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How to Start an Etsy T-Shirt Business

How to Start an Etsy T-Shirt Business - Threadsy

Anne Dorfman |

If you want to get your graphic t-shirts in front of 39 million people, you can do it in just a few hours when you set up your very own Etsy t-shirt shop. The last couple of years broke record online t-shirt sales, thanks to the pandemic and our responses to other political and social issues. Everyday, buyers flock to Etsy to find these statement t-shirts in just one online marketplace, rather than heading to the local mall. While you’ve got competitor shops on Etsy, it’s a great marketplace to launch your one-of-a-kind t-shirt business. Learn how to launch your t-shirt shop on Etsy today in seven easy steps.

How to Open an Etsy Shop for Your T-Shirt Business

With nearly 40 million buyers on Etsy, it’s a great place to find an already-engaged audience. However, there are already hundreds, if not thousands, of shops selling printed t-shirts on the marketplace. Don’t let that discourage you, though! If you’ve matched your unique product to a particular demographic, you can stand out in a seemingly endless sea of t-shirts. While more women shop on Etsy, don’t limit your offerings to female-oriented designs and styles. Women also shop for gifts for men, and men do look for fun t-shirts on the site.

The key is to understand what sells on Etsy and then develop a unique spin on what you’re offering. For example, t-shirts for bridal parties are huge sellers on the site. If you scout out what’s available, can you create a different type of t-shirt text statement or graphic for the bride or maid of honor? Quote t-shirts, yoga and animals are other big sellers that people head to Etsy to find. You can also reach out to popular influencers or podcasters to offer to create and fulfill their merchandise on Etsy, especially if they have huge fan bases. The bottom line is that if you’re going to be successful on Etsy, you must offer graphic t-shirts that appeal to buyers, but also have your brand’s signature style to stand out from the pack.

Is Etsy a Good Place to Sell T-Shirts?

Pros of Selling on Etsy Cons of Selling on Etsy
This e-platform is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get your graphic t-shirts online and connected to a shopping cart. Etsy is saturated with t-shirt sellers, so you’ll need to work to make your shop stand out, like purchasing ads via the marketplace.
Etsy is a low-risk, cost-effective option financially, when compared to building your own ecommerce site. You run a greater risk of another seller copycatting your designs and products, than if you sold via your own standalone site.
Your customers have an immediate way to buy decorated t-shirts from you. Plus, you tap into an established audience of 39 million engaged buyers. It’s harder to build brand loyalty, since there are so many sellers and some buyers simply shop on price. It’s harder to grow your email list because Etsy doesn’t have an email collection form on your shop page. 
Takes less time to get your product listings to rank on Google than building your own ecommerce site. While you can customize your Etsy shop, you don’t have as much control of branding as you would on your own ecommerce site.

If you want to start up a t-shirt shop where you sell shirts with artwork or sayings on them, Etsy is a great place to start for a few reasons. First, it’s a fast and cost-effective way to set up a store in just one day. Etsy also has 39 million shoppers who come to the platform to find t-shirts for themselves or for gifts. If you cater to a certain demographic or niche with a unique take on t-shirt designs, you’ll get noticed. While it can take some time to make your first sale, there are things you can do, like adding more products or creating an attractive storefront, to make it happen faster. 

This is anothUnderstanding Etsy Fees

Like every online marketplace platform you use to sell graphic t-shirts, you’ll incur some nominal fees for using the platform. However, if you price your t-shirts for profit, you can make money starting with the very first t-shirt you sell. Etsy fees are definitely one of the things you need to know before opening an Etsy shop. However, the fees aren’t steep and won’t stop you from setting up your shop.

It’s free to join Etsy and open a shop. When you list and sell products via the site, Etsy charges you fees to actually do business on the platform. Here’s a basic breakdown of the types of fees to expect:

Etsy Listing Fees: When you list your graphic t-shirts on Etsy, the platform will charge you 20 cents per product listing you post. You’ll pay this fee whether or not your product sells. A listing expires after four months, at which point you can choose to automatically or manually renew it for an additional 20 cents.

