In this instant gratification age with Facebook and Instagram and overnight shipping, everyone expects the things they want to be there instantly. This no different with clothing, and is the basis for all the print on demand companies out there. But the real question you should ask yourself when looking for a printer: “is this what I want?”
There are numerous differences between screen printing, digital printing, print on demand, heat transfer vinyl, plastisol transfers, sublimation, and I can’t go through them all with you, but I can give you some of the basic facts that should help you with this decision.
Do you want to make money?
This question has an obvious answer… Yes! Of course you want to make money, everyone wants to make money, but to make money in this business there are decisions that you seriously need to consider.
Print on demand companies like Teespring advertise that you can start selling your printed clothes today with no money down, without having to have inventory etc. Which is fantastic – in theory. The average shirt on these print on demand sites costs you (the seller) $9.00, which varies by design and t-shirt brand. For $9.00 you don’t have to worry about things like taking orders, or making sure you have the specific size in stock – they do it all for you! Sounds great right? Well, because of companies like this the market for your average t-shirt has definitely gone down. Right now you can search on the internet and find most t-shirts for $10.00 – $15.00, and even some lower. That means your markup is going to be less than 100%, and using these print on demand companies the quality of the product will not be able to compete at higher prices.
So that’s no big deal right? A $5.00 markup is pretty good; I mean if you sell 100 shirts that $500 right there! This is where you start running into issues. Advertising is extremely expensive! To sell 100 shirts you need to get your shirt in front of 100 people who want to buy it. Every customer comes at an advertising cost, so you need to do the math and figure out exactly how much it costs to obtain one customer plus the cost of the shirt, plus any other costs before you can figure in any profits.
Here’s an example
Your shirt costs $9.00 to be printed, and we’ll say shipping is included. So you mark up your price to $15.00 with free shipping – but your company is brand new; no social following, no blog following, so you need to spend as much as possible for advertising to get people to buy your shirt. The first 6 months your revenue will be in the red. With no following, you’re looking at 5-15 dollars per customer, and as you slowly build a following, that cost will go down. So you’re selling a shirt at $15.00, but paying up to $30.00 in overall costs just to sell the shirts. That’s just bad business!
Screen printing as an alternative
Going with custom screen printing will definitely net you a higher return, but at a much higher initial cost. A quick example: 100 screen printed shirts for $5.00 a shirt. Sure you have to hold the inventory, and if it doesn’t sell you’re screwed. You also have to do all the simple work of taking orders and making sure you get sizing right – but you can also charge more per shirt! By using a high quality screen printer and high quality garments people will talk about your brand a lot more.
Word of mouth is key in this business. So the original 6 months it’d take to get a good following could be done in as early as 3 months, on top of spending less per shirt and charging more per shirt. With this alternative you get a better return, you spend less on advertising in the long run, and it isn’t that much work! Talk about win-win!
These two aren’t your only options for having printed apparel, sublimation is a creative way to decorate polyester shirts for example. Sadly, we can’t get into all the other processes in this article. It’s up to you to do research and find out what works best for you!
Ultimately, I could only give you small examples of all the processes out there, so do your research! Just keep in mind that any business model should be focusing on the long term, not the short term, regardless of what type of business it is – including a clothing line!