Part 3: Running Your Business – Which Platform is Best for You?
Practical Costs and Pricing Strategy:
Whilst we have already examined the different methods of printing and the various machines you can use and hopefully you have an idea of which option is best for you, we have not touched upon the exact costs of setting up your business. For those starting out printing solution companies offer a specially tailored ‘starter pack’ from about £2,500. This will include all of the equipment necessary to launch a printing business such as a printer, digital cutter, weeder, silicone paper and even a support program to help you through any teething difficulties. You will find many major providers who offer this service and again, Xpres are a great choice for those based in the UK.
If you have already decided that this equipment doesn’t suit your needs then you may wish to invest in an alternative package. If you are convinced vinyl is the way forward you will need specialised equipment such as a cutter that can cost anything upwards of £250. All of the equipment mentioned has a relatively long-lasting life span and so any costs you will incur upon purchase will likely be one-off start up fees. Heat presses and printers are durable machines that will not need to be replaced for years.
Once your equipment is purchased you must asses your pricing strategy. Generating profit will naturally be your primary concern, but it can be challenging to find the right price quota if you’re just getting started. The best advice is to identify your rivals in the market and to evaluate their business approach. You might be entering the market with a high-end product or more of a novelty item and it is senseless charging 25% more than your main competitors just because you have failed to establish your niche. You must also ask yourself how much money you expect to receive from your business venture and whether you are more interested in increasing sales than money in the bank. Your own personal financial situation and precisely what you want out of the business is integral to the pricing strategy you will formulate.
How Best to Market and Sell:
Having designed and created a new t-shirt and priced it correctly you need to take it to the masses. Marketing your design is essential to drum up business and the best and most cost-efficient way to do this is probably through a social networking site. MySpace is particularly popular and if you have a cursory glance through you will find many independent t shirt designers have set up pages, so it is important to be sure you stand out from the crowd. If you do join be sure to add us to your friends list!
Once customers are aware of your product you will need to provide a means to sell it to them. You can do this in the traditional manner and set up a shop with telephone transactions and customers off the street. The costs of renting floor space might well prove prohibitive to a new business, and this is where the option of selling your clothing online begins to look attractive. If you choose to sell online then you can either build your own commerce store from scratch, which will require an in-depth knowledge of e-commerce platforms and day-to-day attention, or use Ebay. Ebay will allow you to create a store as part of their auction platform and you can delve into a ready made customer base whose searches for designed t shirts will now unearth your store. There is of course stiff competition and Ebay will charge you both for advertising and a commission on each product sold, but it is a fantastic shortcut to building a loyal customer base.
If you are unwilling to go this far with your business and just love creating t shirts you can always take your completed designs and pitch them to an established retail outlet or even a major label. To minimise chances of rejection, try to approach those who specialise in the area of design you are involved in. Perhaps your designs might even draw inspiration from a certain company you dream of working for.
Protecting Your Designs:
So you’ve created the next big thing, the most desirable design of the year. What is to stop somebody seeing your wonderful design and ripping it off? Protecting your work is one of those steps which many artistic types neglect. While being wrapped up in the creative side of the business world is great you must remember to deal with practical issues. It is possible to trademark your designs, but ultimately this will cost you a great deal of time and money and will only be worth it if you‘re sure your design is going to be massively popular. A cheaper option is to copyright your t-shirts and if you notice anybody stealing your work you are able to send a Cease and Desist order which, if you can prove the design has been unlawfully stolen, entitles you to every penny. The drawback of copywriting is that it protects you only if someone takes your work as a whole and distributes it without your permission, but it does not cover you if someone takes your work and modifies it significantly. For more information on copyrighting, visit the Government’s website on intellectual property.
Some Final Advice:
It can be a lonely and frightening experience to set up a business from the ground up, which is why it is always comforting to hear from people who have been there and done it already. The web is a great way to speak to these people and you might want to visit some forums or sites with members who started out just like you are about to. T-shirtForums.com is a great place to find friendly people with a range of tips, support and general advice on any aspect of the t shirt design and creation business.
Running any business, whether you are in it to make money or because you want to see your designs out there, is going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment. However there is no reason why with drive and passion your t-shirt designs cannot be the next sensational breakthrough product in the market. We hope this guide has pushed you along the first step towards becoming a successful t-shirt designer and wish you the best of luck in setting up your business. Who knows? Before long it may be your brand of tees we stock!