Etsy Transaction Fees: When someone buys a product from your Etsy shop, the transaction fee is 5% of the total item cost. That includes shipping and gift wrap. This fee is charged to you in your listing currency. If your payment currency is different, Etsy converts the fee amount from your listing currency to payment currency based on the current market rate. If currency conversion is required, Etsy will charge you a 2.5% fee. 

Etsy Payment Processing Fees: If you use Etsy Payments to accept payments, you’ll owe Etsy a payment processing fee each time a customer purchases an item from your shop. The fees vary based on your bank account’s location. For example, if you’re based in the U.S. Etsy charges 3% + 25 cents per transaction. 

Etsy Ad Fees: You can take advantage of Etsy’s advertising services, like Etsy Ads and Offsite Ads, to promote your shop and listings. You can learn more about these costs on the Etsy platform. 

Additional Seller Fees: You might incur additional fees through Etsy, such as purchasing shipping labels through the platforms and using the ads programs. You can also participate in the Etsy Plus subscription plan to access expanded and advanced tools, like Etsy ad credits and special discounts. Etsy Plus costs $10 per month. 

Etsy Store FAQs

Launching an Etsy store is a big deal! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (and our answers!) we get about launching your brand on the online marketplace platform.

Does Etsy Print On Demand?

No. Etsy requires that products that you sell must be hand-made. For t-shirts, you need to design and/or decorate them. If you have assistance in making your products, like using a graphic designer or third-party fulfillment partner, you’ll need to disclose that on your shop site. You also can’t use stock photos for your products. They need to be images of the actual products you’re selling. It’s important to read and follow Etsy’s rules to learn about what you can sell in each product category.

Is It Easy to Start an Etsy Shop?

It’s free and easy to join Etsy, and fast to set up an online shop. The seller fees are reasonable, so if you’re not selling as many products as you’d like to at first it’s a very minimal cost to be on Etsy as a shop as you start reaching more buyers. 

What Do I Need to Do Before Opening an Etsy Shop?

Etsy is a marketplace for handmade products, vintage goods and craft supplies. Fellow shop owners are makers, creators, artists and small business owners. That’s why Etsy requires that your products fit into their allowed categories. Luckily, decorated t-shirts are sellable on Etsy, as long as you’re involved in the artwork creation or ideation, or decorating. The best way to make sure you can sell your products on Etsy is to check out the platform’s rules and seller policy first.

 Do You Need a Tax ID to Sell on Etsy?

While Etsy’s seller policies don’t require you to have a business license to sell on its platform, that doesn’t mean you don’t need one to run a legal business. You’ll need to check the IRS regulations, along with your state and municipal laws to learn what’s required to sell online. Determining whether you have a business or a hobby is a good starting point.

What Do You Need to Sell on Etsy?

You’ll need to decide whether your shop is a business or a hobby. Check in with the IRS, which offers nine factors to determine whether your t-shirt decorating is a company or a hobby. One factor is: Have you profited from your t-shirt business in at least three out of the last five years? If your answer is yes, you have a business. So, if you’re running a business, you need a business license, but you can write off your expenses.

On the other hand, if your t-shirt making is a hobby, you can’t claim deductions, but you don’t need a business license. Even if you’ve determined that you’re a hobbyist, you’ll still need to pay taxes on any income that you make from your Etsy shop.

How Do I Get Paid If I Sell T-Shirts on Etsy?

Etsy Payments lets people buy your products using a credit or debit card, a check or money order, Etsy gift cards or store credit, PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay and more. You can choose to receive payments from Etsy weekly or monthly.

Who Pays for Shipping on Etsy?

Ultimately, you as the seller are responsible to ship the t-shirt to your buyer. However, you can choose whether you’ll cover the shipping yourself or have the buyer pay for it.

