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How to Start an Embroidery Business: 5 Steps to Success

How to Start an Embroidery Business: 5 Steps to Success
Cloe Ann Montoya

By Cloe Ann Montoya

14 min read

Starting an embroidery business by yourself can be tricky, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. The intricate detailing of embroidery adds texture and dimension to any fabric, and makes every piece feel extra special.

And being a business owner means you can set your own hours, take time off when you want, and control every aspect of your store. So, where to begin? 

Lucky for you, an embroidery business is really like any other business when it comes down to it. First, you need a plan. Second, you’ve got to figure out what’s the best way for you to launch your business.

In this article, we’ll break down the actionable steps you can take to build your own embroidery business from the ground up. You’ll also learn about the best ways to connect with and market to your target customers.

1. Decide how to fulfill orders

People tend to assume that successful embroidery businesses do the embroidery work themselves by hand or with a sewing machine, but that’s not always the case.

Let’s say you love the embellished look of embroidery, but don’t have the time or skills to craft pieces yourself. You can take advantage of modern technology and outsource embroidery manufacturing to a supplier. From there, you can either buy your embroidered products in bulk and ship them to customers yourself, or use on-demand production and fulfillment to handle the entire process.

How you decide to build your business depends on different factors, like the time you have available or whether or not you have the cash flow to invest in inventory. Read on to learn more about the different embroidery options.

Creating and shipping orders yourself

If you love sewing embroidered pieces yourself and are interested in growing your hobby into a business, then you already have the experience necessary to make products. You’ll have to invest in sewing equipment, thread, and the products you’ll be embroidering (i.e. clothing, hats, home & living items, etc.). That means you’ll need money upfront to get what you need to start your business. You’ll also have to spend time practicing sewing your designs to ensure a high quality end product.

Next, you’ll have to think about how to sell your embroidered pieces. Nowadays, the easiest way to get your products out there is by selling online. There are different ecommerce platforms (like Shopify) and marketplaces (like Etsy) to choose from to set up shop, post your products, and get started selling.

Once your orders start coming in, you’ll have to prepare, pack, and ship them yourself.

The usual process for managing fulfillment yourself is:

  1. Order sample products from suppliers
  2. Decide which products you’ll work with and order stock
  3. Hand or machine embroider each product with your design ideas
  4. Figure out product pricing
  5. Take photographs and add your products to your online store or marketplace
  6. Advertise and receive orders online from interested customers
  7. Handle payments and confirm orders
  8. Package products with branded packaging
  9. Ship products from your post office or with a shipping service
  10. Confirm that the customer received their order

How well you do will depend on different parameters like the popularity of your designs and how fast you can get your embroidered products out. This can be challenging when you’re managing everything by yourself.

Outsourcing production and order fulfillment

If you love how embroidery looks, but don’t have embroidering experience, then outsourcing production and fulfillment is an excellent option. The best part? You don’t have to invest any money upfront.

Partnering with an on-demand production and fulfillment company like Printful is a great way to start an embroidery business since products are only produced and shipped once a customer makes a purchase. That means there’s no financial risk for you as you don’t have to buy equipment or stock upfront and spend time embroidering by hand.

Plus, since they’re only made once you get an order in, it’s easy to add new designs and products to your online store without having to commit. You’ll be able to try out as many ideas as you want, and just focus on marketing your products.

What to consider when getting started

There are a few initial things you should think about when starting your own custom embroidery business using on-demand production and fulfillment. Keep in mind it isn’t much different from starting any other type of online business.

  • Creating your store

First, you’ll have to create an online store through an ecommerce platform or marketplace. Then, if you want streamlined fulfillment, you’d need to connect it to an on-demand provider like Printful. If you’re interested in learning more about store setup procedures and linking your site, check out this article on How to Start an Online Store with Printful.

You’ll then need to choose your products and designs—the fun part! We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how to do that later on in the blog.

