How to sell t-shirts without inventory in 2022 (tips + examples)

By Susanna read
How to sell t-shirts without inventory in 2022 (tips + examples)

Thinking about starting your own merch business, but worried that it might require too much investment?

Well… what if I told you that you can make money online by selling shirts without inventory? If that sounds like a great business idea, then that’s because it is!

With Sellfy, you can easily open your own print-on-demand shop or sell t-shirts online from an existing website. So, keep on reading to learn how to design and sell merchandise online for free.

How many t-shirts are sold per year? Is it still profitable?

Is selling t-shirts online profitable? The short answer is yes!

Here’s why:

The classic t-shirt has always been an essential part of anyone’s wardrobe. This is evident by the fact that the global custom t-shirt printing market size was estimated at $3.9 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach $4.3 billion in 2022.

According to a report by the Grand View Research, the major factor behind the print-on-demand t-shirt market growth is the increasing demand for branded t-shirts with logos or slogans.

So, if you already have an existing audience, why not meet the demand, start an online business, and create t-shirts with your own design or logo?

Selling t-shirts with no inventory: what is print-on-demand?

You’ve probably heard of different print-on-demand services (POD). If you haven’t, let me give you a quick introduction:

Print-on-demand service is a cost-effective and low-risk way to sell shirts online without inventory.

Here’s how print-on-demand works:

  • No upfront costs—you don’t have to financially invest in product manufacturing from scratch.
  • No logistical issues—order fulfillment, printing, and the shipping process are handled by the fulfillment partner and paid for by the customer.
  • No inventory management—you don’t need to keep a physical store inventory on your own (the fulfillment partner supplies all the products).
  • No minimums—you can sell an unlimited amount of t-shirts to any target market or audience.

In short, you can make and sell t-shirts online and save money! You don’t have to worry about unsold t-shirts as you’ll only be charged for the product and fulfillment after your customer orders something from your online store. Plus, you can set your own retail prices as high or as low as you want. Whatever is left over after the fulfillment partner charges you is your profit!

So, what is the profit margin on t-shirts?

The profit margin generally depends on the t-shirt price as well as production costs. However, with print-on-demand, the production cost (also known as self-cost or base price) is already covered in the price you pay for each t-shirt.

In other words, you can easily adjust your product profit margins—the higher you set your prices, the higher your profit will be. For example, most creators tend to go for a 20% profit margin while retailers go for 50%.

how sellfy's print on demand works

Creating a design that doesn’t suck

Another thing that will affect your profit is your t-shirt design—it can literally make or break your sales. So, how do you come up with a t-shirt design that will make your followers get their credit cards out? Let’s find out!

Wanna sell unique merchandise? Get ready to roll up your sleeves & create designs!

Creating t-shirt designs may sound like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is exploring an online graphic design platform, using free tools, or hiring a designer for as little as $5. It really is as easy as it sounds!

To design the best print-on-demand shirts, you can a few options such as:

  • Vexels—vector images for t-shirts and other types of products.
  • Shutterstock—thousands of free stock images and vector images.
  • Flaticon—1,720,000 icons in every category.
  • Freepik—stock art that requires a license for commercial selling.
  • Creative Market—a marketplace with over 880,000 ready-made graphics.

creative market vector graphics for merch

You can also check out Clint English to find custom designs. This awesome Sellfy store sells high-quality graphic design templates—from text effects, fonts, and illustrations to textures and pre-made artwork.

Then there are free and paid design programs like Inkspace, Adobe Photoshop, and Illustrator that you can use to create illustrations, logos, or typography. If you have an iPad, you can get a highly intuitive design app like Procreate.

And, last but not least, you can try a beginner-friendly t-shirt design platform like Canva, which has thousands of pre-made design templates.

canva t-shirt templates

But, wait… what about color palettes?

As far as color palettes go, I recommend keeping an eye on Pantone’s Color of the Year and their seasonal color trends.

