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Setting up a T-shirt Printing Business

All you need to know about starting and running your business

Business guides » Setting up a T-shirt Printing Business

What is a T-shirt Printing Business?

T-shirt printing refers to the printing of designs, lettering, logos or images onto T-shirts. T-shirt printing is a relatively simple and inexpensive way of creating custom designs and printing customer requests onto a T-shirt. A T-shirt printing business, with creativity and a strong business plan, can be personally rewarding and financially lucrative.

T-shirt printing allows you to express your creativity by creating your own designs and printing them on T-shirts. You can also offer your customers a personalised service, where they can have their own designs or lettering printed on a T-shirt, with their own choice of colours, graphics, images, wording and details. Companies may also use your services in branding campaigns.

There are many different T-shirt printing techniques, with certain techniques better suited to certain fabrics. You may also decide your printing technique based on the volume of printing you require and the amount of colour that is required for the design.

The most popular methods of T-shirt printing are:

Screen printing

Screen printing can be done by machines or by hand. It involves creating a picture or pattern on a T-shirt by forcing ink onto the T-shirt through a stencilled screen of fine material (usually mesh) to create a printed design. Screen printing inks are thicker than the ink used in other printing methods, which results in longer-lasting designs and more vibrant colours. Screen printing is best suited to high-volume printing, as you are able to produce hundreds of T-shirts relatively quickly and at a lower cost.

Direct-to-garment printing (DTG)

DTG printing uses ink to print directly onto the fabric of the T-shirt. It uses specialised aqueous inkjet technology that sprays water-based ink onto the T-shirt. The ink soaks into the fibres of the fabric, meaning you cannot feel the print on the T-shirt if you touch it. DTG printing is recommended for more complex designs or artwork as the machines are able to print tiny details in a huge variety of colours. DTG printing is usually used for customised T-shirts or smaller orders, rather than high-volume printing. Because DTG uses water-based inks, it should only be used on T-shirts made from natural materials, such as cotton.

Heat transfer printing

Heat transfer printing involves a customised design being printed on transfer paper. The transfer paper is placed on top of the T-shirt and the ink is thermally transferred from the paper to the T-shirt using a heat press machine. The ink contains specific dyes that can vaporise under the specific heat conditions used during this process, meaning the ink becomes part of the fabric of the T-shirt. Transfer printing creates minimum mess, and the T-shirts require little to no maintenance, compared to other printing methods.

Plastisol transfer printing

Plastisol printing is a type of screen printing where the designs are printed on a unique heat transfer release paper (known as plastisol transfer paper). A heat press machine is then used to press the design onto the T-shirt. You can fit several designs on a single piece of transfer paper and then cut them out and print them separately.

Computer-Aided-Design-Cut printing

CAD-Cut Vinyl printing is most commonly used for printing numbers, names and logos, for example on football shirts. The designs are printed onto CAD-Cut vinyl material. A machine is used to cut out designs, numbers and letters on pieces of coloured vinyl which is then heat-pressed onto the T-shirt using a heat press machine.

Before you decide the T-shirt printing method you are going to specialise in, you first need to decide the types of T-shirts you are going to sell. For example, if you plan to print sports shirts, you will use CAD-Cut Vinyl printing, whereas for printing artwork or high-quality images, you may use screen printing or heat transfer printing.

There are many responsibilities associated with running a T-shirt printing business. Your day-to-day responsibilities can vary depending on the type of T-shirt printing you specialise in.

Some of the tasks you can expect to be responsible for include:

  • Creating customised designs using your own ideas and creations or in line with customer specifications.
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with customers, suppliers and vendors.
  • Researching various printing techniques and choosing the best one for your business.
  • Offering T-shirt mock-ups for your customers.
  • Ordering stock and managing your stock inventory.
  • Pricing your products.
  • Managing printing orders.
  • Taking orders and handling payments.
  • Estimating printing times, ink and materials quantities and printing costs.
  • Preparing stencils.
  • Mixing and loading the ink.
  • Printing the final design.
  • Applying colours, textures, patterns, images, logos and lettering to the T-shirts.
  • Drying, folding and packaging the finished T-shirts to be collected or delivered to your customers and assisting with product assembly.
  • Designing screen patterns, selecting screen size, decreasing agents and emulsion coatings, installing and repositioning screen printing plates and calibrating the printer (for screen printing).
  • Performing quality control checks.
  • Purchasing, managing, cleaning and maintaining printing equipment.
  • Developing and maintaining knowledge of printing processes.
  • Conducting industry research, for example into new printing techniques, different inks and industry trends.
  • Troubleshooting any issues as they arise.
  • Maintaining work areas to ensure they are clean, safe and organised.
  • Developing and implementing new processes as and when they are required.
  • Managing shipments.
  • Complying with domestic and international guidelines and legislation and complying with all health and safety legislation.
  • Managing staff (if relevant), including hiring, training, completing payroll and day-to-day management.
  • Advertising and marketing, including managing your website and social media.
  • Completing business and administrative tasks.

 

Starting up a T-shirt business can be personally, professionally and financially rewarding. To help your business succeed, certain personal and professional qualities and skills can be advantageous. This includes creativity and artistic skills (to allow you to make creative, customised, attractive T-shirts) and excellent hand-eye coordination. You will also need appropriate knowledge and experience working with inks and your chosen printing technique and the ability to operate the printing machinery. You will also need good attention to detail and knowledge of production and safety standards and health and safety legislation, as well as strong interpersonal skills to help you communicate with your customers, vendors and suppliers effectively.

Types of Customers

There are many different customers who may use the services of your T-shirt printing business, including:

  • Charities: To spread their message, for fundraising events and to raise awareness.
  • Individual customers: To show their personalities and interests.
  • Parties and events: For example, matching T-shirts for hen parties.
  • Sports teams: Including football, rugby, athletics and dance.
  • Businesses: For branding campaigns, staff uniforms and sales purposes.
  • Popular culture: For example, T-shirts with images, logos or quotes from TV shows, films or the music world.

 

The types of customers that are likely to use the services of your T-shirt printing business can be wide-ranging and vary, depending on multiple factors.

Determining your target market more precisely can be very beneficial as it makes it easier to focus on the specific customers who are most likely to use the services of your business and determine exactly where and how to market your business.

Some factors that can determine your typical client base include:

The T-shirt designs you create

The majority of T-shirt printing businesses choose to specialise their business in a specific niche or type of T-shirt design. Choosing to operate within a niche can help your business to stand out and appeal to a specific audience. For example, you could focus on funny slogan T-shirts, sports T-shirts (e.g. football shirts), photograph T-shirts or artwork T-shirts.

