How to Start a Clothing Printing Business - Learn from the Top Printers

Marina Vasilyeva

Marina Vasilyeva, Client Manager in Multi-Programming Solutions  •  8 min read

Building a successful print on demand clothing business in 2023 is an occupation that opens up many prospects for entrepreneurs and, at the same time, carries a lot of challenges. Modern customers want to purchase qualitative stuff at a minimum lower price. Moreover, they are waiting for fast production and delivery service and are searching for private label clothing manufacturers that will do it for no extra costs.

While some printers agree to such conditions being content with low margins, that’s not the objective your startup should focus on to build a valuable brand, receive competitive advantages, and generate profits. This article will describe what you need to start a shirt printing business, how to minimize the risks of wasting resources, and which methods to use to succeed.

Table of Contents

Key features of the world's best printers

How to become the best print service provider?

How does Pareto's Law define your business


We’d like to begin our guide about apparel printing for beginners by describing the key business approaches of the best print on demand services. They have been operating in the industry for decades and continue fighting market challenges, scaling, and satisfying growing buyers' demands.

A suitable printing type

Every print on demand service provider suggests at least one kind of POD method for fulfilling customers’ orders. The most widespread are direct-to-garment (DTG), vinyl, sublimation, screen, heat transfer, and other types. They all differ by t-shirt printing business startup cost, complexity, and the final image brightness and durability. So, the first thing you need to do to start a t-shirt printing business is to determine the design you’d like to produce.

If you plan to print only cotton t-shirts, bags, caps, and hoodies, then take a look at the DTG stuff as the first equipment for the t-shirt printing business. To produce high-quality pictures on polyester, read more about sublimation dye.

While big organizations with large warehouses and dozens of employees can provide several printing options, you may question: what do I need to start a t-shirt printing business at home? One of the possible variants is investing in a vinyl cutter and a heating machine for small volumes of customized cloth. 

A well-organized website

A user-friendly page where customers can pick up products from a wide assortment, add a design to their liking, write texts for prints, etc., was a must for every productive t-shirt printing business startup in 2023. 

You also need a virtual place to introduce yourself, showcase apparel, and provide different types of printing services. Think about what custom design you’ll start from: shall it be simple text form or high-resolution art? Will your customers be able to personalize their stuff, for example, order pet pictures or print clients' personal logos?

Reliable suppliers

Before you implement small printing business marketing ideas and start accepting first orders, you should have a complete inventory of supplies, including blank t-shirts (or another fabric for clothing you will customize), ink, powder, Teflon sheets, postcards, packaging materials, like a cartoon, corrugated boxes, plastic bags and other goods you require for producing on-demand cloth and its shipping to the end customer. So finding trustworthy suppliers is one of the first tasks to solve when starting a clothing printing business. 

It should be mentioned that buying expendable materials in bulk at a wholesale price can be more cost-effective and influence the margin volume.

Third-party software integrations

Successful POD providers include optimization of routine operations in their t-shirt printing business marketing plan. By integrating dedicated software, like Podza, entrepreneurs streamline business processes and take control over orders fulfillment, inventory stock, and generating reports. Applications can seamlessly integrate with your online stores, like Shopify or Etsy, ensuring sales automation, better productivity, and improved customer experience. 

Affordable shipping

World’s best providers usually produce merch within 1 to 3 days from the order placing date. Then they pack the clothes and send them with chosen carriers; the delivery takes an additional 2 to 7 business days, depending on the final destination. 

When developing a printing cloth business marketing strategy, you should consider which logistics company to partner with and whether the shipping costs are included in the order. You may suggest an average price for any kind of purchase or calculate it depending on the amount of stuff sold per order.

Printing & Shipping: the Best Options Worldwide

Today’s print on demand companies struggle for a living trying to adopt new methods that most customers want to be applied in their custom apparel. Instead of focusing on high-quality products and services or t-shirt printing business plans for further improvements, many entrepreneurs try to compensate for low margins with large sales volumes. Business owners invest in new equipment capable of printing more garments and satisfying the majority of average tastes, but actually, that doesn’t raise the organization profitability. In fact, that leads to business exhaustion and constant rat races and leaves too less time for valuable insights and optimization.

Then how to start a t-shirt printing business oriented on success? Mike Ruff, a grand-format screen printing specialist with over 40 years of experience in industry and consulting, answers. During his carrier, he helped many POD companies survive and keep a competitive advantage in the market. So is the t-shirt printing business profitable? It can become such if entrepreneurs know what to pay attention to. Ruff’s main advice is to stick to the bottom-line margin, find your customer who is capable of paying for the qualitative product and focus efforts on satisfying the majority of premium class demands, which as a result, will bring 80% of the entire profit.

Ruff emphasizes the main advantages of such a strategy for starting a printing business at home and figures out several reasons why this approach is beneficial for printers:

  • It frees up valuable resources from doing low-profit everyday tasks on serving the needs of the target customers, which are the primary source of your revenue.
  • It helps to attract clients who can pay for premium-class service and fast fulfillment. And your company will be able to cope with the order just with your shirt printing machine starter kit because you don’t waste all the working time on mass production.
  • It adds value to the company. You can talk about your brand not as a fast-food model of printing service but as a company that respects itself and its customers and employees.

80% of profit, Ruff talks about, is a Pareto Law of profitability, which was discovered in 1856. What is it all about, and how to start a printing business following this principle? Let’s learn from the next chapter.

t shirt printing business

The 80-20 principle is widely used in a great variety of events to describe the actual state of things. So the principle states that only 20% of efforts result in 80% effects. And this is how the law is applied to print on demand businesses:

  • 20% of clients conclude 80% of online shop sales;
  • 20% of products bring 80% of revenue to your brand;
  • only 20% of time spent on business management really contributes to valuable insights.

Being aware of the Pareto principle helps POD entrepreneurs to establish priorities. So, how to start a printing t-shirt business using the 20/80 method? For example, it’s more crucial to focus on satisfying 20% of your customers or finding new “look-like” ones than spending time on increasing the engagement level for 80% of buyers, who contribute only to 20% of the profit.

As it can be calculated, around 80% of everyday tasks make your company only 20% productivity. So, maybe, it’s worth thinking of delegating and optimizing workflows with print on demand software, which will help you become more efficient and profit-oriented.

If you want to succeed tomorrow, make things no one wants to do today. The 20% of everyday tasks which really contribute to business development are, in most cases, hard to begin and handle. That’s why it is worth making the most critical moves in the first part of the day. Then everything else will be easy to do during the rest time.

Starting a POD company begins with developing a printing business marketing plan. Modern entrepreneurs now have lots of information from open sources to prepare for their POD journey. World’s best practices help to figure out how other businesses cope with everyday tasks, like finding an appropriate niche to succeed in and picking up a low-cost printing method for organizing the production line at home.

At the same time, management rules established hundreds of years ago still are used by industry leaders and assist them in wise decision-making. Following Pareto’s law in operating your POD company will help you to figure out everything needed to start a printing business and build a robust bottom line margin. And with this solid base, your organization will be able to withstand any disruptions, pandemics, and market changes.

PoD ProductsMarch 28, 2023
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