But, if you want to be original, you can also play around with color palette generators:

  • Coolors—for randomizing colors and exploring trending palettes.
  • Colormind—for generating color palettes that can be applied to existing products.
  • Colorhunt—for staying up-to-date with the most popular color palettes.
  • ColorSpace—for generating thousands of schemes based on one color.

trending color palettes

Get a talented designer to create t-shirt designs for you

Not into playing around with design software? No worries! You can get a freelance graphic designer to help you out.

Here’s where to find the best designers for turning your design ideas into reality:

  • 99designs—the go-to graphic design site for most merch sellers.
  • Upwork—the biggest freelance marketplace for finding talented designers.
  • Fiverr—a beginner’s space where you can hire graphic designers for just $5.
  • Dribble—a great platform known for having reputable designers.

99designs custom t-shirt design

How to sell t-shirts online without inventory

To sell shirts online without inventory, you will need an easy-to-use print-on-demand platform. So, if you’ve been looking for a way to sell shirts online for free, then you’ll absolutely love Sellfy.

Here’s why Sellfy is the best place to sell t-shirts online:

  • No hidden monthly fees
  • Quality print-on-demand t-shirts
  • Fully customizable online storefront
  • Mobile-first design
  • Instant payouts
  • Advanced VAT & tax settings
  • Multiple payment options
  • Unlimited bandwidth & file storage
  • 24/7 customer support

1. Open a free Sellfy store for selling t-shirts online

I’ll show you how to build and customize your online store in just 5 minutes.

sellfy merch store theme

Here’s how to start selling t-shirts online with Sellfy:

  1. Sign up for Sellfy’s Free Plan, or start a 14-day free trial—all you need is a valid and verified email address. If you need access to more features, you can always upgrade to a paid plan later.
  2. Choose one of our premade store themes, or use Sellfy’s Store Customizer to customize your merch shop design from scratch.

2. Add your print-on-demand t-shirts & generate mockups

Now that you’ve set up your t-shirt shop, you can start adding products! Locate the option to add print-on-demand merch under your dashboard’s PRODUCTS section. Then, click Add new product and choose from a rich selection of our men’s, women’s, or kids’ t-shirts.

For a detailed overview of each product, please visit this link. We also provide information about sizing and customization options here.

What brands do we carry?

We have the following print-on-demand t-shirt brands:

  • Champion
  • Next Level
  • Stanley/Stella
  • Cotton Heritage
  • Royal Apparel
  • Bella + Canvas
  • Babybugz
  • Gildan
  • SOL’S
  • B&C

Next comes the fun part—design! Sellfy’s POD has an easy-to-use editor tool that’ll help you design your t-shirts without any hassle. All you have to do is choose from up to 45 different colors, and then add text or upload your own designs.

Sellfy Tip
If you’re a Sellfy creator using trademarked designs with your own t-shirts, you’ll need to obtain a licensing agreement from the copyright owner and submit it to [email protected].

Once you’ve created your products and added your own designs, you can generate mockups or order t-shirt samples.

Creating mockups with Sellfy is super simple—we provide product and model images that you can preview and download on the Edit product page. These mockups show what your t-shirt designs will look like in real life.

However, if you don’t want to use Sellfy’s product photos, then you can purchase mockups from the Clint English store or check out Placeit’s free mockups.

clint english graphic design resources

To receive a sample, we recommend purchasing your t-shirts through your Sellfy store or your own website. That way, you get to experience the payment process from a customer’s perspective as well as test the product quality.

3. Pick a Sellfy plan for your online t-shirt business

Are you ready to get serious with your online t-shirt business and start selling? Then it’s time to upgrade or pick a pricing plan!

