mind?

How to sell T-Shirts

Seems a simple question doesn’t it? The idea is to create T-Shirts and then sell them. Unfortunately, nothing is ever this simple and the idea of selling T-Shirts might seem easy enough, but there are so many different aspects and people often fail because they haven’t taken them all in to account. For example, do you know what designs you want to sell to your customers?

For example, do you know what designs you want to sell to your customers?

Again, this question might seem obvious as you’ve probably already thought about designs previously but one thing that is often overlooked is understanding your target audience and getting to know them. You need to find the correct audience for you and your niche. If you’ve got some designs in mind then these can directly transfer onto a T-Shirt but it’s important to know who will want to buy these. If your artwork designed for a younger audience? If so, then there’s no point pitching the design to an older demographic. Knowing all of this before can become key to understanding your marketing efforts and knowing how you’re going to attract customers to sell to them.

2. Have you done your market research?

Market Research

So, you’ve figured out your target audience, the next step is to know research the market to see if your designs would be desirable to them. Look at your competitors and see the types of designs that they sell to a similar audience and then you’ll get a better idea of whether this target audience is the right one for you.

You can browse through their top sellers and find out which types of designs get more sales (i.e do ‘arty’ designs work better than block lettering?) and this will have you create your design or it could mean altering it slightly to fit in better with the audience that you’re aiming for.

One other factor which is important is understanding your price point. If you’re trying to sell T-Shirts to a particular audience then understanding what price they’re comfortable with paying before you begin to sell your designs. If you’re not pricing yourself competitively then you risk losing your customers to another company who is selling their designs for a lower price than you are.

By creating an eye-catching design which is affordable gives your customers more of an incentive to buy from you.

3. Do you have a business plan?

Creating T-Shirts sounds like a simple concept. Create the designs, send them to a printer, add them to your website, sell.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as this and creating a business plan is incredibly important to succeeding in the long run. Important things to consider when creating your plan are:

  1. Target audience – again, this is important as it determines many different factors.
  2. Do you have a marketing plan?
  3. How much money will you need to invest in to marketing?
  4. Do you need to hire a designer?
  5. Have you found the right printing company?

Once you have answers to these questions then you’re in a much better position to begin advertising your designs to your customers.

4. Have you created any designs?

T-Shirt Designs

Arguably, the most important part of any T-Shirt company is the designs they are going to be sold. If you’re planning to sell a T-Shirt then you have to make sure that the design is appealing to the audience that you believe will buy them. For this reason, it’s important to think about your designs carefully when you’re planning them. By doing your market research you will identify the types of designs that your target audience are more likely to buy and this can give you some inspiration – although it’s important to make sure that you’re not copying the design from anyone else.

If you’re not a designer, then you need to have an idea of what design you want to sell so you can hire someone to create the design to your specifications. Create descriptions of what design you would like to see on a T-Shirt and then you can hire a freelance designer who will be able to turn ideas into life. This can be expensive though so it’s important to check your business plan to see how much money you’re able to allocate towards getting the designs created.

If you do decide to hire a freelance designer then make sure that the designs remain yours. If you can agree on a contract beforehand which ensures that you get full rights to all of the designs then this is a huge bonus. This means that you might also need to factor lawyer costs into your plans.

5. What’s your price point?

T-Shirt Selling Price Points

When you’re looking to sell T-Shirts, there are many different factors which can affect the price. For example, most printers will offer a good price if you’re printing your designs in bulk but if you’re looking to add custom labels and custom packaging then the price for this will go up even further and this can affect the profits that you’re going to make on your designs.

How much profit you are going to make is entirely up to you but again, it’s important to research the market and find out what other companies are listing their T-Shirts for as you don’t want to price yourself out of sales.

Other costs which are included but are hidden include things like the cost of hosting a website and storage costs but this can be removed if you find a printing company which can offer an on demand service.

6. How are you going to sell your T-Shirts?

Most business these days is done online so you might decide that creating a personalised website where you can sell your designs is the best option for you. If you are looking to sell designs online then it’s important to research the different platforms to find the best one for you. Shopify and WooCommerce are two of the bet stores when it comes to creating a fully eCommerce website where you can list your designs to sell to your customers.

If you already have a blog and an existing website then you need to work out if you can easily link a store onto your site and work with what you’ve already got. You can also find printing companies that offer an on demand service where they can link to your store and then when you receive an order it will be automatically processed and printed by the printing company which removes the stress of having to manage your orders manually and allows you to focus your attention on other important parts of your business.

7. Have you started marketing?

OK, so you’ve got the important parts of your business plan nailed down, you’ve created your awesome designs and you’ve built a website which allows you to accept and process orders online. The next step is promoting your T-Shirts so you can begin to make sales.

Remember, by creating a website doesn’t mean that customers are automatically going to find you. You need to help them to find you from the very start and there are numerous different techniques that you can use to help you with this. You can start by sending some of your designs to influencers to review and promote to their audience.  This helps you to get good reviews early and also means that you will have a stream of traffic coming into your store thanks to the influencers that you select.

Social media is also an excellent place to generate traffic by building a following and then engaging with them by offering discounts and free giveaways in order to get more attention online. To do this, study how other companies are using social media to their advantage and then you can mimic their efforts to ensure that you making the most out of the traffic that you will receive. The most obvious social media sites to use are Facebook and Twitter, but it’s important not to rule out different channels. If you’re selling clothing then it’s likely that Pinterest and Instagram might be excellent choices as you can post images of your designs for others to like and comment on.

