How to Start a T-Shirt Business for $500 or less!

Starting a t-shirt business can be a fun and rewarding way to turn your creative ideas into a profitable venture. If you're interested in using direct to film (DTF) transfers to decorate your t-shirts, you'll be pleased to know that it's possible to get started for under $500. In this article, we'll walk you through the basic steps you'll need to take to launch your own DTF t-shirt business on a budget.

Step 1: Determine Your Target Market and Niche

Before you start your t-shirt business, it's important to have a clear idea of who your target market is and what sets your t-shirts apart from the competition. Are you targeting a specific age group, gender, or interest group? What makes your t-shirts unique? Answering these questions will help you to focus your marketing efforts, create designs, and find apparel that will appeal to your target market.

When choosing a niche its also important to choose a target market that is large, but not overwhelmingly so. For example, you may be interested in selling t-shirts to women. However, women as a target niche is far too broad because women have vast interests and it would be hard to create detailed marketing for such a large and broad audience. To continue our example, instead you could try marketing to women who love dogs. To make this group even more specific, you could market to women who love a specific breed of dogs like Rottweilers.

To find out if your ideal niche is a good target size, you could try logging onto Facebook and creating a test ad. Select "create ad" and then select "create audience." Enter in your target niche as directed. Facebook will then provide you with an audience reach estimate. Your ideal reach should be around 1-5 million people because at that number Facebook's algorithm works the best. Our example of women who are interested in Rottweilers yields an audience size of about 3.5-4.1 million people.

A good way to find a profitable niche is by going onto Etsy (or similar websites) and looking at t-shirts that are best sellers. Which niche do those shirts fall under? Write down a few niche ideas inspired by your research and check their audience size on Facebook. 

IMPORTANT: Don't choose niches that are inappropriate or contain copyrighted or trademarked material (such as material from Disney, Marvel, etc). Doing so can cost you large amounts of money and giant headaches. It's also important to note that at DTF Advantage, we do NOT print material that we believe to be copyrighted. 

Cost to you: FREE

Step 2: Find a heat press and garment supplier. 

After your DTF transfers, the next most important piece of equipment is your heat press. You can certainly find heat presses for a few hundred dollars on Amazon or you can choose to splurge on a press for a couple of thousand of dollars. To help you more, we've compiled a comprehensive list outlining how to find the best press for your current business size and needs

We understand that all of the prices on our list are high cost because of the high quality of the presses. When you're just starting a business, you may not have the budget to buy an expensive press at first. If budget is your main concern, we recommend checking amazon and looking for high quality presses that you can buy used.

Next, its time to look for the garments that you would like to place your transfers on. A very popular t-shirt supplier is Bella+Canvas. Bella+Canvas shirts are great quality, provide many different styles and fits, and are available at wholesale cost. In addition, Bella+Canvas does not require minimum order quantities which is also important when starting a business to avoid tons of overhead cost. Visit Bella+Canvas here.

Cost to you: 

Budget Heat Press: $189.99

T-Shirts: Under $50

Step 3: Create Your Designs

Now it's time to get creative! You'll need to come up with designs for your t-shirts that will appeal to your target market and set your business apart from the competition. If you're not a skilled designer or don't have knowledge of Photoshop or Illustrator, you may want to consider hiring a freelance designer or purchasing pre-made designs from a stock image website.

A good website to find artists to design your t-shirts for less is You can get designs for as low as just $5 per design! That being said, what you spend will most likely match design quality. 

Important: Make sure your designs are on a transparent background, have a 300 dpi resolution, and are saved as a png!

Cost to you:

Design: $5


Step 4: Buy your transfers from DTF Advantage


Now that your design is ready to go, it's time to order your transfers! Our transfers are hot peel (but can also be used as cold peel), premium quality, printed with industry best equipment, film, inks, and powders, and are printed in as little as one to two business days! If you have questions, please feel free to contact us at or use our chat. 

Cost to you: 22"x12" roll = $6.99


Step 5: Set Up Your Business

Before you start selling your t-shirts, you'll need to take care of a few business-related tasks. This may include setting up a business bank account, getting a business license, and setting up an online presence. You'll also need to decide on a pricing structure for your t-shirts and any other products you'll be offering.

A good way to determine how much your shirts should cost is to view other shirts for sale in your niche and price in the center of your competition. You don't want to price your shirts too high as people will look for better deals, but you also don't want to price too low. It's better to leave some cushion in your profit margin for unexpected costs (such as the costs to repair your heat press or the costs associated with expanding your business). Also remember to incorporate and consider shipping costs, hosting costs (if you want an online store) and taxes into your pricing.  

If you want to sell online, you should consider starting on reputable e-commerce platforms such as Etsy or Shopify. Both allow you to start selling at low cost and are simple to use once you get oriented.

Cost to you: Filling fees varies depending on location and state laws. The cost averages to around $124.

Etsy: Free initially, but $0.20 per listing

Shopify: The basic plan is $26/month


Step 6: Promote Your Business


Now that you're ready to start selling t-shirts, it's time to get the word out! There are many ways to promote your business, including social media marketing, email marketing, and traditional advertising. You may also want to consider participating in local events or setting up a booth at a local craft fair or market.

The easiest way to get started is with social media ads. Since you've already gained some experience with Facebook ads by finding your ideal audience in step 1, it's best to start there. Create a new ad and enter your target market again. Create either an image ad or a short video to showcase your t-shirt. While image ads work well, we recommend a short video that does a great job showcasing your t-shirt and design because video ads typically have better conversion rates. 

Your video doesn't have to be fancy and it can be made using your cellphone! Just make sure you have good lighting and you clearly show your design. You can edit it yourself or you could hire someone to edit for you on Fiverr. 

Once finished, upload your video to the Facebook ads manager, double check your target audience is correct, and set your budget for $5 per day for a week. Facebook algorithms have an easier time finding a good fit for your business at smaller budgets to begin with. As you get more conversions, you can always scale up your marketing budget later.

Total cost to you:

Video editing: $10

Facebook Advertising for week 1: $35

To sum it up: Starting a t-shirt business using DTF transfers can be a fun and rewarding way to turn your creative ideas into a profitable venture. By following the steps outlined above, you can get your business off the ground for under $500 and start selling t-shirts in no time.

Grand Total: $449.99 or less!