T-shirt Design, Print on Demand, and Me

•••This post contains affiliate links to the materials and tools I use. I make a small commission from anything you buy.•••

T-shirt design is one way to promote my design skills, such as they are. POD (print-on-demand) for printing the physical shirts and shipping them out means I can do this from Mexico (that’s where I live). I’m going to tell you why I put my art on shirts, and what happens when I do that.

T-shirt designs

So in an earlier post, you can see a couple of my shirts. I put them up for sale on Redbubble because a couple of my friends encouraged me to make a shirt from an image I posted on tumblr of an icon of a saint, only the saint is Marc Andre Fleury.

Goalie Marc Andre Fleury as a saint.
Goalie Marc Andre Fleury as a saint.

I already had some simple designs up, that I had made for people who had specific shirts they wanted, so it was easy enough for me to add the design to what was already in my shop. Originally, my ‘Saint Fleury’ image had gradients. Because those print poorly, I had to take them out, also I changed the Vegas Golden Knights logo because I don’t have the rights for that.

Some of my shirts are really plain and silly.

POD shirt: plain 'hockey dot' white on black t-shirt
POD shirt: plain ‘hockey dot’ white on black t-shirt

So there’s a tumblr post that I can’t find that says something like, ‘Jack Zimmerman loves hockey so much he wears a shirt that says hockey in a plain font un-ironically.’ So I made one! I’m the only one who ever bought this shirt, haha. I’m a big Check! Please fan. Ngozi’s comic got me back into hockey, actually. Read it, if you haven’t already.

POD Sales

I’m not my only customer. People really do buy my shirts! You can imagine how excited I was at my first sale. I make the bulk of my sales through Amazon (you have to request an invitation to Merch by Amazon), and the next most through Redbubble. You set the price for your shirts, anywhere from cost (around $12) to $25 or even $30, depending on how much you think your design is worth, plus the shirt and printing costs. I get from $2 to $5 in royalties from each sale, plus there’s a 30% tax I’ll pay on that at tax time.

Now, I’m not going to live on an island in the Caribbean with the income from these t-shirts. But! This side hustle I have going has paid for the domain name and site hosting for this site, as well as some cool font bundles that I use for my more boring t-shirts.

POD t-shirt businesses aren’t new, and there is a lot online about how to go about starting your own. I learned everything I needed to know without paying for a course or an ebook. Since the only investment is time, selling a t-shirt is as easy as putting a design online. If you’re lucky, buyers find you through organic search, because they’re looking online for shirts like yours. Most people who buy my shirts find them this way. Here’s a couple links about selling shirts via POD (not an endorsement):

Niche Pursuits
Passive Shirt Profits

To reiterate: everything you need to know about selling t-shirts through PODs is free online; therefore, you don’t need to buy a course, or ebook, or artwork, or illustrating software to be successful.

Free:

Fonts

Artwork

Design software

Keyword search tools for Merch shirts

Keyword and SEO tools

That said, subscription stuff like search tools designed to help you find out what’s selling, like the Merch Informer suite of tools, and design software, like Adobe Illustrator, will make your life easier. (Note: if you pay the lower monthly fee for Illustrator, the ‘annual plan paid monthly’, you are bound by a one-year contract. If you cancel your subscription, you pay half the remainder of the contract as a cancellation fee.)

Marketing

In theory, by posting my shirts in my social media and on this blog, I’m marketing my shirts; however, most of my shirts have nothing to do with hockey or art and I’m never going to make posts about those. If I wanted to make a blog to sell shirts, I wouldn’t pick my own art, or hockey art specifically. I’d pick something more universal, like pet ownership. Although some people make marketing and selling shirts to a particular interest group their full-time job, that’s not me.

Goal

I’m not an art school grad. Learning to draw was my New Year’s resolution in 2017. My goal now is to be able to sketch well at a live hockey game, and have a sketch book of gesture drawings of hockey players. To get there, I need to sell enough shirts to buy a ticket to a hockey game, and be a good enough artist by then to be able to sketch the players. That’s what the t-shirts are for.

Also, I’ll have to find a game to go to -Mexico isn’t a hockey country. But that’s another subject for another day.

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