If you’ve ever had trouble shutting your middle dresser drawer, then you know that people like T-shirts. Whether you’re a lifestyle blogger, a musician, or just a designer with a vision, you’ve probably given some thought to making and selling your own. T-shirts are a great promotion for your brand, in addition to being a money maker.
These days, you don’t even have to be a stellar graphic artist to design and sell amazing shirts, tote bags, and more. You don’t even need to know how to screenprint, embroider, or keep physical stock of your shirts. All you need is a vision, and dropshipping can take care of the rest.
What Is Dropshipping?
In short, dropshipping is a method of selling products online when you have no physical product. Basically, you have an online store where you list products, a customer places an order, and a dropshipping provider fulfills that order for you.
The pros of dropshipping are simple. There are low startup and operating costs since all you really need to pay for up front is your website, hosting, and things like that. You don’t have to bulk purchase products ahead of time, and you don’t need to pay for a space to store anything (or take up valuable real estate in your bedroom).
One of the biggest benefits is turning around a new design quickly. For example, say there’s a big news story, and you think of a funny take on it. If you had to order new shirts and print them yourself, the shirt could be irrelevant by the time you get it on sale. Or worse, someone else might think of the same idea and get it on sale before you.
With dropshipping, there is no delay. When you think of a design, you can immediately submit a new design for your online store and start selling right away. Throw some quick promotion behind that idea, and you could have a viral hit on your hands.
Of course, where there are positives, there are probably some negatives, too. When you’re dropshipping T-shirts (or any other product), you don’t have control over things like inventory or shipping times. At the same time, you’re the one running customer service. So, those customers who are used to free 2-day shipping? They might get a little testy with the 3 to 5-day shipping times most T-shirt dropshipping providers boast.
Additionally, costs per item can be a little higher. Normally, if you ordered a bunch of plain, white T-shirts, you could get them for just a few dollars each. With the most popular dropshipping T-shirt providers, the base cost of just the shirt starts at over $7 per unit.
Printify vs. Printful vs. Scalable Press: Find the Right Dropship T-Shirt Platform
There are lots of options for your dropship T-shirt business. Today, we’re going to discuss the big three that integrate with WooCommerce: Printify, Printful, and Scalable Press.
Why are we focusing on WooCommerce? Because it integrates so seamlessly with WordPress. WordPress is one of the most popular website platforms on the market today, so it makes sense for us to focus on easy integrations for WooCommerce. That being said, all of these platforms also integrate with Shopify.
All three essentially do the same thing. They take your designs and turn them into a product that people can buy. They even ship it directly to customers under your brand. It doesn’t really get easier than that.
But there are some key differences. Printify, Printful, and Scalable press all have different upsides and downsides.
You can start using Printify for a whopping zero dollars (which is the case with all three of these providers). Their most affordable T-shirt starts at just $7.45, but higher quality/pricier items are available.
Printify also offers higher tiered packages with extra features, including a discount on products and branded customer support. Those things could be especially appealing as you expand, but are hardly necessary for newer stores.
They also ship from a lot of places. They have warehouses in more locations than any of the other providers we’re discussing, with a whopping nine locations in the United States as well as locations in Canada, Europe (including three in the UK), and China.
Of course, there are some downsides. Fulfillment is outsourced, which can lead to reduced control over the entire process. Additionally, they take a bit longer to ship the product (3-4 days). And they don’t offer screen printing or embroidery options for your products, which could be a dealbreaker if screen printing or embroidery are the specific looks you’re hoping for.
Printful arguably has the most features of any of these options. Like the others, it’s free to start, but their most affordable T-shirt is on the high end at $8.95.
Unlike Printify, Printful offers in-house fulfillment and their own warehouse. They have fewer shipping locations but can still ship from the United States and Europe, which likely covers your big buyer markets. Their shipping time is a little faster than Printify, at 2-3 days for fulfillment on average.
The big benefit of Printful is its litany of printing options. In addition to standard DTG (a method where ink is applied directly to the fabric, like an inkjet printer) and sublimation (where designs are printed onto paper and then transferred to the fabric via heating) options, they offer screen printing and embroidery. Those options might be a little more expensive, but are popular with consumers.
Finally, we have Scalable Press. It’s also free to start with Scalable Press, and you might like that their most affordable T-shirt starts at just $7.41. And, like Printful, their typical fulfillment period is just 2-3 days.
