I did something crazy about a month ago. I started an online clothing business.
And it’s actually going really well.
Am I a designer? No.
Am I an Etsy pro? Nope.
Do I even know what DPI is, or what the difference is between CMYK and RGB? Not really.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year as a serious blogger, it’s that sometimes you just gotta try new stuff and do it. Jump in with both feet. Don’t overplan. Just follow your heart and see where it goes.
Easier said than done, especially when following your heart could cost thousands of dollars in upfront costs.
Not so bueno.
But, I really wanted to do this. So I found a way of getting started that was totally FREE, and in this post, I’ll show you how to do the same thing.
I create t-shirts, iPhone cases, leggings, skirts and other small items, and I don’t have to pay a single cent for inventory or expenses until someone buys one of my products. aka guaranteed profit! Isn’t that amazeballs?!
For example, here are a few examples of my humble creations. 😬
[etsy-shop shop_name=”NerdyOrganized” section_id=”21350310″]
Wanna win an item of your choice from my shop? Just enter the contest at the end of this post! 👇🏼
It’s really easy to start your own biz this way. So let’s jump right in and get started…
Create Your Free Etsy Store
For this post, I’m going to assume you want to sell your stuff on Etsy! It’s a great choice. Etsy is a solid network of handmade sellers, and a trusted shopping destination for millions of people around the world. You can’t go wrong.
So, if you don’t already have an Etsy account, sign up for free here.
When you’re all signed up, click on the You tab to go into your settings. From there, you can choose to open a new shop.
Once you’ve created your shop, you’ll be taken to the Shop Manager area. It’s pretty straightforward, but you’ll want to go into Settings on the left-hand menu to ensure everything is set up.
Here you can set things like your tagline, top image banner and logo. Here’s what my shop looks like with all those things added:
Go through all the Settings fields and make sure everything is filled in. Don’t worry about making it perfect right now. You can always change it later.
Remember: DONE is always better than perfect. ✌🏽
Create Your First T-Shirt
Mmk, switching gears to product creation now. Woo! This is where the magic happens, people.
Already have a good idea for a t-shirt, mug, or other product? Great! If not, just think of a silly saying and follow along with this tutorial. You can always redo these steps when you have a “real” product idea later on.
Not sure if your idea is good or not? Let the market decide! Remember, this is all free so you’re not out any money by testing your ideas.
To create your first product, you’ll need to sign up for Printful.
Printful is a print-on-demand dropshipper, which means they print your designs onto merchandise and ship it from their location to your customers. It’s worldwide, and the products look like they’re coming from you, not Printful. Basically… it’s awesome.
Once you sign up, you’ll be taken to your Dashboard. It’s your order portal.
Creating a product on Printful isn’t like an actual thing you create on there. You create your artwork files in a design program, like Adobe Photoshop, and then upload those files to Printful to store until you’re ready to print them.
I use Photoshop, but you could also use Illustrator, or a free option like Canva.
For this example, we’ll make a simple text-based t-shirt, but you can get as crazy and colourful as you like. If you can draw, go wild! I… can’t draw.
I’m going to make a shirt that says, “I Work So My Dog Can Have Nice Things”.
(It’s true. 🙄)
Printful has a template for everything on their site so you always know how to size it. The t-shirt print area is 10 in x 12 in, so all you need to do is open up a new Photoshop file at 150 DPI sized 10×12. Also make sure you’re using RGB colour.
If you’re using Canva, open up a new file that’s 1500px x 1800px (or larger).
Then add your text to the file. Make sure your background is transparent. This can be done in Canva as well, but I’m using Photoshop in the screenshots below.
If you don’t want your text to take up the full front side of the t-shirt, just make it a bit smaller, like so:
Then save your file as a PNG image. Make sure to go File -> Save As, not Save for Web.
Make a Realistic T-Shirt Mockup
Next up, you need an image to market your new product, right?! There are lots of online mockup tools out there, but the easiest to use is the one built right into Printful.
Head over to Printful’s Mockup Generator.
