11 Ways to Design T-Shirts to Sell
Do you have a knack for thinking up great T-shirt ideas? Have you ever considered designing T-shirts to sell? Maybe you can think up witty T-shirt slogans that make people laugh or send a positive message.
Or, maybe you’re an artist who can draw T-shirt designs that would be a hit with certain markets. For instance, maybe you can design T-shirts that revolve around sports.
Whatever your T-shirt idea, you can bring it to life and use it to earn passive income if you choose the right selling platform. Passive income is money you earn by doing work once and then getting paid over and over.
Here are some ways you can use your T-shirt designs to make some passive income or side hustle money.
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How to Design T-Shirts and Make Money
Yes, you really can make money designing and selling T-shirts. In fact, my 19-year-old daughter has been making a bit of money from T-shirt designs for over two years now.
Here are some companies you can use to help you sell your T-shirt designs.
CafePress is an online gift shop that sells T-shirts designed by everyday people like you and me.
As a designer, you upload your T-shirt designs to CafePress. CafePress then sells your designs on a variety of items, including T-shirts.
When you sell your T-shirts and other items on CafePress, they do the work. For example, they handle production, shipping and customer service for your products.
You have a couple of options to choose from when selling T-shirts on CafePress.
The first involves opening a basic Design and List account. You register, upload your designs, and CafePress does the rest. Every time one of your designs sells, you earn a commission.
Another option is to open your own online shop on CafePress. As a CafePress shop owner, you control your prices, the layout of your store pages, and more.
If you open a CafePress shop, you don’t pay any money up front. Instead, you pay a monthly fee based on the type of shop you open. If you want additional information on CafePress shops, visit the CafePress website.
Redbubble works similarly to CafePress. When you sign up to work with Redbubble, you simply open your account. From there, you upload your designs.
Redbubble does the work of advertising your designs on their website. In addition, they handle pricing, shipping and customer service. You simply collect a royalty check when your items sell.
As a seller on Redbubble, you choose the amount of commission you want to earn on products. Redbubble tells you the base price, which is what it costs for Redbubble to make and ship the item.
Then you choose the percentage margin you want to earn. Redbubble sets this margin at 20% as the default.
You can change the default if you wish. Remember, though, to keep the profit low enough that the price point for items will be attractive to customers.
I mentioned earlier that my daughter has been selling T-shirts for a couple of years now. She’s been using Redbubble to do that and is very happy with her partnership there.
Etsy is another website you can use to sell T-shirts you design. As you may know, Etsy is one of the most popular sites where you can buy and sell handmade goods.
In fact, in 2017 alone the site coordinated sales of over $3 billion. Etsy works a bit differently than the other sites we’ve mentioned so far.
As a T-shirt designer, you would open your own shop on Etsy. Starting a shop is free. You would list and price the shirt designs you want to sell.
When someone orders one of your designs, Etsy gives you the shipping information and collects payment.
As a seller on Etsy, you pay three fees from each sale:
- A listing fee of 20 cents
- A 5% transaction fee on the sale price
- An additional fee of 3% and 25 cents if a customer pays using Etsy Payments
Another thing to know about selling T-shirts on Etsy is that you control production and shipping. In other words, you create the shirt with the design on it, and you ship to customers.
In addition, you handle all customer service issues. This option is a bit more hands-on and not so much of a passive income source as selling with some other stores.
Printful might be for you if you’ve already got an existing online store or you want to create one. It works with your online store to fulfill and ship your T-shirt designs.
When you open a free account with Printful, you start by connecting your store website. You can use a variety of ecommerce store integrations, such as Shopify, to launch your store.
Next, you’ll use Printful’s online mockup generator to create images of products with your designs. Then, you’ll fill your store site with available designs.
As customers visit your store and order products, the orders are automatically exported to Printful. From there, Printful creates the products and ships the items.
Want to produce your own products instead of using Printful’s? No problem. Printful will store products you send them and ship those products as well.
The fees for partnering with Printful are as follows:
- $2.00 per package fulfillment fee
- 95 cent picking fee for each item in an order
- At-cost packaging materials
- Additional fees if you choose to store your products at their warehouse.
You set the prices you charge for your items, so you determine your profit.
Teespring works similarly to CafePress and Redbubble. You upload your T-shirt designs to go on products they sell. In addition to T-shirts, you can put your design on sweatshirts, phone cases, mugs and more.