The T-shirt materials and printing technique you use

As mentioned above, there are multiple T-shirt printing techniques you can choose from, with different pros and cons associated with each technique. Different techniques are best suited to different T-shirt materials and different types of printing (e.g. logos, lettering or images). Consider the materials of your T-shirts (e.g. cotton, polyester or lycra) and the T-shirt printing technique you specialise in when determining your typical customer base.

The types of T-shirts you offer

This is another important factor you should consider when setting up your business.

There are many different types of T-shirts, including:

  • V-neck T-shirts.
  • Basic half-sleeve T-shirts.
  • Cap-sleeve T-shirts.
  • Long sleeve crew neck T-shirts.
  • Polo collar T-shirts.
  • Yoke neck T-shirts.
  • Scoop neck T-shirts.
  • Sports T-shirts.
  • Henley collar T-shirts.
  • Turtle neck T-shirts.
  • Vest tops or muscle shirts.

 

Depending on the size of your business, you may choose to offer only one or two types of T-shirts or offer a wide range of options. You should also consider whether your T-shirts are unisex, whether you offer traditional male and female fits and whether you offer T-shirts to children. You will also need to stock a wide range of sizes. Depending on why your customer is purchasing T-shirts, they may require or prefer a specific shape and style of T-shirt.

Your primary selling strategy

The way you operate your business will likely have a significant impact on your customer base. You may opt to set up a T-shirt shop, sell your T-shirts online, work directly with businesses or sell your T-shirts at pop-up events, such as fairs, festivals and markets. Consider your primary selling strategy when trying to identify your customer base and keep in mind that your typical customer base could change as your business grows and evolves. If you open a physical shop, consider your location when determining your typical customer base.

Your pricing

This is another important factor in determining your customer base. Customers often have a specific budget in mind when searching for T-shirt printing. Customers can typically be separated into three pricing categories.

  • Budget: Price is the most important factor for this type of client. They will be less concerned with the quality of the T-shirt and the longevity of the garment and will likely choose the business with the lowest rates.
  • Mid-range: This type of customer is looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although price won’t be the most important factor, it will be a significant consideration.
  • High-end: This type of customer is willing to pay the highest prices for the highest quality garments. They will look for the highest quality materials and the best, most unique designs, rather than looking at the price. They are more likely to want a T-shirt that is likely to last.

Your reviews and reputation

The reputation of your business will largely be based on your customer reviews and whether your customers recommend your business to others.

Your reputation and review score can be based on multiple factors, including:

  • The quality of the T-shirts and the quality of the design.
  • The longevity of the garment, including how well it washes.
  • Your pricing.
  • Your delivery times and costs.
  • Your customers’ experience of working with your business, for example your communication.
T-shirt Printing Design Cartoon
T-Shirt Making Machine Cartoon
T-shirt Printing Business

Equipment You Will Need

Your equipment is essential, as without it you will not be able to run your business. The type of equipment you purchase will depend on the T-shirt printing technique you specialise in.

Different printing techniques require different types of equipment and machinery. In this article, we are going to focus primarily on the two most popular T-shirt printing techniques: screen printing and DTG printing. If you choose another printing method, your equipment requirements could vary.

Some of the equipment you may need for your T-shirt printing business includes:

Screen Printing Equipment

Screen printing is the most popular and most commonly used technique for printing T-shirts. If you opt to implement screen printing techniques, some of the equipment you will require includes:

Screen printing software

Screen printing software allows you to create designs, edit images, separate artwork to print on separate films, manage the production process, track productions, orders and inventory, access your customer portal, create mock-ups, manage payments and manage shipping. Your software will also help you get the best quality out of your printer.

An inkjet printer

You will need an inkjet printer for creating stencils and printing your designs onto special screens. Your printer will need high-quality ink resolution to help you achieve colour depth. You can print the template required for your T-shirt printing onto transparent film media. Although other types of printers are available, inkjet printers are the most popular choice of printer.

Mesh screens

Mesh is pulled tight over a lightweight frame to create a screen. The screen then distributes ink evenly through the stencil onto the T-shirt. Screens are available in different mesh counts, with the most common being 110-160 mesh count. Lower counts put down heavier ink deposits (e.g. for bold colours and designs) and higher counts are ideal for fine, detailed designs and for use with thin, UV inks.

Inkjet film

This is a microporous instant drying film that has an aqueous coating. It is semi-translucent and is designed to resist heat and prevent curling. It produces wide format and small format, high-quality film positives for screen printing. It can help with colour separation and can give your T-shirts a high-quality finish.

Ink

Ink is an important purchase and can significantly impact the quality of your prints.

There are several types of ink to choose from, including:

  • Plastisol-based screen printing inks.
  • Water-based screen printing inks.
  • Hybrid screen printing inks.

 

UV reactive screen printing emulsion

Emulsions contain chemical polymers that have solvent-resistant and water-resistant features. Emulsion is a light-sensitive liquid that you coat your mesh screens in prior to taping the film positives in place. It creates an ink-resistant frame around your design. Without emulsion, the ink will go through the screen and seep into other areas of the fabric. There are different types of emulsion available, depending on the type of ink you are working with.

Screen exposure unit

A screen exposure unit helps you produce high-quality artwork and designs. Exposure units are available in pressure and vacuum form and are designed to enhance and control ultraviolet (UV) light waves. The unit emits UV light which causes the emulsion to harden in exposure areas and remain soft in other areas to protect the design. This helps you to turn the inkjet film into a useable screen printing stencil.

Screen printing supplies

There are multiple different screen printing supplies you may require for your T-shirt printing business, such as:

  • On-press wash.
  • Ink degrader.
  • Emulsion remover.
  • Degreaser.

 

A wash station

You will need a wash station to wash your exposed screens, allowing you to develop a useable stencil.

Your wash station should include:

  • A small pressure washer (e.g. a tap or hose pipe).
  • A cold water supply.
  • Scrubbing pads.
  • Washout brushes.
  • Paper towels.
  • Protective wear (e.g. goggles and gloves) to protect your eyes and skin from the chemicals.

 

Because you will be cleaning chemicals from your screens, your wash station should be separate from other washing facilities (e.g. handwashing sinks).

Curing and drying equipment

The equipment you use to cure and dry the ink will depend on the type of ink you use.

You may opt for:

  • A flash cure unit.
  • A hot air conveyor.
  • Drawer dryers.
  • An infra-red conveyor dryer.
  • A dryer tunnel.

 

It is essential that you cure the ink completely and efficiently to give the T-shirts a hard-wearing, high-quality professional finish.

Drying racks

Drying racks are used to safely store the screens when you are drying the emulsion. Ensuring the emulsion is properly dried without compromising the screens can help to ensure higher-quality printing.

