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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Sell T-shirts on Etsy in 6 Easy Steps

Beginner's handbook

How to Sell T-shirts on Etsy in 6 Easy Steps

How to Sell T-shirts on Etsy in 6 Easy Steps
Sandra Ķempele

By Sandra Ķempele

14 min read

If you’re eager to start selling t-shirts on Etsy and turn your passion into profit, you’ve come to the right place!

Whether you’re new to ecommerce or looking for some tips to bring in more sales, in this guide, you’ll find actionable steps on how to sell shirts on Etsy. We’ll discuss choosing t-shirts that resonate with your audience, creating and testing designs, and marketing your Etsy t-shirt shop.

So, if you’re ready to create a t-shirt brand that speaks to your customers, you’re in for an exciting journey. Let’s dive in!

Why sell shirts on Etsy?

For small business owners, starting to sell shirts on Etsy can be a strategic and rewarding choice. With millions of active buyers looking for personalized products, your t-shirt designs have the potential to reach a broad customer base.

It’s easy to set up an Etsy account, and there are plenty of free resources to help you manage an online t-shirt business hassle-free. Additionally, integration with print-on-demand (POD) services like Printful allows you to turn your designs into physical products without worrying about inventory, manufacturing, or shipping.

Etsy’s user-friendly interface further simplifies the selling process. Custom shop layouts, intuitive product listings, and various marketing options can help you personalize your Etsy storefront in a way that feels authentic to your brand.

How to sell shirts on Etsy in 6 steps

Shirts are, without a doubt, the most popular print-on-demand products out there. Add a custom, personalized design to the mix, and get a high-demand product. 

If you’re eager to begin selling t-shirts with your unique designs, read our 6-step guide to help you bring in sales on Etsy.

1. Start with your audience

It’s important to know who you want to sell to before starting on the t-shirt designs. One way to approach this is by identifying a community gathered around specific interests or hobbies.

Perhaps you want to design unique sports jerseys, crew necks, and loose tees for active people. Or you’re into embroidery and would like to appeal to an audience that values personalized, embroidered t-shirts? 

Once you’ve landed on your target audience, consider their shopping habits—are they buying for themselves or looking for gifts? Do you want to sell t-shirts for children, men, or women? Have a clear picture of your audience before brainstorming product design ideas.

2. Pick t-shirts that fit your audience’s style

When you know who you’re selling to, it’s important to pick a few different shirts that match your audience’s lifestyle.

Knowing your audience’s demographics and lifestyle will help you understand your customer needs: Are they looking to invest in a premium t-shirt? Do they prioritize comfort? For example, if you’re targeting a higher-income audience in their forties, college-educated, and living in urban areas, go for premium t-shirts with a more classic fit. Check out Printful’s t-shirt options for a wide range of styles and materials to help you get started.

Cotton vs. polyester

Different shirt materials offer varying levels of comfort, durability, and functionality. The fabric choice goes beyond mere aesthetics and speaks directly to the lifestyles of your potential customers.

For instance, a soft and breathable cotton tee is perfect for those who value comfort and a relaxed look. This material is a good fit for everyday wear, making it a staple for individuals seeking style and ease.

a man in a blue shirt

Men’s classic tee with 100% cotton. Source: Printful

On the other hand, moisture-wicking performance fabrics like polyester blends might be a better option for the active and adventurous bunch. These materials are suitable for fitness enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and people on the go. A sporty audience is more likely to prioritize function over style, so choosing the right fabric can make all the difference.

Printing techniques

Your printing method plays a big part in how your design comes to life. To help you decide on the best t-shirts for printing, let’s look at two popular t-shirt printing techniques—direct-to-garment (DTG) and all-over print (AOP).

DTG printing is an excellent choice for designs with fine details and vivid colors. It’s the go-to technique for printing custom t-shirts with illustrations, text, and bold graphics.

two women smiling and wearing t-shirts

Unisex organic cotton t-shirt with DTG print. Source: Printful

On the other hand, all-over print t-shirts are best for patterns and vivid colors. It’s a popular style among young shoppers who are drawn to eye-catching designs and want to stand out.

