There is no better time to get ready to make big sales on Etsy in 2023 than right now.
My first proven results with Etsy came back in 2013. Fast forward to 2023, and not much has changed. Etsy is still a great place to sell t-shirts and handmade items.
Etsy is a trusted retail marketplace that has stood the test of time and is still a popular place for creatives, designers, and entrepreneurs to sell their goods. As someone who has sold on the Etsy platform for many years, I highly recommend Etsy as the best marketplace for selling t-shirts in any niche market. You can also trust the market research:
In 2021, roughly 7.5 million sellers sold goods through the Etsy platform, up from approximately 4.4 million active sellers in the previous year. By comparison, there were over 96 million active Etsy buyers worldwide.Source: Statista
To help you on your path to success in 2023, I’ve compiled my favorite tips for small business owners looking to sell t-shirts—more specifically, how to sell t-shirts on Etsy.
To reap the benefits of the Etsy platform, I’d like you to take some time to discover these best practices for selling t-shirts on Etsy. This information can also help you create a passive income with an apparel brand.
Why Use Etsy to Sell T-shirts?
Etsy has a marketplace of more than 39 million viewers. It is extremely easy to create and post your t-shirt designs on Etsy and start selling to this giant customer base.
Another great thing about leveraging Etsy to sell your t-shirts is that you can create an online store quickly, launch your products, and determine how they will be received by your audience in record time.
If you were to start an e-commerce website to sell your t-shirts, you wouldn’t get audience feedback until you’ve marketed your store first to get traffic. With Etsy, you can place your t-shirts in front of your ideal customer within hours of posting your products.
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 also a favorite marketplace for 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 t-shirts for Dads on Father’s day. It’s more the daughters than the sons. The 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.
Last year, Etsy 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 to create and sell your own t-shirt 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 Q4 of 2021, and there are no signs of slowing down for this great marketplace in Q4 of 2022.
Know Your T-shirt Audience on Etsy
As you start to look into how to sell t-shirts on Etsy, the first step is to “know your t-shirt audience.” Who you want to reach. What does the current Etsy audience 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. A great design can yield a higher price than other successful shops. Customers will pay more for products that have a brand identity.
Zone in on your target by looking in the mirror. What kind of things do you personally enjoy? 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? Then go to Etsy and search for some of these. See what different products show up in the search results. Check each Etsy storefront and get an idea of how much traffic and sales they get by the number of reviews they have, as well as the age of their store.
If you are a Veteran or a Police Officer, maybe creating a military or tactical brand is the way you want to go.
If you are a mom who fosters 5 kids, then maybe you create a new Etsy shop around foster moms. Each Etsy t-shirt business is different. But all Etsy brands have things in common. The successful shops are the ones you need to pay attention to.
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 Etsy T-shirt Fulfillment
Years ago, small businesses had a few choices to bring t-shirt designs to life (before t-shirt mockup programs). Most of them involved screen printing or vinyl printing, both of which had significant start-up costs. Unless you had a lot of money to invest, you would 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, Printbest, 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 t-shirts.
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 and POD products. 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.
Which Print on Demand Platform Do I Use?
I have used Printify since April 2020, and while Etsy is a small part of our business, we have sold a lot of shirts on Etsy. All the POD platforms have their own great features. But Printify has the lowest price for a front print t-shirt, especially low if you are on the $29/mo. premium platform.
This gives any Etsy seller a lot of profit margin compared to the other platforms. I pay $8.05 for a front print Bella Canvas 3001 with Printify.
Printful is also a really great platform that I have started to use more and more. The big advantage to Printful is the fact that you can build a real brand. With printed neck tags, sleeve prints, and “pack-ins” you can provide your customers on Etsy a next-level experience.
Not only will customers love the custom pack-ins and the brand, you can sell your Printful shirts for a much higher price because of the quality, and because “logo-tagged” shirts come from a real brand that customers can get behind.
Create Shirts with a Vinyl Cutter to Sell on Etsy
While Print-on-demand is my favorite way to create a brand on Etsy today, there are other options. My second favorite option is a method I’ve used to sell a lot of t-shirts on Etsy: Vinyl Cutter + Heat Press.
While there are instant limitations to creating designs with a vinyl cutter, there are also some great advantages as well.
Disadvantages with Vinyl Printing
- You will be able to print fewer colors on a shirt
- Designs with intricate details will not work well with Vinyl
- Vinyl cannot cut distressed designs or designs with gradients
- You will have to package and ship your own products
Advantages with Vinyl Printing
- Profit Margins are higher when you print at home with heat transfer vinyl
- You can send pack-ins like stickers, business cards, and hand-signed letters
- With vinyl, you can print front and back without the high cost of doing the same on POD
- You have full control of your prints. You don’t have to worry about quality
- Vinyl lasts much longer than POD prints from my experience. I have a 10 year old vinyl shirt I printed that is still holding up strong.
- You can do glitter, textures, metallic, glow-in-the-dark, and more with heat transfer vinyl.
All in all, vinyl is a fantastic option for creating shirts to sell on Etsy. It is my 2nd favorite, and if I needed to print glittery designs, etc., it would be my #1 choice.
For Glitter, Metallic, Standard, Sublimation, Print & Cut, and other heat transfer vinyls, our go-to favorite store is Heat Press Nation. They have the best selection and prices and have over 58k reviews of 4.8+. Visit Heat Press Nation to see their heat transfer vinyl selection, their heat presses, and vinyl cutters. They have everything you need to get started at low prices.
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.
Where Do Etsy Sellers Buy Their Shirts?
Many Etsy sellers use print-on-demand fulfillment like Printify or Printful. Those sellers buy their shirts from the POD platforms.
Sellers who create their shirts using screen printing or vinyl buy their shirts from Wholesale T-shirt distributors and discount t-shirt outlets online. Here are a few t-shirt distributors that Etsy sellers use:
What Kind of T-shirt Do Etsy Sellers Use?
The Bella Canvas 3001 is the most popular t-shirt used by Etsy sellers. This shirt is made with pre-shrunk 100% airlume combed and ringspun cotton.
This is also the type of t-shirt that we sell the most of, and customers rave about the quality of the Bella t-shirts in the reviews. This shirt is much softer than less expensive brands like Gildan, but is still at a good price point to give sellers a nice profit margin.
Key to Successful Etsy T-shirt Brands
Quality is the key to successful Etsy t-shirt stores. Quality products, quality images, and quality customer service. This means often passing an extra eye to ensure your product is top-notch. So make sure you consult with a couple of people you know who 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. Don’t upload low-quality images on your product pages. Make sure your prints are high quality.
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.
Create a Lot of T-shirt Designs for Etsy
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. StardustDesignUS has 53,796 sales, is one of the largest Etsy apparel stores, and has over 1840 products listed in their 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.
How to Send Customers to your Etsy Store
First off, the great thing about Etsy is there is already an audience waiting for you there. But to get your products to customers faster, you can do a few things:
- 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 2022, 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 of TshirtGrowth. He has sold t-shirts since 2006 through dropshipping, screen printing, vinyl printing, DTG, Print on Demand, and more. Bryan has created his own t-shirt designs through Photoshop, Canva, and other platforms, as well as worked with freelancers to create many of his designs. Besides t-shirts, Bryan has 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.