  • Setting pricing

Once you’ve selected what you’re going to sell, you have to figure out pricing. Our Beginner’s Guide on How to Price Your Products Online breaks down exactly how to price your embroidery products so you’re making profit.

  • Legal requirements

We know what you’re thinking: but what about taxes and legal requirements? Take a look at this article on How to Start a Business in the US: Taxes and Legal Requirements to find out all relevant information. And selling internationally? Don’t fret, we go over everything you need to know in this blog post.

If you want to try on-demand manufacturing but need help getting started, use this free online checklist to help you plan every part of your business from the ground up.

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Ready to get into how to make your home-based embroidery business stand out?

2. Defining a niche

A niche is a specialized market that attracts a specific audience. A niche-oriented business addresses the needs that aren’t being addressed by mainstream providers. Learn more about niches in our post.

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to produce and ship products, now you need to pin down exactly who you’re going to sell to. If you figure out your niche and fully adapt your embroidery business to your niche market, you’ll have an easier time connecting with customers and standing out from the competition.

Selecting your niche also helps you make informed decisions when planning your:

  • Products and designs
  • Brand appearance and voice
  • Main marketing channels

For example, Riot Society sells printed and embroidered clothing for people interested in relaxed, minimalist streetwear. Their niche audience mainly consists of young adults looking for comfortable and stylish clothing that works great with shades, sneaks, and cool accessories.

riot-society-embroidered-clothing
Source: Riot Society

To figure out what kind of niche and customer demographic best suits your embroidery business, try answering the following questions:

  • What are your passions and interests?
  • What are the values or desires of your customers’ that you want to appeal to?
  • What unmet needs or pain points exist for your potential customers?
  • What existing embroidery businesses do you like and why?
  • What current embroidery trends can you incorporate into your designs?

If you want to learn more about running your own branded business, take a look at our step-by-step guide for starting your own clothing brand.

3. Pick what products you’ll embroider

The products you embroider should align with your niche. Take, for example, The Philosopher’s Shirt. Since 2016, the brand has been gaining popularity with its philosophy-themed merch. Customers can find t-shirts, hoodies, and other products with funny philosophy memes and references to famous philosophers on their online shop.

Why does it work? The store is popular with philosophy enthusiasts but also anyone who’s into wordplay and graphic tees. It was a great idea that filled a niche market need, and their embroidery collection fits right in with their design style and theme.

These are things you’ll want to consider when picking your products. You’ll want apparel, accessories, or home & living items that make sense with your embroidery designs and niche. That way, customers are more likely to buy and enjoy your products. Let’s take a look at the different embroidery options you have with Printful.

Apparel

If you decide to sell embroidered apparel, the first decision you’ll make is whether you should stick to adult or children’s clothing. If you decide to sell both kinds of apparel, then make sure each product aligns with your niche.

embroidered-printful-hoodie
Embroidered adult apparel | Source: Printful’s ES instragram

Adult Apparel

Adult apparel has more room for larger embroidery designs. You can choose from hoodies, t-shirts, pants, dresses, hats, or even leather jackets. How many types of products you sell depends on your target audience and what they’re looking for.

printful-embroidery-products-options
Source: Printful

Hats combine well with large, embroidered lettering or a standout center design. Since hats are worn year-round and tend to remain on trend, some businesses exclusively focus on hats and other headwear items using high-quality embroidery. If you want to learn more about selling embroidered headwear, we have a great guide that walks you through every step you need to know.

sample-embroidered-mockup-printful-hat
Source: Printful

Other embroidery businesses tend to focus on hoodies and sweatshirts. These are always popular because of how wearable and comfortable they are. Stylish yet versatile, hoodies pair well with most outfits. Who doesn’t love a cozy sweatshirt with a high-quality embroidered design?

sample-hoodie-printful-embroidered-design-maker
Flat embroidering a design on a hoodie | Source: Printful’s Design Maker

It doesn’t hurt to start with just 1 or 2 apparel products and offer various embroidery designs on each, that way you can focus on perfecting your designs and marketing your products.

