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How Much Does it Cost to Start a T-shirt Printing Business at Home?

Selling T-shirts is a slowly growing eCommerce business that any aspiring new business owners can start from the comfort of their homes. It is one of the most profitable businesses to run if you have excellent t-shirt designs, a good marketing strategy, and a suitable target market.

Like any other venture, the most asked question is how much it costs to get started—Moreso, at home as a small startup venture. There is no one size fits all answer for this question as there are many aspects to consider. Some factors to consider include:


Affordable T-Shirt Printing Options

There are several ways to print t-shirts. The most popular methods you can set up at home are heat transfer vinyl and screen print transfers. Ideally, business owners start with little investment and slowly pump more resources as profits increase over time. These two printing methods are less capital-intensive than other alternatives such as screen printing.

Screen Print Transfer

It is a simplified way of printing blank shirts with a heat press. Ideally, you would need to develop the design and send it over to a printing company to order the transfers, which then go on the garment using heat presses.

Screen printing involves capital and labour-intensive initial setup, which may not be the best option for a startup. However, screen print transfers are an excellent alternative for a growing venture to deliver the exact products conveniently. It is also not messy and requires less space and time than commercial screen printers. Since it is not labour-intensive compared to other methods, it is one of the best options for bulk orders for the online t-shirt business.

The transfer cost depends on the number of transfers ultimately determined by the number of t-shirts you want. You get better value printing more transfers than a few pieces using an economy of scale. Customization costs more, so if you want a unique PMS colour, the cost for the transfers is higher. If you intend to sell many t-shirts with the same design, it is best to print many transfers and store the extras; then it is easier to print on demand.

Heat Transfer Vinyl

Another alternative is using heat transfer vinyl which works almost the same way as heat press transfers. However, this method involves more processes and extra equipment to deliver printed custom shirts.

Instead of ordering for heat transfers, you cut out the designs from vinyl then use a heat press to transfer the design. Thus, you need to invest in a special cutter that can cut any design using unique software on your computer. A good cutter that can handle different shapes will cost $200 or higher.

The best part with this alternative is once you buy your own shirts and all the materials, you can have a convenient print-on-demand service without outsourcing any responsibility to an external supplier. For low quantity custom t-shirts, it is an excellent method of printing. If you have larger orders, this method might be time-consuming.


When you start a t-shirt business, you might get clients interested in embroidered products. Due to low startup costs, you might not have embroidery machines at hand. If the order is significant, you can outsource the job and still profit. It costs around $1800 to get a decent machine, and you can invest in one with time.

Business Registration and Licences

Any legitimate business owner must consider registering their business with the local authorities. It helps with credibility, and for large corporate orders, some clients might require a copy of the business licence to confirm if the business is legit.

The shirt business is lucrative, and online scammers take advantage of such ventures. To earn trust from buyers, it is best to register and have all legal paperwork required to operate. It also helps have good standing with local authorities and register for a sales tax certificate.

Getting your own business trademark also protects against other parties copying your t-shirt business name, design ideas, and more. The costs for this vary by location as there are different local authorities, but it is essential to factor in this price when starting a t-shirt business online.

Marketing Costs

Ecommerce platforms have helped reduce marketing expenses significantly while still reaching a large target audience. A great idea is using social media accounts to market products for free. Having your website also helps customers view products and shop online conveniently.

Through the website, clients can sign up for marketing emails that give information about new products, discounts, and more. It is valuable marketing in any business structure, and clients can unsubscribe anytime if they no longer want to receive this communication.

Cost of Initial Inventory

You have probably heard of success stories of people who started with nearly nothing when setting up their e-commerce business. The initial costs may vary depending on the initial scope of the business plan. However, some of the mandatory things include plain shirts in different colours and a heat press, which cost money to start selling.

You can get a heat press for as low as $300, but it might not be the best quality. It is advisable to spend more money but buy a durable heat press to serve the online business longer. On average, it might cost around $700 for a good one.

Other materials include vinyl sheets, cutters, and small items such as tags and packaging. With these, you can transfer any design directly to garment in a matter of minutes. Digital printing is fast and cost-effective.

Small Business Administration Costs

Setting up t-shirt printing at home is a small investment compared to going all out to set up a workshop for your t-shirt company. However, you still incur a few administrative costs even if you are selling t-shirts online.

Some of these hidden costs may include software for inventory management, website hosting, WiFi, among others. Luckily, an online store has fewer overheads than a physical location, significantly cutting down the initial capital costs.

If you need to outsource any services, such as paying a graphic designer for a complicated t-shirt design, this might also add to unseen costs. It is advisable to have a small budget for miscellaneous expenses.

Cost Estimate to Start a T-Shirt Business

Having looked at the various considerations required to own a t-shirt business, the real question remains the minimum amount needed to sell t-shirts online as a startup. On average, it might take anything between $1000 to $1500 to get started if you choose quality t-shirts, equipment, and the required paperwork.

The t-shirt industry has no right or wrong method to start, and you can start with what you have at less than $1000 and grow gradually. You decide how your own t-shirt business operates, which helps determine how much to spend initially.

Should You Start a Home T-Shirt Business?

Absolutely. You can start small and sell on social media, then gradually upgrade to a Shopify store or own website as you get more shirts orders.

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