How to start a t-shirt business

If you have design skills and great t-shirt ideas, starting a t-shirt business might be a great choice for you. Selling T-shirts is a great, low-cost way to start earning money and become your own boss. Now is a perfect time since the UK apparel market is expected to grow steadily in the upcoming years. 

Still, starting any small business can feel intimidating if you don’t know where to start. If you want to know how to start a t-shirt business, you came to the right place. 

This guide will cover how to start a t-shirt business, including

  • Everything you’ll need to get started 
  • How to set up your business 
  • How to organise your business well 
  • How to market your business to find clients 

Everything you’ll need to get your t-shirt business started 

Knowing how to start a t-shirt business requires planning to set yourself up for success. Instead of just diving in, create a foundation for your business before starting. We’ll cover the essential planning. 

Knowledge of the market

To succeed with a t-shirt business, you’ll need to know about the apparel industry and the t-shirt market. Market research can help you understand demand, competition, and your target audience. This research will also help you know what kinds of t-shirts may sell well. If you know the market, you can design your business with intention and understand how to best price your products.   

An angle 

With your market research in mind, consider what will make your t-shirt business stand out from others. Creating unique and specialised products will help you draw in more customers and market yourself to the right people. For example, you could create nature-themed t-shirts on sustainable materials. This angle will help you convince people why you’re worth buying from over the other many t-shirt options out there. 

The necessary skills 

If you want to sell t-shirts, you’ll need the proper skills to design and create these products. Sketching and graphic design skills may better prepare you for t-shirt making. If you don’t have any previous experience designing products like this, you could look into a training course and research t-shirt design trends. 

You may also need the skills to create t-shirts. For example, you could order a stock of plain white t-shirts on which to press your design. So,  you’ll need to know how to use a t-shirt press. 

With that said, some platforms let you design t-shirts and sell them directly through the site. So pressing your own t-shirts is only necessary if that’s how you plan to make them. 

Supplies and equipment 

To start a t-shirt business, you’ll need a t-shirt vendor to maintain your inventory. Plus, you’ll need a t-shirt press and design software like Adobe to create your looks. Aside from this, gather supplies to print out your designs and packaging to send them to clients if you offer to ship. 

Alternatively, you could use a platform like Shopify, Printify, and Teemill to streamline your designing and selling process. These platforms produce the shirts you design and send them to buyers. Though these tools make things a lot easier for you, they take a cut of your earnings. 

A place to sell them 

You may choose to sell your t-shirts online, in person, or a mix of both. If you sell them in person, you may need to rent a shop for your products, which will increase your startup costs. If you sell them online, you’ll need to design a website with a functioning shop or use a platform like Etsy

A business plan 

Finally, before getting started, create a business plan. This plan can outline your purpose, timetable, and overall goals. You can also include your market research and pricing information to predict your growth and profitability. 

You may also want to outline your starting budget, including startup costs and operating expenses. With a clear budget and plan, you can approach your t-shirt business with purpose and have a foundation for success. 

How to set up your t-shirt business

Once you know what you need, learning how to start a t-shirt business means setting it up properly. You’ll have to do a few things to establish your business. 


First, you’ll need to register your business with the UK Government. You can register as either a sole trader or a limited company. As a sole trader, you’ll have fewer taxes and regulations, but you will be personally liable for your business. On the other hand, limited companies are separate legal entities from the owner. 


As a business owner, you’ll need to report and manage your own taxes. These taxes will likely include income tax, dividend tax, and national insurance. But if you register as a limited company, you’ll also pay corporation tax. On top of this, businesses that expect to earn over £85,000 annually will have to register for VAT and comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD) processes. 

You can learn more about what taxes small businesses pay here


Insurance is a great way to protect you from financial losses. Public liability insurance, for example, defends you from client or property damage or illness that your business is responsible for. Aside from this, you may want to look into stock insurance to cover the loss or damage of your inventory, which could affect your profits. 

How to organise your business well 

Another part of knowing how to start a t-shirt business is organising it for smooth operations. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to this. 

Products and price list 

Having a straightforward product and price list will help you appear professional to potential customers. This list will also make your products more accessible for people to browse. You can put this price list on your website and clearly label your prices and product details within your product listings. 