Learn more: Best Method for Printing T-Shirts

Embroidered shirts

prin resonate with people interested in high-quality clothing. The detailed designs elevate a simple look and will appeal to minimalist fashion enthusiasts.

T-shirts with custom embroidered messages also make for thoughtful gifts. Shoppers looking for gift ideas for birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays might want embroidered t-shirts with unique designs. Offer them personalized shirts with quotes, monograms, or embroidered dates.

a woman holding a bouquet of flowers

Unisex tri-blend t-shirt with embroidered sleeve. Source: Printful

3. Create and test designs

Before you start designing, explore what’s trendy right now and look for cool t-shirt design ideas that are getting attention online. Notice what stands out to you. Try to strike a balance between a design that speaks to your audience and a popular trend.

Be aware that t-shirts have different print placements you can design for. Prints on sleeves or a back design can be great for artsy experiments. For some top tips, check out this t-shirt logo placement guide.

Design with online tools

Once you’re ready to bring your ideas to life, you can use many free online tools to craft unique and eye-catching t-shirt designs. Customers love seeing creative ideas, so don’t hold back!

Tools like Canva or Printful’s own Design Maker provide an easy-to-use interface with different templates, images, and fonts. With drag-and-drop functionality, you can easily combine elements to create a custom design, whether it’s a witty quote, a stylish logo, or a detailed illustration.

Make the most of collaborations

If you’d like to further develop your designs, you can hire a designer for a custom illustration or approach a local artist whose style you’re into.  

Local artists bring a fresh perspective and a diverse range of styles to the table. By joining forces with creatives who understand your community, you’re not just designing shirts; you’re crafting wearable art that’s more likely to resonate with people. 

Whether it’s a street artist’s graffiti-inspired masterpiece or an illustrator’s whimsical characters, your shirts will stand out from the crowd. What’s more, partnerships provide opportunities for cross-promotion to help bring in more sales.

a person wearing a denim jacket

Source: @biggursky on Instagram

Test designs on different t-shirts

Before selling your t-shirts online, it’s worth testing how your designs look and feel on different t-shirt fabrics. If you use print-on-demand services for your Etsy store, get some product samples and check the print quality.

Why? First, you want to make sure that the quality is up to your standards. POD services use different printing methods, and each has its advantages. Plus, there are many fits to choose from, so it’s helpful to see how your design looks on different types of t-shirts.

As an ecommerce shop owner, you can order product samples for less with the Printful sample program. This way, you can test the quality of the materials and prints and make sure that the t-shirts meet your expectations.

4. Take photos

When people look for shirts on Etsy, product photography is what they notice first. Mockups can be useful to show how your products fit different people, but taking unique, high-quality photos is crucial in making your t-shirts stand out. 

You don’t need expensive equipment to start taking photos—a good phone camera will do. To get good quality images, shoot photos in natural light, near a window, or even outside. Avoid using flash, as it can wash out the colors and details of your t-shirt designs.

Consider the setting for your photos. Look for a clean, simple backdrop that makes your design pop. For example, a flat-lay image or styled scenes can create a particular aesthetic that draws in people with similar style. Etsy customers appreciate a unique touch, so don’t be afraid to add some personality to your photos. 

Let’s say, you’ve designed a t-shirt with a sports slogan and want to start taking photos. Here are a few things you could try to align with your target audience and make your images pop:

  • Take a flat-lay image with a few simple props like a pair of sneakers and a ball

  • Go for a sporty outfit and style the model in a way that reflects your audience

  • Do a photoshoot on a basketball court or a soccer field

In addition to professional-looking photos, try posting a video to your listing to boost engagement. Here’s a video idea: Ask your friends or family to wear your t-shirt to demonstrate how it fits different people. This way, shoppers can imagine themselves repping your design and are more likely to buy from your store.

