Make Your Own T-Shirts, Sell Shirts Through Cafepress

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2010-06-0813

Find or Create Hilarious Merchandise at CafePress

I’ve mentioned in the past that there are a whole lot of ways to make money online or to earn a part time income. In previous articles, I’ve covered some ground on how to start an online business or how to make money blogging. There are certainly a lot of things you can do online if you’ve got creative skills!

I know a few graphic artists whom I’ve tried to coax into joining me in an online business that dealt with selling custom stuff online. After some research, I thought that CafePress would be a good site to try out for this purpose.

What is CafePress? It’s a site that allows you to design and make your own t-shirts and other souvenir items like mugs, caps, posters and so forth. If you’re interested in DIY gift items, this is where you can make or purchase them. You’d then price your products and you can either “buy” them for yourself or sell them to the public. You can basically open your own store and sell your custom merchandise this way. It’s also a great place to buy stuff from other shopkeepers like yourself. If you’re a fan of an undiscovered, talented designer, you might just find them in the CafePress community!

There are those who’ve become very successful CafePress store owners who do this for a living. Many others do this on the side and are able to make some extra income. Most others join in for the novelty of making their own shirt or bric-a-brac.

Sign up to CafePress and set up a storefront!
CafePress Sign Up

Make Your Own T-Shirts, Sell Shirts Through Cafepress

When I first visited the site at to find out more about how the selling works, I was very interested by what I found. For instance, I assumed it would be something you’d have to invest in to get started. Not so! You can get started very easily by opting for what they call the Basic Shop. This costs nothing, so all you have to bear in mind is that CafePress will get the base cost for every product you sell.

make your own t-shirts

For instance an item may have a base price of ten dollars. You might personalize it to your own design and sell it for fifteen dollars. So when someone buys your product, CafePress will get the base price of ten dollars and you will earn five dollars. But since you get to set your own prices, you’ll have to figure out what price points are needed to optimize your profits. Of course, it’s not necessarily as easy as it sounds since it’s a highly competitive marketplace, and therein lies the challenge for any wannabe online shopkeeper and shirt designer.

Want to know more? Check out CafePress shops and product offerings.
Cafepress Home Page

CafePress Products: Print on Demand

There is plenty to sell as well. There are loads of clothing items for every member of the family (check out the infant bodysuits for example); you can also expect them to add new items from time to time. For example they have recently added a set of four stackable mugs and some beach totes and gym bags.

In addition, you can sell CDs and books through the site if you have an idea for an audio program, digital product or book that you think would sell well. The secret of CafePress is that it prints everything on demand. This means that you don’t have to invest in anything that may not sell. When your customer orders a particular item, it is printed especially for them and sent out in double quick time. I was very impressed by the speed and quality of packaging and shipping that CafePress does.

It bears repeating that if you are going to give this a go, you should start with the Basic Shop. The facilities you get with it are limited, but it’s a free service and gives you the chance to try it out and see how it works for you. Once you start making sales, you can think about upgrading to a paid shop (or Premium Shop, at around $5 a month) and reap the rewards as a result.

The thing I love about CafePress is that you can create whatever you like. I’ve had my own basic shop set up some years ago, which I’ve since put on hold as I focused on developing this blog. But I know someone who’s toying with the idea of opening a shop with products that feature specific slogans (which is a pretty common premise, actually). At any rate, this means less artwork and no drawings needed — a great thing if you can’t draw! Simple slogans can be very effective, especially if you’re focusing on a specific audience or a niche audience. Hopefully we’ll see some sales from this effort.

Remember that your success is highly dependent on how well you promote your store though, so if you’re going to try this out, do give it your best shot and let us know how you do!

Copyright © 2010 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one } June 8, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I had not run across this site. Looks like a nice way to make some extra cash if you are creative. Sites like this and ebay have certainly enabled a lot of people to carve out extra income or a new career.

Impulse Magazine June 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I am definitely going to try Cafepress because I am thinking about starting an online store.

Create Wealth June 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Have actually been looking at these guys, will sure give them a go πŸ™‚ signing up with your link too! good luck!

Silicon Valley Blogger June 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Thanks Create Wealth!

I’ve actually sold a few sweatshirts and t-shirts this way, way back when I first started this site. I made a few hundred bucks on that “experiment”. I am sure if I had persisted, I’d have done fairly decently. Problem is, I don’t have time for everything I wanted to do and I ended up working on this blog more….. πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t hesitate to get going again with a CafePress store if I had the time and resources to stay focused on it.

CreditShout June 9, 2010 at 11:52 am

I had never heard of this website but it is a great idea. Personalizing items like this would make great gifts or favors. Sounds like a great way to make a little extra money too. I don’t see one flaw with this website! I’ll definitely have to check it out.

Kosmo @ The Casual Observer June 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Hmm … I wonder if there is a place where I could get one of my short stories (~700 words) printed on the back of a shirt? I could be standing in line at the grocery store and the person behind me would have something to read πŸ™‚

Granted, I’d probably sell just one shirt (to me).

Car guy June 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I remember Cafepress when it was first starting up, their site looks very different now though. It’s a really good idea if you’re persistant enough.

@SVB I tried and had some minimal success with it too but like you say there’s just too little time to keep all these projects going.

Silicon Valley Blogger June 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Hmmmm…. that’s an interesting concept — a short story on a shirt! Could be an eye-catching idea. You can have a creepy story in the back, then some cool creepy illustration in the front. I’d buy one!! πŸ˜€ Sounds like the type of thing that could be a cult hit with some segment of the t-shirt crowd.

The thing about CafePress is that it takes some marketing to get your stuff out there. They have a crowded marketplace too, but if you like the novelty aspect of things and can appreciate your own stuff (or have a community you know who does), then it may be the avenue for your ideas. Maybe you can sell your shirts through your site…. πŸ˜€

Consumermiser June 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Thanks for the info. I have to check this site out. My brother, who is a social networker expert in his spare time, told me about this site just 2 weeks ago, but I have not checked it out yet. It sounds cool.

I do have some items from a craft store that I was going to try to make magnets and t-shirts with my kids. One of the things I wanted to do was to make these items more for advertising my site so I could drive more trafffic to it. I was not really thinking about making money off of it, but you have me thinking now (as usual) . . .

Rebecca DeSantis June 9, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I just started on this site a few months ago. I am loving it!!

Credit Girl June 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm

That’s awesome! I would definitely love to do this on my spare time. Thanks for sharing! June 10, 2010 at 9:50 pm

This concept interested me a lot so I decided to set up the same sort of thing, but at a different site.

There are quite a number of the POD sites available, so do your research about what commissions each is paying out before choosing the one to go with. Once that is established you can always set up 2nd, 3rd and 4th sites elsewhere.

Evil Sticks Novelty Shirts June 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I’ve loved to do this just for my own self-benefit. I doubt anyone would buy my t-shirts with my company’s logo on it… but having some coffee mugs and such with my business’s name on it would be fun =)

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