Other equipment requirements

Some other equipment you may require for screen printing includes:

  • Squeegees of various sizes.
  • Ink scoops.
  • Spray bottles.
  • Ink mixing containers.
  • Pallet adhesive.
  • Protective pallet tape.

 

Direct-to-garment Printing Equipment

The second most popular technique for T-shirt printing is direct-to-garment (DTG) printing. Some of the equipment you will require if you opt for this technique includes:

A direct-to-garment printer

This is the most important piece of equipment for DTG printing. It is a type of digital printer that sprays water-based ink onto the fabric of the T-shirt. For non-white T-shirts, the printer will first apply a white under base to enhance the vibrancy of the print. The printer will then apply the rest of the colours.

A pre-treatment applicator

Before printing on your T-shirts, you need to prime the material using a pre-treatment. You can opt for:

  • Pre-treatment machine: This is a special device that you put the T-shirt into. The machine then applies the pre-treatment automatically.
  • Hand spraying: This is a manual pre-treatment method using a hand-held sprayer.

 

The pre-treatment solution helps the ink to bond with the fabric.

Water-based ink

DTG printing requires aqueous textile inks (water-based inks). This means that water is the main solvent for carrying the pigment, which allows the ink to soak into the fabric, rather than sitting on top of the fabric.

A curing device

Once the T-shirt has been printed, you must then dry it to cure the ink. Curing will protect the T-shirts when washing. The curing device you need depends on the type of ink you use, your printer’s output and your available space.

To cure your ink, you can use:

  • A heat press.
  • A tunnel dryer.
  • A combination curer.

 

General T-shirt Printing Equipment

T-shirts

This is an essential purchase for your T-shirt printing business. You may purchase T-shirts or manufacture them yourself. You will need to decide which materials to choose (e.g. cotton or polyester T-shirts) and the colours and sizes you will stock.

You will also need to choose the shape and style of the T-shirts, for example:

  • V-neck T-shirts.
  • Basic half-sleeve T-shirts.
  • Cap-sleeve T-shirts.
  • Long sleeve crew neck T-shirts.
  • Scoop neck T-shirts.
  • Sports T-shirts.
  • Vest tops.

 

Design software

You will need design software to allow you to create your T-shirts. You can use the software to create customised logos, imaging and text, create high-resolution mock-ups and download your designs. Some types of software also include tutorials to improve your skills and your designs. When choosing your design software, consider the level of customisation that is available and check that it allows you to upload and create your own templates and designs and download your designs to your printing machine.

A computer

You will need a state-of-the-art, reliable computer which can be used to create your designs, manage your orders and your business and is compatible with your design software and your printing equipment. To ensure your business runs smoothly, your computer will need to be fast running and high performing. Depending on your design needs and the printing machinery you opt for, you may choose a desktop computer or a laptop.

A website

A website is useful for advertising your business and may act as your primary selling strategy. It should contain photographs and descriptions of your T-shirts (including the materials) and your sizing. It may also feature customisation options and a T-shirt mock-up option for customers to see their creations. Your website should also show the areas and locations you offer delivery to and your customer reviews. Your website will likely feature an option to order online. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.

High-speed Wi-Fi

Reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi will be integral to your business as you will need it for much of your software and equipment to function correctly. You will need to ensure your Wi-Fi doesn’t cut out in the middle of a session.

An email service

Setting up your own email service using your own domain may be beneficial as your business grows. A business domain can make your business seem more professional and official. Using a public email domain such as @google or @hotmail can look less professional compared to using your own business domain, for example, @myteemighty. You will need to make sure your email service is fully secure and encrypted and abides by email security policies in the UK.

A payment system

The type of payment system you require will depend on your primary selling strategy. For example, if you accept in-person sales, you will likely require a Point-of-Sale (POS) system with a cash till. If you sell your T-shirts online, you may require an online payment system.

A business phone

A smartphone can be used for keeping in contact with your clients and having constant access to your emails. Having a work phone also helps to keep your business separate from your personal life.

A fully stocked first aid kit

A first aid kit is a necessity, as you will be working with potentially dangerous equipment and products. Ensure your first aid kit is restocked regularly and is easily accessible. Because of the types of equipment you will be working with, ensure your first aid kit contains items to treat chemical burns, sprains and strains.

Cleaning equipment

You will need to keep your premises clean at all times. Not only does this make your business seem more professional, but it also ensures you are complying with health and safety legislation. You may choose to hire a cleaner or do the cleaning yourself. Some cleaning equipment you may require includes a sweeping brush, vacuum cleaner, mop, cloths, disinfectant, antibacterial and cleaning products.

Business cards

Business cards can be used for advertisement purposes and handed out to customers. The business cards should include your business name and logo, the services you offer, your location and your contact information.

Delivery Equipment

If you sell your T-shirts online, you will need to ensure your products are packaged correctly to make sure the clothes aren’t damaged during transit. Ensure your packaging is sustainable and environmentally friendly and it is designed to match the aesthetic of your business.

Some packaging equipment you may require includes:

Boxes of various sizes

Depending on the size of the order, you may need to send some deliveries in boxes. For example, a company ordering customised T-shirts for their staff uniform or a football club ordering personalised football shirts may make an order of 50 T-shirts, requiring you to ship them in a box. You may need boxes of different sizes to suit different orders.

Compostable garment bags, mailbags, mail envelopes or corrugated cardboard envelopes

There are many different ways you can choose to package clothing. Your preferred method will depend on the size and delicacy of your T-shirts and your budget. Ensure your packaging is environmentally friendly and attractive and displays your business name or logo.

Packaging tissue paper, packing peanuts, Styrofoam inserts or paper bubble wrap

These items keep the contents of the packages securely in place and reduce the likelihood of any damage occurring. Most consumers of small businesses prefer eco-friendly packaging so keep this in mind when planning your packaging. For example, paper bubble wrap is similar to traditional bubble wrap but is more environmentally friendly, as it is made from recyclable paper.

Shipping labels

These labels will need to include:

  • Customer name.
  • Customer address.
  • The business name and address.
  • The shipping method.
  • The package weight.
  • A scannable bar code (if relevant).

 

Packaging tape

You will need packaging tape to secure your packaging and prevent any items from falling out or being tampered with.

Twine or ribbon

Twine or ribbon can be used to tie around your boxes or packaging to keep them more secure and make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Cards and delivery notes

Small business consumers appreciate personal touches such as a card or delivery note. They could also feature your business logo and information and a discount code to encourage repeat business.

Shop Equipment

You may choose to operate an in-person retail business and open a T-shirt printing shop. This can be in a permanent business location (e.g. your own shop or in a shared premises with another business) or at pop-up events. If you open a permanent business location, some of the equipment you will likely require includes:

Signage

There are multiple types of signage you will need for your shop, including:

  • Shop front signage (with your business name and logo).
  • Opening hours signs.
  • Pricing signs.
  • Promotional signs.

