T-shirt selling on etsy

Etsy is a vibrant online marketplace where those who love to create can meet those who love unique handmade goods. If you've thought of t-shirt selling on Etsy, read on.

Sellers can open an Etsy store with as little as one item, or as many as you find in a brick-and-mortar store. Buyers can click through the thousands of items for sale by searching for specific kinds of items, specific sellers, or even by color or theme. The creativity and range of variety you’ll find on Etsy is amazing. The site truly features something for everyone.

One of the most popular items you’ll find on Etsy is t-shirts. In upcoming posts, we'll introduce you to t-shirt entrepreneurs who sell their t-shirts on Etsy and other popular online marketplaces.

Michael Phipps has been selling his shirts on Etsy for more than two years. His images are often whimsical and incredibly detailed in their designs. The Utah artist started out selling his award-winning drawings online, but soon after switched his artistic medium to t-shirts.

Though he has his own online site, Scatterbrained Tees, he prefers to sell on his Etsy store because each purchase is broadcast to other users, increasing his popularity.

Setting up an Etsy shop is no guarantee your shirts will sell. Even experienced sellers like Michael have had to build up their customer base from one customer.

“Just setting up a shop is hardly better than opening a store in a back alleyway. It takes a lot of work to get things going, but there is a lot of potential there, as Etsy has a lot of dedicated shoppers.”

He says the best way to kick start your shop is to post new designs as often as possible, or at least renew your ads frequently. Renewing your ads will place your item higher up in the search lists as it will appear like a newer ad than your previous posting.

The key to appealing to Esty shoppers is offering a wide range of shirts in a variety of sizes, he says. Visitors who only find one or two shirts in their size are unlikely to visit again.

“I'm getting a little better at judging what might do well, but it's still hard to be sure until something is put up for sale and is put to the test.”

One of the biggest surprises Michael has had on Etsy is which shirts sell quickly, and which don’t.

“When I started selling my artwork on Etsy, my Pointing Hands screen print sold better than anything else- I had no idea it would be popular. So when I started my shirts, one of my first designs was the hands. It's done okay, but has been trumped by just about anything that's followed,” he says.

Here are more Etsy marketing tips for growing your Etsy t-shirt shop

  • Always have a coupon code available for customers to use. Whether it is a return customer or special promo the coupons have worked the best. – Gari Anne, Bead Lovers Korner
  • My business tip/strategy that has brought a lot of traffic to my shop is working with a promoter. I found someone that promotes businesses to many social media outlets and I can see an immediate soar in traffic to my shop. I also promote to my own social media outlets as well which has also been steadily increasing and has had more interaction. – Gina Fagnani, Fabulous Creations
  • I’ve learned to offer sample packages. They are my best sellers and generate many repeat sales. I’ve also learned to only list that I have one of any product in stock, even though I have much more. But that way, each time an item is purchased, I relist the item so it shows up on Etsy’s home page and those that follow me, so it appears to be a NEW item. You have to be prepared for the $.20 relist price, but it helps with visibility, which is the biggest challenge on Etsy! – Tiffany Kirkham, Inkling Scents
  • My strategy is to pick the most unique item in my shop and pay for ads for a few weeks. It brings in a lot of traffic to the shop and they often buy an additional item OR a different item. – Michelle C. Smith, MamaSuds LLC
  • When it comes to marketing my Etsy products, I’ve found a home on Instagram. It’s the queen bee of social media, and the best part is it’s FREE. I post product teasers/sneak peeks, run discount codes exclusive for followers, and give snippets into my life. I’ve learned that people enjoy a little behind-the-scenes look so they know exactly who they’re supporting. – Mindy McCarthy, MinMac
  • Your photographs are your first impression, so photos that are blurry, use bad lighting, or are extremely cluttered are a major pitfall for some makers. Branding is another overlooked opportunity to set yourself apart. Creating a cohesive look for your brand & photography is key in gaining name recognition and attracting customers. – Jess Decelle, Fox & Brie
  • One major marketing strategy I have used to enhance this awareness is sharing high-quality photos on social media. My target market tends to spend time on sites like Wanelo, which has been the most successful and has the ability to share one product, one thousand times in thirty minutes. For anyone looking to increase their sales, I would recommend trying your hand in social media. – Melia Watkins, Araliya Accessories 
  • My tip for new sellers: Respond immediately to any inquiries. I think that what Etsy shoppers are looking for is the connection to the person who makes the product. I enjoy making those connections. – Lisa Eaton, KennebunkLisa
  • Networking through social media has been keystone to growing my marketplace and business reputation over my years as an Etsy shop owner. Both within and outside my industry and normal channels, quality relationships have triggered exponential growth and truly creative opportunities that would have been otherwise overlooked had I not taken considerable time to regularly engage on social media. Developing my tribe and investing time into quality relationships has really given my business the leg up it needed in the online marketplace. – Dana Haddon, CereusArt
  • List as many items as possible. Etsy is very secretive about their search algorithm but one thing I can tell you for sure is that my prominence in Etsy searches went way up when I hit 100 items, and it rises every time I hit a new milestone. – MaryFeuer, Cracked Vessel Vintage
  • Just last week I got a flood of orders after Actor Josh Peck (Ice Age and Nickelodeon) posted it on his Instagram account. I plant photos of my products on the major social media outlets…Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and they sometimes catch on and spread. The trick is to have an unusual product with a great photo, and of course…a lot of luck. Hope this helps you. – Casey Horrigan, Casey’s Mini Shop
  • My biggest word of advice to other Etsy shop owners is to put a little time and effort towards their PR efforts.  There are affordable PR firms out there that enjoy working with small clients – mine included, or they could invest the time themselves.  Even taking a local PR class or two, could help put them in the right direction and potentially in front of millions of consumers – as Good Housekeeping did for me.  They just need to be patient because magazines take 3-4 months to come out and you’ll have to write off any unreturnable samples.  Still, totally worth it in the end! – Jeanine, Okio B Designs
  • I would have to say my most powerful sales driver…is good old fashioned word of mouth. One customer likes their item and shows their friends. woot! I also have been featured on a few great (buyer targeted) gift guide sites. If it’s your target market audience…that feature can be gold!  – AnnMarie Cernoch, Electronic Girl
  • One of the most effective marketing strategies for me has been quality paired with packaging. Each piece I send is individually and elaborately wrapped in fun, colorful paper and ribbon. I started doing this just to create the feeling of getting a gift even though the client knew what was inside. I wanted it to feel special and it did just that. My clients have admittedly returned again and again to get *a present* in the mail. Clients even tweet and post the packaging to Instagram. Knowing they can rely on the quality of what is inside gives them the reason to keep coming back. – Jodi Gonsman, By Jodi
  • The one marketing tip that has worked well for me is giving a substantial loyalty discount code to every new customer when they buy something. I find that people who come back and use it really appreciate it, and often buy several items instead of just one. – Heather McTammany, Skippy Haha Vintage
  • I have tried a few different strategies, but the one that seems to work the best for me has been making sure my keywords are targeted for SEO.  Once I changed the keywords on just one of my listings, my views and likes, and thus revenue in my shop as a whole, has increased tenfold.   – Nicole O’Brien, Unique Pl8z
  • My most effective marketing strategy was taking the time to build a cohesive brand. When I started, I was new to Etsy and had a very bare-bones shop. A few months later, I sat down and developed a brand message for shop and item descriptions, logo, banner, packaging, and item photography. I also doubled my items prices – but in spite of that, sales and favorites more than tripled! – Danielle Ford, bangflashbam
  • My suggestion for other Etsy sellers is to find local and national media who could be interested not only in your products, but in you, and pitch them often. Don’t be afraid to work on a personal angle. I often send pitches to media about the personal transformations in my life, including how I lost and kept off 100 pounds simply through creativity. Since that creativity led to the products I sell in my Etsy shop, it’s all related! – Jacquelyn Fletcher, Jacquelyn Fletcher