Children’s apparel

Children’s clothing can be trickier to design because of the smaller embroidery area available. However, it’s worth the effort. With its intricate detailing, embroidery gives a charming, extra-special feel to children’s apparel as compared to regular printed products.

embroidered-baby-bibs-printful
Source: Printful

Also, embroidered clothing can handle regular feeding-time spills and general messes better than ink-printed designs thanks to how sturdy embroidered stitching is in comparison.

printful-design-maker-embroidered-product-sample
Baby onesie with snap-fasteners | Source: Printful’s Design Maker

Bonus tip: parents want children’s clothing that looks good—but is functional. You’ll have a leg up on competitors if your children’s apparel offers cute, original embroidery designs that are still practical for everyday wear.

Home & living

Home & living is a versatile product category for embroidery that includes blankets, pillows, throws, napkins, and more. People love embroidered home goods because the products feel higher quality and embroidered designs really stand out. You can put large custom designs on blankets, or small, delicate designs on towels to make them look and feel more luxurious.

embroidered-towels-printful
Source: Printful

Filling a space with beautifully embroidered pillows, blankets, and other decor can really elevate a home’s interior design. That’s probably one of the reasons why embroidered home goods are so popular!

embroidered-blanket-printful
Source: Printful

Consider designing a product line with various home goods that share a similar design theme. For example, you can offer a bedroom set with floral embroidery designs. To encourage more sales, offer a discount for orders that include at least 1 embroidered blanket, 2 pillowcases, and 1 throw blanket from your product line.

4. Bringing your embroidery designs to life

Now that you know what products you want to sell, it’s time to start pairing them with your custom embroidery designs. First, you’ll need to flesh out the specific design ideas that fit your niche. Next, you’ll need to finalize which embroidery designs you’ll move forward with. After, you have to figure out the colors and placement on each of your products.

Read on to help get your gears going.

Compile embroidery ideas

As we’ve discussed, the products you embroider need to align with your niche—and so should your designs. To better identify embroidery design ideas that’ll sell, try answering these questions:

  1. What designs come to mind when you think of your niche market?
  2. What embroidered designs are popular right now that would match your target audience?
  3. What designs do you notice competitors offering on their websites?

Take screenshots, save images, or draw out any designs that stand out to you. Use Pinterest, Google Docs, or a scrapbook to put together all your ideas.

If you’re stuck, check out this list of embroidery ideas that sell. Don’t directly copy other people’s designs, as you could violate copyright laws and get yourself in trouble. Instead, try to innovate and improve on any designs you like, or come up with your own unique versions inspired by their designs.

Only pick designs that align with your aesthetic, otherwise, some of your embroidered products might not appeal to your customers. For example, if you’re running a floral embroidery apparel business, it wouldn’t make sense to offer customers clothing with embroidered geometric stars.

pinterest-image-search-embroidery
Source: Pinterest

Figure out embroidery placement

Plan out the placement of embroidery designs on the products you chose. Make sure to match each design to the right product, and consider the size, material texture, and color of your product. Afterall, what might work on a t-shirt might not look great embroidered onto a hat’s front.

If you’re working with an on-demand provider like Printful, make sure your designs fit the embroidery file requirements. Check out this handy guide that outlines everything you need to know about embroidery placement and design file tips.

Before the embroidery process can begin, our graphic design team needs to convert your file into a format that our embroidery machines can read, so it has to be digitized. Digitization transforms your design file to a format that supports embroidery, and carries a one-time fee for each new design. Learn more about digitization fees here.

embroidery-design-placement-printful
Source: Printful

Please keep in mind that any designs you use on Printful products have to follow the Acceptable Content Guidelines.

