One of the first things we wrote about on our website was how we made money on the road where we discussed how we began funding our travels through a combination of online work and matched betting however since then we have begun transitioning to making an income from our website and one way we have done this has been by designing and selling t-shirts.
Since we launched and begun selling our t-shirts a number of our friends have asked us how we go about doing this and how we make money with our t-shirts so we thought we’d explain a bit more about how we fund some of our travels by selling t-shirts.
First and foremost we need to make it clear that we are neither talented designers or nor professional t-shirt manufacturers but the information we provide here is simply how we go about making between £100-£200 a month by selling t-shirts.
When we decided that we’d like to print some t-shirts we did it primarily because we thought it would be cool to have some with our logo on that we could wear around ourselves. We thought about just getting these printed as one offs in a local print shop while we were on the road however as soon as we mentioned this idea to family and friends they all decided that they wanted one too as they are ever supportive of what we do!
At this point we didn’t have the money to go into a shop and get 15-20 shirts printed and sent out to family members as the upfront cost was just too much for us to outlay and then we discovered Teespring. Teespring is a print on demand t-shirt website that crucially doesn’t have any minimum order and as such we were able to create our t-shirts on their website and send the link to all of our friends and family for them to buy.
The way in which it works can seem complicated but really it is quite simple. You upload your design (which I will discuss later) and you create a campaign for your t-shirt where you state the minimum you want to offer in order for the shirts go to the printers as well as a time limit for you to reach this number. Once you reach that minimum and the time limit runs out all of the orders will go to the printers and the t-shirts will be posted out to the buyers, simple!
Where we make money on these is on the mark up we place on the t-shirts. Each t-shirt comes at a cost from Teespring and the higher the minimum you set the lower that cost, you then set your sale price for the t-shirt and this is the amount you are due to make from each shirt.
By selling t-shirts in this way we are able to offer a wide variety of shirts in a range of colours and sizes without having to by and hold any stock and without having to tie our funds up in t-shirts we have to sell before we can see a return on our investment.
Now we knew how to go about getting our t-shirts printed and having tested the concept with our friends and family we set about the next stage, the design process.
I think we’d both agree, that neither of us are particularly artistic. We are what you’d call doodle artists rather than actual artists! We knew that it was going to be difficult enough to actually design a t-shirt that looked good let alone one that people would actually want to buy! Yes we had sold some t-shirts to our friends and families which had our logo on but realistically we knew that it was unlikely that enough people would want to wear our logo so that we could make a regular income from our t-shirts.
We set about brainstorming ideas for designs. We doodled countless terrible designs or doodles that stretched our artistic abilities just too far before we came up with a couple that we thought would be interesting enough to sell. All of this took place on paper which, it became obvious to us, was not useful when you want to transfer them onto a t-shirt. As such we transferred these onto Adobe Illustrator so that we could have them in a vector format.
It is essential that you have your designs in a vector format as this ensures that you are able to resize your design to fit whatever products you want printing without the loss of quality you get from non vectorised images. If you don’t have the know how for this you can get your designs easily drawn up into this format on Fiverr for a small fee, usually around $5-10 which you will make back from your first t-shirt sold.
Once you have your design you are now ready to put this onto Teespring and then onto t-shirts.
Creating your t-shirts
You simply upload your design using the ‘Art’ tab on the left of the page and position your design where you want it to be. This will then update the cost of the printing on the right hand side, this is how much it will cost Teespring to print the t-shirt.
Once you have positioned your design and chosen the colour and style of t-shirt you want it printed on you can begin setting up your campaign in order to sell it.
This is the point at which you are able to set the minimum number of sales required for your t-shirt to print and the price at which you are going to sell the t-shirt. In this instance we have set the minimum to 20 with a sale price of £18. This means that in order for our t-shirts to print we need to sell 20 of them before the campaign finishes, if we do not reach this amount then no one will get a t-shirt.
When we started we simply set this minimum figure to 1. Although it meant we would be making less money per shirt sold we were more concerned with making sure that everyone who ordered one received it. Now that we know that we sell more shirts we can up this amount to a figure which we can reach which lowers the cost to print from Teespring.
Finally you need to add a title to your t-shirt and set how long your campaign will run for and simply publish your designs on the site. From this point on your t-shirts will be available for people to buy, simply send them the link to your shirt and they can buy them as they would do any other t-shirt online. The real key now is how to get people you don’t know to your designs so that they can buy them too…
Marketing our designs
This is the part we are the worst at with everything, selling ourselves and our products. We hate seeming like we are being pushy or even trying to cash in on all of the support we have from everyone who reads our website as well as follows our Instagram. But right now we had a few t-shirt designs we liked and more importantly that we thought others would like too.
The first place we placed our designs was on large Facebook groups specifically those about Vanlife. Here we found tens of thousands of people all with an interest in van life who were a captive audience for us and our designs. We posted photos of our designs and links to our shop and simply started discussions around our t-shirts. Because everyone in these groups enjoys van living the response we got was both positive and highly enthusiastic and we began to see our t-shirts sell.
Once they began to sell people began to share photos of them which in turn led to more sales and slowly we began to see a small trickle of t-shirt sales which we still see coming through to this day.
The second way we pushed our designs was directly to our followers on Instagram. They have always been supportive of our travels and so many of them bought our t-shirts and told us how they wanted to support our travels but also get something cool that they could have rather than just donate money. We posted pictures of our designs with us wearing them and now people ask us regularly where we got them and we never get tired of telling people we made them ourselves and directing them to our website so they can buy them too!
While we don’t make an awful lot from our t-shirts we have found that it is another great way of keeping our funds topped up while we travel and something we can do while we are on the road, plus £150 a month certainly equals a lot of miles driving in our van!