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1. How to create a t-shirt dropshipping business in nine steps

T-shirt dropshipping: How to dropship t-shirts for a profit in 2024

Want to make money selling t-shirts without ever managing inventory or packaging customer orders? If so, the t-shirt dropshipping business model might be perfect for you! With a dropshipping t-shirt business, you’re only responsible for selecting product designs, partnering with a service provider, and promoting your brand — your chosen dropshipping company does the rest!

But readers be warned, when you delegate tasks like inventory management and order fulfillment to dropshipping suppliers, you also forfeit control over elements like your supply chain and shipping costs. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to learn how to vet potential suppliers thoroughly. Here’s everything you need to know to start a profitable t-shirt dropshipping business!

Main takeaways from this article:

  • A t-shirt dropshipping business model involves a third-party dropshipping supplier that manages product inventory and order fulfillment.

  • A dropshipping supplier must offer business owners reliable printing techniques, a robust vendor network, and receptive customer support.

  • Create your t-shirt dropshipping business in these nine steps: Conduct market research, identify a niche and target audience, choose a dependable supplier, build a brand, select the right t-shirts, create designs, choose a selling platform, set up an online store, and promote the business.

  • When choosing a t-shirt dropshipping supplier, focus on sustainability, print quality, and shipping efficiency. It underscores the importance of aligning with suppliers who adopt eco-friendly practices, offer high-quality printing, and ensure fast and reliable shipping.

  • A print on demand service is a dependable alternative to a traditional dropshipping company to sell trendy and funny t-shirts and customer apparel at a low cost.

How to create a t-shirt dropshipping business in nine steps

The US custom t-shirt printing market is valued at over $1 billion, with the general t-shirt market on its way to hitting a whopping $45 billion this year. As massive growth is anticipated across the t-shirt market, now is the time to launch your own t-shirt dropshipping business. Consider these nine steps to start a competitive t-shirt business that drives profit.

1. Research the market

person reviewing charts and graphs on a tablet / laptop

Market research is the first step toward a successful t-shirt dropshipping business. This step is especially important if you’ve never launched a t-shirt business before; however, it’s also necessary to identify gaps in the market, regardless of experience level. For instance, if other t-shirt dropshipping companies only sell t-shirts in basic colors, neon or pastel designs could be a potential business opportunity for your new brand.

As you browse potential competitors, keep an eye on what their customers have to say. Reviews can provide a basic idea of consumer preferences for the top dropshipping products to help expand your research into the general market. From here, tools like Google Trends and social media platforms like Pinterest can help you identify the most frequently searched topics related to t-shirts.

As you dive deeper into your market research, pay particular attention to the rise of sustainable fashion. In 2024, consumers are predicted to prioritize eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing processes when purchasing clothing. This includes t-shirts, especially those from credible dropshipping companies like Gelato, which is well-known for its sustainable practices. 

Stay on top of design trends, too. Graphic tees continue to dominate the market, and understanding what kind of designs resonate with your target demographic will be key. Listen to the cultural conversations. Use tools like Instagram to track popular hashtags related to t-shirt design or use customer feedback to understand what type of designs truly engage them. 

Pro Tip: Unsure where to begin your market research? Check out this list of successful online t-shirt stores!

2. Identify your niche and audience

2Identify your niche and audience

Once you locate gaps in the t-shirt market, you can identify a niche and target audience for your t-shirt business. A niche is a subset of the larger t-shirt market you intend to cater to, such as custom t-shirts for cat lovers or t-shirts with funny sayings. To find a profitable dropshipping niche, consider how your interests or hobbies align with the product ideas from your market research.

After you settle on a niche you’re passionate about, determine the types of online shoppers that fall within it. For instance, the target audience for cat-themed t-shirts would likely be pet owners and animal lovers. Take these details a step further and determine the age, buying habits, and fashion preferences of your target audience to create high-quality t-shirts that appeal to the entire niche.

In 2024, the t-shirt dropshipping market will be largely influenced by sustainability and personalization trends. As such, your niche and audience identification should extend further into understanding their interest in eco-friendly clothing options and unique, customizable designs. More than ever, consumers value ethical production methods and crave individualistic expression. Therefore, research whether your audience is likely to appreciate organic, recycled, or other environmentally friendly materials in the t-shirts you will be offering. 

Additionally, look into the design preferences of your target audience based on trending styles and graphic themes. Remember, configurations that appeal to a younger demographic might look significantly different from designs that cater to an older audience. In 2024, expect graphics like minimalistic designs, memes, and eclectic, retro-inspired patterns to be all the rage in the t-shirt industry.