Are you selling t-shirts on Etsy? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Share your tips and strategies in the comments below.


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  1. This is good info but what hangs me up is if you start with just a few t-shirt designs how do begin your first inventory? That is, should I have the designs all printed up – a few in each size and ready to mail from my home or do I have a POD print them as they are ordered and have them sent directly to my customer?
    Thank you,

    1. Garison, It really depends on how much money you have to invest in your initial inventory and how much profit you want to make per tee. If you do POD, your profit is a lot less, but your risk is also lower. If you buy inventory and have it on hand, your profit is higher but your risk is also higher, too. So it all depends on what you are comfortable with!

  2. Hi there,
    I was wondering how you have chosen the brand/manufacturer of Tshirt you use for your design? Is it legal to buy and sell a brand name plain T-shirt (I.e from H&M or Hanes) with your design on it? That being said, do you have any cost efficient ways of buying tshirt stock for your designs?

    1. Jess, the best thing to do would be to order a bunch of samples and see which types/styles would fit your brand the best. I have used S&S Activewear to purchase my blanks. I hope this helps!

  3. I’ve been struggling with the decision to list each color of the same shirt as a separate listing or not. Everyone says more listings = more sales. Is this a practice I would want to employ with that theory? Or should they be unique listings? I’m leaning towards unique listings but I’ve certainly seen successfull shops have multiple listings of the same shirt but just a different color. Any thoughts?

    Thanks for the article.

    1. I’m curious about this as well. Have you had any responses? I’ve seen crazy titled listings do very well, even though they have all sorts of keywords jammed in the title – and like you said, for each individual listing. Just seems a bit off-putting or unprofessional, no? If it works, it works, I just don’t know the reasoning. Better SOE?

  4. Hi,
    I have a question regarding how I go about selling product that is not already made. Meaning, is there a way that if I have an idea for a design but have not actually had the product made elsewhere does this site create product in mass production to be able to sell. For example I know that if I were to got to custom ink or another t-shirt site I would be able to upload my logo and ideas and they would create the shirt where possible buyers would be able to see what they are getting and upon order the merchandise would come from the warehouse of the company and I would not have to physically make anything myself, just plug my ideas in. Does this site do anything such as that?

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