Looking for an awesome new side hustle that will make you tons of money with hardly any time or effort? Well designing and selling t-shirts with print on demand is NOT that side hustle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun, and it can be profitable online business (just like blogging!), but it’s neither quick nor easy.
What is Print on Demand?
Print on demand is a service that lets you design and sell your own products to the public. It’s a great way for artists to get their work publicized and a great way for regular folks to support smaller artists and designers. I’d much rather buy new clothes from someone hustling to design them than from a huge name brand, wouldn’t you?
And it’s not only clothing! You can use print on demand to create, buy, and sell lots of items. They offer coffee mugs, posters, stickers, cell phone cases, scarves, notebooks, and more. Even if you don’t want to design items, you may want to check out the Print on Demand sites to see if there’s anything that you like.
Selling t-shirts with print on demand services is a great way to make money online. All you have to do is create your online store, upload your designs, and start selling. Okay – it’s never that easy. Selling products online isn’t as easy as having them available. But, we will go into that.
Print on Demand Websites
There are tons of websites that offer print on demand services. The most famous is Amazon Marketplace, but it’s tough to get an invite. You have to apply for an invitation, and if you get rejected that’s it. You can never reapply (I’m sure there are ways around it, but they don’t want you to do it). I’ve done tons of research on what they approve and deny, and unfortunately, I can’t find any pattern to it. My application was rejected, so I moved on to Redbubble and TeePublic. Read this to learn more about the different websites.
Selling T-shirts as a Side Hustle
So the real question is, can you make money selling t-shirts with print on demand? My sources say yes, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with it yet (again, a lot like blogging!) I only have a few designs listed for sale, and I haven’t tried to advertise them much. I’ve made almost a full dollar in the few months that I’ve been on the website though! I’ve sold two stickers!
How to Start Selling T-shirts Online
Making Your Store
The first thing you need to do if you are serious about selling t-shirts as side hustle is decide upon a platform and make your store. It’s really easy to apply to TeePublic and RedBubble, so I use them.
Next you need to come up with amazing ideas for t-shirt designs or slogans. This is actually a lot harder than it seems. I only have 12 unique ideas on RedBubble, and 7 more on TeePublic, for a total of almost 20 unique ideas. I know that I’m not going to make any money on any print on demand website with such a paltry offering. From what I’ve read, you need over 100 designs to even start seeing decent sales. That’s a lot of design ideas!
Making the designs can be difficult as well. I try to do it for free, which means that I’m missing out on a lot of valuable editing tools, but I try to make the best of it. I generally use Canva to design my images, and if I need to make the background transparent, I use Luna – which is also a great tool for resizing (because the size needs to be perfect too!). Someday I will invest in some fancy editing software, but I’m not there yet. I need more ideas first!
Marketing Your Store
The most difficult part about selling shirts with Print on Demand is marketing your items. You could create the most epic shirt design ever, and no one will buy it if they don’t know it exists.
Marketing your products starts with the item description and title. Make sure you chose a title that someone will actually search for. Add tags that are related to the niche, and have it in the correct category. These things will help people who are already on the platform discover your item.
But you also want to market your Ecommerce store anywhere else you can. Share it on Facebook, pin it, and post pictures of your designs on Instagram. Social Media is the absolute best way to get your products in front of an audience. Build your following on all the social networks to start earning as quickly as possible.
You can also advertise your store on your own website if you have one. Check out these great T-shirt designs on my Teepublic store!
See how easy that was?
Is Selling T-Shirts Online Profitable?
Selling T-shirts online is similar to any other side hustle. It can be profitable, if you put a ton of time and energy into designing amazing products, and put even more time into marketing those products. You could also get lucky and have one of your designs go viral.
It can also be a huge waste of time. You can spend hours designing and uploading hundreds of shirts, but get absolutely no traction on any of them. It’s definitely not a get-rich quick scheme. Most people don’t make a full time living off of it, and those who do tend to have thousands of designs. Still, if you like graphic design, it doesn’t hurt to throw some of your ideas up there and start selling.
How Much Can You Make Selling Shirts?
The different print on demand sites offer different commissions and rates based on what you sell. I’ve sold two stickers, and I’ve made a whopping 21 cents each! Those aren’t the best margins (though Red Bubble lets you set your own prices) but you have to remember that the print on demand website does the majority of the work for you, and takes all the risk. All you do is design the t-shirts, upload them, and wait. They handle the printing and fulfillment. You could promote your shirts as well (I mean, I don’t, but you could) but that’s a lot of extra work.
Other Ways to Make Money
If you aren’t interested in designing your own t-shirts, you can still make extra money with print on demand websites. Many offer affiliate programs (though residents of certain states (ahem, PA and GA – really?? aren’t allowed to be affiliates), and some even let you curate your own store. This means that instead of designing shirts, all you have to do is select the t-shirts you want for your own store, and then promote your store. When you do this, you make a small commission from any item sold from your store front. I have a tee-public store which I rarely promote, and I haven’t made any money off of it yet. I guess you need to promote things to make money (maybe that’s really the key lesson to be learned from this entire post).
So should you try using print on demand sites to sell t-shirts and other products? If you are into art and design, you should definitely go for it. You get to have fun making your creations, and maybe even make some money off of them. If you don’t enjoy the design aspects of blogging (or anything), then I’d say it isn’t the side hustle for you. Making the designs can be tedious, and you may feel like it was all for nothing if you don’t see any returns.
I do it because I enjoy the design process, and it’s a skill that I really want to develop (you should see my earliest Pinterest pins, they were terrifying!). Also, I think that if I can upload enough designs, I might be able to turn it into a viable passive income generator (I say passive, because after I upload the design, it’s completely hands off. I could upload 100 designs tomorrow, stop doing anything else with it, and potentially make money off those designs for years to come.)
Have you tried selling t-shirts with print on demand services? How did it work out for you? I’d love to hear some success stories!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.