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How To Start An Online Clothing Store In 7 Steps

how-to-start-an-online-clothing-store-in-7-steps
How To Start An Online Clothing Store In 7 Steps

Whether you want to create a niche online boutique or sell clothing to the masses, we’ll cover everything from selecting the right business model to leveraging online marketing strategies. 

By the end, you’ll be well-equipped and knowledgeable about how to start an online clothing store with zero inventory and without upfront investment.

You’re now at the beginning of your path toward launching your own online clothing store. Let’s go through seven key steps to bring your clothing business idea to life.

1. Research and Pick a Niche

A woman researching niche ideas for her online store and writing them down in a notebook.

The first step in how to start an online clothing store with no money is finding the clothing niche in which you’ll operate. In a business context, ‘niche’ is a highly specific market section.

For example, in the fashion business, a niche could be if you only sell products in eco-friendly kidswear or plus-size athletic apparel categories.

By targeting a niche, fashion brands can focus their products and marketing on meeting the unique demands of a very specific group of people rather than trying to please everyone.

How do you do it? Conduct market research to understand what styles are trending, find what people want but can’t find (gaps in the market), and, most importantly, who your target audience is.

Tools like Google Trends, consumer behavior reports, and social media insights can provide valuable information. This initial research shapes the entire trajectory of your online clothing business. Or just go with your gut. If you love something, there’s a chance that thousands of others will, too.

2. Choose a Business Name

A person writing down online clothing business name ideas in a notebook.

Naming your business is the next step in the journey of how to start an online clothing store. A name is not just a label; it’s the foundation of your brand’s identity and the first impression you make on your target market.

A great business name should:

  • Capture the essence of your brand
  • Be easy to remember
  • Fit in with the values and style of your fashion brand

Think of names that are unique, evocative, and easy to pronounce and spell to ensure that your online clothing store stands out in this very saturated market and remains top-of-mind for online shoppers.

A well-chosen name can greatly add to your brand’s identity and reflect your brand’s story, ethos, and future plans. Will it still be relevant as your clothing brand evolves?

3. Acquire a Business License

A person putting a stamp of approval on a business license.

A business license is more than just a formality; it legitimizes your business and ensures legal compliance.

What is a business license?

Essentially, it’s a set of permits and licenses that government authorities issue to authorize your online clothing store to operate legally within a specific jurisdiction. It goes beyond just registering your business or opening a bank account; it’s about meeting the legal requirements to conduct business in your area.

Why do you need a business license?

  1. Legal compliance. It means that your clothing business sticks to local, state, and possibly federal laws and regulations.
  2. Building trust. Having a business license adds credibility.
  3. Tax purposes. A license often helps in tax-related matters, separating your business income from your personal finances.
  4. Protection. It can offer some level of protection against liability and legal issues.

How do you get a business license?

The process of getting one can vary greatly depending on your location and the type of business. Follow these guidelines to get started with the licensing process for your online clothing store:

  1. Identify your needs Research the specific types of licenses required for your online clothing store, considering the goods you’ll be offering to potential customers and where you’ll be operating.
  2. Establish your business legally Choose and register your business structure (like a sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.).
  3. Apply for an EIN If necessary, obtain an employer identification number from the IRS for tax purposes.
  4. Gather documentationPrepare necessary documents such as a business description, a tax ID, and any required certifications.
  5. Submit applicationsApply for the necessary licenses at local, state, and federal levels as required.
  6. Stay updated on renewalsKeep tabs on expiration dates and renew your licenses as needed to avoid penalties.

4. Determine Your Business Model

Two people brainstorming ideas for their business model.

Another decisive factor in the success of your online clothing store is determining your business model. Let’s look at a few options, starting with Print on Demand, which stands out as a particularly effective approach for online business newcomers.

Print-on-Demand or POD

POD is a popular choice for eCommerce business newbies due to its low-cost entry and effectiveness. In this model, printing partners print and ship the products only after a shopper buys something, eliminating the need for inventory, which is good for the wallet and our planet. 

Benefits? Low or non-existent upfront costs and reduced risk make it ideal for those starting an online clothing store with limited finances. POD also gives a lot of flexibility in design and product offerings, as you can easily test and change designs without significant financial impact.

Dropshipping

Like POD, dropshipping means selling products shipped directly from a supplier to the customer. This model also reduces the need for inventory and upfront investment. However, its most significant difference from POD is that you’re selling pre-made products, which means less or no control over product quality and fewer customization options for your clothing line.

Wholesale and warehousing

In contrast to POD, the wholesale model involves purchasing products in bulk and storing them in a warehouse (or the corner of your bedroom). 

This model can offer cost savings per item and quicker shipping times. However, ordering in bulk requires an initial investment and has the risk of unsold inventory, making it more suitable for established businesses with predictable demands.