3. Choose a dependable supplier

two professionals shaking hands

With a t-shirt niche and target audience in mind, you can move along to selecting a dependable supplier for t-shirt dropshipping services. As the key to how to dropship products, your supplier will be responsible for nearly every aspect of your t-shirt business. So, it goes without saying that you must thoroughly research a supplier before signing any business contracts! international shipping printing method all over print target audience

Considerations for a reliable t-shirt dropshipping supplier include but are not limited to:

  • Product collection. Do you want to sell just t-shirts, or can the supplier enable you to expand your designs across multiple product lines, such as tote bags?

  • Print quality. Whether direct-to-garment or screen printing, what t-shirt printing methods does the print provider utilize and what is the print quality?

  • Shipping and delivery. Does the supplier boast a robust logistics and vendor network to support global delivery locations and affordable shipping costs?

  • Product pricing. How much does the supplier charge per item, and will there be any unexpected fees? (Hint: You should only pay for the items you sell!)

  • Customer support. How will the supplier handle various fulfillment services, including shipping orders and informing customers of the delivery date?

  • Customization options. What customization options are available for the products? (Hint: Find a supplier with an entire catalog of customizable products!)

In 2024, as conscious consumerism continues, choosing a supplier that is invested in producing locally can drastically reduce your carbon footprint while also appealing to a growing demographic of eco-conscious consumers. Trustworthy suppliers who offer high-quality printing and fast worldwide shipping are poised to significantly streamline your t-shirt dropshipping business. Further, innovative trends such as AR-powered virtual try-ons and AI-driven size recommendation tools are expected to revolutionize customer experience in 2024; therefore, partnering with suppliers who are invested in tech innovation can provide you with a competitive edge.

On the hunt for an on-demand printing white-label supplier that meets all the above criteria? Look no further than Gelato! Gelato is one of the best print on demand companies for t-shirts and other apparel like hoodies, sweatshirts, and even baby clothing. And with a commitment to produce locally and sell globally, our services are just as sustainable as they are scalable and affordable.

4. Build your brand

3Build your brand

Now that you have a supplier locked in to produce your niche products, you can begin to build your t-shirt brand! Your brand is more than just your business offerings — it’s the personality behind your products. In today’s ever-increasing t-shirt market, creating a strong brand that’s distinctly your own is vital to stand out from the crowd. First, decide on your brand’s values.

Maybe you want to commit to sustainable products, or your mission is female empowerment. Either way, use your brand values as a starting point to brainstorm a memorable, catchy, and unique business name. From here, create a sleek logo (or hire a graphic designer) and decide on additional branding elements like your company color scheme and top t-shirt fonts.

This year, reflect on current trends and popular design styles. Look at influencers in your niche, follow industry-related hashtags on social platforms, and monitor trending topics to stay ahead. Visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram can provide a wealth of inspiration for your brand aesthetics. Remember to make branding decisions rooted in your target audience's preferences, not just what you personally like. 

Furthermore, consider integrating concurrent social causes into your brand. Being socially responsible not only influences purchasing behavior but also elevates your brand's reputation. For instance, aligning your brand with environmental sustainability in your production processes can be a win-win for both you and your eco-conscious clients.

Pro Tip: Elevate your t-shirt business with branding services! Gelato offers custom packaging inserts and labels that can be personalized with your own branding, including your brand’s logo.

5. Select your t-shirt

close-up of various t-shirt fabrics

It’s no secret that a t-shirt dropshipping business must have high-quality t-shirts on lock. Though your chosen dropshipping supplier likely has a collection of t-shirts to choose from, you might be unsure of the best t-shirts for printing and branding. You know we’ve got you covered! Here’s a quick checklist to help you select the perfect t-shirts for your t-shirt dropshipping brand.

  • Fabric. Common fabrics for t-shirts are cotton, organic cotton, polyester, and a cotton/polyester blend. While cotton offers ultimate comfort and organic cotton is ideal for eco-conscious customers, both fabrics are more prone to wrinkling. A cotton/polyester blend is more lightweight and less prone to wrinkling, and pure polyester fabric is ideal for durability and moisture-wicking.

  • Weight. Shirt weight refers to the thickness and breathability of the t-shirt fabric. Heavyweight shirts, like cotton t-shirts, are more suitable for colder climates and casual styles. Lightweight shirts, like polyester t-shirts, are better suited for warm weather and active styles. Terms like ‘Classic’ and ‘Performance’ often refer to lightweight fabric, while ‘Premium’ means heavyweight fabric.