When you decide how much to charge for your t-shirts, first consider the production costs of each product. You can earn money from each sale by adding a sufficient profit margin to your production cost. On top of that, look at competitors’ pricing to see how you can compare. This trick will help you find the right price point. 

Business management tools 

Starting your t-shirt business will be easier if you can organise your day-to-day tasks well. You may want to use a management tool like Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 to stay on top of your business. These tools will allow you to keep your email, calendar, and documents all in one place. As a result, you can easily stay on top of your daily operations. 

Business current account 

It’ll be easier to track your business finances if you separate them from your personal ones. You can do this by opening a business current account, just like a regular bank except for your business. With this account, it’ll be easier to track your bookkeeping.  

Accounting software 

As a small business, you must record your finances, and keep those records for about six years. Financial management is a crucial part of tax reporting and understanding your performance. Accounting software will help you manage your finances with tools that simplify and automate the process, like Countingup

Unlike most options, Countingup combines a business account with accounting software so you can have all your finances in one place. Designed specifically for single-person businesses, the app offers great features that simplify your finances.

For example, with automatic expense categorisation, the app instantly labels your payments with HMRC approved categories. This tool helps you find proof of tax-deductible expenses later on. Plus, the receipt capture tool reminds you to take a picture of your receipt as soon as you pay, so you don’t have to keep messy pockets. 

 Countingup lets you create, send, and duplicate unlimited invoices to ensure you earn the money you work for. The app notifies you when you receive invoices and automatically matches them to payments. 

On top of this, Countingup offers year-round tax estimates so you can plan ahead. It’s also MTD-compatible, automatically calculating the VAT for each transaction. You’re even able to send accurate financial records to your accountant easily.  Then, with ongoing cash flow insights, you can understand how much you spend and earn. Altogether, these features save your time with financial management and help you make better business decisions.

How to market your t-shirt business to find clients 

After you organise your business to run smoothly, you’ll need to market it well to find a client base. A big part of knowing how to start a t-shirt business is getting your products in front of the right people. 


To make your business memorable, you’ll need to develop a strong brand identity. Your brand is the design and tone you use to present your business to the world. Think of your brand as the foundation of your marketing. 

Your tone could be formal and informative or fun and casual. For example, if you want to sell t-shirts to fight climate change, you might take an emotional and informative approach. Meanwhile, if you sell funny t-shirts, you might present yourself sarcastically. 

The colour scheme you choose reinforces your brand and represents your business purpose. For instance, a band tee company might use darker or more vibrant colours to appear edgy. These colour choices will also help design a logo that makes you stand out. 

When considering your brand identity, think about who your ideal customer is. If you understand your target audience well, you can develop a brand that speaks to them. Doing so will help you market your business more effectively. 


Once you outline your brand, you can design a website. Your website should have your business name, purpose, contacts, social media handles, and pictures of your products. If you sell t-shirts on the website, you’ll need a retail section that accepts payments through the site. If you don’t sell directly on the site, make it clear where people can buy your products.  

This website should be easy to find and navigate as it will make your t-shirt business more accessible to people online. A well-designed site can help convince people to buy your t-shirts.  

Social media

Social media marketing is another great way to grow your business audience. You can use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share your products, updates, and fun tips. You could also use Pinterest to post photos of your t-shirts and use the Pinterest business shop feature. 

Being active on several forms of social media will help you reach more people, but you also have to post regularly to remain relevant. Try putting together a content calendar and setting aside a few hours a week to update your pages. You can also look at similar profiles to get content ideas. 

Popup shops and trade shows

To find new customers and access an established audience, you may want to attend trade shows or hold a popup shop for your t-shirts. This can be especially useful if you sell primarily online because it lets people see you and your t-shirt in person. 

Creating a booth and bringing your products can convince people why they’re worth buying. Be sure also to pass out business cards so people can learn more about your business after the event. With these persistent methods, you can find your first customers and grow a steady income from your t-shirt business

Stay on top of your business finances with Countingup

Once you start your t-shirt business, you’ll need to manage your finances well to succeed, But, financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. You can even try your first three months free. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Start your three-month free trial today. 

Find out more here.