If you’re looking to get into this business as cheaply and as quickly as possible, you might have already started looking at the various listings on eBay aimed at people like yourself. A simple search for “t-shirt printing machine” or “t-shirt printing business” on eBay will bring up a lot of listings for what appears to be a “business in a box”, usually offering a package of equipment & consumables along with promises of instant riches! While many of these packages are very good, many of the sellers are making too many wild claims or pretending that making a living in this business is easier than it really is. In this article I’m going to show you what to look out for, so that you can avoid these dodgy deals and pick out the kinds of eBay packages that really can help you get started in this lucrative business.
First of all, it’s important to mention that the quality of the equipment in these packages is usually less than adequate for commercial use. I’m talking about the heat presses made in China and the cheap & nasty vinyl cutters that you find in cheap “business in a box” packages. It’s fine if you’re a hobbyist making t-shirts at home for fun, but if you start getting orders for larger quantities of printed t-shirts (with short deadlines) then you need equipment you can rely on.
While you may want to keep your costs down when you’re starting out, cheap vinyl cutters are notoriously slow and prone to misalignment (messing up your designs). When the heat is on and your customers are putting pressure on you to complete a job, your reputation is at stake if you’re relying on poor quality equipment. I should also point out that I’ve had problems with cheap Chinese heat presses having cold spots on the heat platen. Prints seem okay at first but because the glue underneath the vinyl hasn’t heated up properly, it soon begins to peel away from the fabric, sometimes even before washing. I had a nightmare with this myself and it affected the reputation of my business – I’ll never know the full extent of the damage because it’s a fact that many customers don’t complain, instead they just never come back (but they do tell their friends and family about the bad experience they had!). As soon as the first customer came back to my shop with print coming off their t-shirt, I replaced my machine for a top quality professional model. It was expensive, but definitely worth every penny.
Beware of eBay listings with titles like “Start your own sublimation printing business”. These packages tend to contain stock that people simply don’t buy. For example plates, mugs, caps etc. There is very little demand for these products compared to t-shirts and hoodies. Plus there is a huge limitation with sublimation printing – you can only print onto light coloured garments. Black is the biggest selling t-shirt colour. If you can’t print onto the most popular t-shirt colour, your business will be severely limited.
A vinyl printing setup is much better, and you can often find listings featuring all the equipment you need to get up and running. There are many advantages to vinyl printing, the main one being that you can customize a t-shirt in minutes at very low cost. The equipment you need is as follows:
Computer (which you probably already have).
Software (usually comes with vinyl cutter)
Creating custom printed t-shirts is so easy with this equipment. It’s simply a matter of quickly designing something on the software, cutting the design into vinyl using a vinyl cutter, and then applying the vinyl to the t-shirt using the heat press. Not only is it simple, it’s also a popular IN-DEMAND product – all kinds of people love to get t-shirts printed, for all kinds of purposes. Whether it’s a local business looking to promote their products or services, sports teams, or even just your friends and family, the market is huge and there is serious money to be made.
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