 

Ensure your signs are attractive and eye-catching, that they fit your business’s brand and aesthetic and that they clearly demonstrate the type of shop you are running.

Clothing rails, racks and shelves

There are different styles of shelving and clothing racks, such as:

  • Rolling racks.
  • Double bar racks.
  • Spiral racks.
  • Floating shelves.
  • Gondola shelving.
  • Illuminated displays.
  • Wall-mounted rails.
  • Double clothes rails.

 

You will need to decide which works best for you, depending on the size of your shop floor and the aesthetic of your business.

Hangers

You can never have too many hangers, particularly as some customers may request to take their hangers home with them or some hangers may break. There are many different types of hangers you can choose from made from different materials, including wood, metal, plastic and padded hangers. Choose your hangers based on the types of clothes you will be hanging up. You can also choose hangers that are a particular colour or design to fit your business brand.

Dressing rooms

The majority of shoppers prefer to try on clothes before buying, so not having a dressing room could have a negative effect on your sales. You will need to partition off an area of your shop for customers to try on clothes. Each dressing room should offer complete privacy, using doors or curtains. They should also feature a small stool or bench, hooks to hang the clothing and a mirror.

Mirrors

Mirrors are an essential piece of equipment as your customers will want to try on your T-shirts. Depending on the size of your shop, you will need several full-length mirrors on your shop floor and at least one full-length mirror in each dressing room.

Mannequins

Mannequins are essential for clothing shops, as they allow your customers to see the T-shirts more clearly, including the way they fit and the way the material falls. Mannequins can also be placed in your window and act as an advertisement and bring people into your shop. The number of mannequins you need will depend on how big your shop is.

Shopping baskets

Shopping baskets are not only more convenient for your customers, but they can also encourage them to purchase more – increasing your sales and your profits. Choose baskets that are strong and hard-wearing and that fit your business’s brand.

Sales tags

Your T-shirts may be priced differently. You need to clearly display your pricing to customers and there are different ways you can do this, with the most popular being cardboard tags that are attached to each piece of clothing (usually via string or a plastic loop). These cardboard tags could have the price printed on them, or you could attach the price using a pricing gun or small stickers. You will likely only use sales tags for already-designed T-shirts.

A cashier desk

This is the area where your customers will bring their items to pay. The desk should offer a degree of separation between your staff and the customers, which helps to ensure your employees’ safety and reduces the likelihood of theft from your cash till.

Your cashier desk may require:

  • A telephone.
  • A barcode reader.
  • A security label remover.
  • A counterfeit money detector.
  • A stapler.
  • A cash register and Point-of-Sale system (POS).
  • A receipt printer and receipt rolls.
  • An alarm button or panic button.
  • Paper shopping bags (ensure these are well-stocked).
  • Gift wrapping supplies.
  • Pens.

 

Storage shelves

Depending on the size of your shop (and the size of your backroom area) you may not keep all your stock on the shop floor at one time. If you expect to have a high sales volume or plan to stock multiple sizes of each product, storage shelves in your back room are recommended. If an item on your shop floor is low in stock, you can then move it from your back room to your shop floor.

A safe

If your shop accepts cash, you will need a safe as a way of safely storing the cash from your till at the end of the day. You can also keep extra change in your safe in case your cash register runs out of change during the working day.

Décor items and accessories

Decorating your shop to fit your brand aesthetic is a key way to attract customers. You should ensure your décor items do not clutter your shop and detract from your clothing, but instead complement your brand and the types of T-shirts you sell. Some décor items and accessories you could choose are lights, artwork, wall décor, flowers and plants.

A CCTV system

Because you will be storing expensive stock, CCTV can protect your business from potential break-ins and theft. CCTV can also protect your business in the event of an injury or accident and can provide vital footage to the police if a theft or incident occurs in your business. You can choose the specification of the equipment and how many cameras you require.

T-shirts Ready for Printing

Typical Costs

When you are creating your business plan, an important consideration you will need to make is your expected start-up costs and running costs. Calculating your expected costs allows you to determine your initial investment requirements, your pricing strategy and your profit goals.

There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a T-shirt printing business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

Although the costs can vary depending on the type of T-shirt printing business you set up (e.g. your printing method and primary sales strategy), some of the typical costs you can expect are:

Materials and stock

This is one of the most important purchases your business will make and will be an ongoing cost. Your ongoing stock costs will include plain T-shirts (which you can purchase already made or manufacture yourself). The costs can vary significantly, depending on the type of material the T-shirts are made from, the number of T-shirts you require and how you source your stock. Keep your stock or fabric costs low by shopping around and buying in bulk. Your ongoing stock costs will also include ink, emulsion, films and other items you need to print the T-shirts.

Equipment

Your equipment is an important purchase, as without it you will not be able to run your business. You can choose to buy less equipment initially and expand your equipment as your business grows. The cost of your equipment can vary significantly, depending on the printing technique you choose, how much equipment you require and the specification of the equipment. Purchasing equipment for your T-shirt printing business typically costs between £2,000 and £20,000.

Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment

Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment and machinery will come with warranties, repairs and replacements are inevitable – particularly because the equipment will experience heavy use and will be exposed to strong chemicals. Correctly cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget.

A business premises

If you open a T-shirt shop, your premises will likely be your biggest expenditure. You will need to rent your premises on a monthly or annual basis. Rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the location and the size of the premises. City centre locations and newly built premises usually have the highest rental costs. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre. They can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually. Your rental cost may be higher if you are renting an already established, refurbished or equipped clothing shop.

Refurbishment and installation costs

If you decide to set up a physical shop, you will need to consider your refurbishment costs. Unless your premises previously operated as a clothing shop, you will likely need to refurbish or convert your premises to install the equipment and furniture you need for your business and make the area fit for purpose. You will also want to refurbish and decorate your premises to fit the aesthetic of your business and make it attractive to customers. Renovation costs can vary, from £1,000 to £20,000 depending on the level and scale of work required.

Your business website

If you opt to run an online T-shirt business or you also sell your products online, your website is an essential tool for running your business. Your website will act as your primary selling tool and an important advertising and marketing strategy, allowing potential customers to find your business. Your website should be functional, easy to use, attractive and search engine optimised, to ensure it ranks highly on search engines, such as Google. Your website will need regular monitoring, updating and upgrading. You also need to make sure your website is secure, particularly if you will be collecting any customer information or banking details. You may choose to set up and run your website yourself or hire someone to do this for you. You can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour for someone to set up and run your website.

Staff

If you hire any staff to work for your business, you will need to pay them at least the national minimum wage and account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions. Some of the staff members you may hire include design staff, staff to handle the printing process, sales associates and administrative staff.