  • Fit and cut. Shirt fit and cut refer to the neckline and construction of the t-shirt. A relaxed fit has a broader construction for a more casual look. A slim fit has a more tailored construction for a more stylish look. A regular fit is right in the middle between the two. In terms of cut, t-shirts can have a casual rounded crewneck, stylish scooped v-neck, or different colored collar (a ringer t-shirt).

As you curate your t-shirt line-up, consider adding eco-friendly and organic options to appeal to the growing number of consumers prioritizing sustainability. Remember, your goal is to offer products that exhibit both style and substance. As for designs, ride the wave of personalization that has been taking the apparel industry by storm. Allowing customers to customize their shirts can give you an edge over traditional alternatives. Utilize platforms like Gelato that support these customization features seamlessly, ensuring your customers get high-quality, individually tailored t-shirts.

6. Create t-shirt designs

4Create t-shirt designs

It’s finally time to create your t-shirt designs! First, consider your chosen niche. Imagine how you can put a unique spin on the trending t-shirt ideas you discovered to appeal to your target audience. Next, sketch or create digital mockups of your design ideas, or hire a designer for assistance. You can even use the Gelato Design Editor tool to design t-shirts easily, regardless of your expertise!

Try and establish a clear visual style that represents your brand identity. You can experiment with different graphic design software or hire a freelance designer to bring your ideas to life. Consider your target audience while designing. Trendy elements might work for a younger demographic, while a minimalist approach could appeal to an older demographic. Utilize vector files for high-resolution printing results, and remember to adapt your designs for different t-shirt sizes.

Feel free to experiment with various colors, fonts, and design placements — just remember to stick below three color and font combinations to make the design easy to read. From here, you can use Gelato’s built-in mockup generator to envision how your t-shirt design will look on a variety of models. Remember to order samples to determine if any adjustments must be made before launch!

7. Determine your selling platform

person interacting with an interface displaying different ecommerce platform options for a t-shirt business

Before you take the next step to sell custom t-shirts, you must determine how you will build your online stores. The most common options for launching an online store include selecting between an ecommerce platform or an ecommerce marketplace or building a t-shirt store on your own website. As you determine which sales channel is best for your online t-shirt business, keep these considerations in mind:

  • An ecommerce platform provides a custom business domain with pre-developed website design templates and extensive customization options, but many such platforms have steep monthly platform fees. Popular ecommerce platforms include Shopify and WooCommerce.

  • Ecommerce marketplaces provide a personal storefront on a website shared with other sellers to expand immediate reach, but most lack customization options and have listing and transaction fees. Popular ecommerce marketplaces include Etsy and Amazon.

  • Custom websites provide complete control over a business domain, website design, and customization options but will require in-depth technical skills or professional assistance to launch. Popular options for custom websites include WordPress and Wix.

8. Set up your online store

5Set up your online store

You’re almost at the finish line! All that’s left to do before you can begin selling custom products is set up your online store. First, create an account on your chosen platform, install any ecommerce integrations, and set up your storefront. Next, customize your storefront with your branding, like your business name, logo, and brand colors. From here, refer to this online store set-up checklist:

  • Determine refund, return, and cancellation policies and list them on your website.

  • Establish shipping options, such as standard (5-11 days) and express (4-5 days).

  • Set up your payment processing and decide which payment options to accept.

  • Create a competitive pricing strategy that covers supplier costs and meets your desired profit margin.

  • Research competitor price points to ensure you are not over or undercharging.

Now, you can finally list your products! Write thorough product descriptions detailing each shirt’s size, fabric, fit, and cut. Use descriptive language, such as ‘100% organic cotton,’ and add relevant keywords to improve visibility on search engines and shared marketplaces. Add high-quality images that show your custom t-shirt from multiple angles on various models. Remember, it's all about creating a vivid, appealing mental image for your prospective customers. Be creative with your language, but also honest; don’t make promises your product can't fulfill.

Also, remember to optimize your product titles for SEO by including relevant keywords, but ensure they remain catchy and customer-friendly. The right balance between SEO and user readability could mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. Furthermore, utilize social proof such as customer reviews or product ratings to amplify the credibility of your products. Shoppers are often more likely to buy products that have been positively reviewed by others. So, encourage your customers to express their feedback after purchase. It's a win-win situation!