When your design is sold on a specific product, you get a commission. Teespring takes care of product production, fulfillment and customer service.
As you choose the products you want to sell, Teespring shows you what your base cost is for each product. From there, you set the price on each product. Since you set the price for your product, you choose your profit.
There are no monthly or store fees to sell on Teespring. Teespring’s profit is built into the base price of the products they offer. This means you won’t see any additional charges when you sell items on the site.
Zazzle offers two ways to make money on your T-shirt designs.
- Designer: You sell your designs on T-shirts Zazzle makes and ships.
- Maker: If you have a product you make yourself, you can advertise on Zazzle and ship the item on your own.
As a Designer with Zazzle, you’ll upload your designs to the site. As you choose your T-shirt or other product, Zazzle will show you the base price for the product.
You can choose a profit of 5% to 99%. Zazzle will price the shirt as you wish. And they handle production and shipping of the product.
This means your work is done once you’ve uploaded your design. As a Designer you can only choose to have your design on the specific products Zazzle offers.
However, you’ve also got the option to be a Maker on Zazzle. Makers can advertise products they make on Zazzle. When a customer buys a product, Zazzle notifies the Maker.
The Maker ships the product using Zazzle shipping labels. Zazzle handles all customer service and order tracking. They collect a percentage commission on each item you sell, when it sells.
Note that Makers have to be approved to sell items on Zazzle.
TeePublic lets you sell your designs on T-shirts and more than 75 other products. Like some other sites, TeePublic will do the work after you upload your designs.
They’ll handle production, shipping and customer service. And you’ll get a commission on each T-shirt or other product that sells with your design on it.
TeePublic has several varying T-shirt designs to offer. Your commission amount is based on the type of shirt (or other product) you sell.
In addition, your commission will vary based on whether the shirt is sold at regular price or on sale. Since TeePublic does hold sales, a sale price could reduce your commission amount.
As with other sites, marketing and promoting is largely in your hands. The more you promote your offerings on TeePublic, the better exposure they get. As such, you have a larger chance of selling your items.
Spreadshirt, like other platforms here such as Redbubble, allows you to upload your design to their site. They’ll handle all of the printing and shipping for items that sell with your design.
You choose the type of shirts you want to have your design on. Then you upload your design, or choose from Spreadshirt’s design templates.
In addition to T-shirts, you can sell your designs on sweatshirts, mugs, baby clothing and more. Bonus: Spreadshirt handles customer service and customer payments, too.
They’ll send you a commission every time someone orders one of your shirts. And, they’ve got five factories across the United States and Europe for a global reach.
Spreadshop is a partner site of Spreadshirt. While Spreadshirt lets you upload designs to sell T-shirts in their online store, Spreadshop helps you open your own T-shirt (and other merchandise) store.
When you open your own store, you get your own URL and a customizable shopping site. You can even connect your social media accounts to you personalized site.
As a store owner, you can price your designs however you want. So, if one T-shirt design is more intricate than another, you can price it higher.
You can upload designs and market your personalized site according to your brand. There’s no limit to how many items you can feature in your store.
Just design and upload as many options as you wish. From there, choose the types of items you want to offer for sale. Then Spreadshop handles printing and shipping of the order.
In addition, Spreadshop handles collecting the payments. They give you a commission on each sale that comes through your personalized site.
Spreadshop might be a good route to go if you have your own business or brand and want help with the production and shipping part.
SellMyTees is another company that will help you open up your own store to sell your T-shirt designs. They’ve got three store options for you to choose from.
The Bronze store lets you display up to 20 products. This store is free from any monthly subscription fees.
The Silver store lets you display up to 60 products. It costs $19 per month.
The Gold store lets you display unlimited products, for a fee of $79 per month. There are other fees and rules associated with SellMyTees stores as well. See the website for more information.
SellMyTees handles all product, shipping and payment for T-shirts and other products. They send you your commission from all sales.
Threadless works a bit differently than the other sites we’ve talked about. This site works by holding design contests.
You start by submitting your T-shirt design to the site. The Threadless community of artists give scores to each submitted design.
The winning designs are chosen to be printed and sold. As a winning artist, you’d get your design offered for sale on the site. You’d get paid a royalty for every shirt sold.
In addition, Threadless occasionally offers cash prizes for winning design submissions. However, with Threadless you wouldn’t be guaranteed your shirt designs would be sold on the site.
Selling T-shirts you design can be a great way to make some extra money. If you create a winning design and market it well, you could make money right from home.