5. Decide Where to Sell

A phone screen showing app icons for Etsy, eBay, Walmart, and Amazon.

When launching your online clothing store, choosing where to sell your products should be at the top of your priority list. Let’s compare selling on a marketplace vs using an eCommerce platform, along with an introduction to the unique Printify Pop-Up Store.

Marketplaces vs eCommerce platforms

Marketplaces like eBay, Walmart, and Etsy offer a large existing customer base and are super easy to use. But they are highly saturated and competitive, and you don’t have much control over your brand presence.

eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Wix provide more control over your brand and customer experience. They offer awesome customization options for your store to make it uniquely yours. However, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Printify Pop-Up Store

Printify recently introduced a Pop-Up Store feature, which is an all-in-one solution for creating a personalized online store under the Printify.me domain. For example, if your store is named “T-Shirt Palooza,” your URL will be tshirtpalooza.printify.me. It’s an excellent option for those seeking to start selling quickly and with no money down.

Criteria Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) Printify Pop-Up Store
Customer Base Access to a large, existing customer base. You need to build and drive your own customer traffic. Primarily self-driven.
Control Over Branding Limited customization for store branding. Complete control over store design and branding. Basic customization options like logo and social media links.
Fees and Costs Listing fees or a percentage of sales. Monthly subscription fees; additional costs for apps and integrations. No upfront costs; Printify handles transactions.
Ease of Setup Easy to set up and start selling. Requires setup and design but offers more flexibility. Quick and easy setup with minimal customization.
Traffic Generation Marketplaces drive traffic to listings, but SEO is on you. Responsible for your own marketing and SEO. Primarily self-driven.
Customer Interaction Limited direct customer interaction. Direct interaction with customers via your platform. Printify handles customer support; limited direct interaction.
Payment Processing Handled by the marketplace. Choose your own payment gateways. Handled by Printify.
Shipping and Fulfillment Varies by platform; often the seller’s responsibility. Seller’s responsibility; options to integrate with shipping apps. Handled by Printify.
Customer Base
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Access to a large, existing customer base.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) You need to build and drive your own customer traffic.
Printify Pop-Up Store Primarily self-driven.
Control Over Branding
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Limited customization for store branding.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) You need to build and drive your own customer traffic.
Printify Pop-Up Store Primarily self-driven.
Fees and Costs
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Listing fees or a percentage of sales.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) You need to build and drive yourMonthly subscription fees; additional costs for apps and integrations.
Printify Pop-Up Store No upfront costs; Printify handles transactions.
Ease of Setup
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Easy to set up and start selling.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) Requires setup and design but offers more flexibility.
Printify Pop-Up Store Quick and easy setup with minimal customization.
Traffic Generation
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Marketplaces drive traffic to listings, but SEO is on you.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) Responsible for your own marketing and SEO.
Printify Pop-Up Store Primarily self-driven.
Customer Interaction
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Limited direct customer interaction.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) Direct interaction with customers via your platform.
Printify Pop-Up Store Printify handles customer support; limited direct interaction.
Payment Processing
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Handled by the marketplace.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) Choose your own payment gateways.
Printify Pop-Up Store Handled by Printify.
Shipping and Fulfillment
Marketplace (e.g., eBay, Walmart, Etsy) Varies by platform; often the seller’s responsibility.
eCommerce Platform (e.g., Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce) Seller’s responsibility; options to integrate with shipping apps.
Printify Pop-Up Store Handled by Printify.

6. Design Your Clothing

A person creating graphic designs for their clothing products.

The design phase is the most fun part of how to start an online clothing store (aside from watching the money rolling in). This step lets you infuse creativity into your clothing line and establish a unique brand identity. 

Here’s where you can either let your design skills shine by creating art from scratch or play around with premade graphics and typefaces.

Starting from scratch

  1. Brainstorm ideas Begin with conceptualizing your design ideas. Consider the theme of your clothing line, target audience, and current trends.
  2. Use design tools Super cool free tools like the Printify Mockup Generator and Canva are great for playing around if you don’t have designing skills. Printify’s Mockup Generator offers a simple user interface, a great graphics library, and other useful features like a text edit tool and AI image generator.
  3. Experiment with colors and layouts – How to create designs? Try different color schemes, patterns, and layouts to get a feel for what best represents you and your brand.

Using ready-made images and fonts

  1. Stock images and fontsAdobe Stock, Printify x Shutterstock, and Unsplash offer hundreds of thousands of high-quality images and fonts. Some are free, while others cost some money.
  2. Free resources Check out sites like Pixabay, Pexels, and Google Fonts. There, you’ll find a lot of images and fonts that you can incorporate into your designs.
  3. Respect copyrights This is important! Make sure the images and fonts you use are royalty-free or you have purchased the right licenses to use them. Using copyrighted material without permission can lead to legal issues and damage your reputation.

