How to Sell T-shirts on Etsy in 2021

How to Sell T-shirts on Etsy in 2021

We've said goodbye to a year where undoubtedly many people got the entrepreneurial itch to try something new, amidst an environment where self-sufficiency was the name of the game. So, maybe that's you—are you looking for a way to sell your t-shirt designs?

To help you on your path to success in 2021, we've compiled our favorite tips for selling t-shirts—more specifically, how to sell t-shirts on Etsy. In order to reap the benefits of the Etsy platform, take some time to discover the best practices for selling t-shirts, as well as information that will help you jumpstart a legitimate apparel brand.

Why Use Etsy to Sell T-shirts?

Etsy is a great site that has stood the test of time and is still a popular place for creatives, designers, and entrepreneurs to sell their goods, so it goes without saying that it's one of the best platforms for your t-shirt idea.

Etsy is an easy option for selling trendy clothing, jewelry, decorative items, and more, as the average online consumer knows that if they want to find something cool and unique, they'll probably find it from an individual instead of having to search far and wide at corporate stores.

While the site does charge a fee, it's not a large one, and with a market of more than 39 million viewers, you're sure to get the attention of your audience and make up for any small fee you have to pay to use the platform. At the end of the day, most vendor websites will charge a fee, but not all of them offer the type of audience and reach you'll get with Etsy.

What's The Etsy T-Shirt Market Like?

Now keep in mind, as far as percentages go, the majority of Etsy customers are primarily female, which is why it's a favorite site for many jewelry, purses, and home décor items. 

But what some sellers don't think about is that the ladies buy gifts for their men. Think about who buys shirts for Dads on Father's day? It's more the daughters than the sons. Same goes with husband gifts.

With most t-shirt shops on Etsy printing their designs on unisex tees, many of your creations can be worn by men and women.

The year 2020 was responsible for record online t-shirt sales that were undoubtedly fueled by political, social, and spiritual views. On the flip side, there are always fads that keep evergreen sales of t-shirts a year over year success.

And, Etsy is the perfect place for all of these designs, more so than the mainstream designs on display at a local department store.

Etsy was the benefactor of a huge year for t-shirt sales in 2020, and there are no signs of slowing down for this great marketplace in 2021.

Know Your T-shirt Target

As you start to look into how to sell t-shirts on Etsy, consider first of all, who you want to reach. What does the current Etsy market look like right now without your idea?

What are the best-selling items on the market? Know what's selling best. But don't go out and follow the crowd.

Instead, zone in on your target by looking in the mirror. What kind of things do you like to do? Sewing, hunting, lifting weights, hiking, yoga, working on cars - single in on your target by thinking about the things you like most. Write these down. What kind of designs might you create around these ideas? 

If you are a veteran and a police officer, maybe creating a tactical brand is the way you want to go.

If you are a mom who fosters 5 kids, then maybe you create a brand around foster moms. 

If you decide on a target market that looks like you, you've done two important things. One, you will thoroughly enjoy coming up with new ideas for your brand. This will be fun, not work. And second, since you know yourself really well, you can figure you probably know your target audience. It's much easier to create t-shirts for an audience you can relate to.

Use Print on Demand for Fulfillment

Years ago, you had a few choices to bring your t-shirt designs to life. Most of them involved printing Small through 3x t-shirts in 5 or 6 designs, with a few printed shirts per size. Unless you had a lot of money to invest, you would do this from home and store the t-shirt inventory in a room or office.

Imagine the challenges of running out of stock on all your Large shirts, then having to wait until you print more before you are able to fulfill orders in that size again.

It was not a fun way for someone to enter the business, even back in 2012. 

But fast forward almost a decade and there are multiple Print-on-demand (POD) platforms like Printful, Printify, and others. POD shops print your shirts and ship them with your store details on the packaging. It's a lot like drop-shipping, but for custom shirts. 

Print on Demand

With the POD model, you can create 100 designs on Etsy if you want. All you have to do is create the designs and import them into your Etsy store. As orders come in, the POD shop ships them out. 

This also allows you to test all kinds of new designs. You can see what shirt designs sell. Then if you do decide to eventually scale your business, you can do it at your own pace.