How Do You Sell on Etsy for Beginners?

It’s simple to get started! Create an Etsy account, choose your location and local currency, pick a shop name, create at least one product listing, choose a payment method (so people can pay you), and select a billing method (that’s how you’ll pay your Etsy seller fees). Then, launch your brand-new store!

How Do I Post My Shirt on Etsy?

Etsy makes it easy for you to post products from your store! For each listing, you’ll post a short headline, up to 10 photos, a longer description, SKU number, pricing, sizes and more.

How Many Products Should I Start With on Etsy?

Experts recommended starting with 10 to 20 products. You can include up to 30, 40 or even 50 products if you want to get noticed. Don’t just start out with one or two products because you won’t gain enough traction fast enough.

How to Open an Etsy Shop in 7 Steps

You can open your Etsy shop quickly and easily! Follow these seven steps to successfully launch your t-shirt brand today.

1. Create Your Etsy Account and Select Shop Preferences

When you’re ready to set up your store, your first step is to set up an Etsy account. You’ll need to login to an existing account or set up a new one. Start by clicking on the “Sell on Etsy” button. You can enter your name, email address and password, or you can use your existing Google, Facebook or Apple account to create an account. If you already have an account, you can login and then select “Open Your Etsy Shop” to start your store up.

Next, you need to set your shop preferences. This is where you’ll set up the basic framework for your store. For example, you’ll need to set your default language. While you can’t change this after you open your store, you can set up translations for your product descriptions, if a portion of your customers speak other languages. You’ll also pick your home country and the currency you’ll list for your product prices. (Note: If your shop currency is different from your business bank currency, you’ll be charged a 2.5% conversion fee of the sale amount when someone buys a t-shirt from your shop.) Finally, choose whether you’re a part-time seller, full-time seller or “other.” Your choice won’t affect your ability to open your shop. This question is just for Etsy’s information-gathering purposes.

 2. Select a Unique Name for Your Etsy Shop

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If you haven’t already chosen your Etsy shop name, now is the time to do it. The name you choose should be interesting and memorable, and between four and 20 characters long. You can’t have any spaces or special characters, and you can’t choose another Etsy shop name. (If you choose another shop’s name by mistake, Etsy will helpfully suggest alternative names.) 

This should go without saying, but you should also avoid choosing a trademarked name or include any profanities in your shop name. If you’ve got a list of names you like, you can look at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website to see if anyone else has trademarked the name. You can also search on social media to see if anyone else is using the store name you’ve chosen. Finally, do a Bing or Google search to make sure that the name you’ve chosen isn’t offensive in any other languages that your customer base might speak. The name you choose should be easy to read, spell and remember.

Etsy recommends these tips for picking your shop name:

Use your own name: If your name is Jennifer Smith, Etsy advises adding another word to it, like “DIY,” “Workshop,” “Printer,” “T-Shirts,” “Boutique,” “Shop,” “Apparel,” “Design” or “Inc.” Your shop name could be JeniferSmithTShirts or DIYJeniferSmith.

Use a descriptive name that reflects your brand: For example, Cowgirl T-Shirts, Cat Lovers Tees, Bride Central T-Shirts, Gone Fishin’ T-Shirts, Purple Power Print Shop, Hot Threadz T-Shirts or Dyed in Heaven Tees.

Choose an eclectic or abstract name: This helps customers remember your brand easier. For example, Velvet Heart, Carpe Diem, Flights of Fancy, Studio 9ten, Lovely Lady Printers or The Unique.

It’s important to spend some time brainstorming your shop name. Once you choose it and open your store, you can only change your name once. Plus, if you decide to expand your brand and business, is this a name that you’d like to keep as an official company name?

3. Add Your T-Shirts and Other Products

Things are getting exciting! It’s time to add your graphic t-shirts to your Etsy shop! We’ll include general steps here, but if you have additional questions you can check out Etsy’s specific instructions or reach out to their team. 