Branding

When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential customers. When creating your brand, consider the type of T-shirts you sell, your typical customer base and how you plan to sell your clothing. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.

Advertising and marketing

To ensure your T-shirt printing business attracts customers and creates maximum profits, you will need to spend money on advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £60,000, you should spend between £600 and £1,800 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business. Online businesses also typically require more marketing and advertising. To reduce your costs, capitalise on free marketing strategies, such as on social media or in your local community.

Running costs

These are the day-to-day costs associated with running your business. Your running costs can vary significantly depending on the type of T-shirt printing business you set up, whether you have a premises and the size of your premises. Some running costs are paid monthly, and others are paid quarterly or annually.

Your running costs can include:

  • Utilities (e.g. electricity, gas and water bills).
  • Council tax.
  • Import and export fees and taxes.
  • Delivery fees.

 

To maximise your profits, try to keep your running costs as low as possible.

Business insurance

There are multiple coverage options available for T-shirt printing businesses. Your coverage requirements can vary depending on whether you set up an online business or open a shop.

Some of the coverage options you could choose include:

  • Public Liability Insurance.
  • Product Liability Insurance.
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance.
  • Stock and Contents Cover.
  • E-Commerce Insurance.
  • Goods in Transit Cover.
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance (if relevant).
  • Legal Expenses Insurance.
  • Personal Accident Insurance.
  • Business Interruptions Insurance.

 

Insurance costs can vary depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start at £15 per month.

Typical Pricing for Customers

Once you have calculated the costs associated with setting up and running your T-shirt printing business, you can then create your pricing strategy.

Your pricing strategy (the cost of producing your T-shirts) can depend on multiple factors, including:

  • The intricacy and detail of the design.
  • The printing technique you use.
  • The quality of your T-shirts.
  • Whether your customers have the option to customise the T-shirts.
  • The size of the order (bulk orders are usually offered at a discount price).
  • Your primary selling strategy (e.g. online, a retail shop, pop-up events).
  • The demand for your services.
  • Your business’s reputation.
  • The delivery costs.

 

You should aim for a markup price of at least 30% to 50%. For example, if the costs associated with purchasing your stock, printing the design and shipping costs equals £10, your minimum selling cost should be £13 to £15. However, T-shirt printing businesses can usually expect a higher markup cost.

Safely Running a T-shirt Printing Business

Safe practices in your T-shirt printing business are necessary to protect the health, safety and well-being of you, your employees and your customers. Safe practices can also help to protect your stock and ensure the longevity of your T-shirts.

Some ways you can safely run your T-shirt printing business include:

Implement an inventory system

Regardless of the type of T-shirt business you plan to set up, an inventory system can help you to keep track of your stock. This helps you to manage your inventory by ensuring you don’t run out of stock or overstock a certain item, resulting in lower costs and increased sales. An inventory system can also protect you from theft, as it helps you to quickly identify if a theft has occurred and allows you to access the CCTV footage and contact the police.

Provide receipts

Many people don’t know that receipts are not legally required by retail businesses selling to consumers in the UK. However, a receipt can act as a transactional recording for business reporting purposes (e.g. when you are doing your taxes). Many customers also request receipts for their own records and in the event they need to return an item.

It is, therefore, recommended that you provide receipts to your customers and include information such as:

  • Your business name and address.
  • The item purchased.
  • The total price.
  • The payment method.

 

Be aware of your legal rights regarding the copyright of your designs

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988), any designs you create are protected by copyright and will be the legal property of you or your clients. This means that any person who wishes to use your designs will need to seek your permission. Copyright lasts for your lifetime plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year of your death. To reduce the likelihood of your designs being used illegally, you can use a copyright notice identifying your ownership and the year the design was created.

Properly maintain and set up equipment

Any equipment you use must be properly maintained, correctly set up and safe to use. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from accidents or injuries caused by equipment. You should also perform regular equipment inspections to ensure your equipment’s safety and help extend the lifespan of your equipment. Maintenance includes cleaning equipment regularly.

T-shirt Printing Business
T-shirt Printing Design

Properly maintain and set up equipment

Any equipment you use must be properly maintained, correctly set up and safe to use. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from accidents or injuries caused by equipment. You should also perform regular equipment inspections to ensure your equipment’s safety and help extend the lifespan of your equipment. Maintenance includes cleaning equipment regularly.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Because you will be working with hazardous chemicals and potentially dangerous equipment, PPE is essential. Some of the PPE you may require include gloves, arm coverings, face masks, protective aprons and eye protection.

Implement security measures

If you have business premises or keep expensive materials at your home, security measures can be implemented to protect your business from theft. Some ways you can protect your equipment and materials include installing a CCTV system, using secure and reliable locks and installing an alarm system.

Use a secure payment system

If you accept online orders, this is a key way to protect your business and your profits. You must ensure all payments are completely secure and are made through secure and legitimate channels. This ensures none of your payments are lost or untraceable and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to fraud or theft. Secure payment systems can also help to protect your and your customers’ identities and other personal information.

Carry out risk assessments

Although risk assessments are only a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees, they are recommended to all businesses to ensure the safety of you, your staff and your customers. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.

As part of your risk assessment, you should:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Determine who could be at risk.
  • Evaluate any potential risks.
  • Implement relevant safety measures.
  • Record the results of the risk assessment.
  • Review the risk assessment regularly.

 

Obtain training

Because you will be working with potentially dangerous equipment and chemicals, health and safety training is recommended to ensure safe practices in your business.:

Some training courses you could opt for include:

  • Manual Handling.
  • Fire Safety Awareness.
  • COSHH Awareness.
  • Assessing Risk.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Electrical Safety Awareness.

Legal Requirements

Complying with legal requirements is essential when setting up and running your business.

These regulations can vary depending on:

  • The equipment you work with, including the chemicals in the ink and emulsion you use.
  • Whether you ship items out of the UK.
  • Whether you have a business premises.

 

Some of the legal requirements you should be aware of include:

Comply with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988)

This legislation gives protection to any original designs or craftsmanship. When designing your own T-shirts, under this Act, you must ensure you don’t copy another individual or business’s designs without seeking permission. If you advertently or inadvertently copy someone else’s design, you may be liable for statutory damages and can be sued in court. If you plan to use someone else’s design or images, quotes, lyrics, logos or characters belonging to a company or corporation (such as a Harry Potter quote or images of Disney characters), you must seek permission to ensure you do not break any copyright laws.

Designs you can use without seeking permission include:

  • Your original designs.
  • Public domain images.
  • Royalty-free images that are available for commercial use.
  • Your customers’ original designs (on the T-shirts they purchase).