Quick Tip

Always order product samples, especially if you choose the POD model. This way, you can check the product and print quality to guarantee they meet or even exceed your expectations.

7. Promote Your Online Store

A person working on their online store's marketing strategy.

Steering your way through various digital marketing strategies and social media ads isn’t just about attracting potential customers; it’s also about crafting a narrative that sets your clothing brand apart in the crowded apparel market. 

Draw up a marketing strategy

The clothing game needs a marketing strategy to succeed. Begin by defining clear goals – is it boosting brand awareness, driving sales, or engaging with a new target market? Once you’ve set your objectives, lay out a plan that covers multiple marketing channels. 

For example, email marketing, which allows for personalized communication with potential shoppers, or content marketing, which creates valuable, relevant content for attracting and retaining an existing audience. 

The point here is not just to sell clothes online but to tell the story of your brand in a way that aligns with the values and interests of your audience.

Leverage social media advertising

Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought something from an Instagram ad. Ah, so many hands in the air. You see, social media marketing is a great way to reach online shoppers. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest offer targeted advertising options to help you pique the interest of specific demographics.

Advertising, though, is more than just about creating ads but rather about growing a community around your brand. Engage with your followers, respond to comments, and create interactive content to build a deeper connection with your existing and potential followers. 

What do we mean by that? On Instagram, take advantage of Reels, polls in IG Stories, and countdown timers; on X (Twitter), be active and promote your brand through text and media posts; on Facebook, interact with groups and potential customers within your niche.

Social networks are excellent for getting your message out there, interacting with potential customers, and, in the end, making money.

Search engine optimization or SEO

SEO is an absolutely necessary tool for any online business, especially in the fashion industry. You probably found this article thanks to good SEO – it’s packed with keywords that people just like you are searching for.

So you, too, want to optimize your eCommerce site with relevant keywords, high-quality images, and compelling product descriptions to boost the visibility of your new clothing line on search engines.

Consider starting a YouTube channel with appropriate hashtags and titles where you share fashion tips or stories behind your collections, thus boosting your SEO.

Take, for example, Justine Leconte. She’s been a YouTuber for years, sharing fashion advice and having her own online clothing line. Through videos, you too can encourage customers to buy custom clothing and show how it looks on real people.

Paid advertising, affiliate marketing, and partnerships

Don’t underestimate the power of paid advertising. Google Ads can drive significant traffic to your online store. 

Set aside an advertising budget, especially when launching new collections or during peak shopping seasons – even a couple of dollars a week could make a big difference in getting your clothing company out there. 

Try exploring partnership opportunities through affiliate marketing, which can be a powerful tool to amplify the reach of your brand. Find affiliate partners on platforms like ShareASale, Commission Junction, or even directly reach out to influencers and fashion bloggers whose style aligns with your brand. 

These collabs can introduce your brand to new audiences and also (and this is very important), add credibility. You can create a network of promoters invested in your success by agreeing on mutual terms, including commission rates.

Make It Happen Today!

Tips for Starting a Successful Online Clothing Store

A person learning new tips for running a successful online clothing shop.

“It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” Eddie Cantor 

While starting a successful online clothing store doesn’t take years, it still takes some time. So don’t be fooled by thinking that success is inevitable if you have one or two cool designs. 

It requires persistence, adaptability, and a keen understanding of your market. What can small businesses do to move closer to profits?

Work on a Strong Brand Identity

Your brand identity is more than just a logo – it’s the essence of your clothing brand and includes everything from your design style, brand colors, tone of communication, and even your Instagram profile. 

You want to build a brand identity that resonates with your desired audience, sets you apart from competitors, and forms the backbone of your online boutique. Also, make your branding consistent across all channels, from your eCommerce website to your social media.

Learn From Other eCommerce Stores

One of the best ways to learn is by observing and studying other successful online clothing stores. See what makes them stand out. Pay attention to these parameters:

  • How do they present their products?
  • How do they engage with shoppers?
  • How do they handle customer service?
  • Do they offer free shipping?
  • Are these eCommerce sites optimized for mobile devices?

Learning from seasoned eCommerce stores can offer valuable insights and inspiration for your own online business.

Free Shipping Equals Happy Shoppers

Offering free shipping is a game-changer. Many customers abandon carts due to high shipping costs. You can avoid this by including shipping costs in your product prices and offering ‘free shipping’ to significantly reduce cart abandonment and attract more potential customers.

Take Advantage of Seasonality

Embrace the seasons and holidays! 

Whether it’s summer fashion or holiday specials, seasonality can drive sales, so a marketing calendar could come in handy. Create special collections or offers during these peak times to attract shoppers and boost sales. Check out our list of 23 Best-Selling Products in 2024 to inhale some inspiration molecules.

