How to Start a Clothing Line With No Money

by Doug Berg | Last Updated: January 10, 2019

How to start a clothing line with no money

Modern print on demand technology has made it simple to get started and with almost no risk to you. If you have always wanted to start your own clothing line or brand but you don’t have a lot of money to invest, then you’ve come to the right place. There are a ton of free resources to help get you started. You may be able to start with almost no money but you will need access to a computer and the internet.

If it’s so cheap, why haven’t more people done it? It may be cheap to start a clothing line but don’t fool yourself. If you don’t have money to invest then you’re going to have to spend a lot of time working on your new business. If you’re still interested keep reading!

What kind of clothing line can I start for free?

If you’re hoping to start a brand and putting your logo or graphic designs on products and then selling those products, you’re in luck.  That’s exactly the kind of clothing brand I’m talking about. Think Nike or Adidas. Both sell pretty common products but with branding and graphic design to set their products apart.

If you want to create custom garment patterns and have them cut and sewn for you, I’m afraid there really isn’t a great option to get started for free.

Compared to starting a traditional clothing line with a process like screen printing you’d need a ton of equipment like:

Using Print on Demand you don’t need any of that equipment. But I do recommend you check out the process so you know how the professionals are creating their products.

What is the minimum you will need to realistically start a clothing line?

Here’s a list of the bare minimum you’ll need to get started:

That’s all you need to get started.

How does a print on demand business work?

You’ll create designs or a logo that you want to apply to clothing or other merchandise. You’ll select a marketplace to sell your items on and integrate that marketplace with a printer that will create your product and ship it directly to your customer. This is called POD, or Print on Demand. You’ll collect money from the customer, use it to pay the printer and keep the difference.

It sounds complicated but it’s really a lot easier than it sounds.  You can get everything set up in 30 minutes to an hour.

Step 1

Choose your partners: You need to select a printer and a platform to sell your work on. These include the following:

Step 2.

Select the platform you want to use to sell your merchandise.

There are far too many to list here but many new clothing brands use Etsy and Printful to create their first store. Etsy is a great way to get your new items in front of customers for the first time. It’s a large marketplace with a lot of active users. See my step-by-step how-to guide for setting up a new Etsy store and integrating with Printful. They also have some really great advanced features that make growing your store much easier. But more on that later.

Step 3.

Upload images you’ve created like a logo or other graphic design and apply them to products. Your printer will create mock-ups and generate listings on the marketplace you’ve chosen. You’re sometimes required to look over the listing and verify that everything looks good before activating the listing.

Step 4.

Watch your store to see which of your products are getting attention from buyers. Create more products similar to populate products and remove under performing products.

That’s pretty much it. When you’ve gotten some sales and you’ve made some money, you can start to look into more advanced topics like how to advertise your products. At the beginning, it’s important to really find out what your target market is looking for and how to create those products for them.

How will I create the logo or designs?

Creating a logo or graphic design layout for a product is a lot easier than it sounds. Generally you’ll use a software package to create a vector graphic to apply to products.  I user Adobe Illustrator to create my designs but there are a ton of free options for creating vector graphics that are just as good.

Top free graphics software options:

Try a couple and see what you find easiest to use. I’d also go to YouTube and search for tutorials on whichever package you like best. The more free learning resources you can find the quicker you’ll learn and the better off you’ll be.

Do I need to be an artist?

You’ll develop the skills to create almost anything as you master the design software you’ve chosen. My first designs were almost all text based. As I gained experience and got better at using Adobe Illustrator my designs became more complex. Most of my top selling designs have been incredibly simple. Most are text based, have some simple graphic that ties in directly to the subject matter of the design and are in 3 colors max. I don’t consider myself an artist but I have sold hundreds of tee shirts with my artwork. Honestly, anyone can do it. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Are you ready to get started?

In the next section we’ll actually take you step by step through the process of creating a custom tee shirt business using Etsy and Prtintful. 

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Doug has been an entrepreneur for years, starting several businesses. Doug is a web developer, father of 2 great kids and husband to the best wife ever. I've been working on building my custom tee shirt business for 3 years.