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Starting online clothing store
Beginner's handbook

How To Start An Online Clothing Store – 5 Essential Steps

By Reading Time: 6 minutes

Interested in starting your own online clothing store? Well, you’re in luck, because now’s the perfect time to do it!

Owing to the rising popularity of ecommerce, easy-to-use tools that make starting an online clothing business simpler than ever.

Drop shipping services like Printful, ecommerce platforms, and online marketing tools can help you set up an online clothing boutique with minimal resources, but you’ll also need dedication to make it successful.

So if you’ve got the inspiration and the passion, we say, go for it. Read on to find out the basic steps of launching your first clothing line.Step 1: Find your niche

5 steps to starting an online store:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Be ready to commit
  3. Set up your store
  4. Design your products
  5. Promote and grow your brand

1. Find your niche

Every business has a target audience, so make sure to do your homework and decide on a niche. The better you know your customers and what they like, the better your chances of creating products they want.

You’re going to be dedicating a lot of time into your store, so make sure it’s something you really want to pursue.

Equally important, you have to know why you’re doing this:

  • Is starting an online clothing business something you’ve always wanted to try?
  • Do you feel like there’s a product you’d like to see on the market but haven’t found yet?
  • Are you aching to put your talent to the test?
  • Do you wish to start a change with what you’re doing?
  • Are you looking to make a little extra money on the side?

Bottom line is, everything you do, from your products to your motivation, has to be you – authentic and organic. If you won’t be able to explain your reason for starting your line, who will?

A few words on authenticity —

Let’s take a brief philosophical pause and talk about what “authentic” means. In the words of movie director Jim Jarmusch, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” That doesn’t mean you can go ahead and put a Warhol on a t-shirt, that’ll raise some trouble with copyright law. What that means is, be smart about getting inspired. If you imitate wisely enough, you can end up with something far better than the original.

2. Be ready to commit

There will always be something you can do to improve your store, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

This is what it looks like on the surface: you’re motivated, the creative juices are flowing,you’re sketching away into the wee hours of the morning, playing with patterns and combining colors. Beautiful.

Just remember – a clothing line isn’t just a creative outlet, it entails a great deal of work and plenty of risks and rewards. There’s an eternal to-do list, here are just some of the entries:

  • Deciding what products to sell
  • Creating new designs
  • Promoting your products on social media
  • Responding to customers’ emails to gain their trust
  • Planning a business strategy
  • Hiring a helping hand
  • Dealing with technical issues

So running an online clothing store, but worry not. With the right attitude, the only way to go is up.

Already you can see that although they go hand in hand, there are going to be two sides to your clothing line – the creative side and the business side. To be on top of your game, you’re going to have to do some market research, find out who your competition is, and define how you’re going to make profit while limiting your expenses. There are a lot of parts that go into starting a business so know what to expect and be prepared.

You could be cut out to play both parts, the magic and the money, or you could be better off sticking to just one, in which case you need to find someone trustworthy to fill in the blanks. The only way to know is to test the waters and see what works.

3. Set up your store

There’s plenty of decisions to be made when it comes to setting up an online store. The first one being – why go online at all?

To answer this question, let’s look at a few figures.

Although the battle between online and offline shopping is still on, online shopping is becoming increasingly popular – 4 in 5 Americans make an online purchase every month, and it is reported that 51% of Americans prefer online to in-store shopping.

So, internet shopping remains a powerful force and it’s now moving to mobile devices. Mobile commerce – mcommerce – now makes up 63.5% of all global ecommerce transactions, and is projected to continue increasing. That’s why the next step for ecommerce retailers is to make sure online shopping is easy on any device.

mcommerce sales worldwide

But there are still pros and cons to starting an ecommerce business.

Pros to an online shop:

  • No rent, no utility bills, and no staff – perfect for your debut and less of a risk and financial burden.
  • Building your online store via an ecommerce platform will save you a lot of time.
  • To make your life even easier, you could use a fulfillment service like Printful for your store. That way you don’t have to worry about stock or shipments, all you do is set up your online store and focus on creating and marketing your products.
  • You can still make sales in person at physical, but non-permanent locations like trade shows or pop-up stores.

Cons to an online shop:

  • If you’re building an online store from scratch – you’re facing some expenses. You’ll have to buy a domain name and develop your own website.
  • If you go for an ecommerce platform, those have various pros and cons of their own, and usually come with subscription fees.
  • There are also hidden costs for a self-hosted ecommerce platform if you don’t go with a hosted platform.

4. Design your products

Let’s take a closer look at the things that go into designing a product.