5. Publish your listings

Etsy’s a crowded marketplace, so take time to publish and fine-tune your listings. We’ve already covered the importance of high-quality photos. Now, let’s focus on adding information to your Etsy t-shirts’ listings.

To increase your online visibility, adding accurate listing titles and descriptions is a must. Let’s say you’re creating an Etsy listing for a black Halloween-themed t-shirt spelling out “Booo!”. First, brainstorm some descriptive keywords. Think about the season (“Halloween shirt”), design (“Spooky t-shirt” or “graphic tee"), and color (“dark t-shirt”). 

Try adding the most relevant keywords in the first couple sentences of your product description. Then, make sure to include essential product information to describe the size, fabric, t-shirt fit, and print details.

Finally, add tags to help your product listings get noticed. You can use up to 13 tags, under 20 characters in length. Etsy recommends using short, descriptive phrases. For example, “black t-shirt” or “graphic tee.”

6. Market your store

On a platform like Etsy, simply setting up your shop and listing items isn’t enough to attract buyers and make sales. You’ll also need to put effort into marketing your shop to get noticed.

Etsy SEO

The most successful Etsy sellers attract a large part of their customers through search traffic. Leveraging search algorithms can help you boost visibility, especially when you first start selling t-shirts on Etsy.

The keywords you use across your listing title, description, tags, categories, and attributes are all important for Etsy SEO (search engine optimization). To make sure your listing is at the top of search results, you need to know what people are searching for. Look for clues in the Etsy search bar suggestions and the related items section. Plus, check out some of the many keyword research tools for relevant keywords (more on that later!).

On top of optimizing your listings, it’s important to get incoming links from well-trafficked sites to help you rank higher. Try to promote your product listings on popular blogs and social media platforms.

Etsy offsite ads

In addition to your discoverability on Etsy, it’s useful to advertise your products outside the marketplace and increase traffic to your Etsy shop. You can do this with paid offsite ads which promote your listing on Google, Facebook, and Instagram. This way, you can attract new audiences and reach as large of a customer base as possible.

Offsite ads target users who aren’t on Etsy but might be interested in the items you’re selling. To put their best foot forward, many sellers choose to market their bestselling shirts that already perform well organically. These listings are also likely to have high-quality scores and get more views per ad.

When it comes to fees, you won’t be bearing any advertising costs until you make a sale. Once you’ve sold an item, Etsy takes 12-15% of the sale price from the ads that result in a transaction. All sellers have to pay 15% for ads, but those who generate more than $10,000 in the last 12 months get a discounted rate of 12%.

Social media

Using social media to promote your Etsy shop can be a game-changer in boosting your brand visibility, building a connection with your target audience, and driving sales. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest offer a creative outlet to showcase your t-shirt designs and connect with others in a more personal, engaging way. 

Pinterest

With 463 million monthly active users, Pinterest is a great marketing tool. This social media platform is all about visuals, so post high-quality images and short videos with on-brand colors to make your pins stand out.

Just like Etsy, Pinterest has a built-in search tool for people to explore pins and find boards that match their interests. So, add relevant keywords to your pin titles, descriptions, and board titles to appear on search results. With some luck, it’s also possible to get featured on Etsy’s Pinterest boards and be exposed to their 7 million followers.

a screen shot of a shirt

Source: Pinterest

Instagram

As an Etsy seller, you can use Instagram to show off your t-shirt designs as well as your personality. By making the most of high-quality visuals and short-form videos, try to build a unique brand aesthetic that’s easily recognizable.

Although the primary focus is on visuals, it’s also an opportunity to flex your storytelling muscles. Share the inspiration for your designs, behind-the-scenes of your creative process, or run exclusive promos. This will help create a more meaningful connection with your audience and turn them into repeat customers. 

Bonus tips

You’re probably eager to put this newfound knowledge into action, but hold on, there’s more! Read on for 3 bonus tips to help you stand out among other Etsy shops.