Sellfy has four different subscription plans:

  1. Free—for creators who want a fully customizable storefront for 10 physical products, including print-on-demand, discounts and coupon codes, and a store embed feature.
  2. Starter—for creators who want to sell an unlimited number of products, get access to 2000 email credits, and use a custom domain.
  3. Business—for creators who have high sales volumes and want a white-label store, store design migration, cart abandonment, product upselling, and 10,000 email credits.
  4. Premium—for creators who have the biggest sales volumes and want product migration, priority support, 50,000 email credits, and extra tools to promote their online t-shirt business.

sellfy new pricing plans

Optional: connect your domain or embed

If you already have an existing website, you can connect your domain or use one of our Embed options to integrate the Sellfy checkout, specific t-shirts, or the whole store into your existing website:

  • Buy now button—allows you to add a call-to-action button that can be paired with your own site design, product images, and description.
  • Single product—allows you to feature a single product along with the description, Buy now button, and uploaded images. You can customize it on Sellfy and embed the code on your site.
  • All products—allows you to add the whole Sellfy storefront with all of your t-shirts to your site.

Breaking into the online t-shirt business: a practical guide

So, you’ve got your online store and your t-shirts. Now, all you have to do is follow our no inventory business model guide to stay on top of the game.

Think 25 dollars is too much for a t-shirt? Think again!

How do you price your t-shirts? Is 25 dollars really too much for a shirt? Considering that the average t-shirt price typically ranges from $20 to $25, 25 dollars really isn’t that much at all. Some successful creators even set their t-shirt prices as high as $30.

So, don’t be afraid to price your t-shirts for what they’re worth. After all, people who love you and your content will likely buy from you anyway.

You see, expensive is a relative term—if someone really wants your shirt, they’re willing to purchase it regardless of the price. It’s also worth keeping in mind that when something costs more, it is perceived to be of higher value.

But, also, consider the following pricing tips:

  • The recommended retail price ranges from $24.99 to $30.99 per shirt.
  • Stick to a one-sided print with 1-3 colors to keep a reasonable t-shirt price.
  • The more samples you order in bulk, the cheaper it’ll be.
  • People love purchasing t-shirts with free shipping, so use free shipping to your advantage.
  • End your t-shirt prices with .99 instead of .00 (.e.g. $29.99 instead of $30.00).

As a Sellfy creator, you can view and change the default t-shirt price settings under VARIANTS > COST on the Edit product page.

Sellfy Tip
To price your t-shirts high enough for retail, use the following formula:

Production cost + profit margin (e.g. 20%) + expenses = retail price

Quality matters (but not as much as you think)

Do you believe that quality matters more than anything? If you do, then let me tell you something:

It really doesn’t matter as much as you think. Sure, your followers might appreciate a good quality shirt, but the truth is that most of them won’t think about quality when they’re making an order.

And, that’s because the majority of fans tend to buy regardless of quality—all because they love your brand. It’s also another way for fans to express their appreciation of you and to support you as a creator.

However, if you’re still worried about quality or printing technique, then we can assure you that you’re in good hands with Sellfy:

The inks used in the screen printing are water-based and CPSIA compliant, which means they’re safe to print on youth and children’s clothing and reduce environmental waste. We also offer plenty of eco-friendly alternatives that are just as high-quality as the rest of our print-on-demand products.

And, while this isn’t likely to happen, we’ll always be happy to issue a refund or replace a product with a quality issue for free.

Sellfy Tip
To ensure a high-quality print job, we urge you to follow Sellfy’s print-on-demand tips and best practices.

Promote your t-shirt store on your social media accounts

And, last but not least, it’s always a good idea to cross-promote your t-shirts on all of your socials!

So, let’s go over a few actionable strategies that have worked amazingly well for most Sellfy creators:

  • Showcase, don’t tell. Honestly, there’s no better way to announce your t-shirt business than wearing your t-shirts in your photos or videos. A visual demonstration of your product can increase sales by at least 50%.
  • Don’t miss out on the latest TikTok trends. If you have the app, then be sure to use TikTok’s popular sounds or filters in your videos. TikTok’s algorithm is so beginner-friendly that you could get a million views in just a week!
  • Generate leads with social proof. 90% of people tend to trust social proof more than anything else, so why not let your family, friends, and customers do you a favor and spread the word?
  • Launch your t-shirt business with a sale. There’s nothing like a time-sensitive campaign to drive urgency and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Almost none of us can resist a good deal—research shows that 90% of online shoppers use coupons.
  • Share your store link in your bio or captions. This goes without saying, but don’t forget to let your audience know about your Sellfy store in your captions or profile bio. Add links to your store on all apps or platforms where you can reach your followers.
  • Create a branded hashtag for your store. Create a hashtag for your t-shirt brand, add it to your profile bio, and encourage fans to tag you in their content, e.g. “use my #brandedhashtag to get featured in a post!”

