An online T-shirt shop at a print-on-demand site can create another income stream for a writer at almost no cost. To set up shop you need a computer, an Internet connection, time, an account at a POD site, and an image editor. To be a success, you need to find and use good keywords.
Q: I’m a professional writer looking for extra income between writing gigs. What do I need to start a successful print-on-demand T-shirt store?
A: A print-on-demand (POD) T-shirt store is a great way to turn a creative, enjoyable activity into an income. You set up an online store at a POD site and put up your designs as graphics files. When a customer chooses one of your designs for a T-shirt or other product, the product is printed just for their order and you earn a markup over the price the POD company charges. The POD company handles printing, shipping, billing, returns, and bookkeeping. You don’t need to maintain an inventory.
To set up shop, you need an Internet connection, of course, to transfer your designs to a print-on-demand company. You need a computer, so you can edit your designs. You need time to devote, and you need to devote the time.
You need an account at one of the print-on-demand web sites. Printfection and Zazzle don’t charge you anything to set up shop there. At CafePress, you pay $ 60 for each premium shop you set up. “Premium shop” means the kind of shop you get at either Printfection or Zazzle for free. On he other hand, CafePress advertises a lot. You will probably get more customers through their marketplace.
You need an image editor. You can get one free from gimp.org: the GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is more than powerful enough for anything you will want to do with it.
You need ideas for designs. The ideas don’t have to be brilliant. You only have to express the attitudes, feelings, and beliefs of your customers.
You need feedback on your designs. You could just wait to see how well they sell, but you might have to wait a long time to find out, especially if the designs aren’t particularly popular. You can get good suggestions about them at the at the print-on-demand site’s members’ forum. The more experienced members are usually more than happy to help out newcomers.
To sell T-shirts or anything else on the Internet, you need good key words. The first thing you must ask yourself is, “What would people type into a search engine if they were looking for a product like mine?” It may take a while to explore the various ways they might say it. The next question is, “How many times do people actually search for that keyword phrase in a month?” You can find that using the Google keyword tool. The next question is, “Just how many competing pages or products will they find if they type that keyword?” To get an estimate, type the keyword phrase, in quotes, into the Google search page. If there are too few searches for the keyword phrase, or too many competing pages, it’s not worth trying to use it. If you can’t find good keywords for a design idea, you’ll make more money if you try something else.
You need to attract people to your shop. There are three ways you can go about this. First, you need to fill up your shop pages with good keywords. This will help tell the search engines what your shop is providing.
Second, you can advertise your shop. The problem with advertising your shop is that the typical markup on a T-shirt is about two dollars, and the typical purchase is one T-shirt. Consequently, you want to spend less than, preferably considerably less than, two dollars per customer you attract to your shop, and not every visitor you attract with your ads will become a customer. What this means is that you need to use really cheap advertising.
Third, you can get quality back links to your shop to enhance its Google page rank. A back link is a link from some other site to your shop. It’s a quality back link if its anchor text contains your keywords and it appears on a page that is important and relevant to what your shop contains. There are various relatively simple ways to get quality back links, so this is not a major problem. Basically, you give away information with your back links attached.
Those are the main things you need to set up your own print on demand T-shirt store on the web. There are two things you do not need:
You do not need much money. You probably already have the computer, the Internet connection, and the time, so they won’t cost you any extra. You can get a free account at a quality print-on-demand site. You can get a good image editor for free.
You do not need great talent as a graphic designer. Text-only T-shirts can sell. Remember, these are self expression products; the most important thing is that they say what your customers want to say.
As you can see, you have pretty much everything you need to start your own print on demand T-shirt store. The major needs are some time and some knowledge.
How much will you earn? That’s between you and your customers. Most people who set up shop earn nothing: they typically just put up a few designs and wait. Not knowing how to find good keywords and use them, they give up in frustration. People who know how to promote their shops can earn a decent living.
T-shirt Store, Keyword Phrase, Good Keywords, Quality Back, Back Links