Create High Quality T-shirts

At the end of the day, the best selling items are the ones that have been designed with various factors in mind. From being a well-designed print, to the comfort level of the material you use, there are a lot of things that make a difference in how easy it will be for you to sell your t-shirts.

Quality often requires an extra eye to ensure your product is top-notch. So make sure you consult with a couple of people you know have a creative eye and that will be honest with you about your t-shirt designs.

Make sure you have awesome pictures of your t-shirt designs. Since so many people use mockups for their t-shirt designs (an image of your design on a model) it's more difficult to use photos to help the customer know how great your shirt actually looks and feels.

So don't cheap out and print on a lousy shirt. Find out what type of shirts the Etsy stores with the best reviews are selling. Bella Canvas 3001 is the most common high-quality shirt on Etsy.

Once you start getting sales, your customers are going to start leaving reviews and you'll want them to be great. The higher quality your shirts are, the better chance of a lot of 5-star reviews. Once the reviews start pouring in, just keep it going.

Prepare to Create a Lot of Designs

You had a great t-shirt design idea and you want to get it out there. It probably is the best idea to you and a lot of other people. But, you don't want to stop there.

With Etsy, the more t-shirts you have in your store, the more visibility you will have. It's like content for Google. So stay ahead on designs. Keep thinking about new ones and create designs as you can. That is how you will be able to grow your Etsy store.

If you have great reviews but only a few designs, you are short-changing yourself. Remember, with Etsy, the more products you have in your store, the better.

Get Your T-shirts in Front of People

One of the best ways for you to make your online t-shirt business a success is to get noticed! How do you do this? There are a variety of ways you can achieve this:

  • Create an Instagram page where you display mockups or people wearing your t-shirts. Instagram is one of the most popular social media networks out there and with the platform geared towards the use of photographs, it's easy for your t-shirts to be seen. Capitalize on this by promoting your shirts and make sure your Etsy shop link is in your Instagram profile.
  • Use Etsy ads. While people may browse long enough on the site to see your content, if you want to be sure that the designs will be seen before most others, invest in Etsy ads. This will get you noticed on Etsy.
  • Leverage Pinterest. Pinterest is one of the better long-term platforms to showcase your Etsy t-shirt shop. It's long term because any of the links and pins that you build now end up staying on the platform for years to come. If you get a t-shirt trending on Pinterest, you can expect to see resulting sales on Etsy.
  • Offer Free Shipping. Etsy displays shops that offer free shipping by showing them in the results when someone is specifically looking for items with free shipping. This means you can show up in the results where top stores aren't listed.
  • Use Tags wisely. Use all the tags that you get. Think of all the "most relevant" search terms that someone would use to find your t-shirt, and use any and all variations you can think of. Note: If you run Etsy ads, Etsy will show you which keywords led people to your t-shirt and how well it performed. Use that data to decide what are your best converting search terms.

However you go about launching your t-shirt business, your advertising and marketing is really what's going to make a difference in your product getting sold at the beginning. The longer you are in business, the more organic traffic you can expect. But at that point, why not continue using promotion if it's driving sales and returning a profit?

People won't be able to buy what they can't see, so make sure your Etsy t-shirts are visible. 

Ready to get started?

There are a lot of ways you can sell t-shirts in 2021, but if you're a creative artist or just an entrepreneur with great ideas, the audience you'll be able to reach on Etsy is well worth it.

Know your market, create quality designs, and get noticed! You'll find that with the right idea and a little bit of work, you can launch a legitimate t-shirt business on Etsy. 

You can always take your business to the next level by building an eCommerce store and owning your own website. Just keep in mind, you can be up and making sales in a couple of weeks with an Etsy store.

An eCommerce store takes a lot of work to build, and SEO optimize. If you sell on Etsy while you build your own store, you can start making money to invest in your brand much earlier in the process. 



Bryan E. Robinson is the owner and founder of 316Tees. He is a Veteran of the U.S. Army (10th Mtn. Div). He has over 17 years experience as an entrepreneur and marketer and has worked with Fortune 100 brands, eCommerce, and B2B companies. Bryan is passionate about helping others to grow their brands and find ways to fund their ministries.

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