Forget about paid ads—use Sellfy’s marketing tools!

Sellfy offers a built-in marketing toolkit that can help you promote your t-shirts and plan marketing campaigns. And, you know what? Our creators absolutely love our tools! So, if you’ve just recently started using Sellfy, I’m pretty sure you will, too.

Here’s a list of our best built-in marketing features:

  • Coupons & discounts—add a discount for any number of t-shirts, run a holiday sale with a start/end date, drive urgency with flash deals, or offer freebies to potential customers.
  • Cart abandonment—see stats of unfinished orders and set up emails with special offers to recover revenue from missed sales.
  • Upselling—offer additional discounted t-shirts as soon as a buyer adds your product to the cart.
  • Email marketing—send out custom newsletters to specific audiences, or choose between four customizable email templates to notify customers of updates and new products.
  • Pay-what-you-want (PWYW) feature—increase customer engagement and maximize your sales by giving your fans the option to choose how much to pay for a product.

To learn more about how to use Sellfy’s marketing tools, head over to our blog post on 12 effective marketing tactics from Sellfy’s top creators.

So, you’ve conquered the t-shirt business… now what?

Every now and then, you should replace an existing product or launch a new one.

Here’s why:

There’s something called a product life cycle—the journey of a product from its launch to its gradual decrease in popularity. Generally, there are four stages of the product life cycle: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.

At the introduction stage, the product enters the market and, after some time, goes into the growth stage with the help of marketing. At this stage, it’s important to maintain sales with promotional campaigns, shipping to new locations, etc.

When the product reaches the stage of maturity, it starts to slow down, signaling the market’s oversaturation. Even though the maturity stage can last for a long time, the decline stage is almost always inevitable for the majority of products.

And, when that happens, it’s important to understand what’s behind the decline. If the entire market is shrinking, it’s time to pursue an entirely new market or niche.

However, if the decline is only specific to your product, then there are actions you can take to minimize that. For example, you can make some changes to your store and come out with new stuff.

You can launch:

  • New print-on-demand products
  • New t-shirt designs
  • Limited edition shirts

Luckily, you can sell more than just t-shirts with Sellfy! For instance, you can also sell custom apparel or simply expand your merch with all types of products.

So, what other print-on-demand products can you sell?

You can choose from a rich selection of the following categories:

  • Men’s, women’s, and kids’ clothing (jackets, sweatshirts, hoodies, tank tops, long-sleeve tees, bodysuits, etc.)
  • Hats (custom print and embroidery on caps and beanies)
  • Bags (backpack, laptop sleeve, fanny pack, and tote bags)
  • Home & living (embroidered apron, water bottle, spiral notebook, canvas, posters, mugs, and stickers)
  • Phone cases (iPhone and Samsung)

Over to you 

Now you know all the steps to creating a successful t-shirt business and t-shirt store! But, it’s important to remember that launching your product is just about 20% of the job. The remaining 80% is promoting it to the right people.

So, to get that first sale make sure to:

  1. Write a compelling product description.
  2. Create a product image that grabs attention.
  3. Price your product reasonably.
  4. Be active on your social media account and share your product.

To learn more about selling t-shirts online or other products with Sellfy, make sure to check out our blog for some useful tips and tricks. Good luck with your profitable business venture!

Susanna is Sellfy's Content Guru with a genuine passion for copywriting, storytelling, and eCommerce. With years of content marketing experience behind her, she helps to create the best possible landing pages, blog posts, emails, and other types of copy. She also keeps close tabs on social media trends and enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology.