Beginners’ Guide
How To Start A
T-Shirt Transfer Business

Start with an IDEA,
or a Niche

The easiest way to get started is with a built in customer base or a niche market you’re close to. Part of a sports team? Start with fan and team shirts. Love to go to Antiquarian Book Shows? Okay… try old book T-shirts…

The same goes for any interest or passion you have; martial arts, soccer, fishing, stamp collecting. You should start your business with your easiest customers in mind, then make t shirts for THEM.

All you really need to this is a heat press, a graphics software program (like CorelDraw or Photoshop), some imagination..AND XPRESSIT!

The great part, or one of the many, many great parts about starting a business based on Xpress It Custom T-shirt Transfers is that you avoid that one BIG decision, the one BIG expense that people starting a custom T-shirt business almost always get stuck on:


We’ve got tons of experience, decades of experience in the custom apparel and promotional products business, so we know what it’s like to look at a $10,000, $15,000… even a $50,000 investment in equipment before you even make the first $1.00 in your business.

People will agonize over the eternal questions:

  • Screen Print or Direct to Garment?
  • How big of a cutter do I need?
  • What is “sublimation” anyway?
  • Can I qualify for a lease?
  • How much SHOULD I spend?
  • Great taste? Less Filling?


You don’t have to make any of those decisions because you have US. Xpress It produces full color, digital quality, heat press transfers reliably and for a great price. That means you don’t have to invest in anything but a heat press until your business grows and you KNOW you’ll be making tons of money.

Even then, why go through the hassle of finding a place for screen printing equipment, dark rooms, ink storage, or trying to figure out if you have enough ink or dye to finish a job?

Why even worry about where the nearest repair tech lives? Or what you’re going to do if the machine breaks in the middle of an order?

Your business could be as simple as creating great artwork, showing it to the right people, placing an order with us and heat pressing the custom t shirt transfers onto a shirt, or a hat, or a bag, or almost anything.

OR you could avoid the entire creative process and just give people exactly what they want. Just collect the graphic, go to our website and upload to confirm size, etc and then place your order. A few days later you receive your transfers, fire up the heat press and collect your payment. Quick and EASY!


Make a Plan

We’re not talking about a big “business plan” here. You won’t need a bank loan to start an Xpress It based custom t shirt business so there’s no need for all the things that a bank would want to see. BUT you will want to write this down.

All you need to know is:

1. Where am I going to get customers?

This is a big question that many startup screen printers, promotional products sellers and custom t shirt shops don’t get around to until AFTER they spend big bucks on equipment. You’re smarter than that! Here are a few ideas:

Your Personal Niche Market

Sure you’re going to tell friends and family about your new business, but who else are you connected to? Write down all of the groups or networks you are a part of, like; baseball or soccer teams, cheerleading kids, school boosters, church leagues or missions, charities, cities or neighborhoods, pets, weird hobbies. After you’ve written them down, figure out how to tap into them for custom T-shirts!

Fairs, Flea Markets & Events 

If one of your personal niche markets holds events like these, that’s perfect. But even if you live in your parent’s basement and have no friends you can set aside the Cheetos and rent a table at a local event. Your best bet, if you’re not connected in any way to a market, is to attend a local show like this once to see what the traffic is like, what the people are like and what they may be interested in. Then rent a table next time. But don’t miss the opportunity – WEAR your product to the even, take business cards and talk to every vendor there, you may find a customer for free!

Chambers of Commerce, Leads Groups, Old School

Do you know that most people don’t actually want to go out and talk to others about their business? They prefer to stare at the phone and WILL it to ring. Don’t be like that. In every city and town there are chambers of commerce and other business groups that hold networking events – usually involving donuts, which is big plus, but always involving other small business owners who ALL need custom t shirts.

2. How am I going to sell to those customers?

This is more of a how am I going to run my business question. In order to sell your first order you will need something besides Xpress It and a heat press.

Taking orders

Are you going to accept email orders or will people have to sign something. Will you use an eCommerce website? Will you take credit cards? How about Paypal? For larger orders, will you take a purchase order and offer terms or only credit cards or Canadian quarters? Think about it now.

Phone Numbers and Websites

The other parts of that big-business foundation you need to lay. Are you going to use your cell phone as your business number? (if so, look into Google Voice or some other app like that to reduce the “Hi Mom” response to customer calls) Are you going to have an eCommerce website where you can sell online (hint: they’re a pain), or an informational site that just has all about you and your business? Will you just use a Facebook Business Page? Or will you only be selling to people that live in the woods with no electricity or internet that will never “google” you?

How will you handle order fulfillment?

Some companies keep tons of blanks (T-shirts and things not yet printed on) so they can get orders out faster, some rely on distributors like SanMar to order as needed. Will you promise a delivery time? What’s your guarantee?

3. Draw a picture on how you want your customer to BE.

This stuff really does work… describe how you want your business to look next year, in 5 years, in 10 years. This will help you make decisions now and plan for the future:

Do you want to be a BIG business with employees?

If you are looking for Bill Gates money, this is what you’ll need to plan for. But not just that, you’ll need to sell nationally and maybe internationally. Maybe incorporate instead of being a sole proprietor, get your degree in Sales Taxicology.

Is this a part time job?

If you are setting limits on how big you’ll grow, you’ll need to have the strength to say NO to the big deals and the big customers. But that’s okay, we respect that.

Home Office or Retail Space?

It’s another question. Either figure it out now or put in the plan to figure out at some point.

4. Make it legal.

This is legal stuff, so we’re just guessing, but where ever you are you’ll probably need a business license, maybe you’re incorporating and have to do that. Get a tax ID. Government stuff – definitely make it part of your plan.

Put Together Your Shopping List

1. Heat Press

2. Computer and Graphics Software

3. Business Cards

4. Tickets – to bribe your nephew or someone to help you with a website or facebook page – could be an Xbox game, maybe let him drive your car?

Make Samples

The best thing you can do, especially since you have no customers or prior work to show, is make some awesome samples.

Luckily, since you’re going to be a BIG Xpress It customer you can order as many, or a few, custom transfers as you want to! (Ok, we do that for everyone, but if felt good, right?)

Create or choose graphics that represent your niche or personal market; one antiquarian book shirt (again, weird), one soccer mom, one pirate graphic, whatever your niches are and have us print transfers for you.

Take those transfers and apply them to DIFFERENT THINGS. This way you can show people samples on wood, on a bag, on an umbrella, on a t shirt, shorts, etc so they have the maximum chance of finding something they like.

Then take those samples around to all the places you wrote down in the “Where am I going to get customers?” section.


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