How to Make Money Selling T-Shirt Designs


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
There are a lot of cool ways to make money on the internet. You can earn cash filling out surveys, or you can do audio transcriptions. Heck, you could even make money walking dogs and turning your car into a rolling advertisement! All of these wouldn’t be possible without the magic of the internets.

All those are great methods for earning spare cash, but here’s by far my favorite: designing t-shirts. Creating shirt designs has to be one of the coolest gigs out there. Plus, it’s a great feeling, knowing that people are wearing your designs. In effect, people become walking ads for your work. If you want to become a t-shirt designer and earn cash in the process, read on!

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The Skills You’ll Need

Before you start designing shirts and selling them online, you need to asses whether you got what it takes to get paid to design t-shirts. Here are a few skills and qualities a good t-shirt designer needs to possess:

A Strong DIY Work Ethic

Most shirt designers are self-employed. While they usually sell their works on various websites and selling platforms (which I’ll be getting into in a bit), they are their own bosses. If they don’t make any designs, they don’t earn. It’s as simple as that. To make it in the shirt game, you need to have initiative, and the desire to make things happen for yourself. In other words, you’ll need a strong DIY (Do It Yourself) work ethic.

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Knowledge of What’s Cool

T-shirts are like memes; they’re a good barometer of what people are into at the time. For example, back in the early 2000s (which is practically ages ago, it seems like), shirts with sarcastic or ironic slogans were all the rage. And even earlier than that, shirts with loud branding was considered trendy. I’m sure people who picked up on those trends early were able to make a killing selling shirt designs.

If you’re looking to get paid for t-shirt designs, you will have to know what’s cool at present. That means doing research on social media as well as physical shops to know what type of shirt designs people are going for. But in addition to that, you have to be able to figure out where trends are going. Knowing what’s going to be trendy vs. knowing what’s currently trendy is what separates great shirt designers from mediocre ones.

The great shirt designers seem to have a finger on the pulse of pop culture and the zeitgeist and are able to adapt their designs accordingly. But even if you don’t have this ability, simply knowing what people like at present should be more than enough to give you an advantage over other shirt designers.

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Solid Design Chops (and the Necessary Equipment)

This one goes without say, but if you want to make money selling shirt designs, you will have to actually be capable of making great designs. There’s no shortcut or way around this. You will need to be a good designer, period. If you’re unsure whether your designs are up to snuff.

It’s also important to have the right equipment to create t-shirt designs. Don’t worry, you won’t need printing or manufacturing equipment — I’ll be sharing a bunch of websites that will do all that for you. But you will need a computer capable of handling heavy design work, and the necessary programs, like Photoshop or Illustrator. It also helps to have a tablet, especially if you’d like to give digital illustration a try.

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A Willingness to Promote Your Work Online

I mentioned earlier that you’ll need a strong DIY work ethic. You will also need initiative when it comes to promoting your work. Even if you sell t-shirt designs on a website, that site won’t do the promoting for you. To get people interested in your works, you will need to start a Facebook or Instagram page and promote your shirt designs there. You can also send merch to various sites that feature DIY products to get the word out about your work.

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Where to Sell Your Shirt Designs

There are a lot of websites out there that let you submit t-shirt designs for money. But not all of them are legit. Since using a website that turns out to be a scam will be a monumental waste of your time and effort, I suggest sticking to the ones that have a proven track record of paying designs fairly, and treating their designs with respect.

Below is a list of my top sets to get paid to design. There are more legit sites you could try out, of course.




These three websites are pretty similar, barring a few minor details (make sure you read the fine print and terms of agreement when you sign up for a membership). Basically, you upload your designs, after which people can have them printed on all sorts of merch, not just shirts. In addition to shirts, they can have your design printed on cell phone cases, tote bags, wall prints, and other cool stuff.

These sites are awesome because you don’t have to worry about printing and shipping — two things that used to stop people from starting their own t-shirt designing hustles. But since those sites handle all that, all you need to do is focus on creating awesome designs.

Each item has a base price, and you can set how much you want to mark-up. When someone buys the item, you get to keep the mark-up. The base price goes to the website as their commission. I think it’s only fair that they get that amount since they’re providing a valuable service to people who wouldn’t be able to sell their shirt designs otherwise.

Another thing these sites cover is customer service. If a buyer receives a defective product, they’re the ones who coordinate with the buyer, and (if necessary) send out the replacement item. In addition to manufacturing, customer service is one part of the business I’m glad I don’t have to worry about.

So that’s that. If you’ve got an eye for trends and some design skills, you should try selling shirt designs online!

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