They have a mockup for all their products, so navigate to the shirt you want. I picked this one.
Click on Choose File to upload the PNG you just made.
And the mockup generator will show your design how it would look on a real, printed shirt! Pretty cool, right?
You can see how it looks on different coloured shirts by picking colours on the left, or move the graphic around with the arrows and zoom on the right. Once it’s just right, click the red Generate Files button at the bottom.
On the next page after you click Generate Files, there is an option to download them as a zip file. This includes the file you need to print the shirt and your mockups. That’s it! You’ve now created a shirt.
I told ya it was easy.
BONUS: You can also use this cool site Place It to create realistic photo mockups with real models. It costs money though, but it adds a lot of credibility to your brand. Alternately, take your own photos of yourself wearing your items. 😊
List Your Shirt in Your Etsy Shop
So, in order for someone to buy your shirt, ya need to list it. Duh. Go to Etsy and click on Shop Manager. Go to Listings and choose Add New Listing.
It’s pretty self-explanatory to fill out all the fields. Etsy has lots of help guides if you get stuck in a certain part. I just want to point out a few key things you should make sure to do:
Upload your mockup images as product photos. Duh! 🙄
Use SEO keywords in the first part of your product title. For this item, that keyword is “Funny Dog T-Shirt” so I made that the first part of the name.
This helps you get found in Etsy’s search engine, and by other search engines like Google. You can add more keywords to the end too, like I did above with “Work From Home” and “Girlboss”.
Next up, the description. This part is super important. Etsy suggests having at least 500 characters here, but the more the merrier.
You want to tell a story in this section and make people connect with your item. This is what’s known as, you know, marketing. 🤓
You can edit this anytime, so again, it doesn’t need to be perfect right now. But make sure you write something more than just “Dog t-shirt. Available S-XL.”.
One last thing – tags. Make sure you use all the 13 tag spots you’re allowed!
Try and think of terms people would type into Etsy to find your product. Get inside their heads and use those words for your tags.
Then, you just need to set your prices and you’re done!
Printful has all their shipping prices here so you can use those to calculate your costs. Remember, Printful charges you the price listed on their site to print the shirt, plus shipping.
So if that Bella t-shirt is advertised for $17 and shipping is $3, your total cost of producing that shirt is $20. If you sell it for $30, that’s $10 easy money coming in time and time again! Pretty sweet, right?
Need More Flexibility? Use Shopify
If Etsy isn’t your jam, or you’re trying to build your own independent store and really create a brand around it, you can also use Shopify.
Shopify plans start at just $29/month so it’s affordable to get started. And, it makes you look like a total legit company/rockstar. I decided to stick with Etsy because selling my items isn’t the main part of my business. It’s more of a hobby for me and way to express my creativity surrounding being a freelancer. (And, of course I hope you like them too!)
If you’re interested in using Shopify, they have a free 14 day trial to test it out that you can sign up for here.
BONUS: Sample Orders from Printful
One of my favourite features about Printful are their sample orders!
I mean, you wanna see what your shiz looks like in real life, right?! Right!
Printful allows you up to 3 sample orders per month, and you get 20% off each order (max 5 items)! I always order a sample of new products I make. Partly to test it out to make sure it looks good, and mostly because I just wanna wear it. #guilty
To order samples, login to your Printful Dashboard and click on New Order. Just pick Sample Order, add your products like normal, and you’re golden.
Umm… What Now?
Now we wait.
For someone to order your cool shiz. When they do, Etsy will send you an email. To send out the order, login to Printful, place an order for the item, and instead of filling in your own shipping address, write in your customer’s info. Super easy.
If you are selling a lot of items, or don’t want to have to submit orders manually, you can use a service like ShipStation to automate order fulfillment. It’s magic beans.
Enter to Win an Item From My Shop!
Whee! In celebration of all things creative, and this post, I’m giving away an item from my shop to one lucky winner.
You can pick anything you want, furrr serious. And, I’ll even ship it worldwide! Contest is open until June 30, 2017 at 11:59pm PST so hurry up!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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