8. Do you have time?

Time To Start a Business

Starting a new business isn’t easy and it’s not something which everyone has the determination to do and the time to invest into the business to make it successful. Sometimes, it’s incredibly difficult to attract sales and you’ll need to constantly learn and update your techniques to ensure that you’re giving yourself the best opportunity.

Remember that there are already companies out there who are selling T-Shirts and they’ve already discovered the best ways to do this before you even had a chance to think about selling your own T-Shirts so competing against these will be a very hard and long challenge so asking yourself whether you have the time and the patience to invest into this venture is a good start. Remember that if you want your T-Shirt business to succeed then you need to stick with it.

9. Do you understand Trademark and Copyright laws?

T-Shirt Printing Copyright

When it comes to designing your own clothing, understanding the Trademark and Copyright laws are very important. You can’t just copy someone else’s design and then expect to sell these as your own. Many printing companies won’t permit the use of trademarked or copyrighted symbols, pictures or words unless they’re requested to by the property owners – this means that if you’re copying someone else’s work the printing company may refuse to print for you.

Alternatively, if you get caught doing this then any court actions and lawsuits will be directed towards you.

10. What’s the difference between Copyright and Trademark?

This is quite a common question. A Trademark protects the marketable assets which are related to a specific brand. These assets include words, names, sounds and colours which distinguish the goods and services that are sold by this particular brand are all covered under the Trademark law. What does this mean for you? Well, for a start, you can’t create a brand called Nike and use a tick for a logo. It also means that you have to be very careful that the brand name and the images that you’re using for your designs aren’t used by someone else who has them Trademark protected.

Copyright law is designed to protect original artistic material or intellectual work. This includes T-Shirt designs. What does this mean? Well, you can’t use T-Shirts which are based on characters or words which are owned by someone else, for example, you can’t create T-Shirts which incorporate bands, films, TV shows, etc., and sell them because you know that they already have a huge following.

If you wanted to sell these kinds of designs you would need to first get permission from the Copyright holder – assuming that they would like to give it to you.

It’s always important to read up on Copyright and Trademark laws before starting your own brand or contact legal advice before you start to create your own designs.

11. Do you need to Copyright your designs?

When you create your own designs then you’re automatically covered under Copyright law. However, it’s important to seek legal advice if you want to register your designs with an official Copyright office to ensure that you’re fully protected when creating your own original artwork.

12. Can you use historical quotes from people / movies / books etc?

This question is tricky to answer as it can involve various different elements. Generally speaking, if you are using a quote that has been passed through the public domain then you should be covered legally. If they haven’t been passed through the public domain then you’re in a different realm which is known as the Fair Use Policy. This is where you could be taken to court by whoever owns the Copyright on the quote that you’re trying to use – although it is possible that they don’t actually have a case against you.

If the quote hasn’t been passed through the public domain then it’s advisable to steer clear from using this quote unless you’ve received written permission from the Copyright owner. Alternatively, seek legal advice before using the quote to see if it is free to use.

13. Who is responsible for Copyright infringement – You or the printing company?

In the cases where you are using the design, then it’s your responsibility to ensure that you’ve got full permission to use the design, quote or image before creating the T-Shirts.

Many printing companies will not permit the use of any Copyrighted or Trademarked material in your designs unless you can prove to them that you do have permission from the Copyright or Trademark holder.

If a design is printed which belongs to someone else under Copyright or Trademark law then it’s your responsibility and it’s you that will be taken to court.

14. Have you prepared your artwork correctly?

Preparing Your Artwork Files

Moving away from legal stuff.

You’ve created your designs and you’re now ready to start printing. It’s only thing sketching your artwork out on paper, it’s something completely different to actually prepare the artwork for printing. For all of the printing techniques, the artwork needs to prepared in a certain way which allows the printing to be done successfully without causing any problems or issues.

For this, you may need to have knowledge (or know someone that does) of photo editing software such as Adobe Illustrator or Adobe PhotoShop.

15. Do you know what garments you would like to sell?

Different T-Shirt Materials

Right. Everything is set. Designs are done, the website is live, artwork is with the printing company, marketing is ready but there’s one thing that you’ve missed…

What type of garment will you be selling?

You’ve decided you want to create T-Shirts, but which brand would you like to use? What quality? How much would you like to spend? Also, T-Shirts can come in a variety of different materials which can all differ in quality and printability. For example, if you want to create a reputation as an eco-friendly brand then it’s important to know what materials are eco-friendly so you can present this to your audience.

It’s also important to consider stock limitations. For example, you want to use the latest Bamboo T-Shirts for your eco-friendly range but how easy is it for a company to get stock? Will there be enough stock to cope with the demand that you could potentially drum up? Or are your customers going to be left disappointed with long lead times?

Why stop at T-Shirts as well? You can sell hoodies, jumpers, vests, caps, literally anything you can think of can be printed on so it’s important to consider a range of different products rather than sticking to one target.

Knowing this information in advance can help you manage your costs and, importantly, your profit margins as different products, materials and brands can all range in price. Before you suddenly think that you’ll use the cheapest T-Shirt to maximise your profits, remember that your customers are going to act as brand ambassadors for you and will these ambassadors be happy receiving the lowest quality T-Shirt?

These are the 15 questions that you should answer before starting on your new journey as a fashion guru and it’s important to know the answers to all of these before you start selling your designs online.

Do you have experience selling your own clothing? If so, let us know in the comments and let us know how you began to start your clothing range.


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