Individuality is something that most of us display aesthetically, often through our clothes. In some respects, clothes can be a great equalizer as everybody needs to wear them. Sure, there are some economic boundaries, and certain brands bring with them a suggestion of status, but that doesn’t mean others will look better. It takes intelligence and character, not money, to look good and express your individuality.
Enter the world of screen-printed shirts. Many of us grew up at the mercy of what generic clothes our parents would buy us from retail shelves. Screen-printing seems to reclaim a sense of that agency that we may have felt was missing. With consumer demand for customized or independent clothing at an all-time high and available screen-technology following a similar trajectory, there has never been a better time to run a screen-printing business.
Obviously, there’s a long road between vision and execution. As many could attest, moving too fast, lacking the right knowledge, or even just a misstep or two can spell disaster when forming your business. Starting a screen-printing business takes a mix of creativity and business smarts. Follow this complete guide for everything you need to know about starting and running a screen-printing business in 2021.
Learn how to screen-print
It’s very easy to picture a perfectly printed t-shirt with impeccable design work in your mind’s eye. The colours are bold, the image is sharp, and the people wearing them look comfortable and confident. In reality, though, if you don’t yet know how to put ink on cotton, you’re a long way from your ambition.
A lot of those in the screen-printing game studied art or spent a lot of time in a screen-printing studio. If you haven’t done any of these, don’t fret, there’s hope for you yet!
There are numerous screen-printing courses aimed at people with novice experience. Alternatively, you can volunteer your time at a screen-printing studio to get that much needed experience with the ins and outs of the process. If local, you can even find t-shirt printing in Boise, Idaho. These kinds of studios can acquaint you with what’s required to screen-print, and steer you in the right direction.
Take a business course
Maybe your screen-printing skills are on point, but it’s the business knowledge that you lack. Don’t become over-confident with what seems like a gloriously well-thought-out macro-overview. The finer, nitty-gritty details are what matter: finances, payment, management, scheduling, staff, and others. To save time, money, and morale, we strongly advise against learning these business fundamentals the hard way.
Name, own, and represent your brand
Marketing your brand is key here. Attached to screen-printing is a DIY ethos whereby the limitations of conventional fashion are quashed. Agency, ownership, and creativity form the core of a screen-printing business, especially in the digital age. So, you’re going to want a name that reflects this, like something quirky and edgy that acknowledges the physical and process-orientated element of what you’re doing.
To match your name, you’re going to need a logo that symbolizes your company ethos. Remember, as merchants of creative goods, it’s imperative that your logo tastefully reflects your artistic strengths. Something clear, simple, and recognizable that utilizes some prime colors should work great.
Now that your brand’s personality is forming, it’s time to establish a social media presence. Make sure the character and tone of the brand are consistent and present throughout social media as this will likely be your most authentic and important representation as a brand. Research on the relevant platforms in your market (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube), and create accounts accordingly.
We recommend doing the name, logo, and social media in tandem as these are complementary and best tackled collectively while the inspiration is flowing. If additional guidance is required, feel free to consult resources on starting a fashion brand.
What will be your designs?
What you’re going to put on your shirts is, naturally, of the utmost importance for a screen-printing company. The joy of screen-printing is that you’re not tied to one idea, and the possibilities are practically limitless. They could be in-house designs or otherwise.
One popular option is to produce band t-shirts, either directly for bands or for labels. Band t-shirts are a very popular way to express individuality. If your work is good, and you can retain this market, this can bolster your reputation and be quite lucrative.
Maybe your screen-printing company also produces its own designs and the brand itself is in total creative control of its output. Of your own designs, maybe they’re quotes, jokes, or your artwork. It’s also possible that you produce all of this on behalf of a client.
There are also more commercial options available to you. Your company can print work uniforms or even advertisements on your shirts. If in this field, don’t be afraid to include polo shirts or button up shirts to your repertoire.
What t-shirts will you use?
The t-shirt supplier(s) you use will also have an impact on the reputation and feasibility of your business. Choose a cheap and poor-quality supplier, and your shirts won’t last. Yet go too expensive or high quality and the additional charges will turn people away again. Balancing quality with financial capacity is a delicate, but important step. If possible, you can always offer different pricing tiers, depending on t-shirt manufacturer.
Get equipment and a production space
Of course, where you produce your goods is fundamental to your business. There are several options and considerations that need to be taken heed of. These include location, rent, size, and equipment.
Practical factors like location, size, and rent are all intertwined. You don’t want to be travelling too far to your workplace. It needs to be large enough for your equipment and drying space. It also needs to be reasonably priced to ensure your business is financially viable.
Equipment is another important consideration. The best step here is to do your research. Maybe second-hand equipment is sufficient for your needs. Maybe the reliability and durability of brand-new equipment will suit you better. Also, will it fit in the space you have?
Work out production method
The business of screen-printing is labour-intensive. The entire production chain demands man-power, and you’ll need to know that whoever you have on-board holds a similar level of commitment to your vision.
A strict printing production standard will be indispensable to your process to ensure printing and drying are balanced in the interests of workflow.
The finished product must also be received by customers and clients, so efficient delivery is essential. For local clients, a driver can complete this work. But, for long distances, you’ll be reliant on the postal system. With this comes the task of packing stock to a standard where it won’t be damaged while in transit.
If all these sound a bit too much, there’s an alternative: outsource. The infrastructure for outsourcing some or even all of your production is entirely possible in the digital age. It’s becoming increasingly common to outsource to a fulfilment company, especially for those who struggle to find the time to do so in-house.
Doing an online business is essential in the digital age. You’re going to need a reliable online platform that can take your orders, display your merchandise, and enable clear communication channels between your company and customers.
Nowadays, the space of online marketplace builders is looking incredibly strong. There are some strong names in this field which platforms aren’t only user-friendly, but very reliable. Many of these should suffice for, at least, the early days of your screen-printing business.
No matter how good your products are, you’re going to get complaints, difficult customers, and bizarre requests. If you think you can run your business and handle the slew of emails, reviews, and phone calls, you’re probably mistaken.
It’s more than likely you’ll need dedicated customer service representatives. They can moderate escalations and navigate customers through difficulties, should they arise. Furthermore, customer feedback is essential to improve your business, so having a dedicated representative respond to this is helpful for all parties. Increasingly, this work is being outsourced to countries like the Philippines and India.
Running a business is hard work. If you’ve taken the plunge and established your own screen-printing business, it’s likely that your expertise lay with your industry, not in financial law and management.
Hiring an accountant can relieve an awful lot of pressure from your business operations. Breaking financial laws, even inadvertently, can have disastrous consequences for your business. Remember, prevention is always better than the cure!
Running a screen-printing business is a great idea in 2021. Consumer demand is perfect, and the necessary technology is readily available. There are some areas of the business that you’ll need to tackle both before and during operation. These include the creation of a brand, creative direction, your workspace, online sales portal, customer service, and financial management. Keeping on top of these areas will ensure efficiency and financial viability of your t-shirt screen-printing business.