So you’re sick of your day job, and after searching the Internet for cheap startup ideas, you found multiple guides for selling t-shirts online containing the writer’s wonderful success stories, and it is sounding like a pretty darn good idea? Well be warned, if you are trying to get rich quick, or looking for an easy life, this is not likely the best way to go about it.
Although it is true that selling shirts online was wonderful idea fifteen or twenty years ago, when not many people had thought of it yet, times have changed, the Internet is no longer a new thing and your have an awful lot of competition to deal with. Including many well established companies and brand names. At the beginning of 2012 there are more than 400 million websites, with hundreds of thousand of new ones added each year, each with their hundreds or even thousands of web pages, and you may not have even successfully built your own first page yet. Doing a Google search just now returned an amazing six hundred million results for the phrase “shirt store”.
Assuming you have decent products that people will want to spend their hard earned money on, here are a few things to consider about getting your t-shirt business off the ground.
In my opinion the first place anyone should try and sell a shirt, should be on eBay. eBay is a wonderful training ground for online retail, and a great test of whether or not customers like your products.
eBay has four big things going for it:
1) They are trusted enough to give credit card details to.
2) They have a massive amount of visitors each day.
3) Most of the system is automated and no programming is needed.
4) They offer many excellent guides on how to attract the search engines, avoid copyright infringement, and make a sale.
Drawbacks to eBay
1) eBay has both listing and selling fees, selling on eBay can cut pretty deeply into your profits, and sometimes even after a sale, still leave your profits in the negative.
2) The Internet is full of stories of sellers who have offended eBay in some way or another and have been suddenly put out of business without any sort of personal contact or formal investigation.
I decided after a short stay at eBay that the fear of having my account suddenly banned was a bit too scary for me to invest many hours into an eBay shop, though I seem to think the majority of all the good sellers on eBay never had any problems, the fear of it would have kept me up at night. If you do sell on eBay, Amazon or any of the like, I would suggest hosting your own images off the website, so you do not lose everything if they close down your account, and can easily link them to other online accounts in the future.
In order to retain the most profit from your sales, and build a more secure future, you may want to set up your own website. You will not only be building up your own customer base, but the value of a sellable website as you go.
Setting Up Your Own Website
In order to set up your own t-shirt website your going to need a few things to make sure it is successful. Don’t let anyone tell you that selling anything on your own website is inexpensive, sure renting a website for ten dollars a month won’t break the bank, but in order for you to actually make a decent amount of sales, you will need to spend hundreds of hours marketing it, and thousands of hours creating it. All the hours you will have to devote to selling online could have been spent at a regular day job making actual cash in your pocket. Having personally spent literally tens of thousands of my own hours working on my website, as well as that of my paid employees, and still not making as much personally as I would have at my normal day job, I can tell you now, it may not have been the best decision of my life, and it also may not be your best decision. Unless of course you see it through to the very end, as I intend to do.
You should think of building your own website as a job that will make you rich in a decade or two not a year or two, as in the first year or two, all it will do is cost you money. Personally I am hoping I will finally have my fortunes in another decade of very hard work. The very few online stores that fight their way out of the mud can be worth quite a bit of money eventually.
Things you need to make your own website:
1) Time/Money – You can either do the work yourself, or pay a team to do it for you, but you will need at least one of these two things in order to succeed on your own website, best to have both.
2) Determination – It is hard work, creating a website, promoting it, and making happy customers all at the same time. You will need to be determined enough to fight past each small failure.
You will also need a third thing, which you can never have enough of:
3) Talent – Someone is going to have to create this website, it is not easy, as they say “Websites are not the same as paper”, they are difficult things to work with, and take a lot of skill. Though there are lots of semi automatic website creating solutions out there, you will never have the complete control as you would with a fully custom solution. Most custom website developers in the US make upwards of sixty thousand dollars US a year, so I chose to learn and create websites myself from reading free information available on the Internet to save on this huge expense, it is not really that difficult but does take incredible amounts of determination.
If you did decide to make your own website, on a fresh URL, it will be a lot like a store in the middle of an Antarctic ice field in winter, with no connecting roads, and no lights on, and there it will sit unvisited until you begin your marketing. No matter how great your products are or how beautiful the website is you will not make any sales until the people come.
Paid Advertising – There are many ways you can market your website, but the fastest and most direct way to get traffic is simply to pay for it. Google AdWords is one such solution, you can create a campaign give them your credit card details and get as many people as you wish to pay for to come visit you. I personally have had a difficult time with AdWords since everyone and their dog seems to be selling shirts using them, and usually the cost of the buying visits far exceeds my profits, however that is not always the case, after spending many thousands of dollars over the years experimenting we have found a few ways to actual make a small profit from the AdWords advertising, and it did lead us to quite a few referrals and other such things that are difficult to measure.
SEO – One free way for you to get customers will be with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a topic far too big to put into any single article so I will not try and do so, but it basically consists of making your website very easy for the search engine to read, so they know exactly what is contained on the page, to attract the right type of visitors, actual buyers. Again this is something you can either do yourself or outsource, but I would suggest you keep this in house for the most part, or you will be outsourcing forever, as SEO practices tend to change more than a few times each year. More than sixty percent of our traffic comes from SEO.
Social Media – We have done quite well with social media, it has brought us quite a few visitors over the years, StumbleUpon has brought us nearly a million of them at this point, but less than ten sales that we know of. Twitter seems to give us some success, but the real winner is Facebook. We only started our Facebook group in December, but already it is starting to make up a decent amount of visitors and buyers.
By the time you read this the Social Media websites mentioned above could have disappeared already, marketing seems to be ever changing, you may have to do your own research into the current trends when it is time for you to get down to business.
Though you may not have found many directly helpful points in the necessary steps to build an online t-shirt business, I hope you can now better understand the scope of the project, and see if it might be a worthwhile venture to you. I personally feel very satisfied to be making a living off my own website, but only because I know how tough it is to do so. Though I still have a long ways to go to get my initial investment back, I very optimistic that one day I will, and then hopefully a little something to retire on.