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Beginner's handbook

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 business plan. Second, you’ve got to figure out the best way to launch an embroidery 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 potential 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 buy your embroidered products in bulk and ship them to customers, or use on-demand production and fulfillment to handle the entire process.

How you build your embroidery 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 business options.

Creating and shipping orders yourself

If you love sewing embroidered pieces 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 an embroidery business. You’ll also have to practice sewing your designs to ensure a high-quality end product.

Next, you’ll have to figure out how to sell your embroidered pieces. Nowadays, selling online is the easiest way to get your products out there. 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. a woman in a black dress holding a white bag

Source: Printful

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 factors, 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, 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 orders. That means you have no financial risk as you don’t have to buy equipment or stock upfront and spend time embroidering by hand.

Plus, adding new designs and products to your online store is easy since they’re only made once you get an order. You’ll be able to try out as many ideas as you want and focus on marketing your products.

What to consider when getting started

There are a few initial things you should consider when starting your own custom embroidery business using on-demand production and fulfillment. Remember, it’s not 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 want to learn 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 custom products and designs—the fun part! We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how to do that later in the blog.

  • Setting pricing

Once you’ve selected what you’ll sell, you have to figure out pricing. Our Beginner’s Guide on How to Price Your Products Online explains exactly how to price your embroidery products so you’re making a 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 to expand your business overseas, read this article on international sales.

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 mainstream providers aren’t addressing. Learn more about niches in our blog.

Once you’ve decided how to produce and ship custom products, 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 easily connect with customers and stand out from the competition.

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

  • 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, sneakers, 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 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 include into your designs?

If you want to learn more about running your own branded business, look at our step-by-step guide to starting a 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 custom t-shirts, hoodies, and other products with funny philosophy memes and references to famous philosophers in their online shop.

Why does it work? The store is popular with philosophy enthusiasts and anyone into wordplay and graphic tees. It was an excellent 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 look at the different embroidery options you have with Printful.

Read also: 25 Creative Embroidery Ideas

Apparel

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

embroidered-printful-hoodie
Source: Printful

Adult Apparel

Adult apparel has more room for larger embroidery designs. You can choose from hoodies, t-shirts, pants, dresses, hats, or leather jackets. How many 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. To find the best hats for embroidery, focus on those with smooth, durable surfaces ideal for detailed designs and bold lettering. 

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 focus on custom 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
Source: Printful

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.

printful-bomber-jacket-embroidered
Source: Printful

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.

 a white baby bodysuit with a strawberry on it

Source: Printful

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

 a black shirt with colorful writing on it

Source: Printful

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 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 one embroidered blanket, two pillowcases, and one 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 pair 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. Afterward, you have to determine the colors and placement on each product.

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 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 interesting designs. Use Pinterest, Google Docs, or a scrapbook to assemble 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 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, offering buyers custom clothing with embroidered jokes and puns wouldn’t make sense.

pinterest-image-search-embroidery
Source: Pinterest

Figure out embroidery placement

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

If you’re working with a print-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 machine 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.

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.

Types of Embroidery

When you know what kind of embroidered designs you want, you can learn about the different embroidery techniques available. Printful uses various embroidery styles and stitch types like flat embroidery or 3D puff, satin stitch, or tatami fill. To learn more about the different techniques and stitching, check out this Printful Lesson on custom embroidery. ​

 

preview play-button

 

Flat embroidery is a common technique where stitches are embroidered flat on the product’s surface. Alternatively, 3D puff embroidery, as its name implies, is a 3-dimensional technique that creates a raised look. 3D puff is best suited for big shapes.

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 design variety. It’s essentially a single-line stitch, so it complements other embroidery types. 

printful-embroidery-sample-options

Source: Printful

Use the Tatami fill (or rows of Run stitches) for large areas. It cleanly embroiders threads across the surface without leaving any empty spots. Another option is the Satin stitch, a long, straight embroidery stitch used to outline an object or cap a 3D puff design. It’s an excellent 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 stitch type will depend on your graphic.

Unlimited color embroidery

In the past, custom embroidery meant limited color options, depending on the available threads and embroidery machine limitations. But Printful’s latest feature, unlimited color embroidery, is changing the game for custom embroidered clothing. 

This innovative technique uses a white thread that’s dyed during the embroidery process. This means you can create vibrant, multi-color designs without worrying about color limitations. Thanks to the vast color palette, it’s ideal for bringing complicated designs to life, including those with intricate gradients and shades. 

a close up of a unicorn and a bird

Source: Printful

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 home embroidery business. Customers worldwide want to buy things they can trust will arrive as expected, and without any reviews, it’s difficult to curb that fear and encourage sales.

Since you’ve already determined your target audience, you need to plan exactly where to 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 is primarily young people, creating videos on platforms like TikTok would be a great 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.

Answer these questions to help you figure it out:

  1. Which social networking platforms is your customer base using?

  2. Which platforms do you know well enough to market on?

  3. What 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 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 more extensive and costly campaigns. By doing this, you can pick the campaigns that perform best.

Remember to diversify and switch it up if you’re not getting the desired results, 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 to this article or check out the Printful blog to see all the different information we have to help you manage your embroidery business. And remember—anything worth doing takes time and patience to do right.

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By Cloe Ann Montoya on Feb 19, 2024

Cloe Ann Montoya

Blog author

Cloe is a former 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. She loves reading fantasy books and going for long hikes with her dog, a rambunctious jackadoodle.

Cloe is a former 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. She loves reading fantasy books and going for long hikes with her dog, a rambunctious jackadoodle.