 

Comply with labelling requirements

Any business that manufactures, distributes or sells clothing must comply with labelling regulations, including The Textile Products (Labelling and Fibre Composition) Regulations which specify that you must state the fibre content of each product. If a product consists of two or more components with different fibre contents, the content of each component must be shown.

It is also recommended (but not legally required) that you should include:

  • The country of origin.
  • The flammability.
  • Any care instructions.

 

If you sell your T-shirts in countries outside of the UK where English is not the official language, you may be required to print your labels in the country’s official language.

Comply with the Consumer Rights Act (2015)

The Consumer Rights Act gives the consumer the right to enforce terms about goods and reject or return any items that are not as expected.

The Act states that all products that are sold in the UK must be:

  • Do not add anything to food, remove anything from food or treat food in any way which could make it damaging to the consumer.
  • Fit for purpose.
  • Match any description given by you.
  • Of satisfactory quality and not faulty or damaged.

 

Comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs)

Under these regulations, you are prohibited from misleading consumers, providing false information or omitting information.

Under these regulations, you must provide accurate information regarding:

  • The existence or nature of the item.
  • The main characteristics of the item (e.g. what the item is made from).
  • The price.
  • The standard of the item.

 

You must also ensure you provide an accurate description of the items.

Comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations

COSHH regulations specify that you must control any potentially hazardous substances. You must appropriately assess, control and reduce any risks or potential hazards and protect people from harm. COSHH can apply to hazards that are present in the chemicals you use in your business. Under COSHH, you must assess the risks from exposure to these chemicals and put control measures into place to prevent and control exposure and minimise the risks.

Apply for a waste carrier registration

Some of your business’s waste will be classified as clinical or hazardous waste. This includes the chemicals that are present in the ink and emulsions. If your business transports waste or arranges for someone else to dispose of waste, you will need to apply for a waste carrier registration.

You can apply for your registration with the following governing bodies:

  • England: The Environment Agency.
  • Wales: Natural Resources.
  • Scotland: The Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
  • Northern Ireland: The Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

 

Comply with the General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR) 2005

The GPSR ensures the safety of consumer goods and lays down a framework for assessing product safety under normal and reasonably foreseeable conditions. They ensure the safety of consumer goods by stating specific controls. As part of these regulations, you should undertake and document a risk assessment that assesses the risks and risk categories associated with your products and provide traceability labels.

Comply with employment legislation

If you employ any staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.

Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)

If you take orders online, you must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your clients’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. You will also need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.

Register your business

Your business must be registered with HMRC before you begin operating. You can choose to register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will also need to register your business name and any other relevant information.

Register for self-assessment tax

This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.

As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:

  • Record all forms of income and expenses.
  • Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
  • Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
  • Pay National Insurance contributions.
  • Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.

 

Online T-shirt Printing Businesses

Comply with the Consumer Contract (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013

If you sell any products or services online, you must comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations. The regulations outline your customers’ basic rights when purchasing online. This includes the right to a 14-day cancellation period.

You must also provide information, such as:

  • A description of the goods.
  • The total price of the goods.
  • How the goods will be paid for and how they will be delivered.
  • Any additional delivery charges and other costs.
  • Details of the right to cancel, including who is liable for the cost of returning items.
  • Information about the seller, including contact details and geographical address.

 

Comply with e-Commerce Regulations

If you have a website advertising or selling your products, you must comply with the Electronic Commerce Regulations. These regulations state how you communicate with your website users. Under these regulations, you must clearly display your terms and conditions, display clear pricing information and delivery charges and identify who sends any business communications. You must also ensure email privacy and comply with laws on distance selling.

Ensure your website is disability friendly

Under the Equality Act (2010), all websites in the UK must be accessible to people with disabilities. If you set up your own website, you must make reasonable adjustments to your website to ensure it is accessible, for example having text-only versions of each page so that they can be read by text converters.

Ensure your website complies with the guidelines

If you set up a website, there are several guidelines you need to comply with, including policies relating to:

  • Privacy.
  • Cookie legislation.
  • Service descriptions.

 

Be aware of VAT and export fees

If you export T-shirts to other countries, you may need to pay VAT or taxes. Taxes can differ depending on whether you are importing or exporting to EU or non-EU countries. For more information about the duties, taxes and fees that may be payable at your destination or the destination of the buyer or seller, contact the Department for Business and Trade. Failure to pay the necessary fees and taxes could result in the item being held at customs or your business being issued a fine.

Comply with the export laws of other countries

If you ship items from other countries, you must ensure you comply with all export laws from that country and any other laws that apply to the movement of goods.

For example, you must comply with:

  • Export control requirements.
  • Trade laws and regulations.
  • Economic sanctions and prohibitions.

 

You must also ensure you declare items honestly and accurately.

T-shirt Printing Shops

If you operate your business from a physical business location, such as a shop, or if any employees or customers visit your business premises, there are additional legal guidelines that will apply to your business, for example:

Comply with fire regulations

If you run your business from a shop attended by staff or customers, you must ensure fire safety measures are implemented on-site. There are multiple fire regulations you must ensure you comply with.

For example:

  • Perform a fire risk assessment.
  • Comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
  • Implement any necessary fire safety measures.
  • Implement emergency procedures and ensure these are clearly displayed on your premises.

 

Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplaces that use electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger, maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). This includes electrical equipment, such as your printing equipment and machinery and any light systems you install.

Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998

These regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure all equipment is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you (and your employees) have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. You must also ensure the equipment is used under appropriate conditions. Ensure you follow any instructions that the manufacturers’ of your equipment provide.

Comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act lays out the duties of all employers in the UK regarding ensuring the health, safety and welfare of everyone in your workplace. As you are the business owner, you will be responsible for protecting the health and safety of your employees and any clients or visitors to your business.

Prepare a health and safety policy

The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your shop, who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed. Follow the recommended tips from the Health and Safety Executive when creating your health and safety policy. You should make your policy easily visible to any visitors to your business.

Appoint a competent person

A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.

Comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks. The regulations apply to the lifting or moving of any objects, bending down and reaching high (for example, when carrying stock or cleaning). Creating your designs and handling your printing equipment are also classed as manual handling tasks.

Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013

RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. These regulations apply to any incidents that involve you, your staff or your customers.

Apply for a music licence

If you play any music in your shop, you will need to apply for a licence with Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and/or a Performing Right Society (PRS) Licence. You can apply for both a PPL and a PRS online.

Appoint a first-aider

All workplaces in the UK must have an appointed first-aider. In the event of an accident or injury, you will then be able to administer the necessary first aid. Although a first aid qualification or certificate is not legally required, it is the easiest way to demonstrate your first aid training.

T-shirt Print Business

Positives of Owning a T-shirt Printing Business

Running a T-shirt printing business can be rewarding in many ways.

