Now is a good time as any to finally make that custom t-shirt biz a reality. We’re reviewing 8 of the most popular websites to help you choose the best print-on-demand (POD) platform for your t-shirt design business.
Any e-commerce platform needs to be reliable, affordable, and tailored to your needs (whether that relates to how you get paid, what custom products you can design, and how much promo and marketing you need to do).
When it comes to merch like custom t-shirts, hoodies, and phone cases, there’s a ton of good websites you can launch your business on. To help you choose the best one, we’re looking at 8 of the biggest competitors.
Each of these custom design e-commerce websites has a very similar model; however, a few specifics can make one of them the best choice for your custom t-shirt business.
This platform is very simple to use: you can even use Teespring to make custom designs if you’re not familiar with design tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. It’s an excellent choice for newbies since the base costs are fairly affordable. It’s focused on clothing, and there is quite a range of designs for t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and tank tops. There are a few other types of designs, like phone cases, mugs, stickers, and prints.
Another great feature of this platform is the Teespring Boosted Network is a collection of marketplaces (like eBay and Amazon) and automated promotional tools that help you sell more.
The main downside is that you have a limited time to sell a design (campaign). You can set the campaign to last 3 - 21 days, and if you don’t sell anything in the selected timeframe, your designs are taken down.
If you’re worried about traffic, know that on Zazzle, you’re in pretty good company: huge players like DC Comics and Disney use it to sell their merch. It’s very user-friendly; for example, you don’t need to do a design review for each type of design (the platform automatically adapts the size and format). The specific thing about this website is that customers can make the designs completely custom (for example, change fonts), which can increase the price and your earnings!
There are 3 ways to earn money on Zazzle:
- As a designer /seller (selling your designs)
- As a virtual marketplace (you can sell your products, you don’t need design skills);
- Affiliate program (you get a percentage of sales revenue promoting products).
You can sell via their online marketplace or create your online store. The differences are that in a marketplace you get 10% commission from the pre-set selling price, while in a shop you’re in charge of setting the price of your custom products. A marketplace can be a good solution if you know a little bit about SEO (choosing the right keywords is essential when you’re competing in a crowded space).
Redbubble has been around since 2006, so if you decide to sell your stuff through them, it’s relatively sure you’ll get some traffic. They operate globally, and their website is available in several languages. There is a vast range of custom products you can sell, including things like stationery and home decor.
However, this also means one drawback: the product base price depends on the delivery address (things like cost of local production, material cost, taxes, etc.). This means that if you’re looking to sell worldwide—or even nationwide, it may be difficult to calculate the cost and your earnings upfront.
Unlike the rest of these print on demand websites, Merch by Amazon is a more exclusive club. Rather than just signing up, you need to submit an application and be accepted. At first, you will be limited to 25 designs, but once you sell 25 items, you’ll be upgraded to 100. Another great feature of this service is Amazon Best Seller Rank, which can help you determine what designs and styles are popular (e.g., retro or nerd prints).
Finally, when considering setting a sale price, make sure you take into account your upload tier—if you’re entirely new to the platform you might want to consider selling more products at lower prices so that you can slowly get to a higher tier and be able to upload more designs (and earn more revenue).
If it’s t-shirts that you’re interested in, remember that this platform is tailored to selling art prints (it’s the only item you’re free to set your price for). In addition to that, some of the base prices are slightly higher, which could mean a bigger profit for you, but also a less competitive price than some of the other websites.
The biggest drawback is the default markup of 10% which applies to everything except art prints (this means stickers, home decor, t-shirts, hoodies, leggings, etc.)
Like Zazzle, Spreadshirt is another option that offers the choice between selling over a virtual marketplace and setting up an online shop. Unlike Zazzle, setting up an online shop with Spreadshirt allows you to customize your layout with colors and fonts to match your brand.
Another cool thing is the hit list in their marketplace search feature, which shows some current trendy themes like geek, couples, vintage, vegan, etc.
The biggest difference with Threadless is that you can’t automatically start selling. Once you submit a design, you need to be upvoted by the community to join this marketplace. This is both a good and bad feature: it’s harder to get in, but then it also filters out some of the competition.
In addition to selling over Threadless Marketplace or setting up your shop with them, this site goes one step further in helping you manage your online shop. You’re free to do everything manually, however, it’s also possible to activate the setting ‘Let Threadless manage my shop’s pricing and promotions’ whereby the platform manages your store in a way to help sales grow.
As you can see, these t-shirt websites are all quite similar, and there are no guarantees which one will work out best for you. In the end, it’s a combination of strategy, promo efforts, timing (are you tuning into the trends), and, of course, talent.
When it comes to style and great design, you may want to consider some extra help! ManyPixels designers can help you.