Add photos: Etsy advises using at least five and a maximum of 10 photos of your product. That way, a customer can see it from different angles. If you offer a product like a t-shirt in multiple colors, you can include photos of those variations so your buyers can see their choices in full-color images. Shoot high-resolution photos so the images look great. They need to be a minimum of 1000 x 1000 pixels square.

Choose your thumbnail: This is like your Facebook profile photo, so make it a good one. Pick one photo of the product that will come up in searches and elsewhere on Etsy. 

Write your product title. Shorter is sweeter here! That’s because you’ve only got 140 characters to pack in as much tantalizing detail as you can about your product to get buyers to keep reading. 

Write your longer product listing. You’ve got plenty of room to expand into a longer product description, a bulleted list of features, and more details about your product category and type. Consider how your listing will appear in Google search results, so use SEO keywords where you can.

Choose your 13 tags or keywords: Like hashtags, consider what words buyers will type into Etsy’s search bar. You can choose up to 13 tags per product listing.

Review your renewal options: You should know that if you select “automatic,” your listing will self-renew after four months. You’ll be charged a 20 cent fee. If you want to review and renew expired listings yourself, choose the “manual” option.

Finalize your inventory and pricing: You’ll drill down into pertinent details here like your price, sales tax, quantity you have in stock and SKU number. You can also add variations, like sizes, materials and colors linked to those specific images.

Choose your shipping price: This is the place to include your product price, along with details about your shipping policies, including the shipping services you use, processing time, shipping weight and so on. Etsy can also calculate your shipping. You can preview the shipping information that your buyer will see.

Publish your listing: This is where you give yourself a high five! Before you set your listing live, preview it to see how it’ll look to a customer. Etsy recommends starting up your shop with at least 10 listings so customers can find you. However, the more listings you have, the faster customers will find you. Remember, your listings aren’t truly live until you finish setting up your store, so continue on with these seven steps.

4. Select Your Payment Preferences (How Customers Pay You)

Now, it’s time to decide your customers will pay you. The first step is to choose how you’d like to accept payments. That could be PayPal, a check or a money order. However, if you choose Etsy Payments, you can expand to take credit or debit cards, Etsy gift cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and more. In most cases, Etsy requires you to choose Etsy Payments, which makes it easy for people to pay you. When you sign up for Etsy Payments, you’ll need to enter your residential address and bank account information to receive your payments from Etsy.

Expert sellers recommend setting up options for in-person customers at the same time. Square and Etsy have partnered so that you can take payments via your phone or tablet, synced up with your inventory. If you visit the Shop Manager page, navigate to the “Add Channel” option and choose “Square” to get started. Even better, Square will send you a free card reader to use for in-person transactions!

 5. Set Up Billing (How You Pay Etsy)

Next, you need to set up the way you’ll pay Etsy. This differs from country to country, depending on where you’re based. In most cases, Etsy will require you to place a credit card on file for identity verification and for selling fees. If you’re in the United States, you can enroll in auto-billing. Every month, Etsy will automatically bill your card for the selling fees you incur when people buy your products. 

6. Congrats! Open Your Shop for Business

It’s time to celebrate! You’ve reached a huge milestone for your t-shirt business! You’re about to officially open your Etsy shop and start selling shirts on the platform. Break out the bubbly or your favorite tea and click “Open Your Shop.”

Your shop URL will appear in one of two formats: 


Now, you can start marketing your shop via social media and email, and working on making your first sale!

7. Now, It’s Time to Decorate!

Your shop is live and open for business. That’s a huge accomplishment, so take some time to enjoy your success. The next thing to think about is how to customize your Etsy shop so it looks unique and stands out from your competitors. You can also set up your shop to appeal to your customers, in terms of how your shop looks and functions.

