I design, I develop, I make


A maker based in Upstate New York.
Turning ideas into applications.

© 2024 Mubashar Iqbal

T-Shirts for Side Projects

January 28th, 2018

Every company I’ve worked at, large or small, has eventually made t-shirts for it’s employees and/or customers.

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

I’ve wanted to do this for my side projects, but always thought it was too difficult and expensive. Since these are side projects — many of which aren’t revenue generating, making t-shirts to give away is not really economical. But rather than making t-shirts to give away, how about trying to sell some t-shirts to help support the projects instead?

I didn’t want to commit a lot of time or money to something that I wasn’t sure would be a good use of my time; what if I sold no t-shirts? That meant buying a large number of t-shirts from a printer and then trying to sell them was a bad idea. It meant committing a lot of money up front to buy the t-shirts in the hopes of selling them. So that left on demand printing.

There are a lot of options for on demand t-shirt printing. Companies like Printful, Redbubble, Zazzle, CafePress and Teespring. Even better these companies even handle the fulfillment side of the order processing. You tell them who ordered what, and they make the item, and ship it to the customer, no worries or work for you.

After researching the different companies I decided to go with Printful; they have a good reputation for the quality of their work, give lots of options to customize your designs, and provide lots of options for different kinds of t-shirts and other apparel.

Unfortunately, Printful doesn’t give you a storefront; you need to sync your account with a number of other providers they support (or build your own using their API). I reviewed the options, and decided to use the Storenvy integration.

After I tweeted about making some t-shirts, I got a reply asking if I was using Teespring and although I wasn’t, it got me thinking about their service again. The thing I liked about Teespring was that they do everything you need to do to sell t-shirts. Since I wanted to run this test a quickly as I could, I decided to switch to Teespring.

Getting a T-Shirt Designed

Of course, the first step in the process is getting a t-shirt designed. You can’t make or sell something until you have a design.

Which one of my side projects should I design a t-shirt for? I have a few popular projects that people might be willing to support by buying a t-shirt and even wear it in public. I decided to go a different direction, to make something not project specific.

People often ask me how I’m able to have so many projects, in addition to having a full time job, and a family. It’s no secret that I need little sleep, working late into the night, turning into what a few people have called a Zombie Coder, banging on the keyboard until working code magically appears. That sounded like a fun concept to try and turn into a t-shirt. 👻

Although I dabble in design, I’m not a designer and really not a t-shirt designer. In fact I’ve never designed a t-shirt before. Fortunately I know a lot of people who are designers, and made some really cool t-shirts. I reached out to a few of them to see if they’d be interested in helping me.

While I waited to hear back from them I thought I’d explore some other options, as I’m sure many of you out there don’t know any t-shirt designers.

Fiverr is the first thing that popped into my mind. I got some really great illustrations for projects websites before. They even have a whole category just for t-shirts. Price ranges from $5 to hundreds and it looks like a viable option if you have something specific in mind. The $5 offers seem to be limited to text only designs, but that is a what a lot of t-shirts are these days, so if you’re really on a budget might be a good place to start.

I remembered seeing a service for merchandise design being mentioned on IndieHackers. Wanting to support my fellow IndieHackers, I thought I’d try them out. Design4Merch has a monthly service where they create designs for you at a flat monthly rate, but they also offer a one-time job option, which I decide to try as test run.

I sent them a very simple brief, and waited to see what they came up with.

After a few days I was notified my design was ready for review…

I liked it, but I wasn’t very entirely sure that it would look great on t-shirt, perhaps it had to much going on.

In the mean time, my friend Seth Louey got back to me saying he’d be interested in helping me out. Seth has designed a lot of t-shirts hanging in my closet, so I excited to see what he could up with.

I showed him what I’d received, and he liked it too, but agreed that it was better to go with something simpler. It would be easier and cheaper to print, and perhaps appeal to more people.

I sent him the source files and again sat waiting eagerly to see what he’d come up with.

Seth simplified the design and came up with a few different color combinations that would work well for a dark t-shirt.

Teespring has a very simple and easy to use interface for uploading your artwork (or creating text only t-shirts).

You upload, position, resize your art work, and select the t-shirt type and color you’d like to sell. Add a simple description, set the price and you’re done. You are now selling t-shirts to anyone on the Internet.

Of the designs that Seth came up with, we created 2 t-shirts to launch with.

Once you create a product, you create your store front by completing a simple form and adding your products. So I created the Zombie Coder Store. It has the 2 t-shirts shown above, but we’ll be adding more designs and options, if anyone shows an interest 😀.

Zombie Coder Store
_Teespring makes it easier than ever to sell shirts you design, leveraging crowd funding and social media to help you…_teespring.com

Creating a t-shirt that you can sell online, without having to invest money upfront is now remarkably easy.

The hardest part is definitely coming up with a design to put on the t-shirt, but even there you have options. It helps to have friends who can assist you, but with services like Fiverr and Design4Merch anyone can get a great t-shirt designed. If you’ve had a logo designed for your side project, it might be as simple as putting on the t-shirt.

I hope you like the t-shirts we’ve come up with, and would love too see people wearing them. Ping me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with a photo if you do!

A few more of my friends are interested in designing and selling t-shirts, so this may be the first of many t-shirts you can buy from the Zombie Coder.