Finally, don’t forget to cross-reference your t-shirt descriptions across your website to avoid inconsistency. Consistency breeds trust, and with online shopping, this is essential.

Pro Tip: Gelato+ subscribers receive exclusive access to our built-in mockup generator, which provides real product previews that can be used to enhance the product images on your site!

9. Promote your t-shirt business

business owner engaging with social media on a smartphone

With your t-shirt dropshipping company officially ready for business, there’s nothing left to do besides promote your products! One of the best ways to promote a t-shirt business is through social media marketing on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where you can share organic posts and run paid ads. TikTok marketing and selling is a newer social media solution to drive sales online.

Another aspect of social media marketing is influencer marketing, where you partner with a popular social media personality for them to promote your products to their larger audience. Likewise, you can host giveaways to gain attention and collect shopper email addresses to build an email list. You can use these emails to send newsletters promoting new t-shirt designs and current discounts.

Having a t-shirt business is also about creating a robust and engaging community around your brand. One effective way of doing this is by creating a blog or a vlog on your site. Here, you can share behind-the-scenes content, design processes, and stories about your brand and even spotlight loyal customers. Regularly updating this section not only provides fresh content for your audience but also positively impacts your SEO, making your site more visible on search engines. Additionally, with every new post, you have new content to share across your social media channels, keeping your brand on top of mind for your audience.

Selecting the best t-shirt dropshipping suppliers for 2024

The process of choosing your t-shirt dropshipping supplier is a critical decision that could ultimately determine the success of your business. Think of your supplier as an extension of your business; they're responsible for taking your designs, printing them on high-quality t-shirts, and shipping them out to your customers promptly. Here's what to look for when deciding on the best t-shirt dropshipping supplier. 

  • Sustainability: With increasing consumer consciousness around environmental issues, choosing a dropshipping supplier who is committed to sustainable practices is more important than ever. Look for companies that use eco-friendly materials, ethical labor practices, and efficient use of resources in their production process.

  • Print quality: No one wants a t-shirt with a faded, low-quality design. Thus, prioritizing suppliers who offer high print quality is crucial. Look for a supplier that uses advanced printing technologies and provides vibrant, durable prints that will endure numerous washes.

  • Shipping efficiency: Fast and reliable shipping is a cornerstone of a successful dropshipping business. Be sure to consider the shipping policies of your potential supplier. Are they able to fulfill orders quickly? Do they offer tracking information? Reflect on these questions when making your decision.

Dropship custom t-shirts with print on demand

It’s never been easier — or more profitable — to begin t-shirt dropshipping! The only problem is dropshipping requires a reliable supplier that can not only fulfill your orders but also help scale your brand. That’s where a POD service like Gelato comes into play! Gelato has no minimum for purchase orders and no hidden fees.

Our flexible business model enables entrepreneurs to launch a robust product line of v-neck, crew neck, and ringer neck t-shirts, as well as high-quality accessories, apparel, and home décor items. Our low-risk, high-reward POD model is centered around sustainability, and our global production and widespread logistics network make selling t-shirts and earning repeat business a breeze.

To experience the superior service of Gelato, customize our print on demand t-shirts today!

T-shirt dropshipping FAQs

Is a t-shirt business still profitable?

Yes, t-shirt businesses are still profitable! Revenue in the global t-shirt market is projected to reach above $40 billion this year, and the custom t-shirt printing market is already valued at more than $850 million. With minimal start-up costs, a t-shirt business can have very high profit margins.

Is dropshipping t-shirts worth it?

Dropshipping t-shirts is a worthy business venture for sure — especially when powered by a print on demand company! A dropshipping store powered by a print on demand business has extreme flexibility to expand into new product lines with custom designs and the scalability to enter new markets.

What is dropshipping merch?

Dropshipping merch means you sell products customized with your unique logo or designs and designate fulfillment of customer orders to a third-party print on demand supplier like Gelato. If you’re unsure how to dropship merch, we have an entire blog post to help you get started!

Is it hard to sell t-shirts online?

Selling t-shirts online can have its challenges, like finding the right supplier and having unique designs. However, it's not impossible if you're equipped with a concrete business plan, a clear understanding of your target audience, and strong branding. So, it requires effort but isn't necessarily 'hard.' 

Is dropshipping clothes legal?

Yes, dropshipping clothes is completely legal. As a dropshipping business owner, you sell products that are held and shipped directly by a third-party supplier. However, it's crucial to ensure that the items you're selling are genuine and not counterfeit to avoid legal issues. Always source your clothes from a trusted supplier.


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