Here are some additional areas to customize: 

Add your photo and bio, and “about the company” section: People love to buy from brands they know, like and trust. That’s why posting your smiling face and a short bio will go a long way toward creating that relationship. You can share details about your background, along with your company’s business and why you do what you do. Your “about the company” section gives you a generous 5,000 characters to share your shop’s origin story, your mission and your values. You can talk about your team, and even add photos and videos of your shop to give people a behind-the-scenes peek of you decorating t-shirts. You can also add links to your social media profiles.

Spell out your policies: This is like your online FAQs or digital customer service agent who answers the most commonly asked questions people have before they place an order. This can include your payment, processing and shipping policies. What types of payment methods do you accept? People also want to know how long it’ll take for you to process and ship their order. When will they receive their t-shirt? What’s your returns and exchanges policy?

Rearrange or group your products: You can move your products around on your shop’s page. If you have different types of products, you can group them into sections that will appear on the left hand side of your shop page in a navigation bar.

Take advantage of Etsy’s social media tool: When you link your social media tools to the Etsy platform, you can easily blast out all relevant announcements like new listings or great reviews to your customers from one easy-to-use dashboard, even from your phone!

6 Tips on Maximizing Profits Selling T-Shirts on Etsy

Now that you’ve launched and optimized your Etsy store, it’s time to maximize your profitability and success on Etsy, with six smart t-shirt business tips.

Purchase Your T-Shirts in Bulk From a Reputable Seller

If you’re not using a third-party fulfillment company to print and process your Etsy orders, you’ll want to find a reputable online wholesaler to purchase blanks in bulk. Threadsy offers great incentives for Etsy t-shirt sellers. You’ll always find a deep inventory of products when you shop our site. When you reach $110 in your cart, you’ll automatically see a bulk discount up to 15% applied. You’ll enjoy fast and free shipping (on orders of $50 or more). We offer an easy and free returns policy as well.

Curate Your Store Carefully

Having great product photos, well-written product descriptions and organized sections can separate your store experience from your competitors. If your store looks messy or disorganized, people will click over to a store that looks more professional. Even if your t-shirts are top notch, if your store lacks that clean edge buyers may assume (wrongly) that your t-shirt design and decorating skills are lackluster as well. Put some time and effort into regularly tweaking your store so that it always looks fresh and cohesive. Plus, be sure that you’re working in a profitable t-shirt business niche.

Use SEO to Make Your Shop Searchable

Etsy uses its own set of SEO rules that you should learn about right away. You’ll want to use the most-searched keywords in your shop title, sections, product titles and descriptions, and product tags. Try a tool like EtsyRank to help you out here. Plus, the more products you have, the more searchable your shop becomes. Aim to list 50 products.

 Price Your T-Shirts Competitively 

When you’re first starting out, you might not know how to price your goods to attract customers and make a profit. Etsy does offer some help, with a formula and a worksheet to try out different pricing strategies. You want to be sure that you cover all of your costs and make money. However, Etsy attracts buyers who want unique items that won’t break the bank. That’s why you need to evaluate your own costs to see where you can keep them lower. 

Offer Competitive Shipping 

Buyers love free shipping, but that doesn’t always help you make a profit. You can use Etsy’s smart pricing tool to see how to recover shipping costs. Some shops set a minimum order quantity for shipping. You can also offer free shipping based on shipping distance. Build the average shipping cost into your listing price to make your pricing more attractive.

Take Part in Etsy Site-Wide Sales Events 

When Etsy holds site-wide sales events like at Black Friday and the before-Christmas rush, make the effort to participate by staying up to date on how to join these sales events. Etsy data shows that shops that participated in its Cyber event sold more products than those that didn’t. If your shop takes part, communicate often and early with your customers so they get excited about shopping with you.

 Find Your Next Big Etsy T-Shirt Product with Threadsy

Part of being an enterprising t-shirt shop owner is finding new wholesale t-shirt styles and
bulk sweatshirts to sell on a site like Threadsy. When you shop our apparel, you’ll enjoy top brand names, low prices when you buy in bulk, and fast and free shipping.