Selling tshirts for a few more bucks – passive income style

Selling tshirts – The idea seemed so unlikely at first

I remember stumbling on a post claiming that selling tshirts was the new gold mine everybody should be drilling. The idea resonated with the artist within me so I instantly decided to give it a shot. Several posts claimed tens of thousands of dollars per month, some even more so, I figured that with my photoshop skills (10 years experience), I could at least claim a small percentage of profit right?

Which strategy to follow is key to this business

There are several platforms to sell tshirts. They can basically be broken down to two categories:

  • Online marketplaces where users buy tshirts designed by artists. The manufacturing, flocking and shipping process is handled entirely by these websites. Artists need only upload their designs, put on the right tags and wait for users to find and buy their tshirts. Some of the most famous platforms are redbubble and teespring.
  • Online stores that offer the same service of printing and shipping, but do not have a community of users who can find and buy your designs. You need to advertise your store using your own means (website, social media, etc.). A lot of people create their stores using shopify combined with a service like printiful for flocking and shipping;

These differences impact heavily the margin made by the artist. In Redbubble for instance, you gain around 10% of the retail price. A tshirt that sells for 20€ will make you around 2€. You can adjust this margin of course and increase it to 5€ but then nobody will really buy a 50€ tshirt..

Selling tshirts - redbubble tshirts

Online marketplaces are easy to apprehend

On the other hand, online stores offer a much higher margin, around 45% of retail price, so 9€ for a 20€ tshirt, which is not bad at all. Still you need to pay for shopify’s transaction cost (2% + monthly fixed payments of 29€), but if you scale your business, that will not be too much of a problem.

My main issue with this second option was how to drive users to my store. I did not have a website or blog to advertise my designs. I am not an instafan boy so forget about instagram and pinterest. My personal twitter had a thousand followers but it was work related and I wanted to keep my business apart from my personal life.

I decided to start with online marketplaces to build a brand, before moving on to an independent store. I liked Redbubble’s platform so I mainly focused on it.

Wait, what about the design?

Now let us talk about the actual tshirts I designed. I don’t know about you but I never buy flashy tshirts with complex designs and art work. Most of my tshirts are dark with a giant quote or an abstract logo. Sober, sometimes funny and quite easy to make on photoshop.

I wanted to specialize in a theme that could be easily found on Redbubble, something people will think about buying for their friends because they are a fan of something. So I naturally thought of TV shows, and what better TV show than Game of Thrones 🙂 ?

I compiled as many quotes of good ol’ Tyrion as I could find and put them on tshirts:


Selling tshirts - tshirt redbubble

Selling tshirts – This design is similar to what I did. Credit goes to @dreamwears.

I did the same for other funny characters from different TV shows. Though the tshirts as you can see are pretty simple, it still took me a couple of days to work out the right size, resolution, which type of tshirts to offer, etc. Redbubble offers to sell stickers, iPhone cases, pillows, all sort of accessories so I had to customize those as well. All in all I have 57 designs uploaded and ready to sell.

Waiting for sales…

Anyway, a couple of days passed as I waited patiently for my sale…nothing. Well that is the disadvantage of online market places, too much competition. I decided to run Facebook ads as some people suggested, but after spending 100€ on a 3 days marketing campaign with no sales whatsoever I decided to stop. People were clicking on ads, I could see it on the sales manager. They were simply not buying.

Selling tshirts - redbubble income

Selling tshirts – Redbubble sales dashboard after facebook ads


I was a bit disappointed, so I let it go and concentrated on other income experiments. A couple of months later, I received an email from redbubble:

First sale on redbubble

Selling tshirts – My first sale on redbubble

My first sale…for a total of 0.20€! Yey me. Every week or so I got a new sales notification. It almost always was stickers with their 0,20€ interest. I stopped uploading tshirt designs as this was not the kind of income I was after. Still to this day I sell around 100 items a month (mostly stickers) for a total of 30-40€. It is almost always the same quote that sells, even though I have 56 other similar ideas, with the same keywords… Go figure 😀

Selling tshirts - redbubble income sales

Selling tshirts – 396 articles sold of the same design. 99% were stickers


Selling tshirts - redbubble income report

Selling tshirts – My income report on Redbubble

Every now and then I think of something funny and make a tshirt out of it. 99% of the time it simply does not sell. I am sure I am missing something here. I just need to replicate the success of that one successful design a couple of times to turn this into a decent business, but for the life of me I cannot figure it out yet… Anyhow, this is my ongoing experience with tshirts. If you have something to share on this business, please go a head!

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