Picking the wrong t-shirt design to sell can cause a lot of trouble for your Print on Demand business. Here are five t-shirt designs you should steer clear from.
There are many articles on how to source or sell profitable Print on Demand t-shirts. But not much is written about what t-shirt designs you should avoid.
When it comes to Print on Demand, the t-shirts you choose to sell can either make or break your store.
So, knowing what t-shirt designs to avoid is paramount if you want to achieve long-term success with your store.
In this article, we’re going to show you five Print on Demand t-shirt designs that you should not sell.
Some of these t-shirt designs are doomed to fail from the start while others could lead to customer stress or trap you into unwanted legal issues.
#1: T-Shirt Designs that Feature Typefaces or are Protected by a Trademark
It’s never wise to sell a design that features the same typeface as another piece of artwork.
A typeface is a set of characters that have the same design. For example, both ‘Verdana’ and ‘Arial’ are examples of typefaces used in Word.
Most countries consider typefaces to be works of art and like all works of art, in these countries, typefaces are subject to copyright protection.
But, surprisingly, there are countries, such as the US, where typefaces are not subject to copyright protection.
Meaning that, even though the t-shirt below features the same ‘C’ design from Coca-Cola’s typeface, the design doesn’t necessarily infringe on any copyright laws.
Does that mean that this t-shirt is safe to sell? Not exactly. Because while Coca-Cola’s typeface is not protected under copyright, it is trademarked.
A trademark legally protects any artwork, signs or symbols that are related to brands. This means that using design elements from Coca-Cola’s typeface is illegal. If you chose to use any part of the Coca-Cola logo typeface on a t-shirt design, you’d be risking being legally pursued in court.
The main point here is to avoid creating t-shirt designs that use trademarked elements. Focus on re-creating designs in your own personal style.
#2: T-Shirt Designs that Target Small Audiences
One of the biggest mistakes made by Print on Demand businesses is selling products in a niche market that has a small audience size.
If the niche you are selling to is too small, it is likely that you won’t find a lot of active buyers, making it harder to generate sales and scale your business in the long-term.
An example of a small niche would be ‘giraffes.’ While some people are interested in this niche, there just isn’t a big enough audience to sell to on Facebook.
Using Facebook’s Audience Insights tool, ‘giraffes’ only reaches an audience size of 450,000-500,000 people. This might seem like a fairly large number, but in actuality it is relatively small compared to other profitable niches on Facebook.
If Facebook is your primary source of traffic and you target people interested in ‘giraffes,’ sooner or later your ad performance will fizzle out because of how small the niche is.
When choosing a niche to build your store around, make sure that it has a big enough Facebook audience to advertise to.
Generally, you want to prioritise niches where at least 1,000,000 people are interested. Not only does this ensure that there are enough buyers but you also have more opportunities to advertise and target specific customers within that niche (while still having room to scale).
#3: Dropshipping T-Shirt Designs from AliExpress on eBay
Dropshipping products from AliExpress on eBay is never a good idea.
While eBay has the benefit of minimal advertising costs compared to a Dropshipping or Print on Demand store, seller performance standards are not something that eBay takes lightly.
As an eBay seller, if more than 2% of your transactions result in customers winning an eBay dispute, then your account is in serious trouble.
This isn’t to say that this is bound to happen to every seller on eBay. But if you use the dropshipping model on eBay you run a higher risk of experiencing customer issues.
One reason for this is because, unlike in a dropshipping store where you place a shipping policy in your product description making it highly visible, customers are less likely to see anything about a shipping time on an eBay listing. This can cause a problem when shipping products from AliExpress often takes up to two to four weeks and the longer shipping takes, the fussier customers tend to get.
If a customer were to make a dispute about shipping taking too long, you are likely to come out on the losing end, as eBay is notorious for siding with customers (even if the customer did not deserve to win the dispute).
Dropshipping on eBay is not something we recommend. A better option is to dropship products from your own store where you have better control over your customers and how you market your products.
#4: Re-Using the Same Model for Two Different T-Shirt Designs
When it comes to product photos, using real-life models is always better than presenting t-shirts on a normal, white background.
There are several reasons for this. Not only are real-life model photos highly engaging, but visitors will perceive your store as established and as if you had your own photo shoot.
But, when you re-use the same model in two or more product photos, it’s likely that customers will eventually figure out that you photoshopped your images.
A great tip is to search for images that use the same model. That way, it will appear as if you had an actual photoshoot, with real models, which shows how unique you are compared to other competitors.
So, choose a few models that you like and reuse them in different pictures and with different poses to make your store appear well-established and successful.
#5: Selling T-Shirt Designs That are Produced by Chinese Suppliers on Etsy
Selling t-shirts on the Etsy marketplace that are produced by service designers in China is something we do not recommend.
Etsy buyers share strong attitudes about how their goods are manufactured. With China being notorious for things like using child labour, an Etsy customer wouldn’t be pleased if they received a t-shirt from China in the mail. In cases like this, you risk rubbing customers the wrong way and them potentially leaving negative feedback.
If you choose to sell on Etsy, avoid using foreign manufacturers. Focus on using local manufacturers instead.
The Bottom Line
Identifying the t-shirt designs that are a liability to your Print on Demand business can save you heaps of time and energy.
When sourcing t-shirt designs, it’s critical that you know which ones to ‘weed out’ of your product research to help narrow down and simplify the process of finding top-selling designs.