Invest time in keyword research

The success of your Etsy shop largely depends on your ability to get your products in front of the right buyers. One of the best ways to do this is by using keyword research tools to understand demand for your product and market it accordingly.

For Etsy users, eRank is one of the most popular keyword research tools. You can start using it by looking for different product keywords to see their popularity. For example, when you type “Halloween shirts,” you’ll see its search volume, Etsy competition, and related keywords.

Feel free to explore similar keyword research tools, like Marmalead and Google Trends. Look for relevant long-tail keywords with up to three words, like “fun holiday shirt” and “custom quote shirt.” This will help you narrow your target audience to those specifically interested in your offer and ready to make a purchase.

Be careful with product pricing

Pricing your products on Etsy can be challenging, but it’s important for the success of your business. Finding the right price point can help attract customers while also ensuring you’re making a profit.

To start off, research your competition. Look at similar products on Etsy and see what they’re charging. Are you targeting a high-end market or a more budget-conscious one? This initial research will help guide your pricing strategy.

Then, it’s important to factor in your expenses. Calculate how much it costs to make your product, your work, Etsy fees, and other overhead costs. Make sure you’re pricing your products high enough to cover the base costs and make a profit. You should aim for a 20–30% profit margin.

Finally, make sure your shipping costs are attractive to potential customers. More and more people expect free shipping, so it might be worth having special offers for select items or larger orders. If you decide to offer reduced shipping fees, don’t forget to factor the shipping cost into your item price.

Provide excellent customer service

On a marketplace like Etsy, customer satisfaction is key to your success. Providing great customer support, be it politely answering a question or just responding quickly, can go a long way in building trust and getting more sales.

Be familiar with product details

One key aspect of customer support is being ready to answer all product-related questions. Whether you’re asked about t-shirt materials, sizing, or shipping times, it’s important to provide accurate information. 

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the t-shirts you sell and steadily build up a FAQ section on your Etsy store.

Respond to messages as quickly as possible

One of the most important things you can do to make your customers happy is to answer questions as soon as possible. When someone reaches out to you, they want an immediate answer.

Make it a priority to check your messages regularly. Your customers will thank you, you’ll avoid negative reviews, and your business will benefit in the long run. 

Earn the Star Seller badge

If you’re consistently providing exceptional customer service, you could qualify for Star Seller. The coveted badge is a great way to boost your reputation on the platform and make more sales.

To qualify for the badge, you need to meet a set of criteria within three months. This means:

  • At least 5 sales worth a total of $300

  • Average rating of 4.8 or higher

  • Response rate within 24 hours

Etsy will then automatically award you the badge, which will appear on your shop’s home page, listing info, and in search results. Having the Star Seller badge can boost your credibility, making it more likely that customers will choose to buy from your Etsy store.

a screenshot of a website

Star Seller badge on SuperPrintShop home page. Source: Etsy

Start selling shirts (and more) on Etsy

And there you have it—your ultimate guide for selling shirts on Etsy!

Building a thriving t-shirt shop takes effort and continuous learning. So, stay attuned to the latest t-shirt design trends, listen to customer feedback, and adapt your marketing strategies as you go along. This way, you’ll see your sales grow over time.

As an Etsy shop owner, make the most of print-on-demand providers to bring your designs to life and deliver your products with care. When using Printful to sell on Etsy, you can count on seamless integration, high-quality t-shirt printing, and a range of resources to support you in this journey.

Follow the steps in this guide, learn from your journey, and let us know how it’s going in the comments below. Happy selling!

author

By Sandra Ķempele on Sep 6, 2023

Sandra Ķempele

Guest author

Sandra is a freelance writer and educator with a background in art and communication. She holds an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, and in her free time enjoys reading, museum visits, and outdoor adventures.

Sandra is a freelance writer and educator with a background in art and communication. She holds an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, and in her free time enjoys reading, museum visits, and outdoor adventures.