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Types of Embroidery

After you know what kind of embroidered designs you want on the products you chose, you’re ready to learn about the different embroidery techniques available. At Printful, there are various embroidery styles and stitch types that we use like Flat embroidery or 3D Puff, and Satin stitch or Tatami fill. To learn more about the different techniques and stitching, check out this Printful Lesson on custom embroidery. ​

printful-embroidery-sample-options
Source: Printful

Flat embroidery is a common technique where stitches are embroidered flat on the product’s surface. Alternatively, 3D puff embroidery is as its name implies: a 3-dimensional technique that creates a raised look. This is best suited for big shapes since aspects of the design are more likely to stand out.

Printful also uses different stitch types. First, there’s the Run stitch. This is a simple and common stitch used for small design details, allowing more variety in a design. It’s essentially a single line stitch, so it’s a great complement to other embroidering.

To fill large areas, the Tatami fill (or, rows of Run stitches) is used. It embroiders threads in a clean manner across the surface without leaving any empty spots. Another option is the Satin stitch, which is a long, straight embroidery stitch used to outline an object or to cap a 3D puff design. It’s a good technique to add a shadow to 3D puff embroidery designs.

Since our digitizers decide on the types of stitches that will be the best for each design, make sure to follow the guidelines because ultimately the type of stitch used will depend on your graphic.

For more steps and information on choosing products and designs, check out this article on getting started with custom embroidery.

5. Start marketing your embroidery business

Now that your embroidery products are ready, getting your first sale will be the hardest part of launching your business. Customers around the world want to buy things they can trust will arrive as pictured, and without any reviews, it’s difficult to curb that fear and encourage sales.

Since you’ve already determined your target audience, now you need to plan out exactly where you’ll reach those customers. Figure out the social networks they’re most comfortable with and encourage them to visit your store by posting engaging content or using eye-catching ads. For example, if your target audience consists of mostly young people, creating videos on newer platforms like TikTok would be a great place to start.

embroidered-hoodie-printful
Source: Boxed Trends

Another way to figure out how to reach customers is to take a look at how and where your competitors advertise. This will help you be even more specific in your plan.

Answer these questions to help you figure it out:

  1. Which social networking platforms is your customer base regularly on?
  2. Which platforms do you know well enough to market on?
  3. What kinds of advertisements do you think your customers would respond best to?
  4. How much money, if any, do you want to spend on marketing to your customers?
  5. Would you consider offering discounts to friends or family in exchange for honest reviews?
  6. Which social networking platforms do other businesses in the embroidery industry use?

After answering these questions, you’ll be able to get a better idea of the social media channels you need to focus on.

If you decide to use paid advertising, put aside a specific amount of money for testing your ads before paying for larger and more costly campaigns. By doing this, you’ll be able to pick the campaigns that perform best.

Remember to diversify and switch it up if you’re not getting the results you’d like, and make the most of free platforms and forums to share the news about your products. Don’t be afraid to try different things to get the word out about your awesome embroidery designs!

Learn more: 10 Effective Ways How to Market a Product

Main takeaways

Now that you’ve learned about the various ways to produce, design, and sell embroidered products, you’re ready to begin your journey as an embroidery business owner.

If you ever get stuck, refer back to this article or check out the Printful blog to see all the different information we have to help you manage your own business. Don’t get discouraged—remember that anything worth doing takes time and patience to do right.

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By Cloe Ann Montoya on Jun 7, 2022

Cloe Ann Montoya

Cloe is a Content Marketing Specialist at Printful. Her educational background includes a Bachelors of Science in Management and Economics and a Masters of Science in International Governance and Diplomacy. Besides her work, she loves reading fantasy books and going for long hikes with her dog, a rambunctious jackadoodle.

Cloe is a Content Marketing Specialist at Printful. Her educational background includes a Bachelors of Science in Management and Economics and a Masters of Science in International Governance and Diplomacy. Besides her work, she loves reading fantasy books and going for long hikes with her dog, a rambunctious jackadoodle.