Some of the main positives associated with this type of business are:

Operate sustainably and in an environmentally friendly way

The fashion and clothing industry and consumers have become increasingly aware of the negative impact fashion can have on the environment. As the business owner, you can choose to run your business in a sustainable way and do your part to fight climate change.

Some ways you can make your business environmentally friendly are:

  • Use organic, sustainable and eco-friendly materials.
  • Use renewable energy.
  • Upcycle and recycle materials.
  • Follow ethical practices.
  • Use recyclable materials for your packaging.
  • Follow recycling and disposal guidelines, e.g. with ink.

 

Operating as an environmentally friendly business is not only personally rewarding, knowing that you are doing your part to protect the environment, but it can also help you to attract more business, as customers increasingly move away from businesses that are not sustainable.

Creativity

Running your own T-shirt printing business gives you the complete creative freedom to create your own designs and use different colours, patterns, designs, images and quotes to create unique products. You can create one-off designs to help your business stand out. If you are a creative or artistic person, running a T-shirt printing business can be very rewarding.

Choose a speciality

You can choose the types of T-shirt designs you specialise in and the type of printing technique you use. This allows you to develop your expertise and focus on the quality of your designs. You can also sell a wide selection of T-shirts in your specific niche (e.g. branding T-shirts), which can be appealing to your customers. You can choose your speciality based on your own interests and what you think will be most profitable and allow your business to grow.

Opportunities for growth

A T-shirt printing business has high scalability, meaning it has the opportunity and capacity to expand and grow easily. Once your original business succeeds, it is easy to grow your business, for example by opening retail shops or growing your business online. You will already have positive relationships with suppliers, vendors, manufacturers and delivery companies and can utilise these relationships to help you grow your business with minimal stress.

It can be lucrative

A T-shirt printing business can be highly lucrative, particularly because the markup cost for your products can be high. The more experience you gain designing and printing T-shirts and the more exposure your business gains, the higher your orders are likely to be. As your reputation grows, you can charge higher prices and expand your business to increase your profits. With a good business plan and strategy for growth, your business could have unlimited income potential.

Customisable products

This is one of the biggest advantages of operating a T-shirt printing business and can help your business stand out from other clothing businesses. You can offer personalised designs and custom prints to your clients, which can help to encourage customers to choose your business.

Choose your selling strategy

There are multiple selling strategies available for your business, including an in-person store, an online store, on social media and at events. Having the ability to sell on multiple avenues can increase your customer reach and increase your revenue streams. You can even change your selling strategy as your business grows and evolves.

Help your clients with branding

Helping companies with their branding, in the form of custom T-shirts, (for example, for their staff or volunteers to wear, to give out to participants of a race or to sell) can be financially rewarding and put your business in high demand. It can also be professionally rewarding to help companies improve their brand awareness and communicate their brand’s message, and knowing that your business is helping other companies to succeed can be gratifying.

Low return rates

Because your customers have chosen the T-shirt design themselves or have created a customised T-shirt, return rates are typically lower. Lower return rates can help to maximise your business’s profits and reduce your labour costs, transport costs and inspection costs. Low return rates can also encourage repeat business, as it signals more satisfied customers.

Start small and grow your business

If you don’t have much available capital, you can start small and grow your business, for example by operating your business from home and selling your T-shirts on social media, through websites such as Etsy or at festivals and fairs. Once you have established a client base and created some capital, you could then expand your business and increase your profits.

Wide customer reach

If you sell your products online or operate your business with a multi-sales strategy, you will have a wide customer reach and the potential to sell your T-shirts to customers all over the UK and in other countries. A wide customer reach can help to increase your sales and maximise your profits.

Design your dream business

You can make all the key business decisions and design your dream business. You can choose how your business will operate, the printing technique you specialise in, the designs of your products, your typical customer base and how you want to run your business. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.

Connect with other people in the industry

You will have the opportunity to build connections with other people in your industry, other people who are artistic and creative and other local businesses. Building both professional and personal relationships allows you to stay up to date with new trends and techniques and create useful business connections that can help you to grow your business.

A growing industry

The clothing and fashion industries are consistently growing, with 2023 set to see a growth rate of 15%. This growth is expected to continue, increasing the value of the industries. This makes now a great time to set up a business in these industries, as it increases your chances of success and allows you to maximise your profits.

It is easy to promote your products

With the takeover of social media, promoting your products has never been easier. You can set up social media accounts for your business to advertise and sell your T-shirts and share and promote your accounts to increase your followers and visitors. You can even offer your customers or social media influencers free products if they model your T-shirts and promote your business on their social media. Even regular customers may tag your brand in their pictures and videos. This can help you to grow your customer base and increase your sales.

Choose your workload

As the business owner, you can choose the hours you work and how many orders you want to accept each week and month. You can run your business around your personal life, for example by only operating during the week. You can temporarily refuse new orders if you are at full capacity, or you want to take time off. You can hire additional staff to reduce your working hours.

Be your own boss

There are multiple ways you can grow your business and increase your profits. You can hire more employees, take on more clients, expand your business or even open additional premises. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.

T-shirt

Negatives of Owning a T-shirt Printing Business

Although owning a T-shirt business can be rewarding in many ways, there are some potentially negative aspects of this type of business that you should be aware of, such as:

Fading designs

Depending on the type of printing technique you choose and the materials you use, you may find that some of your designs begin to fade. If your customers don’t follow care instructions, such as washing and drying instructions, this can also cause your designs to fade more quickly or can cause damage to the T-shirts. Fading designs can result in dissatisfied customers and negative reviews.

Perfecting your craft

Printing T-shirts is not as easy as some people think. It can take a long time to perfect your craft, particularly when perfecting your designs and learning how to use the printing equipment. It can also be time-consuming to ensure all your designs are consistent. Building your brand and perfecting your printing technique takes time and dedication.

Single-wear T-shirts

Even if you operate your business in the most sustainable way, many customers buy printed T-shirts for a specific occasion or one-time wear, for example matching T-shirts for a hen party or a personalised T-shirt for a child’s birthday. The issue with these types of purchases is that they are often only worn once and are then disposed of, which can be a major contributor to pollution. This can be frustrating for business owners who are trying to operate in an environmentally friendly way.

A competitive industry

The T-shirt printing business can be highly competitive. Not only will you be competing with other small businesses, but you will also be competing with other big brands, such as Primark, that also offer a printing service. A high level of competition can make it more difficult for your business to succeed.

Complying with legislation

The T-shirt industry is highly regulated, with a large number of laws and regulations you must be aware of. You need to ensure you follow all policies and procedures, particularly those relating to health and safety. Not only can it be time-consuming to ensure compliance, but failure to comply, even unintentionally, could have serious consequences. A printing business can have high liability which can be a lot of stress and pressure for the business owner.

