Looking to start a small business from home?
A heat press t-shirt business has low overhead, requires just a small amount of workspace, and is a fun way to make extra money.
Not only can you put your own designs onto t-shirts, you can work with other artists to feature their work too.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
Before we dive into the ways you can structure your business plan for your home-based t-shirt business, let’s first look at what you need to get started.
What Inventory Do You Need for Your Heat Press T-Shirt Business?
A Heat Source
There are two options for your heat source: a household iron and a press.
An iron is designed to smooth wrinkles out of clothes.
The heat range of most household irons is between 180–220° Celsius / 356-428° Fahrenheit.
Irons have a small surface that is tapered at one end.
You must make several passes with the iron while ensuring uniform heat and pressure each time.
Failure to do so can create premature cracking and peeling.
An iron works well on smaller designs and for low volumes of orders.
However, if you are serious about commercializing your business, working with larger or more complicated graphics, and processing large volumes of orders, invest in a heat press.
Unlike an iron, a heat press is specifically designed to imprint graphics.
They feature large, flat, even surfaces with a consistent distribution of heat and pressure.
A heat press can reach around 260° Celsius / 500° Fahrenheit and exert pressure far greater than a single person can manage on their own with an iron.
A range of heat presses, from manual to digital, allow you to invest in the best one for your business.
If you have a larger dedicated workspace like a garage to create and store large volumes of orders, you can get a digitally calibrated heat press to ensure consistent results across the batch.
If you focus on small orders and have a small workspace, an entry-level manual press will do the job.
The options available allow you to start and scale your business according to your business plan.
Heat Transfer Paper or Heat Transfer Vinyl
Heat transfer paper or vinyl is the medium that gets the design to the t-shirt.
Heat transfer paper is formulated for light or dark fabrics. It creates a lightweight design and is ideal for transferring multiple colors.
It is easy to use and cut, but it does not deliver results that last as long as heat transfer vinyl.
Heat transfer vinyl is heavier both as a product and in the finished design, this sturdiness lends itself to much better durability when the garment is washed and worn.
Vinyl is flexible, so it resists premature cracking or peeling.
It is slightly more difficult to cut than paper and not as simple to work with, but it is very easily managed with a little practice and a good pair of scissors or a Cricut® (or similar cutting machine).
Heat transfer vinyl is available for light and dark fabrics.
For longer lasting results, choose heat transfer vinyl instead of heat transfer paper.
Good Quality T-shirts
Use good quality cotton or cotton blended t-shirts to achieve the best results.
Heavy, even fabric with a tight weave is optimal.
Bulky fabric like wool is not suitable.
Be very cautious when working with silk or other lightweight fabrics.
Your heat transfer paper/vinyl may not be suitable for non-cotton fabric – read the instructions carefully.
Additionally, silk tends to burn easily.
If you wish to work mainly in silk, you will need a silk screen press, not a heat press.
Blank cotton t-shirts can be bought single or in small batches from crafting stores like Michaels®, or ordered in bulk/wholesale from a variety of local and international retailers.
Shipping or Exhibiting Materials
How will you sell your t-shirts? If you are making them to order, you will need good packing boxes and shipping supplies so your shirt arrives safely at its destination.
If you plan to exhibit and sell them in pop-up stores and crafting fairs/markets, purchase a hanging rack and folding portable shelves so you can display your designs while having a good selection of inventory on hand.
Also consider buying a portable changing room pod so your customers can try on your shirts right at the market.
Website with E-commerce
These days it is almost impossible for a home-based business to make headway without a website.
Consumers all over the world search for products and services online, and thanks to e-commerce, any business, large or small, can ship their products worldwide.
Your heat press t-shirt business needs a website that is optimized for e-commerce.
Depending on the level of your business plan, your site can be a basic one you make yourself by leveraging a platform like Shopify, Amazon, or Etsy, or a website that you hire a professional to create and maintain.
A small site is easy to manage as you start out or if you focus on small batch orders.
A larger site that is maintained off-site means you can delegate the site’s upkeep.
If your business gets busy it is useful to have someone else ensuring your hosting fees are current, your SEO is working, and your content is engaging customers.
You do not need to invest a lot of money in marketing materials.
If you have a computer and a printer, you have everything you need to get started.
Think beyond business cards and use heat transfer vinyl to print a small design on a kerchief or glasses wipe.
This gives your customers a hint at what you can produce, while also giving them a useable item that won’t get discarded as easily as a business card.
You can also print up stickers or magnets with your logo and website.
A Business Plan
Even small home-based business needs a plan.
This plan helps you identify your target market and how to reach them.
It does not need to be complicated.
Before you start your heat press t-shirt business at home, ask yourself the following:
- What am I selling? My own designs? Commissioned designs? Royalty-free designs?
- Who is my market? The general public? Bands? Global consumers? Local consumers?
- What platform is best for sales? Markets? Online? Delivery?
- How much space can I devote to processing and inventory? A bedroom? Basement? Garage?
By answering these few questions you’ll have a much better idea of how much you need to invest in your inventory.
Remember, business plans change over time.
You may start out small selling your own designs and graduate to higher volume orders as you gain a fan base.
Or, you may start off with a more commercial setup but discover a niche set of consumers or a favored design and refocus your efforts on that line. Be open and flexible to change.
Your customers want consistent results and value for their money.
You can achieve this by using high quality heat transfer vinyl, high quality t-shirts, and choosing subscription-based orders for automatic shipping of your supplies.
Constantly working with different transfer paper or vinyl, or running out of stock, can compromise your business.
It is easy and fun to start a home-based heat press t-shirt business.
Your inventory will consist of a heat source (a heat press is best for consistent results), heat transfer paper or vinyl (vinyl gives more durable results), a stock of blank light and/or dark t-shirts, shipping/packing or exhibiting materials, a website with e-commerce, and DIY marketing materials like stickers or small heat-pressed fabric items.
By working out a business plan first, you will know how much inventory you need to get started, and what kind of heat press will best suit your needs.
Automate shipping of your heat transfer vinyl and t-shirts to ensure consistent results and avoid stock outages.
Royal Elements sells heat transfer vinyl.
We offer subscription ordering and outstanding customer service.
We love to see the projects you do using Royal Elements vinyl. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube).
Visit https://www.amazon.com/royalelements to get your heat transfer vinyl today.