Say you’ve created your online store, you’ve chosen Printful as your fulfillment service, and you’ve decided to design a product. All you fashion lovers know what it takes to find something nice to wear, so imagine what it’s like to design it. Lots of things to take into account:

  • The creator of the designs. Having a good idea is one thing, but if you don’t know how to execute it to make it shine, seek the advice of a gifted friend, hire an artist, or, in the case of Printful, turn to our in-house Design Services team. If you really want to make the designs yourself, there are still lots of tools to make it easier, like Printful’s mockup generator, which has a text tool feature to easily make text-based designs. And if you’re all about those visuals, create designs with our custom-drawn smileys and shapes.
  • Your target audience. Think about you, but also think about your audience – they have to get your product and your design. Don’t be afraid to try out different colors/patterns/images – you might concoct a winning combination that’ll wow your customers.
  • The cut and material of the garment. The stretch of the fabric and its effect on the design, the feel of the fabric against the skin.
  • The final result. You have to be confident about everything from A to Z – the fit, the color, the design. You have to want to buy it, otherwise, well, it’s not worth selling. Be sure to order a sample before making it available to others. With Printful, samples come with a 20% discount and free shipping to select destinations.

5. Promote and grow your brand

Opening a store won’t guarantee sales, and no-one’s going to know about you unless you tell them. To attract customers, you’ll need to build brand awareness on social media and create quality content about your products. While thinking about ways to promote your brand, also think about the skill-set of those around you – any aspiring makeup artists or photographers building their portfolios?

If you want more marketing know-how on how to grow your brand and boost sales, check out our blog – you’ll find plenty of tips and inspiration.

And remember – you’re not alone in this, you can always seek advice from the online community. Even if you don’t need any help, it’s good to do some research on what your peers (and competitors) find particularly challenging or rewarding. For example, Printful users ask their questions and communicate their ideas via the Printful Insiders Facebook page. For more general, business-related discussions, you can also check out various Subreddits like /r/entrepreneur, /r/ecommerce, and /r/smallbusiness.

Final thoughts – take what you can

We hope the thought you’re left with after this article is that right now is a great time to follow your dream of launching your clothing line. Retailers don’t need to face the limitations of setting up a brick-and-mortar location. You can now easily put your design and sales skills to the test online, and there’s a wide range of tools to help you along the way.

You’re about to dive into a very interesting, creative period, so look around and take in as much as you can. Listen to advice, but take it with a grain of salt. The final decision will be made by you, though – you have to be happy with the outcome.

This article was originally published in July 2016; it has since been updated.

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  1. DTG Printers

    I would say first off, either secure a company who have high quality printing systems in place so you can secure high quality clothing goods. Either that, or do it yourself. Purchase top quality clothing printers or T-Shirt Printing machines and go from there. You can put a price on quality and in the long run you will benefit from the quality foundations you have.

  2. Denise guerini

    Please have a look at denisegueriniclothing Facebook page I did print in India and Indonesia before just send my copywriters images and they will do the full prints of the products they have last was very expansive specially the delivery, I am paying website domain and still nobody to work on it if you can help please contact me. Wish to star it and let it run I got 100+ copywriter images in USA I am from Italy working around the world in tourism and diving not much time to be at a computer and no skills in photoshop a friend of mine told me about you wish you could be the right solution to let this run without too much headache thanks best regards Denise Guerini

  3. Jess


    Thank you for this interesting article. I was however concerned with this statement “What that means is, be smart about getting inspired. If you imitate wisely enough, you can end up with something far better than the original.”

    As an artist who’s had work stolen and made a profit off of I do not advise this mentality. It is never ok to take someone’s art and profit off it. Be inspired yes, improve upon the idea but do not take the full idea as a whole. I for one would not be quoting Andy Warhol for intellectual property ethics.

    Maybe instead support those with new ideas and make room for items that have little place in “popular” market streams. Too much of one item is never good it floods the market and devalues the item, best to allow for a variety of things not the next best thing or the thing that is slightly better than the original. Just saying we need more diversity, variety, more friendly work relationships and less one-upmanship in business.

  4. Andris

    Paldies Marianna par rakstu,pilnīgi piekrītu visam. Printful ir lieliska organizācija ar ko sadarboties un ticu ka jūs neapstāsieties un piedāvāsiet vēl daudz jaunas,labas lietas.
    Jauku dienu!

  5. Marksilvester

    Great article! Thank you for sharing these points as they have helped me understand your blog better. Your writing skills make things extremely clear, while I was reading the article I felt as if someone was teaching me, everything is explained very well. Kindly share more write-ups as these help us a lot and such articles add on to our knowledge. Thank you!

  6. Mostafa Faisal

    Hi Marianna Zvaigzne, your post is Very helpful to me, I want to start online Clothing shop so I try to collect information about this business it was confusing but bu reading your article it,s gives clear information. Thanks

    1. Giedre Kronberga

      Hi JR,

      Shopify is an ecommerce platform; Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipper. By integrating the two, you can sell printed products online without having to worry about keeping the stock.

  7. James Brian

    There is much useful information here in this blog about how should we start an online clothes shop. Everyone who is going to start a clothes shop needs to understand these useful ideas. Thanks for sharing this worthy information with us.

  8. angolia sky

    Yeah in today’s scenario it is a very important task to convert your traditional store into an online shopping store. since a long time I am planning to start my online kid’s fashion store in Australia and this information will help me to grow my business thank you for sharing this information keep posting…

  9. Zoe Campos

    Thank you for telling me that I need to build brand awareness on all social media platforms in order to attract potential customers. I’m trying to attract other mothers like me who love to dress up their children. I hope I can find a steady supplier of designer clothes that can be available for resale.

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