Switching your print on demand supplier? Get in touch with us here

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

How to start a profitable t-shirt dropshipping business in 2023

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 t-shirt dropshipping 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 a dropshipping supplier, 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.

  • A profitable t-shirt dropshipping business will rely on extensive market research into a target audience and unique niche product designs.

  • A print on demand service is a dependable alternative to a traditional dropshipping company to sell 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 $850 million, with the general t-shirt market on its way to hitting a whopping $40 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

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.

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.

3. Choose a dependable supplier

With a t-shirt niche and target audience in mind, you can move along to selecting a dependable supplier for your t-shirt dropshipping business. 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!

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!)

  • Sustainability. What steps does the supplier take to ensure eco-friendly operations, and do they have a published sustainability initiative for you to review?

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 services 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.

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

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).

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!

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

Before you take the next step to sell custom t-shirts, you must determine how you will build your online store. 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 you, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Ecommerce platforms provide a custom business domain with pre-developed website design templates and extensive customization options, but many 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 competitive prices that cover supplier costs and meet 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. Lastly, add high-quality images that show your custom t-shirt from multiple angles on various models.

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

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.

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 print on demand 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!


Next steps

Start selling products with Gelato