How to Turn a T-Shirt Business into an Automated Income Machine

I shared a post on my Instagram account last week that was a popular so I figured I would elaborate on it a bit further this week with a blog article. Many of you are DIYer’s, busy-bodies, crafters and creatives all rolled into one which is why you may have your cutting machine in the first place.

But as you already know sometimes being constantly busy can sometimes be draining! Especially if you own a cutting business making items such as t-shirts. It’d be nice to have a portion of the business to be a little more automated. One way you can create automated income is through selling the digital designs you’ve already created for your shirts.

A few perks to selling t-shirt designs:

• You’re able to use the same design to sell both physical and digital products.
• It frees up your time.
• There is no inventory to store. No warehouse or space needed.
• There is no shipping. No need to run to the post office or schedule a pickup to ship your shirts.
• There is no need to purchase packaging materials or equipment.
• No additional funds are needed to start selling.

If you’re already selling on Etsy or a similar platform, you can easily add your digital products to the same store and use the traffic you’re already receiving to help jump start your digital sales. Why do this? Why sell a cheaper digital product when you could sell a physical product for more?

For one, these are two have different audiences. The digital designs appeal to the DIYer’s who have the tools, the setup and the time to create their own shirt. The t-Shirt purchasers do not have any of these and would much rather pay to have this items created for them. In conclusion, these two audiences typically don’t compete so selling on the same platform shouldn’t take business from the other.

But if you want selling designs to be the main source of revenue, I suggest setting up a completely different shop so you can better target this specific audience. Otherwise, if you are wanting to dip your toes into the digital realm, then definitely throw your digital products on your existing platform. It’s quick, its easy and its low hanging fruit that won’t take much time. If you don’t have a digital platform that you are currently selling on, I suggest reading my post on the Top 5 Places to Sell Cut Files for ideas on which might be best for you.

If you want to earn a little extra doing something you’re probably already doing that requires minimal effort or upkeep, selling your digital designs might be for you.

But how do you go about converting your physical product business into a passive income generating monster?

If you are super busy with your current business and don’t have much time just start small. Simply save a digital cut file for each new design you create from this point on and place it on a digital platform. If you own a t-shirt business and are selling online you may already have one setup! Just use this and add these digital files as products to your shop.

How to create your digital cut file:

  1. If your cutting program allows you to save your cut file as an SVG then do it! Some programs allow this if you have an upgraded edition. Use this file as the file you provide to your digital customers.
  2. Or create your designs in Adobe Illustrator and then export to various formats and sell these formats instead of just SVG which helps increase your conversion rate. This is what I teach my students how to do.

You can also go through past designs and convert them to SVG. *If you don’t have time for this step or it doesn’t apply then skip this one.** Many of you have been cutting for a while so you may have a huge database of designs already on your computer or saved in your cutting program. This database is a money bank. Use it! You’ve already done all the hard work in designing it, its time to start selling these bad boys!

After doing one of the above options and your files are ready, its time to throw these products up on a store and start selling them. Another option is to stop making the shirts yourself and outsource this part to a fulfillment company which you’ve heard me talk about before but here’s a refresher and if you’re new here you may not know what this is. To sum it up, you make the design and have another company house, fulfill and send it to your customer.

The process goes something like this…

1. You pick your selling platform.
2. Pick your fulfillment company.
3. Hook the two systems together so they communicate automatically. Many times this is a simple plugin install to your shop.
4. Add your digital products to your selling platform.
5. As orders come in your fulfillment partner is notified automatically.
6. Your partner then makes, processes, fulfills and ships all your orders directly to your customer.
7. Your customer receives their T-shirt as they normally do when ordering from you.

This is called Print on Demand. From my experience with my recently launched apparel shop, I have seen around a 50% or a little less, profit margin using a POD company. If you want to completely transfer for over to a passive income option, this might be a good one as well. I just recommend finding a good partner which can make or break this style of business.

With any of these above options, your sole responsibilities include handling customer service and creating new designs. That’s it! Some of my students love this because they’re able to go on creating which is what they love doing.

Just to reemphasize, you can STILL continue to run your current T-shirt business while also selling digital products. Make the design once, sell it over and over with little to no upkeep and still have time create and fulfill your t-shirt orders as you normally do or as mentioned above you can do a complete 180 switch and start selling digitally and no longer offer t-shirt sales.

If you go all in by selling several digital designs, I recommend investing in a graphic design program such as Adobe Illustrator that will take your designs to the next level and allows for the export to several formats no just cut file formats. A program such as this is a bit of a learning curve which is what I help my students learn in the “Designer’s Guide to SVG” course where I break it down step by step and remove the overwhelm. Whether you need some help learning it or not, this design program is completely worth the extra monthly investment if this is the direction choose.

What makes for a bad t-shirt design versus a good one? I lay out the most important design principles to creating top selling t-shirts. Be sure to grab this free guide on your way out!

I hope you have enjoyed this blog article and that it shed some light on how to make some automated income with an existing t-shirt business.



1 comment

Amanda williams

I would love your help as to setting this up on my Shopify if this is something your interested in I’d greatly appreciate your help! I’m new to this but I do have a design it’s for my Faith Aligned website. I would be willing to compensate you for your help please reach out to me if your Interested!!!

A real mom, just trying to make it!!!

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