Scalable Press has a host of shipping locations in the United States, including three in California alone, but they’re the only provider we’re discussing today that doesn’t ship from Europe or Asia at all. If you’re expecting a lot of sales from those regions, your customers could find themselves waiting a while for your shirts.
Like Printful, they offer DTG, screen printing, and embroidery on their shirts. However, they only offer sublimation on non-apparel items, like posters, making them the only one of these three that do not have that option. They’re also the only of these three options that don’t allow you to include your own branding via custom inside or outside labels.
But what other options are out there?
You’ve probably heard of sites like Teespring, Threadless, and RedBubble. These sites function a lot like the dropshipping platforms above, but they don’t incorporate seamlessly into your own website like Printify, Printful, and Scalable Press. They also don’t include your branding, so it’s harder to build your own brand with your T-shirt business.
On the upside, those types of online marketplaces have their own audiences who are constantly searching for new T-shirts. If you sell otter-themed shirts and someone is a big fan of otters, it’s more likely they’ll find your product just by browsing, with no other marketing investment from you.
Finding Your Niche and Adding Products
Almost every successful online T-shirt business has a niche that they can build a fanbase and repeat customers around.
Your niche could be as simple as your original designs and unique design style. Or, it could be themed around something beloved by people, ideally a topic that no other decent T-shirt designers are creating for. Examples could include hometown or home-state pride, a cause that’s important to you and others, popular hobbies, or other interests.
Be careful that you don’t violate copyright or trademark laws. Avoid using logos or other trademarked images in your designs, like sports team names or logos. It could open you up to cease and desist letters or worse. And, when in doubt, please speak to a lawyer who can help you navigate this tricky field.
Once you have your niche settled, it’s time to choose your products. All of the dropshipping T-shirt providers mentioned above have vast libraries of available products for you to design on. You can filter by materials, available sizes, available colors, general fit and style, and more.
You’ll notice a range in prices depending on the style. Name-brand products, like American Apparel, might be more expensive, but it may encourage potential buyers to order since they likely know exactly what their size is. After all, buying online can be a risk for shoppers, especially for women. Even when size charts are available, if you’re not familiar with the make of a shirt, it can be hard to determine how it will fit, feel, and look on you.
Marketing Your Shirts
By now you’ve chosen your online dropshipping provider, built your online store, and added products to it.
Now you have to connect your shirts with interested buyers.
If you built your brand around a specific niche, you can pretty easily connect to those fans via social media. You can utilize guerilla tactics like joining related Facebook groups and pages and (tastefully) promoting your products. You can also follow fans of your niche on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. You could even work with big influencers in your niche by offering them a free product in hopes that they’ll be seen in your shirts.
However, one of the biggest resources available to you comes in the form of Facebook ads.
With Facebook ads, you can target potential buyers based on age, location, gender, interests, and more. Trying to promote your Cincinnati baseball-themed shirts that have a uniquely ‘90s design? Target people who live in Cincinnati, are between the ages of 25-40, and like baseball. Those are the people who are going to be most interested in your products since your designs were made with them in mind.
From there, you can get into targeting pixels so you can retarget folks who visited your site before, gently reminding them how close they were to buying your product.
Email is an efficient way to convert first-time buyers and create repeat customers. To encourage a first-time buyer, including an offer for a coupon for the first purchase in exchange for an email address. Even if someone doesn’t buy right away, their willingness to give you an email address shows that they have an interest in your designs.
When you have someone’s email address, it opens up marketing opportunities. You can use plugins like Jilt to send abandoned cart reminder emails to folks who start their purchasing process but don’t finish it, as well as general marketing emails for new product launches, sales, and more.
Faster Site, More Conversions
When it comes to your eCommerce store, speed is imperative for conversions. Slow sites mean missed sales by frustrated consumers, and can even mean reduced search rankings for your site in Google.
Affordable Managed WooCommerce Hosting solutions can speed up your site, ensuring that customers aren’t leaving because of slow load times. Sites that use our managed hosting are 2-10 times faster than sites that use shared servers and unoptimized solutions.
Whether you’re looking to start or simplify your T-shirt business, dropshipping services are a solid option. They’re affordable, customizable, and are huge time and space savers (no more T-shirts in storage or trips to the post office!). Regardless of if you go with a marketplace like Teespring or build your own site with WooCommerce and WordPress, starting your T-shirt business is fast, easy, and affordable.