Be Active on Social Media

Today, being active on social media is a non-negotiable, especially for eCommerce entrepreneurs. Regularly post on platforms where your target audience spends their time – share behind-the-scenes content, new arrivals, testimonials, and engaging visuals.

Marketing on social media is not only for promoting products but also for building a community of happy returning customers. 

Gain Customer Loyalty

The best customer is a loyal customer, especially for a fashion brand. Implement incentives like loyalty points, store credit, or referral bonuses to encourage repeat purchases. Providing excellent customer service, responding promptly to questions, and valuing customer feedback is key to building a loyal shopper base.

Would you return to a store where they never get back to you if you raise a concern? Exactly – no. So, treat your shoppers the way you like to be treated, with respect. 

How to Start an Online Clothing Store With No Inventory

With Printify, all you need is at your fingertips. You don’t have to look for a clothing manufacturer, as is the case with selling in brick-and-mortar stores. Big and small businesses need to take just a few steps to begin.

Create a Printify Account

​​Getting started is as easy as signing up for a free Printify account. This step is your entry into online boutique ownership – all you need is an email address and a password.

Set Up Your Products

Printify is home to over 900 amazing products. Use the Mockup Generator to apply your uploaded designs to apparel, accessories, and more. Adjust, preview, and save. Now, you’re ready for the next step.

Connect and Launch Your Store

Integrate your Printify account with popular eCommerce players like Shopify, Walmart, or Etsy. Our integrations seamlessly connect your product designs and your online store in just a few clicks.

Publish and Start Selling

Once your store is connected and your products are set up, it’s time to get your clothing line business live. Leverage the power of digital marketing, advertising on socials, and content marketing to sell products to shoppers successfully.

Product Ideas for Your Online Clothing Line

Diving into the fashion industry with your online clothing store means blending trendsetting designs with marketable products. Here’s a look at some of the most popular items for your clothing line, along with inspiring design ideas to make your brand shine.

T-Shirts

A woman wearing a pink t-shirt with a line art design of the Statue of Liberty.

T-shirts are the quintessential blank canvas for showcasing creativity and are the best-selling garment in the world. Think beyond the basics with eco-friendly materials, vintage-inspired graphics, minimalism, or retro pop culture for designs that resonate with diverse customer groups.

Check out the NerdyKeppie story and see how Spider B. Perry transformed their passion into a thriving online store.

Hoodies

A man wearing a black hoodie with purple letters saying, “All you need is love and cats.”

Hoodies combine comfort with urban chic. Introduce oversized or cropped hoodies with bold typography, abstract art, or street art-inspired designs.

Take a look at Afro Unicorn: its founder, April Showers, is the first black woman to own a licensed character and sells her hoodies and more in major retailers across the US.

Sweatshirts

A man wearing a blue sweatshirt with a design of kiwi fruit on the left chest area.

Sweatshirts are similar to hoodies in comfort but offer a different style profile. They’re perfect for layering and appeal to customers who prefer a more relaxed, casual look. Customizing sweatshirts with unique colors, photos, or prints can make them a hit in your online boutique.

Sportswear

A woman wearing a white sports bra that says, “Powered by plants.”

With the growing trend of health and fitness, sportswear has become increasingly popular, stepping outside the sports club walls, too. Offering high-quality, functional sportswear that doesn’t compromise style can hit two birds with one stone: satisfy the gym rats and look and feel comfy on the regular folk.

Accessories

A man wearing a red, white, and blue trucker cap that says, “Best dad ever.”

Accessories like hats and socks are great additions to online stores. They require less sizing specificity, making them easier to sell and ship online. Create custom-designed accessories that complement your clothing items or stand out on their own.

FAQ: How to Start Selling Clothes Online

Sure thing. Printify and the Print-on-Demand model is the best way how to start an online clothing store with no money. Come up with designs and marketing, and Printify will do the rest – production, packaging, and shipping.

As opposed to a brick-and-mortar store, with POD, you don’t need to keep inventory and thus pay for storage, so starting a clothing business online is a great way to put your designs out there and reap benefits.

Print-on-Demand is probably the best business model, as your only expenses are connected to third-party involvement. For example, if you don’t create your own designs but instead hire a designer, there are subscription fees for an eCommerce platform and your marketing budget. Other than that, it’s the most financially painless way to start your own clothing line.

Yes, starting a clothing business online can be quite profitable. The fashion eCommerce market is showing substantial growth each year, and in 2023, it’s worth over $820 billion and will potentially hit over $1.2 trillion by 2027.

Summary

We have now walked through the essential tools and knowledge to launch your own online clothing line. From selecting a business model to crafting unique designs and employing savvy marketing strategies, every step is there to empower you as a merchant. Embrace these insights, roll up your sleeves, and start your journey towards a thriving online clothing line.

Make It Happen Today!

This originally appeared on Printify and is available here for wider discovery.
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