Before taking the leap and starting an airbrush T-shirt business, you should assess your skill level. The market is competitive. To stand out in the crowd your skills need to be tuned up and ready to go. Depending upon how long you’ve been airbrushing as a hobby, you’re likely to have a portfolio of designs. Now might be a good time to review them and pick out the absolute best you’ll use on your first T-shirts.
Location and Equipment
Obviously, the cheapest way to start would be to work out of your home or garage; in fact, maybe you’ll want to continue doing this no matter what level of success you achieve. The great part about an airbrush T-shirt business is the start-up costs are very modest. Mainstream airbrush kits retail for less than $300, which includes compressor, hose, airbrush, and all needed cleaning and maintenance supplies. You’ll also need paint. It’s imperative to find a supply of inexpensive T-shirts early in the game. To succeed, you'll need to find rock-bottom deals, wherever they may be.
Produce a few T-shirts to sell. Remember, there is no reason to keep a huge supply of finished T-shirts in stock at this point. That could come later if you decide to expand into a retail location, but with the advent of Internet selling you might decide it’s not worth the extra cost and hassle. Create at least one finished example of each design. Now you’re ready to begin marketing, which is what will ultimately determine the level of success you reach in this business.
Sometimes it’s hard for creative types to spend the time necessary to do the hard-nosed business of executing a marketing plan. If you want to succeed and you don’t have anyone else to do it for you, this is part of your job. Marketing need not be complicated. Start with eBay. Take pictures of each finished design and run an auction on eBay, or maybe even pay the monthly fee to open your own eBbay store. You can also bargain with a local clothing store to display your T-shirts in their space for a percentage of the profits. Fairs and craft shows are another good way to get your work seen by customers.
Decide on a price that reflects the value of your handmade creations. Research the prices others are asking for airbrushed T-shirts, and break down your expenses to see if that pricing model works for you. If you’re not making a profit at your endeavor, it’s a hobby, not a business.
Derek Dowell has ghostwritten dozens of projects and thousands of blogs in the real estate, Internet marketing and travel industry, as well as completed the novel "Chrome Sombrero." He holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental legal studies from Missouri State University.