A lot of skill, knowledge and experience is required

To run a successful T-shirt printing business, you will need to be highly proficient in a variety of skills and will need to have high technical knowledge (e.g. of printing processes) and knowledge of the designing process. Previous experience designing clothes or printing T-shirts is also beneficial. It can be time-consuming to gain the appropriate skills and experience to run your business.

The possibility of damage

No matter how skilled and experienced you are in printing the T-shirts, there is always a possibility that you make an error, or something happens out of your control that can result in the print failing or the T-shirt becoming damaged. The lost stock and the money you lose from your ink and time can have financial repercussions for your business.

Building your customer base can be difficult

With so many already established T-shirt businesses in operation, it can be difficult to grow your customer base. It can take years to grow your customer base to where you want it to be, which means you receive less business and lower profits when your business first begins operating. People are more likely to buy clothing from companies that have been recommended to them or that have good customer reviews, which can make it difficult to initially gain business.

High operating costs

A T-shirt printing business can be expensive to run. Your ongoing rental and stock costs, the money you could lose from failed designs, returns and thefts, and your running costs can negatively affect your profits. Your operating costs will be even higher if you hire staff. Because your operating costs will be high, you will need to ensure consistently good business in order to make a profit.

High time commitment

As the business owner, you will be responsible for many different tasks, which can be very time-consuming, Your working hours will not be limited to the hours your shop is open as you will also have additional responsibilities, such as ordering stock, doing inventory, designing your T-shirts, handling orders and deliveries and handling other business and administrative tasks. This can be extremely time-consuming and stressful.

Your business could fail

Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or a period of financial difficulty. If you have invested a lot of money and time into your business, this can be extremely disheartening and can result in you losing a lot of money.

Your profits may not be consistent

Certain days and times of the year are likely to be busier than others. This could mean there are times when you have few orders. It could also be that you receive more business at certain times of the year and during these periods you have to turn down potential business. Inconsistent business can make it difficult for you to predict your profits and plan your staffing.

Issues out of your control

This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business, as things that are outside of your control can have a negative impact on your business and your profits. For example, your equipment breaking or delivery issues can prevent you from properly running your business, which could not only affect your profits but also result in negative customer reviews.

Bad reviews

Although the majority of customers leave honest reviews, some customers are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it is something outside of your control, such as the T-shirt not fitting them). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.

No benefits

As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.

Planning Your T-shirt Printing Business

If you are considering starting up a T-shirt printing business, an effective and well-designed business plan is essential. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.

Your business plan should contain information such as:

  • Your company information.
  • Your company description.
  • The services you will provide.
  • Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
  • The structure of your business.
  • The operational plan for your business.
  • The financial plan for your business.

 

When creating your business plan, some factors you will need to take into consideration include:

The T-shirt designs you specialise in

You may choose not to specialise your business and instead offer a wide range of different designs and styles. Alternatively, you could choose to focus on a particular niche, such as slogan T-shirts, sports T-shirts or staff uniforms for businesses. When deciding your speciality, consider your own skills, knowledge, experience and interests, the demand and the likely profit.

The T-shirt printing technique you use

This is one of the most important decisions you will need to make when setting up your business. The printing technique you choose will be primarily dependent on the types of designs you are printing, the material of the T-shirts and the volume of printing you require. Because printing equipment can be expensive, ensure you consider all your options carefully before making a final decision.

Your target market

Determining your target market is a key step to helping your business succeed. Different types of T-shirt designs, different printing techniques and different selling strategies are likely to attract different clients. Your pricing strategy and your brand will also be a key factor in determining your target market. Once you have identified your typical customers, you can then focus on how to attract them to your business.

Your primary selling strategy

This is another important consideration you will need to make. There are multiple selling options available, including creating a website, selling through third-party websites (such as Etsy), opening a shop and selling at events. You may choose one selling strategy or sell on multiple avenues to maximise your profits. Keep in mind that your selling strategy could change as your business grows and evolves.

Your business location (if relevant)

If you open a physical shop, your location will have a significant impact on the types of customers you are likely to attract. It will also impact your premises’ rental costs. If your business is located in an area with high footfall or a place popular with your target market, the increased custom and higher profits will be extremely beneficial to your business. Consider your rental budget and your size requirements when choosing your premises.

Your competition

Your main competition will vary depending on the T-shirts you specialise in and your primary selling strategy. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your business. You should also look at the types of T-shirts they sell, their pricing and their typical customer base. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business; for example, if there is already a successful business operating in your niche, you may choose to focus on another niche or change your business plan slightly.

Your brand and your unique selling point (USP)

Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your local competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your T-shirt designs, your business’s visual identity and creating a brand story. Your business name and logo are also part of your branding so ensure you consider these when creating your business plan. A USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what can make you stand out and how this fits into what defines your business.

Your marketing and advertising strategies

Marketing and advertising are especially important when you first open your T-shirt printing business. Your marketing strategy needs to be effective and budget friendly. Consider your target clients and the best way to reach them.

Some ways you can market and advertise your business are:

  • Build a functional and attractive website.
  • Utilise social media.
  • Attend fairs, festivals and other events.
  • Create targeted online adverts.

 

Your equipment requirements

Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you purchase from the above list will depend on the type of T-shirt business you are setting up, the printing method you choose and the size of your business. Once you have determined what equipment you require, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing this equipment.

Your start-up costs and running costs

Consult the list above to help you calculate the approximate costs of setting up and running your T-shirt printing business. Determine what equipment you need and the amount of equipment, as well as the cost of your premises, to help you determine your start-up costs and what your initial investment requirements will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself. Determining your start-up costs and running costs can also help you to create a budget and predict when you will begin to turn a profit.

Financing your business

Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance your business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? If you require investment, you could consider:

  • A bank or building society loan.
  • A personal loan.
  • External private investment or a business partner.
  • A government grant.
  • Venture capital.
  • Personal investment.

 

Your pricing and sales forecast

How will you price your products? How many designs can you work on at one time? How many T-shirts can you realistically sell each day, week and month? Are there certain times of the year that are likely to be busier than others? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.

Your strategy for growth

Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. This can help to make your business more successful.

Potential challenges could include:

  • Difficulties attracting customers.
  • Being unable to fulfil bulk orders quickly.
  • High operating costs forcing your prices up.

 

Some potential strategies for growth include:

  • Implement multiple advertising strategies.
  • Offer discounts to new customers.
  • Hire more staff to help you fulfil your orders.

 

Your business summary

Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of T-shirt printing business you are setting up, your designs and printing technique, your typical client base, your staffing and equipment requirements and your business goals.

Your business goals

Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your T-shirt printing business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.

Your business objectives should be SMART:

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Time-bound

 

Check you have complied with all legal requirements

Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.

 

Download our business plan