If you’re reading this, you probably came up with the greatest idea ever for a clothing brand. You have a professional mindset and want to launch a brand that’s taken seriously.
But let’s be real. Things like getting your products produced, having a custom online shop developed and marketing your business can quickly add up to several hundreds (or thousands) of dollars that you don’t have. And this is money spent before you actually make a single sale. As much as you believe in your brand, you’re hesitant to risk your savings, or borrowing all of this money, to put towards an unproven business.
But what if you could start your business for under $100? And actually look and operate like a “real” company? Sounds impossible? Well, check out the guide below for steps you can take right now to turn your concept to a retail-ready business on a tiny budget.
You’re Already a Designer
This guide assumes you are a designer, who’s already done the following:
- Established your brand identity (logo, etc.)
- Have a program like Photoshop or Illustrator for creating and modifying designs and photos
- Created finished designs for a few products you plan on selling
Since a lot of clothing brand owners are designers or artists to some degree, we won’t go into the design aspect for the sake of this article.
Get Your Products Produced for No Money Down!
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get all of your great designs produced without paying anything…until someone actually buys them? As a designer, I’m sure you’ve created dozens of t-shirt designs. It was all fun and games creating them, but now you’re thinking “Wait? How am I gonna pay to get all of these printed?”
That’s where Printful comes in. You can get your t-shirt designs printed on-demand instead.
In past years, we used to frown upon brands using POD services to produce shirts due to design limitations and packaging that blatantly had the POD company’s name all over it, instead of the your brand name and logo.
But with a service like Printful, you get the benefits of print-on demand, plus the following:
- Product costs that allow for a decent profit margin
- Products produced and ready for shipment within 2-7 business days
- Shipped directly from Printful to the customer
- Custom printed size labels
- Packaging with your own custom label (a sticker)
- Packaging slips and shipping labels with your brand name (instead of “Printful”) on it
- Get other custom products produced like hats and posters
By printing your designs on-demand, you can potentially have hundreds of products to sell at the same time. You can upload your finished designs to the mockup generator to create product shots.
For a new brand, Printful serves as a testing ground for seeing how well your products sell. Eventually, you’ll want to move on to bulk production and carry stock in order to increase profits and ship orders faster. But even then, Printful offers a great chance for just in time product releases for current events and holidays.
Now that you have a source for producing your products on-demand, you’ll need to have a storefront to sell those products.
We highly recommend using Shopify for your online shop platform. With it’s easy to use interface and abundance of features (SEO, sales reports, discount codes, etc.) Shopify is a great e-commerce platform for apparel brands small and large. Shopify has a 14-day free trial and starts at just $29/mo. With a minor 2% Shopify transaction fee, all it takes is a couple of sales to make your money back.
Plus, Printful integrates with Shopify! So when a customer orders a product from your shop (that you set up to Printful), the order will automatically get sent to Printful for production. Once Printful finishes producing the products, the order will get shipped out to the customer and they will automatically receive the tracking info. It doesn’t get more seamless than that!
As far as the shop design goes, Shopify has several high quality free themes to choose from. You can hop right in and have a beautifully designed shop setup right away after getting started.
Time to Let the World Know!
With your online shop up and running, you will need to find a way to spread the word about your company.
The first step would be to contact blogs and online publications about your brand. Research and make a list of websites that your potential customers are likely to visit. The easiest way to do this is through Instagram.
Start off with one popular blog and find their Instagram page. While on their Instagram page, next to the follow button, click on the tab to view suggested Instagram users. You will discover Instagram users that are similar, which will include blogs, publications, brands, as well as popular users that follow that page.
Based on your market research, you can decide on what angle you would like to approach the blog. Each blog or publication will have guidelines on how to contact them either listed on their site or social media page. It is important to carefully read over the guidelines and follow them as you prepare your proposal. Some may require filling out an online form, and submitting product photos.
If you’re running on a budget, you might not have done a photoshoot for your products yet, which may make it harder to get featured. Don’t let this stop you from reaching out. If you have exceptional designs and a cool theme behind your brand, simple mockup photos are just as good!
Social Media Presence
Building your brand’s social media presence can help you easily reach customers all over the globe. You want to sell to your customers, but also stay in line with the trend of that particular social platform. The most successful pages thrive off of content creation.
Think of your social media account as an open portfolio. A lense into your process, discoveries and finished products. The key is to have the right balance of content and products. Your page should have a theme that matches your brand and encourages users to visit frequently. If your clothing brand consists of graphic tees with an edgy race car theme, include posts of famous racers or things that may have inspired your latest collection. Give customers insight to your brand. When people visit your page they want to know that it is more than an advertisement for a clothing store.
Now that you have a clean page, how do you get more people to visit and follow you? It may be tempting to follow random users in hopes that they will follow you, instead focus on attracting people to your brand organically.
To increase visibility on your page:
- Post frequently and consistently
- Create a list of go-to hashtags that relate to your brand and use them each time you post
- Identify Instagram influencers that appeal to your audience and follow their followers
- Engage with other users by liking and commenting on their photos
- Stay up to date with current events, as it can inspire new posts and hashtags
Apps like CrowdFire and Followers for Instagram can help you manage your current followers and help you locate and follow relevant Instagram users.
Soon enough, you will find that your page is growing!
Build Your Mailing List
In addition to social media promotion, another low cost way to promote your brand is through your newsletter. MailChimp is an email marketing service and offers a free account plan. On your online store, create a call to action for signing up to your list such as offering 10% off the first purchase.
- You can sign up for a free account at MailChimp
- Create a call to action for signing up to your list (10% off your purchase)
- Send newsletters to your list every week
Encourage your followers to sign up to your newsletter for special promotions.
And this is just the beginning!
The Power of Online Marketplaces
A great way to boost exposure as a new brand is to sell products through an online marketplace. Since marketplaces already have a large audience, by getting your products sold through one, you instantly have several potential buyers seeing your products.
First, you’ll need to identify which marketplaces you want your products sold through. The marketplace you decide to sell through will depend on your brand’s target audience. So, if you’re a men’s streetwear brand, you’d seek streetwear marketplaces.
Some marketplaces include:
The type of marketplace you’d want to aim for is one that will drop ship your products, rather than a marketplace that purchases your products wholesale and resells to customers. Dropship marketplaces usually have a small monthly fee of $20 – $50 for placement and charge you between 15 – 40% per sale (so you’d keep 60 – 85% of the revenue made). In order for marketplaces to run smoothly, most marketplaces allow up to a week to ship.
By producing products on demand, you can launch a large amount of products on marketplace. The more products you have available on a marketplace, the greater your visibility. More visibility leads to higher sales potential.
However, as an important caveat, producing shirts on-demand through Printful while selling on a marketplace will cut through your profits. Once you gain solid momentum and increased, bulk producing products, based on which on-demand products did the best, would be the optimal route.
Get Out There And Start!
After reading this guide, you have learned that thousands of dollars are not required to get started. With a small investment, time, creativity and a solid plan, you will have the tools you need to start your very own clothing brand.